Telstar - Movie Review

By Monica Sullivan

Before it was a movie, “Telstar” was a stage play. We are used to seeing a room and a room and a room and yet another room when we go to see legitimate theatre. Right or wrong, we demand that movies take us places, that they move. The character study that is “Telstar” doesn’t quite do that. Once you understand that independent movie producer Joe Meek created all those amazing 1960’s songs in an ordinary flat, not a state of the art recording studio, you are left to stare at the man himself.

Con O’Neill must have been something to see on stage and he still is on film. Sadly, it’s the screenplay, adapted by Director Nick Manan with playwright James Hicks, that is nothing much to hear. It is especially groanworthy when Meeks disparages the commercial prospects of The Beatles and the Kinks while he fuss budgets his way to drug fueled madness. His business partner Major Banks, is played by Kevin Spacey, who is as believable as a stuffy British businessman as he was as Bobby Darin. Then there is Pam Ferris as Miss Violet Shenton, Joe Meek’s landlady. Mrs. Shenton is a pleasant, motherly woman, the last person you’d expect to be the victim of a violent murder. She breezes in and out of sequences, asking for rent here, trying to jolly her tenant out of a dark funk there. Without her, there would be no movie. Or there would be, and Joe Meek would be a tragic martyr to success, shady bookkeeping, shifting industry trends and/or on amphetamines. Take your pick. Meek was gay when homosexuality was illegal in Great Britain, musically illiterate when many clever lads and lasses were rewriting musical history and he was a helluva music producer, bold and innovative.

“Telstar”, “Have I The Right” and “Just Like Eddie” are musical footnotes, not landmarks. In spite of all his flaws, Joe Meek seems to be remembered fondly by his colleagues, some of whom appear in this film. I wish “Telstar” did a better job helping us to see the Joe they thought they knew.

© 2009 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 12/30/09
Movie Magazine International