The Cliff Richard Sing-Along Collection Review
Let's put the show on...right here! So the cry rings out when evil property developer Robert Morley buys the building in which Sir Cliff Richard and his friends - hoodlums according to Morley - host a youth club. But contrary to what Morley believes, it's not all teddy boys, bicycle chains and rock'n'roll, simply the kids enjoying themselves with music, dancing and soft drinks. And Morley's not really evil, he's actually Sir Cliff's dad and just doesn't understand that the kids have to, "Live! Love! And [if] there's a song to be sung, well we may not be the young ones very long!" So Sir Cliff decides to buy the building before his dad does and so puts on a show to raise the necessary funds. But Morley isn't finished and nor are a gang of thugs to decide that kidnapping Morley are the only way to make sure the youth club stays open!
And let's put the show on...right on this bus! In Summer Holiday, Sir Cliff escapes the drizzle of the English summer by doing up a bright red double-decker London bus and taking it across the channel for a trip through France. With a shower, beds, a kitchen sink and somewhere to make meat paste sandwiches, their bus has all the mod cons that swinging youngsters of the sixties might expect. But their first morning is barely over when Sir Cliff and his three friends (Melvyn Hayes, Teddy Green and Jeremy Bulloch) meet three girls (Una Stubbs, Pamela Hart and Christine Lawson) and agree to make their way to Athens for a music date. The scene seems set for romance, rock'n'roll and roadside services but Sir Cliff professes himself a Bachelor Boy and stays up front while the boys and the girls entertain themselves in the back. Until, that is, he meets Bobby. Or Barbara (Lauri Peters), an American starlet on the run from her overbearing mother. But Mom is hot on Sir Cliff's trail and through France, Switzerland, Austria, Yugoslavia and Greece, Sir Cliff is pursued by a very angry American. With a, "Oh, I feel so good!" Hank Marvin twangs as the bus keeps moving and those London boys in their London bus bring London cool to Europe!
Let's put the show on...right on this film set! And let's make a movie while we're at it! In Wonderful Life, Sir Cliff is a waiter on board a cruise ship but finds that he, his friends (Melvyn Hayes and Richard O'Sullivan) and The Shadows (Hank Marvin, Bruce Welch and Brian Bennett) are not only thrown off the boat but are also blacklisted when a late-night thrash on their Fender guitars accidentally fuses the ship. Washing up on the Canary Islands, Sir Cliff and the gang arrive on a movie set, where a desert epic has a somewhat troubled production, straining under the relationship between director Lloyd Davis (Walter Slezak) and leading lady Jenny (Susan Hampshire). With the aid of script assistant Una Stubbs, Sir Cliff and his friends get by on the set but quickly start making their own film, a musical with a mix of their own rock'n'roll numbers, dancing sheiks and footage surreptitiously shot on Lloyd Davis' set. With the two moviemakers almost coming to blows, will experience or enthusiasm win out? Will, indeed, anyone care as they await Devil Woman and Wired For Sound?
The first few minutes of The Young Ones are utterly magnificent. As swinging London actaully does swing with kids on scooters, mods and rockers and schoolboys and girls running up the underground and jumping on and off a London bus, it can more than hold its own against West Side Story. With an inspired use of split-screen, it may even be better. But then Melvyn Hayes appears and like feeling rain on a summer's day, the metaphorical clouds darken and The Young Ones doesn't look quite so sunny as it once did. In amongst the joyous pop, the sharp choreography, even sharper clothes and the thrill of London, dear old Melvyn Hayes lands like an end-of-pier show, a joke about a mother-in-law or a fat man in unconvincing drag. And indeed drag is quite the right word, with Melyvn's daft-as-a-brush face looking for the music hall gags in amongst a cast that otherwise look very comfortable in a make-believe sixties London. Melvyn, on the other hand, looks so uncomfortable sat atop a Vespa that one wonders if the vinyl seat is doing something awful to his piles.
But then comes along Sir Cliff and The Young Ones settles down, pushing the one-time Harry Webb forward into the limelight and toning down his wild rockin' ways with a story that even a Christian Scout Club would consider as being a mite tame. It's a classic tale of the kids putting on a show and letting The Man know that teenagers aren't just about alcoholism, self harm and sexually transmitted diseases. I grant you that now that might well be the case but in the early-sixties it certainly wasn't, at least not on Sir Cliff's watch. Indeed, he manages to teach not only his stuffy old dad a thing or two but also the kids in the youth club and soon even Robert Morley is doing the sidestep-forward-sidestep-and-back along with Hank Marvin. The kids go wild, as do Melvyn Hayes and Richard O'Sullivan and everyone gets as out of it as they can in a youth club where the only beverage appears to be Robinson's Barley Water.
