Saturday, 3 May 2014

Dead By Dawn

Jane was in Edinburgh last weekend for the Dead By Dawn Festival at The Filmhouse on Lothian Road. The horror film festival is held annually and kudos to organiser Adele Hartley for a cracking selection of films, some old, some new.

The festival opened at 23.30 on Thursday with an introduction from Adele who outlined her 'no sweet wrapper rustling  policy'; so Marie, you're not alone!  You can, however, take your drinks into the screening which explains why some of the pictures are a little bit blurry.  There was a 40 minute montage of classic horror trailers followed by William Castle's Spooktacular 'House on Haunted Hill' starring the inimitable Vincent Price.  I have seen his cookery shows on You Tube and they are fabulous.

 They also showed William Castle's 'Mr Sardonicous' (complete with punishment poll) which I had never seen before and it is wonderful. The film is not currently available on DVD in the UK so if you get the chance to see this on TV take it!  Guy Rolfe is magnificent.  'Where the Red Fox Lies' (originally a Kickstarter project)  draws a thought provoking analogy with mental illness and was paired up with 'Les Gouffres' which explores similar themes.  'Friday 13th' seems remarkably tame now when you consider the 'moral panic' about video nasties it (along with other 'slasher' films) provoked here in the UK.  Also enjoyed Japanese film 'Greatful Dead' which I'm sure we'll be hearing more of when word gets out. 

Tickets for the weekend were £75 which is amazingly good value. You can also buy tickets for the films individually. It's a marathon, I admit, but well worth it.  Adele is a splendid and erudite hostess and I met some great people there (even the guy next to me whom  I 'cuddled' when I briefly dozed off in my seat just after midnight took it in good humour- sorry about that btw). If you can get to Edinburgh next year, do come along. I'll certainly be there.   

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Kate Bush and Film

I have Kate Bush Tickets!  I got them in the pre-sale on Wednesday. 9th September. 166 days away.

In preparation I have decided to make the change from Lush's 'Caca Brun' to 'Caca Marron' in the hope that, when Kate's eyes meet mine, my hair will resemble hers', circa 1980 at the height of her Babooshka bikinied brilliance.

Here's my hair today after one go with Caca Marron. Watch it turn more racily red over the coming months.

The BFI pipped us to the post with this run down of the inspiration  Kate has taken from film, strategically worded to fit in with the Gothic theme they have going on this year.

 Not to be out-Bushed I have put together my own little montage of Kate's contribution to film;

This Woman's Work (1989).i
This was written for the John Hughes film 'She's Having a Baby'. Many (not fans) say this is their favourite Kate Bush song ever.  It was covered by experimental jazzist Theo Bleckmann on his album of Kate covers (which I own). It's also the name of her 1978-1990 box set anthology (which I own).

Brazil (1985)
Kate recorded a version of Ary Baroso's 1939 song  'Brazil'  (Aquarela do Brazil) for the soundtrack of the Terry Gilliam film of the same name. It wasn't actually used in the film. No surprise, though,  that two very individual artists chose to work together. We played  Kate's version when we did the Gilliam show in 2010. It is absolutely beautiful. Perfect. Transcendent. We were asked to play it again for the 1000 show mash up we did with 'At the Movies' and, sadly,  couldn't  find the licensed version we'd downloaded. You Tube it.

Lyra (2007)
Kate contributed this to the soundtrack for  'The Golden Compass'; Hollywood's go at Philip Pullman's 'Northern Lights'. It was.apparently, written and recorded with 10 days notice and featured the choir from Magdalen College. 

Ken (1988)
This tribute to 'Red' Ken Livingstone (leader of the GLC and Mayor of London until succeeded by bumbling idiot Boris Johnson) was kindly contributed to 'The Comic Strip Presents..The Strike' which was televised at the peak of my 'Kate Bush Period'.  Ken was played by Robbie Coltrane (who I once met in an Indian restaurant in Stirling. Tall).  It was released on the 'b' side (remember those) of Love and Anger (which I also own).

