How To Take A Cinematic Tour of the British Isles

March 25, 2011

The British Flagby Maggie Kruger

It’s no secret that Great Britain doesn’t have the greatest reputation in Hollywood: it’s cold, wet, grey, and it’s peopled by buffoons, bad guys, and Hugh Grant.  So I’m guessing you don’t particularly want to spend your hard earned wages and precious 2 weeks holiday allowance on a trip here… and the good news is that now you don’t have to!  Allow me, if you will, to take you on a whistlestop tour of the UK, all from the comfort of your easy chair.

NB – Apologies in advance for leaving out Northern Ireland – I figured all of Ireland is worth its own virtual tour another time soon!

First Stop: London.

I love London: it’s alive, it’s vibrant, and it’s my hometown.   It may not have the edge of New York or the romance of Paris but go beyond the cloying, saccharine awfulness of movies like Notting Hill or Bridget Jones’ Diary and there beats a dirty but delightful heart.  One of the best examples of this is This Year’s Love, from 1999.  It’s a slightly off-kilter love story, set in grimy North London over 3 years.  The characters all look like they smell of booze and cigarettes, yet underneath this dingy exterior is a wonderful ensemble piece, with Kathy Burke and Ian Hart in particular standing out.

One thing that London is famous for is The London Underground – so you could do worse than finding a copy of Death Line (aka Raw Meat in the US) – watch the trailer here…

Death Line (aka Raw Meat) Trailer

… and don’t forget… Mind the doors…!!  Maybe easier to find would be Creep from 2005 – Franke Potente gets locked overnight in the Underground and finds herself fighting off seven shades of nasty.  I have to confess that I haven’t seen this all the way through– I started watching it but I have such a bad habit of falling asleep on the tube that I chickened out of watching the nasty bits… hey, I have an overactive imagination, ok?!

Oh, I Do Like to Be Beside The Seaside…

Rebecca Movie PosterMoving swiftly down to the South of England and we have cult classic Quadrophenia, which is set in Brighton on the Sussex coast.  Nowadays, Brighton is like a miniature London, lots of fun and slightly kitsch, but this movie is far from camp – set in 1965 it charts the rivalry between the Mods and Rockers and features a very young Sting, before he got all pretentious.  Watch the trailer.

Travelling West along the coast to Cornwall, there’s only one movie I can recommend to you – Hitchcock’s Rebecca, starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine.  It’s a classic thriller, and the bleak settings only serve to heighten the atmosphere of this truly creepy ghost story – it won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1940 and is one of my favourite rainy Saturday afternoon films (of which there are many in the UK, if you believe everything you see at the cinema…. 😮 )

(Now, geographically, we should be visiting Wales here… but I don’t really like any movies set in Wales…. So go and watch and watch something with Anthony Hopkins in it instead.  I recommend  84 Charing Cross Road, another awesome London movie, but hell, any excuse to watch The Silence of the Lambs, eh?!)

It’s Grim Oop North (it’s not really)

Heading up north, get an idea of Liverpool with everybody’s favourite Scousers, The Beatles, and A Hard Day’s Night.   I love this film, even though it’s only partially set in the ‘Pool – particularly the scene where Ringo runs away and gets himself into all sorts of bother.  You Highlander Movie Postercould also do worse than having a look at Educating Rita for tour de force performances from Michael Caine and Julie Walters (before they were Alfred Pennyworth and Mrs Weasley).

Onwards and Upwards

Crossing over the border to Scotland and not to put too fine a point on it: there can be only one.  You know what I’m talking about… From Christopher Lambert’s dodgy Scottish accent, to Sean Connery’s even dodgier Spanish accent, all the way over to the Great Big Hulking Tower of Awesome that is Clancy Brown as The Kurgon, if you want to see Scotland, you want to watch Highlander.

It’s preposterous, it’s overblown, it’s absolutely bloody brilliant.  I imagine I’m preaching to the converted here but if you’ve never seen it then I implore you to seek it out and watch it as soon as is humanly possible.

An American Werewolf in London

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

(You could also watch The Wicker Man here, but – and I’m being deadly serious here – please make sure it’s the 1970s Edward Woodward original, not the Nicolas Cage remake – the only thing scary about the latter is how scarily terrible it is).

And now, the End is Near…

The final stop on your tour of the UK is Yorkshire… and what a pick you have.  If you want to experience the windswept majesty of the Yorkshire Moors (and they truly are beautiful), then any of the gazillion adaptations of Wuthering Heights are a must, although personally I find Kathy and Heathcliff only slightly less nauseating than any character in ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’.  I’ve saved you the best til last, really, but it might put you off visiting our fair isle…

To my mind, there’s only one movie you should be watching to have a glimpse of the Yorkshire Moors – just keep to the road and beware the moon, lads!   An American Werewolf in London is not only one of the coolest films ever made,  but it also takes you all the way from Yorkshire back to London… where I’ll leave you – hopefully with a slightly better impression of Great Britain!  Just watch out for those zombies and werewolves…

Maggie Kruger fell asleep on her dad’s lap on her first cinema trip to watch Return of the Jedi in 1983, and has loved the movies ever since, even going so far as to study them at college, where she worked on a number of short films. She lives and works in London, UK, and will tell you that her favourite film is Dr Strangelove, although when pressed will also admit a certain weakness for 1980’s brat pack movies and most of Adam Sandler’s early work.

Follow her on Twitter: @emmizzykay .

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