The story is a modern day fable of the young innocent at large in a sea of eccentric 'sharks' eager to take advantage of his naivety.
Camera: Ken Slater & Ray Wadlow
Sound: Greg Baker & Howard Perks
Edited by Harry Stephenson & John Crumpton
Written & Directed by John Crumpton
Frank Thrower Harry Stephenson
Mr. Laxey Stuart Lees
Bartender, Steward & Labourer Gavin Bennett
Motorcycle Enthusiast Mike Knights
Drug Pusher Trevor Roe
Muscleman Derek Roberts
Australian Steward Dave Drane
Chef Ray Wadlow
Cinema Usherette Nicola Malleson
Sea Scout David Lowther
Release notes from 1973
In the now almost defunct tradition of British Film Comedies, 'Heave Too' is the story of Frank Thrower's first trip away from his domineering parents.
Frank embarks upon his fateful journey in Liverpool on board the 'Manx Maid' ferry destined for Douglas, Isle of Man. Along the way he encounters a bizarre assortment of fellow passengers, including Mr. Laxey, a dubious Manx Tourist Official, whose one-way 'conversation' consists entirely of quotes from Manx tourist brochures, a drug pusher, a Hell's Angel visiting the Island's TT competition, an Aussie steward who used to work for Cunnard but no longer does and a host of equally unlikely comic characters, including a guest appearance from the Great Man himself-Winston Churchill.
The film had several screenings in Britain in the 1970's & 1980's and possessed enough visual humour to entertain a mainly Dutch-speaking audience at Amsterdam's Milky Way Cinema.
The Lost Worlds of Heave Too (From notes found in an old file, probably written 1974)
"Not to be seasick is as pleasant as to be seasick is depressing"
Captain Jan de Hartog, A Sailor's Life.
After completing 'One More Chance', a co-production with Graham Langford I was up on Cloud 9. There were two reasons for my elation. Firstly the film looked extremely good and had been the hit of the 1972 Trent Polytechnic student film show.
Secondly, and more importantly I had found a colleague/friend (Graham) with whom I had an intuitive understanding and I hoped that our working together again might be the start of something 'big'.However there were drawbacks to the situation. I still had a year to complete of my Fine Art Course whereas Graham had finished his Theatre Design course and was urgently looking around for a job in film or TV, using OMC as his calling card.
There were further complications, as after putting nine months of concerted effort into 'One More Chance' I seemed to be experiencing the film equivalent of post-natal depression. It was something I couldn't define at the time but subsequent experience has shown that after vast amounts of time, and effort have been expended on writing, filming, editing of a project, there is an inevitable 'down' and during the summer of 1972 I was feeling it
Plus the $64,000 question has raised its ugly head- What would be the subject of the next film was I going to make? I was feeling intellectually drained and had perhaps 'peaked too soon' as I felt the pressure to produce something 'better' than 'One More Chance' for my Final Year Diploma in Art & Design assessment. It would be neither an easy ask nor an easy task.
There had been elements of humour to his story and it remains a very early example of the mock-rockumentary so I began thinking about making a comedy of some description though the subject matter eluded me.
I began reading books on the psychology of humour. Incidentally as a by product the concept of the Free Laugh Exchange was born whereby individuals would go into a booth in the Nottingham city centre and request a joke on a specific topic, say the police and in return they had to leave a 'donated joke' on a topic of their choosing. Another great idea that never quite got off the ground.
However I digress but during my research I did come across one paragraph, which in effect stated 'that one of the simplest methods of making an audience laugh, is by showing somebody in a situation that they themselves would not want to be in and which the somebody in the predicament does not recognise as funny'. A pretty basic observation one might think. Yes indeed, all I needed was to find a situation that had not been done to death by preceding filmmakers and a somebody to appear in it.I'd recently been told an amusing anecdote by Darryl Hunt who'd been in 'One More Chance' playing bass as one of the Brothel Creepers, Shane Ventura's backing band. (Later he performed the same role for another Shane, Shane MacGowan where for many years he was The Pogues bass player.)
Anyhow he'd been on a cruise with his father to the Med on a large ship that possessed a cinema to entertain the passengers. While crossing the Bay of Biscay a storm blew up and by a strange co-incidence the film 'Lord Jim' was being screened to a packed audience on board just as the sea was getting rougher.
