Tuesday, 29 March 2011

What I watched last night....

Last night I sat through a new release from Lions Gate, namely Siren. Not to be confused with the Hugh Grant film from 1993, that's Sirens. The "s" makes all the difference.
This one is a 'horror' film. Or it wants to be, at least.
Lions Gate have been distributing some good films over the past few years, "Saw" (and its sequels) "Drag Me To Hell" the "My Bloody Valentine" remake, and the brilliant British film, "Heartless" (which I can't recommend highly enough) plus loads more, some good some bad. A bit like a modern day Hammer, or at least Amicus, in taking up the role of distributor for low budget or outsider films. Something I think we need now. Hammer films have re-surfaced after a false start a few years back, with the remake of "Let The Right One In" , entitled "Let Me In". And it wasn't the complete disaster that people were expecting. No where near as good as the original, though. We can only hope the upcoming version of the hit stage play (and novel) "The Woman In Black" will prove to be the hit they need. I personally have reservations about Daniel Radcliffe in the lead role of Kipps, he still seems a little young for it, but lets see how they pull it off, I'd be happy to be surprised.  Lets hope they don't spoil the wonderful atmosphere the play has, and the fondly remembered (but a bit hit and miss) TV version which was screened many Christmas' ago, then disappeared after author Susan Hill apparently didn't like it. Bootlegged copies of the long deleted Region one DVD still appear now and again on Ebay, though. Another reservation about the new film though is the director (James Watkins) has only directed one feature before, "Eden Lake" and his writing credits are dubious ("My Little Eye", anyone?) and Mrs Jonathan Ross, Jane Goldman isn't a one I would have thought to have the subtlety  to handle the screenplay, good for "Kick Ass" but a psychological ghost story? Hmmm... again, I'd like to be surprised.
Anyway, Siren is a film that wants to be so much more than it can be. The premise is good, if a little predictable. But sadly the acting lets it down, and the male lead, played by Eoin Macken, is a little annoying and incredibly wooden. I know the Irish are notorious for their swearing, and indeed, I'm no F-bomb stranger myself, but does almost EVERY line of dialogue have to be along the lines of "What the f....." The non siren female Anna Skellern doesn't do much better in the acting stakes, but then this might be something to do with the material they have to work with! Just to tie in all this, Anna was in "The Descent part 2", one of the screenwriters of which was James Watkins, WIB director.. I don't just throw this together you know... ahem.
So, all the promise of sex and gore and shocks and thrills that "Siren" promises.. well, come to nothing really.. Some grunting sex (actually the most horrific part of the film!) and some typical fast cut shocks/jumps and surprises that you can see coming a mile off.... Check out the trailer for yourself, and don't say I didn't warn you....


Sunday, 27 March 2011

Highgate Cemetery part four

OK, I think this will be the last of my Highgate posts for now, so rather than waffle about things, I'll let the pictures tell the story, with just a few pointers here and there on content. Enjoy.

 "The Empty Chair" this is a grave of a small child. Symbolism is a big thing in Victorian burials.

 Here's a close up of Elizabeth Siddal's stone at the Rossetti grave, seen in my last post.
 The entrance to the Egyptian Avenue, which leads to the Circle Of Lebanon. This is one of the more iconic images from the cemetery, and has been seen in many movies, most recently the remake of "Dorian Gray"
Symbolism: a down turned torch, a symbol of life extinguished.
Part of the Circle of Lebanon, above the mausoleum of Carl Rosa, credited to bringing English language opera to the country. Below is an instantly recognisable sight for film buffs, the stone circle of mausoleums have been seen in many a horror film, and again, "Dorian Gray"

This is the wonderful cedar of Lebanon tree which has stood in the cemetery grounds for hundreds of years, and lends its name to the circle of mausoleums built around it.
Now, to some examples from the East side. I have taken thousands of photographs here, and no doubt there will be thousands more waiting to be taken. But, for now, I'll just share a few...
The Grade 1 listed tomb for Karl Marx, probably the reason most tourists visit the cemetery. But not many know this isn't actually where he was originally buried. His original grave is several feet away in the middle of the tree lined grave section. His remains were moved to a more prominent place and the famous tombstone was only built in 1954, many years after his death in 1883. This part of the cemetery features a lot of graves of the political active and many communist. Paul Foot, the socialist journalist and campaigner (and nephew of the former Labour leader Michael Foot) is buried almost opposite Marx's memorial.

