Thursday, 8 February 2018

Space Precinct.


Very pleased to say that my chum Connor Flannagan is doing a signing for his new space Precinct Reloaded comic this Saturday at the Forbidden Planet Belfast Store. All are welcome and many are expected. If you fancy a very modern take on a great slice from the fabled Anderson family of telly shows please come along and support not only local talent but a great cauldron of creativity. Hurrah!
Chris Thompson has delivered a tight exciting script and Connor more than delivers the goods. Jamie Anderson himself and editor Andrew Clements are involved in so much more than an editorial sense. They have leant their goodwill and support in buckets and all involved have delivered a one shot that will prove to be a keeper for not just anyone lucky enough to be here on the day but who may well pick the title up afterwards.
                 In space everyone can see you smile.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Fiend Without A Face.

I only ever knew this film from a full page still in my Hamlyn Book Of Horror Movies( My horror movie bible growing up.) I never saw this movie growing up and I was always intrigued by that black and white still of someone being attacked by a living brain with a spine like tail. Well, if intrigue is the right word. It is a movie about a string of mysterious deaths that take place in the forest surrounding an army base and the man made monsters that stalk the leafy territory. There is very creepy foreshadowing for the fiend without a face. A horrific thumping and gurgling sound you just know was made by no creature found in nature.
             A brilliant scientist has made a terrible mistake and brought into being a creature from the id to rival any beastie to be found during the classic Philip Hinchcliffe era of Doctor Who. That is the era most people think off when considering classic Who. Without being able to put a name to it.
             The movie has a great base under siege feel to it and also manages to maintain a powerful sense of ordinariness about it. As the local population seek to discover the monster in their midst. The movie is a British made affair from 1968 and has a strong Doom Watch quality to it. The notion of bad science done for the right reasons with disastrous results. the night time forest scenes are particularly effective and their is a truly horrific scene when a hunter who has had his brain drained stumbles into a public meeting moaning and crying like a demented child. It is the gruesome aftermath of the creatures assault. One which usually ends with the human brain and spine being drawn from the victim.s body. It is Giger-like in intent. Before that was even a notion in any film makers mind. it would be another decade before such grandly imagined world building would take place but the world was waiting.
             The new frontiers of science often begin as uncharted wilderness. We fill in the gap and we discovers wonders and horrors in almost equal measure, with the scales more often dipping towards the terrifying. Ain/t discovery great....

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Prophecy (1979.)

Prophecy, made in 1979 and directed by John Frankenheimmer, is one of the most overlooked and under rated horror movies of the closing end of the seventies. Written by David Setzler, of The Omen fame, it is part old school boys own adventure yarn and chillingly ecological thriller. Yes it is a monster movie but it also has many other qualities to justify my opening statement. I watched it again recently and feel it has aged better than more successful movies of that era and certainly many of the films that came after in the following decades.
              A giant logging and paper mill organisation are felling trees at an industrial almost apocalyptic  rate and are also pumping something nasty into the waters around their factory. Watch the scene where we are introduced to the scale of the operation as the music swells, as written by Leonard Rosenman in a Wagnerian fashion, and the camera sweeps up over a wide river jammed tightly with felled floating logs. Talk about your Dark Satanic Mills, this place is Mordor in the making. The locals are suffering badly, they are sick, stagger and fall down. exhibiting the kind of drunken characteristics that lead to their stereotyping as drunken natives. A Doctor Verne and his wife Maggie are sent to make an enviromental study that might produce a case for halting the deforestation and pollution but there are many hurdles to be over come. Not least being the resistance from the logging company and its manager, who turns a blind eye to the many evils the mass felling of trees obscures. The story takes place along the banks of the Androscoggin River, a location of staggering beauty with a lively river and a dense forest that seems to rise and fall along the broken spine of a mountain.
              The movie is so well shot and makes the most of the most ominous forest locations on screen. The same sort of atmosphere that surrounds the small town of Twin Peaks with its mass of Douglas Firs swaying hauntingly in a wind with origins not of this world. In a forest that size you could believe in the existence of elder Indian spirits or even Big Foot.
              There is certainly something large roaming this forest with claws and teeth to match. John Frankenheimer directed this movie and managed to draw great performances from his tight cast which included Robert Foxworth, Talia Shire and Armand Assante. The film takes us from the heart of a rat infested ghetto in the bowels of New York tenements and back out into the wilds in the blink of an eye. "Rats gotta live too" says a corrupt and heartless tenement landlord when confronted by the mother of a child who has been subjected to rat bites. Actually they do,I suppose, but not on a diet of human children. Prophecy is a monster movie, to be sure, but it is a well crafted one with very real performances from all involved. Talia shire shines as Maggie, the mother to be who learns too late the terrible cost to be paid for us allowing the world we live on to be poisoned. While Armand Assante, youthful and blindingly handsome, radiates noble gravitas. Robert Foxworth plays a career best as the troubled doctor who desperately seeks a solution to a problem he knows the whole world shares in  but also is a man who's determination to solve the problems of the wider world blinds him to the problems closer to home.There are even a few memorable jump scares and action scenes specially during a nerve wracking night time journey through the forest where monsters dwell.
               Dark forests late on a windy night. They are a stage for the stuff of nightmares.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Return Of The Vampire.

