Many geeks in the internet age have the resources to dream up, create, and share their filmed visions with the nerdverse at large. But it takes a liberal dollop each of verve and dedication to grasp a single throwaway gag from a podcast and blast it into fully-realized parody… all the while roping in Stephen frakking Fry to seal the deal. Ladies and germs, this is a tip of the pointy wizard’s hat (or maybe a dapper, cool pork-pie hat) to Jeremy Dylan. But before we talk about Jeremy, let’s start with Mark Kermode…
Kermode is the well-known UK film critic who co-hosts the excellent BBC Five Live movies podcast with presenter Simon Mayo. (Cineastes may know him best from his effusive love for The Exorcist and The Shawshank Redemption, both of which he hosted documentaries on for British television that subsequently ended up on DVD releases of those films.) He’s a genre film champion who commonly bucks popular taste, though not always; while his high-octane rants against the Pirates of the Caribbean films and The DaVinci Code are nigh on legend, he stands in the “pro” minority on the Twilight films and has been a fan of the Harry Potter canon… or at least, a post-Chris Columbus HP fan. Notably, it’s Columbus’ Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief from which our tale begins; listen, if you will, to a Kermodian classic from February 2010:
Now, Kermode and Mayo command a loyal audience thanks to the podcast, most of whom are deeply familiar with the in-jokey tropes of the show. (Few who listen regularly, for example, can see Jason Isaacs turn up in a film now without having to stifle the urge to chirp “Hello to Jason Isaacs!”) So within a few weeks’ time, anyone who follows the show would have been unlikely to refer to Percy Jackson by its real title rather than Benjamin Sniddlegrass and the Cauldron of Penguins, as Team Wittertainment had so christened it. But why, friends, why stop there? Why not take this snarkily crafted title of silliness and give it a life unto itself… a life of creativity! Of virtue! Of SKIFFLE RIFFS. (?!)
Enter the aforementioned Jeremy Dylan, Australian fan of the podcast who made it his mission for Benjamin Sniddlegrass and the Cauldron of Penguins to become an actual-fact filmic extravaganza. And boy, has he gone at it full steam: BSATCOP, as it’s been acronymically christened, has that mystical-coming of age tale element, but our hero is a hardcore skiffle fan (a nod to Kermode’s other gig as bass player of skiffle combo The Dodge Brothers); one of his guiding mentors is Werner Herzog (or at least a vaguely-Bavarian-by-way-of-Sydney accented version of Herzog, who was famously shot by an air rifle during his BBC interview with Kermode in 2007); and innumerable, charmingly shoe-horned references to people, places and things that… well, if you’re unfamiliar with the podcast, chances take a nose-dive that you’ll find it as funny as intended. If you do happen to be a die-hard, you’ll likely giggle at all the right bits, though it does prove to be a narrative deeply hinged on the inside gags without a terribly strong storyline to back it. (Mega-points for effort, though. The fact that the villain is called Lord Emmerich – as in Roland – wears a gorilla mask and speaks in a strange, twee feminine pitch is a surreal bonus.)
The coup de grâce in young master Dylan’s opus, of course, was netting Stephen Fry to record just a few minutes’ narration for the introduction of his main character. As he told Den of Geek recently, all it took was the gumption to pass Fry a copy of the script and a letter following a performance of his one-man show in Sydney (well, and it probably helped that Fry knew of and was a fan of the Kermode/Mayo podcast… but still!):
But three days later, I booted my computer up and there was an email from him saying he had a half-hour window between meetings that afternoon, saying he’d do the recording. So, I packed up the sound gear, nervous as all hell, and headed down to his hotel. I mean, I’d idolised this man since I was about nine years old.
So, yeah – in the end, it kinda doesn’t matter how many people are in on the joke. When you’ve got that kind of moxie and it gets results, it’s an inspiration to every geek out there with a camera and a dream. Well done, Jeremy, well done indeed.
• BSATCOP is available HERE as both a digital download and a DVD with assorted special features. And if you want to do your research first…