Locations in Movies

Notes and facts about some of the places used as locations for films.

Shutter Island

Shutter Island (2010)

The eponymous Shutter Island in Martin Scorsese’s 2010 psychological thriller was actually put together from a variety of locations, including some computer-generated scenery.

The shots of the harbour, and of the whole island during the ferry’s approach at the beginning, use Peddocks island in Boston Harbour (although even this has been enhanced in the shot above, with CGI adding higher mountains and cliffs than exist on the real island).

Peddocks Island was used by the US military as a harbour defence fort (‘Fort Andrews’) until after World War Two. There are several abandoned military buildings left over, and some of these are visible in the early shots of the characters’ arrival.

The island has camping and swimming facilities, although if you’ve seen the film, you may not be too keen on taking the family on a waterside holiday.

La Dolce Vita

La Dolce Vita (1960)

There aren’t many scenes in cinema that have reached a level as iconic as Anita Ekberg’s dip in the Trevi Fountain in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. Countless tourists flock to the fountain every year, and if they don’t jump in themselves, there are probably two good reasons for this. One is that the local council now puts bleach in the water, and the other is that the scene wasn’t really filmed at the real fountain.

Instead, the Trevi Fountain scene was shot at a recreation of the fountain on a lot at Rome’s Cinecitta studios, a few miles south of the real thing.

If this made the filming more convenient, it didn’t make it any more pleasant for the two stars: the scene was shot in winter, and Marcello Mastroianni needed both a wetsuit under his tuxedo and a bottle of vodka to prepare himself for the icy waters of the fountain, while Ekberg was wearing thigh-length waders under her dress.

Went the Day Well?

Went the Day Well? (1942)

Alberto Cavalcanti’s remarkable 1942 propaganda film Went the Day Well? tells the story of a small English village that finds itself unexpectedly overrun by Nazis (but not by Christopher Lee).

The village chosen for filming was Turville in Buckinghamshire. Today it still has a population of only 311, and is a popular filming location, especially for detective shows: Inspector Morse, Midsomer Murders, The Inspector Lynley Mysteries and Jonathan Creek have all been filmed here.

Turville also provided exteriors for The Vicar of Dibley, and other big-screen appearances include Ealing’s Dead of Night (also directed by Cavalvanti), and more recently, An Education.

The Twilight Zone: Where is Everybody?

The Twilight Zone: Where is Everybody? (1959)

In the first episode of The Twilight Zone, airman Mike Ferris stumbles around a deserted town, unable to either recall who he is, or work out where everybody else has gone.

The town itself should have been familiar to him, though perhaps not as much as it is to film viewers today. The episode was filmed in the Universal Studios backlot known today as Courthouse Square. The set was built in 1948 for An Act of Murder, and by the time this Twilight Zone episode had been filmed, it had already been used for the Ma & Pa Kettle films, as well as B-movies It Came from Outer Space and Tarantula (compare the picture above with the second photo in our post about Tarantula).

The square was later used in To Kill a Mockingbird (which led to it being known temporarily as Mockingbird Square), and in the eighties it appeared in Knight Rider and Gremlins and, most famously, the Back to the Future films, which gave it its current name. You can see the courthouse itself in the still below, albeit without the clock tower: like many features of the square, the clock has come and gone as needed by the various productions.

still showing Courthouse Square in Where is Everybody? (The Twilight Zone)
The Third Man

The Third Man (1949)

Although The Third Man is (famously) set in Vienna, and makes use of numerous locations around that city, much of the studio work and other shots were filmed in London.

This would apparently include at least some of the back projection footage made for the driving scenes. During the drives to and from the hospital near the end of the film, several London buses are visible on the road. (These wouldn’t be the famous Routemasters, though, as those weren’t introduced until the 1950s. They’re more likely to be an earlier model, known as the Regent.)

These kinds of things are often easier to make out in moving footage, but above you can clearly see the outline of a bus behind the brim of Martens’ hat, and on the right of the picture below, even the bus route is tantalisingly close to being legible.