strange_complex: (Gatto di Roma)
For the first time in a good couple of months, this coming weekend is completely blank for me. Nothing booked up whatsoever. And while having fun things to do most weekends is great and I wouldn't want to change that, every now and again a weekend which I can just spend pottering at home is very welcome. Apart from anything else, it gives me a chance to get caught up on some unwritten LJ posts - and that still includes the final day of the Bradford Fantastic Films Weekend. Previous posts cover the Friday and Saturday, both of which were very enjoyable. But in fact the Sunday was the real highlight for me - mainly thanks to my first ever experience of proper full-blown Cinerama!

22. The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962), dir. Henry Levin and George Pal

See, every year at the Fantastic Films Weekend, there is one event which really stays with me. Last year, it was Jonathan Miller, the year before it was The Sorcerers, and this year it was The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm. I can't be sure how much I'd have liked this film if it had been shot in traditional fashion. It certainly takes sugary and sentimental to their logical extreme, in a way that only American technicolor films of the early '60s really know how. But then again, it's a charming period piece with some great character actors, fundamentally concerned with the magic of story-telling and making good use of music, settings and special effects to achieve that. So, yeah, I guess I'd have kinda liked it even if it weren't for the Cinerama - but it was the experience of that obsolete technology which really made me fall in love with it.

The wonderful world of Cinerama )

Innovative-obsolete technology and the Brothers Grimm )

A fairytale biopic )

Genre bleeding )

23. The Shadow of the Cat (1961), dir. John Gilling

Finally, rounding off my weekend of not-actually-horror-films was The Shadow of the Cat. This is a Hammer film, although it doesn't feature the studio's name anywhere in the credits, and so tends to get overlooked as part of their output. Like Saturday afternoon's film, The Man in Black, it's another murder mystery, this time revolving around a family pet cat )

In the end, though, the best thing about this film was marvelling at how much time and effort must have gone into setting up all the necessary shots of the cat running up to certain characters for a stroke, jumping out at others, going up or down the stairs at the right moment, padding purposefully towards the place where the old lady's body had been buried etc. On a very small number of occasions a model cat with glowing eyes was used to peer sinisterly through people's bedroom windows, but for most of the film the cat was clearly played by a perfectly ordinary real animal. In a plot which revolved so much around the particular behaviour of the cat, I imagine there must have been a great deal of just sitting around filming it until it did the right thing, as well as large teams of people just out of shot tempting it in particular directions with tasty tit-bits. And to be fair the results were pretty impressive, creating a genuine impression of a cat which had a real agenda behind its actions. But I'm betting a lot of people finished this film with a firm resolution never, ever to work with animals ever again!

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strange_complex: (Donald Sutherland Body Snatchers)
The plots of two of the films which I saw on the second day of the Fantastic Films Weekend depended heavily on motifs of disguise, with key characters turning out to be someone other than they had appeared to be. So there are significant spoilers under the cuts for Captain Clegg and The Man in Black.

19. Captain Clegg (1962), dir. Peter Graham Scott

This is a tale of piracy and smuggling )

TV pilot: Tales of Frankenstein: The Face In The Tombstone Mirror (1958), dir. Curt Siodmak

This is exactly the sort of little-known gem I go to the Fantastic Films Weekend to see )

20. The Man in Black (1949), dir. Francis Searle

This was the second part of the double bill opened by Tales of Frankenstein, and is another little-known Hammer gem. It pre-dates their specialisation in the horror genre, and is in fact a murder mystery )

After seeing this double-bill, I could have gone and watched Barbarella, or this year's collection of short films, which multiple people assured me were excellent. But I've learnt in previous years that doing nothing but back-to-back films can be pretty exhausting - and besides I didn't want to miss the chance to view the museum's Hammer horror make-up collection, compiled from archival material left to them by make-up artists Phil Leakey and Roy Ashton. The stuff actually on view wasn't that extensive, although apparently they have a lot more sketches and photographs which you can book an appointment to view in detail at any time. But I did get to see some interesting design sketches, concept models and photographs, as well as some actual latex attachments used to achieve the distinctive looks of the Mummy and Frankenstein's creature. Best of all were Dracula's actual fangs from the original 1958 film, complete with a chamber which allowed blood to drip down them through little wires, and sat in a glass case next to tins with hand-written labels saying things like 'Vampire bites' and 'Nostril enlagers':

Dracula's actual fangs from 1958!


(Sorry about the shadow - I couldn't use a flash as it reflected on the glass, so this was the best I could do). I then wandered round the museum's new exhibition on the history of the internet, which explained the development of ideas like distributed networks very clearly, and included interesting collections of early technology with what now seems like unbelievably limited capacity. But I did find the cabinet which was clearly designed to help children understand what on earth life without the internet might have been like rather disconcerting, what with its record-player to demonstrate life without iTunes, Monopoly board for life without online gaming, letters to represent life without email and so on. It's rather scary at the age of 35 to discover that museums are devoting exhibition space to the strange, alien world of your own teens!


