Lunchmeat VHS: Eat The Peach (1986)
Review by Conor Holt
I was honored to be a part of LUNCHMEAT VHS issue 11, this time with a review of the 1986 Irish motorcycle comedy “Eat The Peach” which is still only available on VHS. Buy your copy of the magazine to read lots of other great reviews, as well as some fantastic interviews.
Ireland has a long and complicated history with motion pictures. Going back to 1916’s silent film The Lad from Old Ireland, American filmmakers have long traveled to the Emerald Isle for its picturesque landscapes and small-town rural charm, most famously seen in John Ford’s The Quiet Man. But while foreign productions came and went, it took decades for Ireland to develop its homegrown filmmaking community. A breakthrough came with 1989’s Oscar-nominated My Left Foot, but the 1980s were a rich time for independent Irish cinema, even if sadly many of those films struggled to get distribution abroad and even today are hard to find.
One of those forgotten gems is 1986’s Eat the Peach, directed by Peter Ormrod. Vinnie (Stephen Brennan) and his brother-in-law Arthur (Eamon Morrissey) have just lost their jobs when the local factory closes. While drowning their sorrows at the pub, Vinnie sees the Elvis Presley movie Roustabout, where Elvis rides a motorcycle inside the “Wall of Death,” a circular standing motorcycle stunt track. Inspired, Vinnie recruits Arthur to help him build a similar contraption of his own, right in his backyard, much to the chagrin of his wife and young daughter. With no money to pay for it, the pair gets a job smuggling contraband products into Northern Ireland. Despite the setbacks, they finish their makeshift “Wall of Death,” hoping that spectators actually pay money to see it. To paraphrase Field of Dreams, if you build it, will they come?
Eat the Peach is a lovably scrappy & charming provincial comedy. While deeply rooted in the reality of Ireland in the 1980s, from the decade’s economic recession to the dangers of the Northern Ireland border, it’s above all a truly universal tale. A story of two friends with a big dream risking their family’s money and trust could take place in any country in the world. It’s the context makes it undeniably Irish.
Like any good story about a small community, the cast includes several local eccentrics, including Boots (a superb Niall Toibin), a smooth talking grifter who parades around town in a cowboy hat telling tall tales of his experiences in America. Later in the film he admits he’s never even been to the States, but of course, everyone in town already knew that. He tells the lads that he can make their “Wall of Death” famous, and for a moment, it seems like that could happen. But the film ends on a more somber, realistic note that’s nonetheless heartfelt. Sometimes the dream is all that really matters.
The film is loosely based on a true story that Ormand discovered while working as a local news reporter (an event which also happens in the film). Clearly he saw the potential to create an inspiring under-dog tale that still resonates today. Eat the Peach balances good-natured humor with real-life struggles, having fun with these small town entrepreneurs without ever looking down at them. The film ultimately got a small theatrical release in the U.S. thanks to filmmaker Jonathan Demme. Producer John Kelleher was even interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air. Following its big screen run, the film was released on VHS by Key Video, but has never been released on DVD, neither in America nor in Ireland.
That’s a real shame, since this unassuming comedy of down-on-their-luck dreamers would play nicely alongside October Sky or Billy Elliot for pick-up-movies about holding tight to one’s aspirations. 20 years after Eat the Peach, another Irish indie film about an impossible dream debuted: John Carney’s Once. Luckily, that wonderful little movie found worldwide success, and even won an Oscar. We can only hope that Eat the Peach is re-discovered one day, and gets a new moment in the sun, ideally on the back of a motorcycle, hair blowing in the wind.