Les Dogs  (1990)
Our Kate made an appearance  in this Comic Strip production which, frankly, still baffles me. LOVE YOU, KATE. SEE YOU ON THE 9th Sept MWWAHH.. xxx   

Cloudbusting (1985)
Co-starring Donald Sutherland as a version of Wilhelm Reich, and made in conjunction with Terry Gilliam,  this music video had limited release at the cinema as a 'support' film, it were that good. I went to the cinema just to see it on the big screen!

The Line, the Curve and the Cross (1993)
Dismissed by Kate as "A load of old bollocks".   It co-stars Miranda Richardson and, Kate's old mime teacher, Lindsay Kemp (he was  in 'The Wicker Man'). Kate knows best, 

Don't Give Up (1986)
This duet with Peter Gabriel was used over the closing credits of 'The Bone Collector' (1999). The song was written by Gabriel and appears on his 'So' album. His original choice for the female vocal was Dolly Parton.

For those of you who didn't manage to secure tickets, Hackney Attic, above Hackney Picturehouse, are hosting a Kate Bush Night on the first night of Kate's run.  You can find details here; 

 Did I mention I have tickets? Got them in the pre-sale. 

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

We Didn't Kill Shirley Temple.

The very first Cinema Revisited was broadcast in June 2009 and we mentioned Michael Jackson.  On the 25th June Michael passed away.  We dedicated a show to the magnificent Elizabeth Taylor in 2011.  We lost Liz.  You’d think we’d have learned our lesson?  No. Our last show was broadcast on the 18th January and we mused about the fact that one of cinemas’ most enduring icons, Shirley Temple, was still alive, and joked that, should she die, it wouldn’t be our fault.  It seemed odd given that she is a figure we associate with an earlier, more naive, movie age.  Also child stars, Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor grew up, lived their lives and died before our eyes yet Shirley was still with us.  We now live in an age where we consider it our right to view gruesome and intrusive detail of celebrity deaths; a harrowing picture of Michael Jackson’s corpse lying on a hospital trolley was published around the world.  It was almost a comfort to know we still had Shirley, an untouchable, golden curled reminder, of more innocent times, keeping a dignified eye over modern celebrity.

I can think of no more iconic celebrity figure that Shirley Temple.  She outshines, Michael and Liz, Chaplin, Mickey Mouse, Darth Vader, Clint Eastwood in a poncho and that other blonde goddess, Marilyn Monroe.  Her very name is a byword for all that is good, and cute and wholesome. Which curly haired child has not been compared to her?  Monroe herself was a grown-up reworking of her. She even has a (non-alcoholic) cocktail named after her. She was the youngest person to have ever won an Oscar.   It’s hard to imagine she was ever, actually real.

Most of the coverage of her death has been celebratory and wistful. A child star whose life did not descend into the obligatory car crash. Shirley’s career took off during the American Depression.  She became the golden child, untroubled by the poverty other American children were facing.  A child living as it ‘ought’ to do, untouched by the realities of war, politics and economics, allowed to develop its growing personality in an ideal bubble. Readers in the UK may see a correlation with the Daily Mail giving away a free calendar featuring ‘Little Prince George’; another child we can watch grow up because we can’t afford to have children of our own at the moment.  Shirley’s optimism, self reliance and agreeableness was the embodiment of the values Americans had been reading about in self help tomes like Napoleon Hills ‘Think and Grow Rich’ or Dale Carnegie’s ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People”.  Values they were too ground down by poverty to try out for themselves but still wanted to believe would ‘work’.  Temple herself worked long hours, once performing a dance routine after badly injuring her foot.  If Shirley could do it why couldn’t the rest of America?   President F D Roosevelt himself commented “As long as our country has Shirley Temple we will be alright”.  For a brilliant essay on the use of Temple as a political tool and “the fantasy of the golden-haired goddess magically solving all class antagonisms” check out

