British film directors in the early part of the 1960s never really did teen rebellion all that well. Even someone with a track record like Clive Donner, who directed Some People in 1962.
The cast is pretty strong though, headed up by Ray Brooks and David Hemmings, your typical denim-clad teenage tearaways, working during the day, riding fast bikes and generally causing a bit of trouble in the evenings if time permitted.
Things change when our three tearaways (Johnnie, Bill and Bert) hit the throttle a little too much on the streets of Bristol one Sunday, causing an accident and ending up in court – which then leads to a driving ban. Cue much more messing about at the youth club and the church as the wannabe musicians look for some kicks.
In the church, the organ playing is overheard by the local volunteer choirmaster, Mr Smith (Kenneth More), who offers the trio some rehearsal space, not to mention a bit of encouragement. In the end, they find a place for the band to flourish, some added band members (after losing Bill) and the choirmaster’s daughter Anne (Anneke Wills), who catches the eye of Johnnie (Ray Brooks) and vice versa.
Bill (David Andrews) eventually becomes more separated from the rest of the bunch on account of them becoming squares (and showing an interest in the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, of all things), returning to stir up some trouble and kill off the fledgling band, not to mention sticking what seems like the killer blow to Johnnie and Anne’s relationship. Or at least, that’s what he hoped.
Yeah, from that, you’ve probably worked out this isn’t a plot-driven film. It’s also a typically early ’60s take on youth, where even the rebels seem quite pleasant, rarely getting above troublesome in the rebel-o-meter.
But it’s still an interesting and engaging film for various reasons. First up, it covers that pre-swinging era of the 1960s and by doing that, offers just a bit more realism that the singing and dancing swinging London flicks of later years. The teenagers were bored and for good reason – there probably wasn’t a lot to do outside youth clubs, coffee bars and roller-skating halls.
Having the film set in Bristol rather than London is a masterstroke too. Again, it just gives an extra layer of authenticity, not least when the main participants wander round the department stores, cross the river, drop into a fish shop or have a drink in a pub. It’s the real 1960s on film.
Nice to see some familiar faces too – Harry H. Corbett as the dad was a surprise, but Hemmings and Brooks, both of whom went on to bigger and better things in the decade, are an interesting watch too. Watching this, you really can’t imagine David Hemmings as a brash London photographer just four years later in Blow-Up. Shows how much he grew as an actor working in this kind of stuff. Anneke Wills is a minor revelation too, not least when she’s in a bath full of hot water shrinking on a pair of Levi’s.
So all in all, a fairly interesting film for various reasons, with the plot being somewhere near the bottom. This was pretty safe teen rebellion fodder then and even more so now. Still well worth a watch though, especially in this newly-released and newly-restored edition.