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DVD Review

DVD cover

Worzel Gummidge
The Christmas Special
A Cup o’ Tea an’ a Slice o’ Cake


Starring: Jon Pertwee
Distributor: Fabulous Films
RRP: £5.99
Certificate: U
Release Date: 04 November 2019

Wily old Worzel looks destined to spend a cold Christmas alone in Ten Acre Field when the Crowman bans him from scarecrow celebrations because he keeps deserting his post. However, Worzel does not stay put for long, and as he searches in the snow for Aunt Sally to invite her to the Scarecrow Ball, he meets his old friend Saucy Nancy, travelling on a pirate ship to star in a pantomime. Then he is challenged to a hilarious sulking contest by a belligerent Scottish scarecrow, Bogle McNeep, who, with his men, is heading back up north because he hates Christmas. Will Worzel be able to win a reprieve from the Crowman so he can join in the festive frivolity and fun of the Scarecrow Ball…?

With Mackenzie Crook set to take on the role of Worzel Gummidge in two hour-long films to be shown on BBC One during the festive period, Fabulous Films has decided that the time is ripe to re-release the previous Christmas special, produced and transmitted between the third and fourth seasons of the classic Southern Television series that originally ran from 1979 to 1981.

First broadcast on 27 December 1980, A Cup o’ Tea an’ a Slice o’ Cake is also an hour long – well, 52 minutes without the commercials. Curiously, this episode doesn’t include the standard Worzel Gummidge title sequence. Instead, the episode title appears on screen several times between the cast and production credits. The series title appears only on the commercial break captions in the middle of the show.

I was a child – or as Worzel (Jon Pertwee) would put it, a titchy human – when this programme was first shown. Maybe I will be proven wrong when I review the complete series in a few weeks’ time, but I think the regular half-hour episodes of Worzel Gummidge tended to be better than this ‘special’. As a result of the extended running time and the inclusion of five different musical numbers, it’s hardly fast-paced. The plot is fairly aimless, largely involving Gummidge looking for Aunt Sally (Una Stubbs), but bumping into other people instead. Cue cameo appearances by popular returning characters such as ship’s figurehead Saucy Nancy (Barbara Windsor) and an appealing new one in the thistle-nosed form of Scottish scarecrow Bogle McNeep (Billy Connolly). Cut out the weak songs and Worzel’s wrong turns and this story could have been told in half the time.

According to the Fabulous Films website, the episode has been fully restored from the original film negatives. The picture certainly looks a lot cleaner, with none of the dirt that was present on previous releases. There is still some room for improvement, though, in terms of picture stability, especially around edit points, and contrast during certain scenes. There are no special features or subtitles. The latter is a pity, as I found a couple of lines of dialogue impossible to make out. Still, what do you expect for just £5.99?

Despite my reservations, all the supernatural characters retain their appeal, with Pertwee, Stubbs, Windsor and Connolly excellent in their roles – not to mention Geoffrey Bayldon as the creepy but kindly Crowman, Bill Maynard as the red-faced Sergeant Beetroot, Wayne Norman as the delinquent Pickles Bramble, and others. Some of the scarecrow make-up still borders on the terrifying. Aunt Sally’s cruel manipulation of Gummidge and his subsequent blubberin’ and weepin’ still stir the emotions. I was also amused when Worzel is warned that, if all the scarecrows don’t stay in position to guide him back to the North Pole, Santa Claus could find himself in New Zealand – which is where the series itself ended up in the late 1980s!

However, I rather doubt that this double-length festive frolic will hold the attention of today’s titchy humans.


Richard McGinlay

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