It Couldn’t Happen Here has been out of circulation for decades, with the last home video release being on VHS back in 1992. It’s a massive curiosity, because it’s the one and only film the Pet Shop Boys have made in their decades-long career. Originally it started out as a “video album” for their second album, Actually, directed by British surrealist and documentary filmmaker Jack Bond, but gradually it took shape as a non-linear, feature-length musical film. BFI, which has released the majority of Bond’s features, has compiled a lavish special edition.
Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, who are the duo in the Pet Shop Boys, play themselves in basically strung-together music videos, all of which accompany songs off their first two albums, Please and Actually. Very quickly the surrealism takes hold when Lowe starts throwing various items into a seemingly bottomless trunk at a bed & breakfast he is staying at. The actor Joss Ackland plays a dual role of a raving priest and a hitchhiker who Neil and Chris pick up—who may be the killer who is then described on the radio. There are various dance numbers, a ventriloquist’s dummy, a drive through a battle zone, a deranged fight pilot who is obsessed with the book The Structure of Time, and more assorted oddness.
It’s not quite the lost classic that some consider it to be, but it’s hands down more interesting than the old pop-group-in-a-film schtick. You can tell it’s far more Jack Bond’s film then the Pet Shop Boys’ movie, as the group seem to just be along for the ride rather than giving huge amounts of creative input. Tennant didn’t always agree with Bond’s creative choices, but it the end he was fine with the finished film. It mainly was meant to serve as a substitute for performing live, something the Pet Shop Boys had never planned to do. They would eventually cave in to public pressure and perform live with Derek Jarman supplying projections. The Pet Shop Boys and Jarman had already starting collaborating by the time It Couldn’t Happen Here was released on the controversial video for the single “It’s a Sin.”
The release from BFI includes the film on both Blu-Ray and DVD. The extras include a commentary track from Jack Bond, James Dillon (co-screenwriter) and Simon Archer (lighting cameraman), plus interviews with Bond and choreographer Arlene Phillips. The video for the Pet Shop Boys’ cover of “Always on My Mind” is included, which infamously kept “Fairytale of New York” off the Christmas Number 1 spot; the video is comprised of footage from the film. The trailer and various text-based extras finish off the disc, including various drafts of the “script.” Neil Tennant may not be interviewed on the disc, but the booklet includes a new interview with him on the film, along with various essays on the film and an on-set diary and an introduction from Bond.