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  Cuckoo Patrol, The Scout About
Year: 1967
Director: Duncan Wood
Stars: Freddie Garrity, Peter Birrell, Roy Crewdson, Bernie Dwyer, Derek Quinn, Kenneth Connor, John Le Mesurier, Victor Maddern, Arthur Mullard, Ernest Clark, Basil Dignam, Michael Brennan, Neil McCarthy, Peggy Ann Clifford, Jack Lambert, Patsy Snell
Genre: Musical, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: "Cuckoo!" goes the cry as Freddie (Freddie Garrity) marches the streets to gather his fellow boy scouts, and before long all five of them have assembled in the scout hut and are getting on the nerves of the second-in-command, Wick (Kenneth Connor). But that's a two way street, and the lads are also irritated by the verbally scathing Owly (Anthony Buckingham), who starts ordering them about to pack up the tents so the troop can go camping; the solution is to teach Owly a lesson, so when Wick appears and wonders where his shouting is coming from, then sees the packed up tent, he fears the worst...

Don't worry, the kid is just locked in the cupboard, but that's the way Cuckoo Patrol begins, one of the goofiest star vehicles for one of the goofiest British bands of the sixties, then riding high at the time this was made as a success story across the world. Unfortunately for them, release was held up and by the time it actually escaped into cinemas there was a distinct lack of Freddie and the Dreamers in the charts - it's easy to forget how quickly the pop business moved on in that decade, so while the Beatles and the Stones kept up with the times, Freddy Garrity and his band of cheeky chappies were yesterday's men by 1967.

Not that they disappeared forever, as they continued to make appearances in showbiz for a good few years afterwards, with Freddie in particular making a name for himself in children's television, but it was clear their musical heyday was over. Yet keeping that kids entertainers notion in mind, you could see from Cuckoo Patrol where they played some decidedly overage scouts that they really had a knack for family entertainment, sure they were no actors, but their guiless enthusiasm for the material, which they came up with by themselves (shaped by Scottish TV veteran Lew Scwharz), proved they had a lot to offer, so it was a shame this pretty much sank without trace.

The trouble was that Freddie and the Dreamers were viewed as a novelty act thanks mostly to their silly dancing and cheery tunes, not a reputation dispelled by this film, so you can well understand why it was not cool, and probably never would be, to say you were a fan. But the fact remained that if you wanted some easy laughs and daft humour, this supplied them more than adequately as the boys venture out on their own to deliver the camping equipment. Predictably they get lost, accidentally finding themselves stuck in an empty removal van and winding up in the middle of nowhere, whereupon you have something akin to a British comic road movie as they encounter various character actors in episodic fashion.

Freddie and bandmate Peter Birrell (a highly amusing comedic presence, if on the amateur side) have to negotiate a pair of tag team wrestlers under the impression they're performing scoutlike good deeds (keeping their glasses on as they're flung about), then they all meet some equally overage girl guides but their singsong (this was a musical too, sort of) gets interrupted by their leader who ridiculously calls the none more innocent Freddie a "ravening monster!" for daring to cosy up to her girls. But the robbers (Victor Maddern and Arthur Mullard) who fool them into thinking they're helping them break into their own safe when it's not at all (the actual safecracking gets quite surreal) make up the most significant part of the plot, and if this is not exactly ambitious, it is nicely delivered so if you're not one bothered about what's the in thing to enjoy, Cuckoo Patrol could tickle the funny bone in its lighthearted way. Music by Kenny Graham, with songs by the Dreamers (Freddie is credited as Frederick for that for some reason).
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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