Sunday, 1 June 2014

Call Me a Psycho (2008)

Director: Ian Paterson
Writers: Ian Paterson
Producers: Ian Paterson, Peter Ward
Cast: Peter Ward, Tracy Redington, Dave Marley
Country: UK
Year: 2008
Reviewed from: YouTube (link at bottom of review)

For a couple of years now, Call Me a Psycho has just been a title in my BHR masterlist. It was originally made available on DVD through the Superteam Productions website in 2008; frustratingly I only discovered this after Urban Terrors had been published, placing this among the addenda to that critically acclaimed tome.

Having now seen it, I’m in two minds whether to remove it from the list because it’s not really a horror movie, despite the title. However, my criteria for inclusion are personal and flexible and one of my meta-criteria is that as a film becomes more obscure or interesting, so my criteria become more flexible. That was why, for example, I was prepared to consider Sentinels of Darkness British enough for inclusion – who the hell else is ever going to write about it? – but there was no point in similarly stretching the definition of British horror to include something like Resident Evil.

Call Me a Psycho, while not exactly horrific, is both very obscure and very interesting – because it’s a remake of itself.

Here’s the Reader’s Digest version. Way back in 1990 three mates – Ian Paterson, Peter Ward, Andrew Jones – made a comedy cop movie entitled Call Me a Psycho. Then they made a bunch of other stuff. Then, 18 years after the original, they remade Call Me a Psycho. And not a loose remake either but the same script, give or take a couple of extra scenes.

The original was jointly directed by Ward, Jones and Paterson, with Ward and Jones as the cops and Paterson as the psycho. Eighteen years down the line, Paterson restricts himself to directing solo (apart from a brief cameo as a corpse) with the psycho played instead by Dave Marley who, it must be said, is much more suited to the role. Skinny, young Paterson never convinced as a dangerous psychotic mass murderer, but Marley is very tall, very fat, and has a small moustache that pulls his face into a permanent sneer. He looks like he could and would kill you. But in a funny way.

Although there is no sign of Jones beyond a courtesy credit, Ward is back, looking 18 years older, 18 years chubbier and with 18 years less hair. Actually that’s unfair. He’s neither fat nor bald, but he no longer looks like a young Peter Sellers. Realistically, who among us does? His partner this time is a woman, Detective Reddington who is taller than Ward, rocking a trouser suit combo and spiky black hair (Tracy Reddington was in the even more obscure Box of the Dead aka Satan’s Box and also had uncredited bit parts in Quantum of Solace and The Fifth Element). That said, there isn’t quite the same chemistry between Ward and Reddington as we saw in the original film between Ward and Jones.

Most of the script is word for word identical. There are a few extra short scenes, but they just add a little context. The discrepancy in running time – the original was 69 minutes, this is 86 – is actually down to a massive 14 minutes of out-takes which run under the glacially slow credits. (I’ve always said: if you’re going to drag out the credits, at least run bloopers under them. Finally, someone listened!) Anyway, as the maths graduates among you can see, the remake is actually only about three minutes longer than the original.
We still have the psycho (here given a name: Cy Coe) murdering a fellow patient due for release and thus absconding from the loony bin where he has been incarcerated. A few more conversations between two doctors pad out this sequence and dupe us into thinking this won’t be an exact remake, but the first scene of Ward and Reddington in the car on a stake-out of a drugs den lets us know that this will be, fascinatingly, the exact same film made 18 years later. Furthermore, the location of the stake-out looks very much like the same street/house used in 1990 and throughout the film there are sequences which, if not shot in the original locations, match them pretty closely. Certainly the exterior of Feltham Police Station is back for more.

