Having A Wild Weekend
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They came, they played, they conquered. There was no stopping them. The British invasion of the U.S. pop scene was in full force in 1965. And one of the most super of the supergroups was The Dave Clark Five.
The quintet takes to the screen with the same spirit they bring to their music - the "Tottenham Sound" to '60 buffs - in this breezy romp that's also the feature directorial debut of John Boorman (Deliverance). A year earlier, four well-known lads with the "Liverpool Sound" squeezed a lot of fun into A Hard Day's Night. Here, Dave and his pals stake out an entire weekend. They're on the run, helping a disenchanted media poster girl get away from it all and Having a Wild Weekend on the way. The fellas' soundtrack tunes, including the hit "Catch Us if You Can," pace the antics. And everything from pop culture to the ad biz to hippies to marmalade preferences are targets to skewer. Catch it 'cause you can!
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The film is also misrepresented by its main publicity photo, used for both the poster and the album cover, of a smiling Dave and a pretty blonde running down a beach with the other four band members following behind,with a postcard saying, "Having a wild weekend." This suggests a fun frolic with the band in Spain or some other warm place. Actually the film takes place in the dead of winter with lots of snow in some scenes. The season is fitting for the mood of the film as well: instead of the fun of A Hard Day's Night, this film is chilly and dark and Dave rarely cracks a smile. This is why the film generally gathered praise from the critics while leaving fans of the band perplexed.
This was director John Boorman's first feature length film; he would later go on to direct Deliverance, Excalibur, The Emerald Forest and Hope and Glory. His talent was evident throughout, with a very fluid camera that beautifully caught the busy urban London scene as well as providing fast-moving montages during the travel sequences. But his vision was quite dark, especially when one considers that this was the bright, optimistic mid Sixties when Britain had suddenly and surprisingly become the center of world trendiness. This is a world of crass commercialism, businesses that seem to control everything and a youth culture that seems on its way to nowhere. There's a telling scene with a band of proto-hippies who are totally burned out and incoherent. It's a film both bleak and pessimistic.
This was totally in contrast with the image of the group, a bunch of high energy loud rockers who in their trademark blazers looked like members of a British Olympic team. The Dave Clark Five were about high youthful spirits and fun. The movie begins this way with the guys living together in somewhat surreal digs in a large church complete with a big pipe organ. The opening credits are a blast as the boys wake up, shower, dress and go for a run in the park. The mood changes gradually from that point. For one thing, they do not play themselves or even a band with a different name. They play stuntmen working on a television commercial and thus all the music is done over the action of the film and never in the usual way of them playing it on a stage. Though it seems like a group endeavor at first with all the guys having lines, the film focuses increasingly only on Dave (as Steve) and Barbara Ferris (as Dinah, and no, she is not Steve's girlfriend). Soon Denis, Lenny, Rick and even Mike (who was the girls' real favorite in the band) are pushed farther into the background until they basically are like a bunch of Keystone Cops in a car.
The acting is good all around and there is an especially memorable sequence mid-way that will have you wondering if this isn't going to turn into some kind of really creepy film. I can't say I truly love the film but have to give it five-stars because it is so offbeat and unlike anything you're expecting. On the other hand I do have to say that the band wasn't all that well-served by the movie since it went so against their usual spirit and did not feature enough of the members other than Dave. And then there's the music.
THE MUSIC: Except for the theme song, Catch Us If You Can, a major hit in the summer of '65, most of the music doesn't sound much like the Dave Clark Five. I understand this was intentional, but I don't really understand why beyond the fact that the band was not playing themselves. The singing is mostly in unison, where the DC5 style was to have Mike Smith wailing lead with a little back up by his bandmates. Denis Payton's sax played a big part in the full blast of the DC5 sound but is more recessed in the vocal numbers with Lenny's lead guitar playing a more prominent role than usual. Even the drums are not so prominent and except in occasional ballads like Because, Clark's drums were always front and center. In other words, it's a completely different sound than the group's usual.
The instrumental tracks are all over the place, too. Having a Wild Weekend is a hot, Fifties rock'n'roll instrumental with a strong sax part. Dave founded the band in 1957 (with different band mates) as an outfit that mostly played rocking instrumentals and they probably sounded like this. Dum-Dee-Dee-Dum sounds like a Duane Eddy tribute. When I'm Alone is a pure soundtrack kind of thing with piano and strings and a Henry Mancini type harmonica that couldn't have been Denis. Most interesting of all are No Stopping and On the Move. These are both pure surf instrumentals - not the all-electric kind like Pipeline, but the more predominant surf band sound that included one or even two saxophones. On the Move even includes a Dick Dale slide and comes off sounding like something by the Lively Ones. Who would have thought that the Dave Clark five could have been a hot surf band?
Having a Wild Weekend should still be of interest to Dave Clark Five Fans, fans of British New Wave or anyone interested in the oeriod. Just don't expect what you would expect.
Unfortunately, the DC5's film debut was very disappointing. The thin plot revolves around the filming of a TV commercial for meat, and Dave (his character Steve) and his model girlfriend (Barbara Ferris) trying to get away from it all. The best moments are the DC5 songs appearing on the soundtrack: the two title songs, plus "When" (the film's love theme), "Ol' Sol," "Move On," "Reelin' and Rockin'," and a few others. The film did mark the directorial debut of John Boorman, who went on to a successful career with Deliverance (Deluxe Edition), among others.
It's not a horrible film, but it's not a comedy classic like A HARD DAY'S NIGHT. Hard-core DC5 fans will like it, but otherwise, it's worth skipping. The Dave Clark Five's real legacy is in its music.