I don’t know that I’ve ever met anyone who loves movies more than Keith Gordon. I’m talking beyond the love of craft and rather the idea of the complex dream world that films can evoke. THE SINGING DETECTIVE is just such a world, mixing film noir with bouncy 50s pop songs while distilling the inner workings of its hero’s pain-addled mind. When I talked with Gordon early in the morning of October 3, 2003, he was witty and philosophical discussing the complex world of filmmaking, as well as the dangers of adapting a mini-series into a feature film and the advantages of a shoestring budget.
Translating a first-rate concept from one medium to another is always a risky business, even a remake of a film carries with it the seeds of its own destruction as iconic stars and situations are recreated only to be endlessly compared to the original. Thus it is that THE SINGING DETECTIVE, so superb as a British miniseries written by Dennis Potter, has been turned into a feature film, also written by Dennis Potter, that deserves credit for daring to try even as it stumbles heroically.
THE SINGING DETECTIVE delivers its Potter-style share of morbid wit, with Dark, the writer, confessing that he thinks all the problems of the world start with words. Yet, the thing as a whole never quite takes off. It has a peculiar lifelessness to it that belies the effort made by all and sundry. Is it that weve already seen the conceit of patients virtually ignored by their physicians as they cluster around them with all the emotional involvement of butterfly collectors examining a new specimen? Is it that the shortened form fails to engage us as a whole? Or is it that while everyone else is taking the material seriously, Mel Gibson, made up to look like Elmer Fudd, is playing Dark’s psychiatrist by doing a very bad impression of Robin Williams in PATCH ADAMS? Whatever it is, we as an audience are never drawn in and thats a darn shame fate for one of the more original psychodramas to have come from the end of the 20th century.