Imagine you are doing a pub quiz and a two part question comes up. The first part being: What does The Cornetto Trilogy refer to?
theWhilst some might respond with a clueless shrug, others, the geeks, movie-buffs, and assorted millennials, would likely quickly pipe up with, (and they’d be right in doing so), – Why, it’s the umbrella title that those loosely-linked films, Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End, are collectively known by. But wait – this fine body of work’s most devout, uber-nerdish disciples might assert indignantly, with a synchronized flourish of anorak zipping up – the precise and proper title in full is actually, The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy. So ner! And then there’s every chance that they would go on to name all three flavours, in their correct order of appearance. OK, good work, but now here comes the second part of the question: Where would you find the fourth Cornetto? Aha!
Of course, I’m not suggesting that poser will stump everyone. Those alluded to firm devotees of the trilogy, might be dismissively pfft-ing, thinking, Oh, that’s easy. But I think the piece of related trivial nerd-bait that I recently perchanced upon is fairly obscure. I haven’t heard anyone mention it before, and google threw up no references to it either. Hence my wanting to share. But by all means, if you are already in possession of this niche morsel, then you have every right to gloat -Ner ner ner ner ner(d)! However, for those not in the know, listen up because this might just come in handy one day, like maybe when you are in a real life pub quiz, having a laugh, a drink and a deep think, perhaps unaware of a shambolic bunch of strangely vacant looking people, slowly gathering outside..
A quick preliminary ponder is in order first though, on the finely tuned, comic holy trinity in question, what you could call ‘the people’s movie franchise’. I think it’s safe to say that the enduring popularity of, and affection for these films is due, in no small part to the liberal scattering of sharp, self-referential gags, homages, clever call-back gags, in-jokes and Easter eggs lain therein by their regular creative team of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Nira Parks. Like so many ETs following the trail of sweeties dropped by Eliot to entice and cajole, we lapped up their smart-as-a-whip scripts, (or, smart-as-Mr Whippy, even, because other ice-creams are available..) which contain enough, blink and you’ll miss them running gags to keep all the nerds in Nerdville, happily nodding knowingly, and nudging each other, long into the nerdish night.
So here is the, actually years old but new to me, Three Flavours related rib-nudge-worthy tidbit. As a long time Stephen King enthusiast, I was pleasantly surprised to come across some past work of his that I’d been unaware of. The 2006 TV mini-series –Nightmares and Dreamscapes, is a collection of 8 tales adapted from King’s 1990 short story anthology of the same name. I’d read the book some 26 years ago, but the TV version had somehow passed me by. So, ten years late, I duly dived in.
The first episode rang some immediate, if rusty, bells. Battleground, about a guy who acquires by nefarious means, a set of toy soldiers that come to life, only to then turn on him, with unfortunate results. Interesting to note that this short story preceded the film, Toy Story by some five years, and whilst the little green soldiers in this variant might resemble the ones in Andy’s toy-box, these violent little bastards aren’t playing games. I enjoyed watching William Hurt, (and in this case, he really does.. ) doing a great job as the sole (human) actor onscreen for 99% of the action, without uttering a single line of dialogue throughout, unless you count the regular grunts of pain. Good start, I thought. But I digress. For it was during the second story that my inner nerd was aroused and the factette thingy exposed. Ep 2 – titled: Crouch End.
This time I had no recollection of the plot, which concerns an American couple on a trip to London, who have cause to visit the episode’s eponymous, tube-stationless north London enclave. One of them remarks on what a creepy place name it is. ( I’ve never really thought about it like that, but I suppose, to an outsider, especially one who’s a master of horror fiction, it could have that ring.. ). A cabbie tells the couple that Crouch End is ‘no place for strangers’, then a second, who agrees to take them there, warns that the area ‘ has thin spots, that let in other dimensions’. Cut to the pertinent bit: When they arrive at their destination, the women alights from the cab, walks across the road, whereupon she lets out a surprised shriek of disgust as something wraps itself around her lower leg. A Cornetto wrapper.
Ooh very cute, Stephen, I thought. Whilst a previous quote of his firmly pegs him as a Shaun fan – ’10 on the fun meter and destined to be a cult classic’, still, this sneaky tribute caught me off guard. One wonders then, when did he also know that Pegg is a proud Crouch Ender himself, and that the grocery store where Shaun purchases the first Cornetto, is located there too? But what provokes the biggest beard stroke here, is the timeline of events. It seems Mr King, as in the previous toys coming to life yarn, was ahead of the curve again. The ‘world’s first zom-rom-com’ as it was famously dubbed at the time, came out in 2004. King’s TV nod to it was broadcast 2 years later, 2006 but in the year before the next film in the series, Hot Fuzz would appear, in 2007. Hmm..
King’s tale-of-terror-in-N8 could have paid it’s homage with a reference to a dog looking up, or to someone having red on them, but in plumping for the ubiquitous ice-cream snack of choice, he totally preempted it’s eventual significance within the trilogy. So did King get a tip off? Is he from the future? Could this nod, coming from such an illustrious source, have had any bearing on the decision to carry on representing the creamy strobilus in the later films? Maybe it was simply a very keen eye for a good hook, at work. But I’d like to think there is another, slightly more spooky possibility.
Imagine, if King’s original Crouch End, (the initial version of which was apparently published in a magazine as far back as 1980!), actually contained it’s own independent mention of a certain frozen desert-cone’s wrapper, attaching itself to a lady’s leg. Nooooo! That would be too freaky a concept, apt to send I screaming and running, bat-shit crazy, foam-flecked at the mouth, into the nearest eerie wood; might make me want to…shoot a gun into the air and go –Argghhh! Or it would at least bring on a massive, phantom ice-cream headache.
So there it is. Maybe not the most earth shattering revelation you’ve ever heard, but very possibly the nearest thing there will ever be to a fourth in the series; to The Four Flavours Cornetto Quadrilogy. I reckon there’s a fair few folk who would kick down any number of garden fences to get to see that; to sit in the dark, on a back-row full of aging nerds, anoraks safely stowed under their seats, nudging each other and enjoying just one (more) Cornetto..