Gonks Go Beat has achieved near-mythical status – despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that no-one has seen it. Well, now we have the chance to see the movie in all its remastered glory, thanks to a reissue as part of Optimum’s Beat Classics collection.
Let’s be honest, it’s never going to be as good as you imagine. But it’s still an interesting piece of mid-60s silliness. Written by Robert Hartford-Davis (known more for exploitation horrors such as The Fiend and Corruption) and inspired by Romeo and Juliet, it’s essentially a tale of two rival islands – Beatland and Balladisle. Yes, one loves beat music, while the other prefers a nice ballad. And each is populated by appropriate acts of the day, including, rather bizarrely, hip hammond combo The Graham Bond Organisation.
Both groups of musicians stay on their separate islands (guarded by police on Lambrettas – nice touch), but meet up once a year to battle it out for the Golden Guitar – which entitles the winner to a world tour and get a spot on TV. The losers – well, they lose their equipment. Because of this, there’s growing animosity, so an alien (Wilco Roger, played by Kenneth Connor) is sent to earth to sort out these differences. His solution? Bring the two sides together through the love of two people – one from each isle. And throw in some music of course.
Without the hype and expectation, I’d probably be calling this a lost gem, well worth picking up. It still is – but it’s not the classic you perhaps hope for. On the music front – Graham Bond excepted – the film suffers from being made in 1965 and using potential chart fodder of the day to fill up the soundtrack. If you’re a fan of Joe Meek’s more mainstream output or indeed ‘safe’ early 60s pop, it should be right up your street. For the rest of us, it’s pretty bland. And you get the feeling that the director couldn’t decide if this was a film with music or a shop window for the up and coming bands of the day. In the end it falls uncomfortably between the two.
But it also has its moments. The Graham Bond segment, a great Ginger Baker-led drumming jam in Balladisle prison, the clunky teen lingo, the clothes, the twisting, the embarrassing attempts of the ‘proper’ actors (including Frank Thornton, Terry Scott and Arthur Mullard) to be down with the kids and indeed the all-round enjoyment the film offers if you take it for what it is – a throwaway pop flick from the mid-60s. As for the Gonks? Don’t ask.
No, it doesn’t live up to the hype, but it’s still a fairly enjoyable, if very dated, slice of period silliness.
Find out more about the DVD at the Amazon website