Having A Wild Weekend / Catch Us If You Can


poster poster

The only film to actually star the Dave Clark Five was released in 1965 and is titled "Catch Us If You Can" or "Having A Wild Weekend" depending upon the country you live in. The fact that a film was made at all is a good indicator of the contemporary appeal and commercial importance of the group. They had enjoyed tremendous success in 1964 and if the Beatles were popular enough to make a film, so were the DC5. According to legend Dave typically retained control of the film, choosing the writer Peter Nichols, director John Boorman and taking a lead role himself. The band's worldwide fame in this period meant the backers, Anglo Amalgamated and Warner Brothers, were happy to let him have his way.

The story concerns stuntman Steve (Dave Clark) and his friends (the other members of the Dave Clark Five) who live together in a converted church in London. Whilst working on a TV advert they meet young model Dinah (Barbara Ferris) who feels frustrated by her life, which is controlled by middle aged executive Leon (David de Keyser). Steve is bored and when Dinah mentions an island she is thinking of buying, they decide to go off and visit it. Along the way Steve intends to look up his old judo coach Louis who has a farm nearby. Their wintry journey through the West of England is hampered by Leon's employees ( led by Clive Swift as "Duffle" ) who follow them. Leon is using the situation to increase publicity for Dinah's TV advert. Steve and Dinah have some odd encounters which prove more disconcerting than fulfilling. First there is a surreal episode in a deserted village with some road people who seem mainly interested in drugs, then they are picked up by an older couple Guy and Nan (Robin Bailey and Yootha Joyce) who take them to their home in Bath and reveal more than a friendly interest. Steve calls his friends to pick them up but when they arrive they all go off to a fancy dress party where Leon's men almost capture them. Steve and Dinah escape and visit Louis (David Lodge) at his bleak farm but Steve is disillusioned by Louis' desire to cash in on their notoriety. They move on to the island which seems deserted but as they explore the rundown hotel, Leon is waiting for them. Dinah agrees to return with him and emerging from the hotel they realise the island is not really an island at all. The adventure is over and their sudden return to reality is demonstrated by the horde of waiting pressmen. Steve refuses to participate in any publicity and goes off with his friends, whilst Dinah returns to her old life.

film

Although billed as a Dave Clark Five film, there are no scenes showing the group playing or performing their songs and they do not appear as the musical group we know and love. This decision certainly disappointed many who expected to see the band rattling through familiar tunes on the big screen. This was an interesting and brave decision, the group were famous in their performing roles, but it is consistent with the film's aim of offering something different. The music in the film acts as a backdrop to the action, in the way of a traditional soundtrack. There is no place in the film for the early hits loved by millions, but the self penned songs and instrumentals offer much by way of consolation. The soundtrack contains some of the group's most satisfying work and displays their effortless versatility. The stomping DC5 trademark sound is present on the worldwide hit "Catch Us If You Can", the punchy rock and roll of "Having A Wild Weekend" and the uptempo highlight "I Can't Stand It". Perhaps the most interesting track is Lenny Davidson's "When", an atmospheric piece that punctuates the film and is heard in different versions to underscore different scenes. It would have been a worthy single reflecting the mellow side of the group that was somewhat overlooked. The instrumentals reflect the groups past and present, giving an insight into the talent that got them through long nights at the Tottenham Royal. "Ol' Sol" and "On the Move" thump along whilst "Sweet Memories" is a perfect pastiche of early sixties film music reflecting Lenny's Duane Eddy influence. The accompanying soundtrack albums differ considerably around the world, so do not be surprised if some tracks are missing from your copy.

Despite what some film guides say, this is not a high spirited romp in the Beatles, Herman, Freddie mould. It is a thoughtful and cynical film about business controlling the arts, the pressures of fame, alternative lifestyles and how youthful dreams result in disappointment. It is more realistic and challenging than the average lightweight pop film, with underlying themes of betrayal and disenchantment. Dave Clark delivers a good performance as the brooding leading man, living up to the jokes about his "saturnine good looks". His role as the dour Steve is quite a shock if you are expecting his smiling pop star image, but he carries it off well. Barbara Ferris is not so successful, she tries hard to be sweet but lacks chemistry with Clark and one cannot help feeling that she is miscast. The rest of the Dave Clark Five are restricted to supporting roles with Mike Smith having the most lines and Rick Huxley shining as the deadpan joker of the group. Dennis has a few quips but Lenny says nothing throughout the whole film. The English locations are striking with director Boorman using his flair to capture London, the countryside and the mysterious island (actual location, Burgh Island in Devon) in winter time.

The film enjoyed critical and popular success in England, making the top twenty grossing films of the year and impressing highbrow reviewers. It fared less well in America and around the world perhaps due to the publicity which did not emphasise the sombre mood. The alternative title of "Having A Wild Weekend" does not really reflect the film's content, "Having A Weird Weekend" might have been better. It is very English in its setting and attitude, many references and accents being lost on international audiences. It is no surprise that it bemused teenage audiences as the tone and content are mature and cynical rather than simple and cheerful. There are several light-hearted scenes but really this is a film with a bleak message. The film launched John Boorman on his career and much of his later style and trademark themes can be seen, particularly the downbeat ending. Regrettably, Dave Clark turned down all further film roles that were offered to him believing his performance was sub standard which it clearly isn't. This unusual and absorbing film stands up very well today due to the aim of producing a meaningful piece of work, rather than a quick cash-in. It is disappointing that there is no performance footage of the group in the film, but fortunately enough survives elsewhere to make this a minor complaint. Neither curiosity nor period piece, "Catch Us If You Can" is a thought provoking and sophisticated film which benefits from Dave Clark's presence, the location scenes and the groovy soundtrack. Long deleted on home video, it received a welcome DVD release in June 2007.

Gary Howman


LP LP

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