You might think that getting a glittering Hollywood cast or winning a Bafta Cymru Award for Best Picture would make any low-budget Welsh film a dead certificate for box office success.
But in the case of 2001’s Plots With A View, no number of Tinseltown accolades or stars could prevent it from unceremoniously ending up six feet below ground before hardly anyone had a chance to see it. .
And 20 years later, with Oscar-winning star Christopher Walken publicly declaring it to be one of the favorite things he’s ever done, the time has come to resurrect this long-lost dark comedy about rival undertaker. from Valleys.
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At least its producer David Ball thinks so, adding that the opportunity to make the film has presented itself in a very unusual way. “We shot a low budget medieval horror film in Crickhowell,” he said.
“However, an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease broke out on the first day of filming and all the animals we wanted to use were impounded with our trucks.
“We ended up having to shoot all the outdoor scenes indoors and we were quickly strapped for cash – and it all had to be wrapped up as quickly as possible because the end of the year was just around the corner.
“Either way, we got there one way or another and our hard work was clearly noticed, as we then got the mandate to work on Plots With A View.”
At this point, only Brenda Blethyn had signed on to star with Alfred Molina, Naomi Watts and maniacal comic Lee Evans soon after.
Filming is said to take place in locations in Monmouthshire, Vale of Glamorgan, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Denbighshire.
“It was the arrival of Chris Walken that got everyone excited and we were all a little bit in awe of him,” said Ball of the famous Deer Hunter star, who had been hired to play a brash American entrepreneur attempting to to build up muscle. Molina’s modest funeral business.
“He was great and took the 12 hour a day, six days a week program on the chin, shouting, ‘Throw it on me! every time we asked him to go the extra mile.
“The strangest thing, however, was that he only addressed the crew based on what they were doing, calling them purely ‘wardrobe’, ‘makeup’ and so on.
“But, at the end of the shoot, he addressed everyone individually and thanked them all by first names – he had immense respect for that.”
But the thrill of having a potentially awesome project in the box would soon wear off.
“We had a few exclusive movie screenings at places like Nantgarw and were nominated for a Bafta Cymru, which we won. However, over time we started to wonder when our film would have an actual release date. . “
And the answer to that question turned out to be the last thing Ball had expected to hear.
“We discovered that Plots had fallen victim to a political feud between Miramax (the company formerly run by disgraced mogul Harvey Weinstein) and its parent company Disney.
“All of the films shot during that time – about seven in total – were the subject of an ownership dispute and were set aside. And, by the time things resolved themselves years later, our window d ‘opportunity had closed. “
As a result, the film – later renamed Undertaking Betty – only saw a theatrical release in Australia and was never shown in its native UK, either in multiplexes or on television.
“It’s tragic because it’s a brilliant little piece put together by an almost entirely Welsh team who grafted themselves on without being paid for months to make it happen. That was before the cameras even started rolling. “, added Ball.
“In the meantime, I will continue to tell people to search for a copy online as there are DVD versions if you search for them on Amazon.
“The movie deserves a big boost, although I guess it can look a bit dated these days.”
Nonetheless, Ball confessed that working with Walken was almost worth it.
“I joked that if he ever wanted to come back to Wales to work long hours for less pay in terrible weather he would be welcome.
“And he said, ‘I don’t care about that stuff, Dave. I had a blast’.”
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