The Clown, the Wolfman, warts and all…
Spot the one time Taggart stars once again as we return to the 1980s and another Scottish film with a Big Country soundtrack.
Restless Natives: Blu-ray & DVD Trailer, Stuart Adamson – In A Big Country: Tribute Channel AND PHOTOS © thorn emi screen entertainment
Just recently a certain streaming channel over here added some 1960s to 1980s random British films to its repertoire. So Darlin Husband and I have seen the great, see The Raging Moon (1971), the surprisingly so bad it’s good aka Percy (1971) and so awful it can’t be watched anymore, The Love Ban (1973). And you’ll note this has been indicated in my reviews with only one honoured so far.
The star of two out of three of these films appears in the much loved Scottish film offering that is getting a review today. I’m not talking about the actor who played the titular, Percy, Hywel Bennett (but watch this space). But this post is about his leading lady in The Love Ban, Nanette Newman. Nanette’s cameo is in the opening scene of this film, with her family in a wee cameo with her – one-time actor and then director – husband Bryan Forbes starring movie.
Both Darlin Husband and I on seeing Restless Natives (1985), the 80s feel good Scottish movie on this playlist had enthusiastically added it to our weekend watch list. It’s got a delightful screenplay from Ninian Dunnett, and this was his first and last movie script. The plot is reminiscent of those whimsical Scottish, Bill Forsythe comedies such as Gregory’s Girl (1981) and That Sinking Feeling (1979). It’s surprisingly directed by an American, Michael Hoffmann, and this man was also behind the camera for American movies, Soapdish (1991) and One Fine Day (1996).
Also spotted in the cast, and doing his best Scottish accent is the actor who I recently saw as the protagonist’s husband in Shirley Valentine (1989), Bernard Hill. Thankfully Hill is more successful in his Scottish accent than those acting “talents” who obviously model their “Scottish” accents on the Glaswegian comedian, Billy Connolly.
As a Scot, this trait is easily spotted as soon as this actor or actress starts talking, as it’s all in their delivery which often sounds like they are about to embark on a Connolly comedy monologue but then don’t.
Other recognisable faces include the American actor from Superman (1978), Ned Beatty and the late English comedian, Mel Smith (last spotted in a rewatch of National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1985)). And there are a ton of familiar Scottish faces with those from Scottish telly and beyond.
The film starts on an Edinburgh housing estate in Wester Hailes, as two geeky looking lads Will (Vincent Friell) and his best buddy, the road sweeper, Ronnie (Joe Mullaney) go out on a motorbike ride. They end up in the Highlands where they turn Dick Turpin – minus his gun – and stop a car, and ask for money from the front seat passenger.
By chance, it’s real-life husband and wife, Nanette Newman and Bryan Forbes with possibly the younger members of the Forbes clan in the back seat. After Nanette fobs them off with 50p believing it’s for a student charity, the lads watch as the car drives away with the driver and passengers unharmed. It’s apparent that Will feels bad about this robbery. Ronnie however decides to up their game after they realise they spent more on expenses getting there than they got from their robberies.
Ronnie works in a joke shop where he spends most of his days looking out for child shoplifters and supplying kids with practical jokes from fake poo to stink bombs. Will is preoccupied with minor ailments and some warts (on his fingers). On asking his mother how to treat warts, he gets some helpful advice as she tells him to ask his dad (Bernard Hill).
The intrepid Scottish pair decide to rob tour buses instead, which as all Scots know are full of rich American tourists with money to spend usually on tartan tatt. So with tall lanky Will now wearing a wolf mask like a Wolfman and Ronnie (Joe Mullaney), donning a clown one, they start stopping tour buses in Highland places with an obvious toy gun.
All goes well at first, as the pair hold up a bus using this toy gun. On shooting it, it splurges a concoction of athlete’s foot medication, sneezing and curry powder over the victim. The lads rake in the money and are seen as likeable rogues, often bantering with their victims, and giving tourists change when they are given high banknotes or posing for photographs with their victims with their masks on.
Their crimes inevitably make the Scottish newspapers, but their anonymity means they can’t spend their ill-gotten gains as they believe this would draw attention to them as the culprits. But it is fun, watching Will trying to suppress his pride and story when his father talks about these Scottish robbers as folk heroes.
