Page last updated at 21:31 GMT, Friday, 26 March 2010
Shropshire movies: Richard Burton at Ellesmere College
Richard Burton starred in Absolution filmed at Ellesmere College
Ellesmere College was used for the filming of Absolution in 1978

Shropshire has been used as the backdrop for a number of lavish film productions.

Absolution, starring Richard Burton and Dominic Guard, was filmed at Ellesmere College in 1978.

The production also gave comedian Billy Connolly his first screen role, as the tramp Blakey.

The action takes place in a Catholic boys' boarding school and the script was written by Anthony Shaffer who also wrote Sleuth and The Wicker Man.

Unexpected twist

Dominic Guard and Richard Burton starred in Absolution
Dominic Guard starred in Absolution with Richard Burton

Richard Burton plays the role of Father Goddard, a Catholic priest who teaches at the school and is tormented by a pupil, Benjamin Stansfield (Dominic Guard).

Billy Connolly is the travelling biker Blakey, who steals food from the school kitchen and later befriends Stansfield. Both come to a sticky end in a plot that has a final and unexpected twist.

Filming took place at Pinewood studios and Ellesmere College during the Easter holidays in 1978 and premiered in December, but it did not go on general release until 1981.

It was not released in America until 1988, four years after Richard Burton died. According to the producer Elliott Kastner, the delay was caused by legal problems.

"Snooty" star

Sue Hinks and Carol Thompson
Sue Hinks and Carol Thompson were involved in the filming at Ellesmere

Ellesmere College was closed for the holidays and the boarders had gone home, so youngsters from nearby Lakelands School were recruited as extras for the film.

Sue Hinks, who is Head Housekeeper at the College, was working for the headmaster at the time and also worked part time in the kitchen in the evening, which was how she ended up in the film.

She was called in to be an extra, serving up eggs in the dining room: "It was serious. When they did the scene in the kitchen everything was so quiet and everything had to be down to perfection."

Richard Burton was quite snooty to be honest. Not really somebody you could go up and talk to
Sue Hinks

She said she had enjoyed the filming and was paid about £50 for her part which "wasn't bad for 30 odd years ago".

She also remembers Billy Connolly's motorbike being serviced by Scott's Garage in Ellesmere.

Mrs Hinks said the star of Absolution was not particularly friendly with the extras: "Richard Burton was quite snooty to be honest. Nor really somebody you could go up and talk to."

Good experience

Richard Burton and Billy Conolly
Absolution was comedian Billy Connolly's first film role

Carol Thompson was the bursar's secretary at the time. She remembers Billy Connolly as being fun and friendly.

Richard Burton was more aloof: "They were shooting a scene in the main corridor, just outside our office. He walked into the office and asked if anyone had a cigarette, so the bursar immediately produced a Benson and Hedges for him."

Richard Burton was married to Suzy Hunt at the time: "She was here in her long fur coat looking very glamorous."

Mrs Thompson remembers one of Elizabeth Taylor's sons being involved in the production. It was probably Christopher Wilding, who was working as a film editor at the time.


It wasn't a very nice film. In fact I thought it was a pretty rotten film
Carol Thompson

She was asked to get Richard Burton's autographs for her daughter's friends: "We had to go via the minder for that. The minder was a bit intimidating I thought, but that's what his job is I suppose.

"I used to give him the autograph books in the morning and then he would deliver them back at some point later."

Mrs Thompson thought the filming process was fascinating: "On the whole I thought it was a really nice experience and it was good to see them shooting the scenes."

She was less than impressed with the final product: "I didn't like it. It's not my sort of film at all. I don't like gruesome films...It wasn't a very nice film. In fact I thought it was a pretty rotten film."

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