Cliff Takes Us High on Brumburgers
5 minutes into "Take Me High" I was hating everything I was seeing, from the 70s styling, the cheesy music, the all most music video style quality of it all as Cliff Richard sings a song and was sure that my opinion would be the same by the time it ended. But the strangest thing happens because "Take Me High" doesn't get any better, in fact in some senses it gets worse with more scenes which feel like they are music videos, but it becomes entertaining and amusing. In a sense it's a movie so bad that you stop watching it in the hope that it will come good and just relax and then become charmed by the whole cheesy, corny and tacky side of it.
High flying Merchant Banker Tim Matthews (Cliff Richard) finds his hopes dashed when his promotion to New York falls through and he gets sent to Birmingham to head up the regional offices. But things aren't all bad when he gets there as although he has to be wary of assistant Hugo Flaxman (Anthony Andrews) he meets the delightful Sarah (Deborah Watling), a restaurateur who he not only falls for but helps set up a new business selling Brumburgers. He also gets a chance to bring peace between capitalist Sir Harry Cunningham (Hugh Griffith - How to Steal a Million) and left wing politician Bert Jackson (George Cole).
I won't lie "Take Me High" has a storyline but it is so thin it's impossible to get into. We learn about Tim a high flying Merchant Banker who ends up being posted to Birmingham where he finds love, brings peace between a capitalist and a socialist and even out foxes his main assistant/ rival at the bank. None of which is really that interesting or well developed although the whole romance between Tim and restaurant owner Sarah is a little sweet and charming.
At the same time the scenes of comedy, and bless the director as he tries to make "Take Me High" fun, fail to really work. A scene which sees Tim going down the Birmingham canals on a personal hovercraft before finally stopping in a cloud of dust covering the waiting business man is corny, in fact it is cheesy. And that is the thing about the humour throughout "Take Me High" it all borders on the cheesy from visual set pieces such as saving a fox from a fox hunt through to the dialogue it makes you laugh but for the wrong reasons. Maybe the comedy worked in the 70s when "Take Me High" was released but it feels so weak that I question whether it did.
But the thing is "Take Me High" doesn't feel like a movie it feels more like an extended music video. Pretty much every single time Cliff Richard sings, and there are plenty, the crafting of the scenes with the close ups of his face, the soft edges and often snappy editing all feel more at home in a music video than a movie. A prime example is when Tim and Sarah take a canal ride to a song sung by Cliff; it feels so overly manufactured it doesn't fit in to the feel of the movie. The same can be said of a big parade musical number, it feels awkward and out of place. But what is worse is that none of the songs which Cliff sings are memorable.
"Take Me High" was to be Cliff's final proper movie and to be honest whilst he comes across as incredibly cheesy Cliff could actually act. In many ways it is the material he is given which ends up making Cliff's performance as Tim feel wrong and you get a sense that whilst Cliff was having fun making the movie it wasn't the sort of thing he wanted to be doing. But Cliff is actually the best thing about "Take Me High" and the likes of Deborah Watling as Sarah, Hugh Griffith as Sir Harry Cunningham, Anthony Andrews as Hugo Flaxman and George Cole as Bert Jackson are very much in his shadow as they are given such weak characters and dialogue to try and make good.
All of which makes "Take Me High" a bad movie one which is very cheesy and not just because it is very dated, in fact serious dated in every way. But it is a movie which watching it now is so bad it is good. You end up ignoring the storyline and the daft songs and being charmed by the whole sweet romance and the amusing, over the top performances.
What this all boils down to is that "Take Me High" technically is a bad movie, one which watching it now almost makes you cringe with embarrassment that these sort of things were ever made. But whilst bad it charms you for all the wrong reasons and you find yourself drawn into the whole cheesiness, the various musical numbers and the fact it feels like one long music video ending up being entertaining for all the wrong reasons.