7

The (otherwise unrelated) mention of mincemeat in this question reminded me of a scene I saw in a British television show at some point in the 1980s. I really don't remember very much, except the one scene that I am going to describe—and I didn't really remember that until the mention of mincemeat jogged my memory.

There were a number of American public television programs that rebroadcast (and sometimes co-produced) British television shows. This started with Masterpiece Theatre, which expanded to Mystery!. This was probably shown on WonderWorks, which did the same kind of thing for British (and Canadian) children's programs (and also produced miniseries of its own, which were reciprocally shown in Britain); I remember watching Tom Baker in the BBC-produced dramatization of The Silver Chair on WonderWorks, circa 1991, and I am pretty sure that the show I am thinking of must have aired before that.

I don't remember much, except for a scene in which one or more youthful (probably preteen) protagonists were trapped in a dimly-lit, brick-line, pit-like cell or oubliette by a group of witches. One of the witches sticks her head into the pit—either to interrogate the prisoners or perhaps just to taunt them—and after a bit of argument, one of the children says that she looks like (or is) mincemeat. This stuck in my mind, since it seemed an incredibly mild insult, but the very British witch appeared to have been deeply offended. She departed the conversation at that point, although I think that another member of her coven took her place and bandied a few more words with the kids in the bottom of the pit. From the way I recall the boy who compared the first which to mincemeat was dressed, I would guess that the story was set in the early twentieth or late nineteenth century.

11
  • I'm not 100% confident - mainly because this episode first aired in the early 1990s - but this reminds me a bit of "T-Bag and the Rings of Olympus" episode 9. Take a look at hight.50webs.com/series/rings/ep9.html - if it looks like it might be the one, I'll post an answer instead of just this comment. Jan 15, 2022 at 16:33
  • Adding to my previous comment - most of the T-Bag series aired in the 80s, so you could have misremembered this as being shown then? Jan 15, 2022 at 16:47
  • 1
    @Astrid_Redfern That looks like a good guess. However, a fact that I meant to include in the question but forgot was that the protagonist's outfit looked like something from the late nineteenth or early twentieth century. So, although I will look into "T-Bag," I doubt it will be the correct answer.
    – Buzz
    Jan 15, 2022 at 17:17
  • youtube.com/watch?v=rxmloq-9I5E - though the closest I can find to "mincemeat" is a girl calling someone a "monster" at about 15:49 in. Jan 15, 2022 at 17:22
  • 1
    re: the mincemeat taunt: it probably wasn't meant as an insult ("You look like mincemeat), but as a threat, meaning "You're going to look like mincemeat when I'm finished with you." It's a common British colloquialism. Jan 15, 2022 at 19:57

1 Answer 1

2

I think this might be The Box of Delights. This was a BBC TV series, originally aired in the UK in 1984, and based on a book published in 1935.

From the one-line episode descriptions on Wikipedia, episode 6 seems the most likely:

"Kay is trapped in the dungeons of the Bishop's Palace. Can he locate the magic box before it's too late?"

In this reaction video for episode 6, we see a few clips, some of which certainly show one of the villains involved in evil magic/the occult. This villain appears to be disguised as a clergyman. At 8:44 and various other moments in, we can see him peering down through a barred window at an old man in a dungeon. In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment at 7:40, he appears to be entering the dungeon and leaving a group of - his accomplices? - behind.

A YT upload of a radio adaptation lets us hear some dialog, as he threatens to flood the dungeon and kill the prisoner or prisoners. There's definitely at least one young boy held in those dungeons.

TVTropes describes the dungeon as a "drowning pit":

"Drowning Pit: Abner's dungeon is designed with a mechanism to flood it with water from the lake above; he triggers it in the last episode."

The only full episode I can find an online video of is Episode 3 - which doesn't feature anyone trapped in a pit. But note the early-20th-century clothing styles and setting, which this does showcase.

There is a "reaction video" of Episode 1, which includes some clips from the episode itself.

As for the mincemeat... there are certainly quotes involving people being turned into mincemeat, both in the book and TV show. For the book, this Tweet states:

"There is mention of a man putting his father into a meat-mincer on PAGE FIVE. The English, man. Once you get past the tea and manners there are some dark corners."

Neil Gaiman quoted that tweet, and added:

"Warning: DO NOT BUY THE ABRIDGED EDITION. ... It needs to have detectives (or are they?) and the imaginary mincemeat murder in it."

This blog entry confirms a mincemeat quote in the TV adaptation:

"Actually, I was a bit scared of this programme; there was a lot of talk of people being 'scrobbled' and ground into mincemeat (put my best friend right off mince pies, but I’m made of sterner, more sugar-addicted, stuff). "

Louise Jameson played the main female villain in yet another adaptation - this time an audio drama. In this interview she and some other actors allude to the same or another possible mincemeat quote:

Mark: ... We've just done a bit where Sylvia talks about grinding naughty children up into dog biscuits and stuff like that and that has a nice Brothers Grimm feel to it, which is essential.

...

Have you yet got a favourite moment or a moment that summed up your characters?

Louise: I think the one that Mark quotes earlier where she threatens the little girl with grinding her up and making her dog biscuits.

Mark: It's genius about dog biscuits isn't it? Because it's not just mince meat, it's very plausible!

Louise: It's dry, isn't it, marrow and... So yes, I love that, particularly as she's being sweet a nanosecond before, that wonderful ability to turn on a sixpence like that.

...

Barnaby: ... Cole Hawlings is magical and fantastic but yes the dog's meat is where I'm at!

There's a Twitter account devoted to the show here.

The book also has a prequel, which featured the same two villains and confirmed that they were part of a coven of witches. From Wikipedia:

"The treasure is also sought by a coven of witches who are seeking it for their own ends. Kay's governess Sylvia Daisy Pouncer is a member of the coven. The witches are led or guided by the wizard Abner Brown."

(Incidentally, for Doctor Who fans... As well as Louise Jameson - who played Leela - in that audio version, the TV show had no less a person than PATRICK TROUGHTON in a major role!)

2
  • 1
    Very likely this is it. I know I saw The Box of Delights, and I remember some of the animated segments quite well. I don't recall this part specifically, but the way I remember Kay being dressed in the show, with s schoolboy cap and tweeds, matches what I think I recall off the pit scene. I'll have to watch some videos.
    – Buzz
    Mar 29, 2022 at 23:28
  • 1
    I should add a couple further notes: Years later, I checked Masefield's book out of the library, but they only had the abridged version. I don't know exactly what was missing, but the abridgement was clearly inept, with obvious continuity problems. On a more positive note, I remember that at a Doctor Who convention, somebody asked Troughton about his role in this series, and he had some interesting comments about it.
    – Buzz
    Mar 29, 2022 at 23:37

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.