Came across this wee 1943 gem quite by accident and what a pleasant surprise it proved to be. Bela Lugosi stars as vampire Armand Tesla ( What a great name. Almost as cool as Bela Lugosi. ) in a decades crossing yarn detailing two encounters with this arch vampire by the aristocratic Lady Jane..
At the end of that first encounter Armand Tesla is staked but revived twenty four years later when a German bombing raid over England sets in motion a chain of events which lead to him rising from the dead once more. Or rather returning to a state of being undead.
             Both times the vampire is served by a werewolf slave who saunters about their graveyard dwelling with a surprising degree of casuality. it is almost endearing were he not a psycho werewolf hybrid. Lycanthropy like this is usually best affected by Lon Chaney Jnr. himself in a Universal stylee. in the period between the two vampire encounters the world has moved on and got many shades darker. the Second World War is raging and no one knows for sure who will win althoigh every one knows for sure who must not win. In comparison to the threat of Hitler and his henchmen the notion of vampirism fades almost to timidity. Bela is charming as ever, part Murder Legendre, of White Zombie, part Dracula. he revels in his sly cruelty
             Lady Jane as played by Freida Inescourt is given much to do in this 1943 picture, playing the same woman at two different stages of her life. When a journal detailing the staking of Tesla makes its way into the hands of the police there is a very real possibility she will face criminal charges for her actions. They hanged one for such things back in the day. Lady Jane is very much the Van Helsing figure in this story and she carries it well.It is she who keeps her head when the bodies start to turn up and it is she who comes up with a way to counter this threat from beyond the grave. She is brave and strong willed and yet remains compassionate, even for her enemies. The plight of the werewolf slaves touches her and aids a surprising resolution. Audiences for this movie m its day must have sat in darkened movie theaters appreciating what a thoroughly modern conceit it is to move the story of the vampire into the present day. The passing decades since have off course turned the whole exercise into a period piece. A well formed nicely packaged one all the same. It is quite telling that in the story the idea of one of the cast having relocated to England after escaping from a Nazi concentration camp is an all too believable one, a chillingly plausible one at that. Demonstrating how difficult it was for fantastic unreal horror to hold its own in the terrifying stakes against real world horrors. It is one of the reasons we dream I suppose. Even when those dreams are bad ones.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Fug And A beast.

                                                                (From my sketchbook.)
                                                                        Meet Fug.
                                                        And one of Fug's main predators.

A Tingle In A Haunted House High On A Hill.

