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Friday August 17th 2018

The Fisher King | 1991

The Fisher King film location: Madison Avenue, Upper East Side, New York
The Fisher King film location: “home of the Grail” – the red castle: Madison Avenue, Upper East Side, New York

Only Terry Gilliam would dream of bringing a touch of Arthurian fantasy to Manhattan, as one-time radio shock-jock Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges), plagued with guilt that he may have inadvertently caused a mass killing, finds redemption through winsomely mad tramp Parry/Henry Sagan (Robin Williams).

The Fisher King location: Grand Army Plaza, Manhattan
The Fisher King location: Jack sits beneath the gilt statue: Grand Army Plaza, Manhattan

Sunk in boozy depression, Jack talks to himself at the base of the gilt equestrian statue of General William Tecumseh Sherman, on the west side of Fifth Avenue alongside the Plaza Hotel.

Parry and his ragtag his band of vagrants save the suicidal Jack from a couple of lethal vigilantes at the foot of Manhattan Bridge.

Lydia (Amanda Plummer), the object of Parry’s affections, works at the Metropolitan Life Building, Madison Avenue between 23rd and 24th Streets, where the dreamy fantasist longingly watches her.

The Fisher King filming location: Concourse, Grand Central Station, 42nd Street, Manhattan
The Fisher King location: the fantasy waltz: Concourse, Grand Central Station, 42nd Street, Manhattan

In Gilliam’s big conceit, commuters spontaneously break into a romantic waltz in the Concourse of Grand Central Station.

The Fisher King filming location: 101 Park Avenue, Manhattan
The Fisher King location: Jack Lucas pitches for a TV show: 101 Park Avenue, Manhattan

Trying to restart his career, Lucas and his agent (David Hyde Pierce) have a meeting with TV execs at 101 Park Avenue – an office block familiar as ‘Clamp Tower’ in Gremlins II: The New Batch, the hi-rise robbed at the beginning of Entrapment, and in front of which Hawkeye, Black Widow and Captain America crashland in The Avengers (Avengers Assemble).

Parry is on a quest to find the Holy Grail, but is constantly thwarted by the figure of a mounted, fire-breathing Red Knight, who thunders after him along Amsterdam Avenue – where the direction of traffic was temporarily reversed to give the impression that it’s swanky ‘Fifth Avenue’.

The imposing ‘red castle’, where Parry believes the Grail resides, was the old Squadron A and Eighth Regiment Armory, which is now Hunter College High School, Madison Avenue at East 94th Street on the Upper East Side.

All the interiors, apart from the Chinese restaurant which was a set in New York, were filmed in Los Angeles, where Parry ’s basement hideout is the boiler room of the familiar Park Plaza Hotel, 607 South Park View Street, overlooking MacArthur Park in downtown LA. The veteran location can also be seen – more recognisably – in films such as New York, New York, Chaplin and Barton Fink, among many other productions. The Park Plaza no longer functions as a hotel, but it lives on as an events space.