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  Gonks Go Beat Music Was Their First Love...
Year: 1965
Director: Robert Hartford-Davis
Stars: Kenneth Connor, Frank Thornton, Pamela Brown, Iain Gregory, Terry Scott, Pamela Donald, Reginald Beckwith, Jerry Desmonde, Arthur Mullard, Gillian French, Lulu, Derek Thompson, Graham Bond, Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, Babs Lord, Ronnie Verrall
Genre: Musical, Comedy, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: It has been brought to the attention of the leader of the galaxy, the Great Galaxian (Jerry Desmonde), that there is trouble brewing down on planet Earth. Specifically between the islands of Beatland and Balladisle, whose differing tastes in music mean that they are in constant conflict with each other. Unfortunately there is only one agent available to be sent to solve the problem, and he's the underperforming Wilco Roger (Kenneth Connor), but as he is threatened with being sent to the dreaded planet Gonk if he doesn't sort things out, not his preferred destination, he's going to do his level best on this mission...

Gonks Go Beat was one of many British films hastily released during the nineteen-sixties to cash in on the pop music boom, yet achieved a small corner of history of its own when it was widely thought of as one of the worst, if not the worst, Brit pop film of all time. I say "widely thought of", that's presuming it was thought of at all, but time has been kinder to its daft novelty than a few of its peers (the colourful cinematography helped), although that doesn't mean it's any good, it has just grown quainter with age.

The film was put together by UK, later US, exploitation movie maker Robert Hartford-Davis whose career took in everything from comedy to horror to blaxploitation, anything that would make quick cash-in money basically. Here it was the musical that he turned his attention to, and he gathered together as much of the top talent of the day as he could to make his production stand out. Well, sort of. It's a curious mix of older actors you can't imagine giving the tunes the time of day were they not in this, and some available that afternoon bands, not all of whom have gone down in rock history.

Beatland seem to have the better songs, opening the film as they do with The Graham Bond Organisation (complete with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker) jamming under the unlikely tutelage of schoolmaster Reginald Beckwith. Wilco isn't keen and makes good his escape when he is spotted behind a palm tree, so pops up next on Balladisle, who sing safer than safe drippy schmaltz that he finds more to his liking. Fans of British soap operas will be taken aback to see that the male half of the duo performing is Charlie from Saturday evening perennial Casualty (Derek Thompson), but there are a handful of recognisable faces here, some more familiar than others (see if you can spot Babs from Pan's People, for instance).

What Wilco decides the two factions need is a Romeo and Juliet love story to bring them together, evidently not remembering how that tale ended. As it happens, there's a contest coming up held by Mr A&R (Frank Thornton) to judge which side is the best. And as luck would have it, a Beatland spy, Steve (Iain Gregory) happens to fall for Helen (Pamela Brown), daughter of the Balladisle Prime Minister (Terry Scott). Will they unite the islands? As there are few surprises, you might as well enjoy the music, which includes a group driven about an empty airfield miming and a prison-based duelling drummers sequence, both of which are surprisingly entertaining. And for cheap laughs, Lulu gets rated a "Miss" at the contest finale. But mainly this is as dated and goofy as Gonks themselves, which also make an appearance in the bright title sequence and a dance routine (though they remain stubbornly unanimated). Its largely studio-bound appearance merely emphasises the airless, time capsule atmosphere.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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