What is it with British musicals with aliens coming to Earth to learn about music this week? Well, here’s another — 1964’s Gonks Go Beat — based on the fad for toys called gonks, which were created by British inventor Robert Benson. At their peak, gonks were collected by Ringo Starr and Peter Sellers. They were quite literally the first toy craze in England post-World War II.
This movie was absolutely savaged in its original release. Reviewers claimed that it had no appeal to any cinema audience demographic and it’s often compared to Plan 9 from Outer Space for its sheer ineptitude. If you read this sentence and thought to yourself, “Where can I find this movie?” then welcome. You’re amongst friends.
This whole mess is directed by Robert Hartford-Davis, who was behind one of my favorite Peter Cushing movies, 1968’s Corruption (if you haven’t seen the trailer, it will warn you that it’s not a woman’s picture repeatedly) as well as the amazingly titled Incense for the Damned.
Kenneth Connor from the Carry On series stars as alien Wilco Roger and Frank Thornton shows up as Mr. A & R. You may know him better as Captain Peacock from Are You Being Served? The real reason to watch this is to see performances by The Nashville Teens, members of the Graham Bond Organisation including Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce and Dick Heckstall-Smith, Ray Lewis and the Trekkers, The Long and the Short, The Trolls, The Vacqueros and Lulu and the Luvvers. Yes, Lulu of “To Sir, With Love” and “The Man with the Golden Gun” fame.
So anyway, at some point in our future, Earth is broken into two camps: you either live in Beatland and are hip and trendy or you live on Ballad Isle and are clean and tidy. Every year, the islands battle in a musical competition.
If Wilco Roger can’t get the two islands to get along, he’s going to be sent to Planet Gonk, filled with those toys and Dixieland jazz. He joins up with Mr. A & R to unite a Beatland Boy and a Ballad Island girl, which of course happens thanks to the song “Takes Two to Make Love.”
I mean, if you watch one movie where aliens come to England to discover love, we gave you two options this week. At this rate, Xanadu is going to feel like a Busby Berkely movie.