The World’s End is a male buddy movie about nostalgia, friendship, and the greatest of British hobbies – drinking beer!
Starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, and Martin Freeman, it follows five middle-aged friends who relive a pub crawl they didn’t finish as students 20 years ago.
Gary King (Simon Pegg) is a man with a mission – to persuade his old mates to return to Newton Haven and The World’s End, the final drinking hole on the ‘Golden Mile’ pub crawl.
Unable to grow up, King has never been able to forget, what was for him, the best moment in his life.
His reluctant friends agree to the trip but it’s not long before bruised male egos and unfinished business resurface.
As the beer flows and tempers get frayed, the so-called ‘Five Musketeers’ discover there’s something weird going on in Newport Haven.
Could the expressionless locals with their odd behaviour and exploding heads which spew out ‘blue gunk’ be zombies?
This final instalment of director Edgar Wright’s “Cornetto trilogy” has many hilarious moments and, although The World’s End isn’t quite in the same league as Shaun of the Dead, it’s great juvenile fun.
The finale may be drawn out and overstuffed with schoolboy silliness but there’s enough tomfoolery and clever quips to amuse fans of Pegg and Frost.
And for a certain generation, it will bring back memories of their adolescence, not least because of the brilliant, unsentimental nostalgic touches.
There’s also a cracking music soundtrack featuring Blur, Suede, Pulp and The Sisters of Mercy.
The Great British pub crawl
Watching the film, I couldn’t help asking myself ‘whatever happened to the traditional pub crawl’?
This peculiarly British pursuit reached its high point in the 1970s and 1980s when boozy groups of mates would take a route zigzagging up to 10 public houses across their chosen town or city.
Rather like The World’s End, it often got messy!
The World’s End was shot in Welwyn Garden City and features several actual pubs including The Tavern, The Colonnade, and The Three Magnets.
It’s a celebration of something we’ve lost in recent years – the traditional British pub – and, if I dare say so, old-fashioned British male bonding.
The World’s End pub featured in the film is actually a drinking hole called The Gardeners Arms in Letchworth Garden City, a must if you’re down in Hertfordshire.
As a nostalgic throw-back, there’s no beating the film’s slightly acerbic trip down memory lane to a time when pubs were a mainstay of British social life.
It’s intriguing to draw comparisons between the ‘good old days’ of my youth and contemporary pubs trying to survive in a crowded leisure market.
Today, the pub crawl is on its last legs as traditional hostelries close down to be replaced by contemporary bars with sky-high prices, posh cocktails and deafening music. The modern ‘big booze night out’ is a very different beast.
Even old style pubs have been given a makeover with food replacing beer as the top attraction for punters.
As Simon Pegg discovers in The World’s End, most pubs are now practically indistinguishable from each other with their special ‘heritage’ menus and happy hours.
They seem to have lost the individual character that made them so interesting 20 years ago.
The Nottingham haze
My fondest pub crawl memories are similar to those in The World’s End which is why the film feels so personal.
As an 18-year-old me and my student friends would hit Nottingham for our regular Saturday pub crawl – ten pubs in five hours.
Like Simon Pegg’s mates, we were on a mission… the 10 musketeers!
Pegg and his gang started in The First Post public house. This isn’t dissimilar to the place where we’d always meet – The Bell, a historic public house near Nottingham’s Market Square with its low-beamed ceilings and maze of alleyways.
I remember the weird selection of cocktails which were extremely unusual in ‘beery’ pubs of the 1970s. Apparently the landlady had a liking for exotic drinks.
My favourite was the ‘Traffic Light’, a red, yellow and green concoction featuring grenadine and strange spirits which I could never remember the names of.
Its surreal stripey-look was considered a great talking point and a winner if you wanted to chat up members of the opposite sex!
After downing this sickly cocktail, the pub crawl would get into full swing across the road in Yates’ Wine Bar.
This old-fashioned drinking emporium exuded old-school charm and was packed with what were affectionately known as ‘weird characters’.
‘Old Bob’, ‘Strange Betty’ and ‘One-Eyed Willie’ would be sitting in their chosen seats, impassive and mute just like the odd characters on Simon Pegg’s World’s End pub crawl.
There was also a string quartet featuring ancient-looking musicians in dress suits who would get more and more out of tune as the evening wore on.
Cheap Aussie sweet wine – now unheard of except for high quality varieties – was our drink of choice which we’d gulp back in the upper veranda bar with its ‘wild west’ interior.
