IT WILL be a licence to thrill for fans of Sir Sean Connery as a rare documentary made at the height of the Bond star’s fame will be available to view for the first time in more than 40 years thanks to a new film project.
The Bowler And The Bunnet, a 1967 documentary on the decline of the Glasgow shipbuilding industry that was directed by and starred Connery, is one of a number of seldom seen films that Scots will be able to view from next month with the opening of Scotland’s first Mediatheque.
The archive of more than 2,500 films is being made available by the British Film Institute (BFI), and other rarities include the 1974 TV production of John McGrath’s The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil, which has never been available on DVD, and some of the earliest footage of Glasgow ever filmed. Connery, who had just made his fifth Bond film – You Only Live Twice – returned to Scotland to make the documentary, which features the suave actor sporting a bunnet and a moustache.
He interviewed shipyard workers and examined how the merger of shipyards was damaging work on the Clyde.
A spokesperson for the BFI said: “In the past it would have been impossible for anyone to see, because it had to be cleared with Connery himself. However, he has given his permission for it to be available for free for educational purposes. He’s happy for it to be used.”
Jonathan Melville, editor of Scottish film website ReelScotland.com, said the documentary provided an opportunity to see a rare side of Connery.
“He was known for being this sophisticated spy and then he appears in this film wearing a sheepskin coat, a bunnet and a moustache. He’s gone back to basics,” he said. “It shows that he was still very interested in what was happening in his own country even though he was already a global star. It’s a real snapshot of history.”
The film is one of several rare gems available to the wider viewing public – who will be able to watch as many films as they like for free at the Mediatheque, based at the Bridgeton Library, in the newly developed Olympia building in Glasgow’s East End.
Others include St Kilda, Britain’s Loneliest Isle – a 1928 documentary about the trip to one of the country’s most remote island chains, and political television dramas including Culloden, a docudrama from 1964 that presented the events of the battle as if they were just taking place. It also includes a one-minute film, entitled Jamaica Street, Glasgow, which was shot by Edwardian filmmakers Mitchell & Kenyon and is one of the earliest pieces of moving footage of the city.
Heather Stewart, creative director of the BFI, said: “We are delighted to bring the riches of these extraordinary national collections to the general public. There’s a wonderful excitement about seeing our world through the eyes of those long dead.”
Melville said the Mediatheque would allow access to many films that would have been out of reach to Scots before. “It’s a chance for people to see some of the things that made Scotland and have informed our culture over the years. It’s a very important thing to have, and the opportunity to see things you can’t see anywhere else, or would have had to go very far to see, is really exciting.”
Councillor Archie Graham, chair of Glasgow Life, said: “Bridgeton Library has been a huge success since it opened in early December 2012. It has already firmly established itself in the local area as a community venue where people can access all kinds of services and the opening of the BFI Mediatheque will ensure its position as a resource for people from all over Scotland.”
The Glasgow Mediatheque is the first of its kind in Scotland. There are already archives in London, Derby, Cambridge, Newcastle upon Tyne and Wrexham
While the shipbuilding industry on the Clyde continued to decline – there are only three yards left now – Connery went on to even greater success, with two more Bond films followed by a string of Hollywood hits including The Untouchables.