It Couldn't Happen Here
|It Couldn't Happen Here|
It Couldn't Happen Here poster
|Directed by||Jack Bond|
|Produced by||Jack Bond
|Written by||Jack Bond
|Distributed by||EMI Films/PMI (UK)
Liberty Films (US)
It Couldn't Happen Here is a 1988 musical film starring the British pop duo Pet Shop Boys and based on the music from their first two studio albums Please and Actually. It was originally conceived as an hour-long video based on Actually, but it turned into a surreal full-scale feature film directed by Jack Bond and co-starring Barbara Windsor, Joss Ackland, Neil Dickson and Gareth Hunt.
In the early morning, dancers are warming up on an English beach (Clacton-On-Sea.Essex), and Neil Tennant appears on a bicycle. The song "It couldn't happen here" is being played. He cycles up to a kiosk, where he buys some postcards from the shopkeeper (Gareth Hunt). The shopkeeper complains about the political faults of the modern world, but Neil ignores him and fills out his postcards.
Meanwhile, Chris Lowe is at a bed & breakfast. He is in his room packing everything into a seemingly bottomless trunk. He runs downstairs and waits for the landlady (Barbara Windsor) to bring him breakfast. In the breakfast room, an Uncle Dredge (Gareth Hunt) is making bad jokes. When the huge fried breakfast arrives, Chris empties the contents of the tray over the landlady and runs out onto the street. He runs along the promenade being chased by a group of Hells Angels on bikes.
Back at the beach, Neil continues to cycle along the beach. He passes a priest (Joss Ackland) who is reciting verses whilst leading a party of school children. Two of the boys are the Pet Shop Boys at a younger age and they run to the pier (Clacton Pier). In a building on the pier, the adult Neil is seeing an exotically dressed female fortune teller; as he leaves she uncovers her face to reveal that "she" is Chris Lowe. The young Neil and Chris (Nicholas and Jonathan Haley) look in a Victorian era Mutoscope and see a short bedroom farce: a slapstick performance featuring a squire (Chris Lowe) and a butler (Neil Tennant) making advances to a French maid (Barbara Windsor). The priest catches up with the boys and shouts more verses at them. The boys escape into the amusement arcade where they see a rock star (Neil Tennant) in a gold tasselled suit. Then they pass into a theatre, where they see a group of nuns perform a risqué dance routine to "It's a Sin". The priest catches up with them again and he takes them outside where it is now evening. On the pier, he commands twelve fishermen to haul a huge cross out of the sea and onto their ship.
The adult Neil and Chris pass three rappers performing "West End Girls" and go to buy a classic car. The salesman (Neil Dickson) insists on presenting his full sales spiel, so Neil and Chris try to interrupt. They pay for the car in cash and drive off with Chris at the wheel. In the car, the news report on the radio tells of a hitchhiker who has hacked to death three people who have given him lifts. Chris pulls over for a female hitchhiker whom they see on the roadside, but instead an elderly man (Joss Ackland) gets in after a scream and banging is heard. The passenger, who fits the description of the killer from the radio, offers strange and witty anecdotes to questions asked before turning on the radio, which plays "Always on My Mind". During the song, the passenger, with a mad look in his eyes, unpacks several knives from his bag then suddenly asks to be let out and the Pet Shop Boys continue unharmed.
They arrive at a transport cafe where they're sat next to a traveller (Gareth Hunt). Whilst 'Love Comes Quickly" plays on the jukebox, they order an inappropriate gourmet meal, but the waitress doesn't flinch. At another table a pilot (Neil Dickson, more or less reprising his lead role in Biggles: Adventures in Time), fiddles frustratedly with a hand-held computer game that says "divided by... divided by... zero" (taking lyrics from "Two divided by zero"). A voice from the traveller's briefcase asks to be let out and the traveller does so, revealing a ventriloquist's dummy. The dummy starts philosophising about the concept of time. He asks whether time can be likened to a teacup in that a teacup is no longer a teacup if no one has the intention to use it as such. To shut him up Neil puts a record on the jukebox ("Rent") and the wall of the cafe rises to reveal some dancers.