The cemetery is full of little quirky memorials too.. this little cat is hidden away behind other stones.
Above, the grave of Richard "Stoney" Smith, the inventor of Hovis bread. No jokes please about him being 'brown bread' ahem....
You should really click the photo below and read the inscription in full size. It's a great example of a modern loving tribute. A list of the man's faults, and likes and dislikes. If I didn't see this in the cemetery myself, I'd have thought it was made up and doctored.
I think that's about it for now. I hope someone, somewhere finds this interesting. And, before anyone starts thinking of the "Highgate Vampire" stories from the 70s which made the cemetery notorious, those subjects have been covered elsewhere and by people who believe them. While I love horror films, stories and vampires, they are not real kids....

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Highgate Cemetery part three

So here's another batch of headstones from the wonderful Highgate Cemetery.
This time I'm going to move my atttention to the older, West side, all the previous ones were in the East side, which after you've paid your entry fee (again, this goes to the charity that runs the cemetery for upkeep, etc.. so really is worth while) you are free to roam around and spend as much time as you like enjoying the surroundings. The West side, however is accessible only by guided tour. These are well worth it though and if you get a good guide (and there are many) you will learn a lot and have a great time.  Now to some notables...
Michael Faraday, one of the pioneers of science and electricity. He is buried in a part of cemetery used for "dissenters" (Non-Anglican) and its not normally part of the regular tour, but if you ask you might get lucky and get to see it. You may get the same luck to see my next grave, another not on the normal route, but this time because its in an area of the cemetery that is still rather overgrown and there is no safe path for many visitors. 
This is the grave of the Rossettis.Well, to be exact it is Christina (the poet), and her mother, Frances Polidori and brother William Michael. Dante Gabriel, no doubt the most famous Rossetti is buried elsewhere (Birchington on Sea in Kent to be exact) Also in this grave is Dante's wife and model, Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal. The famous story is that when she died Dante buried a book of his unpublished poems in with her body, only to want them back a few years later when his fame was on the wane, and had the coffin exhumed to retrieve the book. The story goes that Elizabeth's famous red hair had continued to grow and almost filled the coffin and her beauty was untouched. The book of poems still failed to ignite much interest afterwards for him though. To me, this grave really needs to be put onto the regular tour, but having managed to get to see it, I can see why they wouldn't want to. You have to walk over several graves to get to it. But it's still one of the most important and indeed, famous graves in the cemetery.

Above is not really a famous person, but it is of note because it's the grave of George Michael's mother. He apparently tends the grave regularly, when not falling asleep at the wheel of his car, or getting locked up for being off his face somewhere.
This is the grave of the former Russian dissident, KGB member and later a British citizen, who was poisoned, by, allegedly, the Russian Secret Service. Such was the extent of his radioactive poisoning, apparently the grave is dug extra deep and the coffin heavily lead lined. The photo on the grave being a Russian custom.

Still more to come, I think I will move on to the interesting and beautiful angels and memorials that fill this wonderful cemetery.

Highgate Cemetery part two

Continuing my look at some of the wonderful graves at Highgate Cemetery. Again, I'm going to highlight some of the notable names buried there, and then I'll move on to some of the beautiful angels and monuments.

Here's the grave some people wanted to see during the 80's ... Jeremy Beadles. It was actually quite a shame when he died, because no matter how annoying he could be, he did produce some entertaining TV, unlike what we have to put up with today. His stone says "writer, presenter, curator of oddities.... ask my friends"
This is the temporary place marker for the grave of Malcolm McClaren, the manager of the Sex Pistols, and musician in his own right. This was originally used on one of the trucks that followed his coffin through Camden onto Highgate for his his funeral. Each time I go back, its in a further state of decomposition.. maybe symbolic? I'm hoping that when it comes to putting up a proper headstone (the ground has to settle for about a year before a full stone can be placed) it will be just as striking and bold. I think he would have wanted that.
McClaren's always loved Highgate and indeed used the West part of the cemetery in "The Great Rock n' Roll Swindle" film, where he is seen singing "You Need Hands" amongst the tombs of the Circle of Lebanan. And further down Swain's Lane (the small road that separates the two sides of the cemetery) there is a another building used as his home in the film, and indeed the "MM" Warner Brothers type logo was seen above the gates of the building in the film.

