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  Wonderful Life Get The Cameras Rolling
Year: 1964
Director: Sidney J. Furie
Stars: Cliff Richard, Walter Slezak, Susan Hampshire, Melvyn Hayes, Una Stubbs, Derek Bond, Joseph Cuby, Richard O'Sullivan, Gerald Harper, Bruce Welch, John Rostill, Brian Bennett, Hank Marvin
Genre: Musical, Comedy, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Johnnie (Cliff Richard) and his friends have gone to sea on a cruise liner, where they work as waiters and musicians respectively. Tonight, after a long wait for a holidaymaker to stop drinking and go to bed, they pile into their cabin and prepare to rehearse their latest song, but Edward (Richard O'Sullivan), who fancies himself as the brains of the outfit, puts too many plugs into one socket and knocks out the electricity for the ship. As a reward for this, they are all chucked off and wind up drifting in a dinghy - until they sight land...

And that land was the Canary Islands, a suitably exotic location for those Brits watching back home in their local fleapit in this, one of a number of lighthearted musicals Cliff made in the sixties. The most celebrated of those was Summer Holiday, but the year after that megahit he and some of the stars of that reteamed for this less successful entry in the pop musical genre. Of course, when this was released there was a little item starring a certain Liverpudlian band called The Beatles out the same year, and even though their film had a fraction of Cliff's budget they were so fresh that Cliff was in danger of looking like yesterday's man.

Fortunately for him he found his niche as a family entertainer and housewife's favourite, but that did leave Wonderful Life (known as Swingers Paradise overseas, which must have disappointed a few) and its even more obscure follow-up Finders Keepers somewhat stranded in a pop culture environment that was seeing his variety style of rock 'n' roll largely consigned to television rather than the big screen. For Cliff, his TV show and the Eurovision Song Contest beckoned, which for some performers would be the end of the line but with him proved the beginning of a remarkable longevity that lasted well into the twenty-first century, with a British top ten hit in every decade from the fifties to the noughties.

But what of Wonderful Life? It's a silly little piece of fluff, yet has a pleasing innocence even if it is rather insubstantial. The plot sees our heroes end up getting a job on a film set for Otto Preminger-esque director Lloyd Davis (Walter Slezak, though why he has a Welsh name here is unmentioned), with Cliff as the double for the lead in a tale of a sheik's daughter and the legionnaire who loves her. She is an aspiring actress with the slightly unfortunate name of Jenny Taylor, played by Susan Hampshire and predictably she becomes the love interest for Johnnie as he falls for her when she is picked on by Davis for her perceived inadequacy. Johnnie has faith in her, so they conjure up a great idea.

Well, the idea looks more like they were running short of inspiration for plots and happened to be brainstorming when they said, "Hey, we're making a movie, right? Then let's make our next project all about shooting a Cliff musical!" Hence as Johnnie and company improbably create a secret parallel movie to Davis's would-be blockbuster without the director or Jenny realising. Heaven knows what it would look like as we don't really get to see it, but if you can set aside the hard to believe nature of the storyline then Wonderful Life is bright and sunny and easy to watch, though most of the songs are forgettable aside from the actual hits like the title tune and On the Beach. O'Sullivan and Melvin Hayes made for a neat double act, the Shadows are up for a laugh, Una Stubbs is there for dancing duties - it's all as you would expect with the bonus as a tribute to/lesson about the history of the movies acted out by the cast, which might illustrate how far their ambition was from their results, but as with the rest is nice enough. Music by Stanley Black.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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