John Boorman (director)
91 min (length)
05 April 2021 (released)
05 April 2021
As now top playwright Peter Nicholls (who wrote the script) informs us in his brief interview included in the bonus features, director John Boorman told him this film – featuring The Dave Clark Five - would kick start both their prospective careers and in that he was right.
Here we see the then immensely popular Dave Clark Five (the London lads who'd only just knocked The Beatles off the Number One spot with 'Glad All Over') living together in a converted church down by London Bridge (pretty trendy for the time one imagines) and working, it would seem, as stuntmen which seems a little unlikely. Steve (Dave Clark) is in a working relationship with Dinah (Barbara Ferris) whose picture is splashed on billboards all over London (and one supposes the U.K.) She is known as the 'Butcher Girl' - her happy face advertises 'Meat for Go' (the connection seems tenuous certainly more so in these vegetarian/vegan-obsessed days). She is under contract to a mega advertising company headed by the deep-voiced Leon Zissell (David De Keyser sounding more like he should be playing Dracula - perhaps that was the point). It’s during a TV-commercial shot in Smithfield Market (where the lads are surrounded by monstrous dead animal torsos) that Steve and Dinah decide they’ve had enough. What? Of being exploited for an unworthy purpose - but that's the world we live in. So they do a proverbial runner. Cue for some artily shot London street scenes and a bit of light anarchy when Dinah (in the passenger seat of the e-type Jaguar) tells the Oxford Street pedestrians through a microphone to 'change their lifestyles'. Oh, there’s also a quirky scene when Steve invites Dinah to some diving lessons in Oasis Swimming Pools in Holborn. Meanwhile, dastardly Leon (well this depends on your viewpoint) has his lackeys (played by Clive Swift and Hugh Walters) hot on their trail and the devious swine has informed the press that 'The Butcher Girl" has been 'kidnapped' - it's all good publicity. During their wild weekend sojourn they encounter a bunch of zonked out hippies squatting in a deserted village on Salisbury Plain – the MOD-owned buildings are marked for demolition and when the army arrives and manoeuvres commence the peace-loving hippies plus Steve and Dinah are almost blown to pieces (well, the Jaguar does get damaged beyond repair). Forced to hitchhike they are offered a lift by a bored middle-aged couple Guy and Nan (Robin Bailey and Yootha Joyce) who just might be swingers living in Bath's beautiful Nash Crescent. After some tedious chat-up attempts on the couple’s side (who are aware that their guests are on the run from the authorities and other individuals ) the rest of Steve’s gang are invited to join the wealthy hosts for a mega fancy dress party at the Roman Baths (more silly frolics ensue). However, the coppers and Zissell’s henchmen are hot on Steve and Dinah’s heels after yet another attempt to flee contracts and their responsibilities.
Later we encounter Steve's old mentor Louie (David Lodge) who ran an East London Boys Club now running a stable in the West Country which can only mean one thing: a bit of horse riding. The climax (or anti-climax rather) takes place on Devon's Burgh Island on which there is a concourse and a tide separating it from the mainland but guess who’s already waiting…
If you are expecting something like the slightly earlier Beatles films you are in for a big disappointment. When it comes to fun there simply isn’t a great deal on offer here and it really doesn’t seem to go anywhere – not helped by the occasionally static exchange of dialogue. It looks quite good it must be said (though would have looked better in colour) and one supposes scriptwriter Nichols must have been making a serious point but this is not the vehicle for it. The group's most popular hits are not heard and much of the incidental music is by Basil Kirchin (which is not at all bad thing) and John A. Coleman. We only hear four tracks from the band. It really does not come over as a vehicle for the band at all – that’s because the Dave Clark Five don’t actually play themselves. Barbara Ferris is a likeable lead but what on earth was soppy bewigged hippy guru Yeano (Ronald Lacey) rambling on about? Yeah.
CATCH US IF YOU CAN has just been released restored and for the first time in the UK on Blu-ray. Bonus material includes various interviews, including a rather informative one with film historian and journalist Matthew Sweet.