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  What a Crazy World Gorblimey, Strike a Light
Year: 1963
Director: Michael Carreras
Stars: Joe Brown, Susan Maughan, Marty Wilde, Harry H. Corbett, Avis Bunnage, Michael Ripper, Grazina Frame, Monte Landis, Michael Goodman, Fanny Carby, Larry Dann, Brian Cronin, David Nott, Barry Bethel, Alan Klein, Tracey Rogers, Michael Robbins, Denise Coffey
Genre: MusicalBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Herbie (Marty Wilde) and his gang are causing trouble on the streets of London, pushing their way through a market bored because they have nothing useful to do, so they prefer to make a nuisance of themselves, such as telling a street vendor (Michael Ripper) who is blatantly selling dodgy goods that the police are on their way when they are nothing of the sort. Meanwhile housewives and mothers gossip and the dismay the older generation have for the younger is in the air, no wonder when Herbie and company visit the labour exchange and observe that it's almost entirely filled with foreigners, thus the boys will have no choice but to get a job. Their pal Alf Hitchens (Joe Brown) will have to consider this too...

But Alf has his sights set on showbusiness and plans to become a songwriter; if that works out, he could perform his own songs as well. This could be the very rare musical where the lead character's dreams do not come true, but you could tell from the opening fifteen minutes What a Crazy World was not one of those movies and a happy ending was on the cards. This was the film debut of band leader (the Bruvvers) and renowned guitarist Joe Brown, starring in the sort of pop musical that was just about to fall out of favour once The Beatles exploded on the scene and they had produced their own cash-in movie, A Hard Day's Night. Brown went on to appear in another one of these, Three Hats for Lisa, but even that a short time after looked like an anachronism.

Look to the deviser of the original stage work Alan Klein for the reasons behind that, not to be confused with the Rolling Stones manager Allen Klein for he was a singer-songwriter with a very strong opinion that British music should sound British - his only album, Well At Least It's British, went to great lengths to leave the listener in no doubt of that (his later spoof of Barry McGuire's Eve of Destruction, named Age of Corruption, isn't half bad). This might explain why he had crafted a musical noticeably following in the footsteps of Lionel Bart's Cockney stage hit Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be, which was never filmed but had an influence on British pop with the nation's everyday experience as its subject, so this film was very much a slice of life effort.

Brown was ideal for such an endeavour with his unpretentious charm and ability to carry a tune within a thick accent, and if Klein's tunes were much of a muchness in an early sixties fashion, with lyrics featuring such rhymes as "You're not the only fish that's in the sea/You're not the only bird that's in the tree", the star and his supporting cast put them across with gusto, though in real life Alf's titular hit barely scraped into the Top 40. That cast included another pop singer of the day, Susan Maughan who was just coming off the success of her single Bobby's Girl; here she played Marilyn, the on-off girlfriend of Alf whose scenes with him consist of mostly of arguments, and she gets to trill as well, as did most of those with more than one scene. Even Harry H. Corbett and Avis Bunnage as Alf's disparaging parents sang, and Klein himself showed up as a member of Herbie's gang.

Wilde was also a pre-Fabs pop star, towering above the other actors and making a strong double act with Brown as they go out on the town looking for birds and brawls. What they find is Freddie and the Dreamers singing about rhubarb and indulging in a trouser-losing routine onstage - incidentally, when the fight breaks out in the club they scarper like a bunch of wusses. Well, it wasn't a very convincing fight. Those who like to watch vintage movies to see the locations will be extremely well-served by What a Crazy World as most of it was shot in existing regions of London, so if you know the area you can spot where bits were set, and if not you can soak up as authentic an atmosphere as you can get assuming you don't mind the folks onscreen bursting into song every couple of minutes. Other than that, it wasn't really a comedy though there were jokes, it wasn't really a romance either no matter Maughan's presence, it was in the main a vehicle for celebrating a specific time and place and culture, and pretty sprightly as far as that went.

[Network's DVD of this title looks pristine in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and has a trailer and gallery as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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