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The most filmed town on screen
It is hard to believe, but film making has been going on without a break, in Borehamwood for 98 years, at one or other of the six studios that have existed in the area. Thousands of television programmes have also been produced here over the past 60 years.
Therefore, it is not surprising to find many of these productions have used local locations and it can be great fun to spot places you recognise, especially those filmed in years gone past.
If you want to see Borehamwood in the early Seventies, then you should have a look at the “Confessions Of...” movies, starring Robin Askwith, and up will come shots of the old swimming pool and civic hall, Shenley Road, the old Red Lion and much more.
These movies were cheaply produced and for several years, proved profitable at the cinema. They contain a fair amount of nudity, but all done with a seaside postcard-style of humour and fairly mild by today’s standards.
That genre of “saucy” films often attracted some famous names of the era in guest roles.
The producer of some of these cinema classics told me: “In the Seventies actors were finding it tough to secure work and would often be grateful for a couple of days’ cameo role.
“Somebody like Diana Dors, who had starred in her own movies a decade earlier, would be happy with £500, provided £400 of it was cash in hand to avoid the tax man. You could get a good actor like Jon Pertwee, who was Doctor Who on television, for £250.”
On The Buses proved a popular television series and the three spin-off movies were shot at Elstree Studios.
Every year, the fan club visits the town and drives round the locations in an old double decker bus. You can spot fans gathered around the manhole Olive fell into, in Bullhead Road, or Stan’s house, in Malden Road.
One of the films ends with the closing credits rolling while the bus drives virtually the whole length of Brook Road. Those films proved very popular and the first one generated ten times its production costs at the box office in the first year. Stage 5 at the studio pretended to be a bus depot, but that is now under the Tesco car park.
Venture out to nearby Letchmore Heath and you will find it virtually unchanged from more than 50 years ago when it doubled as The Village Of The Damned in that classic horror movie, or visit the bridge at Tykes Water, which features in the opening credits of the last Avengers television series.
Go back to the Fifties and view a Richard Attenborough movie called The Scamp, in which you will see the old Kings Arms, now Harvester, at Stirling Corner and Grosvenor Road.
You can also see a giant brick-built, lead-lined water tank that stood roughly outside the present day council offices. it was constructed during the Second World War to help supply the local fire brigade.
Watch a film called Gideon Of The Yard and you will see Jack Hawkins drive up to collect a youngster from Summerswood School.
Look at a Sixties Dirk Bogarde film called Password Is Courage and you will see Radlett Station posing as a location in Second World War occupied Europe.
I have lost count the number of times I saw EastEnders or Grange Hill crews shooting around the town and even saw the Borehamwood & Elstree Times office frontage, in Drayton Road, with John Thaw sitting outside in his Jaguar as Inspector Morse.
There has even been filming in Allum Lane lawn cemetery and I remember one instance in 1969, when complaints were recieved as fake headstones were erected for a scene in a Jerry Lewis comedy.
Brookside Boys Club features in the film version of Rising Damp and High Canons, on the way to Shenley, crops up in scores of movies including a couple Hammer horrors.
The lanes near Well End can be spotted in many episodes of The Saint, Randall and Hopkirk, The Invisible Man and countless others.
I don’t think Borehamwood appeared in Star Wars, but I guess transporting Shenley Road to a galaxy far far away may have been beyond even the talents of George Lucas.
One day, some enterprising soul will compile a DVD of all these shots and more of Borehamwood and its guest appearances in almost 100 years of motion pictures.