Stuart Anderson

About Stuart Anderson

I can trace my love of horror back to my first experiences of the genre when I was about 9 years old and allowed to say up and watch one of the Universal classics (The son of Frankenstein). Since then I've had an obsession not only with the classic Universal horror, but also Hammer horror and a variety of sub-genres such as slasher and zombie films etc. The current independent horror and sci-fi movie scene is fascinating - so much so I decided 6 months ago to write my own blog (The Fifth Dimension) which full of lovely reviews and interviews. The links to the fb page & blog is https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Fifth-Dimension-A-Sci-Fi-Fantasy-Horror-Blog/158402424305832?ref=hl http://stuart66.blogspot.co.uk

Buried Secrets by Gary Cecil – A Short Story Review

bs1Buried Secrets – a short story by Gary Cecil

It is just a short blog entry this week (whoever cheered there at the back, you’re for it!), which in truth is rather apt, because it concerns a short story which was sent to me from author a little while ago for my considered opinion. Now, I’ve made it no secret in my past musings and scribblings here regarding my lack of enjoyment for the short story format, so I’m not going to recycle all that again. You may ask then ‘why bother to spend time reviewing a format that you don’t enjoy?’ I would reply to that person that’s a relevant and valid point – well I would if this was an actual conversation and not in fact a made up one…..

The fact is that the author, Gary Cecil asked me so nicely to read his short story Buried Secrets that I could hardly refuse. There is also a rumour that I also agreed to do it was because the story was only approximately 2800 words (no, I haven’t counted them) and therefore meant;

a) It wouldn’t take me too long to read.
And b) wouldn’t take me too long to write a review.

These are both scurrilous rumours that I wouldn’t bother to fight probably because they have more than a semblance of truth in them. I am lazy, that’s a fact.

So being the consummate professional I am, I endeavoured to read Gary’s story and do you know what? I rather bloody well enjoyed it.

So, just what is this short, short story about? Well if you’re sat comfortably, I’ll give you a wee glimpse of the books introduction……

“Max and his wife, Megan, just moved into their new home: a charming Victorian that did not come with the typical Victorian price tag. Sure, it needed some paint thrown on here and there, but soon–with a baby on the way–it would be the perfect home for their family.

Things quickly begin to change, though. They hear strange noises at night, and even feel things crawling in their sheets. But that’s not the worst of it. There’s a foul smell in the air sometimes and something even fouler in the basement.

Something—or someone—smells and licks and lingers in the walls and down in the basement. When the power goes out, Max goes down there to find the breaker, and what he finds, is something much worse. Can the young couple survive this horrible fate? Or… are some secrets just too-damned-evil to be kept buried alive?”

So essentially, there were now two things that by rights should have negatively affected my enjoyment of the story beyond all reasonable hope of a decent review. Firstly, its length and secondly, the main characters and plot premise within it – namely number 7 in the all time list of horror movie cliche’s, namely, the young couple (mother expecting) who’s move into what they think is their dream home soon thereafter becomes the house from hell. Yes, the particular theme has appeared once or twice down the years.

And yet, and yet. I still liked the story. It is obvious that Cecil has been influenced, either consciously or unconsciously, by a certain Mr S King in terms of some of the phrasing and structuring of his writing. I don’t mean that as a criticism at all, after all, if one is going to have inspirations, then one may as well choose the very best. Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying he’s copied or plagiarised King, in terms of story or plot. Indeed, nor am I likening his writing talent to anywhere near the stratospheric level of King’s. The statement is simply meant as a compliment.

bs2As you would imagine, at just 2800 words there is little chance for much detailed characterisation of the couple, or indeed for a slow measured build up of layered plot and atmosphere. However, the finale is still incredibly affective in its chill factor as it sneaks up on you suddenly to hit you in the gut with a surprising intensity that has been perfectly hidden thus far, despite the story’s length.

Reading Buried Secrets only slightly leaves one feeling just a little unfulfilled. At times the dialogue between Max and Megan is a little jarring and stilted, but not overly enough to detract from the reading enjoyment. In addition I couldn’t help thinking that the story would have been far better used as part of a wider narrative – perhaps as a some flashback to previous owners of the house perhaps? It could be my in-built lack of enthusiasm for the short story format that led to this lack of fulfilment, but I don’t think so.

This is a more than reasonable start to a writing career and there is certainly more than enough in Buried Secrets that suggests Gary Cecil has something of a future as a horror novelist.

So who is this Gary Cecil chap?

Well according to his bio, Gary writes short stories. mostly in the horror genre–with the support of his loving girlfriend, Sarah, and dog, Millie. Now as yet I’m not quite sure just how his dog helps in his writing but I’ll damn well sure find out because that sounds like a bit of a canine gold mine to me.

He is currently in the revision process of his first novel, and is also hard at work on his second. As soon as I can get some word from Gary regarding a synopsis or two then I’ll pass the details on.

Again, according to his bio, Gary has worked as a 911 Operator, and has held other various jobs. His greatest memory taking 911 calls was when a man on a back-country road, at one in the morning, called 911 and said, “The baby came out.” It was a heart-wrenching experience, which ended in a man becoming a father, and Gary becoming a seasoned 911 Operator.

Hmm, that’s nothing mate. A student of mine once went into labour at college during (no, not because of) one of my lectures….. Now THAT’S pressure. Once again, the rumours that I tried to finish my lecture before the baby’s head breached are simply scurrilous……

I would give buried secrets 7/10

 

Gary Cecil can be contacted by numerous online methods;

The Amazon links to his books can be found at;

His blog can be found RIGHT HERE

 

Gary’s Facebook page is JUST A CLICK AWAY HERE

Two Independent horror features Sacrament – The Film (2014) & The Lashman (2014)

Two Independent horror features . Sacrament – The Film (2014) & The Lashman (2014)

 

During the course of last week I had an interesting ‘discussion’ with someone online (clean out your mind, it wasn’t one of those types of online conversation) about a previous blog post of mine which was publicising an independent horror film production. I won’t name the film concerned, that would be unfair to those involved with it, besides which, it really isn’t important to name names. No, the ‘conversation’ that I had with the fool of an individual was in response to his comment about the type of film it is and the type of people that were involved in its making.

 

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Excellent slashing technique….

 

Now I’m all for freedom of opinion and the like, however what really riled me wasn’t the fact that he didn’t like the subject matter of the movie. It was more the frankly obnoxious and ill-informed opinion he had of the whole slasher genre and it’s film-makers. I’m paraphrasing here to protect the terminally stupid, but in essence his comments were something along the line of ” not another stupid slasher movie made by talentless filmmakers lacking in creativity or originality” and ” I will be avoiding the film at all costs”……. way to go with the open minded approach then matey.

 

I found his attitude rather annoying – to say the least. I may myself not be the greatest fan of the slasher movie, but opinions that completely dismiss and ridicule out of hand the work and commitment (not to say their own money) that independent horror filmmakers are prepared to go through frankly make me want to go all Friday the 13th on those suckers. We have enough dismissive ill-informed nonsense to put up with from people outside the horror genre without having to listen to brain-dead morons who would gladly dismiss the years of hard work, money and sheer blood (literally ) and guts needed to make a feature length movie.

 

So I was pleased that by pure coincidence that the day after informing the individual that he was a moronic elitist idiot I was contacted by not just one, but two indie film directors who were asking for a little bit of publicity for their respective productions. Both contacts sent me a brief synopsis of their movies, but I wanted a little more. Essentially I wanted to shed a bit more light than usual on just how much thought and work goes into your typical horror slasher type production.

 

So I decided for once to do something almost resembling a proper interview type thing and so proceeded to ask a series of my now legendary probing and cunning questions to the men behind the movies. So read on for a brief overview of the soon to be released films and a more detailed interview type thing that accompanies them. Hopefully both interviewees won’t mind the occasional amendments that I had to make as some of their responses where the spelling etc was from the American form (in other words, incorrect) to the UK versions of the words (in other words, correct).

 

Sacrament – The Film (2014)
sac2

 

So first of all, the film itself…..

 

Leaving the city behind for a weekend of booze, bud and bonding at the coast, seven friends find themselves stranded en route to South Padre Island when a big storm interferes with their plans. The town of Middle Spring is more than happy to welcome them with open arms, however; located in the rhinestone buckle of the Bible Belt, Middle Spring is smack-dab in the middle of a big barbecue and tent revival and there’s always room at their table for a few more warm bodies.

 

Unfortunately, no one in Middle Spring is exactly who they seem to be. This town takes the Bible quite literally, and the friends have to stick together as time begins to run out and they realize that what’s on the menu may be closer to home than they suspected.

 

Sacrament stars Troy Ford, Avery Pfeiffer, Brittany Badali, Cassandra Hierholzer, Wesley Kimenyi, Amanda Rebholz, Henry Pao, Marilyn Burns, Ed Guinn, Richard Houghton, Joshua Cole Simmons. It was written by Shawn Ewert, along with Donna White, Amanda Rebholz, Josh Riggs. The screenplay is by Shawn Ewert and it’s produced by Donna White and Amanda Rebholz.

 

Interview with Director, writer, screen player, and all round annoyingly multi-talented Shawn Ewert. 

 

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Shawn (centre) showing the rest of
the crew who the boss is.

 

(Me) So for those who may not know much about you, tell us a little about yourself.

 

(Shawn) Born and raised in North Texas, I started writing short stories at a tender age. Following a deep love of film of every kind, I was encouraged by friends and professors to pursue my love of writing. Growing up during the heyday of the slasher film in the 80′s, I immediately developed an affinity for horror films that borders on obsession.

 

(Me) Who are your horror influences?

 

(Shawn) My biggest influence has to be Clive Barker. He is an amazing artist who works in multiple media. I try to push myself to at least attempt to work in any creative opportunity I am able. Beyond Clive – John Carpenter, George Romero, John Waters and Sam Raimi are a few that come to mind.

 

(Me) The production seems to have a few more complex themes than your normal run of the mill horror, so tell everybody about the plot of Sacrament the film.

 

(Shawn) Sacrament starts out with a familiar premise of a group of kids going off on holiday.

 

sac4

 

There is some family tension for one of the leads, and the plan is to just get away and have a good time. The group lands themselves in a town where the populace takes ‘the body and the blood’ very literally. They have to do their best to get out of town before ending up on the chopping block as the town reveals itself to be run by religious cannibals.

 

(Me) I understand that you’ve recently had to deal with some controversy about another film using the same name as yours?

 

(Shawn) I don’t know that I would call it ‘controversy’ exactly. We have been working on getting this film made since 2011, and have been operating under the name ‘Sacrament’ for the majority of that time. Unfortunately, sometime during our production, a film called ‘The Sacrament’ was announced by a much more well-known director and producer. We decided it wasn’t right for us to have to change our name after operating under it for so long. The other film is actually scheduled for release the day before our film has its world premiere. It is what it is. Either way, we are probably going to have to change our name once we get to a point of talking distribution. It’s just unfortunate since the title works out so perfectly for our film.

 

sac5

(Me) So what are the plans for the movie in terms of publicity and release?

 

(Shawn) Our world premiere will be June 7th in Dallas, Texas at the historical Texas Theatre. After the premiere, we will begin our film festival submissions, and begin talking to distributors in the US and abroad. We plan on travelling to as many of the festival screenings as possible to get a real impression of what people think of the film. It will be a first for many of us to head across the pond to the UK and Europe, so we are pretty excited.

