Film opens with a shot of a lit neon sign which reads: "Rehearsal - Enter Quietly". The sign then flips to "Recording - No Entry". Voices over the soundtrack mutter as if trying to get people to be quiet. "When we say quiet we mean quiet - honestly it's like being in Berwick market on a Saturday morning." Curtains open to reveal a cinema screen then the film's title appears. "Scrutiny" then "A New Form of Screen Journalism presenting the March of Mankind. No. 1 - 249th Year" This is presumably a pastiche of the March of Time series.
M/S of two chimpanzees at a sound mixing desk. They are dressed in suits and muttering suggests that they are putting together a newsreel type film. The sound man asks for a "voice-check". C/U of a monkey wearing headphones. We then see the "commentator" in a sound proof booth. He wears sunglasses and "speaks" into a microphone. He has a very posh voice and says: "2 - 4 - 6 - 8 - who do we appreciate? Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb..." then a bit of Shakespeare? - "creeps on this petty pace from day to day." The sound chimp takes off his headphones and someone says: "Now we've upset him, you know how he is." They ask the projectionist if he is ready. The projectionist moans about the dirty window. Amongst all the mutterings, they begin to run the newsreel.
Extremely funny plummy voiceover accompanies images of picturesque Britain. Intercut with shots of the chimp commentator. The commentary is very funny - a pastiche of majestic newsreel commentary. Various shots of workers in the field, cricket being played - all very "this is Britain". A group of women in large hats are seen singing a song on a bus - presumably going on a day our or on holiday. The women have a laugh dancing around outside the bus as the voiceover says: "Ee - ey - ee - ey - ee - ey - oh!" A strange tapping sound interrupts proceedings. One of the chimps looks agitated. A monkey sits in the corner with a mallet hitting a piece of wood. "Pack it up there! Can't you see the red light's on?!" a gaggle of voices shout "Shut up please!" one asks "What's he up to up there? Crushing garlic?".
The newsreel continues. Various shots of rivers - people punt, a boat sinks. L/S of the Tower of London, commuters cross a bridge. The commentator reaches fever pitch in his patriotic ranting talking about Britain's maritime heritage and how workers call forth the spirit of their seafaring forefathers. This is over a shot of a bowler hatted businessman climbing aboard a ridiculous one man jet ski boat thing! He drives off up the Thames.
Another bowler hatted businessman - this time in his underwear - jogs along a suburban street (Burnham Crescent). The chimp narrator is ranting about how today's realists are stripped of illusions and superficial trappings and face the trade gap with "a smile and a stiff upper". Montage illustrating import and export trade ends with shot of a car being pulled out of a harbour with a frogman sitting on top of the device which is lifting it.
Narrator slips from his professional tone when he says: "To pay ones way with hops from Kent, cottons from Lancashire - I wonder what that is, in that dirty great box?" Title flashes up "Scene Missing." The screen is blank. Shot of the editor chimp sitting at a bullseye moviola. Various shots of the chimp getting film all tangled up. Low angle shot of monkey standing high up on can shelving pulling out a can. "Not that one" grumbles one of the other chimps "that's reel 17 of Lawrence of Arabia." Chimp has handfuls of 35mm film.
Newsreel continues. "And then came the industrial revolution." Majestic music, shots of foundries, men at work, a sign which reads "Frying from 7.30pm"! Montage of "work" footage. "Yet amidst the teamwork precision exacted by this competitive world of applied science there is still room for individual endeavour for the fruition of personal dreams." Early attempt at flight ends in plane falling to pieces.
The two boss chimps moan about the standard of the commentary. They then discuss the writer of the dialogue - we see a chimp at a typewriter. He has a fag in his mouth! "Lady Chatterley strikes again" says one of the chimps. "The lion of the literary lunches." The chimp really does look as if he is typing.
One of the boss chimps complains about a whistle on the soundtrack and asks Charlie to come and fix it. A chimp walks towards a switchboard (? I don't know the proper technical term) and fiddles around with some leads he has around his neck.
Neon sign "Rehearsal - Enter Quietly." There is a knock on the door and it opens to reveal the lower body of a chimp in a suit. One of the boss chimps says: "Look, look, it's the second door on the right" and the other says: "And if you run, you'll probably make it." (The chimp was looking for the toilet presumably!)
The boss chimps sit at the mixing desk and tell the projectionist to put on reel two. He says he doesn't have it. Cue shot of chimp running along a corridor carrying a stack of cans. Charlie is still fiddling around with the sound leads. We see the projectionist chimp pulling down film from the projector. "They've give it to me upside down again, well it's their loss because now I've got to go right through to the perishing end of the blooming..." Shot of the commentator. Plummy voice: "Oh, dear me. I have other commitments you know."
Boss chimps ask the commentator if he is ready. "OF COURSE I'M READY." Boss asks: "Want another test?" Commentator says: "No I do NOT want another test!" Projectionist is asked "Ready projection?" Projectionist says he is ready except that he "can't see nuthink." Boss chimps say "Don't worry about not seeing nuthink - just BUNG IT ON!"
One boss chimp asks: "Reel 2 - what's that all about? Mother of Parliaments, Democracy and all that .." other chimp predicts of the commentator: "I bet he gives this the lot". Newsreel continues with shot of the Houses of Parliament and the commentator booms "Mother of Parliaments, seat of democracy etc." Land of Hope and Glory on the soundtrack. Various quintessential "glorious Britain" shots. Man drives a bath through the streets of Britain - his wing mirror is set into a back brush.
As commentator states: "Come what may - the British Lion still leads." a woman emerges from a house with a lion on a lead. Politician makes a speech to an assembled crowd. Commentator yawns. Boss chimp says: "Cut it, cut it, cut it" as someone is making a kind of chinking sound in the studio. Turns out to be the tea lady approaching. Boss chimps complain about the taste of the tea.
Newsreel continues with a travelogue section. "From Lands End to Ballochburn (?) and Walton-on-the-Naze" etc. The commentator is really getting into his stride now. Over seemingly random shots of commuters, workers, buses, etc. commentator bangs on about the Bulldog Breed and his "unassailable right to stand on whatever platform he choses to decide his country's destiny." Man rolls out the list of destinations on a bus indicator sign.
Elderly man looks at a sign which details Polling places. A giant man speaks to a man of ordinary height. Montage of shots of political candidates and ordinary people making speeches. "in the rough and tumble of the political arena with no holds barred." Shots of wrestling match. As the commentator talks about the respect the ordinary man has for the police there are shots of civil disobedience. Men jostle the police and jump into the fountains at Trafalgar Square (I think).
Police try to fight back the crowds - it could be New Year's Eve revellers.
Chimp starts banging a piece of wood with a mallet again. The boss chimps start to get really wound up. Sequence of civil disobedience intercut with shots of boss chimps losing their tempers. A sign in the studio lights up with the following words: "Start - Stop - Rack - Focus - Repeat - Paper." The boss chimps argue with each other "Don't raise your voice at me, I've been in the game as long as you have" etc. A huge pile of film cans topples over. The chimps have a fight and film cans fall over. One can goes rolling off down a corridor.
End titles. "That was Scrutiny. Written and directed by Peter Baylis. Sound - George Newberry. Cutting - Oliver Cheatle. Commentator - Howard Marion Crawford. Associate Producer - Lionel Hoare. Produced by Terry Ashwood. Film ends with shot of a banana skin on a desk.
Note: that is the funniest film I EVER saw! A really funny pastiche on how a newsreel is put together with excellent performances by the chimps and a super funny script. Truly wonderful!