Sometimes I know what I want to do for the Friday Movie. Other times I have to talk it out with my husband.
“I’m trying to decide which movie to do for this Friday. Should I do a movie produced by the Moonies that’s supposedly the worst movie of all time–“
“Yep. Should I do that one, or a kids movie about a magical scarecrow starring John Pertwee?”
“Doctor Who? You know which one I’d vote for.”
This is how we ended up with WORZEL GUMMIDGE DOWN UNDER (1989).
WORZEL GUMMIDGE DOWN UNDER was originally produced as the fifth season of the WORZEL GUMMIDGE series for BBC, which themselves were based on a series of children’s books by author Barbara Euphan Todd. The original series was ranked one of the top 50 British children’s shows of all time.
This incarnation sees our titular character (played by Pertwee, the First Doctor) enjoying his life in the English countryside. He is a magical scarecrow who enjoys pastoral life at the farm with his true love, Aunt Sally (I was a little creeped out by a romance involving someone he calls “Aunt” until I learned Aunt Sally is an English game that involves throwing rocks at a mannequin torso). They can be seen as sentient by who they want, and as inanimate objects by those they don’t want. All is well and good until Aunt Sally is sold to a New Zealand antiques broker and sent abroad. Worzel stows away on her airplane and joins her on a trek Down Under.
Once in New Zealand, both Worzel and Sally have some adventures, including the meeting The Crowman who makes and names all the scarecrows, Worzel getting named King Scarecrow and subsequently being sentenced to death for being sacrilegious. The Travelling Crowman wants the regular Crowman’s powers to use for evil and help him build a horde of zombie scarecrows….You know, your typical young children’s programming.
WORZEL GUMMIDGE is worth watching for the crazy pop culture trivia aspects. Not only does it have the Doctor Who connection mentioned above, but Aunt Sally is played by Una Stubbs who three decades later would become famous as the landlady Mrs. Hudson in SHERLOCK. Academy Award-winning director Peter Jackson had some early special effects experience on the set, and famed cult director Costa Botes was an assistant director on some episodes.
The biggest complaint I have about this transfer is the lack of subtitles. Yes, the dialogue is English but the accents are so thick I have trouble figuring out what they’re saying now and then.
Question of the night–which kids books should be adapted into movies?