A sort of rock and roll movie.
When singer David Essex stars in a film set in the early days of British rock and roll with Ringo Starr and The Who's Keith Moon in supporting roles, what could go wrong? Not making it a real rock and roll picture for starters; this is a dreary little piece of life of a guy who has few redeeming qualities and drifts through the film. Anchor Bay has released the film in a bare bones style, though does give us an anamorphic transfer.
Facts of the Case
Jim MacLaine (David Essex) is just about to graduate high school and move on to a university when he decides to chuck it all and find himself. Leaving his mother and grandfather to manage their small shop, he goes off to first rent beach chairs and later to become a carny, or a person working at a fair swindling people. Pursuing cheap sex, no girl is too young or unprepared for his advances, but eventually he gives it up when he sees that life is going nowhere. The prodigal returns home to marry his high school sweetheart and to mind the store, but the lure of rock and roll ultimately calls him away from responsibility.
I don't know much about England in the late '50s, but people tell me this film accurately portrays the lives of people in that time and place. Certainly my own experience working in a carnival (don't ask) tells me that the ways of the carny were accurately shown. That being said, accurate doesn't necessarily mean entertaining.
But I am perhaps too hard on the picture; certainly there are dramatic or entertaining moments. The scenes between Essex and Ringo Starr are the high points of the picture, as the streetwise Starr shows his friend the ropes in the carnival and exposes him to a new way of life.
Anchor Bay did a good job of transferring this from film to DVD. It couldn't have been easy; the picture looks dingy and dirty by nature, and the film elements were only adequate. Some nicks and blemishes remain, but the dark look is accurately transferred with a decent level of detail. Some film grain is noticeable as well. I believe any problems with the image comes from the nature of the film itself; it is a bleak picture done in gray skies and at night, with muted colors amid dirty buildings.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The soundtrack of this film purportedly about rock and roll is underwhelming. The Dolby Digital mono track is clear enough, but the lack of fidelity in the high end and lack of punch in the low hurt the impact of the music and the film. Only a trailer is offered as an extra, and there are no subtitles like on other Anchor Bay discs.
The film is only purportedly about rock and roll. At the beginning of the film you get the idea that Jim wants to be a musician, and he is willing later to abandon his family to make another stab at it, but mostly rock and roll music is merely a setting or background to the meaningless life Jim leads through the film. He is an unlikable protagonist, who forces himself on a young girl halfway through the film, and cons or swindles others. Later he appears to be redeeming himself only to disappoint after all. I found the film bleak, depressing, and dreary. Worst yet, it never goes anywhere; I felt as if I left the film right where I started, minus a hour and a half of time that I felt was wasted. Certainly others have liked the film, but I don't see it.
Don't waste too much time or effort on this one. I felt it wasn't a rock and roll picture. It only tried to be one. Ultimately I found it unredeeming. Give it a rental if you like British drama and early British rock and roll, but don't expect too much.
I admire the makers of the film for trying to make an accurate portrayal, but I can't admire the result. Anchor Bay is acquitted for a good transfer, but fined for no extras and a soundtrack that couldn't do justice to the music. The music is what a rock and roll film is supposed to be about, isn't it? But then this only pretended to be one anyway.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
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