The Special London Bridge Special (1972)

TV Movie   |    |  Comedy, Musical

The Special London Bridge Special (1972) Poster

In 1972, the Arizona State Park bought the London Bridge. Tom Jones (as himself) is magically transported to the bridge's new location where he, befuddled, sings with other celebrities, has adventures, and gets kidnapped by "the villain".

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12 July 2017 | greg-04082
| Wonderfully awful TV show with very interesting backstory
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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Plot Summary


Comedy | Musical

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