Friday, 12 April 2013

Friday Night Film: Take Me High

Firstly I should explain that the last time I watched this, I took the title literally and made sure I was high as a kite before popping the disc into the machine. As a result, I couldn't recall a damned thing about the film the next day (a state of affairs all too frequent in my house) and so decided to give it another viewing last night. However, once again I was in a dangerously altered state, but was lucid enough to realize that perhaps I should take notes during the ordeal, and it's this twisted scrawl that I've deciphered for you below:

It's 1974, and a cynical, street-wise, battle-worn Cliff Richards greets us with his damning critique on the consumer society, singing "it's only money" in profile as the credits appear. Cliff had been through the celebrity mill by this point, and his warnings about the dangers of greed: "it's only bread, don't let it go to your head" were foolishly ignored by his 70's audience, and thrown back in his face by jeering stock-exchange wankers during the abysmal decade that followed.
Cliff's dialogue in Take Me High pulls no punches either, and within the first few minutes I was shocked to hear him use the phrase "balling me out" to his angry girlfriend, moments before walking out on her. I can't blame him for abandoning the shouting harpy, but the fact that she's played by Madelaine Smith means she perhaps deserved another chance (or at least one last bout of aggressive sex before slamming the door).

Next thing we know, Cliff's outside the flat, and boozing in his car - he even has a quick shave while singing at the same time, the smooth bastard. This is a great example of sir Cliff displaying his firmly held beliefs on screen; he's been a strong campaigner for the abolition of the drink driving laws throughout his career, and famously drove his car straight into the gates of Buckingham palace when he was knighted in 1995. He emerged from the vehicle in a vomit-stained jumpsuit, and gave a series of offensive hand signals to the assembled media. The Queen had been expecting something like this, and they both laughed it off in front of the press moments later, while sharing a can of Olde English for the cameras.
Time for a quick game of charades as Cliff mimes 'blow job'

Back to the film: Cliff has been bragging about a working trip to New York that his boss arranged, (he works in a big office, something to do with boardrooms, chairmen or something, I forget now) only to discover that his destination has been changed to Birmingham instead. This is bad news for Cliff, but great news for us, as we're treated to a visual overdose of concrete, wet pavements, shit cars, gaudy restaurants, and George Cole for the rest of the film. 

Cliff (I think he's called Harry in this) then takes us on a walk around the city, standing out from the crowds in an ethereal grey suit. He sings a scathing song about the evils of Birmingham's "concrete city", and we get lots of close ups of scaffolding, office windows, more shit cars, and pedestrians who mostly resemble police photo-fit pictures.

Soon, he's bought himself a luxurious boat (fucked up old canal barge), and I've already completely lost my ability to follow the storyline - assuming there is one - .

George Cole moments after watching the first five minutes of the completed film.


Now we're really cooking!  Hugh Griffith has arrived, and dominates the rest of the film with his beautiful portrayal of an eccentric old rich bastard, wielding the power to hire and fire the entire cast on a mere whim (including the wonderful Anthony Andrews & ex Doctor Who sex aide Deborah Watling). Hugh is great value for money, with his massive eyebrows on the prowl in every scene, bellowing fury at all points of the compass.

 "get the fuck out of my way you silly stupid twats !"

The story takes a crucial shift now, as Tim (just remembered the name of Cliff's character) takes to the open canal with his new girlfriend, failing restaurant owner, Sarah (Watling). Racing for a burger on the busy towpath, the lovers are disgusted with the shit-sandwich they receive, causing them to cook up a new business concept for a modern city on the move: "you make a good quality hamburger that everyone in Birmingham can enjoy and you're really back in business".

The 'Brum-Burger' is born, and we now get to share in all the excitement of convincing bank managers to agree to business loans, with a couple of mature songs about getting things into perspective thrown in.

Tim (Cliff) then bikes his way through a parade of REAL PEOPLE, looking to me like a man in the latter stages of a 2 week cocaine binge, and confuses the good citizens by waving huge banners promoting the fictitious burgers - which resembled giant turds from where I was sitting.

 Heaven is a place on Earth !

For the big finish, everyone gets pissed up on free burgers at a crazy party, Cliff sings a preposterously joyous anthem, and we cut away to a cheerful scene of Birmingham in all it's splendor.

If there's any hint of condescension in this review allow me to apologize, as I find Take Me High extremely entertaining, and would gladly re-watch it over anything made this century.

No official DVD release as yet, but a VHS transfer was given away as a free DVD with the Daily Mail a couple of years back. Plenty of copies available for next to fuck all on all your favorite "online auction" sites.


  1. Madeline Smith and Debbie Watling, who'd have thought Cliff was a tit man?!

    1. According to his 1999 autobiography 'Devil Women: 4 Decades of Sex', Cliff simultaneously bedded Smith and Watling on the set of Take Me High while their respective boyfriends were made to wait outside the dressing room door.
      A tame story in comparison to many other anecdotes in the book, which include his mission to get naked with every single Blue Peter presenter in the show's history (male or female).

    2. Haha! If only!
      Y'see the mistake was in giving him a Blue Peter badge, because you know what they say; Blue Peter badges winners get in free ;)

  2. Also available (in seperate segments) on YouTube:

  3. I love this movie. There I've said it in public.

    I'm glad this isn't on proper DVD because if ever a brit flick deserved to be see on scuzzy 80's VHS it's this one.

    Anyone seen Cliff's first movie "Serious Charge"? Certainly wasn't expecting off screen man on boy sexual violence, an attempted rape and bare breasted teenage girls in what was essentially a 1950's quickie b-movie aimed at Cliff Richard fans, especially as it was only rated as PG by the BBFC when re-released on DVD a few years back. A pretty good film all told.

  4. Cliff Cloth, Cole, concrete city centres and junk food! This and the Nottingham Castle song and my collection will be complete.

  5. I never want to see this film, not because I loathe Cliff with an unbalanced intensity and would personally pay good money to see him dragged naked through the streets of Birmingham and torn apart by rabid pit bulls, but because it could never match the insane hallucinatory quality of this review. Reading it really did 'take me high'. Class A stuff.

  6. The only time I've EVER bought the Daily Mail is because they were giving away this film on DVD.

  7. I certainly would have fu*ked the shit out of madeleine smith one last time before leaving. The scenes between cliff and that other woman are totally unbelievable - no chemistry whatsoever. I agree it needs to be seen on VHS to get the full west midlands, wet pavement and dreary skys look. Beautiful. I first saw this film when I was off sick from school in about '78 or so, and it's a real corker. Cliff posing with a German WWII MP40 machine gun? Where else can you see that? Anthony Andrews 'talking' a duet with cliff while driving a lamborghini espada? What's not to like? Fuc*ing love it...