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  Take Me High Brilliant Birmingham
Year: 1973
Director: David Askey
Stars: Cliff Richard, Deborah Watling, Hugh Griffith, George Cole, Anthony Andrews, Richard Wattis, Madeline Smith, Moyra Fraser, Ronald Hines, Jimmy Gardner, Noel Trevarthen, Graham Armitage, John Franklyn-Robbins, Peter Marshall
Genre: Musical, Comedy, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Tim Matthews (Cliff Richard) is an up and coming young businessman who has received the news he is to be moving to New York to take a post there, which he thinks is great, but his girlfriend (Madeline Smith) is not so delighted. In fact, she's absolutely furious, and to top it all she thinks he's forgotten her birthday, which he has not, but his present of a food mixer does not go down well. Seems the relationship is over, but at least Tim has that bright future to look forward to - or he does until he goes to the offices of his company and discovers he's not headed to New York at all. He's actually going to Brimingham.

And that is because Take Me High was not designed to publicise the Big Apple, it was made to present the new face of Birmingham to the world and convince us that setting up a business there would be grounds for great prosperity. Does it ring true? Well, as much as any advertisng feature can, and among the annals of such things this stands out as a mighty titan as they had secured the services of the Peter Pan of Pop himself to take the lead and bring in the willing customers - that's right, this film was a musical into the bargain.

So off Tim goes to Birmingham, and for its residents this provides quite some degree of nostalgia as he spends quite a lot of the running time walking and driving about the city to show off its more attractive and, for 1973, modern facilities. Cliff is accompanied by himself trilling away on the soundtrack in many a montage, and if the songs are not especially memorable then they are at least pleasant enough on the ear. He has a rival for the best job, though, and he is Hugo Flaxman (Anthony Andrews) who in one sequence joins in with Cliff's singing, with Andrews taking the Rex Harrison approach, i.e. speaking his lines.

The boss of these two is Sir Harry Cunningham (Hugh Griffith), a rampant upper class capitalist who we first see enraged at the sight of spoilsport socialist Bert Jackson (George Cole) on television, so much so that he destroys the set in a hail of machine gun bullets. Sir Harry is, shall we say, an eccentric millionaire, who likes nothing better than being driven around on the bonnet of his Land Rover brandishing a shotgun to go hunting with; he even chases down a fox like this although the animal slips into Tim's Mini and hides, and even laughs as it does so, as if this were not bizarre enough.

But this is a film designed to show the benefits of setting up your company in Birmingham, so to that end Tim meets struggling restaurant owner Sarah (former Doctor Who assistant Deborah Watling) who he falls in love with. This signals Tim's redemption as not so much realising there's more to life than money as the opening song declares, but that establishing a business can truly enhance your existence, it's simply a matter of finding a gap in the market. The gap they find is in the fast food industry after being unimpressed at the quality of local burgers, leading the couple to invent the "Brumburger" which is so good that the city holds a parade in its honour. I can imagine Take Me High will bemuse most viewers with its curious plotting, but for those looking for an insight into this time, this place, it does have its allure. Music by Tony Cole.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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