and Wonderful Life. (The first two are also
separately, Wonderful Life is exclusive to the set.)
What's striking about the films is how competent and watchable they are
today. While a lot of Elvis' movies are almost too stupid to watch,
Richard's actually have a sweetness that helps them defy age and a
visual style that actually makes it seem incredible that they're all
around forty years old. Even through the songs now mostly sound drippy
and overly sentimental, the movies themselves are lively and well-done.
The Young Ones, the simplest of the three, involves the age-old
story of the big developer trying to tear down the youth club. Richard
and his pals put on a big show to save the hang out and lots of singing
and dancing take place. While the story is no great shakes, director
Sidney Furie showcases a confidence and inventiveness that the
of incompetent modern pop star films like Crossroads and
Glitter can't begin to muster. The use of colors and the
Cinemascope frame lend the film a visual sophistication beyond its
simple story. This film in particular is a good example of the swinging
London lampooned in the Austin Powers films, with big dance numbers
breaking out in the street and plucky, youthful attitude. The film is
also helped by a great performance from Robert Morley as the real
maven who also happens to be Cliff's pop.
Summer Holiday finds Richard and his buddies heading to Greece
a red British double-decker. They pick up a bunch of strangers along
way, including a trio of girl singers, a circus troupe (including a
particularly verbose mime) and an undercover American teen pop star.
Once again, the material is typical, if energetic, but the filmmaking
and the energy of the young cast make it stand out. Peter Yates'
directing is as assured as Furie's on The Young Ones, starting
with a beautiful grainy, black-and-white opening sequence straight out
of Italian neo-realism, and through all the Technicolor numbers. The
of studio shooting with locations in Greece and France helps make
Summer Holiday another fun flick.
Wonderful Life may be the most ambitious of the three. Cliff and
pals are thrown off a cruise ship where they had worked as waiters and
house musicians. They find themselves on the Canary Islands and soon
up in the middle of a large film production. This sort of
self-referential filmmaking wasn't that common then, with plenty of
insider jokes and an astonishing 20 minute sequence with the cast
basically acting out the history of movies to that point. While is does
stop the story (which includes another love interest for Cliff, in the
lovely form of Susan Hampshire), this sequence is unique for its scope
and deft humor. Featuring the most location footage of the three,
Wonderful Life is a surprisingly complex film. Furie, directing
again, seems to be trying to turn a typical pop film into a more mature
work, even with all the Monkees-style humor and hammy acting. Once
the supporting cast is great, including Walter Slezak as the director
the film within the film.
All three films seem to have been taken from high-quality original
elements. The pictures are sharp and colorful, the anamorphic 2.35:1
frames wide and glorious. The image has a good deal of grain, which is
appropriate to the film stock. Anchor Bay has done a fine job
these films here.
The Dolby Digital mono
soundtracks also sound fine, is a little limited. Musical fans may long
for surround sound, but this is the way these films were recorded and
the quality is there. The songs sound crisp and energetic and the
is clear. Summer Holiday also includes a French soundtrack. No
subtitles are included.
All three films have audio commentary from the
directors, with Furie joined by his friend, filmmaker Paul Lynch and
journalist Waylon Wahl on The Young Ones and Wonderful
Life and Yates joined by journalist Jonathan Sothcott. Strangely,
Furie seems to have expunged all memories of working on these films and
has no recollection of any specifics. Still, his commentaries are
entertaining and contain a lot of insight into the film industry of the
time. Incredibly, he reveals that he turned down the Beatles' Hard
Day's Night to do Wonderful Life but is modest enough to say
that it doesn't matter since it wouldn't have been as good had he
directed it. Yates is far sharper in his memory of working with Richard
and discusses the process of making Summer Holiday in good
detail. All the commentaries are worth a listen.
The discs also include trailers and bios.
Cliff Richard may be a touch bland in the
music department but his onscreen presence is genuine and fun, which
could also describe the films here overall. Fans of the music or movies
of the period should definitely check out these surprisingly enjoyable