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  • Connoisseurs of dreadful movies cherish the memory of this British equivalent of "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians", stuffed with acts whose plot opposition reflects the clash between post-Beatles rock and slushy romance in the mid-1960s charts. Yes, folks, for every Amen Corner there was an Engelbert Humperdinck, and for each "Hard Day's Night" there was a pop flick like this, with comedians mugging and strutting about the set to give the mums and dads something to laugh at. It should be explained that a gonk was a round, stuffed toy whose gormless features often gaped from the counterpanes of girls' bedrooms. In the catalogue of forgotten UK musical cash-in movies, this one ranks with "Just for Fun" and "The Cool Mikado".
  • GONKS GO BEAT is a very strange, low budget British sci-fi oddity. It's a musical re-working of the Romeo and Juliet storyline, with a unique sci-fi twist; an alien is sent to a futuristic Earth (which looks remarkably like the 1960s) where mankind is divided into two warring tribes. His goal is to bring the two tribes together through music and romance.

    The description above doesn't really do justice to the sheer oddness of this production. It's basically a musical in which one number plays after the other from beginning to end. Stars like Lulu show up to contribute a number and then disappear. In between the songs, we get some random trappings of the sci fi genre, with respectable actors pretending to be aliens and Kenneth Connor delightfully mugging as the alien ambassador. My favourite scene is the convoy of cars with guitarists sitting on top and playing away - great stuff. What, might you ask, is a gonk? The answer is that they're cheesy soft toys that play a minor role in the proceedings, just adding to the bizarre feel. The film as a whole is weird, quirky, and very, very cult.
  • You have to be a real killjoy not to love this splendidly silly film, a kind of bubblegum version of Romeo and Juliet. However, the film is of some historical interest, featuring footage of the Graham Bond Organisation (urged on by a cane-wielding, mortar-board-donning Reginald Beckwith!). Musical numbers of widely varying merit are interspersed among the unfolding of a mind-bogglingly lightweight romance between a Beatland boy (sometime Joe Meek protege Ian Gregory) and a Balladisle girl, as seen from the viewpoint of a visiting alien (Kenneth Connor). Perhaps this studio-bound cheapathon was UK cinema's last unabashed quota-quickie. What a contrast with John Boorman's wintry, wistful "Catch Us If You Can" (made in the same year), and yet 60s-phobes (of whom there are regrettably many) are likely to bracket the films together as throwaway musicals!
  • This is a totally weird 60s rock-n-roll musical send-up of Romeo and Juliet centering on two squabbling islands: Beatland and Ballad Isle. Intergalactic ambassador Wilco Roger is summoned to resolve the differences between the communities, employing the tactic of uniting a Beatland boy and a Ballad Isle girl; if he is unsuccessful he faces exile to Planet Gonk (inhabited by some strange doll-like creatures that apparently were based on a popular toy of the time). Despite the presence of Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, Graham Bond and Lulu, the music here is nothing special. The music by the Beatlanders is typical of mid 60s rock rave-ups (watch for the lead singer/guitarist for The Long and the Short doing his best "Enzyte Bob" impression during their number "Love is a Funny Thing"!) , while the music favored by Ballad Isle consists of some of the sappiest ballads imaginable (the best way I could describe them would be to imagine the late 50s light pop group The Fleetwoods on Prozac). We're also treated to musical sequences featuring a band playing instrumental rock while driving down a deserted airstrip and a nine drummer prison jam session (neither of which serve much purpose other than padding the movie's run time) and a wacky "battle" sequence between both factions with musical instruments used as weapons. All this leads to the Golden Guitar contest pitting both islands against each other (which usually ends in a draw). Lulu's song "I'm the Only One" is pleasant but not exactly memorable, and The Nashville Teens' "Poor Boy" comes nowhere close to matching their hit "Tobacco Road". The bargain basement budget is readily apparent in the cheap set designs and the minimal special effects (watch for Wilco Roger ducking into the cloud of smoke as he makes his first entrance). If there was anything resembling a highlight here it would be the opening credits sequence featuring the Gonks grooving among construction paper/contact paper animation (to the song "Choc Ice", sung by Lulu with her voice altered almost to the point where she starts sounding like Cartman); it's pretty much all downhill after that.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Far better cinema lies lost and forgotten.

