The 50-minute 1979 documentary film Underground Eiger is primarily about caving but there is a wonderful two-minute sequence which begins at 23:49 filmed at The Old Hill Inn in the Yorkshire Dales.
It’s a party rather than a typical night at the pub but nonetheless gives a wonderful sense of atmosphere, and is certainly a great antidote to that grim stereotypical ‘Yorkshire’ pub portrayed in An American Werewolf in London.
You can find more information on the film and watch what might be a higher quality copy at the BFI website.
We were alerted to the presence of this film on YouTube by Anthony Harper (@anthonymharper) and it’s a corker.
It was made as a joint production of the US and UK governments and was intended, in short, to prevent American soldiers acting like dickheads in Britain. The host is Burgess Meredith (Batman, Rocky) and he spends the first third of the film — about ten minutes — in an English country pub:
We’re not trying to show you the perfect way to behave in a pub. We’re only trying to point out that some of these people are a little more reserved than some of us. If you take it easy a little bit, just at the beginning… you’ll make some damn good friends.
It’s staged with the interior filmed on a studio set but, as it’s intended to be educational rather than propaganda, we can probably assume it’s a fairly accurate portrayal. In fact, the advice is still good, on the whole:
What’s that? What’s the difference between bitter and mild? I don’t know. One’s bitter and one’s mild. You’d better find out for yourself…
Pub culture lends itself to film-making thanks to its quirks, eye-catching details, and characters.
We’ve been picking up the odd video here and there over the years but hadn’t checked Vimeo for a while. We were lured there this time trying to answer a question about seafood hawkers in pubs which turned up this gem directed by Matthew Daunt:
Then, following the breadcrumbs, we found this recent portrait of the Steve, landlord of Ye Olde Vic in Stockport:
(Of his fists: ‘Let me just tell you that they’re only resting, not retired.’)
This next film, The Regulars, by Grant Hodgeon, is actually eight years old but it’s the first time we’ve come across it. It’s an eccentric piece in some ways, switching styles, stopping and starting, but there’s no denying the charm of the raw footage:
And, finally, another Stockport pub (is everyone there a documentarian?) filmed by Jake Parker in 2013:
You can really smell the booze and the sticky carpets in that one, can’t you?
The similarity in tone of these films and others — wistful, slightly sad — says something about how the pub is viewed in 21st Century Britain. We suppose it’s because it feels fragile or endangered as an institution that people feel motivated to document it, while they still can.