Things get much, much better with Summer Holiday. It's probably Sir Cliff's finest film, certainly on a par with The Beatles/Richard Lester's Help! and able to leap across the line between nostalgia and timelessness so that even BBC4, the BBC's current arbiter of good taste, has seen fit to broadcast it. The songs are wonderful, the red London bus looks great driving through Switzerland and there are so many great little moments that one can easily forget a couple of them. Where one might remember Sir Cliff's meeting with Una Stubbs or his singing Bachelor Boy, can everyone say that they're never forgotten the evening of waltzing in Austria? The mime artist they pick up in France? The police search, the stolen necklace and Melvyn Hayes tickling a Yugoslavian border guard? The marriage of Sir Cliff to a rather unkempt shepherdess? That they arrive in Athens with a St Bernard on the bus? Of course, the story about Bobby/Barbara, her psychotic mother and Sir Cliff's coming around to falling in love - very much a case of art not being at all reflective of real life - is well known but Summer Holiday does much to blend all of this into a hugely entertaining caper that, like the very op
As you might expect, there are moments when its credibility is stretched to breaking point, none more so than when Sir Cliff convinces an entire factory of what one assumes to be unionised workers to help him prepare a London bus for a holiday. The likelihood of this happening without any financial incentives, time off in lieu or the handing out of free donkey jackets ought to have these men standing by their braziers whilst Melvyn Hayes buffed his own lamps. If only Margaret Thatcher had had such a way with words, the brawling over the closure of the mines might have been avoided. However, that's perfectly believable when compared to Wonderful Life, which is only notable for making this viewer realise that perhaps Bowfinger wasn't no original after all. Employing Melvyn Hayes, who remained beside Sir Cliff for each of these three films, and Richard O'Sullivan, who made a return after being much missed in Summer Holiday, Sir Cliff makes a movie on the sly, making sure that no one outside of Melvyn, Richard, Una and The Shadows know anything about it. Padding out their film with a pastiche of Hollywood movies, far too much subterfuge on the set and lots of very forgettable songs, Wonderful Life is a good half-hour too long. Susan Hampshire is beautiful but not half as pretty as Sir Cliff and the manner in which Una Stubbs moves will have you wondering how man steps it takes to go from the dancer's figure she has here to the cosy pullovers of Give Us A Clue. As for Sir Cliff, his film career ought to be remembered for the gloriously entertaining Summer Holiday, which, if not delivering quite as much fun as cross-dressing, Una Stubbs, a St Bernard and a London bus promises, isn't far off.
Seeing The Young Ones, Summer Holiday and Wonderful Life in 2.35:1 Cinemascope is something of a revelation, particularly in those scenes that make full use of it such as the history of the movies in the third film in this set. Summer Holiday, in particular, looks great in its original aspect ratio with the restoration of the bus and Sir Cliff being carried aboard it down the factory looking simply marvellous. However, these are let down quite patchy prints that have all manner of faults on them, including scratches, white spots and, in Wonderful Life, an odd jump between frames. The transfer isn't bad, though, perhaps a little on the soft side but watchable. The DD2.0 mono soundtracks are fine and if the dialogue is sometimes out of synch, particularly any time Susan Hampshire is shown singing, both the dialogue, songs and instrumental musical numbers are fine. Finally, this being a Momentum release, there are no subtitles.
The only extras on this three-disc set are Sing-Along-With-Cliff, which isn't half as exciting as it sounds. Indeed, it might well be described as a subtitle track were it not that they only appear onscreen during the musical numbers and not throughout the film. Still, if you've always harboured fantasies of singing Bachelor Boy with Sir Cliff, these discs will offer you that chance.
Nice though they are to have them in the same set, Wonderful Life and The Young Ones really can't compare to Summer Holiday so I look at a set like this and consider it decent value for that one great film and two decent bonus films. However, with the lack of extras - I'm sure, were he asked, Sir Cliff would happily contribute to a good DVD release of these films - these are something of a disappointment but enjoyable nonetheless.