In addition, its star – and writer, Peter Capaldi – as Gavin Bellini, wasn’t really on my radar since he was one of those actors I recognised, but couldn’t pinpoint anything he’d been in of note, and at the age of 20, I didn’t really watch any TV drama, so I wouldn’t have seen anything he was in on the tellybox, although IMDB reminds me he was in Dangerous Liaisons which is a great film.
Since then, as well as Doctor Who, BBC Scotland’s Field of Blood, excelling as Malcolm Tucker in The Thick Of It, and also one of the better Doctors in Doctor Who (albeit saddled with mostly terrible scripts), he had a role in World War Z at the time when we were all trying to work out who that next Doctor would be. His role in this film? A member of the World Health Organisation, and his character is listed as: W.H.O. Doctor. I should’ve realised 🙂
Oh, and even if I’d wanted to see this at the time, I would’ve had to resort to getting it on video, and that meant a film which had had its anamorphic Panavision 2.35:1 widescreen vistas cropped down to 4:3. The number of times I campaigned to get films released in widescreen, as well as TV stations showing them properly… thankfully, those bad days of cropped films are mostly behind us (except when ITV and Channel 5 don’t play ball).
After a potted family history of how Gavin’s family came into the ice cream business, and how he had much more of an artistic bent as a child rather than being interested enough in ice cream to actually produce it, he’s turned down for touting his slightly-too-violent children’s book with children’s publisher Miss Trumble (Frances Barber). However, wouldn’t such companies normally recommend another company they know who might be interested?
That said, I liked the fact that her office window is right by London’s Tower Bridge, yet her desk is turned AWAY from the window, thus completely missing the view. Why would you do that?!
Gavin’s also rather the black sheep of the family, having escaped from Scotland down to London in search of a better life, and not wanting to get involved in ice cream. However, he’s been recalled back home, and must get to Glasgow for 7.30pm “on the dot” for his Dad’s 60th birthday.
To get there, he’s got to pimp his ride – a rather beat up old Triumph which he’s worked magic on to get it back into working order. I suspect it’s an entirely different car, for filming purposes, although, I’m so out of tune with cars that if mine’s not even making an attempt to move forward for less than a split-second, I’m on the phone to the RAC.
Before long on his journey, he chances upon Yvonne (Elaine Collins), who’s in need of a lift to Glasgow, which just happens to be where he’s going… and she knows a bit about cars, too. Perhaps she should tag along?
There’s a lot to enjoy with this, such as with Gavin hogging the middle lane of the motorway at 40mph, making himself look rather a tit, a conversation between “Travel sweets” vs “ordinary sweets”, dwindling cash supplies, Yvonne having some secrets as to why she’s out on the road, every company having the slogan “We care”, an impromptu dance of The Slosh to The Cult’s Lil Devil, Simon Callow as a man called Eddie Cherdowski, whose relevance will come about as you watch the film, and a much younger Clive Russell, eating up the screen as a sarcastic policeman. If you haven’t seen him in BBC2’s Semi-Detached as the father of Lee Mack, you really must, and series 1 is on the iPlayer in full, now.
Now, although in this review I’ve not yet got to the extras section, I’ll cover something else. As soon as I posted this review, Plumeria Pictures posted the following tweet, below, with the text: “A harsh 1 out of 10 for the special feature (commentary with director & producer) dragged us down to 6/10. Harsh! But literally the only review of the Blu-ray we’ve seen anywhere – so much appreciated!”
I’ve never had anyone complain about my extra score before, in 25 years of doing review, so I tried replying with “The main thing is that the film is an 8/10 so I wouldn’t focus on the extras score. That’s purely a numerical thing based on the amount of extras content. I judge all discs the same. Some have few extras, some have loads.”
Alas, no-one reads replies, and just blindly follow the mantra of the first, as many people piled-on, such as one saying, “The commentary is worth 10/10!” – Well, no, as I explained (which you didn’t read), that’s not how it works.
As such, I muted the conversation because I can do without the headache.
There were plenty of positives in my Soft Top review, along with pictures of the package, yet Plumeria focused on the ONE negative for your tweet, making it incredibly unbalanced. I asked if they would delete that tweet because it gives an unfair impression of the review as a whole.
