A longform video that showcases the British pop group ABC, using songs from their album "The Lexicon of Love" to tell a spy-caper story of how the unsuspecting lead singer, Martin Fry, is duped into fronting the band because of his striking resemblance to another man associated with espionage. Will he stumble onto the deception before it is too late for him? [written by acidxian]
Martin Fry is asked to join a band as they embark on tour heading east through Europe. But at the height of their popularity the band tries to secretly replace Fry with a Russian spy in order to sneak him back behind the iron curtain. It is then up to Martin to battle his doppelganger and make the world safe for New Romantic Synth Pop. [Wikipedia]
Cast/Darsteller: Martin Fry as Martin / Tad
David Palmer as David
Stephen Singleton as Stephen
Mark White as Mark
James Villiers as Tony Walmsley
Lisa Vanderpump as Samantha
Year/Jahr: November 1982
Production/Produktion: Midnight Films, Polygram Music Video
Filming Locations/Drehorte: Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, England, UK
Reviews / Rezensionen: Link
Julien Temple’s ‘Mantrap’ starring Martin Fry and ABC
Julien Temple directed Mantrap, an under-rated and often considered “lost” featurette starring 1980’s New Romantic group ABC. Like a lot of Temple’s work it’s full of quirky originality and style, which compensates for the lack of script. Mantrap can be best summed-up by its Wikipedia entry:
Martin Fry is asked to join [a] band as they embark on tour heading east through Europe. But at the height of their popularity the band tries to secretly replace Fry with a Russian spy in order to sneak him back behind the iron curtain. It is then up to Martin to battle his doppelganger and make the world safe for New Romantic Synth Pop.
Temple is a true maverick, who has more than a touch of genius about him. His films always deliver great visual imagination as disguise for a weak script (Absolute Beginners), but when Temple has a good script, like Frank Cottrell Boyce’s Pandaemonium, or is working with straight non-fiction narrative Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten, the superb documentary on Dr Feelfgood, Oil City Confidential, or The Filth and the Fury, his talents soar.
Though slight, Mantrap is well worth watching for 101 reasons, from its classic soundtrack by ABC, its style, its visuals, its concert footage, Martin Fry’s good looks, its silliness, its joie de vivre….etc.
Seminal New Romantics ABC and punk filmmaker Julien Temple pay homage to 50s espionage flicks in this hour long folly from 1983. Martin Fry has the look of a Hitchcock protagonist, but by his own admission, his acting was a little “mahogany”. Temple captures the isolation and paranoia of the former Communist Bloc, but forgets to tell a story in the process.
Nonetheless, this curiosity from the naive dawn of pop-video has enough to keep fans and casual viewers entertained. The 6th form script about some Cold War double dealing will occasionally make you wince, but is padded out with some wonderful footage of ABC’s (sadly never repeated) World Tour.
B-Movie regulars and wannabes try their best amidst the ensuing nonsense - but it’s pretty much in vain, so don’t expect John le Carré! But do delight in a soundtrack taken from arguably the greatest debut album of all time - “The Lexicon of Love”.
A B C - "Mantrap" (1983 film)
Postby Sarah Tarrant on Mon Nov 27, 2006 9:33 am
Here am I again, back on my soapbox highlighting something! Hoping that this will stimulate memories, thoughts and comments with:- Back in 1986 one of the first titles released by fledging video release company ?Channel 5? was a short glossy music promo film called ?Mantrap? (under cat no. : CFV00042) which to my knowledge has never been re-released on video or on DVD since then which I personally think is extremely disappointing as in my opinion it is a neglected and forgotten gem. As one of the most successful acts of the early 80s this program utilises the live performance potential of ABC to great effect in a story that blends tracks from the immensely successful ?Lexicon of Love? album with an intriguing, almost James Bond themed plot about a Russian defector attempting to flee to the west by impersonating and replacing lead singer Martin Fry. On the back of my copy of this tape the blurb comprehensively encapsulates the contents by saying ?File under ESPIONAGE THRILLER: MANTRAP. Follow ABC on a path that leads from obscurity to International Stardom. From London to the heart of the Soviet State. Across the stages of some of Europe?s most famous venues: towards a Darker Secret.? This is indeed borne out as the richness of location filming (quoted as featuring ?England, France and Austria?) certainly further enriches what is undoubtedly an extremely enjoyable nostalgic feeling fifty odd minute journey through a music enriched exciting drama which is an excellent showcase of the live performance potential of ABC in their early jazz feeling pop glory days.
