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  • TBC
  • 2007
  • 95 mins

Captain Eager And The Mark Of Voth

Captain Eager And The Mark Of Voth

Synopsis

Using only cardboard, string and pure pluck, Simon DaVison's nostalgic SF pastiche creates an analogue hero for a digital world

About

If this is an age where technological advances are accelerating at unprecedented rates, it is also the age where the has-been hero can make his nostalgic return, trying to find his way around in a new new-fangled world that still, in the end, needs the lost values which he embodies. And so John McClane dies hard once again, Rocky comes back fighting, Rambo backs another desperate cause, Indiana Jones can still bash the odd skull - and then there is also Captain Ted Eager.

This may be Eager's first on-screen outing, but he cuts a familiar enough figure. With his square jaw, stiff upper lip and male pattern baldness, Eager (Vaughan) is half Buster Crabbe, half Dan Dare - a relic from a time of tea, valves and plucky nobility. Eager's unexpected recall to duty after a long period of retirement will bring him into confrontation not only with an old enemy he never knew he had (Leaf), but also with corporate-speak, fast food and all the other trappings of our post-modern life.

Here his old comrades Professor Moon (Mellersh) and Scamp the Space Dog can be of little help, his diffident sidekick Scrutty Baker (Heap) is of questionable reliability, and his outmoded rust bucket The Victory no longer seems up to the task. At least, old-school old flame Jenny (Greig) is still around to guide Eager through all his self-doubt and to face the alien threat at his side - as long, that is, as he is not seduced away from all her cardigans and comfort by femme fatale Carmina (Carr).

Captain Eager And The Mark Of Voth is a true labour of love. Made over four years by writer/director Simon DaVison in 'thrilling Card-O-Scope!', it is a celebration of the make-do amateurishness of both 1950s British science fiction and 1950s Britain more generally, as well as a sly acknowledgement of the durability of such attitudes into the present day. Here sets wobble, actors ham it up, and a machine known as 'Expositionite' (and resembling no less than two old tellies stuck together) regularly interrupts events to expatiate unnecessarily on the intricacies of the plot. Everything is tinted in subdued yet psychedelic colours and, in keeping with the film's concern for looking forward as much as back, the cheap cardboard-and-glue props are accompanied by some equally cheap digital effects. Think the retro-aesthetics of Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow (2004) or Casshern (2004), only combined with a budget to match all the postwar austerity.

Unfortunately, the film's very success as pastiche is also its failure as feature-length entertainment. For while a nostalgic reverence for the clunkiest aspects of B-movie schlockdom may immunise Captain Eager And The Mark Of Voth against conventional criticisms for low production values, nothing can excuse the film for being, frankly, boring to sit through, with a bland title character and a plot that, for all its convolutions, goes nowhere and gets there slowly.

As parody, Captain Eager suffers from being a little too accurate - so close to its 1950s targets that it fails entirely to deliver on noughties expectations of pacing. In the end, it is difficult to resist the impression that the whole idea would have worked better as a short film. Certainly its funniest moments all come in the first 15 minutes; thereafter, the viewer has become accustomed to, and somewhat weary of, the film's makeshift stylisation and its single, over-extended joke.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Josephine Welcome, Krishna Kumari-Bowles, Alexander Andrew, Mark Heap, Richard Leaf, Nick Mellersh, James Vaughan, Grant Russell, Tamsin Greig, Lindsay Carr
  • Director: Simon Davison
  • Writer: Simon Davison
  • Producer: Rebecca Bazzard
  • Photographer: Martin Hill
  • Composer: Simon Davison

In a nutshell

Simon DaVison gets the charmingly clunky look and feel of 1950s SF spot on - but he also captures the genre's more tedious shortcomings a little too accurately for the average viewer's patience to bear.

by Anton Bitel

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