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This must go under a microscope. It belongs to World Health!


A Matter of WHO


A peculiarly positioned comedy-drama from Don Chaffey (Jason and the Argonauts) and starring the incomparable Terry-Thomas. Essentially, it’s a propaganda flick for the World Health Organisation and their global “beneficence” – you know, at the vanguard of laying the ground work for the New World Order and all, along with the UN – while simultaneously expounding the fearsome attributes of Pasteur germ theory. Bechamp must have been turning in his grave. He’s doubtless been extremely restless over the last century.

Apparently, A Matter of WHO was conceived as a straight thriller before T-T came aboard. Which makes sense, as his presence aside – and he’s relatively restrained here, if very T-T – this doesn’t play as comedy. There are four names on the writing front; it’s based on an article(s?) by Patricia Lee and Paul Dickinson, the former also earning an adaptation credit, while Milton Holmes and Harold Buchman were responsible for the screenplay. That may reflect the rather patchwork vibe, attempting to cram in intrigue and romance – and an American co-lead – as well as our brilliant WHO detective.

Archibald Banister: Department of Health, International Control. I’m with WHO.
Kennedy: Whom.
Archibald Banister: Not who. WHO. World Health Organisation. You see, I’m a detective of sorts. A germ detective.

T-T is super-capable throughout, in sobering contrast the complete rotter with whom we’re most familiar, and he’s a regular proselytiser for Rockefeller allopathic medicine to boot (the Rockefeller Foundation being a WHO partner, as of course is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation). The very T-T-named Archibald Bannister is called in to investigate when a passenger on a Nice-to-London flight falls ill. Is he sick or simply pished? Turns out, he’s got the dreaded pox! Of the diminutive variety. Cooper (Cyril Wheeler) works in the oil field (ahem) and is returning from the Middle East with new wife Michèle (Sonja Ziemann). His business partner Kennedy (Alex Nicol) is suspicious of both the circumstances (he was boozing on the flight, but “he’s strictly a milk drinker”) and the new ball and chain.

This was an MGM release (made by Foray Pictures also responsible for The Naked Earth, from the same credited screenplay writers), and I suspect that may be part of the reason for the American “appeal”. Nicol’s a charm-free hanger-on to Bannister’s investigation, since it turns out the spread of “the most contagious of all diseases” can be traced to his contacts in the oil industry, notably Ivanovitch (Guy Deghy) and Sheikh Rahman (Martin Benson, later the Vogon Captain in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy).

This “intrigue” isn’t especially intriguing, the long and short of it being that the dirty was being done on Kennedy by Cooper, hatching a deal with Ivanovitch (“All that happened to me was my best friend stabbed me in the back”); never fear, though, Bannister prevails, out on the piste, dodging a very pre-Bond helicopter and having to with his brolly, ensuring both the highly infectious tube (containing plans) is secured and that Ivanovitch and henchman are put in their place. The bounders!

Kennedy: How does a little girl grow up to be a cat like you?

Michele is, it seems, decent girl, despite being a bit of a floozy who parades around in her undies and a former mistress of Ivanovitch – “Don’t be a self-righteous humbug!” our Banister tells Kennedy. Later, Banister again berates Kennedy – “You behaved abominably toward that girl… and now this vicious attack on her character” and he contrives to get the two of them together (“She owns half your oil field”). It seems our Archibald’s no bounder; “Under other circumstances, I wouldn’t mind having a bash at melting her down”. He can also be seen meaningfully eyeing Michele up while explaining the pox’s promulgation and that someone may not fall ill until later, what with “the time necessary for the germs to live and flourish in the warmth of the body”. Never fear for Archibald’s romantic health, though; he’s got his own bit of fancy in the shape of Sister Bryan (Honor Blackman).

Hatfield: In future, when you think you’ve spotted an oriental rat that might fraternise with our London rats, make sure it is one and not just Mickey Mouse.

Also in the cast are T-T’s first cousin once removed, young Richard Briers, as his assistant Jamierson, Clive Morton (The Sea Devils) as his boss Hatfield, Roy Castle crooning the title song, and The John Barry Seven performing at a night club. The star attraction is T-T, however, and he ensures a picture that would otherwise be something of a trudge remains reasonably watchable. Inevitably, he’s something of a pain to his boss (“I mean, having promised them a plague in London, see that you give it to them”), but he also lives up to his detective credo, commandeering a vehicle in order to get his hands on a body and blacking up his tache and putting on an accent so as to wangle his through passport control. And he isn’t always right, noting it can be imprudent to jump to conclusions, citing a plumpish lady on a flight with stomach cramps; they ordered a stomach pump, but “An hour after landing, she gave birth to twins. Most embarrassing, but there you are”.

Archibald Banister: Wouldn’t you prefer it in the thigh, where it won’t be seen?
Young Lady: What makes you think it won’t be seen?

Archibold’s highly efficient, telling night club attendees he has a team “prepared to vaccinate you here and now” (they all dutifully line up, like lambs to the slaughter) and shows something of classic T-T when he instructs “Thank you, Jamieson. I’ll do the ladies”. There’s also some of the typical, casually offhand T-T in his manner (“It’s alright, young man. No cause for alarm” to an old servant) and a convivial air towards everyone he meets, from a boat captain (“My dear Skipper, I’m not from the Battersea Dogs Home. It’s only your crew that concerns me”) to the Sheikh’s friendly chimp, which gives him a kiss (“Not now, dear. Later”). When he receives a rude brush off from the Sheikh (“We have complied”), the chimp shakes his hand (“You, sir, are a gentleman”). Asked about a Swiss-German, he tells Kennedy “They all talk like that”.

