In the grand scheme of things, the cancellation of the Eurovision Song Contest—this year's shindig was another casualty of COVID-19—is but small beer. However, it seems that a lot of people have really missed the high-camp jamboree; they've jumped on the new Will Ferrell Netflix flick (which is to say, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga), hoping it will offer some substitute for the real thing
It doesn't. At best, all it offers is a temporary salve to take the edge off the worst of the cravings; no film could ever get hope to close to the real madness of Eurovision. Or could it...?
Actually, there are some films that capture the unique madness of the Eurovision song contest rather better than Mr Ferrell's effort, and we've rounded up a bunch of them below. They might not be connected to the competition itself—and most of them earn nul points as films—but fans of gaudy bombast will have a great time. Everyone else can hide in their bedroom until the show's over, just like they do for Eurovision itself.
Phantom of the Paradise
We open the show with Phantom of the Paradise, a mash-up of old horror flicks and glam rock that plays its audience like a fiddle. But it might give you a misleading impression of what is to come: just as ABBA are hardly typical of the acts in Eurovision, very few of the films that follow are anywhere near as good...
Can't Stop the Music
With the exception of Phantom of Paradise (made in 1974), this list draws on films from a strange period at the end of the 1970s/ beginning of the early 1980s when it seems that the world—or at least those bits of it dedicated to movie musicals—went mad.
It's a measure of quite how mad that era got that Can't Stop The Music is far from being the worst film of that time, and this is a musical about, and starring, The Village People! And Steve Guttenberg! It's hard to believe that someone ever thought this was a good idea. And yet, if you consume enough wine, you might too.
Once upon a time, in 1974 to be exact, Olivia Newton-John sang at Eurovision (representing Britain, rather than her native Australia). Then she was bidden to the US, to Grease and movie stardom. But her upward trajectory came to a juddering halt with Xanadu.
It is a film that is difficult to summarise, involving as it does Greek gods, roller-skating and Gene Kelly reprising a character he played 36 years previously. But while it is a film that invites—nay, positively demands—our derision, it does have one inestimable asset: the joyful, up-tempo sub-ELO “stomper” that is its title song. Belted out by Our Olivia in fine style, it is everything you could want from a Eurovision banger, even if it came nowhere near the contest itself.
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band
Mind, in terms of the ratio of “great tune” to “bad movie”, nothing can beat this offering, which is one of the most peculiar films ever made. At the height of their post-disco fame, the Bee-Gees decided it would be a good idea to round up Peter Frampton, Frankie Howerd and George Burns and make a musical tribute to The Beatles. Only they forgot to hire a script writer!
At least, that's how it looks. In between re-imagined Beatles numbers, the film lurches along as though they were making it up as they went along, with no concessions to logic or even common sense. At least you get Earth, Wind and Fire's take on “Got To Get You Into My Life”, and that is pretty darn good.
What in the name of Hades is this? Apparently Xanadu wasn't enough to put people off roller skating; Roller Boogie concerns a group of kids who have to save their favourite roller skating rink, and duly do so, all to the accompaniment of disco music.
This is some way from being a good film. Indeed, given it stars former child-star Linda Blair, cynics might say it is the sort of movie the demon that possessed her in The Exorcist might have made. But since we're not cynics, we shall avoid sniping and move along.
Thank God It's Friday
Thank God It's Friday was part-produced by a chap called Neil Bogart (no relation). He was a record company dude, one with an unerring ear for a hit. His eye for a movie, though, was less developed and impaired still further by all the Class A drugs he shovelled up his nose.
This was common behaviour in Hollywood at the time and if we're looking to understand why so many deliriously bad movies all emerged at the same time, we should probably blame the pharmaceuticals. And what an excellent advertisement for sobriety that is.
Now here's a thing. Hollywood is a sexist place; actresses are deemed to be over the hill once they get their first wrinkle while leading men can carry on a-wooin' as long as they can stand without support; Clint Eastwood was still making eyes at actresses many decades his junior until surprisingly recently.
Sextette can be seen as a riposte to all that; it's a musical comedy that features Mae West, then aged 84 or 85, having it away with a pre-Bond Timothy Dalton. Nor is that its only assault on bourgeois good taste, what with a very obviously drunk Ringo Starr playing a German (but with a Scouse accent), an even more obviously drunk Keith Moon apparently playing a gay man and the US athletic team, playing themselves. None of this makes it a good film, of course—Clint still has the upper hand there—but it does make it bad in quite remarkable ways.
Against any other competition Sextette would romp home to history but here it must be content with second place, for nothing can top The Apple. Moving beyond conventional constructs of “good” and “bad”, it exists in a dimension all of its own. Even better for our purposes, it even features a knock off of the Eurovision song contest!
That is but one of the treats on offer: God Himself shows up at one point (in the unlikely form of Joss Ackland), there are flying cars! And other stuff!
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