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Somebody got the idea to make a one hour commercial for the Arizona
State Park. So they rounded up every celebrity in the area and filmed
at the Amphitheater, the tennis court and the replica of the Tower
Bridge. The result is truly mind blowing. Having already been involved
with specials for Nancy Sinatra (Movin' with Nancy, 1967) and Raquel
Welch (Raquel!,1970), director/choreographer David Winters now gives
Tom Jones, fresh from his hit series 'This is Tom Jones' (1969) a
chance to try out his acting skills decades before Mars Attacks (1996)
and Agnes Brown (1999)
The show stars of with a pre-credits sequence recycled from Raquel Welch's special two years earlier. They must have figured most people would not notice, and those who did would not mind an encore showing (remember, VCR's did not exist yet). So once again, Tom serenades Raquel (this time uncredited) with 'I who have nothing' (the original version, not the abomination rerecorded for his album 'Mr. Jones'). However, they obvious took the old video tape and stuck it in here, judging by the inferior picture quality. This leads to Cartoon credits and what follows after that is almost indescribable. Here are just some of the crazy highlights:
Tom, now sporting enormous sideburns, belts out a song about his beloved London. Split-screen, freeze frames and quick cuts of London flash across our screen. But when he gets off a double decker bus he finds the Tower bridge relocated to Lake Havasu City, Arizona. Cover Girl Jennifer O'Neill welcomes him to America by singing a song from "Oliver!" and dancing with the Yankee Doodle Dandies. So begins a love/hate relationship between Tom and Jennifer, England an America and inevitably, many duets of varying quality.
Guest Star Jonathan Winters pops up playing a tour guide and most of the members of his group. His routine is so bad that Engelbert Humperdink, in a Special Cameo Appearance, jumps off the bridge. A performance by Special Guests The Carpenters suddenly turns into a dramatic ballet by Rudolph Nureyev and Merle Parke from the Royal Ballet. The dancers dissolve back into Tom and Jennifer in Arizona State Park as they 'act out' the lyrics to the rest of The Carpenters' medley.
Next, they all attend a tennis match between Michael Landon and Charlton Heston. These two may well have been filmed without there knowing, as they have nothing to do with the rest of the production. Luckily Tom starts daydreaming and this turns out to be one of the highlights of the show. Jennifer and some dancing Zorro's somersault around the tennis court to Jones's 'She's a lady'. Here David Winters gets to show off his unique style of choreography, which is much better than his tendency to have his actors copy the actions as described in the lyrics.
In a Western town, Cowboy Tom meets Kirk Douglas and the two of them do a little tap dance in top hat and tails! Jennifer is kidnapped by 'The Villain' (a very hairy Elliot Gould) and they appear in a silent movie. When Tom finds out the kidnapping was a set up, he and Jennifer naturally have to to do another duet in split-screen. Unfortunately Jennifer's part was dubbed into an existing Jones recording of "If" and she has trouble matching his voice range. Once again film editor John A. Martinelli does a lot of experimenting. Not all shots work, like Tom pretending to walk when obviously not moving, but it all culminates in a shot of the two lovers turning into birds at sunset. It may look primitive now, but remember this was produced a decade before MTV.
As the show reaches it's climax Tom and Jennifer finally get back together at The Carpenters' sold out concert in the Lake Havasu City Amphitheater. This turns into a romantic scene on Tower Bridge but before you know it Tom and Raquel Welch (in more footage from "Raquel") are performing a medley of Little Richard tunes in a nightclub! Suddenly, it's all over and Tom is back in London. Was it really all a dream or just a bad trip?
A crazy 7 out of 10!
It may not seem like it but this is an interesting curio.
Background: In 1972 Tom Jones was flying high as an international star. The McCulloch Corporation which had created the planned community of Lake Havasu town was desperate to publicize this new town through the newly opened London Bridge - it had opened just three months before this special was made. McCulloch commissioned a Los Angeles PR company to engage entertainers and filmmakers to come to lake Havasu. This special was shot in January 1972, nine months earlier production on the cult movie The Day of the Wolves had wrapped in Havasu. The London bus used in the special was purchased a year or so before by McCulloch. The whole venture was essentially a PR job to publicize Lake Havasu.
The Special: This is very lightweight fair but highly watchable because it now looks so bizarre. Tom is in full mutton chop sideburns which would have been the envy of Mungo Jerry's Ray Dorset. A theme through the production is a romantic story between Jones and Jennifer O'Neill (looking very beautiful). The Carpenters are mixed into this awkwardly, but it's still watchable. The lip syncing is atrocious throughout the production.
The production boasts that it stars Charlton Heston and Michael Landon. That's stretching it a bit. Landon and Heston were filmed nine months earlier being participants in a tennis tournament in Lake Havasu on March 27, 1971 at the Nautical Inn on the last weekend of filming of The Day of the Wolves. My guess is that In agreeing to be participants of the tennis tournament Heston and co likely signed away their likeness for promotion of Lake Havasu, hence their appearance in this special. Lorne Greene was the MC for the opening of the Bridge in the previous September, and he's also in this special. So was Jonathan Winters.
There are several dancing scenes, at least one with Jennifer O'Neill. Surprisingly these are extremely dynamic, athletic, really well choreographed, filmed and edited. Jennifer O'Neill is clearly not a dancer but turns in an acceptable performance, most of which consist of cover girl-style poses.
The film was shot on 16mm by an American DP, Stephen H. Burum, who went onto stardom DP'ing the likes of the Untouchables, St. Elmo's Fire and a host of iconic 80's movies. He, together with the same director had also shot a movie of Raquel Welch touring which included Tom Jones, hence the splicing of parts of that into the version of the special that's usually available.
The scene of Jones singing with Kirk Douglas was shot at a Pinewood Studios back lot of all places using the remnants of the set of the Fiddler on the Roof movie.
The London filming was deliberately desaturated to make it appear dreary, hardly necessary given that it was shot in January in London with it's predictably awful weather (Thursday Jan 7 to be precise).
In the scene of Jones/O'Neill watching tennis, sitting in the next seat to Tom Jones on the right is CV Wood (credited as an adviser on this production) who was the designer of Lake Havasu City as well as Disneyland.
This special is rarely if ever broadcast, my best guess because of issues associated with film ownership and the mechanical licensing rights of Tom Jones and the Carpenter's music.
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