The familiarity with 007 is used straight away as we see the debonair and apparently down on his luck Martin strolling into a darkened casino where he hopes for some luck whilst playing Roulette. A beautiful, sultry mystery lady suddenly appears by his side and, undoubtedly with some ulterior motive, guides him to considerable gambling success. Martin eventually decides to call it a night and looks round for his benefactor but ?Samantha? is nowhere to be seen. Eager to find her he cashes in his winnings and then still clutching the money contained within an envelope rushes outside into the cold night air calling her name. As he gets to the gates of the casino building two men, seeing a potential ?get rich quick? opportunity, rush forth and knock him to the ground and prepare to relieve their victim of his winnings before three other figures (now clearly identified as the other members of ABC) come to his aid alongside Samantha with a proposition to make. They want Martin to join them on a European tour, if he can sing! We then switch to the next morning and on a deserted opera stage where the band and assorted classical instrumentalists setting up. It is here that floppy haired saxophone playing Stephen Singleton welcomes the still rather woozy Martin and invites him to sing the first song ?Show Me?. During his ?sound check? rendition the venue changes from rehearsal to a full blown on tour performance. During the next live number ?Many Happy Returns? we occasionally see guitarist Mark White significantly retreating to the back of the stage to adjust controls on a box like device which turns out to be a transmitter. In a darkened flat a figure stirs on a bed. As he rises a black coloured military uniform can be seen hanging on the wall. He makes his way across the room towards a similar device and having manipulated the controls the music of ABC wafts into the dingy apartment where we slowly see the first steps during this and the next number ?Look of Love? by this individual to completely emulate the appearance and mannerisms of the ABC frontman. As this song concludes we then fade into a night club scene where Martin joins David (Palmer), Stephen (Singleton), Mark (White) and Samantha (Lisa Vanderpump) celebrating the success of their tour so far by presenting their lead singer with both his earnings and a celebratory cake. Although used to signing autographs and having his photo taken Martin is clearly unsettled by the level of interest taken in him, apparently, as we later discover with good reason. He also appears to be the only person showing any level of suspicion regarding the cigar smoking manager Tony Walmsley (played with laid back panache by James Villiers), again his concerns will be borne out later on.
paragraph 3 & 4...
The four lads board a ferry from Dover and high above the windswept deck looking down on his three fellow band members Martin practices, ?acapella like?, the words to ?4 Ever 2 Gether? with the ever attentive Samantha standing by his side. Wafting back into a stage performance preceded briefly by their entrance into the building past crowds of screaming fans (and ?Lexicon of Love 1983? tour posters) the gold larme suits make an appearance before the song fades into next number ?All of My Heart?. The closing bars of this song blend into a stop motion dream sequence experienced by Martin (whom lies on a bed in a European long distance sleeper train carriage) where he finds himself entering a nightclub where the rest of the band are playing. He encounters and attempts to flirt with a clearly uninterested Samantha. Martin wakes when the dream ends with him miniaturised and running around the table attempting to avoid an upturned champagne glass with which Samantha is attempting to trap him.
Acting as a musical interlude the main and more forcefully feeling ?Mantrap? theme plays out as we subsequently watch Martin chasing Samantha around a picturesque town, through deserted period styled buildings, a local bar and an elaborate church before touring is recommenced with a live rendition of ?Poison Arrow?. The intrigue continues as a poisoned glass of water is surreptitiously manoeuvred on stage which when drunk leads Martin to become rather groggy and disorientated. Whilst this is happening the Russian impersonator makes his way in through the back door of the theatre and is ready to encounter Martin when he staggers off stage. The two of them meet and whilst an extended instrumental sequence of ?Poison Arrow? continues these men, both wearing identical gold larme suits and trademark blonde hair, fight in and around the cellar of the theatre. Such is the conflicting camera angles and cut shots it is impossible for the viewer to identify which is real and which is the impostor however as ?Poison Arrow? fades away and the opening tightly paced notes of ?Tears are Not Enough? filter in one of the men manages to knock the other unconscious and then slowly makes his way to the stage. With a clenched fist of defiance aimed towards Samantha the figure takes his place in front of the audience and whilst it is the usually confident and resolute performance from the ABC frontman, in the context of the story, are you watching the genuine article or the carbon copy? Well of course ?Mantrap? was always going to end with a ?happily ever after? ending so Walmsley?s plans for a Russian defection under the cover of ABC?s tour are ultimately frustrated in a most satisfactory way for both Martin and the impostor, washed up on the shore of some East European shore.
paragraph 5 & 6...
