Patrick Malahide as Guy de Glastonbury in “The Black Adder”

Patrick Malahide had a guest appearance in series one of  the BBC’s “The Black Adder“,  playing the exquisitely polite but ruthless highwayman, Guy de Glastonbury, in the episode “The Black Seal” (1983).  Not a huge role, but a memorable and highly entertaining one.

Quickie synopsis and spoilers follow, or scroll down to visit the gallery:

In 1498, England’s King Richard IV (Brian Blessed) calls his two sons before him, Harry, Prince of Wales (Robert East) and “the other one”, whose name Richard can either never remember or get right, Edmund (Rowan Atkinson), the Black Adder (or “Flat Adder”, or “Slack Bladder”, or “Black Dagger”, or…), supposedly in order to bestow new honours on them.  Harry receives a heap of new titles while Edmund’s one respectable title, Duke of Edinburgh, is stripped from him and given away to someone else, leaving him as Lord Warden of the Royal Privies.  Edmund vows revenge in a fit of rage, fires his usual henchmen Sir Percy Percy (Tim McInnerny) and Baldrick (Tony Robinson), and departs in search of the Six Most Evil Men in the Land to help him seize the throne.

Guy de Glastonbury

Guy de Glastonbury, with crossbow

Edmund assembles the rest of his Magnificent Seven one by one, first recruiting Sir Wilfred Death (John Hallam) and Three-Fingered Pete (Roger Sloman) while they’re engaged in various acts of mayhem, before meeting Guy de Glastonbury.  Guy is in the process of robbing a coach, demanding “your money or your life” from his victim before good-naturedly correcting himself:  “Damn.  Always doing that.  Sorry, slip of the tongue.  Your money and your life,” he says, before shooting his victim and making off with his coin.  Guy even bids the coachman a friendly farewell ’til next Thursday.

The other three are recruited quickly – Sean the Irish Bastard (Ron Cook), Friar Bellows (Paul Brooke), and the most fearsome of all, diminutive Jack Large (Big Mick).  They gather at a tavern to come up with a plan…  Edmund’s Cunning (yet simple) Plan consists of the Six waiting for Edmund to send a black something – black-headed messenger?  black plague-infected messenger? – to summon them all to another tavern before they take the castle, capture the royal family, and send them into exile… “For life!” adds Edmund.  “Well, why don’t we just kill them?” points out Guy, very practically.  “Well, I suppose we could kill them,” concedes Edmund.  Everyone then departs to await Edmund’s signal.

A funny thing happens on the way to the castle.  Edmund’s elderly, retired morris-dancer manservant turns out to be his childhood rival, Philip of Burgundy (Patrick Allen) (a.k.a. “the Hawk”), in disguise.  He’s also out for revenge and throws Edmund into his oubliette before setting off to seize the throne for himself.  Edmund is tortured for twelve long months by being cooped up with Mad Gerald (a very hairy and very filthy-looking Rik Mayall, playing it over the top and down the other side with one of the most annoying laughs ever) until he finally escapes.  Luckily, he meets up with a vendor of black homing pigeons along the way.

Receiving the signal

Receiving the signal

Also fortunately, none of the rest of the Six Most Evil Men has gone anywhere and they’re still awaiting Edmund’s signal.  Guy is posing very prettily on a bridge, one booted foot up, when his pigeon arrives.  The Magnificent Seven arrive at the castle just in time to intercept Philip of Burgundy, who is waiting for the striking of ten bells to make his move.  Philip asks why the Six Most Evil Men would ever have chosen Edmund as their leader; Edmund sneers back that perhaps they should have chosen the ruthlessly ambitious, insatiably greedy, “most evil man in the world”, Philip himself.  Unluckily for Edmund, the Six Most Evil all agree with this reasoning and Edmund is strapped into the fiendish torture device Philip just happens to have handy.  Maybe that’s why it took him twelve months to get to the castle.

Edmund is horribly tortured but the day is sort of…? saved by the timely arrival of Percy and Baldrick, disguised as maids and bearing poisoned cups the assassins can’t resist sampling. However, Percy has been a little too efficient in his poisoning and manages to wipe out the entire court, who are toasting “Edgar, the Black Dagger” (Richard’s faulty memory again).  Edmund gets to be king for a second or two before dying.  Oops!

It’s a fun episode with some great lines, and Malahide swaggers around delightfully as Guy.  Whoever designed his costume did a lovely job and he wears it very well.  Worth it just for the tights alone.  ;-)  Thoroughly enjoyable.

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