During one of the film's stormy sequences the vessel was moving so much that it caused a mass exodus from the cinema. Only Darryl's Dad being an old sea salt remained unaffected. Exit stage left in pursuit of a sick bucket!
It was at least the seed of an idea and all that was needed were more incidents and characters to fill out the film script. There was a source nearby, as I'd become a drinking buddy with fellow Fine Art student Gavin Bennett.
Originating from Peel, Isle of Man, Gavin was a student in the year below me who'd worked during the summer vacations as a steward for the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company crossing between Liverpool and Douglas. I wrote to him during the summer of 1972 but he was sceptical of the idea's logistics and wrote back in his usual blunt way saying 'Plenty of first hand information about seasickness but how the fuck can you make a film of it in Nottingham, on the Trent perhaps?'When we did meet up in the autumn of that year he entertained me with some great tales from the (Irish) Sea. The funniest tale, from what I can remember, was when passengers were sometimes 'caught short' with queasiness and would reach for the nearest receptacle to hand. Often it was the paper takeaway Isle of Man Steam Packet Company food bags printed on the side as they were with the catchy if somewhat unfortunate slogan 'A meal in a moment'.
Unfortunately we were never able to locate one of the bags so the gag wasn't possible to do.However Gavin did have a contact at the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company so I asked our tutor, Peter Cartwright to write on my behalf to the General Manager asking for a concessionary rate for us to travel to the Island. In the letter he hinted that my film would benefit the Manx tourist industry and unbelievably we received a favourable response 'in view of the possible advantages consequent upon advertising' (Scan in letter IOMSPC to be sent)
Indeed, when in need, advertise and as I was still short of funny incidents for the voyage I put adverts in the personal columns of the Nottingham Post and in Private Eye but not much came back of use.
However I did manage to weave together some of Gavin's anecdotal seasickness stories and added some original ideas into a very loose narrative.
When I'd originally thought of the seasickness situation as being the basis of a comedy film it seemed so obvious so why hadn't anyone done it before?
Well of course like all 'original ideas' someone has, research told me that there had been precedents, Charlie Chaplin's 'The Immigrant' and Buster Keaton's 'The Navigator' had both featured mal de mer scenes in those films and other sea-faring silent comedies had milked it as well.
Nonetheless, to my knowledge there had never been a film completely devoted to the assorted and various ways in which nausea can be experienced whilst at sea. Thus the situation was set up. Now all that was needed was the 'somebody' or central comic character.
In no way can I claim that my first (and eventually final) choice for the hero was original. He would be naïve, shy and completely unaware of the ways of the world. His family tree could be traced back through Michael Crawford as Frank Spencer, via Norman Wisdom, begotten of George Formby and right back to the French branch of the family, Voltaire's Candide.
Although I had hated Crawford in Some Mother's Do Have 'em I nevertheless commandeered his character's first name Frank and married it to Thrower (a bad pun) and so Frank Thrower was born, or should I say launched?
It would be his first trip away from his possessive mother's clutches and inevitably he would fall victim to the 'sharks' of the outside world. These sharks would at least be (early 1970's) contemporary. A drug pusher and a Hells Angel on their way to the TT races being just two of a motley crew of rogues, reprobates and ne'er-do-wells, that Frank encounters on his 'trip'.
Unfortunately for me Graham Langford, had landed himself a job with the BBC in Newcastle so Harry Stephenson, later of Plummet Airlines, stepped into the breech and we set off on 21st March 1973 in Darryl Hunt's Ford Transit van to Liverpool and then onward on the Manx Maid to Douglas, the Isle of Man.
On board the ferry we filmed transitional shots with Harry going in and out of doors with the intention of using them to 'bridge' and inter-cut with studio based scenes to be shot on our return in Nottingham.
The original title was the no frills 'Sea-sickness' but it was changed before release to 'Heave Too'. It was a steal from a Bonzo Dog Band track whose name escapes me but which went…'The Captain says he's going to heave too' (barf sound FX) and the title appeared, spelt out in Heinz Alphabetti Spaghetti letters on screen, followed shortly afterwards by a mop clearing it away.
In (bad) taste terms it went downhill from there but was great fun to make. It always went down well with audiences (doubtless to come up later?)
One last note. The end titles were written on stamped postcards (scan in from photos) as an economy measure, an idea used recently in BBC's 'Sorted' drama series.
Like I said earlier there's no such thing as an original idea.