|Stop-motion animated sci-fi private detective adventures and some truly appalling puns abound in this little-known Gerry Anderson production.
Dick Spanner, the tales of a robot private investigator, is a little different from your average Anderson production. The titular private investigator is an affectionate tribute to a long line of lantern-jawed detective heroes like Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe and Mike Hammer. He inhabits a strange world, crossed between the classic 50s/60s Chandler setting and out-and-out sci-fi.
The series has been shown in two formats - split into six-minute episodes as part of Network Seven weekend show, and as two long episodes each showing a complete story arc - The Case of the Human Cannonball and The Case of the Maltese Parrot. Dick Spanner also appeared in an advertising campaign selling cider [more detail needed!]
The stop-motion animation is amazingly detailed, with beautiful sets framing the action. The varied setting really allowed set and model designers to go to town, and although it's not as professionally carried off as the latest Aardman production, there's lots to look at, including some blink-and-miss-it sight gags (a movie poster for "Groan with the Wind - a Phar-tee Production" being a typical example).
Ah yes, the jokes. Not your typical Saturday morning fare, the puns and cheeky innuendo come thick and fast. Although the long-form episodes allowed you time to relax and enjoy the story, the relentless assault of groanworthy gags can prove a bit much over a full hour. Still, the sheer inventiveness and silliness carries the show.
The show is currently not available on DVD. Two videos were released, one for each Case, and they turn up on ebay every so often.
Not your typical Gerry Anderson production, then - but maybe he felt like promoting something a little different from his previous work. Presumably he was tickled by Terry Adlam's creation and volunteered his services, or he was sought out to add legitimacy to the application for funding... either way, we're glad he did. This is a quirky and underappreciated show that deserves wider recognition. Even if some of the jokes are terrible :)