So where you would like to go today...
I don't know if any of you have ever caught the Belfast/Stranraer ferry but, if you have and have done so before the more recent round of road improvements, you'll have driven off that boat with no small amount of dread. So popular is that route for cargo to Northern Ireland that the road from Stranraer to Carlisle, rejoin the M6, is often heavy with lorries. Speed-limited lorries as well going no more than 55mph and, due to only minor differences, driving very slowly in convoy with one another. All for exactly 100 miles. Just leaving a gap of half an hour could make a difference, gaps would appear in the long line of trucks and overtaking was made easier. Wait in Stranraer for those thirty minutes and the journey took only a little longer than it would have done and I not done so...but there's not exactly much to do in Stranraer. Until I picked up a copy of Tony Reeves' The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations.
Stranraer...movie locations, not, I admit, words that you'll often see together but twenty-five miles from Stranraer is Newton Stewart, where the producers of The Wicker Man based themselves during their shooting of the film. The sweetshop and the ruined church are in Kirkudbright, southeast of Newtown Stewart whilst the wicker man himself was built off the A747 near St. Ninian's Cave, which is at the most southerly point of the Machars Peninsuala. Ten miles out Stranraer, turn right off the A75 and 20 miles or so further on is where Christopher Lee and the inhabitants of Summerisle burnt Edward Woodward as the sun set. Happily, it's all there in Reeves' book and suspecting that Stranraer was not the unlikeliest location for a film production in the UK, weekends away became a tour of movie locations, all the while armed with Reeves' book.
That The Prisoner was set in the small Welsh resort of Portmeirion is, of course, no secret but a weekend in the hotel, wandering around the Village, is a wonderful way to pass the time. Journey to Ireland and the walk around Cong, where John Ford filmed The Quiet Man, becomes a couple of hours of wandering the streets where John Wayne romanced Maureen O'Hara and traded blows with Victor McLaglen. These are amongst the most famous of location shoots - Cong has little but a Quiet Man tourist industry whilst Portmeirion's visitors are likely split between those saying, "Be seeing you!" to one another and those attracted by Clough William-Ellis' building of the place.
The appeal of this book is, then, coming up with the unlikeliest of movie locations. Fans of Quadrophenia will be delighted to revisit the scene of Jimmy and Steph's quickie in the alley beside 11 East Street in Brighton and have lunch at the Waterfront Cafe at the Peter Pan Play Area, Madeira Drive, where the mods had breakfast. Still in Sussex, you can visit Leonardslee Gardens near Horsham where the jungle scenes of Black Narcissus were shot and learn that the silver mine in Silicon Valley that Max Zorin intended to blow up in A View To A Kill wasn't in California at all but were, in fact, the Amberley Chalk Pits Museum in west Sussex. Talking of Bond, if you want to follow in the footsteps of 007 and his golfing partner from Goldfinger, avoid Royal St George's, where it was supposed to set and head instead for Stoke Poges Golf Club where it was actually filmed. Further north, to Tyneside, and whilst you'll find success in scouting out Blackhall Colliery, where the ending of Get Carter was shot, you'll have no such luck finding the bar where Carter sinks a pint. As Reeves says, it's long been demolished.
The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations is a wealth of knowledge on the cities in the UK, which have provided ample backgrounds for film production with some surprises. You might think that visiting the site of 10 Rillington Place would be a relatively straightforward one but, ever the completist, Tony Reeves writes that the entire street was demolished and rebuilt as Ruston Close. It was subsequently renamed as Ruston Mews and is on the west side of St Mark's Road just before Lancaster Road in London W11. As for just staying in London, you can do a tour of the sights of Notting Hill - although, as Reeves says, the blue door is no longer there at 280 Westbourne Park Road - An American Werewolf In London, Blow Up, The Day The Earth Caught Fire, The Long Good Friday, Mission: Impossible, The Quatermass Xperiment, Performance and Withnail & I. Even if you only remained within the UK, there's a incredible amount of movie locations in Reeves' book.
Go further afield and Reeves will have you packing your matchsticks for the location of Last Year in Marienbad, your neuroses for Woody Allen's Manhattan and the rotting corpse of your girlfriend for Evil Dead country, Morristown, which is about 40 miles northeast of Knoxville in East Tennessee or, for Evil Dead 2, Wadesboro in North Carolina. With entire pages devoted to Star Wars, Vertigo, Swinging London, Salzburg and The Sound of Music and Scorcese's New York, there is barely a mainstream film shot on location that isn't in this book. Even a studio-set movie like Casablanca gets a mention, with the one remaining aircraft hangar being at Van Nuys Airport in Los Angeles. And as you travel around the world and build up an appetite, you can call in at the diner used for the opening scene in Reservoir Dogs, eat at Sofia's Restuarant in New York, being where Luca Brasi is pinned to the bar and garroted before moving on to Italy and to Villa Mirra to recreate the famous banquet from Salo. As Reeves includes in his book, the recipe for the only meal to be served is Swiss chocolate mixed with broken biscuits, condensed milk and marmalade, which is then extruded through plastic tubing. It's that kind of detail that's most impressive.
Actually, what's most impressive about this book is how Tony Reeves has managed to compile so much about a film industry that often redecorates locations to such an extent that they're unrecognisable with hotel foyers serving as nightclubs and so on. Most of us, I suspect, would quietly congratulate ourselves were to know ten or twelve locations but Reeves has compiled hundreds into his book, from art house classics through cult successes to such blockbusters as Jurassic Park. Most refreshingly, this book would seem to have come about from Reeves simply being a fan of movies. In his introduction, he talks about the excitement of standing in front of the little white church where Gary Cooper begged for help in High Noon whilst also offering his personal favourite, Bodega Bay, the small coastal resort used by Hitchcock for The Birds. Showing even his good side, he asks visitors to be discreet and not to disturb or to trespass, saying that, "any disturbance of people's privacy can only hinder future listings."
Even if you never go to any of these locations - although, why you shouldn't when so many may be on your doorstep, is something of a mystery - there is still much of interest here. A different kind of movie reference book, for sure, but a great one and one that works as all the best ones should. As something like The Psychotronic Movie Guide encourages its readers to be on the lookout for Dolemite or the Beast of Yucca Flats, so The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations convinces you to get up off the sofa, leave the house and go looking for where your favourite films were shot and to enjoy, in the magic of their locations, what makes them so great.
Tony Reeves and Titan Books has recently published an update and this most recent edition is now available at Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com (for any North American readers) and Play.com.