    I confess to actually seeing this on its release at the local flea-pit. In mitigation, I claim to have been dragged there by an older sister. I was about 14 years old at the time and blame that viewing for reversing my puberty. Or something...

    Gonks were a sort of precursor to the 'Cabbage-Patch Doll'. They enjoyed a very brief and over-hyped fashion boom. And I suspect this movie was all part of the same, though it pretty well proved to be the kiss of death, for obvious reasons to those who have viewed it.

    At the time I thought it pointless, but interesting for the music. Can't remember my sister's opinions. Two feuding nations called Beatland and Ballad-isle. Yeah, right.

    Other commentators seem to have missed the best joke of the movie. The Martian's name is Wilco Roger. That's the reverse of 'Roger, wilco'. Get it? Hilarious. It was the radio response from 'Carry On Cabbie' also starring Kenneth Connor.

    I don't think it won any Oscars.
  • Incredibly rare, mid-60's rock and roll sci-fi obscurity. So rare, most film books don't even LIST the title.

    A recent screening of the sole surviving print at Hollywood's AMERICAN CINEMATEQUE, shows that the film is no great shakes, but worth seeking out for the completists.

    GONKS tells the story of an Alien who comes to earth to settle a dispute between the two great nations of our future planet. One nation loves rock and roll, the other, ballads. The Alien befriends a bizarre former Record Exec (MR. A & R) who looks suspiciously like Buddy Holly (had he lived to join Elvis in Vegas!). The pair hatch a scheme to set up a Romeo and Juliet-like romance to bring the warring nations together.

    It works, but not before a bunch of mediocre rock songs and wretched ballads are sung, cheap interior sets are trampled and the audience's patience is worn thin. Meanwhile, on planet Gonk, a bunch of hand puppets runs amok.

    The biggest highlight is a thrilling 9 Drummer jam session (led by Ginger Baker) held in a prison cell (don't ask).

    Otherwise, it's fairly dull with only a little schlock value.
  • Ever since Chuck Berry crowed "Roll Over, Beethoven!" in the mid-fifties there have been many in the pop world, both fans and performers, who have regarded themselves as being in a state of cultural war against all other musical genres. The rivalry between the "Mod" and "Rocker" sub-cultures of the early sixties- a rivalry which often involved actual violence- was partly based upon differences in musical taste, with the Mods favouring jazz and the Rockers (as their name implies) rock-and-roll.

    "Gonks Go Beat" dramatises another of these musical culture wars, that between pop and what was rather patronisingly known as "easy listening". Unlike the Mods-versus-Rockers clashes, this one did not actually lead to fighting in the streets, but nevertheless generated a surprising amount of ill-feeling. There are still people, now in their sixties or seventies, who consider their youths to have been blighted by the fact that the Beatles' famous double A-side of "Penny Lane" and "Strawberry Fields" was kept off the top of the charts by Engelbert Humperdinck's "Please Release Me". I well remember the disgust of my female teenage contemporaries from the seventies when their idol, Donny Osmond, was replaced at Number One by Perry Como, a man old enough to be his father. It would not have mattered if the Beatles had been bested by the Rolling Stones or Osmond by, say, David Cassidy. What mattered was that pop, the music of youth, progress and freedom, had lost out to "easy listening", the music of the conservative older generation.

    The central premise of the film is that, at some far-distant date in the future, Planet Earth is dominated by two mutually hostile powers, Beatland and Ballad Isle. Each of these two nations is defined by its attitude to the youth culture of the sixties. Beatland is a land of long, or longish, hair- very long hair was not as fashionable in 1965 as it was to become a few years later- polo-neck sweaters, jeans, sunglasses and, of course, hip and trendy beat music. Ballad Isle is a place of short hair, button-down shirts, pressed slacks and floral dresses. Its inhabitants, of course, only listen to ballads. (The old word "ballad", once little used except by devotees of folk-poetry, had been pressed back into service to mean an easy-listening song).