  Even Shirley’s legend has its dark side though.  The ‘internet’ has been awash this morning with talk that our Shirley was a racist! So, she wore blackface in ‘The Littlest Rebel’ and was a Republican. I think as grown ups we should perhaps accept that not all Right Wing people are evil, bigoted bullies.  Temple was seven years old when she blacked up for ‘The Littlest Rebel’, how much political awareness do we expect the average seven year old have? Temple herself did acknowledge that her early ‘Baby Burlesques’, “occasionally were racist or sexist". In her later roles, however, Temple’s character is often sympathetic to the American working man, including black Americans. She performed song and dance routines with black male performers which adult female performers of the time were rarely seen doing.

 Critics have also picked up an unsettling, sexual undercurrent in Temple’s persona.  In her 1991 bestseller ‘Backlash’ Susan Faludi suggested Temple’s screen persona represented an nonthreatening, ideal woman; childlike,  unchallenging,  grateful for male assistance, compliant and without body hair.   It was Graham Greene who first proposed this idea,  referring to her performance in ‘Captain January’ as “a little depraved”. He went further when reviewing ‘Wee Willie Winkie’  and suggested her older male admirers “respond to her dubious coquetry, to the sight of her well-shaped and desirable little body”.  Twentieth Century Fox sued Green and he was forced to pay damages to Temple, or, as he called her,  “that little bitch”. Temple herself revealed in her autobiography that a spy hole had been drilled through her dressing room wall and that an MGM producer had exposed himself to her during negotiations for ‘The Wizard of Oz’.

 Temple was also rumoured to be a “curly haired, fifty year old dwarf”; curiously a similar rumour circulated about Michael Jackson, perhaps testament to both of their professionalism and capacity to understand the material they were working with.

Shirley’s career faltered when she lost out on the lead in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ to Judy Garland. Times were changing and America was ready for a new sort of heroine.  Details of her brief marriage to abusive alcoholic John Agar tarnished her impeccable image. Her second marriage to Charles Alden Black was a long and successful one.  Now known as Shirley Temple Black she went public with her breast cancer and campaigned for better treatment. She was appointed United States Ambassador to Ghana and later, America’s first female chief of Protocol at the White House.

Whilst Monroe got to marry a millionaire Temple’s character often finds herself being adopted by one. Surely this is a much more desirable financial position than Monroe’s. Who can forget Gertrude Moon reminding her daughter, Daphne, of her good fortune with the words “He’s rich and you don’t have to sleep with him"?  Whilst Faludi’s point is certainly a valid one, Dame Magazine yesterday lauded Temple as “Hollywood’s First Little Feminist”

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Top Ten Festive Films

1.  It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) Another film which has grown in popularity after being shown on television.  The film was listed by the FBI for 10 years as suspected communist propaganda.  Maybe the FBI failed to notice its hero, George Bailey, is a banker and that director Frank Capra was a supporter of Mussolini. It was certainly controversial at the time to deal with suicide (the word is actually spoken during the film) and films about money don’t often tug at the heartstrings the way It’s a Wonderful Life does.

2. White Christmas (1954) I know those pedants amongst you are probably screaming ‘No! Holiday Inn!  Holiday Inn!’ but seriously, this film is better. Get over yourselves. It’s Christmas. Bing Crosby’s version of  Irving Berlin’s ‘White Christmas’ was initially poorly received but  went on to become the biggest selling single of all time

3. Miracle on 34th Street (1947) Of course we mean the 1947 original not the 1994 remake. The film was declared ‘morally objectionable’ by the Catholic Legion of Decency as it portrayed a divorced, single parent.  Despite its obvious Christmas setting, it was originally released in May because Darryl F. Zanuck believed more people went to the cinema in warmer weather.

4.   The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) This was released back in the days when Tim Burton still had an edge. Its mix of old fashioned, Harryhausen inspired stop motion animation and German Expressionist look manage to create something fresh, modern and different.  Danny Elfman’s score is spot on.

