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    Irish Interludes

    Posted by Mike Finnegan on

    If you’re of a mind to hoist a few to mark St. Patrick’s Day today, three unique and tempest-tossed Twilight Time library titles – each a passion project for their respective directors and filmed all or in part in Ireland – might hit the spot. For Neil Jordan, Angel (1982), aka Danny Boy in its 1984 US theatrical release, marked his first theatrical feature as a director and was a breakout hit when it opened in his native Ireland. Hypnotically shot by Chris Menges (who would go on to earn Best Cinematography Academy Awards® capturing the hallucinatory realism and natural beauty of both The Killing Fields (1984) and The Mission (1986) for director Roland Joffé), Angel follows the obsessive journey of a musician (Stephen Rea) who witnesses a terrorist bombing after one of his gigs and the deaths of his band manager and a deaf teenager he just met. Psychologically marked and compelled by the tragedies, he gradually morphs into a combination sleuth and agent of revenge in tracking down the perpetrators across alternately dark and beautiful locations in the town of Bray and County Wicklow, as a strain of unexpected violence hidden deeply within explodes with scarring force. Angel’s turbulence was rooted in the nation’s then-ongoing contemporary political “troubles.” Eight years prior, Angel’s executive producer John Boorman utilized the landscapes of Bray and County Wicklow (conveniently adjacent to his long-time home in Wicklow Hills) to portray the fantastical future of the year 2293, in which gun-blazing warrior Brutals (including Sean Connery’s hyper-masculine Zed) uneasily coexist with wanly intellectual Eternals in the boldly bizarre dystopian epic Zardoz (1974, available here: According to, “The Brutals, of the fiercely divided futuristic society, live in Glencree, a former reformatory now the Glencree Centre for Reconciliation – an organization dedicated to bringing peace to Ireland – at Glencree, Enniskerry. The immortal elite live in Hollybrook, now the Brennanstown Riding School, Kilmacanogue, near Bray.” The political unrest of the time threatened to impact the production, as writer/director Boorman noted in his Audio Commentary and described this way by “The film was shot [by revered and endlessly inventive cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth]…while the Irish Republican Army was still quite active, and they refused to allow the production to import any live weapons into the country. Boorman considered having to shoot the film elsewhere, but then one of the technicians approached him and said he was a member of the IRA and could supply any number of weapons needed. The IRA relented and allowed him to import the guns.” Boorman had other problems too; also from the Commentary: “In 1973 it was very difficult to get Irish girls to bare their breasts.” Should the eruptive visions of Jordan and Boorman not fit the lilting mold of breathtaking Thomas Hardy Country or The Quiet Man pastoral charm, one may seek out the historical visuals of the seaside village of Youghal in County Cork, which stood in for the whaling port of New Bedford, MA, in “adoptive” Irishman John Huston’s rousing screen adaptation of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (1956). From’s account of the film (shot by long-time Huston colleague Oswald Morris): “The town has a public house, originally called Linehan's, at that time owned by Paddy Linehan, whose exterior appears in the movie. It was renamed Moby Dick's shortly after filming by Mr. Linehan. It is still owned and run by the Linehan family and boasts a fine collection of photographs taken of the cast and crew during the making of the film. While there, Huston used the bar as his headquarters to plan each day's filming. The town's harbor basin, in front of Moby Dick's bar, was used to stand in as New Bedford's harbor, and some local people appear as extras in the ship's departure scene. Youghal's 19th-century lighthouse also appears in a scene of the Pequod putting to sea (at sunset) on her fateful voyage.” Moby Dick (available at a limited-time 33% off list via our MGM March Madness Promotion through March 31), Angel and Zardoz on Twilight Time hi-def Blu-rays represent idiosyncratic ways to get in touch with one’s inner Irish, but all are worth the toasting.