 

Many thanks to Shawn for spending the time in coping with my incisive and thought provoking questions.

 

The FACEBOOK page for the movie can be found RIGHT HERE!!

 

The Lashman (2014)

 

Once again, a very brief account the film itself…..

 

lash1

” Lashman is a tale of terror. When five friends set out for a weekend excursion, they soon realize their campfire tales have turned into their worst nightmares. The Lashman marks the feature length film debut of Cameron McCasland who wrote, produced, and directed the movie. McCasland honed his film making skills in television directing music videos as well as the award winning made for TV movie, The Dreadful Hallowgreen Special, and Go Green With Dr. Gangrene series of short films.”

 

The Lashman stars Stacey Dixon, Shawn C. Phillips, David Vaughn, Jeremy Jones, Kaylee Williams, Tim Emery, Lee Vervoort, David Chattham, Terry Gragg, Todd Bush, Alea Jordan, Joe Downing and Larry Underwood. The movie was shot on location in western Kentucky.

 

The trailer for the movie can be seen right HERE BABY!
Before I show the transcript of the interview I would simply like to say that if Stacey Dixon would like to send me a Facebook friend request I wouldn’t mind one little bit……..

 

Interview with writer, producer, director and another annoyingly multi-talented individual, Cameron McCasland

 

(Me) So for those who may not know much about you, tell us a little about yourself.

 

(Cam) My name is Cameron McCasland, I was born in Texas, but have lived and worked in Nashville,TN since 2001. I am a film director, and a story teller. I am the father of two amazing daughters, who keep me on my toes. If you are into classic horror you might have seen some of work with television horror host Dr. Gangrene. I tend to get noticed for my shiny red beard, and usually wear colourful sneakers.

 

lash2
Cam as a kid, can anybody else see his imaginary friend?…..

(Me) Tell me about some of your horror influences?

(Cam) Where do I start with this one? Early on in life i was into cartoons like Masters Of The Universe, Thundercats, stuff like that. And they all had these great monsters that I was drawn to. I think the Universal monster movies stick out to me as one of the earliest influences. I grew up in a home that was fairly conservative. My parents rarely watched horror films, and it just wasn’t something I had a lot of access to at first. We did however watch a lot of classic movies, and my parents were encoring of the arts in general. But one year there was a Universal Monster movie marathon on cable and I spent an entire weekend going through all of those old black & white films. I was mesmerised. The following summer we took a trip to Universal Studios on vacation. We saw the Bates Motel and Psycho house, Jaws jumped out of the water, I was in the Back To The Future show…but the thing that stuck out the most was seeing the Frankenstein Monster. He locked on me, and it made me really happy. I have this great photo of him choking me, and I can still feel the way it felt on my neck. That sold me on horror movies.

Going forward I sampled all the best slashers, and honestly all the worst as well. Carpenters Halloween is still the bench mark for me, and I adore Evil Dead 2, but don’t we all at this point? I am really thankful though that I wasn’t able to see this stuff too early in life. I think some true classics get glossed over by a lot of film makers and movie fans alike just for being shot in Black & White.

 

(Me) So, what exactly is the plot of The Lashman?

 

(Cam) The Lashman is a campfire tale. A group of friends get together for one last hurrah before they have to go their separate ways in life. Little do they know there weekend excursion will turn into a nightmare.The thing is, I wasn’t trying to reinvent the wheel here. Quiet the opposite really. I wanted to play up some of the tropes of the slasher film, but kind of ground it again. The hey day for these type of movies was in the 1980’s. Everything from Friday the 13th, Nightmare On Elm Street, Maniac, The Burning, etc. What followed was a glut of similar films, and everyone wanted to one up the last one with more nudity, more ridiculous kills, and if you were lucky you could get a killer that looked cool or had a gimmick. But at a certain point they really kind of stopped being scary, and no really cared about the characters (the campers) as much as they cared about the guy in the mask. They became chum for the beast. I tried to use that knowledge to my advantage and make something that feels like one of the earlier ones before all the sequels and trips into space made it a parody of themselves.(Me) Let’s say for arguments sake that I’m not the greatest fan of slasher movies. How is The Lashman going to change my mind?

(Cam) I think the characters in the movie will make it scary for you. They have time to breathe, and the audience gets a chance to know them a bit. It’s sort of a slow burn to the mayhem, but we deliver on that in a big way I believe. By the end you’ll be saying “i don’t really dig slasher films, but I love Lashman.”

 

lash3
Looks legit……..

 

(Me) I understand that most of the movie was shot around three years ago. Why the delay between filming and post production of the film?

(Cam) Well, I ran into a few personal problems. The first year was anticipated. We shot the principal cast in August of 2010. Shawn C. Phillips came in from Baltimore right before he moved out to San Diego California. Kaylee Williams came to the project last minute and was in from Chicago where she lives. David Vaughn and Jeremy Jones were both living in Nashville when we started the project as was Stacey Dixon. Since then Jeremy has moved down to Louisiana and David is out in Hollywood doing great work. I’m really proud of him.

We actually started on Friday the 13th in August 2010 and I shot the final scene of the movie 11 days later on my Birthday August 24th. I came back and did some re shoots with Todd Bush, Terry Gragg, and Tim Emery a few weeks later. And then the leaves changed. So we started piecing the movie together, but had not shot the opening of the film yet. Alea Jordan and Joe Downing joined the cast and we shot that a year later, and I celebrated a second birthday at Copper Canyon Ranch.

My marriage was in pretty rough shape. And less than two weeks later my children and I moved out and I separated from my now ex-wife. The divorce was a rough one. And I was doing the everyday single parent thing as my children were living with me. I got really sick during all that, and nearly lost my arm to an infection. It was a lot of dark days. The movie got tied up in the legal parts of the divorce, and my head was in a really strange place. The divorce wasn’t finalised until August of 2013. All in all it was for the best. I’m much happier now, and my children are well loved. I think both myself and their mother want whats best for them. And I have someone in my life now who loves me, and is supportive. In that regard life is good.

 

And the wait isn’t all bad. During all of that bad news I did find some time to go back and do some pick up shots that we didn’t necessarily need, but give the movie a little more oomph. We were able to do some work on the sound which was initially horrid as we had shot during the 7 year cicada cycle in Kentucky.

 

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 Kaylee Williams & Stacey Dixon – honest to god, 

what’s not to like?

 

 I also found Thomas Berdinski, who composed our soundtrack. I had talked to a few composers, and wasn’t happy with what I was hearing. Its hard to explain how the best slasher movie soundtracks sound, but even more so how they make you feel as a fan of the movie. Thomas totally got that from the jump. We spoke a little about influences, and the things i liked. I hummed this melody and the guy just went off and made this amazing score out of that. It blew my mind.

(Me) So what are your plans for the movie in terms of publicity and release?

(Cam) Well its funny, because had we released this 3 years ago It would have been simple. Put out a DVD, and hope the video stores pick it up. But now the video stores don’t exist anymore, and people don’t collect DVDs the way they used to. So we have to be a bit broader.

I had always planned to tour the movie, and still do. The obvious stuff is play at film festivals, and at genre conventions. That’s what everyone does. But I’m wanting to take it out on the road and just screen it to whomever will watch. I’m not opposed to playing movie theatres, but the rental cost don’t make it really effective sometimes. So I want to do house parties, and bonfires, and play it in bars. That type of thing. Treat it like a punk rock band. Some places you charge admission, while others we may just pass around the hat and hope for the best. In my mind DVD is where movies go to die these days. Once its on DVD people stop talking about it. Its just a thing that happened and it gets filed away on a shelf.

But at some point we will do a DVD. And I’m looking into all kinds of streaming options. I expect it get bootlegged. Not that I want it to, but I know what the times are and I’m not letting it break my heart. I just hope that for the people that do steal it, that you will tell friends about it and toss in a few bucks to me or other indie film makers going forward. Buy a t-shirt or toss a few bucks at a crowd funding campaign. Help us feed out families and support the stuff you like.

And for people who really want to watch slashers in their most classic format, VHS. I think we may have some cool news for them in a few weeks.

 

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(Me) Hey, thanks for the detailed and interesting insight into your world, mate. All the very best with the future with the movie.

 

(Cam) Thanks!

I’ll be checking daily my Facebook friend requests Stacey!

 

The Lashman is set for a world premiere Saturday April 19th 2014 at the 13th Annual Full Moon Horror Film Festival In Nashville, TN Members of the cast and crew will be on hand for a Q&A following the screening. The Lashman is currently booking dates on the festival circuit, and setting out for a touring roadshow. For more information on the premiere screening please visit http://www.fullmooninc.net/

 

You can find the Lashman on facebook at facebook.com/lashmanmovie or on twitter @LashmanFilm

 

 
I can’t say anything about the movies as yet for obvious reasons – but I give their drive and commitment 10/10.

Frankenstein – The True Story (1973) DVD Review

fr5Frankenstein – The True Story (1973)

Release Date: 10 March 2014. Cert: 12
RRP: £15.99. Running Time: 181 mins
Cat.No: 2NDVD3256. Ratio: Original Ratio ; 4:3
Region code: 2. Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0

Director: Jack Smight / Screenplay: Christopher Isherwood, Don Bachardy

Bonus feature: introduction by James Mason

A prelude (or, meaningless, self-indulgent waffle)

There could be a few deluded fools out there who might be mistaken by the title of this article from quite possibly the finest science fiction, fantasy and horror blog on the planet (that’s this blog by the way, just in case you were sat there thinking which one you had missed out on reading). Yes, there are some that may have read the word ‘Frankenstein’ and wrongly assumed that I was about to write a review on the CGI infested abomination and bastardisation of a genre classic that was the risible piece of excremental tosh that recently infested the cinema – I, Frankenstein.

However, putting my distaste (I’m not sure if you noticed that) aside in regard to that pitiful excuse of a horror film for a moment, it could well be that there are some of you out there in internetland who for some unknown twisted reason actually enjoyed it. Of course, I’m not one to judge another persons taste or right to like what they want, everyone after all is entitled to their opinion, but if you did enjoy that heap of muscle-bound superficial codswallop them you are clinically insane. Take my word for it, I have a degree in Psychology and know all about weird and twisted behaviour.

So, I suppose some review of it could be in order then, after all, this blog is supposed to reflect my balanced thoughts on a wide range of material. So OK, I saw the movie a week or so ago and quite frankly it is 2 hours or so of my life that I wish I could get back. There you go.

fr2No, this piece is definitely not anything at all to do with that reprehensible piece of lazy special effects rubbish. This review is of a far finer, intelligent and thought provoking interpretation of perhaps THE classic of Gothic horror literature than that piece of worthless junk.

A bit of history (or, more self indulgent historical waffle)

Many of us know the story behind the story of Frankenstein, but I’ll briefly mention it just in case there are any half-wits out there that think I, Frankenstein is where the it all actually started. The cultural phenomenon that is Frankenstein actually all began on the shores of Lake Geneva in the summer of 1816 when a group of literary friends, including a certain Lord Byron and Percy Shelley, in an effort to pass the time challenged each other to come up with a frightening ghost story. Shelley’s future wife, 19 year old Mary, was part of the entourage, eventually came up with an idea based upon a recent dream that she had experienced and which soon after she would put to paper. The title of which was Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.

