Once upon a time, a king lay dying. His loyal subjects were overcome with grief—and non-payment of wages.
So begins Cucumber Castle, a 1970 BBC film and an oddity in the Bee Gees’ oeuvre. Of course, if the Bee Gees are known for their involvement in a film, it’s Saturday Night Fever, the ‘70s disco movie that became so popular as to pose an existential threat to rock ‘n’ roll itself, but all the really good Bee Gees fans know about their original psychedelic period. If you need to be brought up to speed, this can be done briefly: the early Bee Gees’ four albums from 1967’s Bee Gees 1st to 1969’s masterpiece Odessa are indispensable psych-pop GEMS with which no fan of that era’s rock would be unfamiliar in a better world. I feel like having a home without Bee Gees 1st is as incomplete as having a home without a dog or cat. Sure, it can be done, but why would you want that?
After Odessa, the band experienced a falling-out. Vocalist Robin Gibb (RIP 2012) left the band for a brief period, leaving the group as a trio of his twin brother Maurice (RIP 2003), elder brother Barry, and drummer Colin Petersen, who himself would be soon out the door. The remaining band’s next endeavor was Cucumber Castle, an affably goofy, mildly Pythonesque musical film about a dying king (TW3 comic Frankie Howerd hamming it up through the damn roof) dividing his kingdom between his sons Frederick and Marmaduke (Barry and Maurice Gibb) into the Kingdom of Cucumber and the Kingdom of Jelly, over which spoils the brothers immediately proceed to quarrel. The Gibbs aren’t half bad comedic actors in a stilted, they’re-not-really-actors way, and the film includes appearances by Bind Faith, Spike Milligan, Vincent Price, and Lulu (who was married to Maurice at the time), with abundant uncredited cameos whom I won’t name, as it’s more fun to watch the hour-long special and do your own trainspotting. And of course there are shloads of musical numbers—though it should be mentioned here that I know of nobody who considers the Cucumber Castle LP essential.
The Brothers Gibb played host to Hit Parader’s Margaret Robin during Cucumber Castle‘s filming, and Barry offered this take, published in that mag’s April, 1970 issue.
The concept was of a Laugh-In type of show, but set roughly in Tudor England. The way that a lot of the sketches worked out was that the punch-line was in the sudden contrast between the Tudor times and a confrontation with the 20th Century.
We are very pleased with the results we have seen so far, but we know that the real art of making a comedy film is in the editing, and we are getting the best professional help that we can in that department.
It was when we began to really work on the story that we both realized that the outline of the story contained so many parables relating to reality. So it worked out that several of the sketches—for us, anyway—have a meaning above and beyond the obvious joke.
Previously on Dangerous Minds
‘Idea’: Incredible pop-psychedelic Bee Gees TV special, 1968