Superior drama of the early days of British rock 'n roll
Robert Huggins | Suburban Philadelphia, PA United States | 04/16/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
""That'll be the Day" is a small, well written and acted film made in 1973 that shares similar themes with the better known "Quadrophenia" made 5 years later. Side note: In "That'll be the Day," the Who's Keith Moon has a cameo as a drummer, and the Pete Townshend composition "Long Live Rock," is heard at a dance hall. Both films tell the story of young men in their late teens/early twenties in England who become disillusioned with their lives and most everything around them. In "Quadrophenia," Jimmy Cooper (Phil Daniels) quits his job and runs Ace Face's (Sting) scooter off the seaside cliffs, symbolically severing his ties with the "Mod" lifestyle. The future for Jimmy is uncertain at the end of "Quadrophenia." The ending of "That'll be the Day," however, is much less ambiguous as Jim MacLaine (David Essex) leaves his job and family (including his infant child) for the life of a rock star (further continued in the 1974 sequel "Stardust").Like "Quadrophenia," "That'll be the Day" is not a musical, though it has plenty of music in it, including the likes of Richie Valens, the Everly Brothers, Dion, etc. The live bands at the dance halls, for the most part, play cover versions of American artists. The real rock stars in the film -- Essex, Ringo Starr, and Billy Fury and Keith Moon in small cameos -- all do an excellent acting job. Essex, in particular, is terrific as Jim and Ringo, as Jim's carny friend Mike, proves that he really can act in a serious role, given the right material (his work here will make you quickly forget about "Caveman"). Rosemary Leach, as Jim's mother, and Rosalind Ayres, as the wife he leaves, are also impressive. Even the small roles are well cast in this film. There's a great scene where young Jim breaks into a seaside arcade on his birthday and proceeds to get drunk. Along comes an English bobby on a bicycle. Rather than arresting him for breaking & entering and disorderly conduct, the compassionate policeman helps Jim home. It's a small, but wonderfully played scene by Ron Hackett as the policeman. Such are the performances throughout this film.Anchor Bay, as usual, does a great job with the visual presentation of this film, but save for a trailer (shown, for some inexplicable reason, in three different sizes!), there are no extras. This is the type of film where a commentary from David Essex, or the film's director (Claude Whatham) or screenwriter (Ray Connolly) really would have added a lot for fans, in much the way that Director Franc Roddam's commentary added to the viewing experience of "Quadrophenia." If and when "Stardust" is ever released on DVD, let's hope that "the powers that be" will include a commentary track (hint: Director Michael Apted would be great).Note: Despite it's PG rating, this is not a children's film. In addition to some unsavory characters and mild profanity, there is implied sex as well as a surprisingly graphic sex scene for a PG rated film (the MPAA ratings standards were much laxer in the early 1970s then they are now). Mercifully, there is no drug usage."
Perhaps one of the most important rock and roll films...
Robert Huggins | 12/09/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
""That'll be the Day" is an oustanding examination of a certain period and time: England in the 1950s, when rock and roll began to take hold on the country's youth. Filmed in 1972, the movie uses the gritty kitchen-sink realism that was popular in British films at the time. It doesn't boast much of a story, instead following the life of Jim McLain (David Essex), a restless British teenager who leaves home to work at a funfair. Along the way, he gets hooked on the idea of playing music, with a soundtrack of familiar oldies serving as the soundtrack to his life. Not a lot happens in the film, but it captures the uneasiness and tension of the period of life when schooltime is over but you haven't settled into adulthood yet. Most intriguing about the film is the shady character of McLain, who is rather shallow and distant, but manages to still be appealing. Much of that is due to the oustanding performance of David Essex in his first starring role. This movie launched his recording career -- the classic "Rock On" was his only U.S. hit, but he's a major performer in his native country -- and he has an easy charisma which makes him likable even when playing an unpleasant fellow. Good work also from Ringo Starr (as Essex's older friend) and Keith Moon as a slightly-crazed drummer (what else?) .... Also, trivia buffs should notice in chapter eight, Essex can be heard humming the melody of "Rock On," months before he had even recorded the song."
Working-class British youth discovers sex in the 50's
Robert Huggins | 03/15/1999
(3 out of 5 stars)
"While this movie is generally considered a "Ringo Starr" vehicle, it's really the story of David Essex (the 70's hit "Rock On"), as a British youth who leaves home to work at a Holiday Camp (in the UK, the precursor to amusement parks). There he discovers the joy of bedding young ladies who he will probably never see again. Along the way he enounters Ringo as a 'Teddy Boy' who knows the ropes, until he's badly beaten for shucking the wrong customers. A great role for Ringo, who recalls his own youth working at Butlin's, one of the largest Holiday Camps. The end of this movie is very abrupt and somewhat unbelieveable. A pity, since for the most part it's a realistic, gritty look at a moment that probably happened to thousands of young men in Britain during the 50's. Supposedly this was the first of a two-part series based on Essex's character, but because this one has a Beatle in it, it has enjoyed some cult status, much like John Lennon's turn in "How I Won The War". In the end, it's for die-hard Ringo fans, or anyone interested in the life of a roustabout lad (admittedly a narrow focus)."
This isn't supposed to be about a good guy
Robert Barnett | Surf City, CA | 02/02/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Seems everyone who denigrates this movie at all, does so bc Essex's character is such a scumbag. That's what makes it real. I felt I was almost watching a documentary."