It was well before Australia’s golden wine age, and this stuff was truly disgusting – but it gave us the courage to march onwards to pub number three – The Royal Children.
The Royal Children was yet another historic watering hole with fine real ales and a wooden panelled interior. It looked like it hadn’t changed since the Tudors – nor had the strangely statuesque and silent locals.
It boasted a whale bone above its entrance, the remnant of a whaling captain’s spoils but this seemed odd because Nottingham is miles from the sea!
Despite CAMRA’s best efforts, real ale pubs don’t seem to be a big attraction for younger drinkers these days but back in the late 1970s Nottingham was king of the ‘real’ beer trail.
Then it was a quick hop next door to the Salutation Inn (dating from 1240) whose underground cellars were conjoined with The Royal Children by a subterranean cave system.
It was a treat if the landlord took you down into the sandstone caves, staggering down a few ill-hewn steps with your pint of beer.
Supping your beer in this remarkable setting was a real thrill… and childish behaviour would inevitably follow with singing, carousing and unfortunate bouts of falling over.
At this point, things would get a little blurred around the edges!
Singing and jousting
Pub number five was the Imperial Hotel bar where some group members would become sidelined by ‘the sickness’ (being unable to hold your drink) or became distracted by the lure of a local band.
But the stalwarts would be off again to pub number 6 – The Castle – situated in an attractive half-timbered building opposite Nottingham’s famous statue of Robin Hood.
This was a new stylish pub which ressembled a wine bar… and was a great meeting place for party-goers intent on extending the night’s revelries.
On leaving this pub, the group would march down to pub number 7 – The Navigation – a down-to-earth drinking bar with good beer and a rousing atmosphere.
They also served very good pickled eggs in odd-looking jars.
Community pub singing would become a real risk at this point.
We’d always leave the best to last though…
The final stop on the pub crawl was always The Trip to Jerusalem which claims to be Britian’s oldest inn, dating back to 1189 AD and the Crusades.
Many a knight would stop here for a refreshing beverage in olden times, but I remember it for its excellent real ales, traditional pub games and the upstairs bar with a sandstone vent leading up to the castle rock face.
Stand under here with your pint and you could expect a sprinkling of sandstone to drop into your beer, especially on rainy nights. Sadly the vent has now being plugged up!
There was yet another chance to get a pub landlord to show you down into another underground cave system, a spooky experience after several pints of beer.
Finally, there would be the grande finale – a jousting competition outside the pub in which teams of revellers would compete in a piggyback riding competition, using big sticks to double as spears.
It was childish fun – and to my constant amazement nobody got hospitalised despite close shaves most weekends.
For those left standing, it was time to head to a party – for others it was too much and we headed home singing songs of merriment before dropping into bed, exhausted.
Unlike Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, we didn’t encounter any flesh-eating zombies or aliens but we had many surreal experiences.
Perhaps modern day drinkers will rediscover this experience in another decade. Trouble is – like the characters in The World’ End – the traditional British pub has become hard to find.
And when someone thinks they’ve rediscovered it, the pub becomes ‘corporatised’ into a pale reflection in the bottom of a beer glass.
So I’m at one with Simon Pegg’s character, Gary King… let’s go drinking “to the bitter end – or the lager end”.
Bring on the ‘authentic’ pub experience – but just make sure there aren’t any flesh-eating zombies to be kept at bay!
Tammy’s top tips
The World’s End is now on general release at cinemas everywhere. Starring Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost plus a fabulous supporting cast, it also features cameo performances by Pierce Brosnan and Billy Nighy.
The film is an amusing cocktail of sci-fi comedy, zombie B-movie action and adolescent adventure with an entertaining serving of drunken wit and wisdom.
Think Simon Pegg meets John Wyndham via The Young Ones… comedic fun with a sci-fi twist.
If you enjoyed The World’s End, check out the previous two films in the so-called ‘Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy’ – Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.
If pub crawls are your thing, Nottingham is still a great place to embark on a crazy night out – even if the pub experience has become slightly diluted these days.
Recommended Nottingham pubs are Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem and The Salutation (near the castle) and The Cock and Hoop, a brilliant refurbished pub in traditional alehouse style in the heart of the historic Lace Market.
The other pubs in this blog post still exist – with The Bell in Nottingham’s Market Square and The Castle having experienced tasteful make-overs.
If you want to recreate the pub crawl in The World’s End, look no further than Welwyn Garden City where many of the pubs featured in the film can be found – only the names have been changed to protect the innocent!
Film images of The World’s End are courtesy and copyright of Universal Pictures International Media and Focus Features.