Links Between Boardwalk Empire, Bombed Out! and a 1990s Liverpool Film.
Above Photo: Liverpool actor Stephen Graham, Then and Now.
I haven’t seen the film Dancin’ Thru The Dark since it first came out in the early 1990s, but I watched it again recently.
Set in Liverpool, it follows a group of blokes on a stag night and girls on a hen night, who meet up at a gig by a band fronted by a former boyfriend of the bride-to-be. The film ends in a monumental choice for her: a wedding the next day, or an elopement?
The dialogue (by Willy Russell, who later wrote Shirley Valentine, Blood Brothers and Educating Rita, amongst others) was really outstanding, and the way he uses language and humour is superb.
One of the high spots for me was seeing Stephen Graham in the film. I’m a massive fan of his and I love his portrayal of Al Capone in Boardwalk Empire, but seeing him in this as a football-playing, scally kid made me smile.
What I wasn’t expecting from the film was to be so powerfully taken back into a Liverpool I knew intimately back in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s – the decaying pubs, nights out with groups of friends in Liverpool nightclubs, happily immersed in a hedonistic, hugely enjoyable, boozing culture.
There were some strong acting performances. Seeing Julia Deakin in the film was a bonus. She was in Spaced, an excellent 1990s ‘Britcom’, a few years later, which still remains one of my all-time favourite TV comedy series.
There was also some brilliant non-verbal comedy in the film, such as the band names on posters outside the club the band are to play in (blind, deaf and dead – Blind Descent, Deaf School and Dead Mens’ Suits).
A funny thing about this, is my ex-girlfriend, Christine Clarke, who plays a significant role in my book, Bombed Out!, played bass for one of the bands advertised on the posters – Dead Mens’ Suits – in real life.
I watched the film mostly with an interest in the screenplay (outstanding) and how the soundtrack (contemporary hits and original music the band plays onstage) was used in the film.
Another bonus was discovering all the artwork done on-screen by the character played by former Brookside actor Simon O’Brien, was actually done by a former fellow band member of mine, Mick Reid, who went on to Art College after he too left Nightmares in Wax, a week after I’d left them.
Mick’s first instinct was to do a highly professional job on the artwork, but the director explained it couldn’t be too polished or professional looking; it had to show the character who was ‘drawing’ it had potential, but he was still raw and untutored.
It was interesting to see how the artwork itself was so important to the plot of the film, as it progressed.
I’m pleased to say I’m back in regular touch with Mick, who’s now a renowned book illustrator. We’re currently working on something together, ‘only’ 35 years after we played our last Nightmares In Wax gig in Leeds together, that fateful, life-changing night so long ago.
Buy a signed copy of Bombed Out! here: http://www.bombedoutpunk.com/buybook.php