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Billy Connolly – Big Banana Feet – Film News | Film-News.co.uk

Billy Connolly - Big Banana Feet - Film News | Film-News.co.uk

The ‘Big Yin’, otherwise known as Scottish national treasure Billy Connolly or, these days, Sir William Connolly CBE, was on the cusp of international stardom when this documentary, depicting his 1975 tour of Ireland, was filmed. Now available newly restored in 2K Blu-ray and DVD format, fans will be able to delight at his on- and off stage antics during his performances in Dublin and Belfast amidst the political tensions of 70’s Ireland.

The style of this no holds barred documentary was clearly inspired by DA Pennebaker’s Bob Dylan documentary ‘Don’t Look Back’ – meaning we get to see not only excerpts from Connolly’s gigs but glimpses as to what went on backstage, at receptions, parties and hotel rooms (no raunchy anecdotes here I’m afraid to say). We even see the Big Yin and his entourage (if you can call it that) landing at Dublin airport, sporting flares, a typical 70’s hippy-goatee and his instruments (banjo and guitar). Arriving in his posh hotel suite, he is informed that this suite was formerly occupied by the likes of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor and Rod Stewart, to name but a few. Seemingly impressed by the splendour of it all (well, by 1970’s standards…), Connolly can be heard muttering that this is a beautiful room indeed before getting comfy on one of the luxurious chairs.

Prior to his one-off show at Dublin’s Carlton Cinema, Connolly can be seen mingling with guests, crew, staff and VIPs in the reception lobby, indulging in charming small talk and slightly raising concern that some of his more vulgar jokes might cause insult to more conservative Irish sensibilities (same in his native Scotland), though one female fan assures him that if that were the case, those easily offended wouldn’t have come to the performance to begin with. It’s during this very performance that Connolly debuts his utterly bonkers and oversized banana boots (courtesy of Scottish pop artist Edmund Smith), remarking that they don’t seem to be identical before adding that bananas aren’t identical anyway.

Playing some hillbilly-style ditty on his banjo, he then takes his guitar and delivers a riotous rendition of Buddy Holly’s ‘Oh Boy’ complete with altered lyrics, before swapping banjo with guitar and treating the audience to a song about swearing – adding that back in his native Glasgow, people swear better than anywhere else in the world despite it being a nasty habit: “It’s like machine gun fire, especially during football matches” he explains jokingly. The film then cuts to a radio interview taking place the following day, with the host asking Connolly how he feels (presumably in relation to after-party boozing). “See those red lights here on your monitor?” asks Connolly… “I’m sure my eyes look just like that…” He also explains that back in Scotland, he often runs into trouble with the censors and stuck-up people because of his vulgar jokes but of course, his many fans love it! On the subject of jokes, the film then goes back to his Dublin gig and the audience is treated to his ‘Willy’ song (‘willy’ such as in ‘dick’ or ‘prick’) which has the audience in stitches.

Next it’s on to Belfast where he plays two nights at the ABC Cinema – fully aware of the delicate political situation, Connolly wisely refrains from any political barbs. Once again, Connolly proves he is a true master of banter when it comes to engaging with his audience and gets massive applause for his jokey rendition of Kris Kristofferson’s ballad ‘Help me make it through the night’ before cracking some jokes, including a mention of his favourite country & western composition ‘I’ve been so lonesome in my saddle since my horse died’. If there’s one song which brought the house down, it’s ‘That wonderful four-letter word’ (‘to ban it would be a shame’) which is as funny as it is explicit in a witty kind of way, before having the audience roaring with laughter during his ‘Fart song’ which must be the funniest among his entire repertoire. As the audience reaction both in Dublin and Belfast proved, Connolly’s 1975 Ireland tour was a huge success!

As ever with BFI releases, some interesting Bonus Material is thrown in for good measure – in this case an interview with director Murray Grigor and road manager Billy Johnson after the film’s premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival 2024 / Before and After restoration demo / Illustrated booklet (first pressing only) / Murray Grigor’s award-winning short film BLAST (1975, 24 min) about ‘Vorticism’ – a radical art movement of the early 20th century. The jewel in the crown is the 31 min travelogue ‘Clydescope’ from 1974 – an entertaining panorama of the Clyde from Biggar to Brodick with Billy Connolly as your guide, interspersed with animation and archive footage and narrated in true John Betjeman-style by theatrical giant Micheál MacLiammóir.

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