About a year ago, I posted something about my favorite movie, a 29-year-old Scottish film called “Local Hero.” It’s the kind of movie most people missed when it came out, but those who’ve seen it love it.
I have the movie on DVD, but, still, I was disappointed to learn from a commenter that it’s out of print, at least in the States. I thought that was a shame, because it’s a sweet little movie that deserves an audience.
So, I was happy when I stumbled upon the movie on iTunes. It’s on Amazon Instant Video, too, and it’s back on DVD as part of a 4-movie collection of Burt Lancaster movies.
If you haven’t seen it, stream it tonight.
Burt Lancaster plays Happer, who runs a big American oil company that wants to buy a Scottish fishing village and replace it with a deep-sea port and massive refinery.
Happer sends Mac (Peter Reigert), who everyone assumes is a Scot, but as Mac tells a guy he works with, “My folks changed their name when they got off the boat from Hungary. They thought that ‘MacIntyre’ was American … I can’t even pronounce my last name.”
If this was a Hollywood movie, Mac would be seduced by the village and find his true love and band together with the locals to defend the village against the evil oil company that wants to destroy it, but this isn’t a Hollywood movie. The locals want to sell. As someone tells Mac, “You can’t eat scenery.”
So, who is the local hero? It’s hard to say. It might be Mac, even though he isn’t local (or even a Scot). It might be Gordon (Denis Lawson), the village lawyer-slash-innkeeper who negotiates the deal that’s going to make everyone “stinkin’ rich.” It might be Ben (Fulton Mackay), who lives in a shack and, it turns out, owns the entire beach and doesn’t want to sell. I suppose it might even be Happer.
What I do know is that there’s a scene near the beginning of the movie. Mac is visiting the company’s lab in Aberdeen, and there’s a pool with a model of the village, Ferness.
One of the scientists is explaining the refinery project when he picks up the village and hands the model to Mac. “Here, hold Ferness a minute, would you?” he says. When Mac’s ready to leave, he tries to give the model back, but the scientist says he doesn’t want it. “Take it,” he tells Mac. “Keep it.”
And that’s basically what the movie is about. Mac gets to hold Ferness for a minute.
When the movie’s over, I guarantee you’ll want to visit the Scottish village where it was filmed (that would be Pennan), and you’ll want the soundtrack. Here’s a live version of Mark Knopfler’s closing theme, “Going Home.”