View Full Version : Melody (1971)

Howard Schumann
01-11-2010, 12:25 AM

Directed by Waris Hussein (1971), 103 minutes

If you do not take its message of kiddy liberation too seriously, Melody, a British film from 1971 that has developed a cult following, has much to offer. Reuniting Jack Wild and Mark Lester, the two lead actors from Carol Reed’s Oliver, Melody brings a charm and over-the-top audaciousness to the theme developed in the 1968 classic If, that students can be browbeaten just so long until the tables are turned. In this case, two youngsters who profess their undying love and demand the right to be married, (a rather unusual request for eleven year olds) leads to a set of circumstances than can charitably be called chaos.

Melody Parker (Tracy Hyde) is the love interest and her natural beauty and grace make it at least understandable how an upscale lad like Daniel Latimer (Lester) could be smitten, even at his tender age. Latimer’s pal Ornshaw (Wild) of course feels left out and tries to steer Daniel towards more commonly accepted mischief but eventually his frustration leads to a brawl and the need for reconciliation. Needless to say, the parents are clueless but since they are adults and the story is told by children for children - that is understandable if regrettable.

Written by future director Alan Parker and produced by David Puttnam (Chariots of Fire), Melody is strongly enhanced by its musical score which contains some outstanding songs by the Bee Gees such as “Teach Your Children”, “To Love Somebody”, and “Working on It Night and Day”. There are also moments of rich humor in the film. Daniel has a school buddy who wants to become an expert in explosives and his trial and error escapades bring a lot of laughs. There is also Melody’s father (Roy Kinnear) who cannot stop telling stories in the most inappropriate situations. The high point of the film for me, however, is the ersatz marriage ceremony led by Ornshaw and the resulting mayhem that follows.

Although Pascal said, “The heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing of”, reason becomes a major casualty when parents and teachers from the school descend en masse to the railroad viaduct where the marriage ceremony is being held, leading to a hilarious if rather implausible conclusion. Melody, which might have been called Youth in Revolt, Part 1, has an innocence and charm that go down easy, that is, if you can overlook the disturbing implications of what the film is actually saying.


oscar jubis
01-11-2010, 08:52 PM
When Melody was released I was as young as the characters. I was already a fan of Lester and Wild thanks to Oliver! and developed an instant crush for Tracy Hyde. My mild contempt for authority predisposed me to approve of the characterizations of the adults here (extremely negative, with the possible exception of Melody's working-class family). I re-watched it as a grown-up and, to my complete surprise, I found it hard to sit through despite the obvious charm of the three kids. I found it manipulative and cloying. With one exception, "To Love Somebody", the Bee Gees tunes are instantly forgettable. There are used to score a number of dialogue-less romps. The plot is simple and rather fantastic. I think the film needs to be approached as an anarchic, romantic, coming-of-age fantasy in order to enjoy it rather than as a realistic portrayal of English youth at the beginning of the 1970s. This film is extremely well-regarded today. Almost half of IMdb voters give it a "10". I almost feel guilty for being among a disappointed minority.

Howard Schumann
01-11-2010, 09:03 PM
Yes, as I said it can be sort of fun if you don't take its message too seriously. I can understand how you feel about it and I doubt if I would ever see it again or recommend it to anyone. It's one of those films whose reputation exceeds its merit. Tracy Hyde sure was appealing though.

oscar jubis
01-11-2010, 09:46 PM
Indeed. Other films I liked as a pre-teen, around the same time as Melody, have aged much better . Among them, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, The Fiddler on the Roof, and a largely-forgotten movie directed by Paul Newman with the title The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-moon Marigolds.