The Moriarty Murder Mystery

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The Moriarty Murder Mystery is an episode of The Goon Show. It was first broadcast on 20 January 1958. This episode was written by Larry Stephens and Maurice Wiltshire, and is one of only six with no script credit for Spike Milligan.

Plot summary[edit]

The story revolves around the classic theme of the later shows, that of the impoverished pair Hercules Grytpype-Thynne and Count Jim Moriarty deceiving Neddie Seagoon into giving them money.

Detective Chief Inspector Seagoon of "New Scotland Ying" is called to the site of a murder, only to find that the body, played by Willium "Mate" Cobblers is "much better now, thank you." Seagoon is then summoned to HQ by his superior officer, played by Jim Spriggs. Neddie is told that unless he "finds a murdered body and solves it" he will receive the "size 14 boot". Seagoon decides to offer a reward for anyone finding a murder victim.

Meanwhile, in "Shoreditch High Street" Moriarty and Grytpype-Thynne are busking for small change. After arguing over their haul, one penny, Grytpype-Thynne spots "a Police Inspector standing in a tobacconist's window with a note pinned to him". This is Seagoon offering his reward. Moriarty lies down in the street with a fake bullet hole stuck on his forehead, while Grytpype-Thynne calls Neddie over to collect his reward. Then he tells Neddie that the "assailant was a thyule man, with a ling hat, and farglow boots, and he went that-a-way!" Neddie dashes off in hot pursuit, leaving the two vagabonds cackling with glee.

Neddie runs for hours until he reaches Chinatown and the docks. There a mysterious stranger walks up to him and announces that he is an undertaker. Business is bad, and he offers Neddie a reward for any dead body he sends his way. Neddie thinks he only has to produce Moriarty's body to get paid, but then he gets the call that the body has disappeared.

Deciding he needs clues, Neddie goes to see Henry Crun, a "Licensed Clue Manufacturer". We hear Crun before Neddie arrives. He is trying to "play the Ex-ilophone". There is the usual interplay with Minnie Bannister ending with a hilarious attempt by Henry to tell Minnie a "knock-knock" joke. Whenever either of two old fossils says "Knock knock" the other thinks that there is someone at the door. Neddie arrives. He buys a "footprint pointing north", and an eyewitness, played by Eccles. He asks Eccles if he saw the murderer, Eccles replying "No". Then Neddie asks if he would know the murderer if he didn't see him again. Eccles responds that his eyes aren't what they used to be (they used to be his ears) so they take him to an optician to have his eyes tested.

The optician, ("Eyes tested, Wills altered, signatures carefully copied, and string repaired while you wait") is Major Bloodnok. Also a dealer in books, he is in the process of packing "exotic" photographs in a hollowed-out book when they arrive. He has Eccles read an eye-chart, which he does, phonetically: "Aalek Elem Zedum..." finishing with "Printed by J. Smith and Sons, Birmingham".

Neddie and Eccles are speeding through London in a "Flying Squad Rickshaw" when a call comes in about a "suspicious boot loitering on the banks of the Serpentine". The arrive at the spot and Eccles pronounces it a "farglow boot" because he has "farglow feet" and it fits him. Suspecting that the murderer will return for the boot, Neddie leaves Eccles and Bluebottle on guard.

That night Eccles and Bluebottle have one of their classic conversations, which is interrupted by Neddie's arrival. They surprise Bloodnok lurking in the bushes, flushing out his perpetual paramour Minnie Bannister a moment later. High on "zoom pills" she jumps into the lake.

Frustrated, Neddie decides to offer another reward for the murderer of Moriarty. Immediately Moriarty and Grytpype-Thynne appear to claim it. Grytpype explains that Moriarty is the murderer, since he shot himself. When Neddie asks to see the gun, Grytpype explains that he didn't use one. Instead he pointed his finger at his head and said "Bang!".

Neddie is doubtful. He says "How can someone shoot themselves by pointing their finger at their head like this and going..." At that point there is the sound of a gunshot, followed by Neddie's body falling to the ground.

The Undertaker appears and claims the body, starting to bury it. Neddie protests that he wants to "join the Guards", but the Undertaker tells him "no man under six feet can join the Guards".

The announcer, Wallace Greenslade, then steps in with the familiar "It's all in the mind you know..." and the show ends.

Unscripted moments[edit]

  • Peter Sellers, as the Undertaker, has a "case of the giggles" while reading the script where he explains that his business is falling off. Harry Secombe, as Seagoon, rescues him with "You mean people don't want their unders taken anymore?". Recovering during the audience laughter, Sellers manages the response "You've hit the nail right into the lid!". The Undertaker was a somewhat unctious version of Seller's Schnorrer character.
  • Harry Secombe began a scene with his standard "Hullo folks!", only to remember that he was supposed to be using his trademark megaphone for the line. There was a pause, and then he resumed with the megaphone, playing the incident for laughs with a muted "Hullo folks again. I forgot the old leather speaking trumpet there!"

Running jokes[edit]

  • Seagoon's weight: When Seagoon tells the rickshaw boy to go faster, he gets the response "I'm doing my best but you're getting fatter all the time!"
  • Moriarty's "Sapristi" exclamations: Moriarty (or Spike Milligan), seems to surprise himself when he utters an unusually baroque version sounding something like "Sapristi longasa dongala helibadongala!"
  • Several times in the show, a character finishes reading something by saying the words "it says here in small print". This includes Greenslade's closing line, "It's all in the mind you know, it says here in small print."

Musical Interludes[edit]