Now this is an interesting one, and certainly not one that would be well known. It is the grave of Issachar Zacharie, who, apart from being high up in the British Masons, was chiropodist to Abraham Lincoln!

and finally, for now, the grave of pop artist Patrick Caulfield. As you can see, even in death some people like to stand out from the crowd

More to be seen soon!!

Friday, 25 March 2011

Highgate Cemetery

I live in Manchester, the City of Salford to be precise, Ewan MacColl's Dirty Old Town. I do, however, make many trips down to the big smoke... London.
One of my passions is photography, so you may well see some examples of that pop up now and again. Now, while in London I try whenever possible to pay a visit to the wonderful Highgate Cemetery. I think it was Sir John Betjeman that called it "a Victorian Valhalla" and that expression sums the place up lovely. Even if you have no interest in the gothic, or Victorian way of death.. it's a place you should really go and see. The older West side of the Cemetery is only accessable by a guided tour, but these are worth taking because you learn a lot about the ways we dealt with the dead in the past, and indeed celebrated it. But also some of the monuments are simply stunning. The West side is now Grade 1 listed by the English Heritage and is run by the charity Friends of Highgate Cemetery, and they do need your donations so go and support them and do the tour! Check out their official website for more info http://www.highgate-cemetery.org/

So now, my personal piece on Highgate. I have taken so many photos of the graves and surroundings its unbelievable. And I can promise, that I will go again and take many more. I always find a different angle, or indeed find a new interesting grave.
There are many notable people buried in Highgate, from history and indeed, from showbiz. Probably the most famous is Karl Marx. So I wont go over ground that has been done to death (yep, pun intended) and instead I will celebrate the ones that maybe have slipped through the "net" (oh dear, another bad pun) and are not commonly shown. I may go further into this in later blogs as its a favourite subject of mine, but for now, lets have a look at some of the other people who reside in Highgate Cemetery..

Anthony Shaffer's wonderful gravestone. Its almost obscured by an overgrown plant at the front now, but so it's easy to miss.. but hopefully the motif on the back helps people find it. Shaffer also wrote the screenplay for one of my favourite films, The Wicker Man (1973) which no doubt will be mentioned in blogs to come....

Anna Mahler's gravestone is a copy of one of her own sculptures. Her parents were the celebrated composers Alma Mahler and Gustav Mahler.
Douglas Adams probably doesn't need an introduction to many people. He died way too soon, but left some wonderful novels. Tributes are often left at his grave, some seen here, including wonderfully a small sperm whale and strangely a dalek, I guess the connection being BBC Sci Fi? There's a tendency for pens and towels to be left also, wonderful references to the man's work.
Finally for now, Max Wall. when I was growing up in the 70s and early 80s he was a regular on British TV and often mimiked in my house, although I can't ever say I wore the tights... His early music hall act is said to have inspired Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks..  He tried to get away from his music hall image, even releasing a version of Ian Dury's "England's Glory" and appearing on stage with him, although these didnt go down too well apparently. He finally broke into serious acting and won acclaim for "Waiting For Godot" and others..  His stone has the wonderful quote "I believe that since my life began the most I've had is just a talent to amuse" which if I'm not mistaken, is a Noel Coward quote.
More Highgate musing will follow after the break...

The Geek blogs

Right, so here goes my first go at this blogging lark....
I can't promise it will be pretty, except sometimes it might be pretty awful
It's going to be just random interests to start with I think until I get into the flow of it all.. I hope to have you along for the ride, please sit back, and try and enjoy it. If not try and endure it.
thank you