Tuesday, 28 June 2011

London graves and Horror Double Bills!

So I spent the last week on one of my London visits, so of course managed to fit in another tour of Highgate Cemetery, this time I managed to spot a grave that evaded me on previous visits, the actor Patrick Wymark.
Probably most famous for Where Eagles Dare (1968), he is of interest to genre buffs for his roles in Polanski's Repulsion (1965, he played the landlord), The Skull (1965, alongside Cushing and Lee), as Oliver Cromwell in Witchfinder General (1968) - ironically he played the Earl of Stafford in the 1970 film of Cromwell! One of his last roles was the judge in The Blood On Satan's Claw (1972)

So then I felt the urge to go to Brompton Cemetery, I keep putting it off, so I'm glad I finally got the chance. 
There are a few notables buried here, Emmiline Pankhurst for one, and many awarded the Victoria Cross.
From our genre, there are three worth seeking out. Brian Glover, the brilliant British character actor, who started his career as a wrestler, before becoming famous for being the PE teacher in Kes (1969), the voice of the "Tetley Tea folk", Heslop in the Porridge TV series, and many more. He was a familiar face for 3 decades on TV and film, with an instantly recognisable voice. His genre outings included Britannia Hospital (1982), A Company of Wolves (1984), Alien 3 (1992), and one of my most loved films,  An American Werewolf In London (1982)


Nearby to Brian, is another British legend, this time from the comedy world, Henry McGee. Best known as the straight man to Benny Hill, a role that gave him his fair share of laughs too, but also as "mummy" to the Honey Monster in the Sugar Puffs ads (a role also strangely filled by the brilliant John Cooper Clarke), Mr Pugh in the long running Charlie Drake series The Worker, and in films, Holiday on the Buses (1972 - a Hammer Production!), Stanley Long's Adventures of a Taxi Driver (1976), Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978) and the awful (but not as bad as Columbus) Carry On Emmanuelle (1978), and more importantly, that classic of British cinema, Come Play With Me (1977) where Henry was Deputy Prime Minister amongst a veritable smorgasbord of British talent (and Mary Millington). George Harrison Mark's pretend porno suckered (so to speak) dirty mac wearing punters in the West End and the "Studio" type cinemas for years before finally being killed by the video age and the availability of real porn that didn't include musical interludes or erection killing turns by Irene Handl and the like. 

A very important grave is also worth seeking out (and I nearly missed it, but found it in the guide book which is available from the Brompton office (and the money goes to the Friends of Brompton, so worth paying for)
The legendary Ernest Thesiger. A true British legend. From his appearances in James Whale's Old Dark House (1933) and of course the wonderful Dr Pretorius  in Bride of Frankenstein (1935), but also the under rated Karloff classic, The Ghoul (1933) and as the undertaker in the Alastair Sim version of Scrooge (1951), and a smattering of Ealing classics. A true original, camp before it was cool to be, and creepy enough to chill. He is buried with his family, who were apparently of noble extraction. A great anecdote from one of Alec Guinness' memoirs has a woman asking Ernest "didn't you used to be Ernest Thesiger?"  To which he replied "Still am!" and rushed on about his business. Class. 

On Sunday 26th, there was a horror double bill set up at the Roxy Bar and Screen in Borough, so while in the area, it would be rude not to go, wouldn't it? (Even though my train back to Manchester was in the evening!)
Organised by the wonderful people at Classic Horror Campaign this was the second of what looks like being a regular event. The films screened were Val Lewton's brilliant Cat People (1942) and the puddled, mad but totally enjoyable Scream And Scream Again (1970). It was a really good turn out, especially since it was the hottest day we'd had for a while! Between films there was a little quiz (I managed to win a signed copy of Peter Labrow's book The Well) and in attendance was the lovely Eileen Daly (of Redemption video covers/Razor Blade Smile fame) who sat next to me throughout and was very enthusiastic! I just wish I'd have had the time/guts to ask for a photo with her! Hopefully next time....  Presiding over the event was Richard Gladman (Cyberschizoid) and Sarah James (Scare Sarah) so a very big thank you to them. The next London event in July 31st, but before that there is a weekend of double bills at the Lass O'Gowrie in Manchester.(July 23rd/24th) I shall be in attendance on the first day, for Night of the Demon (1957) - another of my all time favs- and Hammer's Vampire Circus (1971). If you happen to go, come and say "Hi!" (offers of drinks not refused)

 Scare Sarah and Cyberschizoid

While in the Borough area, I had to pay homage to the alley that David Kessler met his fate in An American Werewolf. Just off Winchester Walk, its interesting to see it's not "a dead end down there" as it is in the film...

Think thats it for now, I better get cracking on with my next Starburst column!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

One year gone...

A year ago today, we lost musician, animator, comedian, artist, and friend, Chris Sievey. Better known to many as Frank Sidebottom.
As Frank, he polarised audiences like very few artists could. You either totally loved him, or hated him and wanted to punch his head in. Some tried, not realising it wasn't papier mache after all but fibreglass. Which ever side you were on, it didn't matter, Frank loved it. He relished winding up the people who "didn't get it"
There are not enough words to describe the hole this man has left in my life, and indeed the lives of those who knew him, worked with him, and followed him.

