strange_complex: (Cyberman from beneath)
I saw this at the weekend with the lovely [ profile] ms_siobhan and [ profile] planet_andy. It's an Amicus werewolf film complete with Peter Cushing, Charles Gray, a youthful Michael Gambon, an alsatian wrapped in a rug, some extremely spangly shirts and a soundtrack full of wacka-wacka guitar music. In other words, lots of silly '70s fun. And just to make the atmosphere complete, [ profile] ms_siobhan had used some brand new skull-shaped silicon cake cases which she got for Christmas to bake spongy pink brain-cakes with a delicious layer of boiled eye-balls (aka cherries) to eat while we watched.

The USP of this particular film is that it is (meant to be) as much a detective film as a horror film, with the viewer invited to work out the identity of the werewolf amongst a party of guests at a millionaire's isolated high-security mansion. We were instructed by a voice-over to be on the look-out for clues from the start of the film, and towards the end the narrative stopped for a 'werewolf break', during which we were shown pictures of the surviving guests, and then given thirty seconds to figure out which was the werewolf.

We did managed to narrow it down correctly to two possible suspects out of six, but most of the clues were pretty ham-fisted, and I'm still not convinced we'd actually been given enough information to identify the correct individual. And, disappointingly, there was no Sherlock or Poirot figure within the narrative to explain in detail how we should have been able to work out which character was the werewolf. The identity was revealed, but not the reasoning. Also, the narrative which we had been given up to that point didn't exactly match up with the parameters we were being asked to subscribe to anyway. The millionaire who had assembled the guests kept stating very confidently that he knew ONE of his guests was a werewolf - and indeed this turned out to have been true. But he also gave reasons for suspecting each and every one of them of being a werewolf, and it was never clear why he felt so sure that only one of them actually was, but still couldn't tell which.

Also interesting was the fact that the main character - the millionaire who had invited everyone to his mansion, and who got by far the most screen-time in the film - was black. In fact, so was his wife, which meant that the film passed the ethnic minority version of the Bechdel test - there were several scenes in which the two of them discussed their own goals and motivations with each other, without any particular reference to any of their white guests. That's extremely rare for a '70s British horror flick - but you still couldn't exactly call it a positive portrayal. This character is stereotyped into something of a Blaxploitation role, running about the place a lot in shiny PVC shirts and wielding enormous guns. He also plays right into the age-old trope of the nouveau riche social climber with more money than sense - he's shown as a slightly unhinged play-boy, spending thousands on his obsessive hunt to find a werewolf, and getting several people killed in the process. So, yeah.

And, for a film with such a stellar cast, it doesn't half waste them. Michael Gambon is all right, although he doesn't have terribly much to do except sit around looking a bit sulky. But Peter Cushing gets precious little screen-time; most of his dialogue is incredibly hokey and utterly boring faux-science; and he's obviously been asked to lay aside his trademark crisp English enunciation in favour of an annoying and completely unconvincing foreign accent. As for Charles Gray - to be honest, he was basically phoning it in.

So, not exactly what you'd call a masterpiece, but fun for an afternoon's entertainment. And it's hugely whetted our appetites for more of the same at this year's Bradford Fantastic Film Weekend, too. :-)

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London weekend

Monday, 22 March 2010 13:08
strange_complex: (Twiggy)
My main reason for going to London was to attend a JACT Council meeting on the Saturday morning. I do this every six months, but normally only attend the Ancient History sub-committee (of which I am a member) in the afternoon. This time, though, I was asked to represent our committee on the main Council in the morning, which was quite good fun, actually - I certainly learnt a lot more about how the organisation as a whole works than I knew before.

Sneakily, since my travel to London is being paid for anyway, I usually take the opportunity to catch up while I am there with [ profile] rosamicula, so I did just that this time too. I stayed over with her and the lovely [ profile] itsjustaname (whose new blonde, 20s-style bob looks fantastic on her), and we were also joined by [ profile] qatsi and Mrs. Q. on the Saturday evening for dinner. Much wine was quaffed and conversation enjoyed, while we gorged ourselves on a menu well up to [ profile] rosamicula's usual culinary standards: chicken, chorizo and pumpkin pie with absolutely perfect pastry and accompanied by cheesy, creamy mash and veg, followed by an Imperial Purple Penny cake which she has invented in my honour. This mainly featured blackberries, blackcurrants and chocolate, but there was also a secret ingredient which we have all vowed solemnly never to divulge.

The cake in all its purple glory

Since the Ancient History sub-committee itself was not meeting this time, we also had some time free on Saturday afternoon to do a bit of sight-seeing. Friday evening was too full of wine and end-of-week decompression to make decisions about this, so I told [ profile] rosamicula that I would just phone her when I came out of the morning's meeting, and she could surprise me with whatever idea she fancied. She came up with the Sir John Soane Museum, which preserves the house of the man who designed the original Bank of England building, and was also a fervent collector of antiquarian curiosities. He treated the house as much as a museum as a residence during his life-time, and it is still more or less as he left it on his death in 1833, in accordance with the terms of his will. It's really amazing - every nook and cranny absolutely crammed full of a bizarre mix of real and reproduction antiquities, including a huge Egyptian alabaster sarcophagus, hundreds of pieces of Roman architectural and funerary sculpture, drawers full of insects (which reminded me, inevitably, of Ghost Light) and models of Classical temples. In fact, it reminded me a very great deal of [ profile] big_daz's house, which is much in the same vein only with fewer cremation urns and more commemorative plates.

The journey back wasn't so great, since it involved spending about 40 minutes stuck in Stevenage station while we waited for a broken-down train to be towed out of the way. But I made it back in the end, to curl up with Friday's episode of True Blood and some 'bear crunch' which [ profile] rosamicula had sent me away with - nuts, fruit and chocolate, and extremely delicious.

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