5. A Matter of Life and Death (1946) Not as well known as Powell and Pressburger’s mighty ‘The Red Shoes’ this film is still essential Christmas viewing.  The film reverses the effect of The Wizard of Oz by showing the real world in Technicolor and the fantasy world in black and white.  Jack Clayton’s beautiful cinematography makes this a true gem.

6. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) This is what we want!  Action, adventure, humour, and a hard drinking, wise cracking, feisty heroine.  Lucas and Spielberg really do bring out the best in each other in this delirious nod to Saturday morning cinema.  Spielberg reigns in the schmaltz, Lucas let’s loose a bit and Harrison Ford is just perfect.

7.  The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) I’m personally not a fan of this watered-down and rather flat version of Lewis’ wonderful, classic children’s’ book.  I include it because it’s got snow, but it really is a case of ‘the book is better’. It was only a matter of time before the story was committed to celluloid but I found it a disappointing affair all round.  Things improved a lot with Prince Caspian.

8. The Wizard of Oz (1939) Not massively popular on its initial release The Wizard of Oz was first shown on television in 1956 and as part of the Christmas schedule in 1959.  Such was the response that CBS made screening the movie an annual Christmas event; it was only televised once a year, on the second Sunday in December, for 30 years and is now the most viewed motion picture on television in history.

9.  Meet me in St Louis (1944)  Vincent Minelli’s musical was both critically and commercially successful and features Judy Garland (again) singing ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. The song was written by Ralph Blame and Hugh Martin for the film and Garland found the original lyrics too depressing requesting that they be rewritten.  The song was later recorded by Frank Sinatra who also requested changes to the lyrics.

10.  Elf   (2003) When this movie’s shown on TV it’s generally considered a sign that “Christmas has truly started”. Sky caused controversy here in the UK by swiping Elf from Channel 4 meaning only Sky Movies subscribers could watch it.  This caused a general outpouring of grief on Facebook and prompted The Telegraph to ask “Did Sky steal Christmas?”

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Disability History Month

We were invited to Disability Equality North West on Monday as part of their celebrations for UK Disability History Month. 

Disability Equality (NW) LTD is a disabled people's organisation which works to further the human rights of disabled people in the North West of England and to remove the disabling barriers put in place by society that stop disabled people taking a full and active role in society.

We facilitated the event 'A Picture of Disability' and discussed a number of issues surrounding disabled people in film and television.  We talked about  the way disabled people are represented and the obstacles and prejudices facing disabled actors.

We showed some clips from film and TV including Tod Browning's 'Freaks', Xavier Leret's  'Kung Fu Flid', 'E.R.' and 'Frasier'   

There was an open discussion and those who attended shared some interesting and informative views.  I certainly learnt something. A thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Here are some of those who came along. 

Thursday, 7 November 2013

A Picture of Disability

Check out this fabulous event we're facilitating for Disability Equality North West!

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Christopher Lee

Last month Cinema Revisited enjoyed a right old Christopher Lee fest.  We saw ‘The Wicker Man – The Final Cut’ at Filmhouse in Edinburgh and then Hammer’s 1958 ’Dracula’ (released in the USHorror of Dracula’) at The Cornerhouse in Manchester.  

‘The Wicker Man’ was originally released in 1973 as a supporting picture for ‘Don’t Look Now’. Although it is now respected by critics it did not fare well in 1973.  Studio executives had no idea how to market the film and wanted to change the ending (Noooooooo!).  EMI (who had bought British Lion during production) advised director Robert Hardy to remove twenty minutes from the film and Roger Corman suggested a further thirteen minutes were cut to make the film marketable in the US.  Christopher Lee fervently supported the film (although he was unhappy with the cuts) and even offered to buy critics seats to see the film in order to get it reviewed.

