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Punch and Judy Man, The (1962)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Wally Pinner is the Punch and Judy man in the seaside town of Piltdown. Breakfasting with Delia, his wife, leads to a quarrel when he mocks her interest in the newspaper society column, especially regarding Lady Jane Caterham.

Wally leaves for work via the door of Delia's arty gift shop, meeting up with other traditional seaside entertainers whose camaraderie he shares. The Punch and Judy show is popular, but Wally is angered by photographer Nevil, getting his own back on an earlier sleight and distracting the audience. The performance over, Wally, his assistant Edward and the Sandman are about to repair to the Trident pub when a small boy approaches them to ask where the crocodile was, demanding its re-instatement at subsequent shows.

The Town Councillors meet to discuss Piltdown's 60 Year gala where Lady Jane will be guest of honour and try to score points off one another. Adjourning to the Trident they go to the saloon bar, delaying Wally's friends getting served with the drinks Nevil 'owes' them for his earlier 'escapade'. Wally decides to lampoon them, accusing them of being (freemason-like) 'Yaks' and using the 'snob-screens' separating the bars to annoy them.

Wally leaves the pub in pouring rain to go home for lunch, but finds the small boy waiting, with no money for the bus, and takes him to the ice-cream parlour, where he is manoeuvred into matching the small boy in consuming a Piltdown Glory under the baleful glare of the owner; he emerges triumphant. While Wally is delayed, Delia commits him to entertain the gala dinner guests with his Punch and Judy show, partly so she will meet Lady Jane.

Wally returns, no longer hungry, and refuses to do the show, while the Mayoress triumphantly tells the Councillors that she has booked him, much to their annoyance following the earlier scene in the pub.

Wally goes out again and meets the Sandman, who invites him for tea. They discuss what he should do and it emerges how little he knows about his friend. Wally works out his anger at the next Punch & Judy show, and agrees next day to do the gala dinner. He then goes out and regrets his decision, wandering into a hosiery shop (only to buy a handkerchief which he then bins) and then crawling on the sand until he bumps into the Sandman, whom he invites to be Delia's escort at the gala.

Next day, Lady Jane arrives at the hotel at the same time as Wally, who milks her applause. Delia and the Sandman are stopped when they try to mingle with the celebrities and Wally has to use the tradesman's entrance. Speeches and a lighting-up ceremony follow, to a chorus of heckling in the crowd and muttered asides from the platform. A sudden loss of electricity turns the signs into humourous variations. Dinner follows: Delia and her escort's table is badly sited, and while dancing Wally and Delia collide with Lady Jane and the mayor, causing ill-feelings to surface.

The Punch & Judy show gets underway, to drunken interruptions that turn into a rowdy shambles, with bread rolls being thrown and soda siphons squirting. In the melee the Punch & Judy tent is overturned, blocking Lady Jane's exit. She trades insults - and then punches - with Delia, which Nevil photographs. The following morning at breakfast, Wally and Delia see the picture in the paper, and agree that it is perhaps time to move on...