Seeing as it is Saint Patrick’s Day today, I thought that I would review my five worst movies set in this emerald isle. As always, to get on to this list the movie doesn’t necessarily have to be bad in every way. They simply have to fail sufficiently in at least one way, that having seen them once, the thought of a repeat viewing makes clawing my own eyes out a pleasurable alternative.
As a proud daughter Ireland, I really wish that more movies showed something approaching a real Ireland. But unfortunately what we get, more often than not, are movies set in an Ireland which has only ever existed in the twisted dreams of Hollywood. We don’t dance at the crossroads. There aren’t leprechauns under every toadstool. Despite what most people might tell the census taker, most of us can’t and don’t speak Irish. But in this list we will find a group of horror stories set in the dreamland of an imagined Ireland. Enjoy.
5: Into the West.
Yes, yes in Ireland we all keep huge white horses in our living rooms.
This is a movie which scooped award after award when it was released back in 1992. It’s the story of two young traveller boys and a horse named “Tír na nÓg”. And frankly if you want to know more about the story, either rent the DVD or read the Wikipedia page.
The one time I forced myself to sit through the entirety of this movie, it was as a sop to family harmony. But even though it was written by an Irish man, the cast are largely Irish and it was shot in Ireland, it just rang painfully untrue to me. I felt absolutely no affinity or connection to anything in this movie. It left me cold, empty and bored. So I made myself warm again, by watching Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan.
This movie like so many I put on these lists should have been great. Good cast, good script and all the rest. But somehow this movie which everyone, and I mean everyone, raved about at the time simply bored me to tears. These days on those rare occasions when I see it come on television, I just suddenly start to hear a strange white noise. Seriously white noise just starts to come from nowhere. Then once the credits roll, boom white noise gone and life continues as normal.
4: The Field.
Richar Harris looking stern, oooooh stern.
Unsurprisingly this is a movie about a field. Seriously, it isn’t just a clever play on words. It’s genuinely a movie about a field and one man’s, mentally unstable lust for that particular field. Well no, actually it’s a bit more than that, but it really is about a field. The Field started life in 1965 as a play by John B. Keane. It was then released as a movie adaption in 1990. Since it was first penned it has been played out on stage many times and has become a fixture on the Irish high school syllabus.
The movie adaption has everything going for it. A cast most big budget Hollywood movies of the time would have killed for. With Richard Harris, Sean Bean, Tom Berenger, John Hurt and Brenda Fricker all giving excellent performances. The movie script, adapted from the original play, is an exceptional example to the world of how this should be done. The sets are exquisite, the score haunting. And Sean Bean is I think the forgotten gem of the performances as “The Bull” MacCabes son Tadgh.
Yet with all of this going for it, this movie manages to just fall flat. The play is an exceptional read, and should in fact be required reading for any writer, who wants to learn how to make characters come to life. But somehow in the movie, with the exception of Tadgh I never felt that this happened. No matter how hard the actors tried, and believe me they tried with Harris and Hurt acting their hearts out, it just never felt real and thus is quickly becomes boring.
This to me is a great shame, this is a movie I want to like. It is after all adapted from one of the few Irish plays I like which was penned by an Irish writer I genuinely admire. But in the final analysis it turns out to be just another mediocre movie set in Ireland.
3: Flight of the Doves.
There are no words for how bad this movie truly is.
Now we’re really hotting up. This movie is bad beyond words. Two children from Liverpool, run away from an abusive stepfather and set out on a journey across a make believe Ireland, in search of their grandmother. It is cringe worthy to a degree which is difficult to describe. Suffice to say that if it is actually possible to cringe yourself to death then this is the movie that will ultimately prove it possible.
To prove the point in my last post “Woohoo, I’m an Irish Ma” I posted a video. That video comes from this movie and believe me as horrifically painful as that song is to watch, the rest of this movie is even worse. It starts badly and just goes from bad to worse to “Oh my goddesses make it stop, PLEASE make it stop.”
2: The Fighting Prince of Donegal.
Unfortunately the poster is far better and more exciting than the movie.
Do you remember a great movie from the 90’s named Braveheart? Do you remember how it took, let’s call them, “liberties” with Scottish and English medieval history? Like for example, the Battle of Sterling Bridge somehow being fought on an open plain, with not a single bridge to be seen anywhere? But everyone could forgive those lapses from actual history because it was a bloody good movie and frankly the Irish Army Reserve were mad bastards in it. Mad bastards who very obviously took immense pleasure in actually kicking the crap out of each other in every battle scene and it frankly it made for a great spectacle.
Well The Fighting Prince of Donegal doesn’t take liberties. It rapes the story of one of the key figures in Irish history, without even having the defence of being a good movie. Okay yes I accept that Hollywood, and in this case Disney have only a passing knowledge of the concept “historical accuracy”. But to say that this movie is loosely based on the story of Red Hugh O’Donnell would be like…well lets try this.
Imagine a new “historically accurate” movie, based on the true story of George Washington. Where George Washington fights the British and then invades Great Britain. The movie ends with his infamous command, to leave no enemy survivors of any age or gender alive anywhere on the entire island. Thus ends the British Empire in a sea of blood and leaves George Washington the undisputed ruler of half the world…
It’s utter rubbish. The names might be right and a precious few of the locations. But it would have absolutely nothing to do with the truth of what Washington lived for or indeed what he actually achieved.
That’s what the Fight Prince is like. But in a fluffier way.
There is a great story to be told about Hugh O’Donnell. He was a fascinating Irishman and his story is filled with excitement, adventure and twists. Hell, his story even comes to a suitably tragic end. As he waits in Spain for support from the Spanish crown, support that never comes. There is the scope for a great movie in the real story, but The Fighting Prince sure as hell isn’t it.
1: Darby O’Gill and the Little People.
The definition of "Twee"
The worst movie about anything Irish that has ever been made. This movie is so bad, that I once bought a dvd copy of it when I saw it on sale so I could put it in a microwave and fry it. This movie is in most ways the origin of the Hollywood clichés of Irish life and Irish history. Everyone is ruddy faced, everyone is jolly, everyone dances and sure all the Irish colleen’s are fresh faced with twinkling eyes and inviting smiles. What a load of bollocks.
Look, all I have to say about this particular movie is that it is an abomination unto the world. And that when the black magic keeping Sean Connery alive finally runs out of juice, it is by this work he finally will be judged in the underworld. Hades himself, will look down upon Connery from his throne and with a snarl of disgust, fling him violently into the deepest pit at his disposal. Connery will then be left with nothing but a 112″ plasma screen and Darby O’Gill and the frikkin’ Little People to watch for all eternity.
Actually even thinking about this movie makes me so angry that my hands shake. It represents everything bad about Ireland in Hollywood rolled into one gloriously awful package. It is to Ireland what Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is to the States. A poisonous concoction that should never have been.
Usually I say to watch these movies once, but in the case of Mister O’Gill I will instead beg you to save yourself. Please believe me, nothing good can come of watching this movie.
SAVE YOURSELVES! WATCH UNDERWORLD INSTEAD!