The Last Bus to Woodstock. An Overview: Music, Art, Literary References, Locations etc.

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Above is the original cover of the 1975 edition.

First transmitted in the UK on 22nd March 1988.

This episode is based on the very first Inspector Morse book published in 1975.

Colin Dexter can be found at 56m.40s sitting in the audience listening to the talk on the Earl of Rochester.

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Directed by Peter Duffell. (His only Morse episode)

Written by Michael Wilcox (His only Morse episode).

Sadly, this was the last episode which featured Peter Woodthorpe as Max

Jag Rating (out of ten)

Synopsis.

Eighteen year old Sylvia Kane is found dead in a pub car park by the boy she was meeting that night. She has not only been run over by a car but it also looks like she had been assaulted. As Max the pathologist remarks to Morse, “It’s a puzzle”.

She had been seen earlier in the rain soaked night in the company of someone else, gender unknown. Sylvia is offered a lift by a passing car but her companion decides to wait for the bus.

In Sylvia’s bag Morse finds an envelope addressed to a Miss Jennifer Coleby of Aldgate Assurance Company. The envelope contains only a letter which in itself has been devised by the writer as a puzzle.

Morse and Lewis are soon wrapped up in a story of sex, intrigue and possibly blackmail.

Review

This is a great episode that is well acted, written and directed. The direction is simple and straightforward and is all the better for it. It’s surprising that this is the only episode that Peter Duffell directed. The wonderful Christopher Lee said of Peter Duffell, “Duffell (is) Britain’s most under-rated director”.

Not only do we get to see Morse smiling but in my opinion he says one of the best lines of all the Morse episodes, “Coded messages. Murder. Right up my street. Not a bad way to start the day.”

The episode’s main theme is sex in some of its many guises. There is infidelity, sexual assault, seduction, attempted seduction, promiscuity and flirtation. Morse talks of sex and asks, “Is sex more trouble than its worth? I keep wanting to find the answer.” It is no surprise that the works of the Earl of Rochester are mentioned during the episode. He lived a debauched lifestyle which consisted of sex and drink and ended in his death at only 33 from a venereal disease. Even Lewis is giving sex a bad name by relating to Morse how he feels about being “the public executioner in my house” as his wife will have warned his progeny, the result of sex, that their father will punish them for their bad behaviour. Sylvia Kane was the result of “Five minutes in a layby”.

There is very little in the way of love in this episode. The only real love that surfaces is Morse’s and Angie Hartman’s love of English Literature. Morse and Angie discuss lust and love. Angie relates that she believes that the difference is that lust kills. However, Morse replies that “love might kill. Maybe love is more dangerous.” Personally, I’m with Morse on that one.

It may be no co-incidence that Morse doesn’t lust after any of the female characters in this episode. The episode is possibly alluding to Morse’s apparent abstinence, forced or otherwise, from the world of sexual encounters. Is the episode writer trying to say that abstinence or celibacy is the safer lifestyle? The safer option? It’s not only Morse who is living the life of celibacy, but also Angie Hartmann. Is it a co-incidence that they are the two characters who find a connection through English Literature?

Like so many Morse episodes it works on different levels and that is why so many people enjoy the series.

For many British fans it is a matter of spot the Soap actor. There is Perry Fenwick who plays Jimmy in this episode. he has been a stalwart of Eastenders for many years playing the character of Billy Mitchell. Then there is Shirley Stelfox as Mrs Kane who has appeared in Emmerdale for many a year as Edna Birch. Then we have Ian Bleasdale who plays the time and motion expert in a hospital and ironically had a part in the long running Casualty as Josh Griffiths. Amanda Wenban who plays the typist at Aldgate Assurance Company where Sylvia Kane worked had a part in Emmerdale sometime ago.

One of my favourite characters from the episode is Ms Jarman played by the wonderful Fabia Drake. She has a great scene with Morse and Lewis.

