Al Roach

Created by Obie Scott Wade, Michael Maler & Jordan Beswick

Al seeks solace at his neighbourhood watering hole…

Jim Rockford goes buggy!

Sure, you’ve seen him as Marlowe. And of course you’ve seen him as Rockford. You may have even seen him canoodling with Doris Day, or as a rambling, gambling man in Maverick.

But have you ever seen him as a cockroach?

In a short animated spoof/homage to film noir and old RKO detective B-flicks from the forties, James Garner plays (well, provides the voice for) AL ROACH, PRIVATE INSECTIGATOR.

Roach is the fedora-sporting roach gumshoe with a seedy office in Doowylloh (read it backwards), an entire town of insects in the dirt right behind the Hollywood sign. And, like the real Tinsel Town, Doowylloh is a “colony dripping with gilt, seduction, and betrayal.”

But down these streets a roach must skitter, and Al is that roach. The trouble starts when a beautiful bug fatale named Dede with more curves than “Motholland Drive” struts into his seedy office, promising to do “anything” in exchange for his help in finding her missing scientist father, Dede’s father, Professor Bugdonovich.

It may only be six minutes, but in those cheesy, goofy six minutes, Al is almost seduced by a lady bug with a thorax, spars with his faithful secretary betty, is drugged, gets to star in his own personal version of DOA, and has a gun pointed at him. There also are enough groan-worthy, insect-related puns to fill a flytrap, but my favourite line may be when the villain gets the drop on Al and company: “Now say goodnight, fellas–the bed bugs are about to bite.”

The primo slice of bug noir was originally produced by Obie of ObieCo Entertainment, Inc., a content creator whose aim was to provide “franchise-engineered media properties across a variety of media platforms, including television, home video, games, Internet, publishing, film, location-based entertainment and merchandising,” for Turner Classic Movies. The six-minute cartoon claimed, at the time, to be “one of the first — if not the first — black and white CGI animated film.” It was well-received at The Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films, LA International Short Film Festival, Atlanta’s DragonCon Film Festival and the Silver Lake Film Festival.

It premiered at the Palm Springs International Short Film Festival of Shorts on September 3, 2004, and made its television debut a year later, on TCM in December 2005. “The only sucky part,” our pal Obie said at the time, urging me to check it out, “is that it’s at 7:43 am Eastern Time, which is 4:43 am Pacific Time.  But if enough people watch it and email TCM, they may let us make some more. I hope you can Tivo it, or maybe you’re a night owl. Either way, I hope you get to see it.”

I did catch it, and I loved it, but I couldn’t Tivo it back then. Now I regret it.

These days, its even harder to catch. I’vew been told it still pops up occasionally on TCM, and it’s wandered on and off of YouTube a few times, but I haven’t been able to find it. But it’s well worth looking for.


  • “I love the expressionistic, clean, stark use of contrast (in film noir) — light and shadow. It’s almost architectural.” And this palette serves CGI perfectly. All the classics of film noir are stored in Wade’s feverish brain. “I love Orson Welles’ ‘Touch of Evil.’ “.
    What’s the funniest thing about noir? “The hair,” (Obie Scott Wade) laughs. “And the language is really very funny. We just don’t talk that way anymore, but it has a quick back-and-forth, ratt-tatt-tatt banter that reminds me of the radio announcers of the period. It also manages to say a lot of very dirty things in double entendres.”
    If there’s a sequel to “Al Roach,” Wade says his roach fatale will ask Al to “Give me a chirp sometime. Ya knows how to chirp, dontcha? Ya just put yer legs together and rub!”
    — Obie Scott Wade, ObieCo Entertainment, Inc. 
  • “a triumph of ‘toon noir, a black-and-white tribute to every Philip Marlowe story you’ve ever watched or read. It even opens with the Warner Bros. logo, making me think for a while that it was decades older than it is. Verbal and visual puns abound at a pace that would give the Simpsons a run for their money, and the adult situations — watch the antennae — will tickle you without damaging the delicate sensibilities of any little ones who may also be watching. It’s not original, but it’s very worthwhile, delivering silliness of a high order. Credit Turner Classic for keeping up with the times and screening this pestilential homage between its feature movies.”
    — eebyo (December 2005, IMDB)


    6 minutes, black and white
    Animated CGI
    Premiere: December 17, 2005, TCM
    Written by Obie Scott Wade, Michael Maler & Jordan Beswick
    Directed by Obie Scott
    Lead Animator: David Simmons
    Produced by Tim Rummel and Obie Scott Wade
    Starring James Garner as AL ROACH
    Also starring Michelle Forbes as Dede Dragonfly
    Kathy Kinney as Betty Earwiggins
    Freddy Rodriguez as The Fly On the Wall
    and Greg Berger as Professor Bugdonovich


Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks to Gerald So for the lead, and most of the legwork.

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