The Damned Omniplex


David Peace‘s novel The Damned Utd is one of my favourite novels. The book is a fictionalised account of Brian Clough‘s brief tenure as the manager of Leeds United in 1974. We also get flashbacks to his playing days with his hometown club Middlesborough, his early retirement due to injury, and his earlier managerial spells at Hartlepool and Derby. The Brian Clough presented in the book is a fictional version of the man who died in 2004, but Peace researched the book quite well and it was difficult for me not to take what I was reading as fact

This approach has caused controversy because it portrays Clough as a man who was beset by alcohol problems and by certain obsessions, mainly to do with the football world. This depiction seems at odds with the man that football fans saw on television, a man who seemed to be extremely confident and even arrogant. Of course, football fans never saw the “real” Clough either, whoever he might have been. I’ve always admired Brian Clough, the football manager, both for his part in the success of his teams on the pitch and for his outspoken attitude off it. I’m still amazed that he brought League titles to Derby County and Nottingham Forest, two sides that had never tasted success before his arrival and that will most likely never achieve such success again. More amazingly, he also brought two successive European Cups back to Nottingham

So, when I heard that Peace’s book was being turned into a film I was a bit ambivalent about what kind of film it would be. There are far more failed attempts at making films about football than ones that attain even a modicum of success. Another favourite book of mine is Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch. The film version of that is so far from the book that it’s really a travesty that it possesses the same title. Additionally, it’s quite difficult to turn any novel into a successful film because literature and film use different methods to tell their stories. And one of my favourite aspects of this book was the way the reader was privvy to the main character’s thoughts and this is the most difficult part of any book to adapt for the screen

Nonetheless, when I heard the names of some of the people who would be making the film I was pleasantly surprised. Peter Morgan was signed on as the screenwriter and I’ve really enjoyed some of his recent work such as The Queen and Frost/Nixon. Michael Sheen played the main character in both of those films and I knew he’d make a good Clough. The film also has some other fine actors in it, particularly Colm Meaney as Don Revie and Timothy Spall as Clough’s sidekick, Peter Taylor. It’s been receiving some good reviews as well, so I was looking forward to going to see it this weekend

Except that my local cinema isn’t showing The Damned United this weekend and, most likely, I’m going to have to wait until it’s released on DVD

I must admit that I wasn’t surprised. My local cinema, which is only a five minute walk from where I live, is the Limerick Omniplex. Over the years, many films have failed to turn up here and I’ve had to wait until they came out on DVD before I was able to see them. As a result, my visits to the cinema have slowed down considerably over the last few years, even though I love film and I love watching them on the big screen. I used to go to the cinema two or three times a month. Now, I go three or four times a year

The Omniplex has twelve screens and it puts the newer films on the bigger screens. Now, it could easily keep the smaller screens for more “obscure” films like The Damned United. Instead, it holds onto these former blockbusters for months and puts them on in the smaller screening rooms.Perhaps this safe option is a more commercially viable option for the business as they are guaranteed that a few more people will watch a popular film that’s been out for a few months rather that take a chance on one that may be more challenging for the audience. Perhaps it’s also possible that the audience for this type of film would prefer not to watch it at a cineplex. There is also a cinema on the other side of Limerick. The Storm Cinema at Castletroy has eight screens and its choice of films is even more limited and less imaginative than that at the Omniplex

For many years, the tastes of Limerick’s more discerning film fans have been catered for by the Belltable and its seasonal Film Club. I saw many great films from all around the world there but, lately, I would have already seen most of them on DVD prior to their screening as part of their film season. The possibility of a dedicated city centre cinema that would show new releases that were not available elsewhere in the city now looks a long way off. And it looks like I’m going to have to wait for the bloody Damned United to be released on DVD before I get to see it. In the meantime, here’s a song about Brian Clough’s son, Nigel, and one about sneaking into a film without paying for a ticket

The Sultans of Ping FC were a Cork band best known for their minor hit about the loss of an outer garment called Where’s Me Jumper? Like distant Irish relations of Half Man, Half Biscuit their songs addressed important issues of the day. Give Him a Ball (and a Yard of Grass) appears on their debut album, Casual Sex in the Cineplex (1993). You can hear a Peel session version of the track as well as a 2FM version of Where’s Me Jumper? at the wonderful Football and Music site. The site also has a recent post about Cloughie and another one featuring a Limerick band and their brilliant song about a guy who played with Leeds United

Give Him a Ball & a Yard of Grass – Sultans of Ping FC

Darren Hanlon’s Don’t Want to Pay appears on his seven-track mini-album Early Days (2000). The song chronicles the Australian singer’s successful attempts to get past the cinema ushers and into the cinema without buying a ticket. He doesn’t do it because he can’t afford the ticket, but “because I get a thrill, I just take one seat that Hollywood couldn’t fill.” I’m sure that Brian Clough would have approved of this “rebel without a ticket”

Don’t Want to Pay – Darren Hanlon