TV Cream

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I thought we said, It Couldn’t Happen Here

Now it almost seems incredible, but we’ve found that of late one of the most ubiquitous topics of conversation among what we’re laughably and erroneously calling the wider TV Cream community is the Pet Shop Boys’ 1988 big screen blockbuster It Couldn’t Happen Here.

This is the rather, well, impressionistic film Neil and Chris made at the height of their imperial phase, but whose release more or less coincided with the end of the self-same period, and henceforth has forever been – wrongly – classed the first of the pair’s Great Mistakes (the second being the Absolutely Fabulous single).

A couple of TVC’s very own have seen the film. One of them has yet to be able to reach the end without falling asleep, while the other once tried to use it as the basis for a essay at university but gave up when he realised that trying to over-analyse the film was simultaneously diminishing his enjoyment of the group, which would have been a disaster.

Anyway, TV Cream’s weekly Creamguide mailout – our recommendations of TV and radio stuff we think you’ll find worth catching – has received almost half a dozen pieces of correspondence on this one topic.

That’s almost half a dozen more than we’d have said we might have received were we to have been asked to make such a prediction a month or so ago.

In the interest of furthering, erm, interest, and because it’s great to have discovered such an unexpected motif among the lives of TV Cream readers, here’s what you’ve been saying about It Couldn’t Happen Here:

Iain Bell:
Has it ever had a UK TV screening? I don’t ever remember it being on terrestrial TV but did it ever appear on any of the Sky channels? I hope it gets released on DVD soon, with a nice commentary by Neil, Chris and the director Jack Bond, who also makes a cameo appearance in the Heart video.

David Pascoe:
I worked with a bloke who had a copy of It Couldn’t Happen Here and he was kind enough to lend it to me. I’m ashamed to confess, I only wanted to see it because it had my favourite Bond girl, Carmen du Sautoy, in it and I hadn’t seen her in anything other than The Man With the Golden Gun. In the event, I enjoyed it despite glazing over in the final ten minutes. It was fascinating to hear Chris Lowe speak and I thought Gareth Hunt was marvellous. He should have been remembered for more than the New Avengers or for wanking with some coffee beans.

Smiley:
As far as I know, it’s never been shown on TV, but I remember going to see it at the Cannon cinema on the seafront in Brighton with a few mates – one of whom gave up halfway in and went to sleep underneath the seats. There was plenty of room in the cinema, as there were only about ten people in total. I quite liked it, even though it wasn’t actually very good, and ended up buying a video shop’s copy of the film as I thought it was unlikely to ever appear commercially – and paid an amount I would prefer not to remember for it… especially as I’ve only watched it once in the intervening 21 years.

Stuart Ian Burns:
I once had a VHS which I sold to Vinyl Exchange in Manchester for ten pounds. I only managed to watch the first 10 minutes though.

Glenn Robertson:
I would like to proudly say that I had a copy. In fact it was on my Christmas list! I put it on my list after seeing the promotional poster for it in the window of the local Spar. It was a big one that did rentals 50p cheaper than Astrovision, the dedicated video shop round the corner. I put it on on Christmas morning and watched the first ten minutes only to see a ladies dress blow up and a garter belt. Lucky for me nobody else was taking any notice and so didn’t see the almost Channel 4 red triangle level of naughtiness displayed on screen. With that I silently announced that I would watch it “later”. When “later” arrived the film was a revelation. Beautify shot, more mild titillation (Gareth Hunt touching up Barbara Windsor), the sequence part from It’s A Sin played on its own (which is of course the best bit) and… a Fairlight CMI Series 3x in the last shot! How many films can say they had a Fairlight on screen? Eh? Eh? And no, it was an Emu Emulator ll in Ferris Bueller.

Simon Reuben:
You do know that it is on YouTube, don’t you? Part one is here, from there on it is easy to find the rest. I watched it all the way through on video when first released and recently on YouTube, and it is actually pretty OK. The Two Divided By Zero sequence is the best bit, I would say. Also you get to see Arlene Phillips in the credits and enjoy some exotic subtitles.

**********************************************

So there you go. If anyone else has memories of this iconic formative years-shaping film, or perhaps more precisely memories of trying to watch this iconic formative years-shaping film, please pass them along.

And if anyone knows anything about when – not if – it’s going to get a DVD release (it was issued on laserdisc, for heaven’s sake!), don’t hold back.

In the meantime [insert “what have I done to deserve this” gag] here’s even more about It Couldn’t Happen Here, in the shape of what we’re saying is nigh-on the definitive online tribute.

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. heather

    September 19, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    Of course, the film lives on forever on music-video channels because “Always On My Mind” is a Christmas Number One, and so the Joss-Acklandy clips video gets played on those list shows every year.

  2. Great Bustard

    September 20, 2010 at 12:20 am

    I wonder what Joss Ackland thinks of this film? He’s well known for saying most of the films he appears in are rubbish, he didn’t like the Bill and Ted sequel he was in (he’s wrong there) and he said A Zed and Two Noughts was the worst film ever made (he might have been right about that, mind you).