Their reply? “Sure if you amend the 1/10 for extras” with a thumbs-up emoji.
My reply back: “No, you don’t dictate how I do my reviews. At least I paint a balanced picture in them. Your tweet gave an unfair impression of a balanced review. You should delete the tweet, and make a balanced tweet in its place.”
Very droll, they replied: “No, you don’t dictate how I do my tweets.” – not getting the point that my review is balanced, yet their tweet is not.
And, so, here we are. I’ve had to detail things in this review because people won’t go through an entire tweet conversation, as I’ve proved, yet they’ll read this review.
You can see the Plumeria Pictures tweet below. And when I tried to reply as I mentioned above, they just responded with GIFs from the film, such as Peter Capaldi pulling a silly face, in a bid to take the piss. Still, if they want to be assholes about it, that’s up to them. In my view, it’s not the way to run a company.
Oh, and then they blocked me, which you can also see below. That’s their answer to ignoring any chance of having a discussion.
Soft Top Hard Shoulder Blu-ray review by @DVDFever. A harsh 1 out of 10 for the special feature (commentary with director & producer) dragged us down to 6/10. Harsh! But literally the only review of the Blu-ray we've seen anywhere – so much appreciated! https://t.co/g6v6mS9ziB
— Plumeria Pictures (@PlumeriaPics) November 16, 2020
Also, for the geeks like me, director Stefan Schwartz features many glorius locations along with great use of juxtaposition of the 2.35:1 frame, whether it’s placing two people on the screen opposite each other, or a scene with a phone box on the left – and the two leads on the other. There’s also a moment where their car goes under a bridge, as a barge goes over the river above it; and another scene with a flock of birds flying past, making me think they were released right next to the car at that time.
Soft Top Hard Shoulder has great chemistry between the two leads, plus some superb music from Chris Rea including the theme, and this film certainly deserves to be much more widely known that it was, or at least has been to date. The picture looks fantastic for a film that’s almost 30 years old, and was shot on film at the time, so I expect some remastering has gone on for this release.
The menu is a static image of the cardboard sleeve shot of the two leads, with options for English subtitles and audio commentary. At the time of writing, while I found out one of the voices is director Stefan Schwartz, I’m guessing the other is producer Richard Holmes, although they don’t introduce themselves at the start.
There’s no other extras, sadly, but there are subtitles in English and 15 chapters, the last one being saved for the credits. I like to aim for one every 5 minutes in a film – which would make 18, so it’s almost there.
This new release also comes in a cardboard sleeve, as per the picture below. It looks great, but just one slight issue – once the Blu-ray case is housed away inside, it’s a bit of a bugger to get it out without opening up the other end of the sleeve. You have to spend a bit of time shaking it out of the box. Still, don’t let that dissuade you from buying this. It’s a minor quibble.
Oh, and one other oddity – I can’t actually find the catalogue number of this release anywhere. It’s not on the cardboard sleeve, nor the main box.
Soft Top Hard Shoulder is out now on Blu-ray. There’s currently no DVD available.
Running time: 91 minutes
Distributor: Plumeria Pictures
Released: October 26th 2020
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio
Subtitles: English SDH
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (Anamorphic Panavision)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Stefan Schwartz
Producer: Richard Holmes
Screenplay: Peter Capaldi
Music: Chris Rea
Gavin Bellini: Peter Capaldi
Yvonne: Elaine Collins
Miss Trumble: Frances Barber
Animal Rights Activist: Catherine Russell
John: Jeremy Northam
Uncle Salvatore: Richard Wilson
Homeless Youth: Peter Ferdinando
Nancy: Sophie Hall
Mr. Young: Scott Hall
Eddie Cherdowski: Simon Callow
Karla: Phyllis Logan
Campbell: Robert James
Brodie: Andrew Downie
Mrs. Tutty: Ann Scott-Jones
Peggy: Lindy Whiteford
Man in Tiny Car: Bill Gavin
Stevie: Michael Nardone
Kevin the Guru: Billy McColl
Clegg: Clive Russell
Radio Voices: Jeremy Lee, Kate Harding
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.