Tag Archives: Dublin

A Week In The Life Of Martin Cluxton

A Week In The Life Of Martin Cluxton was directed by Brian MacLochlainn in 1971 and received its television premiere on RTÉ during December of that year. It’s a gritty and accompolished attempt at social realism which proved that we could make urban drama to the same high standard as our British counterparts. And just as downbeat too – as illustrated by John Kavanagh’s well-meaning cleric.

“This is a decaying area. Unemployment is high and the people as a result suffer immense depression. Martin Cluxton is a direct product of this environment. His problems are threefold. They are medical, environment and spiritual.”

We start with a rural scene; a group of boys walking over Galway hills with a Christian Brother in charge. We quickly learn that they are juvenile offenders and that Martin Cluxton (played by Derek King) is one of them. Two key devices are employed by the directors to drive the narrative and provide background and explanations – breaking the fourth wall (by adults) and voiceovers (by Martin). The direct addresses to the camera are made by the religious authority figures (who explain that their resources are wholly inadequate – “we are no substitute for skilled social workers”) and Mrs Cluxton explaining the difficulty that is raising children in relative poverty. On the other hand Martin’s stream of consciousness is more plaintive and demonstrates the hopelessness of his situation.

“Everybody seemed to have something to do or somewhere to go. Except me.”

The premise of the film is simple – it deals with a week in the life of a youth released from the reformatory and back to his inner city Dublin home. The cast includes a number of familiar names including Bill Foley and Laurie Morton as Martin’s parents. Virgina Cole (who starred with Morton in Fortycoats and Co.) plays his sister Chrissie while Going Strong stalwart Ann O’Dwyer is the glamorous neighbour Mrs Boyle. Fair City‘s Jim Bartley stars as the tearaway Cronin (an older sidekick of Martin’s). Hope is in short supply and as the story progresses we gradually learn that the future is going to be just as bleak and aimless as the past was.

Martin wants to become a mechanic. In a key scene he has an impromptu interview with garage owner McGreevey who appears to be reasonably disposed to him until he learns of Martin’s address in Corporation Avenue. After he leaves the businessman then berates his secretary for not checking the applicant’s background in advance. Curiously the radio in McGreevey’s office features a broadcast about socialism. This theme is further expanded in the pub scenes with Mr Cluxton engaging in dialogue with a revolutionary bar-stooler about the class struggle.

“Babies don’t get bit by rats in Foxrock.”

As the film progresses our sympathy for Martin’s plight increases. His interactions with others – family, friends, social workers, priests, brothers, unemployment officials and the man on Dollymount beach – cement his status as a teenager without hope. By the closing scenes he has made a decision. One is left with the strong impression that it was inevitable.

“You’d like to do something. Anything. It didn’t matter what. Just anything.”

A Week In The Life Of Martin Cluxton picked up its fair share of criticial acclaim upon release.
– Press Award for Best Overall Programme, Prague International Television Festival, 1972.
– Best Overall Programme, Hollywood World of Television Festival, 1972
– RAI Prize, Turin International Television Festival, 1972

It also features a beautiful jazz soundtrack courtesy of Louis Stewart.

Brian MacLochlainn went on to direct Time Now Mr T., The Spike (with Noel O Briain) and The Burke Enigma.

(by nlgbbbblth)

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Dublin: A Personal View…Hector Grey’s

If we had any cop on we would have stormed and ransacked the studios of TV3 years ago and set up a video broadcast loop of the series Dublin: A Personal View by Eamon Mac Thomais.

Besides the proliferation of Spars, apartment blocks and aggro in Dublin we have lost the character of the city. I love this video for many reasons but my favourite part is seeing Hector Grey…the actual Hector Grey, selling at a market.

I never thought he was a real person until my Grandad told me a nutty story about his Da and Hector Grey selling some ripped off bicycle repair kits during the war.

I think Hector Grey’s is now a smoothie bar or something. Perfect.

