Episode 32: Local Hero

Click to Play!

Emotionally wrecked by the last episode, Sean and Cody seek solace in one of the ultimate comfort movies of the ‘80s and are joined by Maco, a true Scotsman who loves this 1983 comedy, as special guest. In Local Hero, boring oil industry executive wanna-be Mac (Peter Riegert) is dispatched by his sleepy, distracted and egocentric boss Mr. Happer (Burt Lancaster) to buy a small Scottish town and prepare it to be bulldozed into a new refinery. But once Mac gets to Scotland and experiences the charm of corporate chaperone Danny (Peter Capaldi), lawyer and bartender Gordon (Denis Lawson) and possible part-time mermaid Marina (Jenny Seagrove), he becomes much more attached to the town than he thought possible. Environmental issues discussed center around the petroleum industry in Scotland, the UK and 1980s Texas, development and climate change.

Are there real towns like this in Scotland? How has the oil industry affected Scotland’s past, present and future? What’s a selkie and how would you know if you had a crush on one? How did Margaret Thatcher, who started her career snatching milk bottles away from kids, get climate change right and almost everything else wrong? Why was getting an engineering degree in oil and gas in 1980s Texas a really bad career move? How is it possible that ordinary people walking down the street in Scotland find themselves chased by Vulcan bombers? Is it a coincidence that Local Hero is Al Gore’s all-time favorite movie? Who’s Fitzroy Maclean and what does he have to do with James Bond? How did a character in this movie get an asteroid named after him? Who owned C3P0 and R2D2 before Luke Skywalker did? All these questions and more come up from the ground like a bubblin’ crude in this extraordinarily Scottish episode of Green Screen.

Original HD remastered trailer for Local Hero.
Gordon (Denis Lawson) is the booze-filled confidante of wistful Houston oil executive Mac (Peter Riegert), who has become enamored with the small town in Scotland he’s been instructed to buy in Local Hero.
Ferness, Scotland old timer Ben (Fulton Mackay) makes Mac a deal he can’t refuse for the last beach that stands between him and Knox Oil Company’s new refinery. As with most things, Mac has no idea what he’s dealing with.
Mr. Happer (Burt Lancaster) decides on a new direction for the Ferness oil refinery project at the end of Local Hero. SPOILER ALERT: this clip, as well as our episode, gives away most of the ending of the film.
“Going Home,” the theme song from Local Hero composed and performed by Dire Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler, was even more popular than the film itself. Here is the official video which contains clips from the film.

Additional Materials About This Episode:

The History

D. Hallett, G.P. Durant, G.E. Farrow, “Oil Exploration and Production in Scotland,” Scottish Journal of Geology, Vol. 21, no. 4 (1985):

Text of UK House of Commons debate on the Clyde Port Authority (Hunterston Ore Terminal), December 11, 1973. This is the source of the Fitzroy Maclean quote in the episode:

“Oil Glut and the Economic Downturn,” from HoustonHistory.com, discussing the fortunes of Houston, Texas in the period covered by the film (archive link):

milk snatcher pd

UK schoolkids enjoying their “wee bottle o’ milk,” in Maco’s parlance. This practice was gleefully abolished by Margaret Thatcher in 1971 when she was Secretary of State for Education & Science in Edward Heath’s cabinet. At least she believed in climate change!

Kópakonan selkie statue by kallerna cc40

Sculpture of a “selkie,” Scotland’s answer to the mermaid. This one is in Mikladalur, in the Faeroe Islands. (Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Kallerna, Creative Commons 3.0 license).

The Movie:

“Jack Webster Describes the Anatomy of a Major Production” (Local Hero), The Glasgow Herald, July 17, 1982 (Google News link):

Jonathan Murray, “Local Hero: Our Man in Ferness,” Criterion Collection blog, September 24, 2019:

Trailer for Whisky Galore! (1949), the Scottish comedy film that Maco cites as a major influence for Local Hero.

Local Hero (1983) on IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085859/
Local Hero (1983) on Letterboxd: https://letterboxd.com/film/local-hero/

Next Movie Up: The Mosquito Coast (1986)

The artwork riffing off Local Hero is, I believe, courtesy of the Criterion Collection. Its inclusion here is believed to be permissible under fair use. We are not the uploader of any YouTube clips embedded here.
The main episode includes a musical composition, “Master of the Feast,” by Kevin MacLeod of Incompetech.com, used under Creative Commons 4.0 license.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s