What was a scene in a video shop is now a scene in a shop that seems to concentrate more on second-hand computer games, although the dialogue still calls it a ‘video shop’. The final sequence, previously set in a derelict building, now happens in a deserted Spearmint Rhino club, although who knows, maybe that was built on the site of the original’s scene? A throwaway gag subplot about an old man who gets stranded on a roundabout (the road junction, not the playground equipment) is slightly fleshed out with more back story for the old man. A newsreader replaces the original’s captions (she looks familiar, and is: it’s Gabrielle Amies who was the ex-wife in Whatever Happened to Pete Blaggit).

So how does the 2008 version square up against the 1990 original? It’s better, of course, if only because it has a budget, microscopic though that may be. There are better locations (for some scenes), actual costumes (police uniforms!), actual props – the whole thing has moved up from a few mates larking about with a camera to a legitimate entry in the 21st century renaissance of British independent film-making (and arguably the BHR). The film-makers are more experienced now, and that shows: this is slicker and more professional (though still bargain basement on an absolute scale, of course). There is even, in lieu of copyrighted pop songs, a properly written theme song by a band called The New Assassins (who appear as themselves in one of the new scenes). The events and characters of the intervening Superteam productions are referenced in some new dialogue which seems to be trying to tie all their films together into one continuity.

There are casting links too. The legend that is Norman Lovett – he of Red Dwarf and Evil Aliens – appears in one scene as the psycho’s father, having previously starred in probably the best known Superteam film, retro-scifi-western-epic Roswell 1847 (also now available on YouTube, after what seems to have been some wrangling between interested parties). Lovett’s two daughters appear with him as passers-by, concerned that he is being harassed by the police.

Speaking of YouTube, distribution is the other huge change between 1990 and 2008. The original film would only have been viewable on VHS, and only made available to anyone who knew the Superteam trio personally, or possibly may have been advertised in fanzines back in the day when ‘cut and paste’ literally involved scissors and Prittstick. But by 2008 there was an interwebs and even a YouTube and Superteam Productions could have a web presence that made their reach global, rather than a five mile radius of Feltham Nick.

Although there are instances of film-makers remaking a short as a feature, there are very few features which have been remade by the original film-makers at a later date with a wee bit more money. The only one I can think of right now is Pete Jacelone’s Psycho Sisters (which shares with Call Me a Psycho the interesting situation that the remake is on the IMDB but the original isn’t). So if there are any film students out there looking for a subject on which to write their dissertation, with an interest in low-budget film-making, here is a golden opportunity. The same film, made 18 years apart, by the same people in the same place with the same script. It’s a study in contrast, and while I certainly don’t have the time to go through it with a fine tooth comb, comparing and contrasting every element, some enterprising undergraduate certainly could. [I just found another one: Chris Sivertson and Lucky McKee made All Cheerleaders Die in 2001 and remade it in 2013. - MJS]

Also in the cast, most of whom have been in other Superteam films and/or the related works of American executive producer William Cheney, are Ari Gill (director of short thriller The Briefcase), Neil Higham (Waiting for Dawn), Michelle Kernohan (The Good, the Bad and the Undead), Stephanie Montreux (who was in Get Him to the Greek, Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll, and the 2006 Royal Variety Performance!), Rob Talbot (Jack Says, Peter Goddard’s Season of the Witch and Any Minute Now, The Butterfly Tattoo plus horror shorts Waste Disposal, Evil of the Vampires, Vampire Gang Origins and Attack of the Zombie Vampires), Marlon Williams (Stormhouse, Girl Number 9 and two episodes of Torchwood) and Susannah Todd (background roles in EastEnders, Holby City and Sherlock).

On close inspection, some of the minor characters are played by the same people, including (I'm fairly certain) the guy in the video store and one of the witnesses to a massacre in a McDonalds. Most fascinating of all, some of the out-takes under the credits show Peter Ward filming scenes with a male partner who I presume is Andrew Jones – what on Earth happened there?).

Although the remake is better than the original, the film-makers had more to work with – in terms of props, cast, experience, opportunities etc – and thus the rating, for what it’s worth, remains constant.

MJS rating: B

1 comment:

  1. The Copyright problem with Roswell 1847 is still ongoing