At the same time, it’s slowly going to shit… as on one journey, they are confronted by an American cop, Bender (Ned Beatty) who gets splurged for his efforts. When love strikes, Will takes a fancy to a tour guide, Margot (Teri Lally) and falls in love on the job. After he persuades Ronnie to ride back to the bus, he gives her a bunch of flowers. She seems attracted to him too.
He then “bumps” into Margot at the bus station, and after telling her his “vocation”, they start to date. She sees him as a sort of Rob Roy character. Meanwhile, Bender has offered to help the Scottish police in finding the culprits. He takes charge of the case, believing that Chief Inspector Baird (Robert Urquhart) is more concerned with fishing. This is kind of ironic as Bender is preoccupied with constant phone calls from his lawyer concerning getting custody of his dog, as his divorce case drags on back home in the States.
After Ronnie and Will give some of their ill-gotten gains anonymously to the homeless. Their non-violent and genial robberies capture the hearts of the international news in Scotland and as far as Japan and later inspire a Japanese advertising team. So the lads become international heroes, as they evade the law.
Then Will’s wee sister and her umpteen best pals tell Will they know just what he and Ronnie have been up to… as Ronnie starts hanging out with some dodgy criminal types including Pyle (Mel Smith) and Nigel (Iain McColl) who want in on the crimes.
I remember watching this film on video (ask your auntie) shortly after its release and it’s a warm time capsule of Scotland in the 1980s. Be it those jokes on display in Ronnie’s joke shop and the contents of the rubbish pile that’s swept up by Will, these props led to memories of all sorts.
These reminiscences were added to those Scottish accents, scenery and humour, I’d easily add this to my now growing list of much recommended Scottish films. With a few then wee digs into the then politics and the sparkling Scottish dialogue in the screenplay, it is a real treat. There is something for the whole family, with some great setups for humour – see the warts storyline – and suspense, as a cop visits the joke shop, and the lads fear for their arrest… and the romantic storyline.
The film appears to be set in a fictional Scotland, with stunning scenes filmed in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Lochgilphead and the Scottish Highlands. These Scottish towns and places appear haphazardly in the story and then meshed together as the plot progresses. And again there were excited shrieks of joy recognising more familiar Edinburgh and other Scottish sights from Darlin Husband and me.
This blending of Scottish places might explain, the then confusion of one American on the train at Glasgow around this time. This as they asked me if this Scottish town – with the highest population in Scotland – was the Scottish Highlands… This fact is as unlikely as this film plot adding to your fear of wolfmen and clowns, in this film where it seems most of the Scottish cast starred in Taggart (1983-2010).
And these are two of the truths about a film, with those billed “Man in Car” and “Woman in Car” English stars. This is in those cameos from Bryan Forbes behind the steering wheel, but not in the director’s chair with a nod, nod to his marriage to actress, Nanette.
Weeper Rating: 😦 😦 😦 😦 /10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂🙂🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 /10
Hulk Rating: /10
Cinema Shame May 2022
This film was added as my post for Cinema Shame for May 2022. Other films with this cast include Ned Beatty in Network, Superman, The Fourth Protocol, The Big Bus and in Hopscotch. Nanette Newman in The Raging Moon aka Long Ago, Tomorrow and The Wrong Box. She also stars in International Velvet HERE, HERE and HERE. Bernard Hill in Shirley Valentine. Vincent Friell in The Angels Share and Trainspotting. Robert Urquhart in Hammer House of Horror. Mel Smith in National Lampoon’s European Vacation.
7 thoughts on “FILMS… Restless Natives (1985)”
This movie was rubbished at the time for being inferior to the Bill Forsyth films, but given how difficult it’s been since then to make good Scottish comedies, it looks much better at this distance. Plus, Teri Lally from Take the High Road….
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Is it bad I never saw Take the High Road or even River City? Would recommend Our Ladies for a more recent and good Scottish film comedy.. recently reviewed it too. Missing those Scottish accents…
This sounds like something I’d enjoy. I’m quite surprised to hear it was directed by Michael Hoffman.
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I guess this was bigger in Scotland than anywhere else. It does feel like its inspired by the Bill Forsyth comedies. It’s fun up to a point and the scenery is nice, but having established the premise, no one seems to know where to go with it.
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I remember Siskel and Ebert fighting over it (Ebert liked it, Siskel disliked it). Anyhow, it sounds like fun.
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It has a lovely 80s Bill Forsyth feel to it and it was great seeing Scotland even if it was in random ways… great wee feel good movie. Had forgotten Ned Beatty was in it, and he’s springing up here there and everywhere in my film viewing atm.
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