It was a story that was to immediately tap into the the depths of our collective psyche with its themes of human loss, creation of life, motherhood and above all, the lengths a human being will go to scientifically manipulate and alter the laws of existence itself.

A year later the novel was finished and initially published anonymously, for this was a time when a woman and writing (particularly Gothic Horror writing) rarely went together without some form of public ridicule. By the time the revised second edition was published in 1823, this time under Mary’s name, the story had already accrued had a number of theatrical adaptations. This trend for constantly re-imagining the complex psychological and moral themes that are found in Shelley’s original text continues to this day, albeit usually in far more simplistic terms (stand up I, Frankenstein – you know I’m talking about you!).

Frankenstein and his CreatureAs far as I’ve been able to determine, since that date at the early part of the 19th century, there have been approximately 200 million billion trillion versions of Frankenstein in all its cinematic, literary, Graphic novel, television and radio forms. I’ve checked, it’s a pretty accurate number………trust me.

So it’s quite obvious that I’m not alone when I say that the story of the creation of life from the dead that originated nearly 200 years ago on the shores of Lake Geneva hasn’t just been a personal favourite of mine. Indeed I have gone on record on a number of occasions in this very blog naming James Whale’s near genius adaptation for a Universal Pictures’ Frankenstein as being my ‘first love’ of horror. The Universal produced series of movies movies with Boris Karloff et al were, and still arguably are, the most synonymous association between cinema and the original story – though the Universal adaptations and Karloff’s majestic monster are a million miles away from the what Mary Shelley first imagined. It’s safe to say I’m a little obsessed with the story that Mary wrote and so it seems is mostly everyone else on the planet. Way to capture the public’s imagination, Girl.

The review of Frankenstein:The True Story (1973). (Or, finally getting to the point and losing the waffle)

So when the marvellous people at Second Sight Films sent me the preview disc of the soon to be released gem of an adaptation, I was genuinely excited. Excited, because it was the chance to revisit a version that I first saw and loved many, many moons ago, and also excited because it was the chance to talk about a version of the man and his monster that actually didn’t make me want to stick my head in a plugged in food blender (yes, I, Frankenstein, I’m talking about you again)

fr1But what is so wonderful about this particular version, I hear you ask. Well according to the promotional material that came with the DVD it is claimed that it is “One of the most acclaimed versions of Mary Shelley’s classic Frankenstein: The True Story, featuring a stellar all-star cast makes its UK DVD debut thanks to Second Sight Films”

“Stellar all-star cast?” A bold claim indeed. We’ll see, Second Sight Films, we’ll see. Frankenstein: The True Story is an American 1973 made for TV two-part production, which back in the 1970’s could often be a very hit or miss affair in terms of authentic production and lazy cliched casting by the studios. However, the blurb isn’t wrong, for the cast list reads like a veritable who’s who of British character actors….well, don’t take my word for it, see for yourself.

Frankenstein: The True story.
Starring;
James Mason
Leonard Whiting
David McCallum
Jane (delicious) Seymour
Tom Baker.
Sir Ralph Richardson
Sir John Gielgud

Not bad, not bad at all. So far so good. However I do have one small word of warning out there for all Mary Shelley aficionados and lovers of her sacred text, who are under the assumption from the title that this is a faithful line by line adaptation, because it’s not. For despite the title, there are a more than a few major embellishments of the original storyline and narrative, but I assure you that the movie doesn’t suffer at all for it, quite the contrary as it happens. Let me explain.

Now then mate, you know where I can lay my hands on some spare body parts?

fr4The storyline is set in 19th century England, where Dr Victor Frankenstein (Leonard Whiting) is rather bitter and devastated over his brother’s death as a result of drowning and soon develops an obsession that he, and not god, should ultimately have the power over life and death. In essence, he is searching for the ability to bring life back from death itself.

Following a chance encounter with the bonkers Dr Henry Clerval (David McCallum), a surgeon who is experimenting with research in precisely this area. They soon begin to work together and Victor achieves what was previously thought impossible, the ability to create life from death. The result is the creation of a handsome, charismatic, highly intelligent young man – Adam (Michael Sarrazin), from rescued body parts (as you do).

At first the experiment seems a total success, not only does Adam (Adam – get it?) become alive, but he becomes the centre of attention amongst the socialites of London society with his good looks and charisma. However, unforeseen problems in the experimental process see Adam begin to physically degenerate and soon the involvement of evil and mad as a box of Frogs scientist Dr Polidori (James Mason) who, after appearing on the scene, goes on to make the proceedings even worse. For you see, Dr Polidori has the intention to create a female version of the creature in the form of an even more attractive creation, the simply excruciatingly delicious Jane Seymour. You may think that creating Jane Seymour as a companion might make things pretty good (well they would for me). Well actually, this in turn simply leads to further shocking and unimaginable horror as the story proceeds to its ever inevitable explosive climax.

Be honest – does my bum look big in this?
fr3I said a few moments ago that the term ‘True Story’ might be somewhat of a misnomer – this movie does indeed deviate from Shelley’s original text on number of major points. However, what I love about this adaptation is that it still retains much of the genuine Gothic nature, theme and tone of her work. This adaptation is actually a million miles closer to the complex and textured layers of the themes in the book than any of the (often still great) versions of the story have ever been.

This attention to the complex themes is an an obvious strength of the production, though it could for some people be something of a weakness. I say that because the running time of 3 hours may seem like something of an over-exertion for some in these more modern days of instant gratification. There will be those who find the pacing and time spent on strange things like characterisation, dialogue containing actual intelligence and performances that provide added gravitas to the text, as something that gets in the way of enjoying any thrills and chills. I don’t want to sound aloof and elitist when it comes to horror, but those are the very details of the genre that float my particular boat, however I know that there will be some for who regard such a production being flawed due to it’s lack of blood soaked horror.

Now this could get awkward…..
It is clear that a huge amount of money was spent on this truly sumptuous production, visually it is lovely with its richness of colour and texture combined with a truly remarkable attention to historical detail are at times breathtaking. The quality of the look of the film is also in part no small thanks to the restoration work that Second Sight Films have put into the movie prior to its release on the 10th March. Visually, it is a sublime treat.

Be assured, Frankenstein:The True Story is no US made faux-European monstrosity of a production with bad accents and flimsy sets, it has a genuine authentic heart and soul. This authenticity is applied in no small way to the inspired portrayal of the monster, Adam, who initially is the epitome of a beautiful creation with his brooding good looks and genuine charisma, but who slowly begins to disintegrate (literally) into a pathetic shambles of a creature. I, as many people, always felt more than a little sorry for the monster in this story, particularly Karloff’s masterful portrayal. However, the performance of Michael Sarrazin here takes that sense of sympathy to an almost unbearable level as we the audience are moved to emotions of extreme pity at Adams plight and the treatment that he receives from those that previous feted him as the prefect creation. For me, as a long time lover of Mary Shelley’s slice of literary genius, this is quite possibly one of the finest adaptations of it ever made.

fr7If anyone is still in some doubt about whether Frankenstein: The True Story is worth watching – I suggest you look at the picture to the right. I think it says it all……….

I’ll give the film 9 out of 10 and to the picture of Jane Seymour, at least 10 – as it were.

Frankenstein: The True Story is released on DVD by Second Sight Films on the 10th March 2014.

We Belong Dead Fearbook – A Review by Stuart Anderson

 

fearbook1After reviewing the latest issue of the truly excellent Space Monsters Magazine in my previous blog entry of wonder, I subsequently received a message from Mr Eric McNaughton, the grand-master and all round dictator of the equally fabulous classic horror zine of We Belong Dead.

 

Now my long suffering  reader will know that not so long ago I penned a rather excellent, and some (well me) might say profound piece on We Belong Dead’s rise from the ashes of publication history to be reborn after a period of sixteen long years – and a triumphant return it was. In fact the return from the dead in the shape of Issue 9 was such such a success that it was decided to produce a collection of all the best bits and put them together into some form of, er, collection. It was to be called the The Official We Belong Dead Fearbook (see what they did there? – genius).

 

Although he didn’t say so in as many words, it is quite clear from our discussion that Eric was rather impressed with the blog article on Space Monsters magazine and so suggested that I might like to review Fearbook. Well, at least I think he ‘suggested’, there was quite possibly in retrospect some dark sub-text to his request that I just cannot seem to put my finger on.

 

So I recommend that you see for yourselves as the conversation ran something like this…..

 

Mr Eric McNaughton: Now then laddie!

 

MeEr, yes my lord?

 

Mr Eric McNaughton: About that article that you tried to write on the wonderful Space Monsters Magazine?

 

MeErm, tried?

 

Mr Eric McNaughton: Yes, tried. It’s a brilliant magazine that deserved much more than the frankly embarrassing attempt that you put together. I know that you tried your best so I suppose that counts for something. Well allright, I may be possibly being a little harsh, some parts of it were almost acceptable.

 

MeThank you, I think…….

 

Mr Eric McNaughton: So I’m giving you one more chance to redeem yourself and try to put together at least a few words with more than two syllables on my magnificent We Belong Dead Fearbook.

 

Me: Thank you Mr Sir – you know I won’t let you down!

 

 
fearbook2Mr Eric McNaughton: Well actually we all know that you probably will. However the Fearbook is my collection of my favourite selection of articles from the long out of print editions from 1993-1997 – so making sure people know about this chance to own some classic horror history is falling for the time being (so help me god) on your shoulders.

 

Me: Ok Mon Capitan, anything else that I should know?

 

Mr Eric McNaughton: In it’s 5 year incarnation WBD went from an amateur, shoddily printed zine to a slick, professional looking mag. It was indeed a learning curve, but along the way we assembled a most talented group of writers and artists, many of whom still contribute to the 21st century WBD. If you look at issue 1 almost the entire issue was written by myself, but that soon changed from WBD 2 onwards as our popularity grew. The production of the zine was very old school, remember these were the days before internet and email! I would have to type up ALL the articles which were mailed to me, do all the page layout by hand literally using scissors and glue! I remember my delight when I finally managed to get an electronic typewriter to put together issue 7! How the world has changed!

 

 
Me: Blimey, somebody has some passion!

 

 
Mr Eric McNaughton: Thats right my good man! Now get cracking on with it and don’t cock it up for once  – remember, I know people!

 

So on that not so veiled threat on my personage I began to read the whopping 120 page Fearbook and immediately began immersing myself In its nostalgic loveliness. As I initially ‘flicked through the pages’ my eye caught one particular feature hiding away on page 43 –  simply called, TV Horror. The introduction for which from Neil Ogley goes as follows;

 

fearbook3“During the first incarnation of We Belong Dead, I had the idea of pulling together a listing of all the BBC2 Horror Double Bill seasons to form an article for the fledgling fanzine. (I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who had that idea.) As a youngster, like many others I was often allowed to stay up to watch horror movies and I loved the weekly offerings that ran regularly throughout the summer. “
 

 

“Back then most people thought the horror double bill seasons ran from 1975 until 1981 however it seems that even though the BBC skipped a season in 1982, a final series of double bills was broadcast during the summer of 1983 although this season was entirely made up of the classic Universal horrors from the 30’s and 40’s all of which had been shown before, predominantly in the 1977 season Dracula Frankenstein & Friends.”

