Summer Holiday Review

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Four London Transport mechanics do up a Routemaster bus as a hotel on wheels, and take a tour of Europe, finding love and adventure along the way.


This British institution opens with black and white images of rainswept seasides and stay-at-home misery, then sends its lads and girls off to the Continent in a bright red bus, connecting with audiences who had shucked off miserablism and rationing and would be the first generation of young Brits who got a chance to go abroad without having to be in the army.

The plot is crowded but slight, with an ambisexual fillip as Cliff Richard winds up with a runaway starlet he seems to fall for while she’s disguised as a 14-year-old boy (and to whom he sings a smug lecture on singleness, ‘Bachelor Boy’). Cliff’s pals – Melvyn Hayes, Jeremy (Boba Fett) Bulloch, Teddy Green – get palmed off with the girls – Una Stubbs, Pamela Hart and the other one – in a stranded group who never get to sing. The bus hauls through France (Ron Moody as a Marceau parody mime), Switzerland (a St Bernard up a mountain), Austria (a waltz number), Yugoslavia (a near marriage and escape from gun-wielding peasants) and Greece (a whizz around Athens), while the heroine’s mad stage mother (Madge Ryan) pretends she has been kidnapped for the publicity.

It marginalises and ridicules crass American showbiz characters while valorising homegrown talent like Cliff and the Shadows, but doesn’t really give them much to do beyond rush through scenery. Director Peter Yates, later known for the more dangerous driving of Bullitt, makes a hash of the slapstick mime and the awful waltz, but cheery songs (‘Summer Holiday’, ‘Put On Your Dancing Shoes’) and a general air of amiability make it an infalllible afternoon TV pick-me-up.

Cheery songs and sweet is perfectly summery for those who like that kind of thing.