    The story is a variant on the "Romeo and Juliet" storyline (but without the tragic ending) in which a Beatland boy, Steve, and a Ballad Isle girl, Helen, fall in love. It also features Wilco Roger, an interplanetary ambassador who has been sent by the galactic powers-that-be to try and reconcile the two warring factions. For the uninitiated the "gonks" of the title were a type of stuffed toy very popular in the sixties and seventies, both with children and occasionally with adults. (Ringo Starr was a noted collector). They feature prominently in the title sequence but do not play a major role in the film itself, although Wilco is frequently threatened by the powers-that-be with exile to Planet Gonk- evidently a dreadful fate- should he fail in his mission.

    When "Gonks Go Beat" first came out, it did not prove very popular either with young or old. The older generation would have dismissed it as silly kids' stuff, and the youngsters would not have liked the way in which the rather anodyne Steve and Helen, the ostensible protagonists, are overshadowed by middle-aged actors like Kenneth Connor, Frank Thornton, Terry Scott and Arthur Mullard, all well-known comedians or comic actors of the period. They would probably also have been bored by all those ballads which make up around half of the 16 musical numbers. Both generations would have combined in deriding the absurd plot, the indifferent acting, the low quality of the dialogue and the cheap, wobbly sets. It has been named as a contender for the title of "worst British film ever made".

    The various musical acts featured were mostly, even at the time, obscure; others who may have been well-known at the time have slipped into obscurity since. Probably the best-known performer to a modern audience would be Lulu, a little-known teenager in 1965 but one who shot to stardom later. Despite this, however, the musical numbers are generally cheerful and tuneful, if not particularly memorable; none of them are likely to turn up on a "Great Hits of the Sixties" compilation album.

    The film's main virtue is that it never takes itself too seriously. Fifty-odd years on from the date when it was made, it may be a dated period piece but its endearing silliness reminds us of just why pop music had such a following in the sixties; it was fun. Nobody could call "Gonks Go Beat" a well-made film, but it can be a curiously enjoyable one, more enjoyable than many films with much higher technical standards. 5/10
  • I still have a copy of this film on VHS video, it came out sometime in the nineties as part of a series of British "musicals" including Tommy Steele and Billy Fury. I have seen it available at boot fairs and second hand record/video shops so i guess others were buying/watching at one time. This is the sort of film that can clear a house of unwanted guests leaving a hardcore of like minded (barking mad) friends to laugh themselves stupid (i know from experience) .it is that bad. like one of the other posters i think the drumming sequence is amazing but the lulu sequence with the "gay looking" backing singer clapping is hysterical "darling do try to look as butch as you can, while clapping your hands in the air, splendid!" as the other posters have noted the songs are not great the acting is awful and the story is virtually non existent so all together a truly awful film right! no! in the right mood and with friends of equal IQ (friday night IQ) its great fun. go and find a copy (somewhere in the UK) and watch. PS when i was at college i even tried persuading the film club to show this, but was turned down in favour of the french film Weekend-from the stupid to the bloody boring...
  • I watched this film in February 2017 on British TV (for details see below for others who may wish to watch it).

    I have to say it is pretty awful. A sci-fi movie giving a retelling of the Romeo and Juliet story. Strange eh !

    For people who "grew up" in the 1960s (like me) it is hard for people today to realize that watching pop groups at the time was difficult (we did not have 30 music channels on Sky as we have today for example).

    So a number of films were made trying to cram as many pop groups in as they could. However most of the singers / bands / songs in this film are forgettable (yet another bland pop song rhyming "walk" with "talk", probably the most obvious rhyme you can come up with).

    I am a fan of "bad" movies and I have to say this is right up there with the best / worst (alongside Dean Martin in his Matt Helm movies). If you are a fan of bad movies do try to catch it.

    This film was shown on British TV in February 2017. It is on the TV channel "Talking Pictures" which is available on most platforms in the UK (Freeview, Sky, Virgin). The channel shows mostly lost or historical films and is a great place to watch films that may never have been shown on TV before (from all eras - 1930s up to 1990s).
  • Warning: Spoilers
    What is it with British musicals with aliens coming to Earth to learn about music this week? Well, here's another - 1964's Gonks Go Beat - based on the fad for toys called gonks, which were created by British inventor Robert Benson. At their peak, gonks were collected by Ringo Starr and Peter Sellers. They were quite literally the first toy craze in England post-World War II.