  3. Gavin

    September 20, 2010 at 9:13 am

    I bought a copy of it on video at the charity shop that I work at last year-great film very Terry Gilliam influenced. Joss Ackland admitted that he was “embarrassed” to be appearing in it and only agreed to feature in it because his Grandchildren liked the Pet Shop Boys music. Also does anyone else think that the ventriloquist dummy that appears in the cafe scene sounds a lot like Peter Cook’s E.L.Wisty character?

  4. jon

    September 20, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    I’ve watched it and I cant imagine ever renting the video so I think it has been on tv. Possibly something like UK Gold. That said the only scene I can remember is the chaps in a greasy spoon with Gareth Hunt asking for extra potions of beans…or something..:-/

  5. TV Cream

    September 20, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    It’s great how even snatches of memory of this film – baked beans, greasy spoon – seem somehow Pet Shop Boys-esque.

  6. Paul

    September 20, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    Such was the level of confidence in the film at the Odeon in Blackpool, Chris Lowe’s home town, no less, it was restricted to a single daily performance, at 9pm, on the smallest screen, after Snow White.

    It was a rather bizarre crossover, as parents took their hyperactive, kia-ora-charged children out, to be replaced by a collection of the “don’t quite fit in anywhere” youth. Not a particularly sizable collection, either.

    Still, terribly exciting when it started. This lasted for about fifteen minutes, until it started to dawn on me that it wasn’t going to suddenly get better. Of course, being a loyal fan, I maintained it was irrelevant. It was the event that mattered. I mean, where was the Brother Beyond film, eh?

    My loyalty extended to buying the video, but I’m not entirely sure I ever watched it all the way through. Despite this, doubtless I’d shell out for any DVD if it comes with a Hinge-and-Bracket-esque commentary.

    It was on UK Gold, at about midnight a couple of times. Though I’m not sure that really counts as “being on TV”.

  7. sb2009

    September 22, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Well, I remember it starting at the Odeon in Manchester and deciding not to go in the opening week.. Sort of didn’t work out like that, as , of course, it got canned.

    Bought the DVD, and I have to say I’ve watched it a few times. When I was young , I thought it was sureal. My other half has pointed out, that it isn’t, it just isn’t very good.. Totally disagree with her.

    Anyway, I copied it to DVD as I chucked out my VHS. They is a hiss on it, but hey ho, I still enjoy it.

    No ‘arm done. Only a laugh.

  8. Mark Jones

    September 22, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    I remember being utterly delighted when my local video shop finally had a copy of It Couldn’t Happen Here, at which point I think I was the first to rent it. I’d been bursting to see it since the Always On My Mind promo video (and the clip where Tennant/Lowe buy a car from a spiv, as shown on Network 7), which made it seem like it was going to be the best thing ever. I couldn’t wait to finally find out just why the ventriloquist dummy was giggling whilst holding a pistol in a control tower, why a biplane was involved, and most interesting of all, what made Chris Lowe smile on camera.

    More fool a 14-year-old me, really, as of course none of that was really explained in the film, least of all the bits that my older sister understood but not me. Not that it stopped me and my friend annoying everyone else in class by endlessly saying “only a larf, no ‘arm done” at every opportunity for about a fortnight.

    GIVEAWAY TIME: I’ve actually got two copies of the film on VHS (after picking one up for a quid at a car boot sale last year), so if anyone else wants my spare copy, drop me a line at brokenindustries@gmail.com – first come, first served.

  9. Carlbob

    September 22, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    I’ve got ICHH twice; I bought the Rental VHS version for the proverbial princely sum from a collector/dealer about 15 years ago, thinking that I’d never find the retail VHS anywhere. Of course months later I found it in Smiths for £4.99.

    Am shocked and appalled etc at how many people haven’t watched it through. I’ve seen it through more times than I care to recall (although not for a while) and, despite the weirdness, love it. It’s just one big PSB video with added star glamour from Babs et al. What’s not to love? Bring on a) the DVD and b) the much-delayed mainstream terrestrial showing.

  10. Richard Davies

    September 23, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    I never heard of this until a few days ago, has anyone thought of doing a feature on lesser known films made by pop stars?

  11. Jason Evans

    September 26, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    Can remember my giddy excitment when they showed a clip on Network 7, and described it as ‘kind of wonderful’. Still waiting for the DVD release, as I now cannot play my VHS copy anymore. Managed to pick up the original soundtrack recording on cassette at a car boot sale for a quid, not sure it was ever officially released, so maybe a bit of a collectors item.

  12. Simon Cheadle

    September 30, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    I’ve got this on DVD, albeit a dodgy one off e-bay years ago.

    Sure it’s arty etc and a bit rubbish but it adds to it’s charm

  13. Kenn eth

    February 10, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    Found this while desperately looking for subtitles for it. I had the VHS at some time, but VHS is dead, and I found a copy on the internet, though without subs. Being a Dane, I would prefer UK or DK subs, as thedialog isn’t that easy to follow, if english isn’t your native language.

    Well, I loved the movie when it was in the cinemas, and still like it a lot. It’s crazy, but in a cool way 🙂

    Rgs
    Ken

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