Wednesday, 30 November 2016
548 Private Schulz
First viewed : Uncertain
I think I may have seen one or two episodes of this first time round when it was shown on BBC 2 in May 1981 but it's certain my sister and I watched it all the way through when it was repeated on BBC 1 in July 1982.
Private Schulz was the last work of acclaimed screenwriter Jack Pulman who made his name with I Claudius. He died in 1979 before it went into production. In the comic drama, Schulz ( Michael Elphick ) is an unsuccessful fraudster who is released from prison in Berlin in 1939 to aid the war effort and finds himself working for the Gestapo under the fanatical but incompetent Major Neuheim ( Ian Richardson ) . At his own suggestion he is put in charge of a plan to ruin Britain's economy by means of forged bank notes. Schulz has no ideological attachment to the Nazis who he thinks are nuts nor any real patriotism. He just wants to enrich himself and get off with mercenary prostitute Bertha ( Billie Whitelaw ). However he does look out for Jewish friend Solly ( Cyril Shaps ) who is a skilled forger and can be seen as something of a Schindler figure. Two of the episodes are set in Britain where Schultz encounters in the first a double agent and in the second a gangster both also played by Richardson.
The series divided critics. Some, like Clive James, believed that it was just too early to make members of the SS figures of fun. Those who got past that hump enjoyed the coal -black humour and farcical elements immensely , hence its repeat.
It made a star out of Elphick, hitherto a thuggish character actor. Richardson of course would make his name, some years on , playing a more famous TV villain but I'd say he was even better here as Neuheim, a man without any redeeming features but yet absurd enough to be amusing.