Rockin’ in the Film World #11: HAVING A WILD WEEKEND (Warner Brothers 1965)

For those of you who weren’t around during the heyday of the 60’s British Invasion, The Dave Clark Five were second only to The Beatles in popularity. The group came hot on the heels of The Fab Four, appearing on Ed Sullivan for two straight weeks, and had a solid string of hits from 1964 to 1967: “Glad All Over”, “Bits & Pieces”, “Because”, “Any Way You Want It”, “Over & Over”. Yes, they were BIG, folks!  Propelled by Clark’s up-front drumming and lead singer Mike Smith’s growling vocals, The Dave Clark Five had the teenyboppers screaming in the aisles, and since A HARD DAY’S NIGHT was a smashing success, a movie starring the boys was the next logical step.

Director John Boorman

HAVING A WILD WEEKEND begins like it’s going to be a clone of that film, then turns into something completely different thanks to first-time director John Boorman, who would later give us POINT BLANK , DELIVERANCE, EXCALIBUR, and HOPE AND GLORY. Boorman sets the conventional 60’s rock film on its ear with his skewering of social conventions, sexual mores, the advertising world and the price of celebrity. Boorman’s debut is a lot bolder than something like HOLD ON (Herman’s Hermits), or even A HARD DAY’S NIGHT, and though The DC5 have long left the scene, this is a movie that can be enjoyed on its own merit.

The band play a group of “stuntboys” doing commercial work with the face of the day, model Dinah (Barbara Ferris of CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED). She’s the spokesmodel for the meat industry, with her face plastered all over England in a “Meat for Go!” ad campaign. Stuntboy Steve (Clark, a former stuntboy himself) is bored with the whole thing, and he and Dinah take off in a spiffy Jag, heading for the coast of Devon where she’s planning to buy her own personal island to get away from it all, pursued by ad exec Leon’s minions.

Their adventure takes the couple to a deserted village where they meet up with a scraggly bunch of proto-hippies who ask if they’ve got any “spliffs” or “horse”. The village is being used for maneuvers by the British Army, who start bombing the hell out of the place, forcing Steve and Dinah to split the scene on foot. They thumb a ride from a pair of upper-class dilettantes (Yootha Joyce, Robin Bailey), who try separately to seduce the youngsters, than take them to a costume party with a classic film theme, with the attendees dressed as Groucho Marx, Jean Harlow, Frankenstein’s Monster, Charlie Chaplin, and Laurel & Hardy, among others!

Steve and Dinah finally make it to her island paradise, only to discover it no longer remains an island when the tide goes out. Leon is there waiting for them, along with the press, having planted a story of Dinah being kidnapped. Soon she’s swept up in all the publicity and hoopla, and Steve, realizing the journey always far outweighs the destination, takes off with his stuntboy brethren for sunny Spain.

The DC5’s hit “Catch Us If You Can” serves as the theme song, and was the movie’s UK title. Other songs interspersed into the movie are “Having a Wild Weekend”, “Sweet Memories”, “Time”, “On the Move”, “When”, “Ol’ Sol”, “I Can’t Stand It”, and “Move On”. The Dave Clark Five didn’t have the personalities of The Beatles or The Stones, nor did they move forward musically as the decade progressed, but for a three-year span they were on top of the pop world, and HAVING A WILD WEEKEND is a true 60’s time capsule of Swingin’ London. Even if you’re not familiar with them, the film’s worth watching for Boorman’s neo-realistic take on pop culture. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, and rightly so. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite DC5 songs, “Because”, from a 1964 Ed Sullivan appearance:

Let’s Get Physical: Lee Marvin in POINT BLANK (MGM 1967)


Lee Marvin  was one tough son of a bitch both onscreen and off, awarded the Purple Heart after being wounded by a machine gun blast in WWII.  The ex-Marine stumbled into acting post-war, and Hollywood beckoned in the 1950’s. His imposing presence typecast him as a villain in films like HANGMAN’S KNOT, THE BIG HEAT , and BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK. A three season stint in TV’s M SQUAD brought Marvin more acclaim, and he solidified that with his Oscar-winning role in CAT BALLOU, parodying his own tough-guy image. Marvin was now a star that could call his own shots, and used that clout in POINT BLANK, throwing out the script and collaborating with a young director he had faith in, John Boorman.


POINT BLANK is a highly stylized revenge drama centering on Marvin’s character of Walker. The nightmarish opening sequence shows how Walker was left for dead on deserted Alcatraz Island by his partner-in-crime, Reese. The pair was heisting mob money from the drop site at the former prison, when Reese shoots down Walker and absconds with not only the cash, but Walker’s wife. Somehow Walker survives the point-blank gundown and escapes the island. This is never explained, which has led some critics to believe Walker is an Avenging Angel from Hell (or “The Walker Dead”, if you will). I’m not among that crowd, but I do like the fact that Walker’s unexplained return is left open to interpretation.


The film then becomes a series of violent set pieces as Walker goes after Reese and the men who owe him $93,000, guided by the mysterious Mr. Yost. My favorite of these is when Walker  takes used car dealer Stegman for a ride he’ll never forget, smashing the car into concrete supports under a bridge in order to learn Reese’s whereabouts. The movie continues in this vein right to its conclusion, as both Walker and Yost end up getting what they wanted all along.

British director Boorman had one feature under his belt,  the 1965 rock romp HAVING A WILD WEEKEND starring The Dave Clark Five. He makes the movie a hip 60’s take on film noir, with splashy colors in place of chiaroscuro lighting. Boorman’s shot selection and pacing gives POINT BLANK a dreamlike quality usually reserved for films more arthouse than grindhouse. The director would go on to work with Marvin again in the war drama HELL IN THE PACIFIC before scoring big with 1972’s DELIVERANCE. His body of work includes the sci-fi cult classic ZARDOZ,  the King Arthur tale EXCALIBUR, and the Oscar nominated HOPE AND GLORY.


The cast is filled with fine character actors, with Angie Dickinson at her 60’s sexiest best as Walker’s sister-in-law, who knows more than she lets on. John Vernon (Dean Wormer in NATIONAL LAMPOON’S ANIMAL HOUSE) makes his film debut as Reese. Keenan Wynn is the mystery man Yost, while Lloyd Bochner, Carroll O’Connor, and James B. Sikking are prominently featured. Sharon Acker plays Walker’s doomed wife, and Sid Haig, Bill Hickman, Kathleen Freeman, and Felix Silla (THE ADDAMS FAMILY’s Cousin Itt) can be found in small roles.


POINT BLANK is based on a novel by the great crime writer Donald E. Westlake. The Edgar Award winning writer was a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America, and wrote the screenplays for the films THE STEPFATHER and THE GRIFTERS. Some of Westlake’s other novels adapted for the screen were THE SPLIT (starring Jim Brown), THE HOT ROCK, THE OUTFIT, and BANK SHOT. POINT BLANK was remade as PAYBACK with Mel Gibson in the Marvin role. Suffice it to say, it doesn’t hold a candle to the original. POINT BLANK may be a case of style over substance, but that style is a joy to watch if you’re a lover of crime thrillers. It’s a movie you’ll want to watch again just to see if you missed anything!

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