Porterhouse Blue

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1st edition (publ. Secker & Warburg)

Porterhouse Blue is a novel written by Tom Sharpe, first published in 1974. There was a Channel 4 TV series in 1987 based on the novel, adapted by Malcolm Bradbury. The novel itself has a sequel, Grantchester Grind, but Porterhouse Blue has a stand-alone plot.

Premise[edit]

A satirical look at Cambridge life and the struggle between tradition and reform, Porterhouse Blue tells the story of Skullion, the Head Porter of a fictional Cambridge college, Porterhouse.

Characters[edit]

The central characters are Skullion, the Head Porter; Lionel Zipser, a research graduate student; Sir Godber Evans, the Master; Lady Mary, the Master's wife; the Dean; and Mrs. Biggs, Zipser's bedder.

Plot[edit]

Cover of Porterhouse Blue Book

For the first time in five hundred years, the master of Porterhouse fails to name his successor on his deathbed before dying. He succumbs to a Porterhouse Blue - a stroke brought about by overindulgence in the college's legendary cuisine. Sir Godber Evans is appointed as his successor. Sir Godber, egged on by his zealous wife, Lady Mary, announces sweeping changes to the centuries of college tradition, much to the concern of Skullion and the Fellows, who plan a counter-attack on the proposed contraceptive machines, women students, and canteen.

Meanwhile, the only research graduate student in the college, Lionel Zipser, visits the hard-of-hearing Chaplain and explains his fixation for Mrs Biggs, his middle-aged, large-breasted bedder, through a megaphone, and is therefore overheard by the whole college. Mrs Biggs is not within earshot, but nevertheless senses that something is up from Zipser's awkward behaviour around her every time she comes to clean his room and especially when she teases him sexually, the climax of which is when she asks him to help her take off her bright red PVC raincoat from behind, in the tight confines of the "gyp".

While Sir Godber congratulates himself on having defeated the traditionalists, investigative journalist Cornelius Carrington is brought in on the pretext of helping both parties, while secretly having his own agenda.

Meanwhile, having been advised to pick up a foreign student, so as to avoid his lust for Mrs Biggs, Zipser after a series of frustrating attempts to buy condoms, accidentally acquires two large boxes. Concerned that he has technically stolen them, he tries many ways to get rid of them and eventually inflates them with gas from the gas fire in his room and floats them up the chimney, not realising that some get stuck in the chimney and the rest float down into the college quadrangle. Fearing for the good name of college, Skullion spends the night bursting the inflated condoms.

Mrs Biggs has decided to reciprocate Zipser's passion, and sneaks up to Zipser's room in the middle of the night and wakes him up. To his amazement she undresses and, despite his protests, promptly enters his bed and lies on top of him. Unfortunately, while undressing, she has lit the gas fire, which takes a short while to ignite the inflated condoms stuck in the chimney, causing an explosion that demolishes the Bull Tower and killing her and Zipser in their moment of passion.

Skullion refuses to open the main gates of college to let the fire engines in and continues to burst the inflated condoms, partly as a consequence he is fired. Skullion visits the bank and discovers his nest egg of shares inherited from a previous master is worth a fortune. He takes his revenge by giving a shocking revelatory interview on Carrington's live television show. Skullion offers pleads with Sir Godber to be reinstated, but is refused. Skullion hits Sir Godber, causing him to fall and sustain a mortal injury, Skullion quickly leaves. Two senior academics find the dying Sir Godber who whispers them one word: Skullion. They agree that, in accordance with college tradition, Skullion has been named the new Master of Porterhouse.

When Skullion is visited by the college officials with the good news, he thinks they have found out his involvement with Sir Godber's death and whilst they are telling him about his great fortune, he has a debilitating Porterhouse Blue himself, becoming totally paralysed. Nonetheless, he is installed as the Master and his shares are sold for rebuilding the Bull Tower, so Porterhouse's traditions are firmly re-established.

Adaptations[edit]

TV mini-series[edit]

Porterhouse Blue
Porterhouse Blue DVD.jpg
Cover of DVD
Genre Miniseries
Written by Malcolm Bradbury
Tom Sharpe (novel)
Directed by Robert Knights
Starring David Jason
Ian Richardson
John Sessions
Charles Gray
Griff Rhys Jones
Paul Rogers
John Woodnutt
Paula Jacobs
Barbara Jefford
Opening theme Dives in Omnia
Composer(s) Rick Lloyd
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 4
Production
Producer(s) Brian Eastman
Editor(s) Barry Peters
Cinematography Dick Pope
Running time 200 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel Channel 4
Original airing 3 June 1987 (1987-06-03)

In 1987, Porterhouse Blue was adapted for television by Malcolm Bradbury for Channel 4 in four episodes. It starred David Jason as Skullion, Ian Richardson as Sir Godber Evans, Barbara Jefford as his wife Lady Mary, Charles Gray as Sir Cathcart D'Eath, and John Sessions as Zipser. Also appearing were Griff Rhys Jones as Cornelius Carrington, Paula Jacobs as Mrs. Biggs, Bob Goody as Walter, Paul Rogers as the Dean, John Woodnutt as the Senior Tutor, Lockwood West as the Chaplain, Willoughby Goddard as Professor Siblington, and Harold Innocent as the Bursar.

The title song "Dives in Omnia" (cod-Latin for "Excess in everything") was sung by a cappella group The Flying Pickets. The series won an International Emmy and two BAFTA Awards (including Best Actor for David Jason).[1] The television adaptation has been released on DVD and VHS.

Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, Sacrist's Gate near Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire, Knebworth House and Apethorpe Hall in Northamptonshire were used as locations in the series.

Audio books[edit]

There have also been two audio book versions;

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ ASIN B000NVKZWO, Porterhouse Blue (2007-06-26)

External links[edit]