What A double-bill, both starring vincent Price, both directed by William Castle, both released in 1959. Oddly, or perhaps not so,in both films Vincent  Price is married to a no good vamp who is either trying to murder him or is destined to be murdered by him. Since both films sprang from the imagination of Mister Castle one might imagine he had some serious trust issues when it came to relationships with women, as most of his femme fatales slinked around in treacherous hues.
            Actually William Castle puts in an appearance as himself, providing a wonderful introduction to The Tingler. He is signposting one of his extraordinary gimmicks; "Perceptol!", which involved a device hooked to some movie theater chairs, that would activate in time to on screen events causing more than a few unexpected tingles of terror. The Tingler of the title is a spine dwelling millipede like creature produced from the darkest recesses of the Id and held at bay only by our ability to scream when terrified. The warning is well woven into the script and vincent Price gives it his all. I love that quality Vincent Price has, the ability to simply don a white lab coat in order to become a great humanitarian doctor in search of answers to better mankind and benefit all.Yet in the same movie he threatens his wife with a pistol at close range, prolonging her agony and fear as he smiles and twists his head amusingly in order to wring every ounce of fear that he can from the situation. it is so in keeping with this odd gem of horror movie making which deals with some uncomfortable themes. It has an odd looking cast too. The married couple especially, the mute lady and her homocidely polite husband. The whole film has an odd disjointed from reality feel about even when watching with thoroughly modern eyes, how it must have felt in 1959 can only be speculated at now. it must have felt like sleep walking into William Castle's dream world. yet despite the terrors it also has a cosy fifties Americana feel to it, even with this nightmarish millipede creeping around beneath the actors and the viewers chairs, with the sound of a thumping heart beat acting as a signature tune for it.
           House On Haunted Hill was a huge hit in its day and one of the movies that Vincent Price is best remembered by the general Joes for. In it half a dozen people are invited for an overnight stay in a haunted house for which they will each receive $10,000 dollars. If by the next morning they are still alive or sane enough to collect. The exteriors of the haunted house were shot at an actual location, one Ennis House which was designed by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, which is slightly at odds with the baroque nature of the various furnishings and indoor decor used on the sound stages for interior shooting. It also has a fantastic opening musical theme ,written by Richard Kayne and Richard Loring, which plays as those invited to spend the night at the haunted house wander around the grounds, perhaps wondering if the money they will be paid is enough to risk their very soul for.
It has a classic jump scare pretty early on as one of the guests explores the basement area of the house. Completely oblivious to the idea it is probably not a good idea to wander around the darkened basement of a house with a fiendish reputation.
            Then again, they may not know they are a character in a haunted house movie.
            I suppose none of us are sure which genre of movie we are stumbling through as we stare at the cracked mirror of our subjective realities.
     

Thursday, 18 January 2018

The Man Who Cheated Death.

You may not be familiar with this movie byt if you have enjoyed Oscar wilde's Picture Of Dorian Graythen you might also enjoy this purple hued slice of Victorian Melodrama. the story of how one man's attempt to cheat the tides of time leads to madness and murder, oh the hubris of it all. Anton Diffring is Dr. George Bonnet who skirts untouched by the passing decades by transplanting glands from the bodies of his murder victims into his own body. It is only a cheat though and death constantly dogs his steps as he dodges a truly gruesome end as the parried years manifest in a split second should the supply of glands be denied. It is as much his terror of that fearful end which drives him on as much as his desire for an unnaturally long life.
             His mentor professor Ludwig Weiss has come back into his life to warn him that enough is enough and an end must come but the great man's former pupil is not ready to listen. A very youthful and debonair Christopher Lee plays his unwilling accomplice black mailed into helping him for fear of the young lady he hopes to protect. Arnold Marle plays Professor Weiss and introduces a dash of wild haired Euro eccentricity. I remember mister Merle from a memorable turn as the chief Llama of the monastry on the mountain in Val Lewton's Hammer movie The Abominable Snowman. He is quite a character. Great eyes and an expressive voice imbued with ancient wisdom.
              This is not the most action packed of movies and I am not even sure why that should be a consideration. It is dialogue driven with a crushed velvet quality. a lovely wee Victorian Gothic treat to wile away a winter evening for those who enjoy their prose a hazy shade of purple.