Dick Spanner (Dick Spanner P.I.)

Created by Terry Adlam

“The detective who puts the P.I. in stuPId!”

Private eyes are GO!

Mild-mannered private detective DICK SPANNER was the suitably square-jawed (but tiny-brained) titular robot hero of Dick Spanner, P.I., a tongue-in-cheek British series set in “a parallel universe not far from here,” featuring puppets, filmed entirely in stop-motion animation.

Occasionally referred to as “the world’s strangest private investigator,” with an office “on the east side of the wrong side,” this teaser for an upcoming episode says it all:

“Will Spanner get his bird or will he fall foul of Eric Von Strongbow? Why are all the smalls taking over Ivywood and is Mae East revealing more than she should…? Find out in “The Case Of The Maltese Parrot.”

Set sometime in the future, the twenty-two short (six minute) segments, divided between two serialized adventures, were originally seen in the U.K. as part of a Sunday morning show aimed at kids called Network Seven. The episodes were later given a late night showing on the same channel where it’s sly satire, non-stop wisecracks, dangerously bad puns and sight-gag-filled plots (including its savaging of film noir camera trickery) could perhaps be better appreciated. An added bonus for nostalgic eyes? Done on the cheap, although that might have been part of its charm, some of the background characters were simply modified (or not-so-modified) figures you could find at your local toy store or garage sale. Hey! Is that G.I. Joe? Are those Malibu Stacy’s legs?

Created by Terry Adlam, the show was produced by Gerry Anderson, of Thunderbirds fame, and so the show remains a cult favourite. Plans were to do a third serial, but only one episode of it was ever produced, and it never aired. “The Case of the Screaming Dame” was to be a riff on Agatha Christie‘s And Then There Were None (or maybe Neil Simon’s Murder By Death?), which found a group of detectives, (including out man Dick) assembled in Paris, where they were systematically being bumped off. Although completed in 1988, it went unreleased until 2014, when it surfaced as “The Case of the Missing Episode” on The Lost Worlds of Gerry Anderson DVD. It was later included as a bonus feature on the 2017 Dick Spanner DVD set.

“The Case of the Missing Dame” finally resurfaced as a two-part serial for a 2017 DVD release. But gone was the stop-motion animation–it was just a cartoon, roughly drawn by Terry Adlam and frankly, a little disappointing, although the gags still hit their mark.

THE EVIDENCE

  • “She looked like she’d been poured into the dress she had on, but someone had forgot to say ‘when.'”
    — “The Case of the Human Cannonball”
  • After a scuffle with laundry workers, Dick head butts one of them and flees. The headline of the newspaper the next day? “SPANNER NUTS WASHERS AND BOLTS.”

TELEVISION

  • NETWORK 7
    (1986, Channel Four)
    A newsmagazine show on Sunday mornings that often included short cartoons.

    • “The Case of the Human Cannonball” (serialized)
      11 6-minute episodes
      Writers: Tony Barwick, Terry Adlam
      Directors: Terry Adlam, Steven Begg, Jamie Anderson
      Music by Christopher Burr
      Producers: Gerry Anderson, Christopher Burr
      Starring Shane Rimmer (voice) as DICK SPANNER
    • “The Case Of The Maltese Parrot” (serialized)
      11 6-minute episodes
      Writers: Tony Barwick, Terry Adlam
      Directors: Terry Adlam, Steven Begg, Jamie Anderson
      Music by Christopher Burr
      Producers: Gerry Anderson, Christopher Burr
      Starring Shane Rimmer (voice) as DICK SPANNER

DVD ONLY

  • “The Case of the Missing Dame” (DVD only)
    (aka “The Case of the Missing Episode”)

    (1988)
    1 episodes
    Writers: Tony Barwick, Terry Adlam
    Directors: Terry Adlam, Steven Begg, Jamie Anderson
    Music by Christopher Burr
    Producers: Gerry Anderson, Christopher Burr
    Starring Jeremy Hitchen (voice) as DICK SPANNER
    With Emma Campbell, Géraldine Donaldson, Stephen La Rivière, Andrew T. Smith
  • “The Case of the Screaming Dame” (DVD only)
    (2017)
    Black & white
    Written by Terry Adlam
    Drawn by Terry Adlam
    Directed by Jamie Anderson
    Starring Shane Rimmer (voice) as DICK SPANNER

DVD COLLECTIONS

  • DICK SPANNER, P.I.: THE COMPLETE SERIES (2017)Buy the DVD
    There are other collections, including some on VHS, but apparently this is the one to get, as it collects all four series, extensive image galleries, and restores the original soundtrack and offers the option of watching the episodes are they originally aired.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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