Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Fifty years ago, the world used to be a very different place.

Apparently, teenagers liked musicals. Said musicals were cheerful, uplifting, and didn't depend upon being mean about anyone. Some of them even contained that nice Cliff Richard, shock horror.

Well, he wasn't marketed as that 'nice' Cliff Richard back then (apparently he was somehow considered 'rebellious'), but on the evidence of this film, 1961 looks and sounds like it was a very nice place.

In some ways it's hard not to enjoy this in an ironic post-modern sort of way. In Technicolor, the 1960s fashions, actors and style of filmmaking look so stereotypical that this could almost be a parody. With all the bright London traffic and post boxes, I kept expecting Austin Powers to drive through the background in that ubiquitous red double decker bus.

And why not, for this is a film all about style. The raising-money-by-putting-on-a-show-to-save-their-building-from-a-property-developer plot is not going to stand up to much scrutiny when early on the lead character exploits special effects to leap, conjure, teleport, impersonate and observe events far away. If the secretly wealthy Cliffy can do those things, then he sure doesn't need to put on a show to raise £1500. Yes that's right, fifteen-hundred pounds!!! (zoom-in on bald Dr Cliff Evil raising his little finger to his mouth and drooling)

So much of this is dubbed that I found it reminiscent of watching the Australian TV series K9, which combined with Cliff's accent to make him reminiscent of Starkey, although Cliff is definitely the better one at singing.

The movie's title number struck me as odd though. When Cliff croons "The young ones, darlin' we're the young ones...", he is obviously having words put in his mouth by someone much older. Now that's square, daddy-o.

While Cliff, Melvyn Hayes, Richard O'Sullivan and Hankie do indeed look so young, the whole show is really stolen by the perpetually watchable 53-year-old Robert Morley.

"Unfortunately, I am a brute."

Still, while the film may have aged (alright so more accurately the world has), its appeal may not have done. In the mid 1980s, I remember catching the end of this twenty-year-old classic when I was a teenager. I assumed it was not something that my peers at school would have been interested in. A month later however I had borrowed an audio cassette of something or other off of Spencer at school, and elsewhere on the same tape I found that he had been recording this off the telly. I later challenged him about it. He admitted it, and very quickly changed the subject.

I wonder how many others, then or today, are closet fans of that nice Sir Cliff?

(available here)

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