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Menace: Judas Goat (S2EP1 BBC 2 Mar 1973, William Gaunt)

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Judas Goat: Someone under threat is the central figure in all the Menace plays. The threat can be against his life, or against his mind. It can come from outside or from the man’s own soul. Lord (William Gaunt), sent to a lonely house in Scotland, finds he is not the only arrival. And he has a flair for making enemies. “You’re crossing a river when the rope comes adrift. You float away and almost drown …”. William Gaunt thought his Menace script was a joke. It wasn’t – and nor is it for Lord.

Original Publicity: “It’s A Delusion Thet Actors Are Soft” – When Judas Goat Was Filmed At Aviemore The Actors Were Put Through A Real Test: The Fall Below Was Not In The Script. Colin Mackay Reports: High up on an almost perpendicular rock face, a cluster of scarlet figures in crash helmets, anoraks and Alpine boots clung motionless. Suddenly a voice echoed across the gully:

“Settle down … Quiet everyone … Turn over, please … ACTION … Climb when you are ready …”. Gingerly the roped figures edged across the frozen face of the mountain. One by one, they hoisted themselves to a narrow ledge about the size of a park bench. The only sounds were the whirr of a generator, feeding an outsize arc light, and the occasional clink as boots tested the steel pitons driven into the rock face. I was watching a BBC film until sent to Aviemore in the Cairngorms to shoot Judas Goat, a thriller in the Menace series. Six urban executives are set a number of endurance tests to find the man best suited for a seat on the board: a sort of deadly Outward Bound exercise, filmed as realistically as possible in the middle of winter.

The director, Gareth Davies, explained his policy: “We decided that the old-fashioned conventional film method of using doubles would be disastrous. I think audiences easily spot them. But we didn’t choose the cast because they could climb rock faces: seventy-five percent was because of their ability to play the part. Anyway, it isn’t necessary for them to be superb rock climbers. In the play they are near middle-aged executives. And none of them are Chelsea bar flies – it’s a common delusion that actors are soft. Godfrey James was a Southern Counties swimming champion; Garfield Morgan, a diving champion; Leslie Schofield, a regular in the navy; Geoffrey Palmer, an instructor in the Royal Marines. The rest of them, with no particular aptitude, have got by with sheer guts – and an Equity card. I was sure that I couldn’t do it,” said Bill Gaunt.

“But this is the extraordinary part. You probably noticed that when I practiced the rope climbing today, I failed – never could do it in the school gym either. But later, when I knew the cameras were turning, suddenly I could do it. The secret is that either you can do it, or you can’t. But, as an actor, you can always bring it off when it’s for an audience – for real”. Spontaneous praise for the cast came from Robert “Ginger” Warburton, professional instructor and adviser. “I am surprised how efficient they are. An actor may have to climb the rock six times in quick succession – which never happens to a mountaineer. This morning, their hands were freezing on the rock, and their bare fingers became iced up – solid. Then, when thawed out, the chaps were in agony. But they stuck it out, and just laughed at it. I don’t think they are as frightened as they were at first. Beginners are frightened mainly because they are not in control of the situation, and don’t understand the niceties. It’s all a matter of calculation. If you can assess the objective dangers, you can reduce the fear”. (Radio Times, March 15, 1973 – Article by Colin Mackay).

Cast: William Gaunt (Lord), Geoffrey Palmer (Major Ryder), Denise Buckley (Alison Ryder), Jackie Farrell (Van Driver), James Copeland (Craig), Michael Gambon (Ellis), Leslie Schofield (Henley), Godfrey James (Bowen), Malcolm Terris (Street), Garfield Morgan (Jarrett), Victor Winding (Newman)

Writer: Jeremy Burnham / Director: Gareth Davies

Airdate: 2 March 1973 at 9.25pm on BBC One.

Series: Menace Season 2 Episode 1