Meanwhile, the pilot is seen back in his office reading W.H. Newton-Smith's book 'A Structure of Time'. After a while he reaches a conclusion that "the dummy's a blasted existentialist". He boards his plane, determined to put an end to such daftness. Neil and Chris are driving along a country lane, when the pilot attacks. "Two Divided By Zero" is playing. The car is covered with bullet holes but the Pet Shop Boys drive on, again unharmed. The pilot's monologue piece is known to be extracted from Newton-Smith's book.
They stop by a telephone box which is being vandalised by a group of youths. Instead of attacking Neil, they politely open the door for him and he phones his mother (Barbara Windsor). The two of them exchange the lines to "What Have I Done to Deserve This?". At the end Neil puts his head against the broken glass on the door and blood appears.
In a suburban street a commuter leaves home and there is a scantily clad woman in his upstairs window. He is covered in flames but doesn't seem to notice. At the railway station, a zebra is led by two zebra-faced men into a goods van. Neil and Chris sit on the platform watching, then get into another van where a large snake coils itself around them. The van takes them to Paddington station.
At Paddington station, army soldiers stand guard and there is a limo waiting for Neil and Chris. They get in and drive through a tunnel as the chauffeur (Neil Dickson) quotes passages from Milton's Paradise Lost at them. They are driven through a battlefield with bombs exploding all around them. They pull up by a nightclub and Neil and Chris enter. They perform "One more chance" to a crowd of dancers. Each dancer has a number on their back. Once the song is finished, Neil and Chris walk up the stairs to leave and on their back are numbers too – except that both of them read "0".
The movie features the following Pet Shop Boys songs, either in their original form, played as background music or sung by the characters:
- "It Couldn't Happen Here" (from the album Actually)
- "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)" (from the album Please)
- "Hit Music" (from the album Actually)
- "It's a Sin" (from the album Actually)
- "What Have I Done to Deserve This?" (from the album Actually)
- "Love Comes Quickly" (from the album Please)
- "Rent" (from the album Actually)
- "West End Girls" (from the album Please)
- "Always on My Mind" (released in 1987, the only song not to appear on Actually, but eventually appeared as a remixed version on the 1988 album Introspective)
- "Two Divided by Zero" (from the album Please)
- "King's Cross" (from the album Actually)
- "One More Chance" (from the album Actually)
- "I Want to Wake Up" (from the album Actually)
- "Suburbia" (from the album Please)
Soundtrack track listing
Although no formal soundtrack was released, there was a limited promotional cassette.
MC: Parlophone / TC-PSB1 (UK)
- "It couldn't happen here" – 5:17
- "Suburbia" – 5:07
- "It's a Sin" (Extended version) – 7:39
- "West End girls" – 4:41
- "Always on my mind" – 3:59
- "Rent" – 5:09
- "Two divided by zero" – 3:32
- "What have I done to deserve this?" (Extended version) – 6:53
- "King's Cross" – 5:11
- "One more chance" – 5:28
- "I want to wake up" – 5:09
- Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe as themselves
- Joss Ackland as priest/hitchhiker
- Neil Dickson – car salesman/pilot/chauffeur
- Gareth Hunt – uncle Dredge/postcard seller/ventriloquist
- Barbara Windsor – Neil's mother/landlady/French maid
- Jonathan and Nicholas Haley as young Lowe and Tennant
The original idea of making a film emerged from the band's immense reluctance to go on tour. The band hoped that a film would satisfy the fans' demand to see them in live action.
The music video for the single "Always on My Mind" is a compilation of clips from the film.
It Couldn't Happen Here was available on VHS but this has now been discontinued. A Laserdisc release was also available in the US and Japan but was discontinued.
Pet Shop Boys have mentioned an eventual DVD release on their official site when questioned by fans, but nothing has been announced.
- Chris Heath, Pet Shop Boys, Literally (1990).
- Heath, Chris (2001). "King's Cross". Actually / Further Listening 1987–1988 (CD booklet). Pet Shop Boys. London: EMI Records. p. 21. 7243 530506 2 7 http://www.petshopboys.net/html/interviews/actually010.shtml
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