21. I Drink Your Blood (1970), dir. David E. Durston

My final Saturday film was grindhouse classic I Drink Your Blood - a tale of satanist hippies driven (even) mad(der than they already were) by rabies-infected meat pies )

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strange_complex: (Cyberman from beneath)
I spent the weekend just gone having a brilliant time at the National Media Museum's annual Fantastic Films Weekend, along with chums [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan, [livejournal.com profile] planet_andy, miss_s_b, Andrew Hickey and [livejournal.com profile] minnesattva. I played it relatively light this year, missing all of Friday daytime and the Sunday evening too, so that it seemed to be over almost as soon as it had begun. But as every year, I enjoyed the bits I went to immensely.

One of the main themes of the festival this year was Hammer horror, and as part of this they screened The Quatermass Xperiment on the first evening, preceded by a live interview with Renée Glynne, an 85-year-old script supervisor and continuity person who had worked on it )

17. The Quatermass Xperiment (1955), dir. Val Guest )

18. The Casebook of Eddie Brewer (2012), dir. Andrew Spencer )

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strange_complex: (Vampira)
This weekend saw horror film fans from across the country gathering in Bradford for the 10th annual Fantastic Films Weekend. I didn't see quite as many fantastic films, or indeed little-known TV gems or enthralling interviews, as I'd originally planned, because I've been trying to be a little more sensible about not over-doing things since making myself ill that way in late April / early May. I realised that the important thing was to enjoy myself and feel relaxed and happy, rather than to approach the weekend as though it were a competition to see how many films I could possibly fit into the time available. So I missed the Friday altogether in favour of getting really on top of my work, and then took the Saturday and Sunday nice and easy, enjoying a good lie-in each morning and then just trundling over to Bradford for the things I really felt I couldn't miss. The result was that I only saw two actual films stricto sensu over the course of the weekend - but also two excellent interviews (one live, one recorded), and two rather unforgettable TV dramatisations.

8. Let's Scare Jessica to Death (1971), dir. John D. Hancock )

Sinister Image (1988): Vincent Price in conversation with David Del Valle )

An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe (1972), dir. Kenneth Johnson )

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strange_complex: (Vampira)
The programme for the 10th Bradford Fantastic Films Weekend is now out, and it's a real cracker! miss_s_b will be disappointed to see that we won't be getting the traditional annual screening of Horror Express this year, but I suspect she'll agree that it has nobly stepped aside in favour of some really excellent alternatives.

My own personal list of what I'd like to see currently stands as follows (complete with brief notes on what each film is / why I want to see it):

Friday 10th June 2011 )

Saturday 11th June 2011 )

Sunday 12th June 2011 )

I could, of course, end up not seeing any of that at all, as my sister's baby is due a few days before the festival takes place, so I may very well be down in the Midlands playing the role of the doting aunt - it all rather depends whether the baby appears on schedule or not! For that reason, I'm going to hold off on buying tickets in advance, and takes things more or less as they come on the weekend itself. But that's my plan, anyway. If it gets derailed, at least it will be for a very good reason. :-)

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strange_complex: (ITV digital Monkey popcorn)
Whew! It's taken me a couple of days to type this lot up, as I saw a lot of films on the final day of the festival, and I think we all know I am a bit prone to tl;dr reviews, even when I think the thing I'm writing about was rubbish. But I've managed it now! It's up to you to decide if you are brave enough to read it all. ;-)

15a-f. Short Films )

TV Heaven: Children of the Stones (HTV, 1976) )

16a. Intrusion (1961), dir. Michael Reeves )

16b. The Sorcerers (1967), dir. Michael Reeves )

17. Robocop (1987), dir. Paul Verhoeven )

18. The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (1974), dir. Jorge Grau )

So that was a pretty intensive weekend of film viewing all told - in fact, coming out of the other end of it I find that I am now well ahead of 2009's total of 14 films seen over the entire year, even though it is still only June. I absolutely loved it, though, and have found myself haunting Amazon and eBay ever since it ended, swooping up copies of films I saw, or other works by the same actors and directors to add to my collection. Debate is currently raging on miss_s_b's journal about what form next year's festival should take. But whatever the final line-up, unless life conspires to stop me I'm pretty sure I'm going to be there.

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strange_complex: (Vampira)
12. Horror Express (1973), dir. Eugenio Martin

I have to admit to not having seen this one before, despite having been a massive Lee and Cushing fan for over twenty years and knowing perfectly well that it was one of their great classics. And I've been really missing out, because it's completely brilliant )


13. 28 Days Later (2002), dir. Danny Boyle )

The screening of 28 Days Later was actually only one half of a double-bill along with 28 Weeks Later. I've seen that before too, and indeed enjoyed it very much, so was sorely tempted to stay and see it again, especially so that I could compare the two films back to back. But I opted for a new experience over a tried-and-tested one - and I've got to say that on this particular occasion it was a real mistake...


