1 9 7 2 (UK)
9 x 30 minute episodes
Clochemerle, a poor sleepy (fictional) village in the Beaujolais region of France, finds itself embroiled in a sea of controversy, scandal and political intrigue all started by the decision of Barthelemy Piechut (Cyril Cusack), the mayor, to erect a public convenience in the village square, immediately outside the church and before the windows of Justine Putet (Wendy Hiller), spinster and virgin.
When a Child of Mary becomes pregnant, the urinal and the ‘loose moral values’ that it apparently brings to the town are blamed, which in turn leads to the destruction of a statue in the church, leading to a war between the secularist Republicans, the Church, the aristocracy, the French Government and the Army.
Michael Mills attempted the virtually impossible and brought it off triumphantly in introducing no fewer than 32 characters – many of them who had prominent parts in later episodes – within the space of half an hour in the debut episode.
Depending upon narration rather than expository dialogue to present the people he preserved the irony of author Gabriel Chevalier’s prose of the 1920s and saved valuable viewing time. Peter Ustinov was just the man for the out of vision narration which did such a lot to create the mood and the atmosphere.
The use of British brogues and regional accents built a sense of truth far more readily than the more customary (and logically inexplicable) cod-French and broken English, and a host of familiar names and faces brought intelligence and obvious enjoyment to the acting.
The script was by one of British television’s most talented and successful teams, Ray Galton and Alan Simpson.
The series was filmed on location in the tiny village of Marchampt in the Rhône department in eastern France.
Mayor Barthelemy Piechut
Nicholas The Beadle
Oscar De St. Choul
The Magnificent Idea of Barthelemey Piechut, the Mayor | The Triumphant Inauguration of a Municipal Amenity | The Spirited Protest of Justine Pulet | The Awful Awakening of Claudius Brodequin | The Painful Infliction of Nicholas the Beadle | The Scandalous Outcome of a Night of Destruction | The Inexorable Power of the Third Republic | The Dreaded Arrival of Captain Tardivaux | The Glorious Triumph of Barthelemey Piechut