Jack Bond (director)
87 min (length)
20 July 2020 (released)
26 July 2020
“Hahaha, it’s only a laugh… no harm done” says Dredge, one of the characters in this 1988 musical film written by and starring British pop duo Pet Shop Boys. With its fantastically surreal and occasionally even decadent imagery this has got to be one of the longest pop videos in history – disguised as a feature-length extravaganza. Both Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe embark on a nostalgic trip inspired by fond childhood memories but instead encounter England ravaged by Thatcherism.
There is no plot as such, in fact the film’s structure is guided by the sequence of songs which in turn are emphasized and told through short vignettes though the musical journey begins in an English seaside resort where Neil Tennant cycles up to a kiosk and encounters grumpy shopkeeper (played by Gareth Hunt) while the title song ‘It couldn’t happen here’ can be heard. Whilst Neil is attempting some polite small talk, the stallholder seems distracted by two nude beauties walking into the sea naked. It sets the tone as for the next 87 minutes as the Pet Shop Boys clearly hope to find a seaside resort that reminds them of their youth, instead they encounter an array of eccentric characters including Barbara Windsor (who also plays Neil’s mother) as the landlady/French maid, while Gareth Hunt not only plays a postcard seller but uncle Dredge and a ventriloquist (with black wig and make-up resembling his dummy). Other character (everyone plays multiple personas) include a manically grinning Joss Ackland as hitchhiker and priest, and Neil Dickson as a spiv-like car salesman, Royal Flying Corps pilot (reprising his character in Biggles), and the pop duos’ chauffeur. Likewise, Neil and Chris also take on various persona, for example when Neil goes to see a female fortune-teller ‘she’ turns out to be Chris. During a scene in which the adolescent versions of Neil and Chris look through a Victorian mutoscope to watch a farce, the squire and the butler are played by the adult Neil and Chris. Later on the boys enter an amusement arcade where the adult Neil plays himself as a rock star. A short while later in a music hall-style theatre, nuns perform a provocative dance to ‘It’s a Sin’. One of the strongest scenes depicts a ferris wheel with vastly different passengers who all have one thing in common: they are exhibitionists and attention seekers.
The adult Chris and Neil purchase a car and continue their journey of discovery, re-discovery and mayhem which sees them inviting a hitchhiker (Joss Ackland) into the car. A radio announcement reveals that an unhinged serial killer is on the loose and yep, the hitchhiker fits the bill just fine! Fortunately for Neil and Chris he gets out of the car before he changes his mind…. While the car rolls along a lane the aforementioned pilot sprays the car with bullets while reading an extract from Newton-Smith’s book The Structure of Time. After several strange encounters more the journey concludes in a nightclub where Neil and Chris perform ‘One More Chance’ while competitive dancers with numbers on their back hit the dance floor. At the end Neil and Chris make their exit and we can see their numbers read ‘0’.
Altogether the film (a commercial failure upon its original release due to its overtly ambitious, non-commercial concept) features 14 Pet Shop Boys songs and thus makes it a unique treat for all fans of the pop duo. After 30 years IT COULDN’T HAPPEN HERE is now available in 4K and Dual Format Edition. Bonus material includes Interviews with director Bond and choreographer Arlene Phillips, promo-video, trailer and image gallery.