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Saturday, January 19, 2013

GPS and DC5 Are Having A Wild Weekend

British invaders were many and varied from the late 50's through the sixties. Horror/sci-fi, rock shows, and James Bond actually outnumbered US pics I saw at the Liberty during latter-half 1965. Of musicals, A Hard Day's Night and Help! were obviously most popular from over there, but there was also Ferry Cross The Mersey and Having A Wild Weekend, both having had choppier crossing, and least exposure since. Ferry showcased Gerry and The Pacemakers, Liverpool boys handled too by Beatles brain-trust Brian Epstein. The Liberty 7/65 doubled Ferry Cross The Mersey with similarly Brit-lensed Tomb Of Ligeia, the latter being what I wanted more to see. Strenuous argument ensued that afternoon with a neighbor boy over which of the combo would be longer remembered. I ventured Ligeia, but in view of Drew's age and size advantage, did not belabor the point. Forty-eight years and Ferry Cross The Mersey's virtual disappearance would seem to have corroborated me, but would Drew still recall the debate?

Having A Wild Weekend has lately returned, thanks to Warner Archive DVD release. Here was The Dave Clark Five's bid for ticket-selling beyond US-performing at concerts and on TV (they practically lived on Ed Sullivan's show). A Hard Day's Night had hit for the Beatles --- could Warners do as much with Having A Wild Weekend? The DC5 were called a nearest rival to Liverpool's foursome, having been frequent on Top-40 charts. They matched outfits after Beatle fashion and did a July Shindig for ABC just ahead of Weekend's open. Plan was for the boys to live-tour and theatre-appear to thump WB's release of 400 prints, saturation play to hopefully begin and wrap before schools got going for the Fall. Having A Wild Weekend was UK-titled Catch Us If You Can, but stateside marketing needed a livelier label; both were hit-bound tunes in any case from Epic's soundtrack, set for tandem release with the film.

Warner's campaign was keyed to abandon and fun-for-all that was A Hard Day's Night, their trailer looking like virtual replay of UA's success, but this Weekend was not altogether celebratory. Creatively in charge Dave Clark tendered instead a bleak-at-times dig at commercial interests soiling music expression and youth's integrity (one ad exec has what seems a Peeping Tom obsession with Barbara Ferris' ingénue); add to that an ending the charitable might call bittersweet. Clearly this Weekend would have a Monday hangover. Could bookings outpace disappointed word-of-mouth? Songs, good ones, were there, but only on the soundtrack: we don't see the boys perform. Here too was Dave to more-or-less exclusion of his mates, sensible maybe for his coming closest to lead man looks, jokingly called "saturnine" in HAWW. London was DC5's base, theirs an upbeat tempo rocking past the Beatles' slowing one.

Opener gag has the Five cribbing in an abandoned church with pipe organ wake-up; I expected earlier Children Of The Damned residents to serve notice of eviction. HAWW is at times dingy and kitchen sink-ish, that pleasing by modern measure, but didn't '65 Yanks prefer pristine and swinging London? Dave and a runaway ad-model girlfriend taste austerity still in '65 effect, driving their Jaguar past a disabled WWII tank without comment. There's also unsettling encounter with crypto-hippies who ask for "weed" and "horse," their manner and number sufficient to imply ritual kill or cannibal impulse, admittedly less clear a threat in pre-Manson 1965. As eventual hitch-hikers, Dave and companion are given transport by an edgy couple with possible designs on both (Were they kinks?, asks one of the Five later). Wonder what domestic teens made of this. Disaffected "Guy," well past estrangement from his wife, displays a stash of vintage projectors and hung one-sheets (including Bogart in The Big Shot) that previews perhaps how many of us collectors would end up. The group then convenes to a party where revelers dress as past film stars Jean Harlow, The Marx Bros., Karloff's Frankenstein. A blackface celebrant stirs neither comment nor censure, possibly a last time we'd see such an image on screen without arousing one or the other.

Variety gave Weekend a round kick, bad recording and slurred speech basis for their pan (it was hard enough understanding these Brits without their technicians mucking things up!). Concert incidents got DC5 unwelcome trade press, which referred to their fan base as "the lollipop market." A July 5 Phoenix gig became Variety's idea of a "melee" thanks to a panicked local DJ who grabbed Dave Clark's mike and demanded the show be stopped "to protect the kids." DC5 manager Rick Picone put it all down as S.O.P. "when we play the provinces," noting no doubt a 13,000 seat coliseum with only 3,000 filled, tickets sold at $4.50 tops. A Paterson, NJ dust-up on August 21 was more serious, DC5 local theatre-appearing to boost Having A Wild Weekend when Picone and one other entourage member got into a rumble with cops. According to the latter, Picone and private guard assist were hitting kids when they got too close to the band. Defense argued that police were trying to block fan access to the Five, and "worked over" Picone's man. DC5 hopped a next Transatlantic in the wake of what Variety called an "imbroglio."

The Liberty got Having A Wild Weekend for two days, September 30-October 1, 1965. Our Starlight Drive-In had played Ferry Cross The Mersey over a brisk autumn weekend just passed. Col. Forehand amended his newspaper ad to read Having A Wonderful Weekend: would the original title have invited controversy? I didn't bother going because Help! was on the way for a following Liberty week, and we figured the Beatles for a safer entertainment bet. Warners may have blamed Help! for routing their own British invasion, the Mop-Top's second UA feature scooping US gravy within weeks of Having A Wild Weekend. Domestic rentals for Weekend stalled at $511K, but still there was $100K in profit thanks to the pic's low negative cost: $282,000. Warners owned their import, but didn't include Weekend among non-theatrical rents in WB Film Gallery catalogues I checked. Was The Dave Clark Five, having disbanded in 1970, too "out" to attract a campus picturegoing "in" crowd? Having A Wild Weekend did turn up by the mid-seventies in a WB syndicated-for-TV package with 27 bunkmates the likes of My Blood Runs Cold and Two On A Guillotine. Warner Archives' DVD is a nicely rendered 1.85 and highly recommended to both DC5 fans and curiosity seekers after 60's Brit pix.


Blogger MDG14450 said...

HAWW was one of the first two or three movies I saw, though I have no real recollection of it. The co-feature was more impressive to this 6-year-old: Ib Melchior's Time Travelers.

1:05 PM  
Anonymous Kevin K. said...

I finally got around to seeing HAWW a few months ago. I guess I was a expecting a "Hard Day's Night"/"Help" mash-up (which the opening credits scene kind of implies). By the middle of it, all I could do was wonder what the kids of 1965 -- especially in the USA -- made of it. I mean, this was a drama (of sorts), not a merry moptop adventure (other than the party, there was nothing "wild" about it). It seemed like they were trying to turn Dave Clark into the new James Dean, while the rest of the band were just nameless afterthoughts.

The blackface thing was more accepted in the UK, there having been a weekly minstrel show on the BBC well into the 1970s.

10:01 AM  
Blogger Dr. OTR said...

Kevin K beat me to mentioning the Black and White Minstrel Show, which ran on the tellie until the jaw-droppingly late date of 1978. Just check out the first 15 seconds of this link and see if your retinas don't begin to smolder:

It's one thing to see Jolson do this on film in the 30s, which it had been practiced on the stage quite recently. In post-civil rights full color ... well I guess it doesn't really need any comment, does it? Sort of comments itself.

10:28 PM  
Anonymous Paul Duca said...

In her first successful play, UNCOMMON WOMEN AND OTHERS, Wendy Wasserstein had one of her baby-boomer woman character state "I liked the Dave Clark 5...I thought I could marry one of them because they were more accessible than the Beatles"

3:25 PM  

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