Our man Carl Jones gives his verdict on David Tristram’s new Inspector Drake film.
David Tristram has been well and truly bitten by the movie-making bug.
When we first spoke, nearly three years ago, the respected local playwright was nervously pacing around his editing studio, putting the finishing touches to his debut film.
Fast forward to the present, and Inspector Drake – the dumb detective he first created for the stage more than a quarter of a century ago – returns tonight for a second big-screen adventure.
David, 54, born in Quarry Bank near Dudley and now living at Highley near Bridgnorth, has once again written, directed, produced and edited the movie, under the auspices of his production company, Flying Ducks Films. He’s even written the music and lyrics for the cheeky, folksy title tune.
The cast is made up of Black Country and Shropshire acting talent, and locations include Chillington Hall at Codsall Wood, Severn Valley Country Park in Alveley, and Blists Hill Victorian Town in the Ironbridge Gorge.
In every respect, it’s a local movie. But don’t for a minute think this means it’s a low-budget camcorder job, cutting corners at the expense of entertainment.
Inspector Drake 2 – The Seagull is two hours of brilliantly bonkers buffoonery, made with very high production values.
Once you tune into its comic wavelength, you’ll see most of the visual gags coming from a mile away. But that merely gives you time to rock back, grin widely, and luxuriate as they wash in on a tide of double entendre.
Stourbridge am-dram stalwart Alan Birch, the first man to play the inspector on stage some 27 years ago, again takes on the title role, with Steve Witney returning as Drake’s dim-witted sergeant sidekick.
So what, you may ask, is this latest seagull business all about?
Last time, the 1930s detective was called in to investigate the discovery of a severed head in the woods. This time he’s on the trail of a ruthless serial killer who commits a hat-trick of murders in a hat shop.
The only eye-witness has no eyes, and the shop owner is convinced that the killer was a 6ft tall seagull, with a limp. Could she be right or, like most things in Drake’s surreal, slapstick world, are things never quite what they seem?
The first Drake film was a critically acclaimed hoot, and this time round the returning stars seem noticeably more comfortable in front of the camera. Visual jokes come thick and fast as the crew lampoon everything from Star Wars and Indiana Jones to The Godfather, and Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
There are echoes of old Ealing comedies, doses of Leslie Nielsen-style Airplane! farce, and flashes of The Two Ronnies’ playful “four candles” style of tomfoolery. And it’s tough not to smirk at the out-takes over the end credits. Alan Birch first played the role of Drake on stage at the age of 25, as a member of the Citizen’s Theatre Company in Brierley Hill. So it’s little wonder he appears totally unfazed by his job as the pork pie-hatted straight man, oblivious to the nonsense which surrounds him.
If, as David Tristram always says, the “currency of comedy is laughs”, Inspector Drake 2 is another nice little earner.
Inspector Drake 2 – The Seagull gets its world premiere tonight at the Light House Cinema in Wolverhampton. It is also showing at Highbury Theatre Centre in Birmingham tomorrow, and is back at the Light House on October 20.
For more details visit www.inspectordrake.com