"Just for the record, I've loved you ever since I was a little boy."—Barbara Winters
Aaaarrrrrggggghhhhh!!!!! Sorry about that; just had to do it. So, with that out of my system, let's get everyone up to speed on who Cliff Richard is. I'm sure a couple of you know, but I'm sure there are a quite a few of you as lost as I was when I popped this bugger of a disc into my player.
Not being well-known in the United States, Cliff was The Man in England back in the early '60s. Before the Beatles and the Stones, there was Cliff. He has had 110 top-ten singles on the UK charts in his career. Wow! That's mighty impressive; so impressive, in fact, that with his devilishly youthful and handsome face, he was tossed into the movie business. He was one of the original crossover stars, back in the day.
Just a few short minutes into the movie, Eddie Murphy came to mind—yes, that Eddie Murphy, the man with the wild and raunchy brand of humor; well, maybe not recently but definitely in his early stuff. And it's one of his earliest pieces that popped into my mind: Delirious. There's this one bit in that routine where he talks about Elvis Presley. His joke basically follows the line that Elvis was so handsome and such a good singer that he should go into movies. "Can he act?" "Who cares? He'll just sing all his lines." Like Elvis, I don't believe Cliff spoke his first word until a good ten minutes and two songs had passed.
Facts of the Case
The plot of this film is paper-thin and simply sets the stage to allow the cast to have numerous opportunities to sing and dance. This bugger is a pure '60s romp; so, everyone, let's put on our tightest pants and give the movie a twist.
Don (Cliff Richard, The Young Ones and singer extraordinaire!) is a mechanic and is about to go on vacation—on holiday, as they say across the pond—with his best buds. It's just a week away, but there are some vague problems. However, all is solved when Don convinces a bus company to loan them an old double-decker bus. The boys decide to fix it up and use it as a traveling hotel on their trip from Britain to France.
Along the way, chaos and fun materialize around virtually every corner. To spice things up, the boys pick up quite a few friends—stranded motorists, stowaways, lost animals, mime troupes—adding excitement and singing opportunities. The first people they stumble across are three young, lovely ladies who happen to be singers. They call themselves "Do Re Mi." (Ugh!!) Quickly, the three ladies "hook up" with Don's three buddies. To wit, you know a fourth lady will pop up soon because the leading man has to have his own chick too.
And quickly enough, the fourth lady shows up on the bus. She's Barbara Winters (Lauri Peters, Mr. Hobbs Take a Vacation), famous American singer, current runaway, and stowaway on the bus. She needs some time away from her mom and hops on the boss to have some fun. Mom doesn't like the fact her daughter is a runaway and wants to call the police; however, Barbara's manager sees this as a great opportunity for free press coverage. Thus, mom agrees and begins to trail the bus, which is now making its way to Athens! France was simply a quick pit stop as the trio of ladies has a gig in that famous Greek city.
So, in true road-movie fashion, the bus encounters mayhem and excitement along the way. But with every problem and situation, there's yet another chance for our intrepid cast to sing and dance. There's a romantic tryst in Switzerland, waltzing in Austria, marriage in Yugoslavia, and jail in Athens! Oh my! And along the way, Don and Barbara have found time to fall in love. Will mom foil the road trip? What does the future hold for Don and Barbara? Just how many song and dance number will there be?
For 1963, this movie fits right into the innocence of the times: let's all be happy and sing and dance and have lots of clean, harmless fun! For a film from 1963, the video transfer is stunning! Several times I had to remind myself that this movie is forty years old! The print was exceptionally clean for its age, and looked better then many newer titles I've viewed. It is good, but not perfect. The only two real problems are the (expected) occasional flecks of dirt that pop up onto the screen and an occasional odd distortion in the picture in "distance shots"—which I suspect is a by-product of its origin in Cinemascope. Otherwise, the colors are deep and rich, there's no grain, no artifacting, or any edge enhancement. It's the best part of the film. Not so good is the audio track, which is Dolby Digital 1.0 mono. For a film that's so dependant on music, I was expecting a better track. This one is serviceable but doesn't do (gulp) the movie justice. Overall, the dialogue is a tad thin and heavy in the treble range, and the songs always play ten times louder than the surrounding dialogue.
First-time director Peter Yates (Bullitt, Mother, Jugs and Speed, Krull) pulls out all the stops to give us a pure, simple film. He keeps the energy level high and the actors gay and carefree in a successful attempt to create a pleasurable musical. Even though this is first attempt at direction, he uses some sophisticated techniques and creates an entertaining movie for the genre. Now, don't get confused here. While I did not enjoy the incessant singing and dancing, I can certainly appreciate the quality and the effort that went into the production of this feature. In addition, the cinematography is quite pleasant, as they utilized a variety of locations to showcase their jaunt across Europe.
The actors themselves leave a bit to be desired. Like Elvis, none of these "kids" was hired because they could act. First and foremost was their looks and their ability to sing and dance. Overall, they aren't all that bad, but their obvious skills are on the dance floor, or in the barn, or in the middle of the road—wherever they ended up to stop for another song. The true hidden highlight of Summer Holiday is the fact that the one and only Jeremy Bulloch is playing one of Don's friends. It's amusing to relate the gangly kid to the infamous character he will end up playing in twenty years. [Editor's Note: For those of you lacking in geek cred, Jeremy Bulloch played infamous bounty hunter Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.]
There are just a few bonus features available on the track. Aside from the excruciatingly long four-minute trailer and Cliff Richard's bio, which was actually useful in learning who the boy is/was, you get an audio commentary with director Yates and journalist Jonathan Sothcott. The way it works is that Sothcott asks Yates questions, who in turn rambles on about the movie. Many times Yates misunderstands the question and ends up talking about the slightly wrong thing. Overall, it's just a great track. There is some interesting background information, but most of the time Yates can't recall the specifics—which is understandable as it's been forty years. Toss in too much silence, and the track doesn't garner high marks.
Have I mentioned just how silly this movie is? Have I talked about the amount of cheesy dialogue? Have I mentioned there's a ton of singing and dancing in the film?
The Rebuttal Witnesses
This is a wonderful, sweet, gentle musical that is simply a lot of fun to watch. It reminds us of a simple time when innocence abounded, and the world was just a bit happier. The movie is shot wonderfully, and it easy to watch and follow. Not enough wholesome movies are made today, so it's nice to be reminded that such movies exist.
In his bio, they state that Cliff is Britain's Elvis. Big surprise! I know it's a musical, and I have nothing against them. I liked Moulin Rouge, Grease, and The Pirate Movie, though I really couldn't stand Singin' in the Rain. My point is that I'm open to the genre, but there's just too much singing, dancing, singing, and dancing in this movie. How many times can a group of people get into trouble and get away scot-free with a simple song and dance routine? And, there may have been "sixteen hit songs" in the movie, but they all sound the same. Unless Clambake is your bag, baby, I suggest you take your next holiday elsewhere.
This movie is fined ten thousand pounds sterling for abusing my eardrums with over an hour and a half of cacophonous singing. Fortunately, I didn't have my glasses on, so my eyes faired better. Case adjourned.
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