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  Music Machine, The Sunday Morning HangoverBuy this film here.
Year: 1979
Director: Ian Sharp
Stars: Gerry Sundquist, Patti Boulaye, David Easter, Mickey Feast, Ferdy Mayne, Clarke Peters, Ray Burdis, Richard LeParmentier, Billy McColl, Chrissy Wickham, Frances Lowe, Johnnie Wade, Mandy Perryment, Gary Shail, Brenda Fricker, John Gorman, Esther Rantzen
Genre: Musical, Comedy, Drama
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: In London's Camden, the hottest nightspot is The Music Machine where all the best dancers go to strut their funky stuff all night long as the DJ Laurie (Clarke Peters) spins the platters that matter. One big fan of disco is Gerry Pearson (Gerry Sundquist) who is there with his friends, tonight getting the chance to pair off with Candy (Mandy Perryment) who he has had his eye on for ages, even though she is the girlfriend of the acknowledged best dancer in the club. But she's not interested in a relationship with Gerry, so when a dance competition arises, he sees a chance to impress her...

Saturday Night Fever made a huge impact across the globe, and in Britain the disco craze was as enthusiastically embraced there as it was anywhere, perhaps more so. However, when it came to cash-in movies, the pickings were slim; you could just about claim The Bitch as one, but the true British John Travolta wannabe was The Music Machine, released just as the Disco Sucks movement was sending shockwaves from the States across the world and rendering what had been a drive to have a good time all the time as a passing fad that people were considering deeply naff. In the U.K. punk was turning to New Wave, and the New Romantics were just around the corner.

Which left this film looking as if it had missed its opportunity, and if anyone did remember it then that would be as an example of mildly embarrassing kitsch. Truth be told, it slavishly copied its inspiration in every area that had made the original distinctive, so you had the disco tunes, the dancing, the social realism, and it even registered the concept of moviemaking as a perfect vehicle for the pop cultural phenomenon. That was a plot point which had Gerry try and win the contest so he can get a part in a film, and so doing his ticket out of unemployment and drudgery and presumably that high rise flat he shares with his family. But if he can't perform with Candy, who can he opt for?

If you can date a film by the quality of its guest stars, then it was worth noting that The Music Machine's idea of a big celebrity was TV's Esther Rantzen, the presenter of consumer affairs 'n' funny-shaped vegetables 'n' talking dogs Sunday night mishmash That's Life. She shows up as a judge halfway through, though director Ian Sharp didn't trust her with any lines, but you can imagine him being tempted to pair her off with Gerry. It was not to be, but we did get someone far more appropriate, one of the most famous women ever to emerge from Nigeria: Patti Boulaye, singer, dancer, tireless charity campaigner and a touch of class for a rather cheap and cheerful discosploitation flick (well, cheerful apart from the range of serious bits).

Leading man Gerry Sundquist lived a tragically short life, but during his career he did manage a few notable roles, with this as one of his few starring parts, apparently unhindered by the fact he wasn't exactly blessed with terpsichorean skills. In fact, he was pretty stiff as a hoofer, which might explain why those scenes were kept to a minimum and the film preferred to watch others dance. That said, there was nothing here to give the cast of its inspiration sleepless nights, or even those who were wont to appear in the contemporary TV extravaganza The World Disco Dancing Championships which seemed to last far longer than anyone was really interested in watching them. Peters, a West End star, lent his much-needed cool status to the proceedings (he had been the bassman on Heatwave's Boogie Nights, after all) though even he struggled to impress in a chest-baring leotard and white slacks for one routine, and you could predict how it was going to end within seconds of it beginning, but you didn't begrudge it. Any hits on the soundtrack, then? Er, no.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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