Billy Fury (as himself) is at an animal market to buy another dog when he finds himself much taken with one of the horses up for sale. His assistant Bert (Leslie Dwyer) reminds him that he isn’t there to purchase such a beast, but the appeal is too much for Billy to ignore and before he knows where he is, he’s driving home with his dogs and Bert in the car, and a horse box behind with the steed he names Armitage contained within. His manager Hymie Campbell (Michael Medwin) won’t be best pleased when he discovers this latest example of his talent’s wayward nature, and the manager of the theatre (Bill Fraser) will be even less impressed when Billy is late for rehearsals for the umpteenth time…
Billy Fury was still having hits in 1965, but his days as a major chart act were numbered when this effort was released, an attempt to turn him into more of a family entertainer than his previous rebellious image might have portrayed. He certainly didn’t secure any hit records from the soundtrack, which was strictly below par in comparison to his peerless early sixties pop such as Halfway to Paradise or Wondrous Place (which though not one of his biggest successes is spoken of with much respect as one of the finest examples of its pre-Beatles era), but then this was more a star vehicle than something to flog an accompanying album from, although you imagine that may have been part of the idea.
One of the most celebrated traits of Fury was his love of animals, so that’s what his manager Larry Parnes believed would be a great hook for his second movie (after the superior to this Play It Cool three years before), as after all a man who is kind to the creatures cannot be a man who is unpopular, yet when it was clear, even from this, that Billy preferred the company of the animal kingdom over humanity, and indeed there’s a song here which details precisely that in the lyrics, the suspicion that he was some kind of weirdo may have emerged unwanted in the minds of the audience. When his character, who was basically supposed to be himself, was more interested in the horse than he was in love interest Amanda Barrie, you began to wonder about him.
Of course, the truth of it was Fury was just a nice man whose good nature was brought out in his appreciation for his pets, but we watch his career suffer in the plot of this as well when the Billy surrogate incarnation can’t keep his mind on his job and insists on returning to his menagerie – there’s a sequence in a pet shop that tries to make it look as if he were kind to small children as well as they join him in the “animals are great” ditty, but we can tell he’s more keen on snuggling up to a bunny or puppy than he is prancing around with stage school kids. It could be Parnes was allowing himself to pander to the man’s whims in the hope that he could cling on to his not inconsiderable celebrity for a few years to come, but in the light of how A Hard Day’s Night had ushered in a new period of British pop and rock in the movies, I’ve Gotta Horse just didn’t cut the mustard.
In fact, it looked like something from ten years before, with a notable dearth of toe tapping tunes when the best they could conjure up was the Bachelors dressed up as cowboys gently riding on, yes, horses through the British countryside with random people waving to them. Phew, rock ‘n’ roll! There was a band called The Gamblers who threatened to sound far more in the spirit of that, and director Kenneth Hume (who would commit suicide not long after this was out – an unconnected event, if you were wondering) briefly became engaged in the material with wild camera angles and energetic dancing, but soon we were back with sub-Hollywood musical staging with the likes of Jon Pertwee as the film’s notion of a hip guest star. That said, knowing about Fury’s heart condition, when you saw him exerting himself it did make you a shade more anxious than you may otherwise have been. They were trying hard, but the whole affair was so tone deaf (musically as well as entertainment-wise) with Armitage’s unfortunate incident halfway through, bizarrely, that it was sad to say, a dud.