Amodestly budgeted private eye yarn, with horror and sci-fi frills, “The Roly Poly Man” has an amiable cast and several good scenes, but suffers from sometimes puerile scripting. It should have a life on video, but serious theatrical biz looks iffy.
First-time helmer Bill Young and scripter Kym Goldsworthy stick to the classical shamus formula, complete with sardonic narration and a clutch of mysterious characters, including an attractive femme fatale. Difference is that the private investigator, charmingly played by Paul Chubb, is a pudgy, accident-prone nerd, and the plot — involving a disparate group of victims whose heads have exploded — belongs more in the genre of the horror than mystery.
Dirk Trent, who describes himself as a “no frills” detective, is working for a woman (Jane Harders) whose philandering spouse entertains his pretty secretary in a seedy motel. Shooting the sexual highjinks through the uncurtained motel window with a vidcamera, Trent’s loyal assistant (Les Foxcroft) films what appears to be the murder of the secretary by the husband; but later the girl shows up, and, on closer inspection of the tape (a la “Blow Up”), Trent deduces the man’s head simply exploded. Other victims with exploded heads turn up, and the trail leads to a suave medico (Frank Whitten) carrying out strange experiments to cure brain tumors.
Pic has a sharp sense of macabre humor. Trent’s girlfriend, played with forceful energy by Susan Lyons, is manager of the city morgue, and one scene involving brain remains may have sensitive members of the audience gagging. There’s also a funny running gag involving Trent’s unwanted ex-wife (Zoe Bertram) and his large brood of children. But at times attempts at humor don’t work.
Pic builds to a silly, but exciting and well-staged, climax. Pic could appeal to private eye fans, but the horror elements may be a turnoff for that target aud, and Chubb, while cheerfully ridiculous, is hardly a hero with whom the hip crowd will identify.
Production values are modest but perfectly adequate.