Monday, July 21, 2014



In the wake of the success of the Beatles' film A HARD DAY'S NIGHT, it's not surprising that other British Invasion bands got their own movies. This one, which features the Dave Clark Five, is a little different. The band, like the Beatles, came off as playful, stomping, fun-loving guys, but the movie they're in is anything but dumb fun. The Five play TV stunt men who have been hired to appear in an ad campaign for meat, in support of Dinah, the young and lovely model whose face has already appeared on a slew of billboards with slogans like "Meat for Go!" Dinah (Barbara Ferris) hits it off with Steve (Dave Clark), the most serious of the stuntmen and, feeling hemmed in by the demands of her bosses, she takes off in a car with Steve during an ad shoot; they plan to visit a nearby island, and on the way they wind up in a number of situations: publicly subverting the meat campaign, being asked for pot and heroin by some stoned homeless hippies, getting in the middle of military war games, and meeting a hip, middle-aged  couple who collect pop culture ephemera. Meanwhile, the chief ad executive tells the press that Dinah has been kidnapped, so everyone (the ad men, the police, the rest of the stuntmen) goes looking for them.

It feels a bit as if the screenwriter took the five-minute segment from HARD DAY'S NIGHT in which George Harrison winds up in an advertising executive's office mocking their latest teeny-bopper star and spun a whole movie out of it. There is a lot of comic potential here, but first-time director John Boorman (DELIVERANCE, EXCALIBUR) is in a serious, almost somber mood that winds up giving the whole enterprise a schizophrenic feel. It's in black and white and most of the scenes with Ferris and Clark, which make up more than half the film, are kin to the serious social issue British films of the era (ROOM AT THE TOP, BILLY LIAR) with little laugh-out-loud humor. But the film is punctuated with wacky setpieces mostly involving the rest of the Dave Clark Five, bouncing on trampolines and holding wild parties; the most successful sequence is a costume party which features people dressed up as pop icons (Harpo Marx, Jean Harlow, the Frankenstein monster). But the wacky scenes feel out of place here, partly because Ferris and Clark are very good in their roles, as are Robin Bailey and Yootha Joyce (pictured with Clark) as the couple they spend most of the movie with. Some nice tidbits: Joyce calls Clark "saturine and well-built"; Bailey remarks that "young people are callously hopeful"; one message of the movie is delivered by Ferris to Clark: "Why can't you enjoy the journey?" The ending is downbeat, though certainly not tragic, and it's no surprise that this didn't do well at the box office given the way it was promoted as a rollicking rock & roll comedy (there are Dave Clark Five songs used in the background, but the guys never play music onscreen). Boorman's use of arty cinematography feels much more self-conscious than Richard Lester's in the Beatles movies. Not recommended for a feel-good lark, but very interesting if approached as a fairly serious meditation on mass media. [Warner Archive streaming]

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