From James Bond to Local Hero: Scotland's most obscure film claims

The Highlands and Islands have long been on the global movie map thanks to their starring roles in iconic Scottish movies like Whisky Galore, Local Hero, Highlander, Rob Roy and Braveheart.

Director Stanley Kubrick filmed scenes for his science fiction epic 2001: A Space Odyssey on the Isle of Harris.

But now Scotland’s lesser-known claims to cinematic fame are to be celebrated in their own film.

The BBC Alba documentary will highlight how Scotland has stood in for other countries, planets and magical kingdoms, as well as the long-forgotten movies well-known actors starred in before they found fame.

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The hour-long film, made for BBC Alba by Caledonian TV, also revisits unspoiled locations featured in films, including Mull, Skye, Glencoe, Glenfinnan and Glen Nevis.

Glencoe is among the locations visited by presenter Patsi Mackenzie for the BBC Alba documentary.

The BBC Alba film highlights how a dramatic boat chase in the James Bond classic From Russia With Love saw Sean Connery and co-star Daniela Bianchi film on Loch Craignish, even though they were meant to be in Turkey, and how Connery would influence his character’s Scottish heritage, famously depicted in scenes between Daniel Craig and Dame Judi Dench in Glencoe.

The documentary, which will be broadcast on BBC Alba on Christmas Eve, recalls the ill-fated efforts to try to emulate the success of James Bond with the spy thriller When Eight Bells Tell, which saw Anthony Hopkins film scenes at multiple locations on the Isle of Mull.

Among the films highlighted are The Kidnappers, which won an Oscar for Greenock-born writer Neil Paterson, a former footballer for Buckie Thistle, Leith Athletic and Dundee United. Although the film focused on two orphaned brothers who are sent to live with their grandparents in Nova Scotia, it was actually made in Glen Affric.

Largely-forgotten films featured include the Scottish rom-com Laxdale Hall, focusing on an investigation into a group of locals who refuse to pay their taxes in protest at their only road, which featured Fawlty Towers star Prunella Scales, Scottish comedy legend Rikki Fulton and Local Hero star Fulton Mackay before they became household names.

Daniela Bianchi and Sean Connery filmed scenes for the James Bond classic From Russia With Love on Loch Craignish in Argyll instead of on location in Turkey.

The documentary also highlights how the plot of Local Hero, Bill Forsyth’s 1983 comedy about an oil tycoon’s efforts to buy out a remote Highland village for its next project, had echoes in the 1954 film The Maggie, much of which was shot on the Isle of Islay, which focused on a clash of cultures between an American businessman and a craft sea captain.

Science fiction and fantasy films featured include the Stanley Kubrick classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, which saw the rugged landscapes of Isle of Harris stand in for Jupiter.

Also recalled are Michelle Pfeiffer’s visit to the Fairy Pools and the Quiraing on the Isle of Skye for the romantic-fantasy Stardust, Entrapment, the thriller Catherine Zeta-Jones made with Sean Connery on the Isle of Mull, and Michael Caine’s performance as Jacobite rebel Alan Breck Stewart in the 1971 movie adaptation of the classic Scottish novel Kidnapped.

Among the more unusual locations featured in the documentary is the Corryvreckan Whirlpool, which has a starring role in the classic romance I Know Where I’m Going, which was shot around the Isle of Mull, although one of its two main stars, Roger Livesey, was unable to travel to Scotland for the location filming as he was appearing in a play in London at the time.

Although set in Nova Scotia, Oscar-winner The Kidnappers was actually filmed in Glen Affric in Scotland.

The film, ‘Cinema Gadelica’, recalls how Gene Kelly personally toured the Highlands to scout out locations for the musical Brigadoon, which was set in a mythical Scottish village, only for the 1953 MGM film to end up being shot on a sound stage in Hollywood because the weather in Scotland was so bad when he visited.

The documentary also recalls the controversy over the filming of Braveheart, most of which took place in Ireland.

Speaking in the documentary, Dr Donald William Stewart, historian and lecturer at the Highlands and Islands, states: “Of all the big American musicals of the 1950s, none compares to Brigadoon. Dancing, music, singing, it’s got it all. It looks spectacular and it’s totally professional. But the people of Scotland cant’ watch it, because it’s too close to the image we have of ourselves.

"As someone who teaches history, I can’t watch Braveheart. However, I don’t want to single out Braveheart because to be honest I can’t watch any historical films because I focus on the inaccuracies.”

Actress and producer Patsi Mackenzie, who presents the documentary, said: “Scotland has some amazing filming locations that have been enjoyed by audiences around the world. It can be portrayed as kitsch, comic, romantic, violent, fantastical, gritty, historic or contemporary and its characters can be ordinary, terrifying or inspiring.”

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