Journey back to a time when Des Mangan introduced SBS’s greatest foreign films...
Shane Cubis

29 Sep 2016 - 4:21 PM  UPDATED 29 Sep 2016 - 4:26 PM

If you were a teenage viewer back in the 1990s, SBS could be relied upon for two things: nudity and incomprehensible yet awesome foreign movies (often in the same package). Films like A Chinese Ghost Story were guaranteed to blow your mind, even if the subtitles only slightly helped you figure out what was going on. That’s the exact feeling you’ll get from Top Knot Detective, a loving homage to the movies and series some of us were obsessed with while everyone else was talking up Independence Day at school. Why? Read on...


It puts you in the 90s from moment one

From the opener that asks whether you’ve ever bought or rented a videotape that “wasn’t quite right”, you’ll be transported back two decades to enjoy a series that looks like it belongs in the decade or so before that. With shades of Monkey, the original Japanese series Ronin Suiri Tentai (Deductive Reasoning Ronin) was rebranded for an Australian audience, who ate it up the only time it was screened here.


It’s narrated by Des Mangan

Some people are guided through cinematic culture by friends, family or Margaret Pomeranz. But for a generation of esoteric film buffs, Des Mangan was the Charon leading us across the Styx to something instantly memorable. Just hearing his distinctive voice will make you nostalgic for a time when you first got a TV in your bedroom and could look forward to a mind-blowing new discovery every week – without your parents trying to change the channel to Chances or something.

It nails fan culture

Interviewing people today, whether as talking heads or at fan conventions, the mockumentary portion of Top Knot Detective perfectly captures the range of personalities and voices you encounter when you enjoy something outside the mainstream. That unique balance of passion and annoying obsession will be instantly familiar to anyone who has found themselves in a duel of one-upmanship over who knows more about a given topic.


It’s hilariously bonkers

The actual subject matter of the fictional series within the film is only slightly exaggerated from the source material. Japanese auteur Takashi Tawagoto created a show in which a police officer turned private detective, framed for his master’s murder, goes on a rampage of vengeance against ninjas, samurai, yakuza, aliens, monsters, demons and... oh man, don’t you wish it was real?


It looks incredible

That premise would be nothing if the execution wasn’t spot-on, and fortunately the creators get everything right. The film stock, the angles, the performances, the soundtrack, the dodgy sets and even the colour of the blood are enough to ease your sense of disbelief, and those classic yellow SBS subtitles are just the icing on the cake.


Watch Top Knot Detective on SBS On Demand right here:

more on the guide
W. Kamau Bell and Hari Kondabolu talk about the responsibility of people of colour in comedy
... and the beauty of a South Indian man’s chest hair.
If you care about stand-up comedy, you need to know these classic 14 bits
And then you need to watch 'Raw Comedy' on SBS VICELAND.
The limits of the late-night comedy takedown
Samantha Bee or John Oliver may do biting, amusing segments on Trump or Syria—but fans shouldn’t overstate their real-life influence.