–Arts and letters for the modern age–

Cathode Ray Zone

–Arts and Letters for the Modern Age–

Rikki-Tikki-Tavi Talks

by | Aug 30, 2023

A delightful film that’s not without its dark side, Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose follows a paranormal investigator looking into the case of a talking mongoose on the Isle of Man in the 1930’s.

Simon Pegg in perhaps his best role to date gives Fodor a discriminating worldview. Sometimes he’s polite, yet most of the time he’s abrasive. Sometimes Fodor comes across as such an asshole you kind of want his mission to fail.

Credit Pegg with creating a complex character that makes you want to hate him even while you love the film. There were a few scenes where I was mumbling to myself that I wished that Pegg had died in the recent Mission: Impossible instead of Rebecca Ferguson.

There’s another thing that Pegg does that was at first annoying and then convinced me he was channeling greatness. The way Pegg talks mimics the cadence of Christoph Waltz’s voice; that halting, award winning manner with which Waltz defines his characters, particularly in Tarantino films.

Fodor arrives on the Isle of Man with his lovely assistant Anne (charmingly portrayed by Minnie Driver). One feels like Anne puts up with Fodor’s haughty manner because he occasionally shows a flash of genius, but her patience is wearing thin. Christopher Lloyd and author Neil Gaiman co-star in notable turns.

The point of inquiry revolves around a farmhouse where Gef the Talking Mongoose lives. Only Gef won’t reveal himself to strangers, only talking through the walls of the house or barn. To confound matters, the daughter of the family that owns the farm demonstrates professional level ventriloquism.

Gef keeps offering to show himself to Fodor but always ducks out at the last minute.

It’s easy to fall into the magical spell that Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose casts. The period recreation adds to the heightened reality of the story.

Nandor Fodor strikes the viewer as a character cross between Sherlock Holmes and a more modern detective of the occult, like the character Darren McGavin plays in The Night Stalker. Once the movie ended, I had to dash to Google to see the origin of the character.

After all, the movie is set in an era and land where many metaphysical hoaxes occurred, the least of which is the Loch Ness Monster. There was previously a movie set in roughly the same period titled Fairy Tale: A True Story (1997) that concerned real life characters Harry Houdini (Harvey Keitel) and Sir Arthur Conon Doyle (Peter O’Toole) investigating a photograph that supposedly depicted fairies frolicking in a meadow.

Imagine my complete and utter surprise when I discovered that Fodor was a real person and the incident of the talking mongoose was an actual event that was widely reported in newspapers of the time.

While unfamiliar with Fodor, I had heard of his contemporary Hereward Carrington, another paranormal investigator and the co-author of The Projection of the Astral Body, a seminal book that’s certainly as provocative now as it was when it was published in 1929.

So do I believe in the talking mongoose? Not really. It’s as absurd as Nessie or the curse of King Tut. But it’s easy to see how an entire generation weaned on radio and newsprint would’ve gobbled this up like a sweet tart. 

Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose certainly plays fairly with the theme of myth becoming fact. 

Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose opens in theaters on September 1.

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