This is a slightly odd but none-the-less interesting film… there were quite a few generational conflict films around the turn of the sixties but to my knowledge none were filmed in Bristol. I also can’t remember any that were effectively an advert for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, with all proceeds going towards that scheme and the National Playing Fields Association
Preachy? A little but as Kenneth More’s philanthropic mover and shaker says repeatedly, they’re not trying to tell anyone to do anything just offering up and idea that they – the young - can take or leave: a pretty cool philosophy for the bored teenagers in the audience. Anyway, are we all too cynical to even countenance the idea that the DofE is a worthwhile enterprise?
Some People tries to lead by example and is skilfully assembled by director Clive Donner and scriptwriter John Eldridge, whose experience had mostly been in documentaries – his eye for detail keeping things reasonably real throughout. Cinematographer John Wilcox also gets the most out of the locations and film is almost a travelogue for Bristol: from the Clifton Bridge to the Christmas Steps and the covered market it’s all here along with a working dockside. Bristol feels more real than sprawling pre-swinging London and the cast’s efforts at the local sing-song are an entertainment in themselves!
The film starts with a trio of “ton-up boys” looking for something to do there’s deep-thinking Johnnie (Ray Brooks), tightly-wired Bill (David Andrews) and spotty Herbert Bert (David Hemmings, just five years away from being the coolest man on the planet in Blow Up…). They take their bikes out for a tear up and end up almost causing an accident on the bends below Clifton. The Magistrate holds back from throwing the book at them but still disqualifies them from driving for a year…
At a loose end the lads wander the streets looking for something to do: they have so much time and energy to burn. They walk into a local church and Johnnie plays some inappropriately syncopated rock on the organ before being interrupted by the vicar who hands the matter over to the choirmaster a man of clear authority called Mr Smith (Kenneth More, an actor of clear authority…). Mr Smith plays it cool and when the boys explain that they love music but have nowhere to play; he offers them the church hall as a venue.
They return the following evening and set up after the rather impressive choir has finished practice, kicking into to some post-Cliff-pre-Beatles rock that sets the foot tapping of Mr Smith’s daughter Anne (Anneke Wills, later an assistant to both Hartnell and Troughton’s versions of Doctor Who) who is especially impressed with Johnnie.
The band needs percussion and next time up this is provided by a member of the youth club, Harper (Richard Davies) whilst Bill’s girl Terry (Angela Douglas) picks up vocals on her own insistence and she can sing, albeit in the “boyish” manner of Helen Shapiro as the band bashes out the film’s theme tune: 'Some People think that kids today have gone astray… Well they should know cos they were kids once too' (an E.P. of the soundtrack was made available by Valerie Mountain and the Eagles…)
|Rock and, some people might say, roll...|
But Terry’s got her eye on Johnnie and Bill has his doubts, not just about her, but also Mr Smith’s motives: there has to be a catch. But when confronted, Mr Smith just explains what opportunities are available through the DofE and disarms any objections by telling the boys that they can take it or leave it.
|The Flaming Pencil|
Smith’s day job is as an engineer testing planes over at Filton by that time home to Bristol Siddeley, maker of high-powered engines. There’s some thrilling footage of the advanced test aircraft the Bristol 188, The Flaming Pencil, as well as a factory packed full of partially-constructed Handley Page Victors awaiting their engine fittings… call me a nerd but these were great planes. This, the film appears to say, is what you can do if you apply yourself.
|Spot the unfinished jet planes!|
Johnnie and Anne’s relationship grows and Mr Smith arrives home to find his daughter sitting in the bath trying to shrink-fit her new jeans as tightly as possible, he takes it all in his stride, well the shrinking strides anyway.
|Anneke Wills suffers for her art|
But things begin to unravel as Bill detaches himself from the group in conflicted rebellion, partly to avoid Terry’s rejection but also to avoid what he views as the assimilation of the more academic Johnnie and the eager Bert who annoys him by taking too much pride in canoe making.
Things come to a head when Bill and his biker buddies force a fight at the church hall and leave everything in tatters.
|Rumble at the church hall!|
Johnnie takes the blame and goes drinking with his father (the excellent Harry H. Corbett) who is desperate to connect with his son even whilst he realises that the same barriers existed with his own father. We could have done with more of this conversation but I guess that’s the point.
Johnnie knows he must follow his own path and make his own future… and he’s seen enough to know he must look at every opportunity…
|Ray Brooks and Harry H Corbett|
Dusty verdict: Some People works principally because cast and crew know just where to draw the line. More, who apparently did the film for free as he believed in the D of E programme, anchors everything with a calm honesty and the moral certainty of a man who has succeeded on his own terms. His “reward” was Angela Douglas who he later married… She acts well and amongst her frets and frowns reveals a delicious little crush on Johnnie.
Ray Brooks gives a compelling performance, shrewd and measured in comparison to David Andrews’ Bill, whose energetic cynicism provides him with only fitful direction and strategies. Anneke Wills gives the kind of nuanced performance that would be later overshadowed by screams during her stint with The Doctor and David Hemmings doesn’t just act young he is young!
|Young David Hemmings and Angela Douglas|
Some People is now available on very cost-effective Network DVD, through Movie Mail or Amazon. It doesn’t set the World on fire but it’s an interesting snapshot of a more earnest society when our industry and ingenuity seemed forever to be carrying us forward.