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In the early 1960s self-taught electronics whizz Joe Meek amazingly produces a string of home made hit singles from his studio in his flat above a leather shop in London. His biggest success is the instrumental 'Telstar' but accusations of plagiarism delay royalties. Joe's mercurial temper causes his artists to forsake him for other labels,in particular his young lover Heinz Burt. Now in debt and after unwisely parting from his chief financier Major Banks,Joe finds himself unable to control his life. Increasingly paranoid,believing he is being bugged by rival record companies and that everybody is out to get him,the last straw comes when landlady Violet tells him she is selling the building in which he lives. Joe had once confiscated a shotgun from Heinz. Now it is dangerously close at hand and about to end the Joe Meek story. Written by
don @ minifie-1
Immediately after 304 Holloway Road appears on the screen, a black and white television is seen in a shop window, showing a program called "Harper's W1, The Story of a London Store." This is a reference to the world famous Harrod's Knightsbridge, which is actually located in London SW1. See more »
The film is quite clearly set in 1963 but the registration plate of the black van in which the group are touring shows the suffix "D" which was issued in the year 1966. See more »
All tracks used by permission. All rights reserved. Soundtrack available on Universal Music Catalogue See more »
Valley of No Return
Written by Joe Meek (as Robert Duke [Joe Meek])
Published by Ivy Music Ltd
Performed by The Blue Men, directed by Rod Freeman
Courtesy of The Rod Freeman Estate
under licence from RPM Productions Ltd See more »
If he's up there, looking down on the world at forty five revolutions per minute, Joe Meek will undoubtedly have seen this horrible film. Knowing Joe, he probably burst into tears. In fact, it's surprising he didn't manage to engineer a shower of satellite debris to fall upon the collective heads of everyone involved in it.
Let's start from the known facts: Joe Meek was a genius. He was also a wayward personality, deeply troubled, a complex and infinitely intriguing human being. That's a tall order for even a decent actor to essay. For a ham like Con O'Neill it's asking way too much. It's hard to believe that there is anyone alive who could look, act and speak less like the vital lead character of this movie. Okay, so one doesn't necessarily expect a perfect Meek lookalike, but some facet of his personality has to come across. Con O'Neill misses his target by a country mile. There is nothing of the real Joe Meek here, just a badly-realised cartoon performance, one-note, manic, utterly shallow.
We know from the preserved film and audio of Meek in person that the reality was far more subtle than the brash, shouting, bungling oaf of this movie. The Meek who comes across in the extant archive clips is an apparently mild-mannered, gently spoken individual who betrays no outward sign of the violent emotion of which he was capable. O'Neill plays him as a pilled-up lunatic, hectoring his performers and frantically twiddling knobs in the hope of engineering some audio accident. Sure, Meek had his moments of mania, but to interpret this as his entire personality is a complete misunderstanding of the man. And he was not Welsh. Newent, Meeks' birthplace, is not in Wales. It's in Gloucestershire. So why the Welsh lilt? O' Neill looks and sounds like someone doing a really, really bad impersonation of Rob Brydon. Oh, and Meek would never have said 'whoop-de-doo.' Neither would anyone else back then. It's far too recent. At least he didn't punch the air and shout 'yes' but he might as well have done.
This being the central performance, and the entire raison d'être for the movie, it's hard to see past O'Neill's sheer awfulness, and the movie's better aspects are easily overshadowed by this towering piece of monumental miscasting. Any of the other actors here would have made a better Meek. Even, at a pinch, Kevin Spacey, whose performance in The Shipping News was probably a lot closer to the reality of Joe Meek. Spacey is amusing to watch - evidently having been briefed that the movie was a comedy - but better by a long, long way than anyone else on show here is JJ Feild as Heinz Burt. Voice, appearance and demeanour all agree exactly with what we know of Heinz from the archive. James Corden won't disappoint, if you're expecting his standard fat, charmless git. He can't do anything else, evidently. And he looks nothing like Clem Cattini, either.
After all this awfulness, the film's period atmosphere is surprisingly good, with Meek's studio flat realised in fine detail, and the contemporary footage integrates almost seamlessly with the new material. One might quibble at anachronisms like a 1970s Gretsch guitar, but generally the production design is top notch and really captures the feel of early 60s Britain. But all this effort is reduced to mere window dressing, turd-polish on a film that's deficient in so many other departments.
If Joe Meek were given a copy of this film on DVD, he'd smash it with a hammer. Then he'd throw the director, and Con O'Neill down the stairs. Meek's is a great story, shot through with incident, intrigue, emotion and genuine human drama. Telstar the movie is a bit like Joe's original off-key demo of his classic instrumental: a wayward shot at something that could be done much, much better.
One star - and that's ten stars too many.
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