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review added: 11/5/02



The Cliff Richard Collection

reviews by Dan Kelly of The Digital Bits

The Young Ones

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

The Young Ones
1961 (2002) - Anchor Bay

Film Rating: C

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B/C

Specs and Features:

108 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary (by director Sidney J. Furie and filmmaker Paul M. Lynch, moderated by journalist Waylon Wahl), Cliff Richard biography, theatrical trailer, film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (26 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0 mono), subtitles: none



Summer Holiday

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Summer Holiday
1962 (2002) - Anchor Bay

Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B/C

Specs and Features:

108 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 58:06, at the start of chapter 14), Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary (by director Peter Yates, moderated by journalist Jonathan Sothcott), Cliff Richard biography, theatrical trailer, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (26 chapters), languages: English and French (DD 2.0 mono), subtitles: none



Wonderful Life

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Wonderful Life
1964 (2002) - Anchor Bay

Film Rating: C-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B/C+

Specs and Features:

113 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:18:30, at the start of chapter 17), Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary (by director Sidney J. Furie and filmmaker Paul M. Lynch, moderated by journalist Waylon Wahl), Cliff Richard biography and filmography, theatrical trailer, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (24 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0 mono), subtitles: none


Anchor Bay's Cliff Richard Collection
Anchor Bay's The Cliff Richard Collection


While his career in the United States never caught fire outside of a couple of Top 40 hits, Cliff Richard was a huge sensation in the UK. His success there predated the arrival of The Beatles and rivaled that of Elvis. And like Elvis, he was not content to bring joy through the power of music alone to his legions of (mostly) screaming female fans. So he eventually took his suave, but oh so innocent, persona to the big screen with a series of light, teen-oriented musicals. None of them are great, but each of them guarantees their moments of fun, some dancing, a somewhat adventuresome spirit and Cliff's face full of gleaming white, Osmond-like teeth. Sound like your idea of a good time? Well, lucky for you, Anchor Bay Entertainment has released a 3-disc DVD set of Cliff's most popular films. The set served as my intro to the world o' Cliff Richards, so off we go...

The Young Ones

Nicky Black (Cliff Richard) spends his days nurturing his singing and dancing skills at the local teen club with all his friends. He has a healthy, albeit adversarial, relationship with his greedy, business-minded father, Hamilton Black (Robert Morley), that's tested to the limit when Hamilton announces his plans to flatten the teen club and replace it with a business center. Nicky, his girlfriend Toni (Carole Gray) and a cast of merry mop tops decide to stage a song and dance variety show to raise the needed funds to save their hangout from the wrecking ball. All is fine and dandy, until dad catches wind of Dorinda (Sonya Cordeau), their surprise guest vocalist, and steals her away from the project. With their hopes of survival dashed, the kids devise a plan to steal airtime from the BBC to promote both their club and Nicky's calling to the world of pop music.

The Young Ones isn't an especially bad movie, but it's got some bad things going for it. As a vehicle to advance Cliff Richard as a leading man, the movie too often ventures into goofiness and frivolity to be taken with any amount of seriousness. He's actually pretty entertaining when he's on stage mouthing along with his songs, but outside of that his acting isn't terribly good. The songs themselves, particularly the title track and The Girl in Your Arms, are good and provide a nice showcase for Richard's true talent. Choreographer Herbert Ross (better known for directing films like Footloose and the Academy Award-nominated The Turning Point) stages some amusing dance numbers, and director Sidney J. Furie injects a good sense of humor (and a wild dose of Technicolor) to give the film a cool, splashy look.

Anchor Bay's release restores the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio that makes full use of the Cinemascope process. Color reproduction is brilliant, if a tad oversaturated, and flesh tones are rendered faithfully. Contrast and clarity are fair, without the distraction or artificiality that comes courtesy of edge enhancement. The source print is mostly good, but does exhibit some expected minor wear and tear as a product of age. The film's original monaural sound mix is the sole audio option here, and for all intents and purposes serves the material well. Obviously, a new 5.1 mix would produce a more enveloping sound experience, but there's little to complain about here. You won't get the scratchy, high-end hiss that can accompany some mono tracks, and the dialogue never runs the risk of being drowned out by the accompanying musical selections.

The disc's accompanying features are just as light as the film. Outside of the theatrical trailer and a few pages of biographical information on Cliff Richard, the only real extra is a screen-specific audio commentary by Furie, filmmaker Paul M. Lynch and journalist Waylon Wahl. In many ways, I found the commentary to be more engaging than the feature. Furie discusses nearly all aspects of the filming process and talks openly about the overly long film shoot ("We had tea... there was no such thing as overtime"). Lynch jumps in now and again to add some thoughts of his own, and Wahl does a good job of moving the commentary along by continually prompting the participants with questions. You could do worse in the features department, I suppose, but something along the lines of an interview with Cliff Richard would benefit the disc.

Summer Holiday

In Summer Holiday, Cliff Richard plays Don, a mechanic for London Transport. He's bored with his daily working activities and the drab city life of London. He convinces the city to let him use a double-decker bus to travel across Europe, and sets off for a couple of weeks of carefree rest and relaxation. Along the way, he and his buddies pick up a car-full of stranded women, and Barbara (Lauri Peters), a popular singer on the lamb from her overbearing mother. Soon enough, Don and Barbara start to explore their attraction to each other. But in the meantime, they've got the Alps, Paris and the ruins of Athens, Greece to distract them.

