Dean Spanley

Synopsis: Each Thursday, a man approaching middle age calls upon his father, aged, caustic, nihilistic, and emotionally distant, perhaps from the loss of a son in the Boer War and his wife soon after. On this day, the son suggests they attend a visiting guru's lecture on the transmigration of souls. There they chat with a vicar and a soldier of fortune; dinner follows. Over glasses of Hungarian Tokay, the vicar, Dean Spanley, tells a story of friendship, freedom, and reincarnation. In what earthly way could this tale connect father and son?
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Director(s): Toa Fraser
Production: Icon Film Distribution Ltd.
  7 wins & 7 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
100 min


It is a commonplace observation

that remarkable events

often have ordinary beginnings.

Never was this more true

than of my talks with Dean Spanley,

which form the spine of our narrative.

- Morning.

- Morning.

Properly speaking,

they began on a Thursday,

the day on which I visit my father,

Mr Horatio Fisk.

This habit - one might even say ritual -

commenced after the death of my younger

brother Harrington in the Boer War

and the subsequent demise

of my dear mama,

occasioned by her grief

at this unsupportable loss.

I'm coming, I'm coming.

Morning, Mrs Brimley.

- How are you today?

- As you see me.

Could complain,

but what'd be the use of that?

Yes, indeed.

And himself?

Oh, he's working himself up

into a head of steam.

You know how he gets.

Sent back the paper, he did,

to have it properly ironed.

I'm just finishing the obituaries,

so you can take it in to him.

I thought he didn't read the obituaries.

No more he does, but he wants them

ironed just the same.

Says he doesn't read them

because he's afraid he'll come across

his own name one day. I ask you!

Do you believe in the transmigration

of souls, Mrs Brimley?

I don't believe in letting foreigners in,

if that's what you mean.

No, um... reincarnation,

not immigration.

Um, the belief that the immortal soul

has many earthly homes.

Well, I haven't given it much thought,

I haven't.

After Albert died

I went to one of them mediums,

but she couldn't get hold of him.

I wasn't surprised, mind you.

He never said much when he were alive.

I couldn't imagine him piping up

once he were dead.

Mind you don't crease that, now.

He won't know what day it is,

not having seen the paper.

- Oh, young Fisk. It must be Thursday.

- It is indeed.

Very handy, a Thursday. Keeps

Wednesday and Friday from colliding.

You're here, then.

You should have

the garden seen to, Father.

- That was your mother's job.

- Nevertheless...

Nevertheless. What does

that expression mean, I ask you?


Might as well be clearing your throat,

for all the sense it makes.

Well, it's a fine day, Father.

Have you anything particular in mind?

I can see how fine the day is.

As for particular in mind, everything

is particular when you get down to it.

What I meant was, do you have any plans?

Are there any concerts or exhibitions,

diversions you wish to attend?

There's nothing about the war.

We're not presently at war,

as far as I know.

Diversions, you say.

That's all that's left, you know,

before stepping

out of the anteroom of eternity.

There is a display of aboriginal weapons

from our wars of imperial conquest...

Such was the common procedure

of my relationship with my father.

I, carrying out my filial duty,

would arrive with the best of intentions.

He, indulging his practised

yet primitive paternal instincts,

would play a strange game of control.

As Thursday upon Thursday arrived,

I'd become more and more determined

to see this game dismantled.

A collection of Georgian shoe buckles.

Over 2,000 items.

That was an era when a gentleman could

spend a fortune ornamenting his feet.

Did we win the Boer War?

I believe we lost more slowly

than the other side.

Garden never recovered from it.

You know, there is a lecture

by one Swami Nala Prash

on the transmigration of souls.


Think if we had souls they wouldn't

get in touch? Of course they would.

Think your mother wouldn't be on to me

about that garden? Of course she would.

Still, it seems the most likely

of the lot, wouldn't you say?

It's being held at the home

of the Nawab of Ranjiput.

- Isn't that the cricketing Indian chappie?

- Yes, I believe so.

Oh, well. Let's take a look.

Heard tell he's turned the ballroom

into a cricket pitch.

Mad as badgers, these nawabs.

Oh, by the way,

I've invested in a chair vehicle.

Makes walking unnecessary.

You'll enjoy it.

Mrs Brimley! My chair!

- Watch your step, young Fisk.

- Thank you, Father.

- How is it going?

- Very smoothly so far.

So it should. Latest model.

Guaranteed to last longer than the user.

- Not that that means very much.

- Nonsense, Father.

Damned machines!

Be the death of all of us, they will.

Progress, Father,

occasions certain inconveniences.

- Galsworthy, old son. How are you?

- Very well, sir.

Hey-ho! Well done, chair.

Give you a hand with the buggy?

- Grab hold.

- That's kind of you.

- Buggy, indeed!

- My pleasure, sir.

Clyde-built by the feel of it.

Always a pleasure.

Thank you. Thank you.

Damn foolish game, cricket,

if you ask me. Too many rules.

- Howzat!

- Not out, I say.

- Not exactly a full house, is it?

- This is where you need to go.

Want to be where we can see

the yellow of his eyes.

I declare, that's Spanley,

dean of St Justus.

Not that I ever go there,

so he may have been kicked out by now.

- Father, keep your voice down.

- What?


Dean Spanley, did you say?

Not me. Chap with the dog collar.

What's a dean doing

at a sermon on reincarnation?

- Exactly my thought.

- I think it shows open-mindedness.

Impending apostasy, more like.

Seen the error of his Christian ways.

- The name's Wrather, with a W.

- Fisk.

- What brings you here, Mr Fisk?

- Ask young Fisk. His idea.

The lesser of several evils.

Well, there you are.

I thought I got a thin edge onto my pad,

but when the umpire raises his finger,

you have to walk.

That's life... and cricket.

Well, then,

time to bring on Swami Prash.

Of what he will tell you

I have no particular opinion,

but I've always held him in high regard

as a cricketer.

Bowled decent left-arm leg breaks

before he went holy.

Haven't seen him play since, but I've no doubt

he's still the sportsman he was. Hm.

I confess, the appearance of Swami Prash

came as something of a surprise,

even a disappointment.

For although I had no clear expectation

of what a holy man would look like,

I had imagined one with such a title

and discussing such a subject

to have been dressed more...


The question of

the transmigration of the soul,

perhaps more familiarly known to you

as reincarnation,

has been the structural underpinning

of Indian philosophical

and religious thought for millennia.

Only recently...

What ensued proved to be

as unilluminating a 50 minutes

as I can remember spending outside

the confines of parliamentary debate.

...esoteric wisdom

come to the attention...

Indeed, the most significant fact

I gleaned from the experience

was that with my eyes closed,

the lecturer could have been a Welshman.

A little, if only a little, closer.

I should be pleased now

to answer any questions you may have.

- Where am I?

- Be quiet.

You are, my dear sir,

in the anteroom of eternity

with the rest of us sojourning souls.

- What?

- Yes, madam?

I was, er... we were, that is,

wondering if...

- Did he say the anteroom of eternity?

- Shh.

- What?

- Shh.

- If they...

- Pets, really. The souls of pets.

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Alan Sharp

Alan Sharp (12 January 1934 – 8 February 2013) was a Scottish novelist and screenwriter. He published two novels in the 1960s, and subsequently wrote the screenplays for about twenty films, mostly produced in the United States. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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