Filmed in London by Initial Film and Television Prods. in association with VVL & RPTA for BBC TV. Executive producer, Malcolm Gerrie; producer, Brendan Hughes; director, Roger Pomphrey; The omnipotence of Dusty Springfield’s voice – and the high-water mark it established in Britain, at least for female singers – is perhaps best explicated by the central protagonist in Nick Hornby’s recent bestseller, “High Fidelity”: To understand when two soul mates have met is to reach the depth of Springfield’s interpretation of Burt Bacharach’s “The Look of Love.” In that one song, Brit Hornby writes, “That is what I thought it was all going to be like when I was married. … There was going to be this sexy woman with a sexy voice … whose devotion to me shone from every pore.”
And that was written 30 years after she recorded the ballad. Springfield registered 10 Top 40 hits between 1964 and ’69 in the U.S., hardly a reflection of the impact and hold she had over Brit audiences. Her success at home was just shy of a coronation, and that fanaticism imbues the superficial yet enjoyable “South Bank Show” installment “Dusty Springfield: Full Circle.”
Docu celebrates the ’60s according to Dusty by using historical TV footage that includes a duet with Jimi Hendrix, talking with Woody Allen and singing “Wimoweh” with her out-of-tune folk trio, the Springfields. Recent footage of fellow musicians adds to her lore: Martha Reeves explains how Springfield introduced Motown acts to the U.K.; “Absolutely Fabulous” creators Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French provide a kookiness through off-the-wall interviews of the songstress; Bacharach, shot inexplicably while skiing, explains her unique imprint.
As comfy as the show gets, it never explains why she dropped out of the music scene in the early ’70s. It leaps straight from the brilliant Memphis sessions of 1969 to her 1987 recording with the Pet Shop Boys, “What Have I Done to Deserve This?,” and concludes with a 1995 session in Nashville. Great concert footage is never identified (some of it appears to be relatively current), and special ends with the recording of “A Very Fine Love” with no coda to explain its outcome. Loose editing provides ample amounts of Springfield but gushing interviewees are often redundant.