Director: John Boorman
Screenplay: Peter Nichols
Starring: Dave Clark, Barbara Ferris, Julian Holloway, Lenny Davidson, Rick Huxley, Mike Smith, Clive Swift
Running Time: 91 min
BBFC Certificate: 12
Popular culture was in full flow. Exemplified by The Beatles’ drive to take over the world of entertainment, it was becoming the norm for the power of celebrity to spread its wings. The 1964 release of the Richard Lester directed ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ received as much critical success as commercial. It was only natural that contemporary acts should look to see if lightning could strike again.
Step forward the Dave Clark Five. They had been the second British act to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show in the US so following the Beatles’ lead was well-trodden ground for the Five. ‘Catch is if you Can’ was the vehicle devised, written and produced to shadow step their infamous counterparts. In retrospect, the pedigree of those involved promised to result in something quite special. John Boorman’s debut was to precede an illustrious career in both popular and cult films alike. It also resulted in two Oscar nominations for Best Director. The screenplay was penned by Peter Nichols who would go on to have equally as impressive a career as a playwright.
Based on this, the film is bound to be a sure-fire classic, right? We’ll get to that.
Unlike the aforementioned Beatles’ release, Catch us if you Can spins a much savvier narrative that is full of observations on the evolving and changing British society. The opening of the film belies this as we are treated to the band members awakening to what looks like a commune. This promises an ensemble piece that plays on the relationships between each of the band members. That is due to be cut short as a young model named Dinah (played by Barbara Ferris) enters the fray. She is the face of a national campaign for Meat (‘Meat is Go’ is plastered alongside Dinah’s face on many billboards across the city. Her malaise with the pressures and humdrum nature of her work is matched by Steve (Dave Clark) who is a stuntman on her most recent job.
They decide to escape the rat race together in an expensive prop used in the latest commercial (an E type Jaguar). The meat campaign is rather perturbed that their investment in Dinah may be scuppered and set about spreading misinformation and lies about the couple. While only 1965, the mantra of any publicity is good publicity was going strong. To be sure, they also send a youthful looking Clive Swift (“RICCCCHHHAAARRRDDDDD!”) to get the estranged couple back in the game. The film follows the classic road movie tropes of meeting strange and wonderful characters, a hippie commune, an older couple whose motivations are under question and costume ball are all backed by a continuous soundtrack of Dave Clark Five hits.
It is a fairly easy watch of a film and not without its moments of fun along the way. It only has one major problem and that is the performance of Dave Clark himself. He is so dour that is hard to believe that someone as voracious as Barbara Ferris could ever be attracted, never mind willing to abscond at a moment’s notice with him. As flat as Clark’s performance is, Barbara Ferris is terrific and easily carries the film on her shoulders. She is warm, charming and full of life and it is very easy to see her as the face of a major advertising campaign.
The film plays strongly on the cynical nature of advertising, media and the dreams of youth. It adds another layer to the film that bears rewatching. For a film that is a vehicle for a pop band it is somewhat disappointing that so many of the songs are repeated throughout the picture.
– New interview with Journalist and film historian Matthew Sweet
The premier extra that looks at how this film came to be made, while detailing the differences between Dave Clark’s film outing and ‘A Hard Day’s Night’. It’s an extra that fills in the background from the time. It added to the enjoyment as I was not aware of how prominent the Dave Clark Five were in relation to other bands at the time.
It again highlights many of the recent Vintage Classics releases that have special features that are considered and add real weight to the overall release.
– Interview with Screenwriter Peter Nichols
A short interview with the screenwriter who talks about how both he and John Boorman were hoping that the film would be a catalyst to greater things. I only wish it were longer.
– Interview with Set Dresser Ian Whittaker
Ian talks about his transition from the stage to behind the scenes as a set dresser. It’s a frank and occasionally humorous take on the differences and how many are happy to contribute to the industry in any capacity.
– Stills Gallery
Another solid release of a vintage film that I had never even heard about before its announcement. While not a film that will be high on anyone’s list of favourite films, it is an enjoyable watch that provides an interesting distraction for those who want an insight into mid-sixties popular culture and adds a layer of welcome critique that belies the cynical nature of what it is was proposes to be.