Driver: Sherlock Holmes thinks he’s Stirling Moss!

Archibald’s also – to underpin that he’s eccentric – given a jaunty jalopy to drive and observes, when he snatches a Department of Health vehicle, that it “Handles quite well for a modern car”; when he’s being pursued by the authorities, he notes among the litany of his alleged sins “Dangerous driving? That’s most ungenerous!

Archibald Banister: Would it surprise you to know that, if World Health regulations were relaxed by even a month, we’d be ridden by plagues that would put the Middle Ages to shame?

Unfortunately, none of this gets in the way of, or lends irreverence towards, the respect accorded the activities of the WHO or their methods and doctrine. The WHO is a bastion of global protection because “germs know it’s one world”; we’d all suddenly die (above), were it not for them. It turns out to the culprit in this case – having reeled off the ones really designed to scare everyone: cholera, small pox, plague – is smallpox, a deadly disease that, if you look in the right places, has been surrounded by suspicion as to its bona fides and devious debate. And, of course, “our only safeguard against this plague is vaccination”. By now very familiar procedures are followed, including “not only tracing contacts, but contacts of contacts”, “Sometimes a carrier doesn’t even know he’s ill”, wearing hopeless facemasks at an “infected” chalet, and tracking the spread in a manner that puts Contagion to shame (“Two new incidents in Brussels and Zurich”).

Kennedy: What kind of disease is this?
Archibald Banister: Damn tricky.

We’re dealing with a clever virus” avers Archibald sagely, as if he’s Dustin Hoffman in Outbreak. The precise source of such infection is woolly, of course (certain places in Asia and the Middle East). Just like the actual WHO, Archibald proves obstinately resistant to bribery (“Think of the hospitals you could buy! The good you could do”). Naturally, no one questions the efficacy of the WHO’s methods. Even villain Ivanovitch’s giveaway of nefariousness is that he has had two vaccinations (he knew of the danger but wasn’t about to let it get in the way of his deal).

Kennedy: But he was vaccinated, just before he left Dallas.
Archibald Banister: Vaccination doesn’t always give complete protection. We run across individuals who can never be fully immunised. At other times, the vaccine is found to be impotent, or poorly administered. However, in most cases, vaccination is effective.

Curiously, though – perhaps because of the idea that they have to admit to the lie, even if and when promoting it – the movie address the charge that vaccines aren’t some panacea. The above could have been reeled off in the last two years, give or take, give or take making it 100 percent effective and emphasising some gubbins about side effects. Of course, germ theory as professed by Pasteur requires a lot of massaging to sell, and this is nothing new.

A case in point being the Bridgeport Evening Farmer, dated August 21 1909, in which Montague R Leverson MD, a student of pathology who had devoted him almost exclusively to the study of smallpox and vaccination for the preceding fifteen years, gives his refutation of Professor Theobald Smith’s position that vaccination prevents smallpox. Leverson compares Bechamp and Pasteur, citing vaccination as the cause of syphilis. He points to improvements to sanitation in England and the US – opposed by proponents of compulsory vaccination and the error in those who “assume smallpox to be a thing, an entity. This blunder is committed by nearly all the followers of the self-styled ‘regular school’, and “it will probably be a new idea to you to be told that neither smallpox nor any other disease is an entity but is a condition”. Leverson cites the death statistics in England during three different epidemics when smallpox vaccination was compulsory or “enforced with cruel violence” and how, during the one of 1870-2, “nearly all of whom had been vaccinated and many of them re-vaccinated one or more times”. He shows the effects on Leicester of sanitation improvements “whereof the abandonment of vaccination was not the least important” and conveys that the official Local Government Board reports support his case, “despite its continual trickery to support vaccination”.

Leverson’s on a roll throughout, attesting that nearly all Pasteur’s alleged biological discoveries were “either erroneous or were distorted plagiarism of the discoveries of others”. He rips the efficacy of his TB, anthrax and rabies inoculations to shreds. He asserts “had the medical profession been governed by common sense, experiments in that direction should never have been attempted”. Leverson warns that “Substances apparently inert and harmless, introduced into the bloodstream, are known to have produced almost instant death, and the recklessness of inoculation amounts to cruelty through ignorance”.

Compounding his sins – in the eyes of the establishment – he also vouches for homeopathy (as a contrast to inoculation) and confers that “The microbic theory of disease upon which your teachings rest is absolutely erroneous. The very word ‘microbe’ is an etymological solecism adopted in the hope of ‘drowning’ in a ‘conspiracy of silence’ the marvellous researches and discoveries of the master, Bechamp…” He goes on to discuss microsymas, which when diseased “have been erroneously termed pathogenic bacteria which, instead of being the causes, are the consequences of diseased conditions”. The WHO bans genetic engineering of the small pox virus, which is handy for something produced by someone’s own body.

Obviously, anyone in the profession today publicly voicing such concerns as Leverson’s – such as, say, over the MMRR vaccine – can expect to be hounded, harassed, vilified and stripped off all creditability and status. Perhaps, given all the above, it wasn’t simply casting against type that got Terry-Thomas, bounder-incarnate, the part of a WHO official.

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