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It Couldn't Happen Here (1987)

PG-13 | | Adventure, Drama, Musical | June 1988 (USA)
A young boy's holiday at a seaside resort includes a crazy blind priest, nuns in suspenders and a whole bunch of fat ladies.




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Cast overview, first billed only:
Neil Tennant ...
Chris Lowe ...
Priest / murderer
Dominique Barnes
Pilot / car salesman
Gareth Hunt ...
Uncle Dredge / postcard seller / ventriloquist
Seaside landlady / Neil's mother
Clair Becker ...
Stephanie Buttle ...
Lyndsey Cole ...
Hugh Craig ...
Heavon Grant ...
Dancer (as Hevon Grant)
Christopher Hall ...
Emma Hendry ...


Pet Shop Boys Chris Lowe and Neil Tennant embark upon a journey across England - but which England? Is it the half-remembered England of their childhoods, or the brutal reality of Mrs Thatcher's late-eighties England? Along the way they come across many familiar (and sinister) faces. The movie also features some of the Pet Shop Boys' most popular records. Written by Gavin Barber <Gavin.Barber@mime-gate.rl.ac.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


PG-13 | See all certifications »




Release Date:

June 1988 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Hard Day's Shopping  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The working title for the movie was "A Hard Day's Shopping", a reference to The Beatles' film A Hard Day's Night (1964). See more »


Priest: I smell youth... vintage youth.
Neil Tennant: You don't have any weapons in there, do you?
Priest: Why? What do you need?
See more »


Featured in Videofobia: The Apple (2012) See more »


Two Divided By Zero
Written by Neil Tennant and Bobby Orlando
Performed by Pet Shop Boys
See more »

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User Reviews

An intriguing journey through the English psyche
16 January 2000 | by (England) – See all my reviews

What an intriguing little film It Couldn't Happen Here is. Not necessarily a good one, but an intriguing film nonetheless.

In turns dark and pretentious, it was filmed at a time when the Pet Shop Boys were still melancholy, "ironic" performers, and so Tennant's slightly anaemic vocals are made bearable by not being underscored by a full disco production. The title song is one of their best, an esoteric album track that favours orchestra over synthesiser. The songs form backdrops to the majority of the film, while the two pop stars are just about passable as actors. The characters they play seem to have some form of communication, but it is entirely non-verbal, they never exchanging words with each other once throughout the movie. In fact, Chris Lowe (keyboards) doesn't speak at all until almost half an hour in, only having 28 words in total.

Tennant, meanwhile, is quite the opposite, carrying the bulk of the plot in his continual monotone monologues. Some of these are naive, would-be meaningful commentaries, such as the siloquoy that "Ever since I was a child the comic and the hostile seemed to go hand in hand". At other times he quotes from his own songs, an unfortunate act that highlights their limitations. Apparently wearing a wig, his interactions with the other actors (including an irksome Gareth Hunt in multiple roles) are less successful, but still adequate for a `music' film.

Symbolism is evident, linked alongside film referencing. Nods are given to Brief Encounter and North by Northwest, while the use of surrealism (men with zebra faces, burning businessmen, billboard posters of blank walls) go to show the production team had been watching their Peter Greenaway movies. Where the film really succeeds is in its distorted psychological makeup. Arguably, the film doesn't happen on any conventional sense of reality, but entirely in a mindscape. The duo walk nonchalantly through a deserted English seaside town, where motorcycle gangs trade places with SS nuns and sexual intent is prevalent. This is a film that will be infinitely more successful with English audiences, where it's depiction of repressed sexuality and cultural disfunctionality is more telling. Lacing the whole plot thread together (not that there really is a plot, of course) is a look at the more terrifying face of Catholicism.

The film concludes with a performance, as all band films do, though this time it's audience is a group of ballroom dancers, with the ubiquitous existentialist dummy getting the final word. If all this sounds a little bizarre, then it is. Not exactly original, It Couldn't Happen Here still triumphs as being quite unlike any film you've ever seen.

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