Local Hero – The Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)

I suppose I have a bit of a Scottish blindspot (at least with older Scottish films). I was not aware of Local Hero until The Criterion Collection announced it. By all accounts, it’s a well-regarded film that many celebrate writer/director Bill Forsyth for, but it went unknown to me until recently. Fortunately, I found a lot to like about what this quaint film had to offer, beyond the idea of seeing Burt Lancaster, Wedge Antilles, and a young Peter Capaldi in a movie together. It’s a story about culture clashes, small-town life, and 80s greed all coming together in a lovely way.


Peter Reigert stars as Mac, a hot-shot executive who works for an oil company owned by the very eccentric Felix (Lancaster). Based on his surname (though he’s actually Hungarian), Felix sends Mac to Scotland to acquire a village for the sake of an oil refinery. Upon arriving, Mac finds himself falling for the lifestyle of this picturesque seaside community. At the same time, the citizens of Ferness could not be more delighted by the presence of Mac, as they could only hope to be given a good amount of money to move onto life elsewhere. So, the two different parties play into the idea that they both want different things to ideally get a better bargain, despite ultimately wanting what the other is offering.

Perhaps I’m making it sound too complicated. Local Hero is anything but complicated. It’s a deliberately paced film relying on deadpan humor, character-based comedy, and lots of scenery. The entire cast is playing things in a low-key manner, except for the subplot involving Burt Lancaster (who seems to be having the time of his life in the oldest actor phase of his career).

The key to it all is Riegert. While he originally debuted in National Lampoon’s Animal House, he’s perhaps best known for playing it straight in various comedies, as well as some dramas. As the film functions as a sly commentary on corporations, he serves as a yuppie, while having to remain likable throughout. He pulls it off, which comes from his easygoing nature helping him to get along with a good portion of the cast.

On the other side, there is the aforementioned Rebel Alliance pilot, Denis Lawson, as one of the more notable residents, working with Mac on reaching a good arrangement. Lawson, and others, all do their part to create a very lived-in society fitting for the film. There’s also Capaldi adding a bit broader touches, as a local representative of the oil company. His attitude is a fun one, as he’s balancing his aspirations for being a corporate stooge with his newfound love of the town, and specifically a marine researcher.

Fitting for a production of this kind, there is a sort of melancholy mood layered over this film, but it’s nothing that drags it down. If anything, the way the atmosphere factors in only increases the effectiveness of some of the film’s quirkier attributes. It also allows for a stronger conclusion, which involves a confrontation on a beach.

There’s a lot to like about Local Hero, particularly the arcs of these characters, working towards some resolution that’s not quite as obvious as the conventional story it’s trying to tell. Think of this as a Scottish-imbued version of a Preston Sturges story, and there’s a lot to appreciate.


Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Details: Local Hero features a new digital transfer created in 2K resolution by Goldcrest Films, with additional restoration performed by the Criterion Collection.

Clarity/Detail: It’s the mood that comes through strongest in this transfer. Finding a way to let the lighting and coloring inform how we see everything speaks to the nature of the film. The film’s details follow suit, and are strong in this presentation. Seeing the little details in the old buildings and the way this seaport village comes together makes for a good watch when appreciating how clear it all looks.

Depth: Scenes of characters walking on expansive beaches do the best at highlighting the solid level of depth found in the visuals for this feature. You get a great sense of spacing in those moments. Not a flat picture at all.

Black Levels: The black levels are great and stable, with no crushing.

Color Reproduction: The blend of overcast days and colorful sunsets allows for a nice wealth of colors. The latter half, in particular, has some great moments to really shine.

Flesh Tones: The detail level seen in the actual characters is impressive enough. With so many unique faces, there’s plenty to like about how the film emphasizes what it needs to.

Noise/Artifacts: There is a consistent level of grain that is to be expected, but this film is basically spotless, as all the dirt, damage, stains, etc. has been cleaned up.



Audio Format(s): LPCM 2.0

Subtitles: English SDH

Details: The original monaural soundtrack was remastered from a 35 mm DME magnetic track using Avid’s Pro Tools and iZotope RX.

Dynamics: This fully remastered track does plenty of justice to the film as intended. With no cracks, pops, or any other audio distortion, there’s plenty to appreciate about what this mono track can deliver.

Low-Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Everyone is heard loud and clear.



Local Hero features a nice collection of extras both old and new, doing enough to dig into why this film stands out, what it means to people and other interesting bits of info.

Features Include:

  • Audio Commentary with Director Bill Forsyth and critic Mark Kermode
  • Bill Forsyth (HD, 17:00) – A new interview with Forsyth discussion the production of Local Hero, its themes, stylistic approach, and more.
  • Shooting from the Heart (HD, 53:00) – A vintage documentary from 1985, featuring many interviews from the crew.
  • The South Bank Show (HD, 53:00) – An archival episode of this series, where Forsyth and producer David Puttnam discuss the making of the movie.
  • The Making of Local Hero (HD, 53:00) – Another archival television program, featuring interviews with the cast of the film. There’s also plenty of raw footage from the making of the movie.
  • I Though Maybe I’d Get to Meet Alan Whicker (HD, 27:00) – An archival look at how Forsyth got his start as a filmmaker.
  • Trailer (HD, 2:00)
  • PLUS – An essay by film scholar Jonny Murray.



I was delighted to not only discover Local Hero, a film no doubt respected and loved by many others already, but really enjoy what it had to offer. It’s a great small-town film with fun characters and good ideas on display. The Criterion presentation does it plenty of justice as well, with a robust collection of extras, and a terrific technical transfer. Look out for this one if you’re in the mood for a good-natured human comedy.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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