Green politics, philosophy, history, paganism and a lot of self righteous grandstanding.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Top Five British Pubs In Movies

I said British, otherwise Ric's bar in Casablanca would win, with The Prancing Pony in Bree coming a very close second.

Given the importance of the pub in British culture it's not too surprising that they feature prominently in our films.

Partly as a result of this foreigners arrive on our shores thinking the British pub is some sort of cultural marvel, and are generally prepared to ignore the unfriendly locals, the fact it's shut most of the time, the taciturn alcoholics, lousy songs and the threat of actual violence if you interrupt one of the various arcane rituals that go on within.

I suppose in these days of theme pubs, gastro-pubs and the rest we should be nostalgic for the traditional unfriendly, shut, boring, noisy and dangerous pubs of yore.

So here we go, the Top Five 'traditional' British pubs in cinema.

(Click on the heading to view a clip)

5. Mother Black Cap in Withnail And I (1987)


"Two large gins, two pints of cider. Ice in the cider"

A traditional English pub, complete with violent and bigoted customers.

This reminds me of when I was seventeen, with hair down to my arse, and had just started to drink in real pubs. The worry wasn't that the landlord would ask me my age, but that the locals would beat the crap out of me for turning up in a paisley shirt.

Alcohol being as important as it is in Withnail's life they also visit another pub, The Crow and Crown in the Lake District, where the inebriated landlord fauns over Withnail when he pretends to be in the army.

If you want to know why the Sixties had to happen, then these two pubs tell you all need to know.

4. The Duke of Burgundy in Passport to Pimlico (1949) 


"You're in a foreign country now Ted, drink when you like."

When the explosion of a Second World War bomb unearths a document that reveals that the London district of Pimlico had been ceded to the Duke of Burgundy in the fifteenth century, the first thing the new Burgundians ditch is the British licensing laws.

An gentle Ealing comedy that dreamed of an end to post-war austerity, the film is based on an incident during the war when Ottawa hospital was declared part of Holland for the birth of Princess Margriet of the Netherlands. It also subtly references the Berlin airlift of the previous year.

Best of all though it celebrates the desire for anarchy and sticking two fingers up to authority that lies just below the surface of the traditional buttoned up British character.

3. The Winchester in Shaun Of The Dead (2004)


"I get you a pint, I get you pig snacks. What more do you want?"

Or should this be one of the ones from The World's End? No, as they're all boring chain pubs - on account of the world being taken over by aliens - so it has to be The Winchester.

At first glance the Winchester is just another tired London pub full of sad characters trying to escape from their dismal lives and failed relationships. However, according to Ed at least, appearances can be deceptive and the regulars include bigamist murders, ex-porn stars and the local mafia.

With a juke box that has a mind of its own, it may not be the best place to sort out your personal problems, but it's as good a choice as any for a place to sit out a Zombie Apocalypse.

2. The Green Man in The Wicker Man (1973)


"But I sing of a baggage that we all adore / The landlord's daughter"
Music, beer, and Britt Ekland.

Okay, so her voice is dubbed and she uses a stunt bottom, but she is still fairly passable. And best of all, if you sleep with her the locals won't roast you in a giant wooden dummy.

The Wicker Man perhaps isn't the best advert for modern Paganism, but I suspect if it was real half of us would move to Summerisle tomorrow.

The paganism constructed for the film, a mixture of folk traditions, folk music and a few random facts from pre-Roman history, may be totally bogus, but it is certainly good fun, which is not something that can be said of every Third Level Gardnerian coven.

1. The Slaughtered Lamb in An American Werewolf In London (1981)


"Stay on the road. Keep clear of the moors.....Beware the moon, lads."

Candles, a pentangle on the wall, Brian Glover telling jokes. What Pagan wouldn't want to drink in The Slaughtered Lamb? Okay, so the locals can be a bit frosty, but I'm sure they're fine if you're also northern. And is that a young Ric Mayall enjoying a pint? Can't be too bad then, unless you interrupt the darts.

The interior of the pub is actually in Surrey and the exterior in Powys, whilst the Moors are in fact the Brecon Beacons, but thanks to Mr Glover the pub seems as Yorkshire as chips cooked in beef dripping.

An American Werewolf in London is one of those fun films I'll watch over and over again. It also features every song with the word 'Moon' in the lyrics and the best pre-CGI monster transformation scene in cinema, not to mention Jenny Agutter's boobs.

In reality Yorkshire is the third best place in the world to visit and very few tourists are killed by werewolfs these days, but in contrasting rural Britain to cosmopolitan London the film actually provides a very concise postcard of the two sides of England, the old and the new, and shows some of the tension between the two of them.

So one of the best films ever made, and definitely the number one movie pub.

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