So hushed was the consulting room of Dr Pindrop that you could hear a pin drop. Thus, at the moment I dropped a pin, I coughed loudly, to camouflage the ping! of its landing on the linoleum. Now all I had to do was to wait for Dr Pindrop to come in. I whistled an approximation of the song of the masked shrike, Lanius nubicus, getting into character as Flight Lieutenant Colin Blythe RAF, portrayed by Donald Pleasence in The Great Escape (John Sturges, 1963). When Dr Pindrop entered, he would be in the role of Flight Lieutenant Robert Hendley DFC RAF, played in the film by James Garner. We would enact, albeit imperfectly, the poignant scene where it becomes apparent that Blythe is virtually blind, what with the eye-strain brought on by all that diligent counterfeiting of papers and passports and what have you.
But when Dr Pindrop pushed open the door and entered his consulting room, I saw something was up. Unlike Blythe, my vision was not occluded. Indeed, it was so piercing that I could count each individual furrow on the troubled brow of Dr Pindrop, though I was waiting at the far end of the room.
“I am so sorry, Blodweg,” said Dr Pindrop, “Something has come up and I have no time to take part in our reenactment of a classic film scene.”
“What is the matter?” I asked.
“Oh, you need not worry your odd-shaped little head about the titanic responsibilities of an important physician,” he said, “Suffice to say I shall be spending the rest of the day applying probes to the brains of guinea pigs.”
I complained that this left me at something of a loose end, just when I had entered what I think of as “the zone”. In that zone, I was Donald Pleasence, or Colin Blythe, or some exquisite amalgam of the two.
“I understand your concern,” said Dr Pindrop, in that mollifying tone he usually employs at the bedsides of the stricken, “But listen, out there in the waiting room are all my guinea pigs, sitting quietly. You could deliver Blythe’s ornithology lecture, from earlier in the film, and whistle the song of the masked shrike, Lanius nubicus.”
“To guinea pigs?” I asked, aghast.
“They are human guinea pigs,” said Dr Pindrop.
I had to admit that this was a splendid idea, and meant that my intellectual and emotional straining to become Donald Pleasence / Colin Blythe would not go to waste.
“Before you go,” said Dr Pindrop, “Pick up that pin you dropped earlier, would you?”
As I went to retrieve it, he stuck out his leg and tripped me over. We had enacted the classic film scene, albeit imperfectly, after all!
Thrilled with my performance, and still in character, I went out into the waiting room to tell the human guinea pigs about birds. But they were no longer sitting quietly. They had been corralled into a corner of the waiting room by Dr Pindrop’s receptionist, Mrs Creasefrock, who was toting a submachine gun. It took me a matter of moments to realise that she was in “the zone” as Hans Gruber, the criminal mastermind from Die Hard (John McTiernan, 1988) played by Alan Rickman.
“Mrs Creasefrock!” I cried, “I had no idea you too were a member of the Classic Action Film Scene Reenactment Society!”
She fired a burst of ammo into the ceiling and looked me over.
“Nice suit,” she said, “John Phillips, London. I have two myself. Rumour has it Arafat buys his there.”
Gosh, she really was in the zone! I had to think fast. This was no scene for Donald Pleasence. On the spur of the moment, I decided to shift character to one of Hans Gruber’s team of ruthless criminals, and I ran and crashed through the plate-glass window of Dr Pindrop’s waiting room, plummeting several storeys before landing with a terrific thump on a police car parked below, shattering the windscreen
“Hello!”, I said to the startled driver, “You must be Sergeant Al Powell, played by Reginald VelJohnson.”
I rubbed at my eyes to dislodge a fragment of the shattered windscreen.
“Can I help you?” said the driver.
“Oh no, please, it’s only something in my eye,” I said.
“Please let me look. I happen to be a doctor,” he said, and I realised he was the general secretary of the Classic Romantic Film Scene Reenactment Society. He was not Sergeant Al Powell. He was in the zone as Dr Alec Harvey, played by Trevor Howard in Brief Encounter (David Lean, 1945)!
It took all my thespian skills to slough off, in an instant, both Colin Blythe and a member of a German criminal gang.
“Oh, why must we be so withdrawn and shy and . . . difficult?” I said. The sun was shining on the nothing new.