    This movie was absolutely savaged in its original release. Reviewers claimed that it had no appeal to any cinema audience demographic and it's often compared to Plan 9 from Outer Space for its sheer ineptitude. If you read this sentence and thought to yourself, "Where can I find this movie?" then welcome. You're amongst friends.

    This whole mess is directed by Robert Hartford-Davis, who was behind one of my favorite Peter Cushing movies, 1968's Corruption (if you haven't seen the trailer, it will warn you that it's not a woman's picture repeatedly) as well as the amazingly titled Incense for the Damned.

    Kenneth Connor from the Carry On series stars as alien Wilco Roger and Frank Thornton shows up as Mr. A & R. You may know him better as Captain Peacock from Are You Being Served? The real reason to watch this is to see performances by The Nashville Teens, members of the Graham Bond Organisation including Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce and Dick Heckstall-Smith, Ray Lewis and the Trekkers, The Long and the Short, The Trolls, The Vacqueros and Lulu and the Luvvers. Yes, Lulu of "To Sir, With Love" and "The Man with the Golden Gun" fame.

    So anyway, at some point in our future, Earth is broken into two camps: you either live in Beatland and are hip and trendy or you live on Ballad Isle and are clean and tidy. Every year, the islands battle in a musical competition.

    If Wilco Roger can't get the two islands to get along, he's going to be sent to Planet Gonk, filled with those toys and Dixieland jazz. He joins up with Mr. A & R to unite a Beatland Boy and a Ballad Island girl, which of course happens thanks to the song "Takes Two to Make Love."

    I mean, if you watch one movie where aliens come to England to discover love, we gave you two options this week. At this rate, Xanadu is going to feel like a Busby Berkely movie.
  • 1bilbo25 October 2017
    Warning: Spoilers
    I often suspect that dreadful films like this are produced as a tax loss.

    Make a film and pay yourself a fat wage for doing it - the film goes nowhere and makes a loss. This doesn't matter because you have already paid yourself - and your fees are simply written off as part of the whole loss.

    As for a review - there is nothing of merit in the stupid songs that are mimed to or the idiotic convoluted story line.