(by Bob Byrne)

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“That’s Not Berlin! That’s Up by Christchurch!”

In my early teens, I had my first real brush with the movies when the BBC came to my mother’s village in Donegal to shoot for TV an adaptation of Jennifer Johnston’s novel, The Railway Station Man (screenplay by Shelagh Delaney, no less). The long disused Cashelnagore railway station was fitted out for this tale of a war veteran restoring an old station and his burgeoning love affair with a recently widowed Derry woman. The film was heavily trumpeted by the Beeb for reuniting Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie two decades on from Don’t Look Now. It was a much more pedestrian film than Nicolas Roeg’s icy classic but not without its merits. We knew that the interiors were filmed further down the coast in Glenties while the railway station incongruously planted in the middle of a lonesome bog was used only for outdoor shooting. About nine months after filming we watched it in my grandmother’s house. At one point in the narrative Julie Christie’s character Helen has to make a mad rush to the station to avert an incident that could have terrible consequences. She leaps out of bed in the middle of the night, hastily throws on some clothes and gets on her bicycle. Seeing her make her way out her front gate, my uncle, a cinephile with a sense of humour you might call ‘dry’, opined “she has some cycle ahead of her to get to here from Glenties.”

Though I was no ingenue in terms of parsing filmic narrative or understanding how movies were made, I couldn’t get the image of Julie Christie’s long-distance sprint up the Donegal coast out of my mind. Such was my first ever experience of the jarring gap between the landscape of the movies and the one you know in real life. It is something people in cities accustomed to film-making, such as New York, Los Angeles or Paris, have long been used to. These days I am most likely to see the urban geography of Paris rearranged. In Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, Owen Wilson goes searching for the restaurant in which he has been boozing with Hemingway and Fitzgerald only to find it is now a modern-day laundry; in actual fact, the restaurant — Polidor on rue Monsieur-le-Prince —  is still there, virtually unchanged since the 1920s. As I watched more and more movies throughout the nineties (and, thanks to the tax breaks, more and more movies were filmed in Ireland), I had opportunities to observe how movie-Ireland was different from Ireland-Ireland. Sometimes the geography of the island was boldly defied as in Gorgo, where Dalkey and its Martello Towers is shifted to the Gaeltacht or the Hollywood teen film Leap Year which sees Amy Adams getting landed on a beach, rather than at a port, somewhere in Kerry.

But sometimes movie-Ireland wasn’t even Ireland. It had long been serving as a proxy for other places, such as in John Huston’s Moby Dick where Youghal passed muster as New Bedford and it’s hard to imagine too many of Roger Corman’s Galway-produced Z-movies were set in the City of the Tribes either. I remember watching Mike Newell’s adaptation of Beryl Bainbridge’s An Awfully Big Adventure, in which Dublin stood in for post-war Liverpool. Hugh Grant dines in Bewley’s on Grafton Street (immeasurably more glamorous on screen than the glorified college canteen it had become by the mid-nineties), pays his bill and then emerges out of the front gate of Dublin Castle.

In Braveheart the Battle of Stirling famously took place in the Curragh, with the arses of thousands of FCA volunteers on display as William Wallace defied the Sassenachs with a mass-mooning, which was a definite mark-up on the free boots and army-surplus bag that usually attracted the post-Leaving Cert crowd to Mullingar or Finner Camp for a week of training. Films set in the north during the Troubles were usually filmed in the 26 counties because of the, er, Troubles. Irishtown and the Ringsend gas works became a permanent landmark of Belfast, the North Strand flats stood in for their more famous Divis counterparts in In the Name of the Father; a bomb in Jim Sheridan’s The Boxer went off opposite the Front Lounge, with the dome of City Hall in the background probably convincing the casual viewer that this was indeed Titanic Town under attack.

