Apparently I’ve had a life-long love affair with Heatherden Hall

So, Tim and I were watching a completely wretched werewolf movie the other night – – truthfully, I can’t tell you how wretched it was because as soon as what I’m about to tell you, I was only thinking of the house and gardens, not the movie itself. But it had Anthony Hopkins in it! How bad could it be?! HAHAHAHAH awful.

There’s a scene pretty early on the movie when dude comes home to confront his father and all of a sudden, I know that staircase. I know the staircase and the railing and the floor. How can I know that? I’ve never seen this movie before. And yet all of a sudden I know that I know it, because it’s the same staircase, the same railing, the same floor from a movie I would watch endlessly as a child – The Amazing Mr. Blunden. You’ve probably never heard of it; that’s fine, I’ll forgive you. I’ve seen it enough for all of us. The movie came out in 1972 although I probably didn’t see it until 1978 or so, when staying with my grandparents over the summer. They got HBO and let me tell you; since TV was not big in my parent’s house at that point, it was like a miracle. Movies? All the time? Over and over again? Yes, please! I would watch this movie every time it came on. I loved it. I could repeat the lines at the same time as the actors. I was obsessed with the house and the garden; it seemed like everything I wanted in a haunted house. The ghosts were helpful, the house was beautiful and large, and the gardens expansive and so very British.

Why had I never looked up this house, the movie, to see where it was filmed? I have no idea why. It just never… I mean, why? Was I ever going to get to see it in person? It was probably someone’s home. It was probably a set. It probably burned down. I don’t know, it just… never occurred to me. That movie was magic to me as a child, why would I want to learn about what happened to the house? It would be like reading about your favorite child actor only to find out they died of some degrading drug overdose while wearing a clown suit. You know? Why bother learning that if it’s just going to depress you.

But while watching this horrible movie the other night I became obsessed with finding out the location. If two movies had been filmed there, I mean… what were the chances? And maybe I was wrong – after all, I hadn’t seen this movie in almost 30 years. I made Tim pause it while I ran to get my laptop, to look it up. Sure enough; Heatherden Hall, which is part of Pinewood Studios. I can’t even tell you how many movies have been filmed there. No, seriously. They’re a working studio, and have had a hand in hundreds of films, either in post-production or by using any of the hundreds of acres of location they have for settings. You can even get married there. Over 600 movies have been filmed there. Many of which I’ve seen, which either attests to the talent of film-makers to make one location appear different, or I’m a blind dumb-ass. I mean, I’ve probably seen at least 50 of the movies filmed here, including many James Bond films and The Great Gatsby and the Harry Potter movies and Willow and Fahrenheit 451 and… I could go on. You get the idea. Apparently even though I’ve only recognized it once, I’ve been watching movies filmed there my whole life – probably always admiring the woods or the gardens or the inside of the house. (One reason I may not have recognized anything filmed after 1974 is that they added a glassed-in room during the 1974 filming of The Great Gatsby, and have left it there; my memories from Blunden don’t include that!)

So I’ve spent far too much time this last week reading up on Mr. Blunden (based on a book) and reading about what happened to the actors. None of them were ever famous (one became particularly infamous), but most of them were highly prolific. Many of them worked in the Hammer House of Horror stable. None of them had starring roles in anything else I’ve ever seen, although a few of them have had bit parts.

And I’ve spent far too much time looking up photos of Heatherden Hall and wondering why people can’t make their wedding photos a little more spooky just for me. BECAUSE IT’S ALL ABOUT ME.

Should you be one of the three people I think this movie might appeal to, you can find The Amazing Mr. Blunden on YouTube, broken up into six 15-minute blocks. I watched it Saturday. I think it held up reasonably well to my ten-year-old imagination. I still want to live there.

One comment

  1. Beth

    Whoa, *I* even remembered the house from that horrible werewolf movie. I had the same thought – if it has Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins in it, it will be okay, right?
    Hrmmph. Not so much. But that house!

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