In 1964 the Beatles’ debut film, A Hard Day’s Night, was a huge success. However, the Fab Four were not the only British band taking the music world by storm. It’s only logical that several other bands would decide to try and conquer the world of movies. Just about a year after the Beatles first hit the big screen, The Dave Clark Five premiered their first cinematic effort. Released in England as Catch Us If You Can, the film is known stateside as Having a Wild Weekend.
The film centers on a young man named Steve (Dave Clark) who lives in an old church with his buddies – Mike, Lenny, Rick and Denis (the other band members). The boys are all stuntmen who occasionally land work in films and commercials. Meanwhile, Steve’s girlfriend, Dinah (Barbara Ferris), is one of the most famous faces in London. She appears on billboards and in commercials for the British Meat Council. “Meat for Go!” is the slogan.
One day, the boys are filming an ad with Dinah when she and Steve decide they are tired of shilling for meat. So they nab the Jaguar being used in the commercial and go on the run. After doing some scuba diving in a swimming pool, they decide to head for an island resort which Dinah is considering buying to escape the pressures of fame. Along the way they stop and spend some time with a group of hippies squatting in the ruins of a house. Later they hide out with a bizarre married couple while being pursued by the Meat Council goons. Once they rest of the boys catch up with them they all try to blend in at a costume party before launching into a car chase as Dinah and Steve head for the island.
I was expecting Having a Wild Weekend to be pretty lighthearted and crazy…something along the same lines as A Hard Day’s Night. While it certainly borrows a few things from Richard Lester’s playbook, under the direction of John Boorman (his first film) it’s a much more solemn affair. Dave Clark and Barbara Ferris are so downbeat in this film that they feel a bit more like something out of the 90’s grunge movement than the 60’s British invasion. Instead of being chased by crowds of screaming fans, Clark drives out into the country through towns blown off the map by the ravages of war twenty years earlier. They even drive past the shells of tanks rusting away in a field. The imagery is downright depressing, but at the same time is a somewhat refreshing departure from what the Beatles had done a year earlier.
The film does go against the grain in a few other ways. The biggest being that the The Dave Clark Five do not play themselves. Oh sure, we get several Dave Clark Five songs, but they are used as background music. In the context of the film, they aren’t a rock band. They are just a bunch of guys working as stuntmen and having crazy parties at night in a rundown church. Speaking of the church, I would guess that the look the guys’ pad served as influence for the residence of The Monkees on their sitcom that would premiere a few years after this . The two look a lot alike.
While I do admire the unusual approach that director Boorman took with this film, there is a major problem that plagues it. It is the one area where Boorman may have wanted to pay closer attention to the model set by A Hard Day’s Night. A big reason that film succeeds is that it takes the time establish four unique characters with each of the Beatles. With this film, almost no time is taken for character development. The four supporting members of the group just blur together. I couldn’t tell you which one is which and their roles in the story are pretty inconsequential. As for Dave Clark, who has way more screen time than his bandmates, his character is completely lacking in charisma and pretty much spends the whole film under his own personal black cloud.
I suppose you could say that Having a Wild Weekend takes a much more mature approach than most 60’s rock movies. The fact that John Boorman and The Dave Clark Five didn’t simply copy what The Beatles did is commendable. The film is quite interesting on a certain level, but lacks several of the touches that make A Hard Day’s Night such a classic.