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  Ferry Cross the Mersey The Scouser Sound
Year: 1965
Director: Jeremy Summers
Stars: Gerry Marsden, Freddie Marsden, Leslie Maguire, Les Chadwick, Julie Samuel, T.P. McKenna, Mona Washbourne, Eric Barker, Cilla Black, George A. Cooper, Mischa De La Motte, Deryck Guyler, Patricia Lawrence, Margaret Nolan, Jimmy Savile, Bernard Sharpe
Genre: Musical, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Gerry Mardsen (as himself) has hit the big time with his band the Pacemakers, and as he rests upon his newly won laurels, he reminisces about how it all began for them. Yes, they sell out venues to screaming girls, who are also wont to follow them about their native Liverpool and even show up at the airport to greet them when they come back from touring, but it was not always like that. Gerry recalls being woken up each day by his Aunt Lil (Mona Washbourne) who he was lodging with, and having to study in art school by day...

But at night, he was a star! Well, for a while, anyway, and if you ever wondered what the big deal about Merseybeat was then you would be recommended to watch, um, not this but A Hard Day's Night. However, if the Beatles piqued your interest, then by all means delve a little deeper, and Ferry Cross the Mersey was as good a place to investigate as any, not because of its cinematic quality, but because the music was typical of the sound of that era. In fact, the songs are by far the best element of the film, as the rest of it was too blatantly straining to emulate the Fab Four, which just went to show it was not as easy as it looked.

What plot there was concerned Gerry and the Pacemakers' rise to fame, as if to say, we all know where we've come from and we're not going to forget it - other bands preferred to concentrate on the success that they were enjoying once they'd made it for the subject of their movies, but not here. Unfortunately, the story by Coronation Street creator Tony Warren was too slavish in recreating the style of the Beatles' hit debut, and director Jeremy Summers had obviously spent a lot of time divining exactly what made that work as the blockbuster it had been. This means no matter what the band get up to, you're finding yourself comparing them, and they come up wanting.

Not helping was a dodgy sense of humour, where Gerry and the boys are meant to be a funloving lot, but their jokes are more boorish than witty, with someone dressing up as Adolf Hitler at one point (!), and a visit to a Chinese restaurant leading to the group thinking they've been fed the dog that has been following them around. Maybe if they'd been offered proper funny lines to speak then the bits between the songs wouldn't have been so much of a dead loss, but after a while you wonder why anyone else in the film puts up with them. The answer, of course, was that they're not only the stars, but that they have those cheerily rockin' tunes in their arsenal, and every time they start performing it's a blessed relief.

As Gerry's love interest, Julie Samuel played Dodie, a wealthy fellow art student whose father (Eric Barker) can provide the cash to get the group off the ground. They also have a manager (T.P. McKenna) who shows an interest, and before you know it they're becoming famous, with Gerry making electric guitar sounds come out of his acoustic one, and once he does get his electric guitar, he doesn't even need to plug it in to make it play. It climaxes with a battle of the bands, as these things often did, where DJ and personality Jimmy Savile comperes the night, and is treated to hearing an outfit who all have the same hairstyle as he does. Potential calamity strikes when Gerry and the Pacemakers lose their instruments, necessitating the stepping in of Cilla Black (another artist, like the Beatles and the Pacemakers, managed by Brian Epstein) to save the evening while our heroes indulge in a Keystone Cops homage. For many, this was one of the worst of the cash-in movies, but there were far worse out there and they do sing the title track on a ferry, which is as much as could be expected.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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