    It would seem that the whole thing was made up as they went along - with certain parties being paid along the way.
  • kpb196229 August 2017
    I think if I'm right this is the Ian Gregory who worked with Joe meek great all star cast a film wouldn't be complete without kenneth Connor love frank truly Thornton it's a bit dated but typical of the great music films such as dateline diamonds and I've gotta horse I'm a fan of sixties music and music films
  • Warning: Spoilers
    While a few of the songs are actually good, otherwise this is a 100% horrible film--embarrassing to watch and of great value to bad movie buffs. I think the plot really says all I need to say about it. Intergalactic weirdos (including ladies wearing bug-like antennae) have a meeting to discuss problems on Earth. It seems that an island of rockers and an island of balladeers hate each other and are fighting a never-ending battle through rock concerts! As for the rock, it's mostly third-rate, though there is a great number involving JUST a large group of drummers (lead by the famous Ginger Baker of Cream). As for the ballads, they all are whiny drivel. So, to fix things, agent Wilco Roger is sent to the islands with his magic powers and insipid cuteness. When a rocker falls for a balladeer, you realize this is a sick and twisted reworking of Romeo & Juliet! Too bad, like the original source material, they didn't just kill themselves--now THAT would have been cool! Aside from the insane plot and mostly bad music, you have tons of garish costumes and sets (where the color yellow dominates) and rotten acting...rotten. In fact, there's nothing about the story that is good in any way--and is reminiscent of "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians".
  • ferbs5412 August 2010
    Warning: Spoilers
    As far as I can make out, "gonks" were very popular, stuffed furry toys in Britain during the 1960s. But in the 1965 British sci-fi musical "Gonks Go Beat," they are also the inhabitants of planet Gonk, the Siberia of the galaxy, where washouts from the galactic Space Congress are sent as punishment. And that is precisely what will happen to agent Wilco Roger (inanely played by Kenneth Connor, of the "Carry On" films) if he fails in his current mission: to bring together the diametrically opposed inhabitants of Earth's Beat Land island and Ballad Isle. To accomplish this seemingly impossible task (the residents of Beat Land are proto-hipsters who only dig high-powered rock and blues; those on Ballad Isle prefer incredibly insipid music of the show tune variety), Wilco--with the assistance of a Wizard of Oz-like character known only as Mr. A & R--hatches a scheme, a la "Romeo and Juliet," to unite the two lands. Anyway, "Gonks Go Beat" is practically indescribable; I guarantee that you have never seen a picture quite like it. Basically an excuse to showcase a slew of British musical numbers (and a generous 16 such are offered up; half rockers, half ballads), the film is otherwise an inane, somewhat boring, occasionally trippy outing that certainly serves as a time capsule of sorts for what passed as "mod" in 1965. The ballads on display here range from excruciating ("Love Is a Dream") to incredibly wimpy ("Broken Pieces") to pleasant ("Penny For Your Thoughts"). As for the rockers, the highlights (for this old Cream fan, anyway) are certainly the Graham Bond Organisation (featuring Jack Bruce on bass and Ginger Baker on drums) pounding out "Harmonica," as well as a segment entitled "Drum Battle," in which Ginger and seven other skin pounders are lined up in two rows, facing each other, and just go at it. Ultimately, the two island nations agree on one song that is agreeable to them both, "Takes Two to Make Love," an upbeat, pleasant but decidedly Broadway show tunish number that should satisfy very few. Take the legendary 1964 film "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" and combine with an episode of the then-popular TV program "Shindig!" and you'll have a rough approximation of what to expect here. Good luck with this one!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A martian called Wilco Roger (KENNETH CONNOR) is sent to Earth by his people to resolve a feud between communities known as Beatland and Balladisle. The dispute is over musical differences. Beatland ("If you're with it you're in") loves beat music and rhythm and blues whilst Balladisle is into the softer sentimental ballad music. Each year the top groups from both communities take part in "The Golden Guitar Contest" thrown by the reclusive Mr A&R (FRANK THORNTON) and the winner receives the prize of a golden guitar whilst the losers have their musical instruments confiscated until eight months before the next contest. As much as the two communities despise each other, they are not above sneaking into each other's territory to steal each others musical ideas. Wilco and A&R decide to resolve the chaos before it erupts into war ("It'll mean exile to planet Gonk for me" sniffs Connor) by bringing together a boy and girl, one lives in Beatland and the other in Balladisle, who love each other but the feud is keeping them apart. Wilco and A&R use their mystical power to get them to the contest and they perform a duet which incorporates both musical styles. Mr A&R declares them the winners and orders that both communities will now live in harmony and all types of music will be allowed from now on.

    An unbelievably stupid attempt to combine swinging sixties pop culture with a Romeo And Juliet inspired romance. The romance is bland without an ounce of Shakespearian tragedy and the comedy falls flat. I.e "I was told that there was a famous author from Earth's past" says Wilco Roger to Mr A&R. "William Shakespeare?" he asks. "Well yes he shook something or other" Wilco replies. That's about as funny as it gets. The sets are cardboard and the tunes are poor. This is a big disappointment as some of the acts that the producers, Peter Newbrook and Robert Hartford-Davis, have assembled for the film are quite impressive. For instance, The Graham Bond Organisation, contained musicians whom were later to become rock legends in their own right such as Ginger Baker with the legendary rock trio, Cream, with Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton. Bond's sax player Dick Heckstall-Smith who can be seen here would go on to join prog rock heroes Colloseum whilst Bond himself (he died in 1974) is now considered to be an important figure of the British R&B boom of that time. They try and make the most of a lackluster number written for them especially for the film, "Harmonica". Even Lulu And The Luvvers and The Nashville Teens are at a loss here too.

    The story was written by the director Robert Hartford-Davis and cinematographer-producer Peter Newbrook. Both of whom did some interesting work within the British horror wave with the elegant costume horror film, The Black Torment and the Peter Cushing vehicle, Corruption. But both are at a loss here like the beat groups who allowed themselves to be drafted into this rubbish.

    In summary, if you are thinking of buying the DVD from your local mega store for the music alone, it isn't worth it despite the caliber of some of the musicians on offer. A big disappointment but then again there were so many pop movies made in those days and a lot of them were dire.