Ms Jarman played a traveler three years earlier in the superb film Room With a View. There she played Miss Catherine Alan who travels around the world with her sister, Miss Theresa Alan played by Joan Henley.

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Fabia Drake is in the foreground.

So, this is the last episode of the second series and in my opinion the strongest of all four episodes. The next episode and the first from series three is ‘Ghost in the Machine’ a tale that is reminiscent of Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence. I’m looking forward to watching that episode again.

MUSIC

Not very much music in this episode. Only two pieces of classical and one guitar piece.

00h13m42s

Morse and Lewis are on their way to the offices of St. Aldgates Assurance Company. The music playing in the car is part of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart‘s (1756-1791) opera ‘Cosi Fan Tutte’. The section we hear being played in the car is the overture.

00h27m22s

The second and last piece of classical music heard in the episode is played during Max’s visit to the Crowther’s house. The music is again by Mozart and is Piano Sonata in C (K545). (The Köchel-Verzeichnis or Köchelverzeichnis is an inclusive, chronological catalogue of compositions by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, which was originally created by Ludwig von Köchel. It is abbreviated K. or KV).

00h28m13s

While John Sanders is getting ready to go out and play snooker there is a slide guitar piece playing. Unfortunately I can’t identify it but I believe it is probably a piece written by Barrington Pheloung.

If you enjoy all the music from the Morse series I have collected all the pieces I have identified thus far and have created playlists on YouTube. On how to access these playlists please read the relevant post by clicking here.

ART

00h29m30s

Our first piece of art is in the Crowther’s dining room.

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The above is a pastiche of a work by the English painter John William Godward, (1861-1922). The original by Godward is called ‘In the Prime of Summertime‘.

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00h42m59s

The next paintings are on the living room wall in Jennifer Colby’s house.

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The painting on the left is ‘The Playground‘, by English painter Laurence Stephen Lowry (1887-1976).

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The painting on the right is ‘Late white tulip, Golden garlic, Mountain garlic‘ by the German apothecary and botanist Basilius Besler, (1561–1629).

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01h11m26s

On the kitchen wall of Jennifer Colby’s house we have another L.S. Lowry.

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This one is titled ‘Old Church and Steps’.

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01h24m46s

The next painting, or to be more accurate, line drawing is on Morse’s living room wall.

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The one i’m referring to is on the right. It is a line drawing by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) titled ‘Picasso in Antibes’.

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Would never have thought of Morse as a admirer of Picasso. As for the print of pyramids on the left, I have no idea.

01h31m40s

Our last painting is on Jennifer Colby’s wall.

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This is Pierre-Auguste Renoir‘s (1841-1919) ‘The Umbrellas’.

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Literary References

00h02m56s

The following quote is said by Peter Newlove in the pub.

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“The wine of life is drawn, and the mere lees Is left this vault to brag of.” Macbeth – Shakespeare.

00h27m27s

Dr. Crowther talking to Max and quoting the following;

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“After Death nothing is, and nothing, death, The utmost limit of a gasp of breath.” Seneca (Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist)

00h38m33s

We are in Jennifer Colby’s house and Morse is talking to Angie Hartman;

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“A gentle Knight was pricking on the plain.” – Edmund Spenser, From ‘The Faerie Queene’, 1590. For the full verse click here.

00h55m10s

Morse to Lewis in the pub.

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“As Trees are by their Bark embrac’d, Love to my Soul doth cling”. A Pastoral dialogue between Alexis and Strephon by John Wilmot the Earl of Rochester. The full verse can be found by clicking here.

01h40m33s

Morse talking to Lewis in the hospital.

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“All this to love and rapture’s due; Must we not pay a debt to pleasure too?” The Imperfect Enjoyment by the Earl of Rochester. The full verse by be found by clicking here.

CAST

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Diana Payan as Vikki Phillips – Born in 1943 in South Africa

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Ian Sears as John Sanders – Couldn’t find any biographical details.

