That Summer! (1979)
Director: Harley Cokeliss
Cast: Ray Winstone, Tony London, Emily Moore, Julie Shipley, Jon Morrison, Andrew Byatt & Ewan Stewart
AA Certificate on release.
Running time: 94 minutes
Into June? Check. Factor 50 required even in Scotland ? Check. Two antihistamine tablets a day? Check. Yep, summer’s here and the time is ripe for reviewing almost forgotten British film That Summer!, which one blogger has suggested might just have the best accompanying soundtrack album ever.
Billed on promotional material as ‘The Summer you’ll never forget’, most folk who saw it on its release promptly began forgetting the film the moment they stepped out of the cinema, not that many people actually did see it in their local pre-multiplex screens although I was one of the rare ones who did. In fact, I saw its premiere in Torquay, the town where it’s mostly set. Long story.
It’s rarely been shown on TV and is unavailable on DVD, officially at any rate, although it does sometimes appear on YouTube. At one point it was even assumed that it had been destroyed until director Harley Cokeliss revealed he’d kept a print which, after restoration, was able to be screened as part of a Ray Winstone retrospective at the Bradford International Film Festival in 2012.
This was one of a spate of youth oriented British films of the period such as Quadrophenia, Breaking Glass and Babylon and some even mistakenly assumed it was a loose sequel to Scum, as in the first few scenes Ray Winstone’s character is on the verge of leaving borstal.
In his biography Winstone, Nigel Goodall calls it ‘a kind of punky coming-of-age flick set by the seaside’ although, despite featuring the best known track by Richard Hell and the Voidoids, clearly none of these characters belonged to the Blank Generation, the bland generation maybe – I can easily imagine the two girls from Leeds who find jobs as chambermaids in the Imperial Hotel, dancing round their handbags together to some bad disco in the 400 Club.
So, the plot. Well, after his spell inside, young Londoner, Steve Brodie, returns home to a grim, concrete estate but decides to get out pronto, hoping to take part in some long distance swimming events off the shores of Devon and Cornwall. He hitches to Torquay and lands a job as a potman in the Pickwick – which is a real boozer and one where I enjoyed some underage pints back in the day.
Also making their way to the so-called English Riviera are the two girls – Carole (Emily Moore) and Angie (Julie Shipley) – who are escaping from their lives as factory wage slaves, as well as Jimmy (Tony London) who desperately wants a break from working in his old man’s butcher’s shop and gets it by hiring out floats and pedalos on the beach.
Added into the equation are a trio of obnoxious, devious and downright nasty Glaswegian neds led by Tam (Jon Morrison). Upon spotting Brodie playing pinball in an amusement arcade, they immediately start picking on him and what would you know, a shot shows the back of Tam’s silk bomber jacket with GOVAN SWIMMING CLUB emblazoned on it, so it looks like he’s going to be taking part in the same ’round the harbour’ race as Brodie.
I’m guessing I don’t need to tell you much more, there will be conflict surrounding the race and there will obviously be romance too.
The plot of That Summer could never be described as unpredictable and most of the characters lean towards stereotypes – the Northern gals are astonished by how grand it is down south as if this is the era of Gracie Fields and George Formby, while the Scots barely exist outside of some utterly negative caricatures.
The script really could have benefited from just a little subtlety.
On the plus side, Torbay is an inspired choice of setting and, for me at least, there is a certain nostalgic thrill seeing settings like Oddicombe Beach, Torquay Harbour and even Babbacombe Model Village onscreen.
The cast does contain some very fine actors. I doubt Martin Scorcese cast Winstone in The Departed for his portrayal of Brodie, though he does make the most of a limited role. Strangely enough, at the following year’s BAFTA Awards, Winstone earned an nomination for Best Newcomer, despite the fact that 1979 also saw him star in Scum, surely a far better performance on every count but then again, one year the Oscar for Best Film went to Forrest Fucking Gump rather than Pulp Fiction.
Jon Morrison also does well enough even if he’s nowhere near the startling form he showed in the Peter McDougall penned Prix Italia winning Just Another Saturday, a Play for Today from 1975 considered so controversial at the time that certain scenes were not allowed to be filmed in Glasgow.
Andy Byatt (George) and Ewan (Stu) both went on to bigger and better things. Byatt had a part in Radio On, another 1979 film with a great soundtrack, although he’s best known for acting alongside Harvey Keitel in another Peter McDougall BBC Scotland drama, 1988’s Down Where the Buffalo Go; Stewart was later superbly menacing in the Edinburgh set druggie drama, Looking After Jo Jo.
Some years later Tony London went on to play Steve Jones in Alex Cox’s Sid and Nancy while Emily Moore and Julie Shipley are hampered by their cliched dialogue and neither seems to have acted for a long time now.
Released by Arista, the soundtrack album was a collection of sixteen punk and new wave gems with one of the tracks, New Life by Glasgow band Zones, written especially for the movie. There’s The Only Ones with Another Girl, Another Planet; Mink DeVille with Spanish Stroll and Wreckless Eric’s classic Whole Wide World for starters. There’s also (I’m taking a deep breath here) Ian Dury, Elvis Costello, Ramones, Patti Smith Group, Boomtown Rats, Undertones, Eddie & the Hot Rods and Nick Lowe with the album compiler wisely ignoring the dated library style music that is used mostly during swimming scenes, as well as sole slice of disco, Boogie Nights. Here is New Life:
Sadly the songs, no matter how good they are, only occasionally grab you and lift the film. We get a lazy attitude to the combination of sound and visuals that seldom enhance one another the way, say, Martin Scorcese managed to do with his Super Eight footage during the opening credits of Mean Streets with Be My Baby. Here, as the various characters make their way to the West Country we get New Life; a snatch of Rockaway Beach accompanies a shot of Brodie on the beach, and the morning after sex, we see Angie rushing into work late to the sound of The Boomtown Rats’ She’s So Modern.
That Summer was advertised at the time as being ‘AT CINEMAS THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY THIS SUMMER’ paired in a double bill along with spy movie Billion Dollar Threat. As I said earlier, it wasn’t rolled out to any great extent and few saw it, although I did manage to discover it did get at least one outing in Paisley.
Perhaps it would have fared better if it had come out just after the cinematic version of Scum when Winstone’s star was on the rise, rather than a month before it, although it didn’t really deserve that wide a release anyway at a time when far superior films like The Deer Hunter, The Warriors and The China Syndrome were all doing the rounds along with money-spinners like Moonraker.
If I was to award stars out of five, the film would get two although the various artists compilation album would get the full five.
If you liked this try: Nil By Mouth (1997) directed by Gary Oldman. A grim watch but Winstone and co-star Kathy Burke are both excellent. And Jon Morrison makes an appearance too. Frustratingly, today Winstone seems to spend more time making ads for online gambling companies than putting in the kind of performance he is capable of, such as his turn here as Raymond or as Gal Dove in Sexy Beast.