You've probably not seen this film yet because it's not released til Friday, but I was lucky enough to attend the Preview Screening at London's Trocadero last week. They were giving away free tickets (precious things) via a national newspaper, so it's not as if I'm important or anything, but even the official World Premiere isn't until tomorrow evening so I'm chuffed enough. Three of the cast even popped in after the closing credits for a question and answer session, making this special stuff indeed. However you'll probably see the film in relative comfort, whereas I was squashed into a packed Screen 1 on one of the hottest nights of the year with malfunctioning air-conditioning and hundreds of sweaty punters.
Most of the audience were freeloaders like myself or arty media types, but there were also three suspicious-looking older gentlemen scattered around the front of the auditorium. One had a dodgy grey/white combover, while another gorged on a bread roll while reading a battered broadsheet. My first thought was that three vagrants had crept in and would probably fill the place with their alluring "street stench", although that's more usually a problem to be found in Stratford than in Soho. But when the third gentleman stood and waved unashamedly across the theatre to greet the others, I decided that these were more likely members of another mysterious community - newspaper film critics. These are men who live in permanent semi-darkness, their eyes squinting as they scribble incisive barbed reviews in their moleskin notebooks, and are rarely to be seen in real life. I nearly changed my mind back again during the final Q&A session, however, when combover man asked the most inane question as if he hadn't really been watching the film at all. Or maybe he writes for the Mail.
But what of the film itself? Would the League's army of freak characters transfer successfully to the big screen? And would the package be more entertaining than the somewhat questionable third series? Well, rest assured, it's a winner. The plot sees the Royston Vasey crowd let loose to cause havoc in the real world, or at least a small selection of the town's inhabitants. Playing the full range of characters proved too much for the cast during a limited filming schedule, so instead the story concentrates on demon butcher Hilary Briss, dodgy German Herr Lipp and coarse businessmenn Geoff Tibbs. Never fear because Tubbs and Edward get a splendid cameo at the beginning, Pauline and Bernice are sprinkled throughout, Papa Lazarou intrudes briefly and you'll never look at a giraffe again after Dr Chinnery wields his semen extraction tool. And the plot is clever, because the "characters meet their creators" idea could have become so self-referential that the whole film would have fallen flat on its face. But throw in an 17th century historical subplot, impending Armageddon, the usual bizarre weirdness and some sparkling witty dialogue and you have the recipe for success, I reckon. Alles klar?
I've never seen an entire audience sit through the full closing credits of a film before, not since the days of the national anthem, but we all stayed put to meet and applaud Mark, Reece and the elusive Jeremy. The comedy quartet (minus Steve) tried to answer questions about the film, while members of the audience seemed more intent on asking questions about the TV series. We found out that coming up with the idea for the movie had taken ages, that Ireland's a very cheap place to film and that these are three people you could happily chat to in a pub for hours. But we only had 30 minutes, after which we rushed to escape the sweaty sauna and return to what we hoped was the real world.