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Dawn French
Murder Most Horrid (1991)
The Case of the Missing opens with the passengers on the 49 bus witnessing a murder by three cowled figures with rolled up left trouser legs. They've imbedded the victim's head in a square and compasses emblazed cement block [00:01:30] and impaled him with three small silver trowels. [00:01:20]
"That's not something you see every day... three hooded men under the bridge...."
"I expect it's the Rotarians."
"No. It's the Mafia."
"It's never the Mafia. It's the Sealed Knot."
"No, the Sealed Knot wears Civil War costumes. "That's more like the Ku Klux Klan."
"Or the Hare Krishna, but they're not chanting."
"Who is it that dresses up in silly clothes, then?"
"Medical students."
"No, masons!"
"Oh yes... masons!"
The murderers intone "so mote it be", then scurry away after hanging the body under the bridge. [00:02:35]
In a later scene, two cowled figures in business suits, wearing white lambskin aprons, greet each other in the lodge hall lobby:
"Greetings, Knight of the Unicorn and Celestial and Sovereign Crown Prince of Judah."
"Greetings, Omnipotent Knight of Kasha and the Feathered Serpent." [00:03:40]
They join six other cowled men in a circle around a checkered flooring,
"The Knight of the Brazen Noachite will deliver his report." [00:03:50]
When told that there is danger of discovery, they flutter their aprons. [00:04:00]
We need to be cleared by the police."
"No problem."
"...and by someone who isn't a Mason.
"Oh. That's a problem."
Traffic officer WPC Diane Softly then finds herself promoted to inspector to lead a top level CID investigation. Her commander's office is filled with masonic objects. [00:05:00]
Her opinion of the murder is that it was a clear case of ritual homicide with a commercial motive, but the DC suggests, "Looks more to accidental death to me, but I don't want to prejudice your enquiry."
Upon first meeting her staff a junior officer asks if she is a Mason but is quickly shushed by the sergeant. [00:07:40] The masonic square and compasses appears on a constable's cup, [00:12:57] the sergeant's cup [00:16:15], as well as other's [00:16:30], but is always overlooked by Softly [00:17:56]; while a print of the Master Mason tracing board taped to side of computer monitor also goes unnoticed [00:18:06]
The eighteen winesses, and the bus, are reported missing and then later they all win the annual Brownie Raffle and all leave on open ended holidays to the Australian outback.
In the editor's office, miniature tracing boards can be seen tacked to a notice board. [00:14:28]
The episode ends with the Masons meeting at 37 Old Temple Lane:
"Let our sacred and accepted rites begin. Let the Great Accountant of the Universe oversee our celebratory observances."
"Yea, in the name of Ozymandias, Jehosaphat and Babal, we got away with it!"
"So mote it be."
"Let us bare our shins, flap our aprons and present our left breasts naked."
"So mote it be."[00:25:00]
"Then let the [unintelligible] of Antiono flow like blood. The munificant influence of our great brotherhood has once again triumphed over the forces of the untrousered."
Having eliminated all of the suspects, Inspector Softly arrives at the only possible conclusion, but still can't answer why all the suspects are later found huddled around a tesselated flooring, trouser leg rolled up, wearing hoods and aprons.
This episode is clearly not anti-masonic but is parodying police dramas of the period such as Inspector Morse and forshadowing Prime Suspect. Like Inspector Morse, Inspector Softly insists on listening to music while she thinks. Like DCI Jane Tennison, she battles a male police culture.

Murder Most Horrid. "The Case of the Missing." Directed by Bob Spiers, written by Ian Hislop, Nick Newman. Starring Dawn French. Guest Stars: John Boswall (Judge) , Paul Mark Elliott (Max Rammell) , Stephen Frost (Sgt. Dawkins) , Gary Love (Constable Williams) , Timothy Spall (Pathologist) , Geoffrey McGivern (Mason), Bill Paterson (Chief Inspector). A TalkBack production for BBC. Image of Dawn French Copyright BBC. Thursday 14 November 1991.


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