Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Castles in the Sky.

Castles in the Sky.

Gillies Mackinnon



Running Time:

Principle Cast:
Eddie Izzard
Robert Watson Watt

Alex Jennings
Henry Tizard

David Hayman
Frederick Lindemann

Laura Fraser
Margaret Watson Watt

Karl Davies
Skip Wilkins

Julian Rhind-Tutt
Albert Percival Rowe

This feature film charts the story of a typical British eccentric. Robert Watson-Watt was a Scottish engineer who developed what we know call radar. Tracking stations were installed during the Second World War along the east and south coasts of England to detect enemy aircraft flying in from Europe giving the Royal Air Force adequate early warning so the incoming planes could be stopped before they had a chance to attack. The system that Watson-Watt and others developed was credited with helping win the aerial Battle of Britain and ultimately the war.    

Described as ‘a nail biting fight against the clock to save Great Britain’, which in fact it is not because your quite aware of the ending. Surprisingly this is apparently the first time that this story has actually been told. Originally the BBC had offered a 60-minute programme on the life of Watson-Watt and his radar progression but after two years were spent on researching and writing a screenplay it was thought better to produce a 90-minute biographical drama as a single feature film.

David Hayman and Director Gillies Mackinnon.
This could not be mistaken for any thing else but a ‘British’ movie with all the normal characters one would expect along with typical Brit humour. Shot local to Edinburgh it did bring back to Scotland, Glasgow born Gillies Mackinnon who helmed the movie and who along with David Hyman, the producer Simon Wheeler and the films script writer were at its World Premiere to talk about the film after the screening. Also making an appearance was Eddie Izzard, Skyped in from Dallas Texas to take part in the discussion. As you would imagine it was Izzard that dominated the proceedings telling us how much he relished being cast as Robert Watson-Watt and how much he enjoyed working with the other cast members, the crew and the director. He was questioned on his accent, which he described as ‘intelligent Dundee’ (which did raise quite a bit of laughter from the Film House capacity audience) but every one agreed, including a relative of Watson-Watt who was in the audience that the real mans accent was not very strong and was as near to an English accent as a Scotsman dare get!  The other interesting character was the German Frederick Linderman played by David Hyman, which Izzard thought would make a great subject for another film!

Eddie Izzard joins in the Q&A session all the way from Dallas Texas. 
I don’t think the film would set the world on fire but I think it would play very well at my local cinema the Robert Burns Centre Film Theatre in Dumfries it’s the sort of film that would appeal to its more conservative audience. And as a footnote we were told a wee story: After Watson-Watt moved to Canada he was reportedly pulled over for speeding by a radar gun-toting policeman. His remark was, "Had I known what you were going to do with it I would never have invented it!" He wrote an ironic poem called Rough Justice afterwards:

Pity Sir Robert Watson-Watt,
strange target of this radar plot.
And thus, with others I can mention,
the victim of his own invention.
His magical all-seeing eye
enabled cloud-bound planes to fly
but now by some ironic twist
it spots the speeding motorist
and bites, no doubt with legal wit,
the hand that once created it.  

That typical British humour again!

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