 

And what do you know? That particular paragraph could have actually written by me (though possibly not nearly as well), because the scenario that Neil described was something that completely parallelled my own introduction to the wonderful world of horror. I’ve mentioned in previous articles in this blog of wonder that I’ve often traced back my initial introduction to horror by being allowed to stay up late during one childhood Saturday evening to watch Son of Frankenstein from Universal Pictures. It’s a long cherished memory of mine, however, the problem has always been that I’ve never been able to remember exactly when this took place. That is until now, as this little snippet from the Fearbookshows.

 

DRACULA, FRANKENSTEIN AND FRIENDS 1977

 

Saturday 2 July 1977

 

23.05-00.25 Dracula (Universal1931)

 

00.25-01.35 Frankenstein (Universal 1931)

 

Saturday 9 July 1977

 

22.50-00.00 Bride of Frankenstein (Universal 1935)

 

00.00-01.25 Brides of Dracula (Hammer 1960)

 

Saturday 16 July 1977

 

22.45-00.15 The Mummy (Universal 1932)

 

00.15-01.05 The Wolfman (Universal 1940)

 

Saturday 23 July 1977

 

22.10-23.45 Son of Frankenstein (Universal 1938)

 

23.45-01.10  Kiss of the Vampire (Hammer 1964)

 

There you have it, the official birthday of the Fifth Dimension blog could very well be said to be ten minutes past ten on the 23rd July 1977 – how brilliant a discovery is that?!

 

I can hear what you are saying – “OK, big deal but is a relatively small piece of nostalgic memories really important enough to write about?” Well yes it blooming well is because nostalgia is exactly what this joy of a magazine is all about. It perfectly recaptures the plethora memories that we all of a certain age have when we discovered and experienced the wealth of horror from what many remember as the classic age of the genre.Don’t misunderstand me, my love of classic horror doesn’t mean that I regard the more contemporary fair as necessarily being sub-standard and not worthy of consideration, On the contrary, each decade since the 1970’s to date has seen some magnificent examples of movie making. Moreover, the current independent horror scene is as rich and exciting a period in terms of creative ambition as any time I can remember. No, what I love about this zine and others such as Space Monsters Magazine is that here we have a group of like-minded individuals who are reliving their personal recollections of creepy discovery, and with it, taking us along with them for the ride of a horror lifetime. Something which I and many others have no trouble in relating to and identifying with.

Classic horror needs to be kept in the wider public consciousness – this is magazine is the perfect way to do that.

The 120 page of classic horror loveliness is far too detailed for me to be able to review each and every marvellous article – but I will for now briefly mention three pieces of personal note.

 

fearbook4PHANTOM OF THE OPERA  by Eric McNaughton

 

This article from Eric originally appeared in the very first edition of We Belong Dead and has been revised and updated for the reproduction in the the Fearbook. It’s a lovingly detailed appreciation of what I would regard as the best movie version of the Gaston Leroux’s classic 1910 novel, and the one that features one of the giants of the classic age of horror, Lon Chaney.

 

Phantom of the Opera (1925) may put off some people by the fact is is silent and made in black & white, but that would be a mistake. It is a powerful creepy and highly atmospheric production that I and many others are still affected by when viewing in this, the most modern of ages.

 

The piece is a delightful loving account, not just only of the movie itself, but also of the behind the scenes work ranging from Chaney’s legendary attention to detail in preparation in make-up to his influence on the direction of the film. Eric clearly loves the movie, its theme and location and the article is simply a genuine joy to read.

 

 
fearbook5INGRID PITT – THE QUEEN OF HAMMER

 

I’ve never disguised my almost-clean and respectful love of Miss Pitt and her contribution and legacy to British horror. Gary W Sherratt, who wrote this marvellous piece in the 1990’s, when Ingrid was still with us, obviously shared that love too.

The article isn’t just lovingly written it is also accompanied (as in the rest of the publication) by a delightful collection of Photos, film posters and lobby cards of the genuinely delicious and talented woman who’s horror legacy was thankfully is as strong now as it was when she was still alive.

The effect of any article can often be measure in how much it makes one think – and after reading this lovely account I think I’ll now go my Ingrid Pitt collection and watch the whole damn lot this weekend!

 


fearbook6Dan Gale compares Romero’s original classic 1968 Night of the Living Dead with Tom Savini’s 1990 remake in the eighth edition of the magazine.

 

I along with every horror fan has their personal views on the qualities (or need) for remakes of classic movies. Indeed, a previous piece or two in this very blog of wonder has compared the merits of the odd remake with its predecessor. Dan Gale provides a well balanced and at times blackly humorous of the two movies and even (perish the thought) manages to say a few kind things about the remake – I know!!

 

What stands out about the article is that it takes place in the pre-Walking Dead and general Zombiethon climate that seems to exemplify a large chunk of contemporary horror. Reading this particular article in an age when Zombies hadn’t been done to death (see what I did there?) is a peculiarly refreshing experience and one that I thoroughly enjoyed.

 

For those of you who are wanting to purchase a copy of the We Belong Dead Fearbook then go TO THIS LINK

 

The We Belong Dead Facebook page can be found RIGHT HERE

 

 

Issue 12 of We Belong Dead is due out very soon!
fearbook7

I heartily give this 9 out of 10

Space Monsters Magazine – A Retrospective by Stuart Anderson

Space Monsters Magazine

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Issue number 3 – excellent, but no Maddie Smith though….
Space Monsters is dedicated to classic sci-fi, fantasy and monsters in movies and television from the black and white silent era through to the colourful early eighties! 80 black and white A5 pages with full colour front and back covers packed with the very best movies and TV shows from a bygone era.  Featuring features, reviews and artwork from many of the same cast and crew of popular classic horror magazine We Belong Dead,  Space Monsters Magazine has become a huge hit with classic sci-fi and monster movie fans!”

A bold claim in terms of quality and quantity it could be said, from Richard Gladman, the head honcho of Space Monsters Magazine… hmmmmm, a bold statement indeed.

So when Mr G decided to place a request on Space Monsters Magazine’s Facebook at HERE for some genuine requests for reviews of his magazine I thought that I might be able to accomplish two things – firstly to test and challenge the claims of the magazine in my usual biting and insightful way (shut it!). Secondly, it’s also a golden chance for me to be genuine once again (the fact that I received a free copy has absolutely nothing to do with my opinion, positive or negative). There are some in my real life away from this blogging lark that may suggest that I’m a compete charlatan  and impostor – but she’s only saying that because she knows me….

I may have said it before, but when I was younger and all growing up I was something of a nerd (as opposed to being older and all grown up AND as much of a nerd as ever). The 1970’s and 1980’s provided a truly rich source of magazine based material for a young nerdy boy (stand in a corner and clean out your mind!) and in my case it was no exception. Perhaps the first magazine I can remember developing an obsession for was the Planet of the Apes publication which was released when I was but a slip of a lad. The magazine accompanied the short-lived spin-off television series of the 1970’s and was chiefly responsible for my lifelong obsession with the whole Apes movie series, TV series, animated series and remake series……I think you catch my drift.

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In those pre-internet days magazines like that and others such as The Six million dollar manAmazing stories and the daddy of them all, Starburst, provided me and other like-minded obsessives one of the few links to genres that back in those relatively technologically prehistoric days didn’t have the level of acceptability that they may have now. I’m not saying that nowadays our sci-fi, fantasy and horror obsessions are no longer looked down upon – there is still an element of barely disguised snobbishness on some faces when you tell them that you are currently reading/watching the latest piece of science fiction or horror. However, it is safe to say that nerds and geeks are a lot cooler these days than when I was growing up and faced an ever constant tidal wave of in no way concealed derision that I would rather read Philip K.Dick and watch Space 1999 than ‘something proper’.

I mentioned some time ago, when I was lucky enough to review copies of the We Belong Dead, just how refreshing it was to see that this modern digital world hasn’t completely overshadowed the more traditional forms of publications. For against all considered opinion, paper-based genre magazines seem to be enjoying something of a renaissance with sales and interest being nicely complimented and enhanced by the digital medium. Indeed, I was wandering around a certain movie store just a couple of weeks ago with a friend (yes I do still have friends, surprising I know) where I witnessed a veritable plethora of genre magazines which seemingly catered to every taste that we could possible want…… well most, because as in those dim and dark distant days, apart from such notables such as the wonderful Starburst magazine, classic British themed science fiction and horror still seems to find itself in the lower rankings of publication importance.

But it seems that the tide may well be turning, because in Space Monsters Magazine we have a publication that not only deals with classic Sci-Fi, Fantasy and horror, but even better, a good deal of its content is British based – hurrah!!

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Lets just sit a while and look
at this picture shall we?….


Now it won’t come as much of a surprise to those who have previously read this blogging piece of wonder to hear that  when it comes to Science Fiction I have three particular loves (well three that I can actually talk about without having to consult my already overworked legal team); Classic Sci-Fi & horror, British Sci-Fi & horror and thirdly, absolutely anything featuring the delicious Madeline Smith.

The third edition Space Monsters Magazine has two of those three important factors – I will sincerely attempt to give an impartial and considered appraisal of the magazine even though there is absolutely no sign of her deliciousness. It may that Maddie may have appeared in issues 1 or 2, however that’s not really good enough as I don’t have my hands on those two particular copies.

If I was the magazine editor my main stipulation would be that each and every issue should include some reference to her deliciousness. I do acknowledge that it does sound as If I have some dangerous and creepy obsession with Miss Smith and I do seem to appear as if I’m in need of some clinical help…….well, there’s a queue for those who believe I’m in need of some psychological help, so get in line :-).
So what sci-fi/fantasy & horror delicacies have in store for us in issue 3 of Space Monsters Magazine ….. well let’s find out shall we?

The first thing that caught my eye in regard to the magazine was the stunning layout and artwork (of which a great deal has been specially commissioned) – it quite simply looks amazing. I have only the PDF copy to go by but the paper copy (which I hope to get my hands on soon) is beautifully adorned with not one, but two choices of truly wonderful cover art.

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“Bride of Frankenstein in Outer Space”


One example is the one at the top of this blog and the second cover is this stunning piece of artwork by Woody Welch. This and other works from the magazine’s artists such as Ash Loydon Trevor Talbert give the overall feel of the magazine a wonderfully rich and textured artistic quality.

Not only that, but there is a veritable plethora of original cinematic stills, poster art and lobby cards, some of which I’ve never seen before which makes even the most hardened of nerds feel as if he or she is wandering through a veritable science fiction and horror themed Aladdin’s cave of wonder. It’s all a true feast for the eyes which perfectly compliment the range of articles and features.

If I was more clued up on Internet copyright I would right at this very moment be downloading and saving each and every one of the posters, cards and film stills for my own personal collection. But of course I’m not doing that. I am however very very jealous and rather intimidated by the range of visual talents on show, they’re just showing off and it’s not fair.

I will genuinely be getting in touch upon the completion of this blog entry with Mr Welch to obtain a signed copy of the ‘Bride of Frankenstein in Outer Space’ – and that is in no way sycophantic hyperbole.

sm5
A stand-out feature that immediately caught me eye is the magnificent 15 page feature examining the appearance ofFrankenstein in the movies. It’s written by Sascha Cooper, who according to the background info in the magazine is a professional actress, dancer, psychic medium, writer and owner of Crimson Horse Theatre Company based in Brighton. Yep, definitely again someone who is far too talented for her own good – or in other words, makes me inconsolably jealous and insecure.
The Frankenstein movies produced by Universal Pictures were perhaps my first true horror loves, so this article naturally caught my eye first. It’s a gorgeously thoughtful and well researched examination of not only the movies themselves, but also of the literary background and influences dating back to the birth of the story from the story telling competition between Mary Shelley & her band of poetic deviants.

This wonderful article takes us on a detailed and captivating journey from that initial telling of scary stories that were initially intended just to pass the time during a period of bad weather, through those magnificent Universal Pictures films featuring the genius of Boris Karloff. The piece finishes at the point where we see Shelley’s originally tortured  creation now treated as an object of slapstick comedy in the 1948 Abbot and Costello meet Frankenstein – about as far away from the original story but, as the writer nicely argues, still with its legitimate horror merits. I can’t wait for the follow-up article which takes up the story from the 1950’s when the simply stunning Hammer productions created new paths in Frankenstein lore.

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The Lovely Joan in a bit of a pickle
However, please don’t think that this magazine is simply an elitist high-browed view of classics of the genres that you and I love. There are plenty of features that are intelligent yet still fun and enjoyable purely for the sake of being so – an example of which is a lovely piece on the fabulous 1970’s big Bug movieEmpire of the Ants.

Ernie Magnotta provides us with an entertaining write-up of this wonderfully (often unintentionally) funny low-budget movie. I must admit to always loving this film which features a young and decidedly scrumptious Joan Collins. She plays the role of a decidedly unscrupulous a real estate agent who cons unsuspecting individuals to buy property on an island which is going to be transformed into a getaway for the rich and prosperous jet set.

Things however quickly go more than a little pear shaped for Miss Collins’ character as it soon transpires that the island is full of intelligent giant carnivorous ants (Naturally). The special effects are pretty ropey, even for a 1970’s B movie, but despite that (or probably because of it) the film is a perennial favourite viewing experience of mine and many others.

A favourite movie given the entertains review treatment that it deserves – a genuine treat.

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Emily Booth given the Woody Welch
treatment – as it were.
There is of course much much more, including pieces on French animated feature Fantastic Planet (1973), Ultraman (1966), One Million Years B.C. (1966), Moon Zero Two (1969) – which is a truly wonderful ‘Space Western’ that I first saw in my teens on one freezing cold winter’s evening and to this day I cannot understand why this movie has never reached a wider audience. As a result, I was overjoyed when I saw that this movie was being given the loving treatment that is finally deserved.

Believe me, I haven’t even began to scratch the surface of the plethora of other material in the issue.

Issue 3 of Space Monsters Magazine is a near perfect visual and literary feast for classic horror and classic sci-fi fans alike. It is obvious that this is a true labour of love for Richard and his team who clearly feel passionately about the genres and subject matter contained within each and every issue. This isn’t simply a case of superficial nostalgia for a past age of classic television and cinema, yes it is a genuinely lovely to look at appreciation of gems from out past lives, but there is a genuine show of talent and obvious attention to detail to the features in the magazine.

If that wasn’t enough, part of the obviously talented team of writers and artists one particular writer happens to be the truly lovely Emily Booth, presenter de delicious from The Horror Channel, who pens columns on her favourite examples of horror film and television. It is all genuinely excellent stuff.

Now if we could only improve Space Monsters Magazine further in the upcoming issues with some Maddie Smith…………….

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Where to buy Space Monsters Magazine?….well seeing as you’re asking …….Here is a list of some fine online and traditional purchasing establishments depending on whether you want the PDF version of the wonderful A5 sized paper edition.

Classic Horror Campaign –

Dead Good Publishing Ltd (Digital Version) –

The Cinema Store – 5 Upper St Martin’s Lane, London WC2H 9NY

Camden Film Fair – Saturday 22nd February 2014
Ninth Circle – various festivals and events throughout 2014

Psychotronic Store –

Scare Store –

Suspect Video – (605 Markham Street * Toronto * Ontario * Canada * M6G 2L7)

London Film Memorabilia Convention – Saturday 29th March 2014

 

When heroes are not that good at what they do…… by Stuart Anderson

When heroes are not that good at what they do……

I was watching The Big Bang Theory just the other night when a comment was made by one of the characters in the programme that Indiana Jones often messed up more than he actually got right. In fact they made the point that if he had of done absolutely nothing in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the result at the end would have been pretty much the same regardless – the Ark of the covenant would have been found by the Nazis, taken to the Island and then they would have all been subsequently killed by its power when opened.
This made me think a little (don’t mock, I do occasionally think) and by the end of the 30 minute episode the thought had developed into something of a major ear worm. I simply could not let the thought go after I had initially asked myself – Just how many other do-gooding good guys (or gals) are actually rather pants at being the hero? Some may come close to winning, some just blindly maraud through the bad guys causing untold chaos – only achieving their original aim by blind good luck or with the help of an unlikely ally. So, where are these champion chumps ?
As it happens, it seems that there are a few and they are everywhere. So as a bit of light-hearted Christmas and end of year nonsense, here is a brief list of horrendous heroes. Any offence to heroes (super or not) living or dead is entirely deliberate :-).
Luke Skywalker
 
lukeYes well all right, I know that he destroyed the Death star in episode 4 – but that was only the result of some last minute help from good buddy Han Solo and a whisper of advice from the ghostly voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi. However think about it – if he hadn’t of let the bloody busy-body R2D2 out of his sight and gone chasing after him around Tatooine, thereby finding old Ben skulking away in the mountains (and almost getting himself killed in the process) then Mr Kenobi would have lived his days out quite happily – instead he was given a bit of a kicking by Luke’s dad on the Death Star.
It didn’t get much better in the next instalment when young Skywalker decides to go all 1960’s Hippy to try and ‘find himself’ in order to be a proper grown up type Jedi. However it turns out that he isn’t actually that good as we witness old Yoda continually rolling his eyes at Luke’s simply laughable attempts at doing rather simple Jedi stuff. Not only that, but when the time comes for him to play the hero and rescue Han Solo and his other friends, we’ll he can’t even manage to pull that off. Poor old Han gets all solidified & Luke goes and misplaces his hand after a bit after a bit of a bust up with his dad.When Luke does finally rescue Han, he only manages that after being caught by Jabba The Hut.
If all that wasn’t enough, when the chosen one finally had the opportunity to bring peace to the Galaxy etc etc he couldn’t manage to kill the Emperor. Instead his dad has to help him out and get rid of the ex- Mr Palpatine. This time it’s the turn of his dad to pop his clogs after helping out Luke. To add insult to injury, his old man then has to deal with a personality change when he does die, changing from a nice looking grandad guy to a ghastly ghostly Hayden Christensen for the rest of eternity when George Lucas starts his annual messing around with the movies shenanigans.And we won’t even go anywhere near the little issue of Luke not realising that the woman he fanciesand snogs is actually his sister ………..
 

Quint and Hooper (Jaws) 

 
jaws
The so-called shark expert fighting off
 the so-called shark…
Excellent – in this movie we get two hapless heroes for the price of one.
A big bad great White Shark is terrorising a small holiday island. It’s eating lots of people, which is a bad thing and so the Chief of Police (Brody) is worried. He runs around the Island trying to persuade people not to swim in the sea – nobody believes him. Even when when Brody manages to bring in Hooper, an expert on Sharks and and who has a nice shiny boat and lots of gizmo’s to provide some credence to his claims, still no-one listens.
This is mainly because the town Mayor couldn’t give a toss about the loss of life as long as the tourist money keeps coming in. Cue the continuing body count rise until finally Brody finally persuades the Mayor to fund the services of local expert Shark hunter (Quint) – who must be good at what he does because he has hundreds of carcasses of Sharkes that have previously crossed his path. So off the two experts trip off in Quints boat & with them, the chief- who has a morbid fear water and everything that lives in it, especially Sharks.
jaws2“Trust me, I’m wearing glasses and I have a big stick full of poison”
So this should be a walk in the park then? A world renowned sharks expert and a famous Shark killer…..what could possibly go wrong?
We’ll actually everything. It doesn’t help that Shark killer hero Quint completely underestimates their prey and that so-called shark expert hero Hooper completely blows his chance to kill the beast with his fancy cage and poison. Hooper’s cage gets well and truly mangled, he screams like a girl as the shark tries to have him for supper and then legs it away to hide at the bottom of the sea and essentially leaves his pals to it. Thanks a bunch college boy.

Quint fares even worse – after shooting dozens of barrels and sing a few sea shanties he becomes the main meal of the day for the Great White beastie. It’s left to the sea-hating, Shark non-expert to actually save the day.

The Colonial Marines (Aliens)
aliens“Leave this to me, boys and girls”…

It could be argued that never in the history of rescues have the rescuers, who should know what they’re doing, been so hapless and hopeless.

It should all have been so straightforward. The only survivor (Ripley) fresh from a rather nasty encounter with an Alien with some rather extreme salivatory condition (not forgetting its habit of popping out of people’s stomachs) has been rescued from deep space.  However the rather ungrateful company that that she works for isn’t too happy about the trillions of dollars of spacecraft that she destroyed in the process of whipping the Aliens arse. That is, until they go and lose contact with terraforming colonists on the planet where the Alien first did its face-hugging thing. Cue Ripley being asked nicely to back to the planet as a ‘consultant’- she doesn’t want to go, but it’s all OK as she’s going to be accompanied by the “biggest group of bad asses this side of the galaxy”, the colonial Marines. No problem there then.
We’ll once again, there is actually one big problem with this group of military bodyguard heroes’ – at best they are a pretty clueless bunch of big gun-toting individuals, at worst they are the epitome of arrogant shoot first with their big guns and ask questions later. Half of them are big mouthed testosterone fueled individuals, the other half seem to spend most of the movie complaining that “We’re all going to die’!!!!! It also doesn’t help much that they are led by an officer who is as clueless as he is wet behind the ears.So instead of actually listening to the one individual who’s been there and done it, they instead go in all guns blazing, completely underestimated their adversary and proceed to be picked off en-mass. Once again it’s left up to Ripley to save the day.


Samuel Loomis (Halloween)
 
loomis“This time I’m gonna get you, dammit!…….Oh, bugger!”
Poor old Dr. Loomis, he tried his best but he just wasn’t very good. For 15 years he had the mad as a box of Frogs, Michael Myers, under his care in a secure mental institution after the little basket-case had butchered his older sister when he was six years old. Unfortunately, in all this time none of Loomis’ special treatments had had any effect.
So when Michael reaches 21 (and still barking mad) he is set to be transferred back to his home town for the murder trial. Loomis has the responsibility for transferring Michael but whoops – Michael only goes and escapes doesn’t he? Bugger.
In an effort to make amends for this little bit of a cock-up, Loomis tracks Michael back to his home town where the grown up psycho has designs on a little killing spree – cue lots of running round with the good doctor trying his best to persuade the locals that there is a small matter of a deranged killer on the loose – of course, throughout the proceedings Loomis is constantly one step behind the masked maniac. That is unit the finally when the doc gets the chance to put six (yes that’s right, SIX) bullets in the knife wielding nut-job……….only for the killer to get away……again.
Again, it gets worse for our latest hapless hero, for Loomis races to the girl’s aid and once again shoots Michael numerous times and yet again, this does not stop him. Loomis eventually corners Michael in a room and blows it up……hopefully this time he has finally got his man?
Nope, that still didn’t work as Halloween 4 sees Loomis unsuccessfully attempting to alert the police that Michael is now free – again. And once again Mr Myers goes on another dizzy of a killing spree until the good doctor collapses to the floor, a gibbering sobbing wreck as he seems to be torn apart by the thought that the evil that filled Michael has now transferred itself to his niece. If only just one of those dozens of bullets that he had fired at moody Michael had hit the spot, eh?
Nope, we’re not finished yet – or rather our useless hero hasn’t finished being useless as he’s still bumbling after his nemesis in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers and also Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later. Not only that, but the inadequacies of our hapless hero were once again revisited in the remakes of Halloween and Halloween II in 2007 & 2009 respectively.
He’s still probably out there on Michael’s trail still……..


Indiana Jones (Raiders of the lost Ark)
rotlaIndie, about to cock-up for the first time of many…..
I’ll finish this article on the unfortunate hero that set off the idea for this piece in the first place.
Until it was pointed out in the TV programme, It simply hadn’t  occurred to me just how ineffective good ol’ Indie actually could be. It was the character of Amy (Sheldon’s girlfriend) who points out……………“Indiana Jones plays no role in the outcome of the story. If he weren’t in the film, it would turn out exactly the same… If he weren’t in the movie, the Nazis would still have found the Ark, taken it to the island, opened it up, and all died, just like they did.”
It could be true, I will leave it up to those far more inclined to argue seriously the accuracy of such a statement with a close analysis of the plot – however, even if that statement does have holes within its plausibility, the essence of it will still remain – A lot of the plot DOES happen regardless of his interference.
Not only that, when he does succeed in getting something right, for example the opening scenes when he finds the golden Idol, he successfully manages to avoid death from a plethora of cunning traps only to have the thing taken off him by his rival, Belloq. We also shouldn’t forget that annoying little habit that Indie seems to have of letting his girlfriend be kidnapped by the bad guys – at least 4 times by my memory.
So it’s clear that as a hero he has one or two faults, as an Archaeologist he doesn’t fare much better. Because most of the artifacts that he does find turn out to be a little bit on the impractical side too. The aforementioned Ark doesn’t make you invincible, it just liquefies all who open it. The crystal Skull (a present from those lovely Aliens) just sends all those that become obsessed with it as mad as a box of Frogs. The Holy Grail is pretty useless when it’s removed from the cave.All in all not one of them are worth a damn on an academic archaeological level – I mean, just who back the the university is going to believe a damn word of magical powers, biblical mayhem and alien intervention? To be honest I’m not sure how he still has a job in education considering just how much bloody teaching that he actually does – doesn’t anybody even check his clocking in ticket to see that in all that time he’s taught about 4 classes?

Scrooge (1951) A UKHS Xmas Horror Review

Scrooge – 1951 | 86 mins | Comedy, Drama | B&W

I don’t like the Muppets, I don’t like them at all. I never have and I’m probably sure that I never will. It’s a controversial viewpoint which I know will upset many, but I have my legitimate reasons.

scroo1

“That bloody Frog is here somewhere…….
Even as a child I never really had much time for those supposedly loveable puppet things that celebrities almost seemed to trample over each other to get their faces on; Kermit the blooming Frog simply annoyed the hell out of me, Miss Piggy reminded me of an old schoolteacher from my Grammar school and Fozzy bear just creeped me out for some unknown reason that I couldn’t ever quite put my finger on. The only character that I ever found remotely likable was the drummer, Animal. “So Stuey, what is the actual reason for this hatred of an entertainment institution?” I hear you ask. Well, partly it may be that at school one of my lesser flattering nicknames was ‘Gonzo’, given to me by some wit who thought that as I had a slightly bug nose it would be highly hilarious to give me that name. It could have been worse I suppose, they could have call me Joseph Merrick – now that would have been cruel. But no, I’m way past that now – after all, those years of therapy had to amount to something…..

 

No, it is far more than just a half-arsed witty nickname that causes me to tense up just at the very thought of Jim Henson’s crazy Muppets. The thing that more or less sealed the deal was a certain adaptation of arguably the classic ghost story of all ghost stories. As far as I’m aware there have been over fifty adaptations in various forms of Charles Dickens Literary classic ‘A Christmas Carol‘. Some of them have been truly excellent (the 1984 TV film starring George C. Scott being of particular note) while some adaptations have been, well, less than excellent. You see, I truly love the story of A Christmas Carol, not necessarily for it’s theme of personal redemption (which is a quite nice thing I suppose), no I love it because at the core of the story there is a genuine substance of spectral horror. Yet, throughout the years a light-hearted and comforting tale of amusing and eccentric ghosts visiting a rather grumpy but still humorous old Ebenezer have replaced the original feeling of fear and horror that Dickens intended when he wrote the story…….. and chief amongst those guilty of such a transformation from horror to cosy are those responsible for A Muppet Christmas Carol. I tell you now, ‘Funny ghosts’ and Michael Caine hamming it up are not anywhere on god’s green Earth near to the original authentic subject matter of the source material. And don’t get me started on the bloody songs.

 

Thankfully the more authentic adaptations are there to remind us how powerfully chilling this story can actually be when the will arises. Whilst the aforementioned TV version starring the excellent George. C Scott is a wonderful piece of work, for me nothing has yet has ever compared on a chill-factor level as a British made black and white version of the story – Scrooge (1951).
scroo2
“You bloody well let me know when you hear the first sound 
of a song in this movie”
 
THE PLOT
You’ve got to be kidding me?! – Its A freaking Christmas Carol!

 

Well OK – for those 23 people in the Amazonian tribe yet to be discovered by the rest of ‘civilisation’ and so haven’t got around to seeing any of the veritable plethora of movie versions, here is the plot in a very quick but informative way.

 

“Old, bitter businessman Ebenezer Scrooge hates Christmas and everybody who celebrates it – he does have one favourite Christmas pastime, which is shouting “Humbug” at all Crimbo devotees…..He especially has no time for his ever-so-nice employee Bob Cratchett who has a big annoyingly happy Family, including a crippled son called Tiny but annoyingly happy Tim…….Ebenezer is soon visited by the ghost of his dead business partner – Ghost warns him of his impending doom. Scrooge laughs it all off as the result of bad cheese, ghost gets a bit annoyed…….. soon he’s visited by the ghosts of Crimbo past, Crimbo present and possible Crimbo future which looks decidedly pants – It’s all very very frightening with thunderbolts and lightening…….Eventually he sees the error of his selfish ways………suddenly becomes very happy when alive to see Crimbo morning……treats everybody to free lunches & presents……buys the Cratchetts a big bird to eat……Tiny Tim is more annoyingly happy than ever….”
Yes the story for me has its faults; Tiny Tim is always genuinely annoying and if I was his older brother I would be deeply pissed off the old golden buy Tim gets all the attention. His father Bob Cratchett has always in my book deserved a bit of a slap around the chin with a wet fish for being overly wet and subservient. However even the cynic in me never fails to get sucked into the joy that Scrooge feels when waking up as a reformed man on Christmas morning.

 

This film is true, not only to the main episodes in the original story, but just as importantly to this blogger, faithful to its fundamental horror content.
scroo3
“But I’ve never even met Jim Henson!!”
For while learning from the error of ones’ ways and attaining personal redemption are all well and good, it’s the chilling psychological journey that Scrooge is forced to endure that has always appealed to me – and boy does this version lay on atmosphere and chill-factor galore.
The film is perhaps in some ways the most faithful in some ways to the original text and yet succeeds in adding some fascinating layers of previously unexplored back story of the character at Scrooge, in essence building upon elements of plot that Dickens at best only hinted at. For in this version the usual pantomime version of Scrooge as a grumpy yet still likable is replaced by a back story rich in detail that gives meaning and understanding to some of his behaviour. For example, Scrooge’s resentment of Fred isn’t purely due to his hatred of Christmas, but also because his birth resulted in the death of the only woman he ever loved, his sister.

 

It is partly the marvellous screenplay by Noel Langley which provided richly textured back story to Dickens’ source material, but more so it is the central performance of Alistair Sim that brings out a rounded completeness to Scrooge’s character – this is no cardboard cut-out performance from a giant of British cinema, it is a thing of genius. It isn’t only me that believes that Sim’s performance is the benchmark portrayal of Scrooge that all others should be measured by – George C. Scott himself said the very same when he was preparing for the eponymous role.
scroo4
Sim’s portrayal is an honest to god tour-de-force, with the more detailed back-story of his life providing him the chance to give depth, understanding and even a degree of sympathy to his selfish and outwardly seemingly downright evil treatment of the people in his life. For example, the well known antipathy he seems to have towards his nephew Fred is explained by the fact that his cherished sister died shortly after giving birth to him – an occurrence that has caused intense resentment and in some ways no little hatred towards the unknowing young man. No-one before or since has ever matched Alistair Sims magical performance of a man tortured by his past – there are moments when just a flicker of his eyes says more than a dozens of hammed up performance of Ebenezer have ever managed to do combined together.

However, this is a horror blog, so I’m especially concerned with the scare factor of this version – and by Jove does it deliver.

scroo5

I mentioned earlier that numerous adaptations of this story have resulted in what we now familiarly see as a series of vaguely unsettling but more so amusing spectres providing their various warnings of impending doom. This version thankfully remains true to the chills that it should actually provide – after all, the ghosts that appear are supposed to be intending to frighten the worst of moral offenders into changing his selfish ways.  For example, the slow atmospheric build-up leading to the appearance of Scrooges’ long since dead partner is so expertly done that when the Ghost of Jacob Marley finally appears it produces perhaps one of the most unnerving spectres to haunt cinema – and I genuinely mean that. Not only is the deep despair about his own fate clearly apparent in the wonderful performance of Michael Horden, his rage and frustration at Scrooges initial scepticism is deeply convincing. The fact that a range of ground-breaking special effects were also employed in this production gives a true sense of chilling gravitas to the phantasmic scenes.

 

If that wasn’t enough for the connoisseur of the frights,  the genuine chills of the ghost of Christmas future is the forbidding shadow of impending doom that Dickens originally intended him to be.

 

The fact that the entire movie was filmed on a purpose built studio is a testament to the intense and foreboding atmosphere created for this Dickensian London. The bleakness of the black and white film gives an added gothic nuance that is reminiscent of the glory days of Universal monster movies. This is simply British film-making at it’s glorious best. I would strongly advise that if you are going to view this version of the film for the first time that you watch the original b&w version and not the later colourised version which goes a fair way to robbing the film’s ghost sequences of much of their power to scare – stay away i say….stay away from colour!!
Oh my good god – no word of a lie, but I’ve just seen a trailer on TV for The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol. Kill me now.

 

This version deserves a simple 10 out of 10 – If I could, I would give it more.

An Interview with Adrienne Barbeau by Stuart Anderson

An Interview with Adrienne Barbeau by Stuart Anderson

 

Adrienne Barbeau is a much loved favourite of horror fans worldwide having appeared in unquestionable classics of the genre such as as Wes Craven’s Swamp Thing  and George A. Romero’s Creepshow (both in 1982) . Perhaps her most celebrated appearances took place in John Carpenter’s original The Fog in 1980 and his classic Escape from New York in 1981. In addition, who could ever forget classics such as the Roger Corman Burial of the Rats for cable television or the wonderfully titled Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death?…… not me, thats for sure!

 

Apart from gracing the the plethora of horror productions Adrienne has had a rich and varied career as a singer, talk show host and in the last few years, she has gained a name for herself as an author. The release of her memoir, There Are Worse Things I Could Do in 2006 which chronicles her amazing life with accounts of being a go-go dancer working for the mob; her breakthrough stage role of Rizzo in “Grease”; her romantic relationships ; marrying the genius of horror filmaking, John Carpenter; giving birth to twins at the age of 51; and talking about her extensive and varied body of horror work.

 

After that she turned to fiction with Vampyres of Hollywood, a thriller about an A-list Hollywood scream queen who just happens to be a 450 year old vampire. The sequelLove Bites has also now been released which again follows the exploits of scream queen, Ovsanna Moore.
Adrienne succumbed to my pestering and kindly agreed to answer a few questions on her life and career.

 

(SA) When did you first start acting & what/who inspired you to do so?
(AB) I started taking ballet when I was 3, and then voice lessons when I was 10.
I don’t remember being inspired by anyone, but I did have a mother who was very encouraging. By the time I was in Jr. High school, I was doing school plays and musicals with a community theatre group and really enjoying myself.

 

(SA) What was your first big break?

Adrienne centre front as ‘Rizzo’ in the stage production of Grease.

(AB) My first great job was playing Tevye’s second daughter Hodel in *Fiddler on the Roof * on Broadway. I consider that a big break because I was finally supporting myself as an actor!

I stayed in the show almost two and a half years. But it was *Grease *that led to *Maude*which led to everything else, so I suppose you could say that was the jumping off point.

(SA) You have a huge fan-base of horror fans throughout the world. Do you feel as if your work in horror has eclipsed your extensive body of workoutside that genre?
(AB) I don’t think so. Depends on your age, really. Most of my *Maude * fans don’t even know about the genre films, and then the horror fans probably don’t know about the stage work. Probably don’t care, either! That’s okay with me; as long as there’s something I’ve done that they enjoyed, I’m a happy camper.

 

(SA) One consistent theme in your characters is that of a strong, resilient woman. The role of Stevie Wayne in The Fog is a case in point. Is that thesort of woman you feel more comfortable playing?

(AB) It’s definitely the sort of role that comes easy to me. And that I’m drawnto. Not too comfortable playing victims.

That smokey sexy voiced DJ in The Fog

(SA) Is that the type of strong female character you feel has been lacking in horror movies?

(AB) Oh boy, I’m not the person to answer this question. I can count the number of horror movies I’ve seen on one hand. I love doing them; don’t like watching them.

 

 

(SA) Apart from your fine performance & the sexy radio DJ voice …. What is It about The Fog do you think that now more than ever resonates with fans?

(AB) Maybe the atmosphere? The lack of CGI? The telling of a really good ghost story with characters you care about set in a great location?

 

(SA) Was it difficult working with your then husband John Carpenter on that movie and indeed also on Escape from New York?

(AB) Not at all. I love working with John, as, I think you’ll find, does every other actor who’s had the opportunity. You can read more about ourspecific experiences together in my memoir *There Are Worse Things I Could Do. *I get to tell some fun stories about “The Master of Horror” there.

 

(SA) In Escape from New York, you appeared with one of my favourite actors, Donald Pleasence. What was he like to work with?
(AB) I loved Donald. He was hysterically funny. There were times when he had me laughing so hard I had to ask John to hold the roll because I couldn’t get it together to say my lines.

 

(SA) In fact, your list of directors in horror reads like a who’s who of iconic directors of the Genre. What was it like working with Wes Craven (Swamp Thing) and George.A Romero (Creepshow)?

(AB) Again, both fantastic men to work for. Brilliant, supportive, kind, knowing what they want on screen and how to get it in the best possible way.

In ‘Swamp Thing’
A grizzly end for the scream queen in ‘Creepshow’
(SA) These days you’re fast gaining a new audience with your Writing career – how did that change of career direction happen?

(AB) I started taking a writing class to fill the void left in my life by the passing of a very close friend. Quickly learned if you’re going to take a writing class, you have to write. So I started telling stories from my career — filming with rats all over me in a studio in Moscow when the government declared Martial Law and civil war was threatened; dating Burt Reynolds long

before the filming of *Cannonball Run; *making *Swamp Thing *in the swamps with the gators and snakes;  as one of the first go-go girls in NYC in a mobbed up cocktail lounge — things like that, and that eventually became a best selling book, which then led to the Vampyres of Hollywood books.

(SA) In Vampyres of Hollywood, we are introduced to Ovsanna Moore, who is known as the ‘Scream Queen’ of Hollywood. Anyone we may know per chance? 🙂

(AB) Well, you know what they say…”write what you know”. 🙂

 

(SA) I found Vampyres of Hollywood a wholly enjoyable read …Satire,elements of film noir & Characters full of depth and dimension. Have you had anyone in the film business accuse you of basing any of the characters on them?

(AB) As you know, most of the recognizable characters are dead. At least, inreal life. So they’re not complaining. When I wrote Tom Atkins in as a character, I made sure I read it all to Tommy first to get his blessing. As for the villains, I doubt that anyone would want to be acknowledged as having anything in common with them, save their professions as agents and paparazzi.

 

(SA) For those who haven’t read ‘Love Bites’, your recent follow up to Vampyres of Hollywood, what can you tell us about that story?

(AB) I like *Love Bites *even more than *Vampyres of Hollywood. *It has more of my sense of humor, I think, and more sensuality or sexuality or whatever you call it, with the love triangle between Ovsanna and her female assistant and the detective, Peter King. And I get a kick out of the scene with vampyre Orson Welles morphing in and out of a rat’s body. I haven’t got a clue where that came from in my head, but it makes me laugh.

(SA) What does the future hold for Adrienne Barbeau – author? More Ovsanna Moore hopefully?
(AB) Well, *Love Bites *was just released digitally as an e-book on Amazon, soI’m pleased about that. And I’m supposed to be writing a one-woman show based on *There Are Worse Things I Could Do,*but  I my sons’ soccer games seem to be taking precedence so it might be a few more months before that sees the light of day. In the meantime, I’m recording a name yet to be revealed video game and waiting for the next good script to come along while I look forward to visiting my son, Cody (Carpenter, for all your horror readers) in Japan.
This interview was taken from Stuarts Blog – http://stuart66.blogspot.co.uk/  check it out !!

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) Arrow BluRay Review

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) – Arrow films bluray release.

BEWARE! This blog comes with a Fifth Dimension health warning: Franchise – the word that should not be mentioned in my presence otherwise painful consequences may occur.
 
DUE OUT ON NOVEMBER 11TH
Let me be honest with you straight away on two separate points. The first thing that I need to mention is simply this – When I went to see this movie on its initial release at the cinema way back in those heady days of 1986….. I didn’t like it. No, I did’nt like it one little bit. I felt disappointed and almost cheated because it was so unlike the masterpiece that was its 1974 predecessor in both style and content. In fact that disappointment was so intense that  I have never watched it since. “So this isn’t exactly going to be a favourable review is it?”, I hear you say. Well don’t be so quick to judge, I’m always willing to give a movie a second chance – well, that is except for Gus Van Zant’s shot for shot remake of Psycho in 1998. Nothing, I repeatNOTHING will ever make me watch that pathetic pile of pointless remake nonsense again. So watching the digitally remastered preview disc sent by Arrow films last week was the very first time in 27 years that I have seenThe Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. I was fascinated to see if my attitude had changed in all that time.
My second point of honesty is that when it comes to horror movies, I despise the word ‘franchise’, I truly do. No, actually let me clarify that. I have no problem with a seminal movie becoming part of a renowned franchise, together with all the highs and lows that becoming a series of films can bring with it. Indeed, long-running movie franchises have frequented the business since the early Hollywood era – The MGM produced Tarzan films, The Sherlock Holmes series of films, James Bond et al have all been notable inclusions under the banner of the word that shall not be mentioned. Add to that some notable series of films from my beloved genres of science fiction,fantasy and horror have all notable franchise inclusions – in fact I would go as far as saying that contemporary horror is arguably more known for it’s various collections of the word that should not be mentioned than for individual works in their own right.
So no, I don’t have a problem with the concept of developing one film into a series per se. I do however have a problem with filmmakers who decide at the outset to develop a new Franchise even before the release of the first production. It seems that the desire, or ability to make an individual piece of work in it’s own right which will stand on it’s own two feet as a piece of art has become a rare concept for some horror producers. Instead, the preferred option in the past few years has seemed to be a conscious act to pursue the franchise option, after all, it is an easy way to ensure that the captive SAW/ELM STREET/FINAL DESTINATION audience will provide a truckload of money. I can fully understand the need to make make money, but it feels to me that there may lots of money to be made from purposely developing a franchise – but there ain’t much soul in them.
I suppose that the point I am trying to make is that time and time again I have witnessed a seminal piece of horror and it’s cinematic legacy being diluted by a series of increasingly  insipid follow-ups in the franchise series. It was my firm view for quite some time that the Texas Chainsaw movies had fallen into the trap of ‘lets make money from the Franchise and screw the notion of making something original and innovative. Indeed, this was confirmed to an extent on the recent documentary accompanying the latest ‘reimagining’ of the Chainsaw films this year when the producers explicitly stated a desire to produce a new TCM franchise…… my heart dropped. The bottom line is that for many years, for me TCM2 was merely one of another tired franchise.
So, it could well be possible that my initial dislike of TCM2 and and a seemingly pathological dislike of the concept of the franchise might go some way to explaining my avoidance of this movie for so long. So this for me was the perfect chance to test whether or not my avoidance had been justified – because at the time, I wasn’t the only one to find this follow-up a bit of a let down.
Family of the year – 1986
So what is the plot of the movie that galvanised views back then, and still stimulates argument amongst horror fans to this day? Well let’s start with a brief synopsis shall we, in the words of Arrow films themselves………
Relocating the cannibalistic Sawyer clan to a cavernous, labyrinthine dwelling beneath an amusement park, Hooper’s deliciously demented sequel sees Leatherface and Co. continue their murderous exploits afresh. This time around, local DJ Stretch runs afoul of the Sawyers when she gets mixed up in the brutal slaying of two youngsters. Meanwhile Lieutenant ‘Lefty’ Enright is hell-bent on avenging the murder of his nephew Franklin who perished in the original massacre.”
A cult classic in its own right, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 serves up a heady blend of gratuitous gore, socio-political critique and jet-black humour – whilst Dennis Hopper’s unhinged turn as Lefty needs to be seen to be believed! Whichever way you skin it, Leatherface’s second cinematic outing is an uncompromisingly delirious vision from one of the masters of horror.”
 
Hey there, sexy.
The word that stands out in that synopsis is the word, humour – this is a far more in-your-face mix of gruesome and black humour which is in sharp contrast to the original film which had a far more black, claustrophobic and almost snuff-like quality to it. Because lets face it, 12 years earlier the director Tobe Hooper had almost single-handed altered the face of horror with his seminal movie. He had a lot to live up to – and he knew it. From all accounts he was steadfastly reluctant for sometime to direct a follow up to his 1974 classic, instead wanting simply to produce it. However Hooper was unable to find a director firstly who he could trust and secondly someone who would work for the budget that was available and in the end he had little choice but to direct it himself.
As a consequence he found himself in the unique situation (for him) in having a reasonably good amount of money to spend and in the process once again surprise the audience – and surprise the audience he did. For it seems that he almost went out of his way to upset the general audience who (like me) were expecting something that was essentially more of the same. It would have been all too easy for Hooper to simply repeat the process and style of the regional in an effort to replicate its success, instead he wanted to do something different. For that he should be applauded.

And do you know something? After finally seeing TCM2 again after all this time…… I loved it, I absolutely loved it.

Hang on Tobe, don’t say cut…I’m acting here
I loved the morbid comedic stylisation and plot narrative that is quite clearly a product of its time with its explicit themes of 1980’s politics, capitalism and greed. I love the incredible over the top performances by Dennis Hopper as Lieutenant ‘Lefty’ Enright and Bill Moseley as Chop Top. Whilst Moseley is suitably excellent as he brings his entertaining repertoire of manic insanity to his role, it is essentially the often maligned Hopper who holds the movie together as he declares war against the insane Sawyers with a little chainsaw-play of his own. I say ‘often maligned’ because Hopper in his later career was never afraid to go into ‘manic acting mode’, there are many examples of this. However, we often forget that he was amongst a whole glut of 1960’s wunderkind actors who radicalised the whole approach to their acting craft. I never realised it the first time around when watching this film, but Hopper’s performance despite, or possibly because of the somewhat cheesy dialogue is simply mesmerising. He simply owns this movie, chewing up and stealing every scene he is in  – sometimes with just a delicious glint in his eye.
The mistake I and many others have made over the years is that we refused to accept that TCM2 should be treated as a movie in its own right and in no way should be compared to its predecessor. The bottom line is that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and TCM2 are two entirely separate styles of film which was a purposeful intention from the director from the very start. I made the mistake the first time around of simply not enjoying TCM2 for what is really is – a funny, gory, slasher movie that’s only real intention was to entertain – and it does that in spades. Is this the Citizen Kane of horror? No it isn’t. Is this the Texas Chainsaw massacre of horror? No it isn’t. What it is is 100 minutes of pure unadulterated joy.

This experience of revisiting a film that I once despised has been an interesting one. The dislike for TCM2 has been replaced by a positive glow of appreciation for what the filmmaker intended it to be, and what is is now. Has it changed my mind about the devil within the franchise as a concept? No it hasn’t. One small step at a time you know.

Once again, the bluray package that Arrow films have put together is excellent. The treatment given to the visual restoration is beautiful as the original grainy quality that added to the quality isn’t completely lost thereby meaning the original atmosphere isn’t lost.Overall, the improvements to the look and sound beautifully enhance the overall effect with a lovely crisp quality and clarity. The extra goodies come in a 3-Disc Limited Edition Set which include:
• High Definition digital transfers of three Tobe Hooper films
• Original uncompressed audio tracks for all films
• Limited Edition Packaging, newly illustrated by Justin Erickson
• Individually Numbered #/10,000 Certificate
• Exclusive Limited Edition Extras
DISC 1 – THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation from a digital transfer supervised by Director of Photography Richard Kooris
• Original uncompressed Stereo 2.0 audio • Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Audio commentary with director and co-writer Tobe Hooper, moderated by David Gregory • Audio commentary with stars Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams and special-effects legend Tom Savini, moderated by Michael Felsher
• “It Runs in the Family” – A 6-part documentary looking at the genesis, making-of and enduring appeal of Hooper’s film, with interviews including star Bill Johnson, co-writer L. M. Kit Carson, Richard Kooris, Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams, Tom Savini, production designer Cary White and more!
• Alternate Opening sequence with different musical score
• Deleted scenes
• “Still Feelin’ the Buzz” – Interview with horror expert Stephen Thrower, author of Nightmare USA
• Cutting Moments with Bob Elmore – Interview with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2’s stuntman
• Gallery featuring never-before-published behind-the-scenes images
• Original Trailer
DISC 2 [BLU-RAY] & DISC 3 [DVD] – TOBE HOOPER’S EARLY WORKS – LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition (DVD) presentation of two of Tobe Hooper’s early works restored by Watchmaker Films with Tobe Hooper, available on home video for the first time in the world
• The Heisters (1965) – Tobe Hooper’s early short film restored in HD from original elements [10 mins]
• Eggshells (1970) – Tobe Hooper’s debut feature restored in HD from original elements [90 mins]
• Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Audio Commentary on Eggshells by Tobe Hooper
• In Conversation with Tobe Hooper – the legendary horror director speaks about his career from Eggshells to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
• Trailer Reel of all the major works by Tobe Hooper
100-PAGE BOOK – LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE

Exclusive perfect-bound book covering everything you wanted to know about Tobe Hooper, chainsaws and more! Featuring new writing on the director’s early works by Brad Stevens, an investigation of Tobe Hooper’s three-picture Cannon deal by Calum Waddell, new writing on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 by John Kenneth Muir, a look at the film’s long battle with the BBFC and an exclusive interview with Hooper by Stefan Jaworzyn, author of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Companion, rounded off with an appraisal of the highs and lows of the Texas Chainsaw franchise by Joel Harley, all illustrated with archive stills.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is out on general release on November 11th 2013.

Classic Ghost Stories by M R James (1986) BFI DVD review

mrjamesbfi1Classic Ghost Stories by M R James (1986)

DVD Release Date:* 28 Oct 2013

UK distribution – BFI   – 100 minutes

Featuring: Robert Powell, Michael Bryant.

Before I begin the review of the content of the next DVD sent to me by the BFI, I have something of a confession to make about the actor appearing in it (Yes, once again I unashamedly talk about my personal past… and yes, it involves a relationship). My first true love type individual (who of course shall remain nameless) was very much into me too  – which is always a good thing in regard to relationships, otherwise the Judge tends to take a rather negative view of things…. Anyhoo,  She was also well and truly into a certain actor called Robert Powell whom it is safe to say that she doted upon – so much so that once I could swear that she uttered his name while we were, well, you know. Though I know that she cared for me deeply, if the end of the world had wiped out the rest of humanity except for the three of us she and Mr Powell would have walked off into the sunset together fast than I could have said ‘Jesus of Nazareth’

Of course I am well and truly past the raging paranoia and slight discomfort that I used to feel whenever old Bob happened to be on screen, and she-who-will-remain-nameless and I have long gone our separate ways. So I can now be completely impartial when considering any works featuring………..him.

The tradition of storytelling by one individual to an enthralled audience is probably as old as humanity itself. The ability to create an exciting and living imaginary universe out of nothing but ones own words and making people WANT to listen is something of a gift that I don’t think that I have – it takes a special person to hold and enthral an intimate audience. The ghost stories of M R James were often performed by James himself to his students at Cambridge during the Christmas holidays and by all accounts he was a gifted orator within this intimate atmosphere.

mrjamesbfi2It was television (arguably more successfully than radio) that managed to convey authentically this intimacy of James’ own readings when the much sought-after seasonal slot was given over to a his works in *Classic Ghost Stories *in Christmas 1986.

The presentation for the story is cunningly simple, featuring Robert Powell (him) as the storyteller, resplendent in a master’s robe within his college study. The storytelling is predominantly direct to camera with only the briefest of dramatisation and artwork to break up the prose. It is in this cosy setting that the ‘Professor’ tells his five terrifying tales, all clearly inspired by M R James’ legendary readings of his own works.

In *The Mezzotint *a haunted picture slowly reveals the terrors of what has gone before but only while there is no around looking at it, whilst *The Ash-Tree* tells of the execution of a witch and the dreadful curse she places on the Fell family – but beware all arachnophobics of this particular episode! *Wailing Well* involves a troop of scouts who find that curiosity can be fatal, and *Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad* concerns itself with an academic who gets more than he bargained for after he finds an enchanted whistle. Finally, in *The Rose Garden*, disturbing visions upset Mrs Ansthruthers’ gardening plans.

mrjamesbfi3To a modern day audience, the notion of an actor speaking direct to camera for approximately 15 minutes per story may sound dry and simplistic – but this would be a mistake of huge proportions. Powell is a consummate storyteller with his distinctive and soothing voice perfectly embodying a feel for the phrasing and tone of James’s Writing.
If possessing a hypnotising voice wasn’t enough, his delivery is often accompanied a subtle wry grin or noticeable glint in the eye when appropriate. I know I’m not the first person to say this, but the man can act.

Each of the stories may be just 15 minutes or so in length, but they feel much longer than that – and I mean that in a positive way. There is no convoluted introductions or padded out explanations – we are simply thrust headlong into the story, I say ‘we’, because the skill of Powell reading the stories just as James would have done in the halls of Cambridge, means that we feel he is talking to us, and only us. The nature of this type of storytelling on television when performed as skilfully as this means that we are carried along the tidal waves of each story’s building tension.

mrjamesbfi4If that wasn’t enough, the DVD also features three episodes of  the series *Spine Chiller (1980).

The series was described at the time as ‘storytelling for older children’, its origins being found as an off-shoot of the children’s programme, *Jackanory*. Spine chillers features Michael Bryant reading three more James stories (Including another version of *The Mezzotint*) for our delectation.

Once again the power of the episodes rely heavily on the the ability of the actor to tell a story  – perhaps more so in this series as the use of any dramatisation or illustration has been completely stripped away. However like Robert Powell, Bryant’s delivery is note and pitch perfect perfectly conveying the complexities of emotion an tension for each of the stories.

There have been numerous adaptations of M R James’s ghost stories but both series here perfectly show that even in this 21st century multi-digital world, there is a place straightforward and intimate storytelling. Watching this DVD, essentially experiencing someone talk through the camera to me, has been one of the most enjoyable horror experiences I’ve had for some time.

9/10

*DVD information and Special Features*

   – The video master information for the *Classic Ghost Stories* were
   made available by the BBC to the BFI and are presented in their 1.33:1
   aspect ratio, in accordance with their original broadcast.
   –
   – The episodes from the *Spine Chillers* were transferred from the
   original 16mm archive element by BBC studios and post production. Standard
   Definition video masters were made available to the BFI by the BBC. All
   episodes are presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio.
   –
   – Spine Chillers: *The Mezzotint*, *A School Story* and *The Diary of Mr
   Poynter* (1980, 36 min in total): acclaimed actor Michael Bryant reads
   three of M R James’ stories adapted for the BBC’s Spine Chillers series –
   produced by Classic Ghost Stories producer Anglea Beeching and the team
   behind the BBC children’s series Jackanory.
   –
   – Fully illustrated booklet with a newly commissioned essay by BFI TV
   Curator Lisa Kerrigan.