Imagine this: Denmark. Small country. Small market. Subcultures are tiny when you only have five and a half million people to take a slice from. Would it make sense for any businessman to sell anything that's not going to cater to the majority? Result: Pretty much all we get around here is of the mainstream variety. Hence a lot of fine films never make it to Denmark. It's either Hollywood for all or 'arty farty' social realism for the few. British biopics seem to fall somewhere between those two chairs. It must have been the case with "Telstar: The Joe Meek Story". Sadly. Maybe it was overlooked everywhere outside the UK?
Joe Meek is not a household name, but if you're over 30 years old his biggest hit "Telstar" should ring a bell. In fact in 1962 it was the first number one hit in the USA by a British band. Joe Meek himself is an interesting subject to say the least. He was a true original and innovator as an independent record producer - besides him being tone deaf. Add to that: Obsessed with the occult, gay (in 1962, mind you) and allegedly suffering from depression, schizophrenia and a galloping paranoia. All the ingredients for an interesting story. One that follows his triumphs and ultimate tragedy. And then there's the string of amazing 60's hits that he produced with various bands.
I can imagine that some critics would have given it a hard time at its release, but I've found my own way to enjoy it. Does it work as a film? Yes and no. "Telstar" is based on a stage musical and it shows. And this is how you should see this film. The plot feels like something that just strings all the musical scenes together - not much more. And that's okay. Meek's legacy is his music. Con O'Neill who played Joe Meek in the stage musical also portrays him in the film and does a truly amazing job. We also see Kevin Spacey in a small, but hilarious and underplayed role as the moustached - and very British - major Wilfred Banks, the investor in Meek's hits.
Despite the fact that the story itself is a tragedy the music overpowers it and we have a fun, entertaining and beautiful piece of music history on film to help new generations discover Joe Meek. It does not pretend to be more than that and that's fine with me.