The Young Ones
During the late '50s, British heartthrob Cliff Richard was sold to a receptive British public as the English Elvis Presley, although his angelic baby-face and pompadour suggest Ricky Nelson as much as the King. Like Presley, Richard made the transition to film early, and two of his early starring vehicles, 1961's The Young Ones and 1963's Summer Holiday, have recently been released on DVD, along with extras that include director commentaries, trailers, and vibrant menus that capture the fizzy energy of the films themselves. Filmed in glorious Technicolor and Cinemascope, The Young Ones boasts an archetypal musical plot (fresh-faced kids put on a show to save their favorite hangout) so flexible and durable that it's been used in everything from Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney musicals to Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. Adding an Oedipal twist to a plot that can no doubt be found scrawled on the walls of caves and pyramids, The Young Ones casts Richard as the son of Robert Morley, who wants to tear down Richard's youth club and replace it with an office building. But Richard and his suspiciously mature-looking cohorts vow to raise the money necessary to halt those plans. When Morley throws a wrench in their strategy, however, the kids resort to a primitive form of culture-jamming, breaking into the BBC's signal to tell listeners where their benefit concert is being held. Splitting the difference between Presley's campy rock movies and the elaborately choreographed Technicolor musicals of the '40s and '50s, The Young Ones could use more of the energy of its climactic concert, which presages the justly famous endings of A Hard Day's Night and Rock 'N' Roll High School. The film could also use more of Morley, who turns in a scene-stealing performance to rival Wilfrid Brambell's bravura crotchety-old-man turn in A Hard Day's Night. Ultimately, however, the film's vibrancy, sense of humor, and catchy songs render such quibbles irrelevant: The Young Ones' unabashed, zestful high spirits are infectious. Less fresh but still enjoyable is Summer Holiday, whose wisp of a plot has something to do with a Richard-led quartet of singing, dancing mechanics who decide to drive a big red public bus around Europe during the titular work break. Once there, the four (including a young Jeremy Bulloch, who would later play Boba Fett) run into a British girl group, a French magician, and an American female pop star pretending to be a 14-year-old boy. Through song and dance, Richard professes his desire to remain free from commitment, but he soon falls for the bus' glamorous cross-dresser, much to the chagrin of her social-climbing, publicity-hungry stage mother. Like The Young Oneswhich shares not only its star, but also much of its cast and crewHoliday winks at its own paper-thin plot, using it mainly as an excuse for splashy song-and-dance numbers, light romance, and endearingly goofy humor. Choreographed, like The Young Ones, by American Herbert Ross, who would go on to have a long and successful career as a director, Summer Holiday has more in common with traditional '50s musicals than '50s rock vehicles. Like The Young Ones, it needs more of the beatnik cool of Richard's backing band The Shadows, which pops up repeatedly without getting a chance to let loose. During an affectionate but fuzzy commentary track, Holiday director Peter Yates (who went on to direct Bullitt and Breaking Away) says his goal was to capture the youthful high spirits of Richard and his music on film. The Young Ones and Summer Holiday do just that, with charming results.