As far as actual narrative goes, there's not a whole lot to Summer Holiday. It's an excuse to put a bunch of likeable characters on a bus together and capture them on film exploring some of the more beautiful places in Europe. Most of the musical numbers have a great deal of charm and are filmed with a great deal of enthusiasm, but there are a few clunkers in there as well. For some barely explained reasons, our traveling friends end up in court. Naturally, they need to sing and dance their way out of trouble, so we're treated to an extended sequence that is seasoned with one dreaded film cliché after another (yes, even a mime). Thankfully, these scenes are outnumbered by their more pleasant counterparts and make for an entertaining 2 hours in front of the TV set.

Anchor Bay's DVD release of Summer Holiday duplicates the fine video image they produced on The Young Ones. In fact, all three films appear nearly identical in quality. This 2.35:1 anamorphic image exhibits respectable color reproduction, with a slightly subdued look that can be attributed to the age of the film elements. Black level and shadow detailing are on the mark, as is contrast. On a few rare occasions, you'll no doubt be able to glimpse some compression artifacting, but image quality is quite good beyond that. The audio track is a serviceable English 2.0 mono. It's nothing out of the ordinary, but there's no high or low-end distortion to hamper the overall quality. There's also a distracting French language mono track, that flip-flops between French language dialogue and English song lyrics. The difference between the singing and speaking voices is such an obvious distraction that the track becomes a waste of time. A French language subtitle track would alleviate that, but Anchor Bay (a studio I otherwise hold in fairly high regard) has made a habit of overlooking the benefit of foreign language subtitle tracks.

Extras are the same as the other DVDs in the collection - a theatrical trailer, the same biographical notes on Cliff Richard and a scene-specific audio commentary. This go-around, director Peter Yates does the honors and journalist Jonathan Sothcott moderates the discussion. I admire a lot of the work in Yates' directorial canon (Bullitt, Suspect and Breaking Away to name a few), and he's got plenty to share about his history as a filmmaker. The drawback to the commentary is that both he and Sothcott are both so soft-spoken that the track eventually becomes a task that's not worth the effort.

Wonderful Life

Wonderful Life is a very bad film, that is crafted so remarkably well that it almost becomes tolerable... almost. In a very small nutshell (this mindless film doesn't take up much space), cruise ship entertainer Johnnie (Cliff Richard) and his buddies wind up on the set of a lavish film production. Johnnie falls for Jenny (Susan Hampshire), and they spend their days playing make-believe and serenading one another on the movie sets while nobody's looking. Wonderful Life was filmed by director Sidney J. Furie, with a great fondness for the great MGM musicals, and it's literally filled with audacious color schemes and elaborate sets. It also employs the wide-angle camera lens to take full advantage of its scope and range. But the movie lacks the core appeal of the best of the MGM musicals - the off-the-wall characters, great songs (the pop songs here are merely good) and a fun storyline that actually implies some sort of narrative. A portion of the film's mid-section offers some fun, as it parodies countless films and the screen legends that starred in them, but even this can't turn a bomb into some sort of mindless fun.

The 2.35:1 anamorphic image shines like the video transfer on the previous two discs. As I said before, this film is undoubtedly the most colorful of the three films in this collection, and the color reproduction on the DVD compliments that scheme nicely. Fine detail is also a strong point in the transfer, and transfer-related defects never reveal themselves as a detriment to the overall quality of the final product. The English 2.0 mono track is also on par with the other discs. It's crisp and tidy, with absolutely no audio distortion. Certainly, it lacks in dynamic range like any monaural mix, but by all means it gets the job done.

There are no surprises in the DVD extra department. The trailer looks and sounds as good as new, and the Cliff Richard biographical notes make yet another appearance. Furie, his friend director Paul M. Lynch and moderator Waylon Wahl take a second go at a commentary track. This one proved to be a better listen than the one on The Young Ones, even if Furie has no recollection of even directing the film. If you listen to the entire track, comments along the lines of "I don't remember any of this" become a common occurrence. Furie directed Diana Ross' Oscar-nominated performance in Lady Sings the Blues, and he dishes up a little gossip while he discusses her demons ("Whatever they may be") and how they kept her from continuing a career in acting that otherwise seemed destined for stardom. He also chimes in on some of what he feels are some of today's better performances, citing Halle Berry's turn in Monster's Ball as his favorite of 2001. This alone easily makes this the best of the three commentaries.

So, there you have it - Cliff Richard's three most treasured movie musicals. The Young Ones and Summer Holiday are available separately, but Wonderful Life is only available in The Cliff Richard Collection box set.

With the release of The Cliff Richard Collection, Anchor Bay continues their practice of catering to even the smallest of film niches. I haven't a clue as to how big an audience Cliff Richard carries Stateside, or even abroad for that matter. But those who have fond memories of Sir Cliff in his heyday will no doubt enjoy this small set of his best-known films. They don't exactly earn a gold star for extras, but each of them looks and sounds just fine and should please anyone who's been looking to add these films to their collection.

Dan Kelly
dankelly@thedigitalbits.com


The Cliff Richard Collection


The Young Ones


Summer Holiday


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