Brannigan (1975)

I’m not a John Wayne fan in any sense, but I saw this on Amazon for no money and having seen it once many years ago, and remembering it was filmed in and around London during the mid 70’s, I thought I’d give it a go…

And while it’s certainly not a classic, it’s not that bad actually: John Wayne’s typically brash US cop arrives in London to collect a mobster and take him home for trial, but the mobster gets kidnapped and Brannigan/Wayne effectively approaches the job of getting him back in the same way he would if he was acting in one of his dodgy westerns, walking everywhere with revolver in hand and smashing everything up, there’s even a bar brawl in it. Watch the trailer, you’ll get the drift…

Anyway my movietecture for this film is two fold. Firstly the general backdrop of a mid 70’s London is amazing to see: The Docklands (where a very young Tony Robinson gets pushed in) still has warehouses, ships and cranes along with a general air of decrepitude. There is a car chase and a pretty amazing car jump over a half opened Tower Bridge in a bright yellow Capri (the only time this stunt has ever been allowed I believe). The pub brawl is in the Leadenhall Market area and there are numerous other famous locations glimpsed along the way, all looking suitably dusty and dated….

But my favourite bit of a long gone London, is right at the end, when the kidnappers are revealed to be hiding in the Beckton Gas Works, a huge sprawling area of disused land to the east of the Royal Docks, an area that was also used to film several episodes of the Sweeny and a video for a crappy Oasis song, but was most famously transformed in the mid 1980’s when the great Stanley Kubrick planted some palm trees, painted Vietnamese characters on the buildings and gave us the surprisingly convincing bomb destroyed Vietnamese city of Hue in Full Metal Jacket.

Opened in 1870 specifically to produce coal gas, Beckton Gas Works was the largest such facility in Europe. The picture to the right shows the scale of the site with the huge circular containers used to store  the gas. The discovery of North Sea gas however made this manufactured gas uncompetitive and the whole site finally closed down in 1970, with the land eventually becoming part of the Docklands Developement Corporation and becoming home to a DLR depot and a retail park..

In the the 70’s however, the whole area had a real sense of dereliction; The overhead conveyor lines are overgrown, the ground is muddy and black and the windows are all broken, a great place to hide someone you’ve (supposedly) kidnapped and drive around fast in an E type Jag….

  1. Peter Saunders
    July 29, 2013 at 23:06

    Get the July 2013 copy of Practical Classics, (a UK car restoration magazine) where there is an article on the car chase and the cars involved, (page 62/3). The authorities placed a complete ban on any car actually doing a jump over a partially open Tower Bridge. The yellow Capri didn’t do the jump, that was faked, but the Jag did the jump and the driver, Peter Brayham, was promptly arrested, being bailed out by John Wayne and having his fine paid by the film company. There is also a description of the route of the car chase. Good story.

  2. July 30, 2013 at 21:15

    Hi Peter
    Many thanks for the update and the magazine tip, I’ll go and see if there are any copies still around…
    I’ve just re-watched a clip on YouTube here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_CG4GA2pqc and on closer inspection, it does indeed look like the Capri jump is faked… another illusion shattered (don’t think I’ll bother editing the post though…)
    Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment.
    Joe

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