On location in Britain and Ireland
Superman IV in Milton Keynes? Carry on up the Khyber on Mount Snowdon? Liese Spencer presents a shot-by-shot guide to the towns and castles used as backdrops for some classic films
Friday 12 April 1996
Scandal-monger Ken Russell scored a double triumph while filming this rock opera on the South Coast. First, the theatre on South Parade, Southsea, where Tommy's mother meets her husband Frank burned down during filming. Then Russell was condemned by local clergy for turning St Andrew's church at Eastney into an idolatrous temple to Marilyn Monroe. Less disastrous was Russell's use of Pound's scrapyard in Portsmouth as the site for Tommy's holiday camp. The ship-breakers was strewn with buoys, which Ken jazzed up with a lick of silver paint and voila - giant pinballs.
2 WISH YOU WERE HERE
To get an authentic feel of suffocating seaside ennui, the producers of this period drama went to the retirement capital of Worthing, where they found several sites in need of little alteration. The bus depot where foul-mouthed rebel Lynda (Emily Lloyd) flaunts her new knickers to the conductors was used pretty much as it stands and the Dome Cinema, where Lynda's lover works as a projectionist also appears unchanged. A listed building, film-makers found the theatre replete with red carpet, mournful chandeliers and ancient projectors.
3 AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON
In a scary opening sequence, two keen American backpackers are attacked on the Yorkshire moors by a strange beast. In reality, the wild "moors" were Windsor Great Park, where you're more likely to bump into deer than four-legged friends of Satan. Stumbling into the less than friendly Slaughtered Lamb for a calming pint, the frightened pair are met with a hostile silence. The pub, which has come to epitomise the warm welcome handed out to tourists in some of England's rural areas can actually be found in the leafy suburb of Leatherhead. It is not known whether the commuters who drink at the Black Swan in Effingham actually protect their privacy with a pentangle chalked on the wall.
This stylised and tinted melodrama starred Deborah Kerr and Jean Simmons as Anglican nuns seething with illicit passion in the Himalayas but was filmed in the rather less exotic environs of Horsham in Sussex. Here, director Michael Powell discovered the gardens of Leonardslee, which provided authentic flora such as rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and magnolias in a natural valley with six lakes.
4 CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG
This whimsical children's film was shot in 1967 around High Wycombe, Bucks with Dick Van Dyke behind the wheel as an eccentric inventor and Sally Ann Howes as Truly Scrumptious. Permanently plastered, leading man Van Dyke scores as the ultimate drink driver. No wonder he thought his classic banger could fly.
FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL
The first wedding of the film was shot at the traditional stone church of St Michael's, Betchworth, near Dorking, where soaring temperatures insured a suitably idyllic scene but caused one elderly extra to keel over. Rowan Atkinson's tongue-tied priest presides over the following nuptials in a Roman Catholic church which is, in fact the chapel of The Royal Naval College at Greenwich, while Carrie's "Scottish" wedding actually took place at Albury Park in Surrey. Before her unsuccessful marriage, Carrie and Charles shop for the wedding dress at Albrissi in Sloane Square and go for a coffee at The Dome in Wellington Street WC2. And of course, the four-postered honeyroom suite at Amersham's Crown Hotel is now booked years ahead by couples who have seen the film, bought the video and now want to sleep in the bed where Charles (Hugh Grant) and Carrie (Andie MacDowell) first spend the night together.
Nic Roeg's disturbing piece of psychedelia was withheld for a couple of years after completion as the studio viewed it as almost morbidly decadent. Apocryphal gossip from the shoot has it that Keith Richards sat outside the millionaire pad in a Bentley while Mick Jagger had sex with his girlfriend, 60s icon Anita Pallenberg, inside. Interiors were filmed at a smart Kensington residence in Lowndes Square while shots of the exterior came from Powis Square.
5 DR DOLITTLE
In this children's favourite, Rex Harrison talked to the animals and they replied by pecking, scratching and biting the star or relieving themselves during his songs. Shooting in the ancient village of Castle Combe, the production company antagonised locals by damming the village brook to provide the necessary waterfront for the fictional village of Puddleby- on-the-Marsh. According to Harrison, a crack local resistance team, led by outraged resident Ranulph Fiennes plotted to dynamite the dam, but the crew eventually got their footage before moving to the studios of California to work with a better trained troupe of animal actors.
THE REMAINS OF THE DAY
The stunted romance between Mr Stevens and housekeeper Miss Kenton unravels over four English stately homes in this Merchant Ivory production. Dyrham Park, near Bath provided imposing exterior shots, while Corsham Court near Chippenham was used for interior scenes of Nazi- sympathiser Lord Darlington's library. Awkward exchanges on the staircase, between butler Stevens and housekeeper Kenton were grabbed from Powderham Castle near Exeter, while glum scenes in the servant's quarters were filmed "downstairs" at Badminton House in Gloucestershire.
6 IF ...
Brandon Lee may have had the ultimate revenge on his alma mater, but director Lindsay Anderson comes a close second. Anderson returned to his old school, Cheltenham college, to shoot this surreal indictment of establishment oppression. When his old headmaster asked if his film would be anything like Tom Brown's Schooldays, Lindsay agreed that they would share certain features, ommiting to mention that his violent story of student revolt featured a master's wife wandering naked along a corridor and scenes of vicious flogging. Senior pupil Malcolm McDowell was also rather different to the well-socialised Tom Brown, machine gunning his teachers and prefects in a speech day uprising.
