Thursday, June 07, 2018

If You Can't

I recently saw Catch Us If You Can, also known as Having A Wild Weekend.  It's a 1965 feature starring The Dave Clark Five.  The band was very popular back then in both the UK and the US.

The plot is about five stuntmen (played by the band) who work with a young model, Dinah, in an ad campaign for meat.  In the middle of the working day, the lead stuntman (Dave Clark himself, playing a character named Steve for some reason) decides to run off with Dinah and escape to an island she's thinking of buying.

We follow them through their travels as they meet proto-hippies, a jaded middle-aged couple and a would-be dude ranch owner.  Meanwhile, the ad men put out a story that Steve has kidnaped Dinah, and the police follow them as part of the publicity campaign, before they all converge on the island.

The film was made the year after Richard Lester's A Hard Day's Night changed everyone's perception about rock star films. They didn't have to be silly or sappy, or little more than cheap exploitation.  They could actually be smart and witty, perhaps even say something.  Of all the pop star films of that era, Catch Us If You Can probably tries to hardest to be a significant film in its own right.

Alas, it fails.

Like A Hard Day's Night, it's made by a major director early in his career (John Boorman) and features a screenplay written by a serious playwright (Peter Nichols).  But it just doesn't work.

First off, you've got The Dave Clark Five.  They're simply not The Beatles.  Their songs aren't half as good, and they don't compare as personalities.  Actually, it's really just Dave Clark.  The rest of the band make practically no impression--they aren't much more than extras. And Clark himself is both boring and way too serious--he barely ever smiles.

But then, the plot is too serious.  What could have been (and perhaps was meant to be) a romp comes off as glum.  It's not helped by the drab black and white photography.  Sometimes Boorman goes for the comic montage, but he doesn't have the same knack as Richard Lester.  Worse is Nichols' script, which goes from one minor, random episode to the next, and never builds momentum.

Barbara Ferris as Dinah at least shows some life, but it's not a good sign that the characters they meet tend to have more interesting stories than the central couple.

There are those who think this is the masterpiece of 1960s rock films.  I hear Boorman himself wasn't too impressed. He was right.


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