In my opinion ?Mantrap? embodies the very flavour and spirit of ABC?s debut long player ?Lexicon of Love? and effectively illustrates both the widescale popular appeal and live performance ability that was prevalent in that early and highly successful time in their career. Not only can it be viewed as a fascinating ?pop time capsule? but it is also succeeds in blending timeless classic pop music with an engaging, dramatic storyline which makes good albeit limited use of location filming to convincingly convey the ?band on tour? flavour of the film. I strongly believe that this film should return from the dusty archives and gain a digitally remastered DVD release to what I am sure would be a large and very appreciative audience whom still hold the musical achievements of ABC in high regard.
So what could possibly be holding up such a release? In my opinion I guess you would have to look for consent from the key people both in front of and behind the camera for this to happen. From the recent ?Bands Reunited? it appears that both Martin Fry and drummer David Palmer would more than likely endorse such a move however there must surely be a question mark hanging over the opinions of both Stephen Singleton and Mark White. From that program Stephen seemed to look back on those early days with fondness despite not taking part in the reunion so he might be persuaded to support the resurrection of ?Mantrap?. The extremely reclusive Mark White could potentially be the biggest obstacle although of a portion of the royalties from potential sales might help convince him. There are also guest stars James Villiers (Walmsley) and Lisa Vanderpump (Samantha) to be considered as well. Behind the camera the biggest name is undoubtedly noted film producer Julien Temple whom is probably best know for the David Bowie starring film ?Absolute Beginners?. Both he, producer Michael Hamlyn and Temple?s screenplay co-writer Richard Burridge would need to be consulted. Maybe I?m just overanalysing the situation but for a short film made in 1983 it really surprises me that no one has looked into the possibility of releasing this on the DVD format.
...and that's me done... so over to you guys!
ABC great for ABC enthusiasts | 20 February 2006 | by Lars H (United States)|
First off, this is not a movie per say . It is a full length music video and should be approached as such. Consider that it was created in the early 80's during the MTV video explosion. If you are a product of the 80's and more importantly a fan of ABC then there could not have been a better source of material to produce a full length video from, this is the album The Lexicon of Love. The drawback is it was created during a time of low resolution 4:3 screens and dreaded VHS. So finding a good copy with good sound quality can be a challenge. Once you get past this you can focus on the subject. Martin Fry and ABC were early MTV front runners in the second British Invasion of the early 1980's. Their album "The Lexicon of Love" was hailed as the greatest album ever in some U.K. music publications. They stormed Europe in their niche which was new wave dance. The style was dignified, classy disco. This work was produced by the Buggles very own Trevor Horn whom also produced Yes' 90125, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and Seal to name a few. In a time when music videos were a required part of any album release ABC leveraged the idea into a concept video. The theme for Mantrap is just that. A Mantrap. Without giving away the story Martin is a lone man picked up by a band, manager and woman all in one night. His life is transformed by an audition with an up and coming band called… ABC. If he can sing he can join the band. From there they travel Europe featuring only the songs from the Lexicon of Love album. It is a simple espionage twist with a dash of romance. They kept it simple. In the end you have to look for the clues in order to understand the ending. It becomes clear that the director wanted very little dialogue in the video to keep the music pace flowing. Everyone including the band plays characters in the story. So you can't expect to learn anything real about Martin Fry, Mark White or the rest of the band. If and only if you honestly appreciate this album you will love this video for the musical value. The story is weak but not sad. Martin seems to have reasonable acting skills while the rest of band phones it in. One song that is not on the Lexicon (Language) of Love album is the theme from Mantrap which is a variation of Poison Arrow. There is both an instrumental and vocal version. You get plenty of real ABC live exposure so even if you could care less about the story line there is some great video music to watch along the way. Most all songs are uninterrupted so you get the complete song to watch and listen in on. I'm rating this video high for production value in it's time. Not modern times. It is dated. It is a product of the 80's and should be judged as such. I was no fan of the director Julian Temple in many of his other efforts like David Bowie's Bluejean feature video, but on this occasion he didn't hurt the band ABC.