Ghost Goes Gear

Ghost Goes Gear

Director: Hugh Gladwish

Cast: Hugh Gladwish, Nicholas Parsons, Muff Winwood, Steve Winwood


Forget about any value to The Ghost Goes Gear as a movie -- which is nil, except as a sloppy, swinging '60s artifact that makes Richard Lester's Help! look like high art. This DVD, however, is a superb presentation of the film, with workmanship that gives the movie the best presentation one could hope for, and bonuses that are more valuable than the filmSee more details below


Forget about any value to The Ghost Goes Gear as a movie -- which is nil, except as a sloppy, swinging '60s artifact that makes Richard Lester's Help! look like high art. This DVD, however, is a superb presentation of the film, with workmanship that gives the movie the best presentation one could hope for, and bonuses that are more valuable than the film itself. Long regarded as a "lost" film (and one that never opened in the United States), The Ghost Goes Gear was notable for the presence of the Spencer Davis Group; they were the movie's stars, though they were hardly enthusiastic about doing the film. Their presence was apparently the result of their manager Chris Blackwell, and the group slogged their way through the film, with Steve Winwood not uttering a single word; Spencer Davis had some dialogue, Muff Winwood hangs in the background with his brother, getting a line in here and there, and Pete York tries to be Ringo Starr, uttering comic asides and playing the role of a lovable fool to the hilt. Their performance clips are the best part of the movie, starting with the opening, a killer scene of Winwood and company miming a performance of "When I Come Home" aboard a ferry moving down a river, while the passengers dance, boats go past, and swimmers are seen jumping into the water. If the rest of the movie were as cool as the opening three minutes (and even the comic relief of their manager catching up with them ashore), The Ghost Goes Gear would be considered a classic film of its era. But then Pete York's drum floats down the river with the band in hot pursuit, and they end up in a haunted manor house peopled with some stock eccentrics, a pretty young blond actress-singer (Sheila White), and a ghost. York is obviously having a good time, Winwood stays out of camera shot as much as possible except when he's miming music, and the whole thing becomes a kind of flaccid '60s mess. That's the bad news -- the good news is that there are some really cool performance clips throughout the movie, and the film-to-video transfer almost glows, making even the silliest sections of the plot worth watching. The Spencer Davis Group, with Davis singing lead and strumming an acoustic 12-string, mimes to their recording of "The Midnight Special" -- a clip that answers the question of why Davis was eclipsed in his own group by Winwood; even miming the vocal while Winwood leans down concentrating on his unplugged guitar, Davis is still overshadowed by the vastly more exciting and intense Winwood, who comes to life on screen for a third and last time miming to the group's recording of "Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out" and the "Green Onions"-like "On the Green Light," to which the comely Sheila White dances on a table in the kitchen. Winwood seems happy enough playing his unplugged organ while White waves fruit in front of his face as a temptation. Davis and company are joined by several more musical acts, including the Lorne Gibson Trio -- Lorne Gibson himself plays the ghost (in 17th century garb and strumming a guitar), in a singularly uncharismatic performance that is representative of the typical English folk-pop performer of the era (think of a dull Crispian St. Peters). Mr. Acker Bilk and His Paramount Jazz Band mime a Dixie-land performance from the back of a truck, and the movie gets a lot hotter with the arrival onscreen of St. Louis Union, a mod band with a sound similar to the Small Faces, doing "I've Got My Pride" and "Show Me Your English Teeth" (which give lead singer Tony Cassidy and guitarist Keith Miller a chance to have some fun on camera while looking cool). Other highlights include "Seven Deadly Sins," performed by the otherwise forgotten the M6; Sheila White doing the moody, vaguely Sandie Shaw-like "Switch Off the Night"; Dave Berry sitting in a tree and sliding easily through his last major hit, the sentimental ballad "Mama" (which is enough to make one forget his triumph with "The Crying Game"); and the Liverpool trio The Three Bells, looking straight out of the Austin Powers movies, vamping through the prime, girl-group pop-rock "No One Home," and sounding like a '60s