Judge Clark Douglas is convinced Herman and the boys misunderstood the meaning of the word "hermit."
Destination way way way out!
By 1966, the British pop group Herman's Hermits had hit the peak of their popularity. Fresh off the success of such hits as "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter" and "I'm Into Something Good," the Hermits made their move to the big screen with Hold On!
Our premise: NASA is considering naming a space shuttle after the Hermits. No, really. It seems that the astronauts were placed in charged of picking a name for the shuttle, but they were unable to agree upon a proper choice. So, the astronauts decided to place their Herman's Hermits-loving children in charge of picking the name. However, the government has a number of concerns about naming their glorious shuttle after an of-the-moment British Boy Band. For one thing, the boys are British. "If we name the shuttle after them, people will think we're still a colony of Britain," one government official notes insightfully. In addition to that, there's always the possibility that the boys are filthy perverts unworthy of having a space shuttle named after them. Obviously, the matter must be investigated further.
The government sends a hapless fellow named Ed Lindquest (Herbert Anderson, The Lawless) to monitor Herman (Peter Noone) and his fellow band members. Lindquest must write a report on the band's activities and make a recommendation as to whether the Hermits deserve government approval. Meanwhile, a woman named Cecilie Banister (Sue Ane Langdon, The Rounders) attempts to use the band's popularity to boost her own career, and Herman begins to develop feelings for a young girl named Louise (Shelley Fabares, The Donna Reed Show).
The DVD case admits that, "Yes, Hold On! is not so much about making sense as it is about having fun." That's all well and good, but the problem is that the just isn't much fun at all. It's a tedious and lazy stab at making a quick, cheap cash-in on the then-soaring popularity of the Hermits. Most films of this ilk had a somewhat rushed, ramshackle feel to them (the similarly-constructed A Hard Day's Night is unquestionably the king of '60s boy band movies), but it's painful to see a film initially intended as a hip, swinging, wildly imaginative romp so quickly revealing itself as an awful bit of farcical comedy mixed with a terribly stilted concert film.
The Hermits are a big part of the problem, as Noone doesn't have much acting ability and the rest of the Hermits have nothing to do but stand in the background like cardboard cutouts. None of the Beatles were master actors, but they had a loose, unforced charm and an undeniable chemistry that made their movies enjoyable beyond the musical sequences. In Hold On!, we're treated to awkward line readings and badly written subplots that serve as nothing more than dull filler.
You would think that the musical sequences (including the title song, "Leaning on a Lamppost" and quite a few others) might provide some occasional fun, but I suspect I might have actually enjoyed the film more if I had simply turned off the picture and listened to the soundtrack. Most of the musical numbers are presented as bland stage performances, as the intensely rigid Hermits poorly attempt to lipsync numbers which were obviously recorded in a studio. A few songs are given fantasy settings (Peter Noone dresses up as a knight; The Hermits travel to space, etc.), but these prove to be equally bland—the Hermits wear costumes and continue to perform their songs like wax figures with moving lips. This thing desperately needed either some engaging cinematography, additional flair in the visual design or maybe some moderate doses of dance choreography. Alas, the film is directed with impersonal boredom by Arthur Lubin.
The DVD transfer is less than remarkable, as this is yet another half-hearted release from the Warner Archive collection. There are moments of color bleeding and quite a few scratches and flecks to be found along the way. It's not a bad transfer, but it's too bad that more clean-up wasn't done. The audio also has a couple of issues, as there are some moments during the dialogue scenes which demonstrate a weird echo effect. The music sounds okay, but lacks the punch you would get from simply listening to these tunes on CD. The only extra is a theatrical trailer.
The poster for Hold On! promises, "The beauties, the beats and the bikinis have one hullabaloo of a rendezvous!" You wouldn't expect a film making such promises to be a square slice of tedium, but that's precisely what you get.
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