Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The House That Dripped Blood

‘The House That Dripped Blood’ is a 1970 portmanteau from Amicus. Comprising of four stories linked by a location (the titular blood dripping house, now, unsurprisingly, vacant and up for sale) and a narrator (a creepy estate agent), the individual tales are, as usual, a mixed bag but, in short, concern a horror writer who is haunted by one of his own creations; two friends who visit a wax museum and recognise one of the exhibits; a strict father and a creepy kid, and a second hand cape that turns the wearer into a vampire.

Not my favourite portmanteau, it’s still pretty good. Written by ‘Psycho’ screenwriter and horror novelist Robert Bloch, half of the film is excellent (the first half), with some really creepy moments. The second half is less atmospheric, but still entertaining. The required comic relief episode is fulfilled here by the last story, ‘The Cloak’, featuring a pretentious horror film actor and an unusual piece of theatrical costume. The ham actor is played by Sir Jon Pertwee, just about to become Dr. Who, who demonstrates his comedic talents with some protracted gurning.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Beware The Beat

'The Mummy's Shroud' was the third of Hammer's four Mummy themed films and, although it's a bit cheap looking (The Mummy is basically wearing a romper suit) and is obviously supporting feature material, it zips along okay and has some good moments, and that's more than alright with me. 

The storyline is fairly typical - British archaeologists desecrate tomb, get nastily knocked off one by one by reanimated Egyptian corpse - but what's particularly good about it is that Hammer stalwart Michael Ripper gets a proper role - lots of lines, a character, everything - and he does brilliantly with it, creating a memorable and sympathetic person who we feel really sorry for when the Mummy gets hold of him (and chucks him through a window and into a trough in the street).

Perhaps the best bit, however, is the ending, in which the 'Spell of Life' that brought the Mummy back is countermanded by the 'Spell of Death' and the Mummy, on command, literally crushes itself into a dirty pile of nothingness. Cool.

The Mummy's Shroud

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Nerve Shattering Shock

Hammer's 'The Mummy' had its genesis in the huge success of both 'The Curse Of Frankenstein' and 'Dracula' - previously sniffy about the use of 'their' characters, Universal Studios suddenly saw the light (and the royalties) and gave Hammer carte blanche to remake whatever they wanted from their portfolio of classic horror films.

'The Mummy' isn't a straight remake of the 1932 Boris Karloff film, instead recycling bits and pieces from its sequels, as well as adding colour, extra violence and moving most of the action to Britain. The familiar themes of love across the centuries, reincarnation and ancient curses are naturally present, with The Mummy wreaking deadly vengeance on the archaeologists who discovered / desecrated Princess Ananka's final resting place. Christopher Lee has a dual role: as Kharis, the High Priest in love with Ananka who is sentenced to a living death for his blasphemy in trying to bring her back to life, and as The Mummy itself - an unstoppable tool of revenge, impervious to bullets, incredibly dessicated and scuzzy looking - but, four thousand years on, still in love with his Princess and Peter Cushing's wife who just so happens to look just like her.

A massive box office success, 'The Mummy' eventually spawned three semi sequels (there is no relation between them apart from the Egyptian theme), including the supremely daft 'Blood From The Mummy's Tomb'. Good stuff.    

The Mummy

Friday, 26 August 2011

What Goes On? What To Do There?

Stupendous live performance of one of my favourite songs, 'In Every Dream Home A Heartache'. There is no more sinister and vivid song in the Roxy Music back catalogue, or indeed in any back catalogue.

Eno is still in the band at this point and can be seen here doing a little Richard III dance and encouraging Phil Manzanera during the hairy one's amazing guitar solo. This - band - rocks.

F**** Me, It's Freddie

FMIF as the shadowy Effingham in 'Friends In High Places', a 1979 episode of the under-rated (and pretty eccentric) crime drama 'Strangers'.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

The Tomorrow People: The Heart of Sogguth

'Do you really think that young Mike playing an African tribal drum on television could raise the Devil from Hell and bring about the destruction of the Universe?'

Well, yeah, or, at least, that's the general idea of 'The Heart Of Sogguth', a 1977 story from the fifth series of 'The Tomorrow People'. It all starts when the mysterious Jake (Roddy Maude-Roxby) starts sniffing around Mike's band Flintlock, sorry, Fresh Hearts, and promising that, under his management, their anaemic brand of adenoidal pop will be 'bigger than The Beatles'. Immediately, we know that he must be evil. He's actually a Professor of Ethnic Culture and the head of a way out religious sect who worship Sogguth, an ancient evil who's essence is captured in the aforementioned drum, and has the power to control minds through dark percussive rhythms (yes, that is Bella Emberg freaking out at the band's rehearsal).

A slight and rather short story (the two episodes only run for about half an hour combined once you take out the credits, recaps and ad breaks), it nevertheless has three interesting things about it: the rather kinky initiation that John goes through, the tribal surfabilly / haunted house moog jam that Fresh Hearts, sorry, Hearts Of Sogguth, play on the telly, and the extraordinary ending in which they conclude that where there is the Devil, there is also a God, so we should probably all go to Church once in a while.

Anyway, here's that tribal surfabilly / haunted house moog jam, serving as a soundtrack to a really slow stun gun fight between the forces of good and (temporarily) evil.

As our friend Piper Gates previously pointed out, the commentaries on the 'TP' DVD sets are extremely amusing, and this one highlighted the fact that the scary skeleton left behind at the show's climax is a lot less scary when you notice that it still has the hook in the top for hanging it up.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Hauntological Signifiers

A few of the extraordinary images used in the classic 'The Tomorrow People' title sequence.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

The Graham T. Purvis System


Paddy Considine gleefully unicycles along the thin line which divides genius and idiocy: he creates characters which seem to be broad stereotypes then invests them with depth and subtlety and brings them to life. He can convey a wide range of emotions, evoke a wide range of reactions: he can make you laugh, break your heart, scare the shit out of you. In short, he’s an actor. A proper actor, an idiosyncratic, charismatic guy who enlivens every production he appears in. Good or bad (and he is occasionally awful) he always gives value for money, and that means a lot in this strained economic climate.

I most recently saw Paddy in the excellent ‘Submarine’. Paddy plays Graham T. Purvis, a New Age life coach and aura expert. Self-styled Guru Purvis, with his martial arts moves and spiky mullet is an obviously comic character – almost anyone could play him and let the haircut squeeze a couple of easy laughs out of the audience. Paddy goes beyond this, though, to create someone who is ridiculous, yes, but also real. For all his swagger and life affirming psychobabble, Purvis is a mess: embroiled in a failing relationship, performing to half empty halls, living in a sparsely furnished house his aunt left him. His attempts to rekindle something with an old flame are similarly pathetic, culminating in a seedy sympathy hand job in the back of his grotesquely decorated van. The stigma of this second rate indiscretion drives him back onto the road, alone. It won’t be the last shame filled wank the inside of that van will see.

The best thing about Paddy is that he is actually in the public consciousness: constantly working, occasionally appearing in Hollywood blockbusters, lending his wonky talent to any number of productions, making them better, worse, far more interesting. I guarantee that in years to come, long after we’re all dead, people will watch his films and think ‘who the hell is that guy?’, and that’s pretty cool when you think about it.