One often hears rock musicals criticized for being nothing more but a loose thread of a plot stringing together a series of disparate music videos. Of course this isn’t always true and there are more than a handful of these kinds of films where technical craft and invention are able to elevate the film above and beyond the sheer superficial pleasures of the image. However, Give My Regards To Broadstreet (1984) is quite literally nothing more than a series of music videos hung on a flimsy plot that, in the film’s final moments, is revealed to be nothing more than a dream.
Essentially the plot to Give My Regards To Broadstreet is that Paul McCartney falls asleep in the back of a car while on the way to deliver the master tapes for his new album to his record label. While asleep he dreams the next twenty-four hours of his life where he goes to all of his engagements worrying that he lost the master tapes only to realize that an assistant forgot them at a train station. Paul McCartney wrote this screenplay and, in his defense, he never wrote one before or since. Since this is McCartney’s brand of cinema I am almost glad that we never got The Beatles’ Lord Of The Rings movie or McCartney’s proposed Beatles/Wings cosmic team-up flick.
There are two things to enjoy about Give My Regards To Broadstreet unironically. The first is the Edwardian dream within a dream sequence where Ringo Starr has a cameo. This section of the film is entirely silent so it’s a welcome respite from McCartney’s wooden acting. It also has the same penchant for visual puns and slapstick that Richard Lester brought to Help! (1965) and A Hard Day’s Night (1964), which will please fans of the Fab Four. The other worthwhile portion is when McCartney covers a handful of his Beatles compositions solo in the studio. This sequence has a genuine tenderness and a quasi-documentary feel that actually succeeds in nurturing connectivity between the film and the spectator.
Unfortunately the most memorable scene in Give My Regards To Broadstreet is the Silly Love Songs number. Here Paul and Linda McCartney go totally glam with skunk hair. This sequence is the epitome of eighties pop in sight and sound. Silly Love Songs, like almost every musical segue in the film, grinds all sense of pacing to a halt. So all we are left with is the bizarre spectacle. Perhaps this was an intentional aesthetic choice by director Peter Webb, but I doubt it.
I have sat through more than my fair share of Beatles related films and I can say for certain that Give My Regards To Broadstreet is the most grueling of all of those experiences. It lacks the madcap silliness of Caveman (1981) or the inventiveness of How I Won The War (1967). But maybe the video game of the film is good. I’ll have to track it down and see.