version of the Andrews Sisters by way of Goldie & the Gingerbreads (they also perform "Original Lemon Tree," where they sound like Nancy Sinatra multiplied by three). The Acker Bilk clip of "Henry the 9th" is almost worth the price of the disc, the camera getting every mimed solo and keyboard, trombone, and sax flourish spot-on, and gorgeously photographed as well. If the movie could have ended with them, or the St. Louis Union, or the Davis group, it would have been a fine little jukebox artifact. But they had to bring back the Lorne Gibson Trio for two boring clips, and a sappy piece called "The Place" by the M6. Dave Berry can't quite rescue the finale, about as animated as a block of marble as he mimes through "Now" ahead of the denouement; not even the quick cut back to Acker Bilk and his band for a slow dance can pull things up after those missteps, though the shot of Winwood and company jamming at an outdoor dance over the end credits is a pleasant little outro. As a bonus that makes this DVD doubly worthwhile, Spencer Davis appears on an accompanying narration, discussing the movie scene-by-scene with humorist Martin Lewis. Their conversation is enlightening, although they digress too far into the history of the 1950s and 1960s anti-nuclear movement and other irrelevancies at points when they could have been discussing matters more relevant to music and the movie. Davis fails utterly to recognize the difference in charisma between himself and Winwood, which is painfully obvious in every shot, speaking of him as a peer. He does go on at length about the pressures that drove Winwood to leave the group and gives an interesting perspective on the personal stresses behind their four years together, revealing the thinking that led to the idea of separating Winwood from the band and keeping the latter viable. A history of the Spencer Davis Group included in the disc's supplementary section is a little bizarre, concentrating exclusively on Davis and his relatively lackluster post-1967 career, and neglecting not only the extensive activities of Steve Winwood but also those of drummer Pete York.British beat outfit The Spencer Davis Group starred in this comic pop-musical in which their manager Algernon Plumley (Nicholas Parsons) is discovered to be the heir of a large estate. Unfortunately, Algernon's family is having money problems, and his new mansion is in a sorry state. The group gets the idea of fixing up the place and charging people to tour the premises, but while that's fine with Algernon, it doesn't go over so well with the ghost who haunts the old house. Playing keyboards and singing with The Spencer Davis Group was Steve Winwood, who would later form the groups Blind Faith and Traffic and go on to a successful solo career. The Ghost Goes Gear also features performances from Acker Bilk, Dave Berry, The Three Bells, and The M6.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
It was the 1960s, and it seemed like there was money to be made with any even moderately successful rock 'n' roll band on-screen in the right vehicle. And the Spencer Davis Group were a lot more than moderately successful, but The Ghost Goes Gear was definitely not the right vehicle. As an illustration of just how much it wasn't, Steve Winwood, the star and lead singer of the band, contrives to avoid delivering a single word of dialogue, and keeps from being in the center of any non-performing shot for its entire length. Director Hugh Gladwish, whose prior experience seems to have been as an animator and a director of short documentaries and driving instruction films, delivers a shapeless, obvious, and at time painful "comedy" in which every impending laugh is telegraphed two minutes before it happens and none of the jokes are funny. What does make it worthwhile are the performance clips by the Spencer Davis Group and others, and the bright, almost gay-glo color that characterizes the cinematography. Like a lot of artifacts of the psychedelic era, it all looks better than it is -- and the Spencer Davis Group outclasses most of their fellow performers, though this is a chance to see pop/jazz star Acker Bilk in bright color and such obscure UK acts as the Liverpool-spawned girl-group The Three Bells in action.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Starz / Anchor Bay
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]
[Dolby Digital, monaural]

Cast & Crew

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Scene Index

Side #1 --
   Commentary: With Spencer Davis & Humorist
      Commentary On
      Commentary Off
   About The Spencer Davis Group

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