Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose 2023 is a whimsical and comedic exploration of belief and wonderment, rather than a factual account, writes GAYLE FIDLER
TITLE: Nandor Fodor and The Talking Mongoose
RELEASED: 1 September 2023 (20 September 2023 on Amazon Prime UK)
DIRECTOR: Adam Sigal
CAST: Simon Pegg, Minnie Driver, Christopher Lloyd, Neil Gaiman
Review of Nandor Fodor and The Talking Mongoose 2023
In 1937, parapsychologist Nandor Fodor arrived at a remote farmhouse on the Isle of Man. Doarlish Cashen was built on a wild and unforgiving landscape, 725 feet above sea level, high above the parish of Dalby.
The farm had developed a sinister reputation for being haunted, which started before the occupants with whom Fodor was meeting (the Irving family) had moved in.
While the house was being renovated in 1917, two local workmen refused to sleep at the house after one of them heard strange noises in one of the rooms at night.
James Irving had bought the farm at auction on 31 October 1916. A most suitable date for the purchase of a property that would be home to a spook.
The Irving family consisted of James and Margaret, their daughter Voirrey (who was 18 at the time of Fodor’s visit), sheepdog Mona, and an extra clever little mongoose called Gef, who could talk.
In 2022, myself and a group of fellow investigators followed in the footsteps of Fodor and went on an expedition to the Isle of Man to look for the ever-elusive mongoose. We didn’t find him, but in a way, maybe Gef found us.
The case of Gef the Talking Mongoose is a strange one that has baffled some of the most famous paranormal investigators for many years. Was Gef real, or did he only exist in the minds of the Irving family? It is a question that has never been answered and continues to be the subject of much debate.
However, many people are not aware of the self-proclaimed “eighth wonder of the world.” This is despite Gef being involved in a slander case in 1936 in the High Court of Justice and being the subject of many newspaper articles. He also got a mention in the House of Commons.
It was on our last day on the Isle of Man in 2022 that Gef once again hit the headlines. The mongoose was going to the movies.
In an even stranger twist to my tale. The movie trailer was publicly released an hour after we got off the ferry on our second expedition in 2023.
Coincidence? Synchronicity? Or just a tricky little man weasel at work?
Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose is a not a documentary
I have read criticism from some who have watched the film; that is a disappointing piece of work. It does not stick to the true and wonderous story of the Irving family’s encounters with Gef. The film does not capture in detail or reality the attempts of those who longed to find scientific proof of the existence of this “earthbound spirit” (Fodor and Harry Price included).
But this is not so much a film about the Irving family. Nor is it an accurate historical depiction of the work of Nandor Fodor. In some ways, it is not really a film about Gef. Although director Adam Sigal has managed to capture the essence of Gef, the naughty little mongoose does indeed set out to cause mischief and mayhem in the film. Presumably for the “devilment”, as the real Gef once said.
Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose is a film about belief and wonderment. It begs the question: What is reality? What happens to us when rational thought is put to the test? We see Fodor spiralling into madness as his scientific mind struggles with his own humanity. The film is loosely based on real events, but for those looking for a Gef documentary, I would certainly recommend looking elsewhere. There are many good ones available on YouTube.
Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose is a 96-minute cosy, comedic romp. While not filmed on the Isle of Man, the scenery and set add to the atmosphere of this wonderfully eccentric tale. A nostalgic depiction of an adventure in the 1930s steam trains, boat rides, dimly lit pubs, and bumpy trips down country lanes in old motor cars.
Simon Pegg plays the protagonist, Nandor Fodor, and does what Pegg does best. Bringing a likeable comedic charm to a character who would otherwise be mildly irritating and rather dull. Fodor chain smokes his way through long monologues and conversations with Harry Price as they discuss Fodor’s scientific thinking. Price rebukes Fodor for upsetting the spiritualist movement with his scepticism and enthusiasm for disproving their beliefs.
Minnie Driver does a sterling job as Fodor’s fearless and long-suffering assistant, Anne. She follows Fodor to the island before going off on her own and gathering information from the strange local mayor (Paul Kaye) over several glasses of whisky. All while Fodor lounges in his hotel room and puts in an early night.
Christopher Lloyd gives an interesting portrayal of psychic researcher Harry Price. Unfortunately, it is let down by Lloyd’s American accent, which is heavy throughout the film. For those who are familiar with Price, he is as quintessentially British as cream tea and talk of the weather.
Neil Gaiman, who has been publicly vocal about his support of indie projects (which this film is), gives life to the voice of Gef. He does this in a way that maybe only someone who has made a career out of resurrecting long-forgotten gods and monsters could. Gef announces himself to Fodor over the telephone. Taunting and teasing, he gives Fodor information about his dead father that only Fodor could have known. For the staunch Gef followers, a real (only slightly adapted) Gef monologue is used in this scene.
“I am a freak; I have hands and I have feet, if you ever saw me, you would be paralysed, petrified, mummified, and turned to a pillar of salt. I am the fifth dimension, I am the eight wonder of the world, I can split an atom.”
The fictional character of farmhand Errol, played by Gary Beadle (albeit with an odd west country accent), pushes the question of what purpose is gained by destroying someone’s beliefs. Errol tells Fodor that Gef is not real, yet later proclaims that Gef is the best thing to have happened to the sleepy village of Dalby. Making Fodor question if his sceptical thinking really holds much purpose.
When those around you dismiss your experience. It is still your own personal reality that truly matters. Is it possible to really believe in a phenomenon that cannot be proven by empirical evidence? What is the human cost of destroying faith and wonderment?
We have heard it many times while investigating the paranormal. “I don’t believe in ghosts, but this really happened to me, and it changed my life.”
After leaving the Isle of Man, Nandor Fodor wrote to Gef (via James Irving): “I believe you to be a very good and generous mongoose. I brought you chocolates and biscuits.” The mystery of Gef lives on. Maybe we would all be a little bit better off having a magical talking mongoose in our lives.
- Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose has been given a 12 rating and is available to watch in the UK from Amazon Prime on 20 October 2023.
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