14. Mark of the Devil (1970), dir. Michael Armstrong

See, Mark of the Devil sounded great in advance )

In short, this is 90 minutes of solid torture all right. But for the audience, not for the characters. I spent the rest of the weekend having to carefully avoid the director's eye, in case I accidentally blurted out "Your film was embarrassingly dreadful! What were you thinking?" Some horror films are bad in ways which are unintentionally funny, and that is a major source of the pleasure in watching them. But this one was just a huge, steaming crock o' shite, and definitely the low point of the festival for me.

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strange_complex: (Wicker Man sunset)
So, as mentioned in my last post, I spent the earlier part of the evening at the opening instalment of the Bradford Fantastic Films Weekend. I bumped into matgb in the station, and then caught up with miss_s_b in the Media Museum bar, looking all Tank Girl-ish with a blond slanty fringe and bicycle-induced bruises, and accompanied by [livejournal.com profile] innerbrat! From the internet! Who scored exactly the same as me on today's Daily Mail poshness test, but nonetheless turned out to have a much posher accent than I have been reading her journal with for the past however-many-years-it-even-is now.

Anyway, we also saw a film! Which was excellent. It wasn't my first time for this one - not even on the big screen, actually, thanks to the Phoenix's late showings back when I used to live in Oxford. But it's probably something like eight to ten years since I saw it now, so it was lovely to have the chance to rediscover it.

The festival director introduced the screening, talking about what a horror classic this film is, and what a loss that Michael Reeves died the following year from a(n accidental?) drug overdose. And he was right - it was definitely a cut above what most horror directors were doing in the late '60s; especially the camera-work. This is obvious from the opening sequence, which appears to present a rural idyll, but gradually homes in on a regular banging sound which turns out to be the noise of someone putting the finishing touches to a hangman's gibbet - a disturbing contrast which really sets the mood for what follows. Throughout the film we get lots of interesting angles and imaginatively-composed shots, although it was a pity they'd felt the need to rely quite so heavily on day-for-night filming. When you've got a character delivering the line, "It must be important, for you to wait for him after dark", the effect is rather compromised if he's doing it in silhouette against a bright blue summer sky, dappled with altocumulus...

Some parts of the script are a bit clunky, especially when people are delivering historical exposition or characters are being established. But that's by no means out of the ordinary for horror scripts of this time. The brutality, though, definitely was out of the ordinary. It wasn't quite as unrelenting as I'd remembered, and was occasionally rather undermined by the use of bad fake waxy blood. But the bleakness of the ending in particular marks it out as quite different from what e.g. Hammer were doing in this period. On the face of it, the good guys have won. But rather than getting your standard-issue uplifting music and romantic embrace, we instead see both the hero and the heroine reduced to a state of near-insanity by the experiences they have been through, and the hero's friends looking on in horror and disgust. That must have been quite a shock to the original audience, and it certainly does suggest that Michael Reeves was gearing up to be a challenging director with some new ideas about how horror should be done.

Meanwhile, of course, we also get the WONDER that is Vincent Price. According to the pre-show talk, Michael Reeves actually wanted Donald Pleasence in the title role - and fair dos to him, because Pleasence would have been awesome too. Stuck with Vincent Price at the insistence of the studio, he basically made it perfectly clear to him that he wasn't the star he wanted, and insisted on Price toning down the greater excesses of his campness - despite the fact that Reeves was less than half Price's age, and this was only his fourth film. Price was so shocked at being spoken to like this that he actually did what Reeves said, and the result is that he oozes with menace and presence throughout, without ever turning into a cartoon villain. Wikipedia tells me that he later considered it one of the best performances of his career, and he may well be right.

PLUS we get Ian Ogilvy, dear to me in particular as Drusus in I Clavdivs, but also from many a happy Sunday morning watching Upstairs, Downstairs over my breakfast. And there are lots of thundering horses and frightened sheep and billowing cloaks and heaving bosoms and suggestively-placed pistols - not to mention the fascinatingly-precise and symmetrical curls of Matthew Hopkins' wig, which I can never quite tear my eyes away from. All in all, a damned fine start to the weekend.

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strange_complex: (ITV digital Monkey popcorn)
I'm off to Bradford today for a day of exciting horror films - including Hammer's 'Dracula' on the big screen! Haven't seen last night's Who yet, as I was out showing our external examiners a good time, but various reviews I've read suggest that it's right up my street. If there's one type of story I love, it's a cabin fever story - like 'The Thing' or Who's 'Edge of Destruction'.

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