7 SUPERMAN IV
Money must have been getting tight for this, the last of the Superman movies; how else to explain the banal choice of Milton Keynes to represent the futuristic Metropolis? When our superhero goes to the United Nations to proudly declare that he is disarming the world's nuclear arsenal, he has the indignity of visiting the new town's Central railway station, while a romantic tryst with girlfriend Mariel Hemingway takes place at a skyscraper hotel, known to 20th-century residents as the fantastically glamorous head office of mail order retail company Argos.
8 CARRY ON UP THE KHYBER
The Pass of Llanberis in Wales was about as far as the Carry On team ever got from Pinewood Studios and there's something strange about seeing them blowing around in the open air, the leaden sky reducing their larger- than-life characters to the stature of a straggly school trip. Here, the Third Foot and Mouth led by Sid James defend against the Burpas, foot soldiers to Kenneth Williams's evil Khazi of Kalabar and the famous pass, linking Afghanistan and Pakistan, is reached by a circuitous route around Mount Snowdon.
9 RYAN'S DAUGHTER
After Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia, David Lean turned his epic directorial qualities to a rural romance set in England and Ireland. During filming Leo McKern lost his glass eye in the sea and Trevor Howard and John Mills almost drowned but the film was an enormous success, boosting tourism for years to come with its breathtaking scenes of the Dingle peninsular. Lean completed the film in South Africa, but not before he had built a whole stone village called Kirrary in a desolate spot in the parish of Dunquin. Today, only a cobblestone street and some foundations reamin to bemuse future archeologists.
Although the Oscar-winning epic was set in 13th-century Scotland, the film was largely shot in Ireland due to the generous tax incentives available there. Dunsoghly Castle, just outside Dublin, stood in for Edinburgh Castle as it was felt that international audiences wouldn't recognise the difference. Using shots of both sides, Trim castle, 25 miles north west of Dublin economically doubled as both London and York. A medieval village was constructed at Ben Nevis, however, where Rob Roy pitched up a few weeks later to build their Highland settlement. Fortwilliam Jobcentre provided 200 extras for Braveheart and in nearby Corpath The Nevis bakery cashed in with "medieval bread".
Alan Parker's location manager had a nightmare, accommodating the director's lust for authenticity with 44 different sites. Avoiding picture postcard views of Dublin, the film-makers constructed a patchwork city, which, through the magical ellipses of film paradoxically came closer to the gritty working class area Doyle's book described. Parker also avoided star names and 3,000 locals were auditioned before 12 locals were chosen to take the leads.
11 ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES
This glossy, liberal interpretation of the folktale included a Satanic Sherriff of Nottingham and a tattooed Moor as Robin's best friend, so it's perhaps not surprising to find that the Prince of Thieves made his home not in Sherwood forest, but in Burnham Beeches. The 440-acre forest lies close to Shepperton Studios and therefore features in any number of different pictures. It is here, for example that Forest Whitaker's British soldier Brody makes a desperate run for it after being kidnapped by the IRA, in Neil Jordan's excellent thriller, The Crying Game.
12 WUTHERING HEIGHTS
This 1992 production may have died at the box-office over here, but Ralph Fiennes and Juliet Binoche as wild lovers Cathy and Heathcliffe were a big hit in Japan. Such is the number of Japanese visitors to Haworth that direction signs are now bilingual, however, the tourist traffic actually meant that film-makers shifted the action 15 miles away to Grassington.
13 SHALLOW GRAVE
Danny Boyle's opening shots show a car whizzing over the cobbles of Herriot Street, rapidly establishing that the film's yuppie dream home is meant to be situated at the expensive Edinburgh address of North East Circus Place. However, Glasgow's Film Fund lured the shoe-string production away to do most of the filming in Edinburgh's rival city and when the friends go through the front door they arrive at a Glasgow set.
Rumour has it that the festival city of Edinburgh was not keen to host Irvine Welsh's drugged-out drama, so filming relocated to Glasgow, where Begbie and crew could break glasses and chase around dour estates under the savvy gaze of the Glasgow Film Fund.
14 MARY REILLY
In the last century, the alleys that run off from Edinburgh's Royal Mile seethed with poverty and prostitution and today, despite widespread gentrification, the steep-sided streets retain a sinister, claustrophobic quality. For this neo-gothic Hollywood remake of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Carruber's Close was transformed into Slaughterhouse Street, the unsalubrious area Mr Hyde visits to purchase the enormous glistening viscera of a cow for one of his master's fiendish experiments. In true Hammer style, the 1,000 gallons of blood that washed the cobbles on the day of filming was made from dyed water and thickened golden syrup.
15 LOCH NESS
Although most of the movie was shot on the banks of the famous water, filmmakers felt the lochside ruins of Castle Urquhart were not dramatic enough to be the secret home of a family of Nessies and intercut footage of Eilean Donan, the west coast fortress featured in Highlander. Similarly, at the start of the film, an unlucky scientist fatally slips from a pier after glimpsing a monstrous fin cutting through the water. He must have had good eyesight since his promontory can be found fifty miles away at Lower Diabag, situated on the shores of Loch Torridon.
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