DIRECTOR: JACK GOODFELLOW. RUNNING TIME: 81 mins. DVD: SNUFFBOX. PRICE £9.99 CERT 15
This is something of a throwback to those early 1950s British movies turned out by tin pot production companies trying to cash in on the transient fame of a then popular radio or music hall performer. After the relative failure of latter-day blaxploitation/cockney geezer card-sharp romp Black Ace (a follow-up to the highly successful cockney caper Lock, Stock and a Load of Old Bollocks), director Jack Goodfellow decided to go back to basics with this cheap and cheerful lottery-funded Brit comedy, featuring cult Radio One DJs Mark and Lard. Although shot whilst the Mancunian duo were at the height of their fame presenting the breakfast show, Goodfellow had the misfortune to see the movie’s release coincide with their being unceremoniously dropped from this slot. Consequently the film sank without trace; which, for Mark and Lard at least, is probably no bad thing. The finished film is real stinker, with Goodfellow’s script – which woefully attempts to build a story around Mark and Lard’s repertoire of catchphrases and comic characters – the main culprit.
The plot, such as it is, involves local radio DJ Mark Flakers (Mark Radcliffe) winning £500,000 on the lottery. Attracting unwanted attention from gold-digging women and scrounging fellow DJs, Flakers retreats to Blackpool to stay with his friend Marc “Lard” Donnelly (Marc “Lard” Riley with an Irish accent), an unemployed bass-player. In attempting to avoid his pursuers he and Donnelly become involved with a gang of counterfeiters led by the town’s mayor Fat Harry White (Radcliffe, again) and the mysterious, but beautiful, Miss Laycock (Virginia Maddikin). The denouement sees Fat Harry White stealing Flakers’ money and substituting his forged notes, only to find himself pursued by Flakers and Donnelly, who themselves are being pursued by the police, having been framed by White, for a series of peeping tom incidents. In a fraught climax, Flakers and Donnelly appear on stage in place of pop group The Shire Horses (Mark and Lard, yet again) – who are playing a gig in Blackpool – whilst the real Shire Horses , having been mistaken for the fugitive duo, are arrested and locked up by the Police, before chasing White into a local aquarium for a slapstick finale. White inevitably ends up with a wriggling fish down his trousers and mutters about “trouser trout”, the real peeping tom is caught in the act and Miss Laycock is revealed as an amnesiac nuclear physicist who has the formula for cold fusion in her bra.
Now, on paper this all sounds fine, but in practice its simply dire. A coherent and successful comedy cannot be built around a fat bloke spouting crude double-entendres about the motorcycling vicar having a fine “purple helmet”, and Lard as Donnelly running around shouting “You bloody fool!” and “I’m going to kick your arse”. There are some good moments, notably Radcliffe’s game of hat trumps with Mother Theresa, which he wins with a deerstalker, sombrero and mirrored top hat combo. Oh yes, you might think that’s Formula One commentator Murray Walker as the peeping tom – it isn’t. Its actually Murray Walker lookalike Bob Bald, who was forced to change his appearance via plastic surgery as a result of a 1998 court case brought by the real Walker, who had been mistakenly arrested for molesting a goat. The real culprit was, of course, Bob Bald. We should also be thankful for small mercies; Goodfellow had originally intended to cast his wife, American porn actress turned singer Madge Howlett as Miss Laycock, but a bad case of thrush led to a last minute change of plans. Ultimately this film is a bitter disappointment for fans of Mark and Lard. Far from being an accurate reflection of the pair’s surreal verbal wit, the film seems to be more of an attempt to revive the traditional British knockabout comedy – the viewer fully expects Lard to fall over at any minute, laughing hysterically, and shouting “Mr Grimsdale!” at Mark Radcliffe. However, one good thing did come out of its failure – Goodfellow was forced to abandon his plans to make a Brighton-set version of French gay comedy La Cage aux Folles starring Radio One favourites Chris Moyles and Comedy Dave, and Channel Four’s cheeky Graham Norton.