Review: ‘Bring Me the Head of Mavis Davis’

A wannabe waspish black comedy set in the Brit music industry, "Bring Me the Head of Mavis Davis" ends up a TV-style effort decapitated by a lame script and often-clumsy direction. Local tube stars Rik Mayall and Jane Horrocks mug their way through this yarn of a diskery owner who tries to deep-six his fading star, and guesting Danny Aiello looks like he caught the wrong plane. Pic, which opened Jan. 16 in London, looks headed for a fast trip through theaters.

A wannabe waspish black comedy set in the Brit music industry, “Bring Me the Head of Mavis Davis” ends up a TV-style effort decapitated by a lame script and often-clumsy direction. Local tube stars Rik Mayall and Jane Horrocks mug their way through this yarn of a diskery owner who tries to deep-six his fading star, and guesting Danny Aiello looks like he caught the wrong plane. Pic, which opened Jan. 16 in London, looks headed for a fast trip through theaters.

The manic Mayall essays his usual screen persona of a human being with absolutely no redeeming qualities — here label founder Marty Starr, whose greatest creation, Marla Dorland (Horrocks), has become a spoiled diva who no longer draws ’em like she used to. Marty is up to his oily neck in debt and alimony payments to his grasping ex-wife (Jaclyn Mendoza), as well as faced with trying to promote the talentless son of a proto-Mafioso (Aiello), who threatens to cut off more than his pay checks if he doesn’t get his kid on TV fast.

Inspired by the history of Elvis and others, Marty decides to make Marla (aka Mavis Davis prior to her career) a bestselling legend by arranging a splashy death during her current tour. Helped and hindered by rookie assassin Clint (Philip Martin-Brown), Marty finds Marla curiously impervious to death.

Both Mayall (“Drop Dead Fred”) and Horrocks (“Life Is Sweet,” Bubbles in “AbFab”) have yet to find bigscreen niches for their considerable comedic talents, and though both have their moments here, Craig Strachan’s script is a generally dull blade for their cutting humor. Lackluster helming by TV director John Henderson (“Loch Ness”) is no help, and is incapable of pointing up what laughs the pic does possess. Aiello simply looks embarrassed.

Tech credits are routine, with Clive Tickner’s lensing horribly underlit in many interiors. Most of the budget seems to have gone to Horrocks’ production numbers (she does her own singing), which have a style the rest of the pic can only hope for.

Bring Me the Head of Mavis Davis

(BRITISH)

Production

A Goldcrest Films Intl./BBC Films presentation of a Mission film. (International sales: Goldcrest, London.) Produced by Stephen Colegrave, Joanne Reay. Executive producers, David M. Thompson, John Quested, Guy Collins. Co-producer, Michael Dreyer. Directed by John Henderson. Screenplay, Craig Strachan, from an original idea by Joanne Reay. Camera (Technicolor), Clive Tickner; editor, Paul Endacott; music, Christopher Tyng; production design, Michael Carlin; art direction, Karen Wakefield; costume design, Helen McCabe; sound (Dolby), Ian Voigt; stunt coordinator, Peter Brayham; assistant director, Carrie Rodd; casting, Ros and John Hubbard. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 10, 1997. Running time: 99 MIN.

With

Marty Starr ..... Rik Mayall Marla Dorland ..... Jane Horrocks Rathbone ..... Danny Aiello Percy Stone ..... Ronald Pickup Clint ..... Philip Martin-Brown Cynthia ..... Jaclyn Mendoza Duncan ..... Mark Heap Paul Rathbone ..... Paul Keating
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