My only hope is that Chris knew how much people loved him. In character and out. The guy was a genius.
It's been said before, about many other people, but I can honestly say it from personal experience this time, there will never be another.. My thoughts are with Gemma, Stirling, Harry and Asher and all of Chris' family.
We miss you boss... You know we do, we really do. Thank you.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night!

This is a new film based on a comic book, which I'm sorry to say I had not much knowledge of going into the film. Now that can be a good thing, as I had no preconceived notions of the character, or indeed what to expect. I think in this case, it helped. The film isn't a complete waste of time, at least.
Brandon Routh is the title character, a private dick who narrates Sam Spade style over the convoluted but entertaining plot of the warring undead.
He's joined by another Superman Returns cast off, Sam Huntington, his soon to be zombie partner. A lot of the humour misfires, but it's an entertaining couple of hours and a neat introduction to the character. It made me what to check out the comic books at least. Sadly, the originals are all Italian, and the Dark Horse reissues are doctored to remove his sidekick who bears a resemblance to Groucho Marx. There are a couple of visual nods to this character in the movie, with Marx Brother posters, etc.. While the subject of vampires and werewolves fighting isn't a new one, it certainly adds a couple of twists.
Looking into this after watching, I found another film was based on the same source (although with a different character) namely, the wonderful Dellamorte Dellamore (Cemetery Man) so there's a film that has gone to the top of my "re-watch" list.
I can imagine the fans of the original comic having the usual hissy fits that they have when ever anything is adapted to the screen, but like I said, coming in cold I thought it was a good film, if not a great one. Certainly one I'd watch again on a wet Sunday.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Teen Wolf is back! Any good?

The new MTV series Teen Wolf premièred over the weekend, with the pilot being shown after The MTV Movie Awards, where they would also show the new Twilight trailer for the first time. And Twilight would clean up in the awards, of course. So, MTV obviously are hoping the Twi-hards will stick around to catch the new show.
So I thought I'd be fair and kept an open mind while watching these first two episodes. We are introduced to Scott MacCall, (Tyler Posey) a wanna be Jock with severe asthma who can not make the Lacrosse first team, his friend, Stiles (Dylan O'Brien) is the son of the local sheriff and has heard there's been a dead body found in the local woods. Only its not just a dead body, it is half a dead body. So, lets go look for the other half, eh? Seems a reasonable way to pass the time. Stiles' dad shows up and takes him back home, leaving Scott out in the dark to save him getting in trouble with “the man”, like good friends do. Its here Scott is startled by a rush of badly cgi-ed deer, and then comes face to face with the upper half of the dead girl. And the show does not shy away from showing you the gory remains. He is then attacked by a wolf, and is bitten on the stomach but somehow manages to get away. This is all pre credits.
For those of us who remember the original Teen Wolf with Michael J Fox, (and the animated series that followed in the late 80s) it should be pointed out that this version is not played for laughs. There is a chance this might even end up being actually being good. It certainly is not any worse than The Vampire Diaries and the like that pepper the schedules at the moment. And more genre on TV? Why not, even if it's being aired (in the States at least) on a station that all things being equal should be playing music videos. (now I am showing my age, if I think that's what they do now a days) But I digress, The first two episodes set the tone well, and are directed by Russell Mulcahy, who made his name with the wonderful Razorback, and superb first Highlander (he also made the second, but lets not go into that) Most of Mulcahy's output though has been music videos, so I guess this could be a homecoming for him. In fact, the music in Teen Wolf is surprisingly well done, nothing too distracting and annoying, and so far, nothing so obviously put in there to try and make the song a hit.
When Scott finally discovers he's turning into a werewolf, the transformation begins at a party, and it is handled like the Prodigy video, Smack My Bitch Up, giving you the stop the world I want to get off feeling. And it's a interesting to note when Scott becomes a werewolf, he resembles the Henry Hull version of Werewolf Of London (1935) rather than Benicio Del Toro or a big dog. And, despite the now obligatory shirt off scenes to cater for the Twi-Hards there is no attempt to make the wolf version appealing. There is also a good reference to the Lon Chaney Jr version in the second episode, after Stiles has researched all about lycanthropy to try and help his stricken friend.
There is the usual love sub plot in there to keep the girlies happy, but its par for the course I suppose and the twist at the end of the first episode is quite good (no spoilers)
For the opening two episodes, I can honestly say it was watch-able. There was no slack in the story telling, which may leave the characters a little flat later on, but for a no brainer TV show it is worth giving it a shot. Just do not go in expecting something life changing. And leave your memories of the movie at the door.

Sky Living apparently will be airing the show in the UK from July. 

I now have a regular column (Horror Obscura)  in the new online version of Starburst Magazine, which is superb since I grew up reading that and its companion, House of Hammer (later .Hammer's Halls Of Horror) Check it out and sign up for a FREE subscription, for life! www.starburstmagazine.com (This blog entry is also included in the features section on there)
Stay Lucky.