Over the years various efforts have been made to locate and restore footage and many who have seen the film on TV or on video are often confused as to which version they have seen.  ‘The Final Cut'  celebrates the film’s 40th anniversary and restores the story to the version Robert Hardy originally intended with reinstated scenes including the ‘Gently Johnny’ segment.

To be honest ‘The Final Cut’ is an odd experience.  The film opens with a scene of Howie on the mainland which is so brief it’s pointless.  There are other scenes from the mainland which I have seen on the TV that were missing from ‘The Final Cut’, whilst a brief, irrelevant scene showing Willow cleaning down a table outside the Green Man is included.  The restored scenes are obvious, of poor quality and lacking colour.   Willow’s Song and her attempt to seduce Howie occur later in ‘The Final Cut’, on his second night on Summerisle and, whatever Robert Hardy’s original vision may have been, I’ve seen this film too many times to find this switch anything but clunky and odd. Although most critics are in agreement that the film is improved by introducing Lord Summerisle earlier I’ve always enjoyed the way he pops up out of his chair like a pantomime demon when Howie visits him at home.

For viewers today the power of the film lies in the ending. Maybe back in 1973 it asked some questions about religion which were ahead of it’s time.  The people of Summerisle have abandoned Christianity in favour of a reconstituted neo-paganism introduced by Summerisle’s grandfather.  Lee’s Lord Summerisle makes it perfectly clear he doesn’t believe in this religion but it suits his purpose, controls the population and made his family rich – ideas which are still pertinent today.  In an era where horror film  vampires could be destroyed by the very sight of a makeshift crucifix made from two splinters of wood, the idea that Howie’s ‘true’ God does not save him is an unsettling one.

Howie’s outrage at the islanders’ sexual liberation, particularly the sexual assertiveness of the women, also loses impact in the age of Madonna and internet porn, although scenes in the school showing the sexualisation of children are still uncomfortable.

This is Jane at 'Castle Dracula' in Bran when she visited Transylvania in 2008.

God gets a slightly better deal in ‘Dracula’. Vampire films haven’t been the same since Louis du Pont Du Lac told ‘the boy’ in ‘Interview with the Vampire’ that he couldn’t be killed with holy water or crucifixes.  Terence Fisher’s ‘Dracula’, though, can be.  Harker vows ‘It only remains for me now to await the daylight hours where I will, with God's help, forever end this man's reign of terror.’ and Van Helsing destroys the fiend using a crucifix made from two candlesticks a sign he claims represents the triumph of good over evil.  Things aren’t quite so simple now and our relationship with ‘belief’ is less self-assuredly ‘right’.  Eagle eyed viewers may have also spotted the bizarre horoscope mosaic on which Dracula meets his (un)death. 

In common with many film versions of Stoker's original text Fisher plays around with the plot and the characters switch around but the names stay the same.  In this version Harker is engaged to Lucy and Mina (it's Rose from 'Brighton Rock'!) is married to Holmwood. 

Although the vampire has come a long way through folklore and literature it was Tod Browning's version (played by Bela Lugosi) who made the mould until Anne Rice came along with her pesky logic.  It was cinema that started to make vampires sexy (this hasn't changed) and let's face it, nothing says 'sex' more that Christopher Lee.  Women love him; he only loves blood. Vampires are no longer just  animated corpses, the work of a Christian devil; with The Twilight Saga's Rnenesmee we now have children who are born vampires, it's no longer even necessary to die first. 

This was Lee's first outing as The Count (although not his first pairing with Peter Cushing) and he went on to play the character seven times for Hammer, with a decreasing number of lines and less and less to do.  One of the reasons Lee was so keen to play the role of Lord Summerisle was to show his skill and versatility as an actor.  The year after 'The Wicker Man' was released Lee played Scaramanga in 'The Man with the Golden Gun'. For those who like trivia, Lee is related to Bond author Ian Flemming.

We're covering Hammer on our next show on November 23rd so tune in between 4-5 for more Christopher Lee!