Pinewood: 80 Years of Movie Magic, TV review: Tribute needed a longer slot and less perving

This one-off doc only managed to hint at the epic scale of Pinewood’s greatness

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The Independent Culture

Jonathan Ross, former presenter of the BBC’s Film... programme, was our tour guide for Pinewood: 80 Years of Movie Magic on Saturday evening. Britain’s answer to a Hollywood studio lot is 90 acres of sound stages, single-storey buildings and storage facilities built on the estate of Buckinghamshire’s Heatherden Hall by methodist flour magnate J Arthur Rank. Since its founding in 1935, Pinewood has been the birthplace of hundreds of classics of British cinema, including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Red Shoes.

This glamorous history is well hidden, however. It turns out studio lots only look impressive when they’re pretending to be somewhere else. A Himalayan valley in Black Narcissus, for instance, or a Macau casino in the Bond film Skyfall. Nor did the BBC’s behind-the-scenes access extend to a peek at the fabulous sets of any big-budget movie currently in production.

That meant it was up to Wossy to  recreate the magic of the movies. He learned how to crash a car with the help of Bond’s stunt driver Ben Collins, saw a performance of an elaborate dance choreographed by Francesca Jaynes for the new Muppets film, and shot an action sequence in the lot’s tank, guided by Mike Valentine, “the best underwater cinematographer in the business”.



This was all diverting, and certainly less cringeworthy than Ross’s patronising perv on Joan Collins, “a woman who still has the power to turn my legs to jelly”. Did he learn nothing from that unpleasant Gwyneth Paltrow incident on the talk show? He also took the opportunity to take Barbara Windsor on a golf buggy tour via the exact spot where her bikini top sprang off in an “iconic” – for men of a certain age, anyway – scene from Carry on Camping. “Does this bring back memories, now that you’re here?” Ross enquired. “No it doesn’t, because it looks like a dump, doesn’t it?” She had a point.

There were passing mentions for Powell and Pressburger, Richard Attenborough and David Lean, but this one-off doc only managed to hint at the epic scale of Pinewood’s greatness. It was just enough, in fact, to suggest that the studio’s story might have been better served by a full two-hour slot on BBC Four, rather than being squeezed into an hour of prime-time TV.