Thursday, 26 September 2013
To say that ‘Music Machine’ is my favourite British disco film sounds like faint praise but, in actual fact, it’s a film I have a lot of affection for, a bona fide UK exploitation film that is obviously in the thrall of ‘Saturday Night Fever’ but has all the edge of ‘Summer Holiday’.
Ill-fated Gerry Sundquist plays Gerry, a bit of a chancer who is also a bit of a dancer. When his local nightclub holds a competition for a pair of disco freaks to appear in some dodgy film, Gerry decides that this is his moment and goes all out for the prize, enlisting the fabulously exotic daughter of an African diplomat (played by ‘New Faces’ star Patti Boulaye) as his partner.
There’s the usual trials and tribulations on the way to the big night, dirty tricks, disappointments, confrontations, fallings out and flirtations but, for some reason, the only scene I can really recall is Gerry jerkily dancing up umpteen flights of stairs to the high rise flat where he lives with his Mum and Dad. In true ‘pad it out’ exploitation style this takes a long, long time - but does neatly summarise why Gerry lives for disco: his life is shit, his prospects are zero, the lift is broken but, on the plus side, but he can dance a bit and, when he’s doing it, everything else goes away.
We’ve looked at youth cults before, as well as the transcendent qualities of dancing, and the two bump clumsily into each other here. Ultimately, ‘Music Machine’ is a cheap cash in, and the familiarity of the settings and the depressed feel of late seventies Britain is enough strip it of any trace of stardust – but there’s an endearing, poignant, totally understandable truth there in the way that it shows how young people live for Saturday night, and seize the opportunity to go out and get out, to momentarily escape their limited lives and the adult grind that is just ahead of them. You’re a long time grown up, for Christ’s sake, so why not be able to look back and remember that you once wore a white suit and danced like John Travolta?