Four mechanics (led by Cliff Richard) take a London double decker bus to Europe for a holiday, picking up three girls along the way. Then a young boy stowaway joins the group and there are complications...
The durable Cliff Richard was one of the most successful British pop singers in the movies, proving likeable in a number of films of which Summer Holiday is the best known, as after this one his cinematic ventures were lower profile, though he certainly stuck with the acting for longer than might have been expected when it was really the singing that was his main career. In this case it was that rarest of things, a British road movie: but they wisely decide against hanging around in Britain for the rainy summer. Instead, they drive off to the Continent, headed for the south of France for a spot of location shooting Cliff's rivals couldn't afford.
All in full colour too - someone in the production had faith there was money worth spending here, since it was a given they'd make back a profit, true enough seeing as how often this was repeated on British television down the years. Back at the plot, the journey continues in episodic fashion and on the way, Cliff finds himself strangely drawn to the young stowaway, but it's all right, everyone, the boy is actually a girl (Lauri Peters) - an American singer who has run away from her domineering mother. There is a touch of the battle of the sexes between the boys and the girls, but after a while they all get along famously, and have a jolly good time, as his loyal fans did, this presenting the performer at his most wholesome and take home to mother-iffic.
Though this is a sunny musical relying on its bubbly tunes to get by, it has only two songs you might recognise, the title one and the prophetic "Bachelor Boy" since Cliff famously never married. The Shadows turn up to play a few ditties at a various points along the journey, but mostly you get dance sequences (choreographed by Herbert Ross, who was on his way to helming his own movie projects). My favourite sequence is where Cliff imagines various middle aged women changing into young and attractive versions of themselves, but then they change back and chase him around a park in the Benny Hill tradition.
It has to be said, Cliff isn't all that great at dancing, and he assuredly did not improve as the years went on (see his routine for his Eurovision effort Power to All Our Friends for evidence of that) but he's adequate here; at least there's none of that arm-swinging technique he usually uses (well, actually there is, but he keeps it to a minimum). Some prefer Cliff in his early, moody roles where he was acting the rebel as the rock 'n' rollers were meant to be according to their press coverage, but he seems more at ease in the more innocuous movies, and Summer Holiday is probably the most enjoyable. And it led to a good joke in the last episode of The Young Ones. Also with: mime Ron Moody performing a silent movie comedy scene, Cliff and friends in accidental blackface. Was Melvin Hayes inspired by his role in this when he penned the theme to seventies TV staple The Double Deckers? Let's just imagine he was.