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Catch Us If You Can (1965)

Courtesy of Canal+ Image UK ltd

Main image of Catch Us If You Can (1965)
DirectorJohn Boorman
Production CompanyBruton Film Productions
ProducerDavid Deutsch
ScriptPeter Nichols
PhotographyManny Wynn
Music DirectorDave Clark
Music Played byThe Dave Clark Five

Cast: Dave Clark (Steve); Lenny Davidson (Lenny); Rick Huxley (Rick); Mike Smith (Mike); Denis Payton (Denis); Barbara Ferris (Dinah); David Lodge (Louis); Robin Bailey (Guy); Yootha Joyce (Nan); David De Keyser (Zissell)

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A stuntman and his model girlfriend flee London and its media circus, and escape to the country, but are manipulated throughout by an advertising agency boss.

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John Boorman's first feature touches on mid-60s themes: the commodification of youth culture, the manipulative role of the 'media industry', the all-pervasiveness of images and advertising, and the resulting sense of alienation.

Early scenes of youthful energy (the Dave Clark Five running around parks, playing on the rides) suggest a retread of A Hard Day's Night (d. Richard Lester, 1964), but here the songs are non-diegetic. As stunt man Steve and model Dinah are both in the 'image' business, they drive around London in a E-type Jag to 'groovy' music, just as in the TV commercial 'Let's Go With Shell!'

Uneasy with modelling, Dinah defaces her own poster image. After she and Steve flee London in search of a rural Utopia, the film moves in unexpected directions, becoming a journey/quest, but very different to that taken in Summer Holiday (d. Peter Yates, 1963). This journey is more inward, as much spiritual as physical, and its darker, melancholic vision is closer to another West Country road movie, Radio On (d. Chris Petit, 1980).

The film plays with notions of illusion and reality as they encounter various English types. Are the 'drop outs' (an early engagement with '60s counter-culture) they meet on Salisbury Plain really actors playing 'subversives' to be rounded up in a military exercise? Are middle-aged establishment types, married 'collectors' Guy and Nan, predatory/kinky (do they 'collect' young people)? But droll smoothie Robin Bailey as Guy is very funny, whether spying through keyholes, interrupting Dinah's bath, or as a fancy dress Frankenstein.

Shot on location, the film makes skilful use of symbols - Dartmoor ponies, water, the tidal island - compare Cul-de-sac (d. Roman Polanski, 1966). The snow-covered Devon landscape is contrasted with the ad agency in Manny Wynn's crisp B/W images. Peter Nichols' screenplay taps into '60s anti-establishment themes - a Utopian quest is destroyed by army and big business. But 'Utopia' is an illusion - there is no 'island' or escape from the media's manipulative influence; materialist Zissell 'walks' to the island. Dinah says, "you arrived - but you missed the journey". Only romantics make 'the journey', and are inevitably disillusioned: a bleak message.

The US title, Having a Wild Weekend, may have led audiences to expect a Monkees-type romp, rather than a film that shifts into melancholy. It becomes a critique of the vacuity of the opening images. For a 'pop' film, that is radical.

Roger Philip Mellor

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Video Clips
1. Let's get away (3:10)
2. A country walk (2:23)
3. The island (4:30)
Production stills
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Boorman, John (1933-)
Anglo-Amalgamated Productions