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  Dick Dickman, PI A mystery in itselfBuy this film here.
Year: 2008
Director: Barry O'Neill
Stars: Barry O'Neill, Brendan O'Carroll, Frank Carson, Patrick Bergin, Brendan Grace, June Rodgers, Alan Shortt, Jonathan Ryan, Jon Kenny, Doreen Keogh, Aonghus Og McAnally
Genre: Comedy, Action, Thriller, Weirdo, Fantasy
Rating:  0 Votes
Review: Every so often, a film comes along that is so astonishing, but that has literally slipped through the cracks. You wonder why, because of its cast, but then you watch it, and you're left "WTF?". America had Ed Wood and Al Adamson. Britain had Lindsay Shonteff and Richard Driscoll. Ireland has... Well, the thing is, there have been lots of "bad" Irish films, from Hollywood romcoms to the homemade exploits of Jimmy "Ben-eh" Bennett's Fatal Deviation. However, nothing is quite as remarkable as Dick Dickman, P.I., a film, which despite having by Irish standards, an all-star cast of showbiz veterans, a DVD release found in the likes of Power City's now extinct DVD section, and Golden Discs, and a showing late night on RTE, managed to escape the IMdb's attention until yours truly pointed its lamentable absence. Why? Well, it's a staggering piece of work. The brainchild of one Barry O'Neill, a comedian from Wexford, it clearly shows that though O'Neill isn't even a household name in his homeland, he clearly is someone who over the years has made lots of friends in the industry.

O'Neill plays the titular character, Dick Dickman, a strange child-like bumbler who lives with his sister and her kids. He may be an attempt to give Ireland its own Pee-Wee Herman or Ernest P. Worrell, but this film, despite its colourful, childlike poster, is most definitely not a family film. But there are definite elements of Maxwell Smart and Inspector Clouseau himself, while O'Neill himself resembles Rhys Ifans playing Frank Spencer. He sleeps in a kids' bedroom, wears space-themed pyjamas, and talks in a high voice, halfway between Frank Spencer and Pee-Wee Herman. He lives in Wexford, O'Neill's hometown, which does, to be fair, look nice. He drives around in a micro-car in a chicken suit, for a "Mr. Wu" who runs a takeaway. Surprisingly, no one sings George Formby. One day, he buys a detective kit, and is guided through the steps by a video of Frank Carson, the legendary Belfast comedian in surprisingly his only film note (he didn't even appear in a British sex comedy, unlike several of his fellow stars of ITV's the Comedians), who plays Frank Johnson, clad in a Gilbert Roland moustache.

He's basically Carson, but as a private detective, and even gets to sing R. Kelly's I Believe I Can Fly at one point. Deciding to find a costume, Dick travels to the local Oxfam, played by the local Oxfam (the writer of this has indeed been to that Oxfam), and the old lady at the desk is none other than Doreen Keogh, best known for her roles as Assumpta Riley in early Coronation Street, Mrs. Dineen in Father Ted and Mary in The Royle Family. She gives our hero a Magnum, and a jacket. And gets to utter the lines, "We got a dildo, a great big black dildo!" He tries on a deerstalker, and there's a weird non sequitur involving a 007 cameo, i.e. a mannequin with a bad Connery impression dubbed over. For a low budget film, there is a lot of expensive music. James Brown, Right Said Fred, Vampire Weekend and Donna Lewis all feature, with James Brown's "I Feel Good" soundtracking a supposedly comedic photo-booth montage in a Tesco. Dick gets a gadget box, and meets an estate agent played by Alan Shortt (not to be confused with the more famous Pat Shortt - no relation), a runner-up on an Irish talent show in the early 90s, billed as "the Irish Robin Williams", who then went onto a varied career, popping up in Father Ted as a Gay Byrne manqué, but most famous for appearing as Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern in Bull Island, a strange excuse for satire by RTE. His character uses a calculator, and gets a hundred quid per month for a shed from Dick for an office. Dick then buys "office fornichair" from Jon Kenny, another Father Ted alumnus, and comedy partner of the aforementioned Pat (who presumably turned down a role in this), as a settled traveller. Yet another Father Ted star, Joe Rooney plays a posh, sinister neighbour, in a typically hammy Irish panto performance.

At this point, the shoddiness of the production becomes apparent, with the camera catching reflections of light bouncing off, while Dick attaches a loudspeaker to his car to discreetly advertise his business, driving around Wexford. There is a comedy German tourist, while a reasonably attractive woman asks for help. We learn something about witches. "So you like to run around naked?" asks Dick.

However, Dick arouses two jealous cops, played by Irish comedy staples Brendan O'Carroll and June Rodgers. Now, at this point, though O'Carroll had been a big name in the 90s, with his Browne family novels, and the film Agnes Browne starring Anjelica Huston as the Dublin matriarch (yes, really), by this time, he had been fighting tax issues, and was now serving a slightly more niche audience, making the various Mrs. Brown stage shows into a highly popular (among a certain audience) series of straight to video productions, which alongside Kenny and Shortt's D'Unbelievables videos, clearly inspired O'Neill to mount his own, slightly more ambitious production. Clearly, O'Carroll, though yet to have the unexpected career fillip of becoming the BBC's leading comedy star is doing this for a friend, but actually is almost a convincing threat. There is a sneering, bullyboy quality he almost obtains in his performance. Rodgers does her typical mugging, and is quite reminiscent of John Waters favourite Edith Massey. Then, there are leery shots of a busty maid. Then, we meet excruciating comedy stereotypes of an African and a wino. We learn of a villain named Fergal "Fingers" O'Flaherty, and we get Crackerjack-level patter. "Did he want the Academy Award?" "Have you considered suicide?" "No, he had everything going." Then, we meet an animal-masked cult, clearly intended to be a Wicker Man parody, but they come across more like furries. At one point, Dick licks a wound and says, "Tastes like O Blood, could be B."

We then meet Patrick Bergin, who has since having possibly the shortest tenure on the A-list in the 90s, has done a lot of dreck. He has worked for such trash-meisters as Richard Driscoll, Paul Matthews, the Asylum and Radiotelevisione Italiana, but he has never done anything as bad as this. He plays an eye-patched Russian pirate, who is smuggling "smack" (a hand that whacks Dick in the face) and "craic" (hence a peek into a crate, where we see legendary Irish comedian and yes! Father Ted actor Brendan Grace doing his routine with a ceili band playing the music from the Sally O'Brien ads for Harp lager). It devolves into a literally indescribable climax, involving penis jokes, and a sword that strikes lightning, resembling a quickening from the Highlander films, and the druid baddies are abducted by a UFO. And there's a sex doll. Our hero is then given a medal by the mayor, a little person played by Chris Burke, father of activist/model Sinead.

The film is almost workable. It could have a better lead, and perhaps work, if streamlined, but the production is so amateurish. O'Neill directs, writes, produces, stars, his family play roles, and at least he made it. But the result is so staggering, so astounding, so dog-eared, that it beggars belief that RTE even showed it. But then again, they once showed Al Adamson's Lost and Mickey Spillane's The Delta Factor.

Less Hot Fuzz or even Boys in Blue, and more Adventures of a Private Eye. What's even weirder is that its TV airing and its DVD release, both six years after completion of the film were apparently not quite legal. Which explains the Hong Kong-like attitude to music rights...
Reviewer: George White

 

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