Skeleton’s Gold History
The Salvation ‘Enemy’
In 1881, The Skeleton Army was formed on the streets of Weston-super-mare to fight the Salvation Army. Made up of a rag tag bunch of libertines, drunkards, publicans and brothel-keepers began in opposition to the message of virtuous clean living for the British public. The methods were varied, from the mischievous mockery of the Salvation Army’s music and songs in order to make their processions pointless, to openly attacking them in the street. They would pelt the Salvationists with paint filled eggs, dead animals, burning coals and anything else available.
The Battle of Worthing
The Skeleton Army imitated much of the regalia of the Salvation Army. They too had a uniform of sorts; they would recognise each other by apparel or accessories adorned with skull and crossbones. Their flags would feature skulls, skeletons and coffins. The Salvation Army’s slogans were also turned against them. Blood and Fire became Blood and Thunder; whilst their three S’s, Soup, Soap and Salvation was replaced by the three B’s; Beef, Beer and Bacca. They also produced their own blasphemous and obscene newsletters to promote their cause. Tensions came to a head in the famous battle of Worthing in 1884, where almost 4000 Skeleton Army took on the Salvation Army and won in chaos that could only be stopped by the Army under the Riot Act. Eventually the authorities clamped down on their activities, and combined with the increasing popularity of the Salvation Army, their numbers dwindled. Thus ended a short and unruly period of English social history, that is until 80 years later…
The Greasers Emerge
In 1972, a motely crew of ‘Greebos’ as they were called in those days who rode under the name of the ‘Hole In The Wall Gang’ after the name of one of their pubs ( the other being Birnbeck Pier ) decided to pay tribute to the original Skeleton Army from their home town, and re-name their gang the same.The exploits of the ‘72 Skeleton Army will be portrayed in a new movie, SKELETONS GOLD! written by one of its founder members, Jimmy ‘Scotty’ Scott who rode with the ’72 Skeleton Army and fought the 70’s Skinhead hordes with the gang.
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I went through the script 3 times and must say I liked it better each time. When I first started, I thought the premise was maybe too niche-oriented, and I had other negative reactions, but by the time I finished my first read, I was totally won over.
I think this is a VERY GOOD script, and even with its heavy British slang that might be off-putting to many Yank audiences unless there are subtitles, I think it may have a big hidden commercial appeal.
Forgetting the negatives, let’s examine the positives:
A very in-depth look at a certain time and place in the U.K. that most American audiences will not even have imagined existed. This is a huge PLUS because the “time and place” are so excellent in their evocation that what you end up with turns out to be a highly original concept.
The script includes a killer soundtrack, using the music of such period stars as Little Richard, Elvis, the Rolling Stones and Status Quo, right through to the early Glam Rock era in England. Even if some of the music faces high clearance costs, there are sufficient replacement tracks that could keep the costs well below what you might expect.
The highly original character names: Toad, Squeaker, Kicker, Bonehead, Chopper ‘Arris, Plug, Bangers, Slasher, Maggot, Tiger, Cody “Shitbox” Barr – these are sure to please any audience. There’s even a rock’n’roll band called the Cheddar Shit Kickers. The non-biker supporting roles (Cody, who helps them build the replacement bikes in Act II, the local Vicar, Constable Willis, the Magistrate, Drunken war veteran Cyril Wilcox, Freddie the barman, the American Chuck and his son Jet in their Corvette, are all nicely drawn.)
I would hazard a guess that all this will appeal to a younger demographic (rather than at first-blush an older one), thus ensuring a successful theatrical release if the picture is produced with high level tech values. The fact that we go back to the summer of 1972 for this film keeps the violence well down – these guys come at each other with cricket stumps, chair legs, etc., not machine pistols. When Slasher pulls out a knife near the end, it’s a big deal. No guns, no drugs (to speak of), no really bad language: it all makes for a film a lot of teens will see.
Act I sets up the Nazi gold sub-plot and the rivalry between two biker gangs, the SKELETON ARMY (led by Jimmy) and the CANTON BOOT BOY SKINHEADS (led by Slasher). We get a first taste of their slacker ways, their bar room brawling, and their nonstop pranks visited upon innocent bystanders in the villages where they live. The Skeleton Army and the Skinheads have a couple of run-ins, and these prepare us for a ratcheting up of this rivalry to a higher level.
ACT II. While the Skeleton Army are in the cinema watching EASY RIDER, Slasher and his Skinheads, after watching CLOCKWORK ORANGE trash the Skeleton’s 250cc bikes parked out front. Fuel leaks out all from the tanks of the overturned bikes, and when Slasher tosses a cigarette into the middle of it all, the Skeleton’s bikes are engulfed in a devastating fire. This sets up a confrontation that will occur during the Harvest Festival in the town of Sedgemoor (basically what we in America call a county fair). Most of Act II is taken up with the Skeleton Army building new choppers from parts stolen here and there from all over the County, as well as the deepening relationship between Slasher’s girlfriend Angel, who has taken a secret liking to Jimmy, head of the Skeletons. One of the reasons Jimmy wants to put an end to the Skinheads (and Slasher) is to free Angel from his iron grip. (Again, a total cliché, but it works well in this film.) Angel even becomes Jimmy’s spy within the Skinheads, giving him vital information as to when and where the Skinheads plan to attack the Skeleton Army.
ACT III is, of course, the big confrontation at the Sedgemoor Harvest Festival. It is pretty well co-coordinated in the script, and could be a very effective set piece if it is executed with professional care by the right team. During the fight, what turns out to be a special treat is the use of a tractor pulling a “muck spreader” to cover the fighting rivals in layer after layer of pig manure. The audience will go nuts for this.
I don’t think there has ever been an American “homage” to the iconic EASY RIDER film. Maybe some rip-off copycats, but I am not aware of them. And this is not a “serious” film in the way EASY RIDER was serious. It’s lots of fun.
Jimmy Scott may have struck gold here by firstly having lived the part through this era in England and secondly NOT being American.
That being said, I still think it is incumbent upon any producer to analyze how the script could be altered – just a little here and there – to make it more palatable to an American audience. Even J.K. Rowling allowed certain changes to her Harry Potter novels as a nod to the commercial importance of the American audience.
I would not rework the dialogue too much because if you sanitize it too much or dilute the slang, you lose a lot of what makes this script so special. Even when I didn’t understand the exact meaning of a word, I most certainly got the gist of it. Certain dialogue in THE FULL MONTY & TRAINSPOTTING had this same problem, but the slang only made the resulting films more powerful in America, not less.