Movie Review by Dan Spiers
Starring: Jeremy Dyson, Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith
Director: Steve Bendelack
The League of Gentlemen is a comedy collective consisting of Jeremy Dyson, Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton, and Reece Shearsmith, renowned for a sitcom of the same name set in the fictional town of Royston Vasey and populated by a cast of socially and morally repugnant characters.
The central premise of THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN’S APOCALYPSE is established in the opening scene. Jeremy Dyson (Michael Sheen), the only writer not to be played by himself, is confronted by two of his comic creations from Royston Vasey, Edward (Shearsmith) and Tubbs (Pemberton), who appear at his front door and inadvertently chase him off a cliff.
The film then transfers to Royston Vasey in which Bernice the Vicar (Shearsmith) is revealing to chosen members of her flock portentous frescos foretelling an imminent apocalypse. Having realised the village is but a fiction, and having discovered a portal into the ‘real world’, she has already dispatched villagers Edward, Tubbs and Papa Lazarou (Shearsmith) to track down the writers.
They have not returned, but before Bernice can set off in pursuit fugitive butcher Hilary Briss, German teacher Herr Lipp and bungling businessman Geoff Tipps stumble into the portal. What they find in the ‘real world’ is a team of writers who have shelved Royston Vasey and are focussing their creative energies on a movie set in 1690, entitled ‘The King’s Evil’. And what we get is three narratives in which The League of Gentlemen, their characters from Royston Vasey and their characters from ‘The Kings Evil’, move in and out of each other’s realities in a desperate bid to stay alive.
The film is, quite clearly, utterly ridiculous. But gloriously so, for it is written and performed with a great sense of self awareness and comic panache. It has clearly taken shape as a response to The League of Gentlemen’s fear of failure. Conscious of the array of sitcoms lost in transition from small to large screen they have written a film which explores that very process, from the perspective of the writers, the characters they are leaving behind and the new characters they are bringing to life.
So whilst Hilary, Herr Lipp and Geoff Tipps go on a journey of discovery and liberation, so do The League of Gentleman. It is with gusto that they play out ‘The Kings Evil’, with a nod to the period pieces of Monty Python and to their long established influence of 1970’s hammer horror. David Warner, a regular of such films, plays Dr Erasmus Pea with glee and what with stop motion monsters, preposterously camp costumes and skin like porridge there is a charming eccentricity to proceedings which is resolutely British.
THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMAN’S APOCALYPSE means that the death of sitcom adaptations such as PORRIDGE and RISING DAMP need not have been meaningless. Those connected to them can be proud that their failure has shown the League of Gentleman what not to do. As a result a group of writers and performers let loose for the first time on the cinematic world have been able to reveal to a wider audience the true length and breadth of their comic muscle.