HAVING A WILD WEEKEND (1965; John Boorman)
The Dave Clark 5 have quite the swinging pad in HAVING A WILD WEEKEND. It even had a trampoline, which is used several times to fun effect. Overall, the film isn't quite as energetic and frenetic as A HARD DAYS NIGHT, but it still moves along at a good clip, has some interestingly edited bits and features some undeniably catchy tunes by the band themselves. It is certainly more poignant than HARD DAYS though. The "plot" is odd but memorable in that it centers around the boys (of the band) who are working a short stint as stuntmen in commercials for this "Meat Counsel" whose goal is to brand and continue a series of print and TV ads to sell more meat to the public. One of the boys has taken a fancy to the girl that the Meat Counsel has chosen as the face of their campaign. She has become disenchanted with her role and is swept off on an adventure with the dude from the band. This adventure takes the couple a ways from London and into some interesting scenarios whilst the Meat Counsel minions give chase. One of the best sequences in the movie is a wonderful costume party. Costume parties are one of my favorite conventions of movies and television. The soires are so well designed and it's always fun to spot what famous characters that people are dressed up to look like. In this case, costumes for Groucho and Harpo Marx, Charlie Chaplin and Frankenstein play key roles.
WILD WEEKEND reminds me of a cross between HELP and A HARD DAYS NIGHT. It's like HELP in that all of the band lives together in the same place (which I've always loved as a convention of this kind of film) and that the plot is a rather silly, slightly conspiratorial kind of thing. It's like A HARD DAYS NIGHT in that it employs some similar things editorially and is in black and white. What WILD WEEKEND has that A HARD DAYS NIGHT or HELP don't is this underlying layer of melancholy that creeps in around the edges of the proceedings, especially near the end. There are several scenes wherein the freewheelin' escapades of our main couple find themselves up against a bit of somewhat cynical realism which is unexpected in a film like this, but quite welcome. Instead of being nothing but a knockoff of A HARD DAY'S NIGHT, Boorman smuggles in quite a lot of social commentary and makes his film more resonant than Richard Lester's in a lot of ways. Speaking of director Boorman, this was his first feature and went a long way towards putting him on the career path that allowed him to become the auteurish voice we cinephiles have come to revere. It was clearly this film that got him in the door to direct POINT BLANK with the great Lee Marvin. Marvin must have liked HAVING A WILD WEEKEND quite a smidge (he may have been drawn to it based on Pauline Kael's high praise upon its U.S. release) and had some great initial interactions with Boorman as he was at the height of his popularity circa 1967 and could have had his pick of directors. Apparently Marvin was able to go to the money men/studio during pre-production on POINT BLANK and request a lot of creative freedoms (final cut and approvals) which he then passed on to Boorman himself. Clearly Marvin made the proper choice as the resulting film is still quite a remarkably stylish, existential meditation on gangster films and one of Lee's best pictures ever. That said, it is always a fascinating thing to look at the thing that led to the other things and HAVING A WILD WEEKEND is an ambitious and profound debut to be sure. I still find it a uniquely delightful turn of events that a quite British film like this would lead to two of the great American films of the 60s and 70s (POINT BLANK and DELIVERANCE).
HAVING A WILD WEEKEND is currently streaming on Warner Archive Instant: