Symptoms (1974) review

symptoms1Symptoms (UK, 1974)
Dir: José Ramón Larraz
Starring: Angela Pleasence, Lorna Heilbron, Peter Vaughan

Out April 25th on Dual Format Blu-Ray & DVD from BFI

Plot: When Anne (Heilbron) is invited to the secluded country mansion of girlfriend, Helen (Pleasence), it seems like they’ll have a nice quiet weekend in the countryside. However not everything is as it seems, the groundskeeper (Vaughan) is looming around menacingly, and the presence of Helen’s friend, Cora, seems to haunt the mansion.

Long since thought as lost after it’s original release in 1974, Symptoms is being restored and re-released by the British Film Institute as part of their BFI Flipside program, attempting to revisit more obscure cinema from the UK. Taking a similar route to companies such as Arrow Video and 88 Films, BFI Flipside are releasing Symptoms on bluray and dvd with plenty special features to appeal to the collectors.

I have to say that I’m surprised that a film that is over 40 years old would have a lesbian couple as the main focus, and not focus too hard on the lesbianism. The relationship between Helen and Anne is not overt, to the point that it feels that it is only Helen who has feelings towards Anne. Through watching Symptoms, it only felt like a friendship between them, except for a little unrequited love. However between the press release and IMDB and their use of the word Girlfriend, that it’s more than just friendship. Perhaps with the censorship at the time, the film couldn’t be more explicit with their relationship, but it kind of works better.

symptoms2The plot of Symptoms is a little predictable by modern standards, it’s a thriller about infatuation and jealousy, themes that are used constantly in film and television. It doesn’t take long to unravel the mysteries of this film, but it does give it that impending doom feeling. You know something bad is going to happen and you’re waiting for it to unfold.

Both the groundskeeper and Helen are very insidious and creepy characters, and as the film goes on you have to wonder which is the red herring here. Helen is particularly unsettling, showing the acting prowess of Angela Pleasence. Not surprising since she is the daughter of Donald Pleasence.

The location of Symptoms is definitely one of the strongest elements of the film, the mansion is very forboding and creepy in it’s isolation. Pair that with the thunder, lightning, and torrential rain that batters on it later in the film and it becomes a very unsettling place. The storm also adds to the inevitable threat of the film, as Helen talks of the storm drawing near early in the film.

symptoms3While I wouldn’t say that Symptoms is a classic for the ages, it’s definitely worth a watch, especially since it has been lost from the public eye for so long. It harkens back to British thrillers, still tinged in gothic styling. Much like the work of Hammer it has a certain British charm to it that seems a little lost in modern films that feel a little tainted by the need to appeal to a wider audience, and adopting more American attitudes to fit that appeal.


Special features

Newly restored in 2k
On Vampyres and other Symptoms (Celia Novis, 2011, 74 mins): Feature-length documentary about director José Ramón Larraz focusing on two of his most acclaimed films, Vampyres and Symptoms
From Barcelona to Tunbridge Wells: The Films of José Larraz (Andrew Starke & Pete Tombs, 1999, 24 mins)
Interview with Angela Pleasence (2016): Interview with the film’s star
Interview with Lorna Heilbron (2016): Interview with the film’s co-star
Interview with Brian Smedley-Aston (2016): Interview with the film’s editor
Original theatrical trailer
Illustrated booklet with new writing by Vanity Celis and full film credits
UK | 1974 | colour | English language, with optional hard-of-hearing subtitles | original aspect ratio 1.33:1 | 92 minutes

BFI Launches The Film Subscription Service For Lovers of Film



Hand-picked, expertly-selected film collections bring 100s of cinematic greats to subscribers.
Mark Kermode picks his BFI Player+ ‘film of the week’, each with exclusive filmed introductions.
All this for less than a bucket of popcorn: £4.99 per month, no contract, and with a 30-day free trial for all.

The BFI, the UK’s lead organisation for film, today launches its brand new subscription service, BFI Player+ [BFI Player Plus] –

Costing just £4.99 a month, with a 30-day free trial for all users, BFI Player+ offers audiences some of the best classic and critically-acclaimed films.

Subscribers can dive into collections of hand-selected films curated by the BFI’s world-leading experts, enjoying must-see British films alongside the best of world cinema. In short: BFI Player+ is a subscription service like no other. Now, it’s easy for audiences to discover and enjoy the essential classics, all without the need for a contract.

User-feedback helped shape BFI Player+, and as a result it complements the mainstream services in the UK to meet the demand for a service celebrating the best of a century of cinema.

bfi2Edward Humphrey, Digital Director at the BFI said: “We are passionate about bringing great cinema to audiences – it’s at the core of everything the BFI does – and BFI Player+ does exactly that. We bring a unique approach to subscription services: expertly curated cinema that takes audiences on a journey through the very best of film, from its early masterpieces through to contemporary greats. It’s brilliant that leading critic, Mark Kermode is as passionate about BFI Player+ as we are, and will be introducing a key film each week to help our subscribers discover outstanding cinematic gems.”

From launch, BFI Player+ will have in the region of 300 carefully selected titles available to stream, with films grouped to make browsing around genres, collections and directors an enjoyable, informative and intuitive experience for subscribers. Launch collections include British Classics, Horror, Indie, Documentaries, Family, plus films that were the toast of the red carpets in Award-Winning, those that are near-impossible to see anywhere else in Unavailable on DVD, and extraordinary examples of artist’s film and video work in Experimenta.

BFI Player+ is also focused on reflecting the cultural output of the BFI, the UK’s lead organisation for film, with collections also grouped around BFI festivals such as the UK’s largest film festival, the BFI London Film Festival, and also BFI Flare LGBT film festival, as well as major projects such as 2014’s SCI-FI or 2015’s LOVE blockbuster seasons. The collections, which will expand and grow with new titles added on an ongoing basis, are designed to have a broad appeal for anyone who loves film.

As part of its unique approach to curated cinema, every Friday BFI Player+ will feature an exclusive weekly video recommendation from one of the UK’s most respected film critics, Mark Kermode. Each week Mark will select a key title from the BFI Player+ collections and show why it’s a film not to be missed. The series commences on Friday 30 October, with Mark’s introduction to Alfred Hitchcock’s classic The Lodger, which features a specially-created score composed by acclaimed musician, producer and composer, Nitin Sawhney in 2012.

bfi3The new BFI Player+ service will sit within the existing BFI Player – home of the go-to VoD service for new pay-per-view independent film releases and the BFI’s hugely popular Britain on Film archive collection. Britain on Film has received over 4 million views since launching in July.

BFI Player+ is available however people choose to view, be that via computer or, with the presence of the BFI Player app, across tablets and smartphones and with a fantastic roster of titles to come. A significant number of new titles – all hand-picked – will be added in coming months.

BFI Player+ is available now here:

Around 300 titles are available right now, examples of which include:
Sergei M. Eisenstein – Battleship Potemkin (1925)
Alfred Hitchcock – The Lodger (1927)
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger – The Red Shoes (1948)
Akira Kurosawa – Seven Samurai (1954)
Ishirô Honda – Godzilla (1954)
Sidney J. Furie – The Ipcress File (1965)
David Cronenberg – Dead Ringers (1988)
Joanna Hogg – Unrelated (2007)
Abbas Kiarostami – Shirin (2008)
Alexei Popogrebsky – How I Ended this Summer (2010)
Sergei Loznitsa – In the Fog (2012)

Collections available include:

British Classics
Japanese classics
Silent classics
French Classics
Unavailable on DVD
Documentaries +
Family +
Shorts +
Love +
Flare – LGBT+
Flipside – Cult British Cinema
Akira Kurosawa
Werner Herzog
John Cassavettes
David Lean
Early Hitchcock
Powell and Pressburger

Eyes Without A Face (1960) Blu-Ray Review

ewaf1EYES WITHOUT A FACE (Dir- Georges Franju, FRA/ITA, 1960)

Starring- Pierre Brasseur, Edith Scob, Alida Valli

UK Release August 24th from BFI on Dual Format DVD/Blu-Ray.

Once reviled on release, especially in the UK, EYES WITHOUT A FACE took its time to be eventually looked upon as a classic of genre cinema, even having the gaudy title THE HORROR CHAMBER OF DR FAUSTUS on it’s US release, which makes the film sound like a B-movie schlock fest. However it’s a film that also gained praise on it’s initial outing and has since become hailed as classic of genre cinema, one that fuses elements of melodrama, noir, mad scientist movie with a slight Gothic aesthetic to produce a superb and beautiful masterpiece, and thankfully the British Film Institute has made a fantastic Blu-Ray release worthy of any cinema fans collection.

Opening with a noir-esque shot of a women alone in a car driving down a stretch of road and then getting out of the car to dispose of a corpse. This women is Louise (Valli) a loyal assistant to celebrated surgeon Dr Genessier (Brasseur), whose daughter has gone missing. The reasons for the disposal of the corpse at the start become clear when once its found by the authorities, Genessier identifies it as his daughters, as this is all a cover, as his sibling is at his secluded mansion and is in hiding or rather more like imprisonment as she is hideously disfigured from a car crash with only her eyes remaining and with most of her facial features gone and with a garish white looking mask to wear that. His daughter, Catherine (Scob) strikes a tragic figure throughout the film almost bound to be imprisoned whilst her father and Louise lure girls to the mansion and drug them and surgically remove the face, so that Genessier can make sure Catherine obtains a new face. It’s only when cracks start appearing in the Surgeon’s work and he needs to find more girls who will replace his daughters missing facial skin, that the police start to show interest and its not long before Catherine has other ideas of her own.

ewaf2Franju’s film, as mentioned before, was dismissed by some critics on it’s release though also hailed by others. The revulsion might come from the films infamous sequence of facial removal surgery, that even I found slightly queasy to watch, yet at the same time fascinated by it’s characters precise surgical movements done in an almost technical instructional manner yet at the same time going against all moral conduct that Genessier has now forgotten. This is only one sequence though in a film in which the characters are the main interest and not the sight of gory surgery, Herschell Gordon Lewis this aint, if that’s what your looking for. In many ways it blends an almost traditional mad scientist horror motif with a updated present day (for its time) background as Genessier can be seen as the mad doctor obsessed with performing the most ground breaking surgical breakthrough, yet losing his moral compass completely albeit assisted with a loyal aide (not a hunchbacked Igor like assistant) and with his daughter as less of the monster as more of the captive imprisoned victim who would rather accept her fate than become a mere subject for her fathers experiments. Indeed there is a certain tragic element in Scob’s superb portrayal of Catherine and even though we only see her actual face/other persons face grafted on in one scene, she spends most of the film hidden behind a haunted looking white mask that only has eye holes to show any expression.

ewaf3Yet her performance shines through this showing the hidden anguish inside her especially at her father’s seemingly horrific obsession which is costing the lives of many innocent women. In particular one stand out memorable scene is when Catherine goes into the basement of the house and comforts the dogs imprisoned in cages constantly barking and also victims of Genessier’s experiments, as these are the only beings she can relate to now as she herself is effectively caged. Brasseur is also excellent in his role as the surgeon, a well respected man who we see for the first time giving a lecture on the possibility of skin grafts, and some can argue he is also a tragic figure someone driven by a need to restore his daughters beauty, as he feels guilt for causing the car crash that led to her disfigurement yet he is also willing to lie to the authorities about her death and willing to cross the line to use human subjects. He comes across as less of a monster and more a flawed, obsessed individual who cannot see what harm he is causing. As his assistant Valli, is again another superb addition and whose name horror fans will be familiar with from Argento’s SUSPIRIA, and is great in her role as a loyal aide to the doctor acting very friendly and to the victims she lures to the house, and even in once scene starts to seemingly question the madness and motives behind what she is doing but remaining ever loyal to the surgeon.

ewaf4This is only the second time that I’ve seen Franju’s film and even on its first viewing I knew the film had a certain appeal to it, and now on a second watch the film becomes more richer in its dark mood, it’s superb rendering of old horror motif’s into an updated story, and a beautiful slight Gothic quality to its proceedings, and without giving too much away contains a superb final shot that is equally haunting and moving in its eerie beauty. A deserved masterpiece worthy of any genre fans attention.


Special Features

Remastered in High Definition

Feature-length audio commentary by film expert Tim Lucas (Video Watchdog)

Monsieur et Madame Curie (Georges Franju, 1953, 14 mins): a study of the life and work of the Curies, told through the words of Marie Curie

La Première nuit (Georges Franju, 1958, 20 mins): a young boy spends a night in the Métro

Les Fleurs maladives de Georges Franju (Pierre-Henri Gibert, 2009, 50 mins): an overview of Georges Franju’s career

For Her Eyes Only – An interview with Edith Scob (L P Hugo, 2014, 17 mins)

Fully illustrated booklet featuring essays from Kate Ince, Isabel Stevens, Roberto Cueto Llera, Raymond Durgnat, Kevin Jackson and Michael Brooke; and full film credits

UK | 1960 | black & white | French language, with optional English subtitles | Original aspect ratio 1.66:1

Disc 1: BD50 | 1080p | 24fps
Disc 2: DVD9 | PAL

Eyes Without a Face gets a UK DVD/Blu-Ray release August 24th from BFI

ewaf1Eyes Without a Face gets a UK DVD/Blu-Ray release August 24th from BFI
A film by Georges Franju
Starring Pierre Brasseur, Alida Valli, Juliette Mayniel
Dual Format Edition

Both cruel and tender, Eyes Without a Face, Georges Franju’s unique blend of pulp, horror and poetry has been a major influence on filmmakers, from Jesús Franco to Pedro Almodóvar.

On 24 August 2015 the BFI brings it to Blu-ray for the first time in the UK, releasing it in a Dual Format Edition (Blu-ray and DVD discs) which also contains two short films by Franju, the 2009 documentary Les Fleurs maladives de Georges Franju, an interview with actress Edith Scob and an audio commentary by Tim Lucas.

Dr Genessier (Pierre Brasseur, Le Quai des brumes, Les Enfants du Paradis) is a brilliant and obsessive plastic surgeon driven by the need to restore his daughter’s (Edith Scob, Judex) disfigured face. He is aided in this quest by his loyal assistant Louise (Alida Valli, Suspiria), who lures unwitting young women to the secret surgery in his secluded chateau.

Special features

* Presented in both High Definition and Standard Definition
* Monsieur et Madame Curie (Georges Franju, 1953, 14 mins): the life and work of the pioneering scientists, told through the words of Marie Curie
* La Premiere nuit (Georges Franju, 1958, 20 mins): a 10-year-old boy spends a night in the Métro
* Les Fleurs maladives de Georges Franju (Pierre-Henri Gibert, 2009, 50 mins): an overview of Georges Franju’s career
* For Her Eyes Only – an interview with Edith Scob (LP Hugo, 2014, 17 mins): the actress talks about her work with Georges Franju and their friendship
* Audio commentary by film critic Tim Lucas of Video Watchdog
* Illustrated booklet featuring essays by Kate Ince, Isabel Stevens, Roberto Cueto Llera, Raymond Durgnat, Kevin Jackson, Michael Brooke and full film credits

Product details
RRP: £19.99 / cat. no. BFIB1190 / Cert 15
France/Italy / 1960 / black and white / French language, with optional English subtitles / 90 mins / Original aspect ratio 1.66:1 //Disc 1: BD50 / 1080p / 24fps / PCM mono audio 48k/16bit // Disc 2: DVD9 / PAL / Dolby Digital mono audio (320 kbps)

The BFI takes a giant leap into: SCI-FI: DAYS OF FEAR AND WONDER

bfisci-fi1The BFI takes a giant leap into:

OCTOBER 2014 – DECEMBER 2015 (Previews from AUGUST)


Professor Brian Cox, Peter Capaldi, Gareth Edwards, Terry Gilliam, Dominic Sandbrook,

Gary Lockwood, Keir Dullea, Mike Hodges, Lauren Beukes, Shane Carruth,

Brian Blessed and many more…

In collaboration with the BBC, BFI Film Audience Network, Bletchley Park, the British Museum,

the Eden Project, Jodrell Bank Observatory, Loncon3 World Science Fiction Convention and more…

bfisci-fi1Thursday 17 July 2014 13.30
The BFI today unveils SCI-FI: DAYS OF FEAR AND WONDER, a three month celebration of film and television’s original blockbuster genre.

SCI-FI: DAYS OF FEAR AND WONDER will include over 1000 screenings of classic films and television programmes at over 200 locations across the UK, from outdoor events at iconic British sites to screenings in multiplexes, local cinemas and community venues, in one of the largest and most ambitious Sci-Fi seasons ever created.

SCI-FI: DAYS OF FEAR AND WONDER will be the BFI’s biggest season to date. It includes a three-month programme at BFI Southbank, from 20 October until 31 December 2014, and very special events, guests and screenings right across the UK. Classic Sci-Fi titles will be released into UK cinemas and on DVD and Blu-ray. There will be an extensive education programme, 50+ films available online through BFI Player, a BFI Sci-Fi Compendium, nine new BFI Film Classics published with Palgrave Macmillan, exciting new partnerships, special guests and commentators, all of which will celebrate cinema’s most spectacular and visionary genre, exploring how the fear and wonder at its heart continues to inspire and enthral.

Heather Stewart, Creative Director, BFI said: “Sci-Fi has come to define the cinematic experience for audiences everywhere. We will celebrate the originality, the craftsmanship and the vision behind some of the most important film and television ever made. Its calling card is visual spectacle, but at its heart Sci-Fi is the genre for big ideas, revealing our hopes and fears for tomorrow’s world. We have only glimpsed its full potential.”

Highlights include:

· NATIONWIDE REACH: With over 1000 screenings at over 200 venues, SCI-FI: DAYS OF FEAR AND WONDER can be enjoyed across the UK. There will be more than 576 SCI-FI screenings and events offered through the BFI Film Audience Network (BFI FAN), screening at least 419 titles at 124 locations nationwide, plus 134 titles shown across 260 screening slots at BFI Southbank.


Jodrell Bank Observatory

· FLAGSHIP EVENTS: Spectacular Sci-Fi screenings will take place at some of the UK’s most iconic locations, including the BFI Sci-Fi Weekend at The British Museum, Bletchley Park, the Eden Project, Jodrell Bank Observatory, and the square in HG Wells’ home town of Midhurst, West Sussex.

· BFI DISTRIBUTION: Re-released by the BFI, Ridley Scott’s Director’s Cut of dystopian masterpiece Blade Runner will be back on the big screen in cinemas across the UK in early 2015. The BFI will celebrate its previously announced nationwide re-release of Stanley Kubrick’s visionary 2001: A Space Odyssey (28 November) with a host of special guests, including the film’s stars Gary Lockwood and Keir Dullea.

· Exclusive BFI DVD and Blu-ray releases will include the long-awaited 7-disc DVD box set of BBC TV series Out of the Unknown (1965-1971), and the DVD premiere of Nigel Kneale’s 1954 adaptation of George Orwell’s classic Nineteen Eighty-Four, starring the great Peter Cushing.

· BFI NATIONAL ARCHIVE: The BFI National Archive will present four meticulously restored classic Sci-Fi titles at BFI Southbank and on BFI Player during the season, with shimmering new prints of the first ever British Sci-Fi feature film, A Message from Mars (1913), as well as the classic The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961) and short film The Pirates of 1920 (1911).

There will be an exhibition of Sci-Fi treasures from the archive throughout the season, including the original costume designs, photographs, posters and publicity material for films including Metropolis (1927), Things to Come (1936), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Blade Runner (1982) and Brazil (1985) – and the original continuity script from Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977).


Dr Who (Capaldi)

· COLLABORATION WITH THE BBC: The BFI is working closely with the BBC to open new opportunities for television, radio and cinema audiences to explore science fiction throughout the season. Historian Dominic Sandbrook will explore Science Fiction in its many forms in a new, landmark four-part series: Tomorrow’s Worlds. Airing on BBC Two to coincide with the season, a specially edited feature version will preview at BFI Southbank.
BFI Southbank will host the London Premiere of the first episode of the eighth series of BBC One’s highly anticipated Doctor Who, with the 12th Doctor Peter Capaldi in attendance, on 7 August, following its world premiere in Cardiff earlier that day, with both events presented as part of SCI-FI: DAYS OF FEAR AND WONDER.

· PREVIEWS, PREMIERES AND EVENTS: The season also includes an exclusive preview of the highly anticipated The Hunger Games: Mockingjay at BFI Southbank and the world premiere of Filmed in Supermarionation, the definitive documentary about the iconic and world-leading puppetry and animation techniques devised by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and their team of puppeteers in a Slough warehouse in the 1960s. DJ Yoda goes to the Sci-Fi Movies in a very special Sonic Cinema event, and Sonic Cinema will spend a weekend delving Inside Afrofuturism, embarking on a cinematic trip into the vast, genre-bending universe of black science fiction, technoculture and magic realism.

· BFI BOOKS: The season will see the publication of the definitive BFI Sci-Fi Compendium, with contributions from world authorities on sci-fi, authors including: Lauren Beukes, directors such as Gareth Edwards and Edgar Wright, plus Sci-Fi visionary Douglas Trumbull. It will also be marked by the publication of a set of new special edition BFI Film Classics, published by Palgrave Macmillan, exploring nine key Sci-Fi films and written by high-profile film critics and academics, including Mark Kermode, Roger Luckhurst and Kim Newman.

· YOUR SCI-FI: The BFI is launching Sci-Fi polls aimed at audiences of all ages. First is a quest to find favourite science fiction film and television characters for the Greatest Sci-Fi Characters of All Time poll, be they man or machine, hero, heroine or villain (voting now open here:, and with Into Film there will be a UK-wide poll of Science teachers by young people asking them to name which Sci-Fi film inspired them.



The major BFI Southbank programme, will launch on 20 October and run until 31 December 2014. Sci-Fi is presented across three themes that identify the unique characteristics and concerns of this remarkably diverse genre: Tomorrow’s World, Altered States and Contact!



Tomorrow’s World hurls us into the future where technology has changed everything. How do we distinguish the speculative fiction of our nearest futures and the science fiction of our fantasies? Visions of the future and futures passed will include Fritz Lang’s seminal Metropolis (1927), William Cameron Menzies’ Things to Come (1936), Joseph Losey’s The Damned (1961), Jean-Luc Godard’s New Wave offering Alphaville (1965), Franklin J. Schaffner’s The Planet of the Apes (1968), George Miller’s Mad Max II: Road Warrior (1981), Terry Gilliam’s surreal masterpiece Brazil (1985) and the dystopian vision from Margaret Atwood’s novel in Volker Schlöndorff’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1990).

Altered States takes us inside the science fiction of the mind and body on adventures in ‘inner-space’. Mad scientists, mutants, man-machines and mind-bending trips will be taken with films that get under the skin of what it is to be human and into the minds of our monsters including Robert Stevenson’s The Man Who Changed His Mind (1936), John Frankenheimer’s Seconds (1966), starring Rock Hudson, David Cronenberg’s The Brood (1979), James Cameron’s The Terminator (1984), Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989) and Michel Gondry’s emotive Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004).

Contact! is made, and things are never quite the same again. Science fiction and humankind’s drive to explore and exploit new frontiers can lead to trouble – and things tend not to be any better when we take visitors from distant worlds. Films which question whether we are alone in the cosmos, and whether the cosmos would be better off without us, will include Wallett Waller’s A Message From Mars (1913), Byron Haskin’s War of the Worlds (1953), Fred Wilcox’s Forbidden Planet (1956), Roy Ward Baker’s Quatermass and the Pit (1967), Douglas Trumbull’s Silent Running (1972), Steven Spielberg’s chilling Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977); there will be an Extended Run of Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and screenings of Philip Kaufman’s 1978 remake starring Donald Sutherland, Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), Robert Zemeckis’ Contact (1997) and Gareth Edwards’ Monsters (2010).


Born In Flames

Inside Afrofuturism takes a cinematic trip into the vast, genre-bending universe of black science fiction, techno culture and magic realism. Special events include a Sonic Cinema weekend marking the centenary of the birth of the cosmic ambassador Sun-Ra, alongside screenings of John Coney’s Space is the Place (1974), and Shirley Clarke’s Ornette Coleman: Made in America (1985). Further highlights include John Akomfrah’s essential Afrofuturism primer The Last Angel of History (1996), John Sayles’ cult slave-narrative update The Brother from Another Planet, Lizzie Borden’s dystopian punk diorama Born in Flames (1983), Haile Gerima’s time-shifting allegory Sankofa (1993), and Terence Nance’s dazzlingly creative debut An Oversimplification of her Beauty (2013); curated by Ashley Clark.

BFI Southbank’s regular film/music event Sonic Cinema will be presenting a series of special Sci-Fi themed live experiences. Master of the movie-mash up, DJ Yoda, has been commissioned to create a new show. ‘DJ Yoda Goes to the Sci-Fi Movies’ which will world premiere in November. Another world premiere will be the eagerly anticipated new album from UK composer John Foxx, entitled ‘Evidence of Time Travel’ which will be performed live with specially made visuals by Kabourn. We are teaming up with Montreal-based digital arts festivals Mutek and Elektra to present a very special series of live audio-visual performances including new work from Roly Porter and Keudo, and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop will perform a specially arranged Sci-Fi set to celebrate their great contribution to TV Sci-Fi, playing to clips of some rare archive classics and current favourites and all in 5.1 surround sound in December.

Filmed in Supermarionation (2014) will premiere on 30th September as a curtain raiser for the season. Stephen La Rivière’s tribute to the pioneering work of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, creators of some of the UK’s most successful and iconic Sci-Fi film and television, will include a panel event with the director and key contributors. The time-defying Primer (2004) will be followed by a Q&A with director Shane Carruth. And some of the greatest ever Sci-Fi TV programmes will be in the spotlight, including Out of the Unknown, The Quatermass Experiment & Doomwatch, and we will celebrate the cult hit Blake’s Seven at a very special event.


The Man Who Fell To Earth

A trilogy of science fiction classics will screen in the magnificent forecourt of the British Museum over three successive nights to audiences of up to 1200 each evening, from Thursday 28 to Saturday 30 August. On Thursday 28 August the BFI National Archive will present the London-set classic, The Day the Earth Caught Fire, directed by Val Guest, in a World Premiere of the new restoration. Friday will see us attempt inter-galactic contact with The Man Who Fell to Earth, starring David Bowie as an alien stranded on Earth on a mission to find water for his own world. The weekend will conclude with a cult classic as we venture to planet Mongo on Saturday 30 August with Flash Gordon, saviour of the universe, in a new Digital Transfer.


There will be at least 576 BFI FAN Sci-Fi screenings and events, showing 419 titles across 124 locations, all curated by cinema experts with unsurpassed knowledge of their local audiences. Highlights from across the network are outlined below, with further announcements about BFI FAN Sci-Fi activity to come.

The BFI Film Audience Network (BFI FAN) spans the length and breadth of the UK and connects cinemas, film archives, education organisations, community groups and others to bring a wide range of films to audiences and help build interest in independent and specialised film. BFI FAN members have boldly taken the Sci-Fi brief and created mind-blowing programmes of screenings, guests and events to bring classics of the genre to UK audiences in new and exciting ways.

A map of confirmed events, details about ticket bookings and an online search for your closest BFI Sci-Fi event will be available here:

Presented by Film Hub North West Central, led by Cornerhouse Manchester:

Watch the Skies! Curated by Abandon Normal Devices at Jodrell Bank, Cheshire

The first ever outdoor cinematic events at one of the world’s largest radio telescopes, Jodrell Bank Observatory, which plays an important role globally in astronomical observations including research into ‘Pulsars’, ‘Cosmology’ and the ‘Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence’ (SETI).

Watch the Skies! is curated by Abandon Normal Devices and produced in partnership with Jodrell Bank and Live from Jodrell Bank Transmissions and funded through the BFI Programme Development Fund.

Cornerhouse All-Nighter
Cornerhouse will present an ambitious all-night screening programme to transport audiences into the weird and wonderful world of science fiction. The programme of six films features a range of Sci-Fi titles, including well-loved and well-known classics and lesser-seen titles. Guest speakers and presenters will punctuate the event with contextualising film introductions.

Presented by Film Hub Central East, led by Broadway, Nottingham and Cambridge Film Trust:

Station X at Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes
A series of immersive screenings and themed workshops over three days (September 19-21) will explore science fiction war narratives, totalitarian dystopias and fear of the power of science in the deeply historical setting of Britain’s wartime code-breaking huts. With screenings including the world premiere of a new digital print of X The Unknown, as well as The Day the Earth Caught Fire, Things to Come, Brazil and Dr. Strangelove, Bletchley’s famous grounds will feature an alien crash site, a rocket ship launch pad and a soundscape.

Mayhem Film Festival, Nottingham will present a three-day season of film screenings, events and discussion forums on the theme of ‘The Created Woman’, a popular and enduring idea within science fiction. Themes to be explored include: creating the ‘perfect’ woman, creation gone wrong/ the ‘monstrous’ woman, wives and daughters and conjuring the woman. Screenings will include Metropolis, Frankenstein Created Woman, The Stepford Wives and Solaris.


Presented by Film Hub London, led by Film London:

Ada & After: Women Do Science (Fiction), presented by Club Des Femmes in association with the ICA and Hackney Picturehouse will showcase the contribution of women to science and science fiction. The specially curated film programme of features, documentaries and short films will include Conceiving Ada starring Tilda Swinton by Lynn Hershmann-Leeson, an extended discussion with writer/director Maja Borg (We The Others, Future My Love) and Q&A with director Berit Madsen (Sepideh: Reaching for the Stars), accompanied by an interactive workshop on writing feminist science fiction for the screen with writer/director Campbell X and novelist Nalo Hopkinson (Brown Girl in the Ring) via a Skype Q&A.

Day of the Dead Futuro Weekend presented by DSK-PR and Movimientos will celebrate Mexican culture and the Dia de los Muertos tradition, linking these to the themes of SCI-FI: DAYS OF FEAR AND WONDER. Taking place across key venues in South East London in early November, the weekend will include screenings of classic Mexican sci-fi films from the 1950s and 60s, with events incorporating art and craft workshops for children, and music and performance at a secret Brixton location.


Presented by Film Hub Northern Ireland, led by Queen’s Film Theatre, Belfast:

Created by NI’s premier LGBTQ arts organisation, Outburst Arts, Space camp is a performance and film exhibition that will explore the connections between Sci-fi and ‘the other’ through a one-off ‘spectacular’ event.

We are the Robots at Queen’s Film Theatre marks the upcoming release of Jon Wright’s new film Robot Overlords, which was funded through the BFI Film Fund and shot in NI. This season of films will follow the technological evolution of the man-machine from the earliest days of cinema.


Presented by Film Hub Scotland, led by Centre for the Moving Image, Edinburgh; Dundee Contemporary Arts; Eden Court Theatre & Cinema, Inverness; Glasgow Film Theatre; and Regional Screen Scotland:

Glasgow Film has teamed up with Africa in Motion and Film Hub SWWM to shine a light on the emergent cultural aesthetic of African science fiction and Afrofuturism in the season Africa at the Door of the Cosmos. The programme, which will screen at GFT and three further venues across Scotland, features cinematic essays by award-winning artist filmmaker John Akomfrah, a series of African Sci-Fi shorts, and Afrofuturist films curated by Jerry Dammers of the Spatial AKA Orchestra (and founding member of The Specials). Jerry will also play a concert of ‘inter-planetary afro-jazz’ with the Spatial AKA Orchestra at the Arches music venue in Glasgow.


Presented by Film Hub South East, led by Screen Archive South East, Picturehouse in Brighton, Cinecity, and Lighthouse:

An HG Wells & John Wyndham Programme will see a weekend of screenings in Midhurst – home to both these key Sci-Fi authors – including the classic Village of the Damned (1960) adapted from Wyndham’s Midwich Cuckoos.

A Sci-Fi programme curated by award-winning Artist Film and Video Maker Ben Rivers will launch in October at Folkestone Triennial 2014 before touring to selected venues across the UK. Titles will include Alain Resnais’ Je t’aime, Je t’aime.

X: The Man With the X-Ray Eyes (1963) UK Premiere on Sunday 23 November at the Duke of York’s Picturehouse, when the legendary American avant-garage rock band Pere Ubu present a live underscore to Roger Corman’s 60s Sci-Fi classic.

Presented by Film Hub South West & West Midlands, led by Watershed, Bristol:

Sci-Fi at The Eden Project: Sci-Fi visionary Douglas Trumbull worked as special effects advisor on films including 2001: A Space Odyssey but only directed one film, 1972’s environmentally-themed Silent Running (1972). The film will screen in the magnificent Mediterranean Biome at the Eden Project, presented by Mark Kermode.

AfroFuturism Focus at Watershed: This cross-cutting season of film, art, fashion, comic books and music curated by Dr Edson Burton, as part of Black History Month, offers a range of perspectives on Afrofuturism; from big screen experiences of films such as District 9, Space is the Place and Pumzi to discussions with guests including award-winning creative Jon Daniel (Afro Supa Hero.) Expect opportunities to come on board the mothership; whether that’s taking part in a kids Afro-Supa Hero animation workshop or getting your groove on at an otherworldly P Funk party.

Audiences from Penzance to Birmingham will get opportunities to experience Sci-Fi, from Chris Marker under the stars at Bristol’s Planetarium, Terminator 2 like you’ve never heard it before with a beefed up live soundtrack from Bronnt Industries Kapital to Invasion of the Body Snatchers under the (real) Birmingham stars at mac’s Sundown Cinema: Out of this World.

Presented by Film Hub Wales, led by Chapter, Cardiff:

Following on from a very successful collaboration in 2013, Film Hub Wales, Chapter and CADW (a Welsh Government organisation working to protect the historic environment and heritage sites of Wales, and to promote Welsh history and culture), will bring Sci-Fi films such as ET, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The Thing to historic Welsh sites such as Castell Coch, Caerphilly Castle and Raglan Castle.

Collaboratively created by members across the network, a distinctive regional Sci-Fi programme will also hit cinema screens Wales-wide this Autumn. Watch as Gwyn Hall transforms into ‘Planet Neath’ with Clash of the Re-makes and as Ian McCulloch and Luigi Cozzi beam down for Alien Contamination at Abertoir International Horror Festival!

Presented by Film Hub North (led by Showroom/Workstation in Sheffield), in partnership with Sensoria Festival of Film and Music:

Showroom Workstation
Film Hub North, in partnership with Sensoria Festival of Film and Music will present an outdoor screening of the BAFTA award-winning BBC drama Threads (1984), against the back-drop of Sheffield’s skyline at South Street Park Amphitheatre. Originally shot in Sheffield and adapted from local author Barry Hines, Threads projects a chilling view of what life would be like after nuclear war.

The BFI is working with the BBC to present an exciting season that will give television, radio and cinema audiences the opportunity to explore science fiction in depth.

Tomorrow’s Worlds, a landmark four-part series in which historian Dominic Sandbrook explores science fiction in its many forms, will be transmitted on BBC Two in the autumn to coincide with the season. A specially edited feature version based on all four episodes will preview at BFI Southbank followed by a panel discussion with Dominic Sandbrook and producer John Das.

BFI Southbank will host a number of previews of upcoming BBC programmes, including the August 7 premiere of the first episode of the highly anticipated eighth series of BBC One’s Doctor Who, entitled “Deep Breath”. Written by Steven Moffat, produced by Nikki Wilson, and directed by Ben Wheatley, this feature-length episode will see Peter Capaldi launched as the 12th Doctor, one of TV’s most iconic roles, alongside Jenna Coleman as his companion Clara. Cast and crew will be joining us for this very special event. Tickets to this event will be balloted (deadline 20:30 on Sunday 20 July) to ensure the fairest allocation of tickets possible. All applicants will be informed if they’ve been successful by Thursday 24 July (full details at<>). The BFI will also preview Season Three of CBBC’s Wizards Vs Aliens as part of the BFI Sci-Fi family programme.

A number of classic BBC science fiction series will be celebrated at BFI Southbank events, including The Quatermass Experiment and Doomwatch, and the cult BBC TV series Blake’s Seven at which we hope to reunite some cast and crew. More classic BBC titles will be available for the first time as BFI DVD and Blu-ray releases, including the long-awaited 7-disc DVD box set of BBC TV series Out of the Unknown (1965-1971), and the DVD premiere of Nigel Kneale’s 1954 adaptation of George Orwell’s classic Nineteen Eighty-Four, starring the great Peter Cushing. A range of BBC presenters and personalities are participating in the BFI’s season, including Professor Brian Cox, BBC Radio 4 presenter, Adam Rutherford and BBC Radio 3 presenter, Matthew Sweet.


The BFI will re-release Ridley Scott’s Director’s Cut of his dystopian masterpiece Blade Runner (1982) to cinemas across the UK in early 2015. Based on science fiction author extraordinaire Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the film boasts one of the most astonishingly designed futures ever seen on screen and examines what it means to be human, rather than a machine. When – on the occasion of the BFI’s 75th anniversary – cinema luminaries and film fans were invited to nominate the film they felt should be shown to future generations, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner took first place.

The BFI is also re-releasing Stanley Kubrick’s spectacular, transcendent and epic 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), which will be seen on big screens across the UK from 28 November. 2001 has been the touchstone for all science fiction film since its original release. With a screenplay co-written by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke and developed concurrently alongside Clarke’s novel of the same name, 2001: A Space Odyssey is widely regarded as one of the greatest films ever made. Critic Roger Ebert described Kubrick’s masterpiece as ‘a stand-alone monument, a great visionary leap, unsurpassed in its vision of man and the universe’.

The BFI is on a quest to find the best science fiction film and television characters of all time, and we want the British public’s views for our Greatest Sci-Fi Characters of All Time poll. From Mad Max and E.T to Darth Vader and The Doctor, Ripley and Uhura, Captain Scarlet and Cornelius, Maria from Metropolis, or the omnipresent HAL or Akira. The BFI is looking for votes from the public to join nominations from experts, writers, directors and famous fans to find the nation’s favourite characters, be they man or machine, hero, heroine or villain. Cast your vote now here:

A dedicated BFI Sci-Fi APP will be released in the autumn free of charge for tablets and mobile devices, delving into some of the most powerful and influential science fiction films ever made.

SCI-FI: DAYS OF FEAR AND WONDER will be a major presence on BFI Player, with key titles available to all, beginning with Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin (2013) available now and continuing with the BFI restoration of Val Guest’s classic The Day The Earth Caught Fire, which will be available on Player on Thursday 28 August to coincide with its screening at the British Museum. Free to view on BFI Player will be the visionary silent short The Fugitive Futurist (Gaston Quiribet, 1924) which imagines how London will look in the future, now with a new score composed and performed by Drake Music, pioneers in the use of assistive technology for musicians with disabilities. An ambitious BFI Player collection of 50 classic sci-fi titles, to complement the BFI Southbank season and nationwide screenings, will be available to rent to follow in October:

Close encounters of the archive kind come to DVD and Blu-ray as part of BFI Sci-Fi. These silver spinning saucers will contain some of the finest, and most wanted, Sci-Fi titles ever broadcast on terrestrial TV, as well as classics of British cinema.

August sees the first ever release of two celebrated BBC series: The Changes (1973), the unsettling 10-part series, based on Peter Dickinson’s best-selling trilogy; and The Boy from Space, which will contain all 10 of the ‘Look and Read’ episodes from 1980, as well as a newly-edited, feature-length presentation of the filmed drama segments in which a brother and sister discover an alien boy called Peep-Peep. To celebrate the release of this re-mastered Blu-ray there will be a screening of the specially made 70min version of the series at BFI Southbank followed by a panel discussion with key figures in the BBC Radiophonic Workshop who provided the original soundtrack.

In September, we take a trip to Outer Space, with a volume of cult Sci-Fi classics from The Children’s Film Foundation, featuring the much-requested The Glitterball (1977), as well as Supersonic Saucer (1956) and Kadoyng (1972).

October sees the long-awaited release of BBC series Out of the Unknown (1965 – 1971), one of Britain’s most important TV series, and the very first to directly involve the talents of high-calibre writers (including John Wyndham, Isaac Asimov, J.G. Ballard and J.B. Priestly). This 7-DVD box set will feature newly restored versions of the 20 surviving episodes from all four series, as well as episode fragments and reconstructions, audio commentaries, filmed interviews and an extensive documentary, and there will be a special screening and panel discussion at BFI Southbank to mark the release.

Also in October is Out of This World, the ground-breaking ABC series from 1962 which paved the way for Out of the Unknown. Containing the only surviving episode (the recently re-discovered ‘Little Lost Robot’, by Isaac Asimov), as well as reconstructions of other episodes, this DVD grants Sci-Fi fans the long-overdue opportunity to experience this historically important series for the first time since its original broadcast.

As if the future didn’t look bright enough already, October will also see the DVD and Blu-ray premiere of the BFI Archive’s digitally re-mastered version of one of British cinema’s most intense sci-fi offerings – The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961), which will be available on DVD and on BFI Player day-and-date to coincide with its August screening at the British Museum. In November another piece of TV history finally sees the light of day once again, when Nigel Kneale’s 1954 adaptation of George Orwell’s classic Nineteen Eighty-Four, starring the great Peter Cushing, gets its DVD premiere.

All of these BFI DVD and Blu-ray titles will be produced from the best available master materials, and will include extensive extra features and/or contextualising booklets.

The BFI National Archive will present four meticulously restored classic Sci-Fi titles, with shimmering new prints of the first ever British Sci-Fi feature film, A Message from Mars (1913), plus the classic The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961) and short film The Pirates of 1920 (1911),

One of British cinema’s best science fiction films – though rarely seen – is Val Guest’s The Day the Earth Caught Fire. Life in a busy newspaper office is turned upside down in this daring – and surprisingly racy – story of a journalist’s investigation into escalating global freak weather conditions and discovery that nuclear testing around the world has knocked the Earth off its axis. The film is being restored by the BFI National Archive with the generous support of Simon W Hessel.

A Message from Mars is the first feature length science fiction film produced in Britain, also unseen since its original release. Based on what was possibly the very first play containing a science fiction element – when a man is cured of his selfishness by a visiting Martian – that was written expressly for the theatre and first staged in London, in 1899. Creative imaginations were allowed free reign for the film adaptation with scenes set on Mars both opening and closing the film. The BFI National Archive is restoring the film as close as possible to its original length using tinted material held in the collections and with a tinted nitrate print loaned from the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

In the short film The Pirates of 1920, a band of futuristic pirates use an airship-type apparatus to carry out their misdeeds. Inspired by the writings of the French author, Jules Verne, this film is known to have been reissued in 1915 but it may not have been publicly seen since.

Special Collections Exhibition:
Fashioning the Future: Sci-Fi and Costume, 25 September 2014 – 4 January 2015
This display at BFI Southbank will look at a century of Sci-Fi on screen and the influence of its innovative aesthetic, through original costume designs, photographs, posters and publicity material for films including Metropolis (1927), Things to Come (1936), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Blade Runner (1982) and Brazil (1985) and the original continuity script from Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977). From scientists to spacesuits, androids to aliens, costume and make-up have always played key roles in imagining tomorrow’s world or life outside our solar system. Costumes can be a spectacular element in Sci-Fi, with futuristic fabrics and designs being both influenced by contemporary culture, fashion and technology, and in turn providing inspiration to audiences and the fashion industry itself.

A diverse range of screenings, events and Sci-Fi related activities will be tailored to suit younger audiences of every school age and for adults with an explorer’s thirst for knowledge. The BFI is working closely with Into Film*, the film education charity that puts film at the heart of the educational and personal development of children and young people aged 5-19, to offer a dynamic programme of Sci-Fi educational activity online and across the UK. This programme includes: a Film Club promotion of specially-selected Sci-Fi titles to screen in 1000s of schools; a UK-wide poll of Science teachers by young people asking them to name which Sci-Fi film inspired them; a series of immersive cinemas events for 11-16 year olds based on The Village of the Damned (1960) and supported by the Wellcome Trust; and the BFI’s Top Ten list of Sci-Fi ‘discovery’ titles to be shown across the country at the Into Film Festival in November, including A Grand Day Out, Attack the Block and Silent Running.

An extensive new collection celebrating British TV’s contribution to Sci-fi will be available to view free in BFI Mediatheques around the UK from late October 2014, featuring over 40 titles dating back to the 1950s. Most are not screening in the BFI Southbank season and many are not available on DVD. A special Sci-fi selection for younger audiences will be available from December.

Titles will include Peter Watkins’ legendary docu-drama, The War Game (1965); rarely seen TV play, A.D.A.M. (1973); and an episode of cult BBC children’s game show, The Adventure Game (1986).

BFI Mediatheques can be found at nine venues around the UK and entry is free of charge. For more information go to

The brave new worlds of Sci-Fi film and television will be explored through the fourth BFI Compendium Sci-Fi: DAYS OF FEAR AND WONDER, a lavishly illustrated survey of onscreen Sci-Fi from the silent era to the present, and from special-effects laden, big-screen epics to low-budget cult favourites. Through a wide range of accessible, thought-provoking essays, some of the world experts in the fields of science fiction cinema and television explore the full breadth of this most fascinating and thrilling genre. In addition, some of the key Sci-Fi directors and writers in the world today reveal their own personal Sci-Fi favourites – including Gareth Edwards (Monsters, Godzilla) writing about Star Wars. The collection will be published in October to coincide with the BFI Southbank season.

October 2014 will also see the publication of a set of new special edition BFI Film Classics, published by Palgrave Macmillan, offering fascinating explorations of nine pivotal Sci-Fi films. Written by high-profile film critics and academics, including Mark Kermode (Silent Running), Roger Luckhurst (Alien) and Kim Newman (Quatermass and the Pit), each book features a beautifully illustrated jacket and film stills throughout. The full title/author list: Akira by Colin Odell and Michelle Le Blanc; Brazil by Paul McAuley; Dr. Strangelove by Peter Kramer; Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind by Andrew Butler; Solaris by Mark Bould; The War of the Worlds by Barry Forshaw

Partners and Support:

Abandon Normal Devices
Arthur C. Clarke Awards
Ashley Clark
BBC Television
BFI Film Academy
The Blade Runner Partnership
Bletchley Park
Cohen Media Group
Contemporary Films
Czech National Archive
Deluxe Digital
Dragon Digital
Drake Music
Entertainment One UK
Eureka Entertainment
Fabulous Films
Film Hub Central East
Film Hub London
Film Hub NI
Film Hub North
Film Hub North West Central
Film Hub Scotland
Film Hub South East
Film Hub South West & West Midlands
Film Hub Wales
Filmoteka Narodowa
Hollywood Classics
IFC Films
Into Film
Irish Film Institute
Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics
Stephen La Rivière
Les Grands Films Classiques
Library of Congress
Live From Jodrell Bank: The Transmissions
Loncon3 World Science Fiction Convention
Miracle Films
Network Distributing Ltd
Palisades Tartan
Park Circus Films
Peccadillo Pictures
Picturehouse Cinemas
Pinewood Post Production
Quebec Government Office in UK
Second Sight
Simon W Hessel
Skywalker Ranch
Sony, Studiocanal, ITV
The British Museum
The Design Council
The Eden Project
The Kubrick Archive
The Museum of Modern Art
The Wellcome Trust
Thunderbirds(tm) and © ITC Entertainment Group Limited
Twentieth Century Fox
UCLA Film and Television Archive
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures USA
Walt Disney Motion Pictures Inc
Warner Bros.

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Nosferatu The Vampyre (1979) BFI BluRay Review

ntv1Nosferatu The Vampyre (1979) – Limited Edition Steelbook (BluRay)

Released by BFI on May 19th 2014.

Director – Werner Herzog

Starring – Klaus Kinski, Isabelle Adjani, Bruno Ganz.


The story of Dracula has been told a thousand times before on the silver screen, the characters lasting appeal is evident in the luscious and romanticised interpretations presented across generations; it is F W Murnau’s 1922 expressionist masterpiece Nosferatu which is an undoubted influence on German director Werner Herzog’s reinterpretation of this classic story, his love song to the pinnacle of German cinema’s expressionist era.

Jonathan Harker (Bruno Ganz, Downfall), a real estate agent from Wismar, Germany is tasked with an ill fated journey through the Carpathian Mountains to close a deal with the mysterious Count Dracula (Klaus Kinski, Aguirre, Wrath of God). Despite several bad omens on his arduous journey Harker makes the trip only to discovers all is not as it seems with the count and his mansion.

The Pallid Count, his sickly pale skin, almost transparent exudes an aura in every scene he appears in. Kinski, the driving force here not once feels as though he needs to tread into camp overacting; a feat which is both refreshing and necessary to the story.

ntv2Herzog’s Dracula isn’t your atypical portrayal but this isn’t a typical horror picture, he masterfully creates tension with wonderfully crafted framing and painterly, expressionist imagery. Combined with an evocative and emotive score from Popul Vuh offers a deliberately paced cinematic experience filled with passion and homage – the aforementioned German expressionism movement a driving force in Herzog’s opus – in equal measure.

This film will undoubtedly alienate a large section of the current generation of vampire flick fandom, this is a staggeringly slow paced, character driven and distinctly human tale, the desperate nature of the count and his struggle with immortality a beautifully rich study of the lust and subsequent burden of everlasting life. Herzog presents this as a hindrance to the count rather than a power to be exploited, the usual vampire trope in modern cinema. This is a curious addition to the psyche of the count bringing a moving and thoughtful dimension to the vampire mythos.

Kinski plays the role much like the masters of silent cinema contorting his figure to evolve into the backgrounds strikingly fierce and terrifying at the same time, much like Max Schreck did with Count Orlock in the Murnau production from 1922. The magnetism of the vampire is evident in his scenes with Lucy Harker, upon watching her in her bedchamber wistfully lusting after the love she shares with her husband offers a wisp of longing and is presented here as something that the count is missing, love.

His acting is both meticulously paced and captivating, from the moment he firsts meets Harker to the desperate longing on display when a cut raises the counts primal urges Kinski uses his posture, eye contact and a tremendous intensity to bring the count to life.

ntv3Jonathan Harker is an interesting study into the depths that humanity will go to discover the unknown, starting his journey to the castle his motive, the purchase of a new home for his beloved wife Lucy quickly spirals into a quest to discover the truth behind the counts “ghost Castle” and the occupant, the count an elusive and supernatural fairy tale to the locals.

The supporting cast all work marvellously particularly Roland Topor’s portrayal of Renfield, his menacing and completely insane, mistimed cackling is wonderfully creepy and later in the film he is enamoured with the count his obedience and longing showcase his acting ability. The gorgeous Isabelle Adjani plays Lucy Harker wistfully, appearing almost dreamlike in some sequences, a rich ethereal presence heightened by the surreal and fantastical camerawork makes her a pivotal and seductive character and it is easy to see why Dracula lusts after her.

Opening with an harsh, unrelenting pan of mummified corpses- victims of a cholera epidemic- is jarred with haunting choral music setting the proceedings nicely, this is again coupled with the idyllic surroundings in which Harker journeys, again the accompanying music is hauntingly beautiful as it is throughout.

The film’s set design and lighting are both outstanding with the expressionist era encapsulated in the counts castle design, high angled shots showcase the intricate pattern and designs which were synonymous with the Murnau production and the blu ray showcases these perfectly shadows elicit the dark and expansive emptiness of the surroundings and bring the viewer closer to the feelings of Harker himself.

ntv4The muted colours express the desolation of the journey and an overuse of white reflects the undead nature of the count, everything from the craggy mountainsides with their dark grey and shadowy depths are alienating to the damp, wet countryside and dull, dank landscape shots all add to the feel of the film not guiding or smothering the viewer with a sense of security.

BFI have included both the German and English language versions of the film on the disc; the German language version the superior of the two presentations Kinski’s acting benefits more form this production,his delivery and emotion resonate more in his native tongue than they do in the English version. Both versions are of merit and it is down to personal preference as to which you view.

BFI have included a wonderful new essay from Laurie Johnson that thoroughly dissects the film and touches upon a controversial scene involving a plague of rats, Herzog received a lot of negative press about the mistreatment of animals during both the making of this and throughout his career, she offers a brilliant study of the film and is a highlight of this release. Sight and Sounds review from Tom Milne is included in the booklet as well and offers a fascinating look at the film from the time of its release in 1979, essential stuff.

An on set promotional film from 1979 is included and features extensive candid interviews with Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski about the shooting of Nosferatu to see them both talking about the film, film history and continuity.

Watching Herzog direct is a thing of beauty, the working relationship between the two as it has been historically documented and one filled with turmoil. Herzog is a passionate film maker and he comes across as a determined and focussed director with a rich passion for the embodiment of cinema itself, his passion unfolds across the screen a distinct, driven persona.

ntv5Also included on the disc is the original trailer and an extensive gallery of production stills set to the haunting Popul Vuh score these are a great look into the process of the films genesis.

This package from the BFI is both an essential and important release. Hopefully BFI will offer a whole new generation of cinephiles a chance to see a master at work, evocative seductive and intense this is the epitome of vampire films.


Special features:

• Limited Edition SteelBook

• Newly remastered presentations of the English and German versions

• Original mono audio (German and English)

• Alternative 5.1 Surround audio (German)

• Feature-length audio commentary with Werner Herzog

• On-set documentary (1979, 13 mins): promotional film featuring candid interviews with Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski

• Original theatrical trailer

• Stills gallery

• Fully illustrated booklet with a new essay by Laurie Johnson, full film credits and on-set photographs


New UK DVD & BluRay releases 21st April 2014

Hello and welcome to the new UK DVD & Blu Ray releases for the week commencing Monday April 21st 2014. The new releases are those that are genre releases, so anything from anime through sci-fi and horror with much more inbetween.

Lots of great releases this week and we would have given release of the week to Tourist Trap BUT there have been 5 minutes cut and lots of issues with that release – and you will read about this very soon. SO release of the week now is The Phantom of The Opera (1989) which is out from the great 101Films on lovely BluRay and starring the great Robert Englund .

phantombluThe Phantom of The Opera (BluRay) 101 Films




hemlocks1Hemlock Grove – Season 1 (DVD & BluRay) Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment




thatsinkingfeelingThat Sinking Feeling (Dual Format) BFI Flipside




bloodsuckingfreaksbluBloodsucking Freaks (BluRay) 88 Films




touristtrapbluTourist Trap (BluRay) 88 Films




cffChildren’s Film Foundation – Collection (DVD) BFI




wolverineoriginWolverine Origin (DVD) SES




chromeshelledregiosChrome Shelled Regios: Part 1 (DVD) Mvm Entertainment




zombienightbluZombie Night (DVD & BluRay) Anchor Bay UK Entertainment




pumpkinhead2Pumpkinhead 2 (DVD) 101 Films




inhumansInhumans (DVD) SES




evidenceEvidence (DVD) Signature Entertainment




moonmanMoon Man (DVD) Spirit Entertainment Limited




raptprranchRaptor Ranch (DVD) Spirit Entertainment Limited




lastkeepersThe Last Keepers (DVD) Metrodome Distribution




13eeriedvd13 Eerie (DVD) Metrodome Distribution




curseofthecatpeopleCurse of The Cat People (DVD) Odeon Entertainment





The Phantom of The Opera (1925/1929) BluRay review

phantom1THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA – 1925/1929 – 93min

Dir: Rupert Julian

Starring: Lon Chaney, Mary Philbin, Norman Kerry, Arthur Edmund Carewe

BFI Films


Based on the book by Gaston La Roux, The Phantom of The Opera is the story of a tragic, disfigured outsider who falls in love with a beautiful opera singer. La Roux’s tale of doomed love and operatic revenge has proved rather timeless, being reinvented by artists as diverse as Andrew Lloyd Webber and Dario Argento. It is however this version that has remained the most beloved. Produced by the great Carl Laemmle and directed by Rupert Julian it has become a firm part of the cinematic and cultural cannon. It stands now as a museum piece, showcasing the early innovations and invention of one of cinemas first golden eras. Achingly melodramatic at times, but also surprisingly funny and moving it features a truly great performance from Lon Chaney as The Phantom.

phantom2Movies like this can sometimes be difficult to review because they have become such a part of film history that they ultimately defy traditional criticism. It is a brilliant work that reflects its era but is also at times a difficult watch. Sometimes slow moving and with a musical score that is often unsympathetic towards the images on the screen it can be a little frustrating. However it is a film packed with genuine gothic beauty. Even if the story doesn’t entirely engage the film has so much in it to love that it becomes irrelevant. Lon Chaney’s Phantom is particularly arresting, being both painfully sympathetic and dangerously obsessed and unhinged. It is a believable performance that is sometimes at odds with the more theatrical and melodramatic elements of the production but it gives the film a wonderful centre. The makeup is also fantastic with Chaney creating an image that is both horrifying and saddening at the same time. It also serves as a reminder of the beginning of the great monster makeups that would continue for several decades until the quite unpleasant monster that is CGI came to devour practical ingenuity.

The BFI present it here in its 1929 re-release version so it differs slightly from the original 1925 release. I must confess to knowing very little about the release history of the film and do not know which versions are preferred or more highly regarded. However this must surely be considered a must see for fans of both this particular film and of cinema in general. Whilst Blu-Ray is undoubtedly the best place to view the modern blockbuster it is also a fantastic home for many of the old classics. Like Universal’s brilliant Monsters collection this is no exception. Bathed in various colours to reflect times of day and various emotions it is an extremely vibrant release that captures the ethereal beauty of the story very well. There are some odd decisions within the film itself where colour is concerned and these can be a little jarring, but the Blu-Ray is beautiful and a perfect complement to the films gothic atmosphere and lavish sets.

phantom3Presented as a 3 disc set this features the Blu-Ray, the DVD and final disc featuring a documentary on Chaney and his many different monsters and make-up, so there is plenty here for fans to enjoy. As well as the documentary there are trailers that extra scenes, and a booklet featuring some detailed commentary on the film, but most importantly and of most interest is the inclusion of the original 1925 version. So for purists or the plain curious like me both versions are available for comparison. If I‘m honest I probably lean more towards the original 1925 release simply because I have a soft spot for some of the old black and white movies, but for those wishing to enjoy the fruits of what Blu-Ray can do then the 1929 version is the way to go. All in all a pretty definitive release for what is possibly one of horror cinemas first true greats.

Film 8/10

Extras 9/10

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.


*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.

Dead of Night (1972) BFI DVD Review

deadofnightDEAD OF NIGHT (1972)

DVD Release Date: 28 Oct 2013

Featuring: Anna Cropper, Clive Swift, Edward Petherbridge, Peter
Barkworth, Anna Massey, Sylvia Kay, Jaqueline Pearce, Julian Holloway and
Katya Wyeth.

Directed by: Don Taylor, Rodney Bennett and Paul Ciappessoni.

After bathing in the rather splendid Gothic waters of Robin Redbreast (see my previous blog entry of peril) it was time to for me move onto the 2nd preview delicacy that the marvellous people at the BFI had forwarded my way as part of their magnificent *Gothic:The Dark Heart of Film* season. Once again my not so onerous task was to sit through another highly sought after classic of television and British Horror from the 1970’s. It’s a dirty job, but someone has got to do it – and I’m just the man for a dirty job.

Ahh, the 1970’s, a much maligned and much celebrated decade in equal measures. I was a child of the seventies and therefore many of my personal memories are seen through my own personal (& much used) pair of rose-tinted glasses. As a consequence, my recollections of being a very young kid growing up through those years are mostly positive. The seventies was a decade of contractions here in the UK- on the debit side it was a time of political and social upheaval, the weekly strikes, power cuts, terrible fashions and IRA bombings. Oh yes, there was also Margaret bloody Thatcher coming to power…..maybe my rose-tinted glasses need cleaning. However, on the plus side the seventies also gave us David Bowie, Punk Rock, Star Wars and space hoppers….so it wasn’t all bad.

bfigothicWhat certainly cannot be denied about the 1970’s was the quality of television production. It was a different world than the controlled and often insipid programming that was to come afterwards. The Seventies were a true golden period for dark and sinister drama, with the Christmas periods benefiting greatly with an abundance of horror fare. *A Ghost Story for Christmas* which ran through most of the decade, *The Stone Tape (1972)* An atmospheric modern ghost story, and *Count Dracula (1977)* all telling well crafted tales of horror and dread. More importantly, there was no dumbing down of the material to meet the lowest common audience denominator, nor was there much practice of exaggerating the horror genre into becoming cliched and predictable.

The 1972 series* Dead of Night *is a legendary horror anthology series released in November of that year. The bad news is that four out of the five episodes have not survived their dispatch to the BBC archives after the cost-cutting wiping of used tapes to record new programmes.

The good news is that the three episodes that do survive are perfect examples of the quality and themes that heightened the reputation of the series, both when it was first broadcast and subsequently in the years afterwards. Apart from the quality of the chills and thrills that the series offered, what resonates with the collection of episodes was the ability to adapt traditional Gothic themes such as emotional repression, supernatural visitations and voluptuous bosoms heaving in the midst of stressful romantic obsessions. The skill of the programme makers was the ability to transfer these traditional Gothic elements to a contemporary middle-class suburban setting with all it’s political and social complexities.

Remember, this is a time when the audience were often treated with genuine respect and rarely bared witness to any dumbed-down horror during prime time. The *Dead of Night* series is no different, with a number of episodes containing clever critiques and examinations of the modern suburban lifestyles of middle class families. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean a concerted left-wing diatribe against the excesses of the ‘me generation’. There is a genuine sympathy for the predicament for many of the people (particularly the women) in theses dramas – though that doesn’t mean that their destinies are any less deadly.

don1*The Exorcism*- A film by Don Taylor, is arguably the episode which has gained the highest reputation for being the most frightening and memorable of the entire series. First broadcast on the 5th of November (how very apt) the story examines the clash between modern-day social beliefs and the injustices of the past – all dressed up in a covering of a delicious Gothic horror. It features a sophisticated and wealthy middle-class couple, Edmund and Rachel( Edward Petherbridge and the magnificent Anna Cropper) who have invited their equally sophisticated friends Dan and Margaret (Clive Swift and Sylvia Kay) to their newly refurbished country cottage retreat. This gathering of friends for Christmas dinner begins innocently enough with agreeable conversation around their privileged status and how they can reconcile this to their (long-gone) socialist principles. It is clear which of these considerations are winning out as both couples are the epitome of the new ‘habitat generation’ as they talk and play their party games.

However it soon becomes clear that the house they have renovated and it’s previous owners may have other more horrific frightening prospects in store for the four friends. For soon things begin to take an ever more supernatural tone as Rachel finds herself playing a melody on the piano that she has no recollection of ever knowing, the phone becomes disconnected (oh those days before wi-fi, god love it), and the food and drink starts to have the most interesting of effects.

Once again the acting and writing is of the highest order with all four players in the ensemble convincingly portraying the conflicting pride and guilt they feel about their lives. Anna Cropper, as she was in *Robin Redbreast*, is especially excellent in the scene where the apparent connection that she has felt with the dead previous occupants sees her become possessed by the said owner, who’s lifestyle was far, far less opulent than our present-day foursome. Hers in particular is a truly mesmerising performance.

Yes, The Exorcism may deal in part with commentary on wealth, privilege and political guilt – but do not let that put you off because it is an exemplary example of a wonderful supernatural story of chilling proportions. I don’t want to give the ending away, except to say that that it as unsettling and effective as any I can remember.

don2In *Return Flight* – A film by Rodney Bennett, we are introduced to Captain
Hamish Rolph, (played by the always excellent Peter Barkworth) an experienced airline pilot who has recently returned to his job not long after the death of his wife. The problem is that his professionalism is placed under scrutiny by the airline authorities after he declares a near-miss with another aircraft, however nobody else witnessed this event at the time. His employers and friends are both concerned that outwardly, he seems to have lost his normal sense of focus and discipline. However, we soon discover that inwardly the problems are far more sinister and complex as his bereavement and secret long held feelings of inferiority have resulted in a far more dangerous effect on on his psyche. The Phantoms of his mind, both real and unreal, are playing tricks on his personal view of reality, for which the consequences are that he is flying ‘blind’.

This is a production that could have easily have found it’s existence in an episode of The Twilight zone, and certainly the some of the issues here such as a man being haunted by the spectres from his own mind and past are familiar to those of us who love the work of Rod Sterling’s eponymous series. *Return Flight *is an excellent character study of a middle-aged man trying to come to terms with both his personal and professional failings. He is someone who up to now who may have had at worse, an inaccurate perception of his life – his marriage for example, which may not been quite as happy as he seems to recollect, His resistance ultimately fragments and lets his mind carry him well and truly away to a place where perception and reality fade away.

Barkworth once again exemplifies the solid acting that you would expect from this series, with the critically acclaimed actor portraying a restrained sorrow and nobleness to his character’s existence.

don3The third and final instalment is perhaps my personal favourite of the three, possibly because it is a clever modern-day development of a classic Gothic tale of potentially doomed heroine. It is a theme that has been explored in numerous stories by since folk tales began and in numerous film adaptations, noticeably by such luminaries as Alfred Hitchcock.

In *A Woman Sobbing* – A film by Paul Clappessoni, Jane a middle-class wife (Anna Massey) and her husband Frank have moved out to the country for the benefit of their children’s upbringing. The couple’s marriage has clearly reached a point of boredom and frustration for them both as they openly fantasise about relationships with younger partners. Soon  Jane starts to become increasingly paranoid and unstable when her nights are interrupted by the unsettling and unaccountable sound of a woman crying in
one of the upstairs rooms of her new house. This sobbing noise is always accompanied by the smell of gas fumes. If that wasn’t enough to force the woman into falling further over the edge into loneliness and depression, nobody else can hear the sounds or smell the gas, but her. Is Jane’s husband really trying to drive her insane, or even kill her? Are the forces
at work supernatural or simply the result of the fragmentation of her mind and sanity?

This episode has some deep and dark undertones in the exploration of the gender roles and mental illness. There are distinct Freudian elements as to whether the voice that Jane hears is actually real, or whether it is actually some long forgotten repressed memory or experience from deep within her unconscious. Both Jane and her husband are clearly unhappy in their respective marriage roles, but it is interesting that even in the more so- called liberated 1970’s it is the woman who has no ‘vent’ for her frustrations having been worn down by her domestic existence. Her growing resentment of her children, her husband and the family Au pair threatens to overwhelm her completely.

The episode is deeply unsettling in its portrayal of Jane’s psychological turmoil possibly manifesting itself either into supernatural consequences or deeper mental illness. The representation of the treatment that Jane’s husband arranges for Jane is convincing and unsettling, with her treatment of Electro Convulsive Therapy looking clinically authentic.

don4Again this is an intelligent and thoughtful approach to examining the human condition without losing the sight of the fact that it is supposed to be chilling and creepy enough to satisfy the horror enthusiasts within us.
Because IT IS genuinely claustrophobic and frightening in it’s climactic scenes as Jane becomes more and more unbalanced. This is helped in no small measure by the performance of Anna Massey, whose previous roles in Hitchcock’s Frenzy and Michael Powell’s stunning Peeping Tom receiving much deserved praise from critics and public alike. The increasing desperation and descent into into her own disturbed thoughts is beautifully portrayed by an actress at the height of her powers.

There are some people for whom the ending is annoyingly ambiguous, the neatly packaged let the ending explain all doesn’t happen here – and I love that. I love the fact that I’m asked to think about it and make my own mind up as to the things that have taken place.


*DVD information and Special Features** *

– The video master information 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.
– Gallery of stills from missing episodes
– Downloadable PDF scripts from missing episodes
– Fully illustrated booklet with essays and biographies by Lisa
Kerrigan, Oliver Wake, Derek Johnston and Alex Davidson