If you were one of millions who tuned into the popular It's Cliff Richard series on BBC TV on a Saturday night, and if you can cast your mind back to September 1972, you most probably remember the hour-long special titled The Case, which co-starred Olivia Newton-John and Tim Brooke Taylor, and like me, are probably wondering why it has never seen the light of day on DVD or Blu ray, or why pre-DVD, it was never released on a commercial VHS, and are probably thinking it's long overdue for a remastered and restored release, especially when you consider Cliff's series was one of the most popular light entertainment programmes of that decade and was the series that contributed to launching Olivia's career in Britain.
For those who don't know or remember, The Case was a comedy caper that follows the farcical aftermath of a situation of mistaken identity, and the unfortunate switch of two very similar bags, but with very different contents. Cliff played himself and along with Tim Brooke-Taylor (from The Goodies), are touring the It’s Cliff Richard show around the Scandinavian countries, when a television recording of the show over-runs, which means that they are late in catching the train to their next destination. Meanwhile, a pair of robbers have just held up a bank and are intent on making their getaway with a large bag full of the money they have just stolen. A fleeting, unknown meeting at the station results in Cliff taking the bag of money and the robbers picking up his similar bag, filled with the music for the television show.
Once the thieves realise the mistake, they are determined to follow Cliff, now split from Tim after missing the train, and do whatever they can to recover their ill-gotten gains. From one country to another, by car, train, even an overnight ferry, they get closer to Cliff, who, reunited with Tim, does all he can to get away from them. Once the police get involved, the situation is resolved to everyone’s satisfaction – or is it?
As per usual Cliff put in a great performance that showed his versatility as an actor and comic, laying the foundations for some of the slapstick that would appear the following year in the theatrical release of Take Me High (recently restored and released on DVD and Blu-ray), which he honed from the years of working on his Saturday night light entertainment shows. As with the majority of his full-length feature films, the narrative was developed with a sense of fun and is interspersed with a number of song performances, including a duet with Olivia, If I Was Close to You, which shows the beauty and blend of their vocals when performing together.
Broadcast during the summer run of his television show in 1972, this special has only been aired once and is now a significant rarity, a curio, and an important document of Cliff’s career as a broader entertainer rather than being pigeon-holed as Britain's Peter Pan of Pop!
With the exception of Cliff's Living In Harmony and Olivia's two solo numbers, the other songs were all recorded specially and exclusively for the special, and have never been commercially released. The duet with Olivia is particularly noteworthy as it was, at that time, only the second recording they had made together, the first being the B-side track, Don’t Move Away, and its extraordinary beauty shows that it deserves a broader release for fans of both performers to see and hear. For Olivia fans, there was footage of her performing her then current single Just A Little Too Much and Banks of the Ohio, the second hit single from her first album, in specially filmed sequences. And for Cliff fans there was the new rendition of Move It! that combined and melded the guitar-driven approach of the original with the orchestral arrangement that was released on his 1967 Top 30 album Don’t Stop Me Now!
A first-time ever release of this special is now crying out to be done and for most film and TV buffs, would be perfectly suited to Network, the video releasing company that seem more committed than most to showcasing unique works of television and film, that have been unjustly neglected and gathering dust in the vaults of TV companies. With their encyclopaedic knowledge of TV and film archives and library content, they have released a wealth of material in stunning DVD and Blu ray packages with spectacular remastering and restoration techniques that would have otherwise been left unseen.
If Network greenlighted The Case for release, the opportunities for extras are endless. In keeping with their vast catalogue of releases, it could include a detailed booklet with synopsis, production notes, cast biographies, press items and an image gallery of stills and photos, as well as some relevant PDF material and a song only menu. As a bonus special feature, the release could also include a collection of Cliff and Olivia's duet performances and skits from It's Cliff Richard between 1970 and 1974. Can you imagine how amazing it would be to see such material scanned from the original camera negatives and extensively restored to their original television aspect ratio of 4.3? And even better to see it restored without any film dirt, damage, instability, warping and density fluctuation.
With thanks to Victor Rust, Juliette Iaciofano and Leo's Den Music