Even the most iconic buildings in the country were not safe from shuffling. The real Four Courts got bombarded by the pro-Treaty forces in Michael Collins (in the abysmal Kevin Spacey/Martin Cahill vehicle Ordinary Decent Criminal, the courts were moved up the river to the Customs House) but there were other jarring details. The set that Neil Jordan and Co built in the grounds of Grangegorman hospital in the summer of 1995 was probably the most impressive one of its kind in Irish history but its O’Connell Street was all askew, with the GPO standing at the end of the prospect from North Earl Street. A street parallel to the main thoroughfare was also there where it wasn’t in real life (think Marlborough Street, only a couple of blocks further west) and it is here that the insurgents from the GPO are arraigned after their surrender (including Dev, who must have decided there wasn’t near enough action down at Boland’s Mills).

The fiery Dáil sessions were filmed in Trinity College rather than up the street in their actual historical location in the Mansion House; I remember the filming, which I observed as I wandered across Front Square a week before Michaelmas Term began. The building used was the 1937 Reading Room, founded in that very year by none other than… Éamon de Valera. In fairness it was an ideal setting for a parliament session, more so than the side hall on Dawson Street which was more accustomed at the time to raves and Sinn Féin Ard Fheiseanna. Trinity also, of course, stood in for Liverpool in Educating Rita, a film I had difficulty watching as a child, sore as I was over ‘our’ urban landscape being purloined in such a flagrant manner.

An even weirder use of Trinity occurred three decades earlier when the World War I aviation drama The Blue Max was filmed in Ireland. Dublin University was transformed into Luftwaffe headquarters in Berlin, with biplanes parked in front of the Graduate Memorial Building, which, like many other buildings in the city at the time was black from acid rain. There was also a jaunt through the streets of fictional Berlin that almost made sense through real Dublin: down Winetavern Street from the arch at Christchurch (that redoubtable Dublin chronicler Éamon Mac Thomáis recalled Dubliners shouting at cinema screens: “that’s not Berlin, that up by Christchurch!”), down by the Four Courts and on to Trinity, where the magisterial James Mason was hanging out in the GMB.

I watched the film for the first time in my days working in Laser Video on Georges’ Street in the late nineties. A colleague was keen to see it because his mother was supposedly in it and had a scene where she kissed George Peppard. As the film progressed though it became increasingly apparent that his mother, if she did work on the film at all, had ended up on the cutting-room floor and Ursula Andress’ buxom countess was the only lady getting anywhere near Colonel Hannibal Smith’s lips. If my disorientation at Dublin being overrun and ruled by the Jerries was not bad enough, can you imagine my poor colleague who was learning that all these years his mother had been living a lie?

Ireland itself ended up being outsourced too, as our little Celtic cousin the Isle of Man began to undercut our tax breaks, with Waking Ned and Cathal Black’s Love and Rage, among other productions, being filmed there. But there were more location-based ads filmed during the Celtic Tiger years, most notably by Guinness, who seemed keen to rekindle an Irish identity for the stout. Probably the most successful of these was the ‘Quarrel’ ad, where hearing the late Mic Christopher’s Heyday on the radio prompts Michael Fassbender to walk out of his flat, across the Burren and then to swim the Atlantic to be reconciled with a friend in New York. A friend from Kildare claimed that Fassbender was actually walking back into Dublin as he passes by the Perpetual Motion sphere on the M7, though I can’t substantiate that.

Once he gets across the water though it all gets tricky. He storms through a street basketball game, past the Naked Cowboy on Times Square and into…the Dice Bar, on Benburb Street, back in Dublin. He needn’t have gone to all that effort, after all. Of course, the Dice Bar was one of those few Dublin bars that could readily impersonate a Manhattan dive (though, come to think of it, shouldn’t it be on the Lower East Side rather than by Times Square?) and the ad’s director even had the foresight to change the light-fittings, something which regular patronage of the Dice Bar at the time caused me to notice. Any hopes of suspending disbelief for me were dashed however when I noticed standing next to Fassbender’s friend as the two are reunited was Pedro, a shaven-headed Spanish cook whom I worked with in a number of establishments over the years. This was a time when the general Georges’ Street area was central casting for Guinness ads. Pedro beams unobtrusively as the Fassbender and his smouldering friend embrace — it’s a perfect piece of acting by an extra but I sure as hell wasn’t buying it as being set in New York. Still, it is probably a bit petty to pick holes in an ad where the main character swims the Atlantic…