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Jill Baker as Jennifer Coleby. – Born 1952 –

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Terrence Hardiman as Clive Palmer – Born April 6th 1937 –

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Amanda Wenban as Typist Born. – May 24, 1955 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

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Jo Unwin as Receptionist.

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Anthony Bate as Bernard Crowther – Born August 31, 1927 – Died June 19, 2012

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Shirley Dixon as Margaret Crowther. – Born – No info found.

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Peter Woodthorpe as Max. – Born September 25, 1931 – Died August 12, 2004

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Fabia Drake as Mrs Jarman – Born January 20, 1904 – Died February 28, 1990

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Ken Law as Shop Assistant in sports store. – No info found.

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Holly Aird as Angie Hartman. – Born May 18, 1969 (age 45)

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Perry Fenwick as Jimmy – Born  May 29, 1962 (age 52)

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Shirley Stelfox as Mrs Kane – Born April 11, 1941 –  Died: December 7, 2015.

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Vass Anderson as Mr Bentley – Born – No info

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Paul Geoffrey as Peter Newlove – Born 1956

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Ian Bleasdale as Time and Motion Expert – Born 1952

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Kate Percival as Lab Assistant – Born – No info

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P.J. Davidson as the Gamekeeper – No info

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Ingrid Lacey as Mary Widdowson – Born November 6, 1958 (age 55)

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Jenny Jay as Sylvia Kane – No info.

 Locations

The Fox and Castle pub where Sylvia Kane is killed is actually in Windsor, Berkshire.

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The Fox and Castle – Address: 21 Burfield Rd, Old Windsor, Windsor, Berks SL4 2RB

The ironmongers featured in the episode is Gill & Co and unfortunately closed down in 2010. It claimed to be the oldest ironmongery in Britain, some 480 years old. It featured not only in this episode but also in the episode, ‘The Dead of the Jericho’. In that episode Lewis visits the ironmongers to ask about the keys that were made for Anne Stavely’s house.

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 It was located on the High Street off Wheatsheaf Passage.

 

 

 

 

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9 comments

  1. Wouldn’t you think someone in the world would have taken over Gill & Co?? I loved Fabia’s appearance. Just the kind of old lady I want to be – interested in the world and self-sufficient. She was great in Room with a View which I watched not too long ago. One of the actors in it was a very young Rupert Graves. This was a wonderful blog entry, and I so enjoyed it. I just finished watching Last Bus for (I think) the third time. I am happily old enough to have seen Morse when it was first on PBS (in the US) all those years ago. Then I watched all the shows on Netflix streaming, and then bought the DVDs and am going through them. As always, thank you for your good, good work.

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    • Hi Nan.Yes, it’s always a shame when a small business that has been around for so long goes out of business. ‘Room With a View’ is not only one of my favourite films but favourite novels. As always than you for your very kind comment Nan.

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  2. > Like so many Morse episodes it works on different levels and that is why so many people enjoy the series.

    Indeed. It’s my favorite episode (so far) for that reason. I had to watch it three or four times to catch everything. In this case, there is the whodunit aspect (I liked that the final clue was a subtle detail on an X-ray), the different characters’ takes on love and lust, and the brilliant interweaving of the plot with the poetry. Even the title is a wonderful allusion to the Earl of Rochester, drawing the parallel between him and Crowther. I wondered why the letter was signed “E” but then saw that Rochester was often referred to as “E of R.”

    The series has the side benefit of getting me to read poetry that I was not familiar with.

    I ordered the book to see if there are more interesting details.

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  3. I somehow couldn’t accept that a simple photograph would be next to that amazing line drawing. As you yourself have said, “That just doesn’t seem like Morse to me.” Thank you so much for this blog!
    If I’m not mistaken, that is a drawing of the pyramids by David Roberts from Napoleon‘s expedition to Egypt in 1798 to 1801.
    More info here:
    https://mickjennings.wordpress.com/2015/11/09/antique-prints-of-egypt-by-david-roberts-and-from-napoleons-expedition/

    Like

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