Hero (1980) poster

Hero (1980)


UK. 1980.


Director/Screenplay – Barney Platts-Mills, Based on the Short Stories Tales of the Western Highlands by J.F. Campbell, Gaelic Translation – Aonghas Mac Niachell, Photography – Adam Barker-Hill, Music – Jimmy Davidson, Al Fraser & Paul Steen, O’Shin Songs – Stewart Grant, Art Direction – Tom Paine. Production Company – Maya Films.


Derek McGuire (Dermid O’Duinne), Caroline Kenneil (Grannia), Alistair Kenneil (Finn MacCumhail), Stewart Grant (O’Shin), Harpo Hamilton (Oscar), Clare Stephen (Young Girl), Nancy Pitt (Witch)


Dermid O’Duinne is sent by his father to join the army of the mystic warrior Finn McCumhail. An old hag comes by their camp and Dermid is the only one who will allow her to share his blanket, whereupon she turns into a beautiful girl. After a jealous fight, the witch places a curse that causes any woman who sees Dermid to fall in love with him. At the same time, Finn courts King Cormac’s daughter, the Princess Grannia, seeking her as his wife. However, at the wedding ceremony, Grannia looks upon Dermid and falls in love with him. They run away together whereupon Finn swears Dermid as his mortal enemy.

Hero is a production based on the legend of the Celtic warrior-poet-magician known variously as Finn Mac Cool, Fionn MacCumhal or Find Mac Ctjmaill who, according to legend, is supposed to have led the ‘fianna’, a standing militia comprised of warriors from all over Ireland during the 3rd Century AD. The legends recount Finn’s various heroic adventures and tell how he was descended from faerie-folk, was clairvoyant and very long-lived. In some tellings, he is even a giant and is reputed to have built the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland. The various legends date back as far as the 10th Century. The material the film uses is taken from one of the most well-known stories The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Grainne.

This production was originally made for tv but received a spotty theatrical release in some places. The dialogue is all in Gaelic, which gives Hero a certain obscure novelty value. However, the result approaches the unwatchably bad in its sheer amateurism. The film was cast with people who had no prior acting experience and were dragged in off the streets and gotten to perform their lines in rote fashion – and appreciably most of them give the impression of being obviously bored and with no idea what it is they are saying.

The results look exactly like what one would expect to get if they hired a group of extras, gave them army blankets and fake swords and let them run around in the mud. This is a problem surely not only helped by having a script written in Gaelic but with its dialogue all subtitled in dreadfully pretentious epigrams. What passes for a score is incredibly bad.

The film was shot in Argyll, Scotland, which is one of the dreariest landscapes imaginable. Which is all a shame as the film actually does develop a plot of sorts in its latter half. Given the proper opportunity, the legend of Finn Mac Cool has rich material that is more than halfway filmable.

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