(by Oliver Farry)

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Cad a dhéanfaimid anois?: When Gorgo destroyed Dalkey (kind of)

In the winter of 1959, strange and ancient forces were stirring in the deep waters of Coliemore Harbour, Dalkey. Forces awoken by the destructive meddling of nasty old man. Forces that would soon kick (spectacular) ass while leaving the bubble-gum to one side. But…we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

The story begins on November 8th of that year, as announced by The Irish Times the following morning:

“A film unit from King Bros Production Ltd arrived in Dublin yesterday to start location shots for the film ‘Gorgo’. The picture is about a monster which cuts a destructive path through the heart of London. Gorgo (35ft) and Mother Gorgo (200 ft) first appear off an island near the Irish coast”.

On November 10th, the same paper detailed how production supervisor George Mills had shot scenes in Dalkey the previous day (some featuring Dublin-born actor Barry Keegan), before pointing out that “Local extras are being hired – mostly to play the part of fishermen”. Two days later, the cast and crew packed their bags, dried themselves off (it had, predictably, been lashing rain for most of the shoot), and headed back to London. Their 5-day adventure? Soon forgotten. A mere rippling of the surface of Irish film history.

Around this time last year I decided to try and track down some of these local extras, if, indeed, any were left alive. Why? Well, firstly, because I hate the idea of stories being lost, or remaining untold. Secondly, because I bloody adore Gorgo.

The story is a simple one. A salvage vessel operated by the unscrupulous Joe Ryan (Bill Travers) and Sam Slade (William Sylvester) witness an undersea earthquake off the shore of the fictional (and palindromic) “Nara Island” (actually, Dalkey). This releases a pissed-off Gorgo, who’s eventually captured and taken to London for public display. An academic realises that Gorgo, giant though he may be, is actually only a toddler. Cue the emergence of a ferociously maternal, 200-foot-tall Mama Gorgo. She stomps out of the sea, destroys Nara, and heads off to London, where she opens a gargantuan can of kick-ass. Baby Gorgo and Mama are reunited. We all learn something about human hubris, greed and puny attempts to tame nature. The end.

OK, it may not be the most sophisticated or original monster film ever made. It may not be the most technically accomplished. It may not even be the most entertaining. But it still remains unique in a number of ways. It is (to the best of my knowledge) the only Godzilla-style Kaiju (Giant Monster) film ever filmed (at least partly) in Ireland. It is certainly the only Kaiju film ever to feature actors speaking in Irish. Irish? Yes, more of that anon.

I contacted Gerard Coakley, editor of the Dalkey Newsletter (“delivered into every residence in Dalkey every month”), and asked him for help. Gerard suggested running my query as a “Letter to the Editor” in the August edition of the newsletter, to see what memories it might stir. It stirred quite a few, though some were a tad…confused. One gentleman called me to tell me that, yes, he had been an extra – charged with rowing Martin Sheen hither and yon. As I tried to think of a tactful way of raining on this false-memory parade I heard his wife bark: “Martin Sheen was never in that picture!”. Saved.

