The Goon Show Preservation Society

The House of Teeth is the penultimate Show produced by Peter Eton, who shortly afterwards left the BBC but popped back for Series 7/1 and 7/2. Peter Eton is regarded as the chief architect of the Goon Show, imposing more discipline on the cast and not allowing self indulgence to get the upper hand. Building on the sure foundation laid by Dennis Main Wilson, he helped Spike to develop the scripts till in treasured instances they reached perfection in radio comedy. 
This Show is noteworthy in that the cast includes Valentine Dyall as Doctor Longdongle. As older readers will remember, Dyall was a jobbing actor with a superbly sonorous voice, ideal for radio thrillers in the Man In Black series. Here he is in character; Longdongle is a nasty piece of work, bent on turning false teeth extracted from innocent victims into castanets for his lady, Senorita Tigernuts. Black comedy indeed. Mood music is requested as the show opens, with the announcement "The jolly Goons present" - followed by screams - "in three parts." Sound effects provide the ominous sound of the extractions, duly bucketed. Spike enjoyed this one, as he wrote it in twice. In the whole Show I detected some 28 spot effects, all requiring split second timing. 
Lord Seagoon (promotion at last) is lost in a storm in the Dolomites, travelling by horse drawn motor car accompanied by his manservant and Willium. Spike's running gag for this Show is the variety of suits laid out for his Lordship, eight in number. They include suits for knocking on doors, waking up, looking for teeth, having a word, floor lifting, leading the toothless and castle leaving, plus evening dress. Among the recorded effects I noted that old BBC standby, the sinister moaning wind. I remember this so well from Children's' Hour plays in the 40's.
  A wonky clock chimes erratically, and a castle is sighted, in residence Henry and Minnie. Here we have a good door knocking/opening routine (compare safe-opening routine in the next Show, 6/21). Crun has a good line after all the unlocking noises: "Who left this door unlocked?" Lovely. The reference to 'power room' is the place of an obvious edit, followed by a lot of laughter indicating a bad fluff or studio-muck-about. I wonder what happened. Perhaps Eton was not too hard on them, as it was near the end of his tour of duty. The rest of the plot concerns Longdongle's attempt to obtain a final two sets of teeth. The Senorita demands 50, he has 48…
Max Geldray brings relaxation for all with St. Louis Blues. I still marvel at the superb playing of this wonderful artist, and am grateful that so much of his musicianship exists in the Goon Show collection. I hate hearing versions of the Show without the musical interludes. More meaningful chords from Wally Stott's lot, and it is midnight o' clock. A hint here of that old concert party standby - the chamber pot under the bed, only this time it is in fact Eccles! Many variations of the 'po' joke circulated over the years, and very often the chink of china was added for realism. Now such Music Hall vulgarities have disappeared along with mother-in-laws, honeymoon couples etc. Vulgar perhaps, but surely healthier than so much of today's so-called sick comedy. 
Our toothsome play meanders along with the appearance of Bluebottle, greeted by cheers, so he is not required to wait for a sossinge this time. He has got his junior coward's badge and is qualified as an indoor Scout - camping outside is too parky. Desperate cries from below tell us the toothless are entombed in a dungeon dressed only in brown paper night-shirts, and awaiting rescue. Ellington sings Who's Got The Money, a lively number by another great artist. Part three continues with the distinctive sound of castanets, soon interrupted by Bloodnok, rushing in to enquire if the police can be contacted. Never fear, he does not want them, he wants to keep out of their way. A little problem with the regimental funds again. He too loses his choppers of course, and after Seagoon arrives the dreadful Doctor disappears. A good line for Eccles here: "We need someone with brains" - silent pause - "I'll go and make the tea!"
Pursuit of Longdongle leads to the Café Filthmuck where he hears zither music, popular at the time due to the success of the Harry Lime theme. As an aside Seagoon remarks
"What do we do now?"; note this little phrase recurring in many of Spike's TV sketches. Sellers (camp) is waiting to get on the dance floor, as Longdongle proudly announces his protégé, Tigernuts, revealing to all that the castanets are in fact all the missing false teeth. The evil Doctor vanishes without further pursuit as our half-hour is nearly up. Did he continue his evil trade? Greenslade, toothless, provides the final line which answers this question. Wallace did not do all the closing credits in gums only, a pity as this would have been good fun.   
So another Show concludes: a strong story with well-scheduled appearances by all our favourites. I wonder as they worked through Series 6 how they all felt about the future. To Spike it was the fearful task of finding new ideas for another 26 shows, an enormously long run. Sellers approaching mega stardom no doubt would have found Sundays a relief, and often said as much. Harry too had loads of other work on hand but loved to get together with his mates.

Footnotes (or handnotes if you don't want to bend down) …

(1) Early in the Show the Doctor is referred to as Longdongle, later it became Longdongler. A peep at the official BBC script might help in this discrepancy.
(2) I have a tape of redubs after the Show came off the air. It is interesting to note Greenslade takes charge of proceedings in touch with the control room, and sounds quite bossy. Well, I suppose a BBC announcer had to act posh as well as talk posh.

The famous Mike Coveney

Newsletter 97:   THE HOUSE OF TEETH

ARCHIVE FACT FILE:    "The House of Teeth"
Now available on Volume 23 of the CD re-issues.

This was the twentieth show of the Sixth series, recorded Sunday 29th January 1956 at the Camden Theatre but with the first UK broadcast Tuesday 31st (Home Service, 20:30).
Starring Spike, Peter, Harry.
Script by Spike Milligan (appears in The Goon Show Scripts)
Produced by Peter Eton
Recording No. TLO 96271
TS Issue: original Series No. 24
TS Reissue: No. 67 (CN 1546/SS)
Guest: Valentine Dyall
Repeated 23 December 1997, Radio 2 (15:00)

This Show, as recorded, appears to contain the only tip-of-the-hat acknowledgement by the Goons of their nascent 1950s fan club. When Seagoon and his retinue lift the flagstone to reveal the horde of toothless ragged men, Ned is heard to comment
"Is this the Goonist Movement?" (see Newsletter No 68)
The comment appears in the UK original transmission, but did not survive into the edited, shorter 27 minute TS reissue version, presumably for being obscure and in-jokey. I wonder if it is now in the new CD issue….
Neil Trickey,    Author of the Encyclopaedia Goonicus

Jump link back to Commentary page