The garbled and partial recollections shared with me meant that investigations never yielded a feature (as was planned), but I did get to talk to local monster-inflater-in-chief Tony Lamb. Over to Tony:

“What we were pumping up was the actual monster than they were using, it was like pumping up a rubber dingy. There was a gang of us down there, and it was only about 12 feet in size, and we used to inflate it up for them. We used to get paid for it, you know what I mean? Just a few bob. Then we used to have to put it into my brother’s boat and bring it outside the harbour into Dalkey Sound. And you’d look at the camera and it was huge then, you know the way they make it into a monster and all that. When we went to see it we were all laughing because a friend of ours was in it. Jim Brown, ‘Coco’ Brown we called him, he’s since dead now he was an old man, you’d see him walking up the slip picking up driftwood. And the next minute he’s in fucking Germany or wherever! Ah we remember it well down in the harbour. We always made a few quid hiring out the boats to them. We used to have to throw old nets over the pier, and make it look like it was a real old place and all. They made loads of films down there, and they still do today. And we’ve been in most of them”.

I haven’t been able to positively identify “Coco”, but I’d like to think it’s this weathered-looking chap:

Or, it could be one of these cagey locals:

Note, you can just about make out the local Martello tower in the background. A better view of it here, squeezed between Bill Travers and William Sylvester:

I initially thought Tony’s memories of an inflatable Gorgo might be muddled, as Gorgo uses the old “Suitmation”, actor in a rubber monster suit, technique. But in a 5-second underwater scene, where Joe and Sam first see the monster, I think what we’re seeing (just about, the water is pretty damn murky) is Tony’s pumped-up pal:

Instead of using a studio-based tank (as you’d expect), the scenes of Joe and Sam diving were, I think, actually filmed on location in Dalkey. Hence the Stygian waters. Anyway, it’s nice to think of Tony’s breath literally making Gorgo come alive.

And what of the Irish/Gaeilge? Well, when Joe and Sam first come ashore on “Nara”, they ask the two sea-dogs pictured above, “Is there a harbour master we can talk to?”. The reply?

“Cad a dheanfaimid anois?”

That’s “What are we going to do now?”, for all you Sasanaigh. An, er, somewhat cryptic reply, and one favoured by the islanders in practically all situations. It’s multi-functional. When they go night-fishing in currachs…

…a local lad announces his intention to chuck a harpoon into the boiling waters with, yes, “Cad a dheanfaimid anois?”. Nara, clearly, is an island of anxious types, crippled by indecision.

In another exchange, Harry (played by Barry Keegan), asks a group of fishermen “Cad tá sibh a dhéanamh?” (“What are ye doing?”). The defensive answer: “Níl am againn caint a dhéanamh le Sasanaigh!”. Harry translates this for the foreign lads as “We don’t have time to talk to foreigners”, which is spot on. Then, when he sees the locals gazing into the waters and looking concerned, he asks, “Cad é?” (“What is it?”) and back comes (once again) good old, “Níl am againn caint a dhéanamh le Sasanaigh!”. This time Harry translates it as “Two of the divers didn’t come up, Joe. They think they’re gone.” Oh, Harry. You mis-translating eejit.

So is Gorgo ultimately just of local interest because of this (slightly Dada-ist) smattering of Gaeilge? Well, no. There’s also a (presumably accidental) “Republican” sub-text. This is, after all, the story of a young Irish monster who is captured, forcibly imprisoned, and taken (against its will) across the Irish sea to be gawked at by punters in Battersea Park. Objections to this dodgy expatriation are lodged by the Irish government (and the “University of Dublin”) and ignored. Bastards!

Seán, the little, apple-cheeked, moral centre of the film affectionately refers to the monster as Ógra, meaning “Youth”. Thus, the re-branding of the beastie as “Gorgo” not only suggests an arrogant contempt for local naming (and a desire to linguistically take ownership of the creature), but the failure to understand the significance of its Irish name leads directly to the flattening of London (by an understandably enraged mother). Big Ben is demolished. Tower Bridge is thrashed. The most iconic structures, of the centre of British power, laid waste – by a vengeance-seeking Paddy Godzilla. My post-colonial-o-meter is going off the fuppin’ scale, folks. And so, humbled Londoners gathered themselves, gazed upon the ruination, and asked: “Cad a dheanfaimid anois?”

(by fústar)

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