Showing posts from September, 2008

Sound Mirrors, Conspiracies and Monsters from Beyond

Cosmic Hobo productions are doing a great job. If you don't know about them, find out here . Their Lovecraftian adventure The Devil of Denge Marsh is currently running on BBC 7. If you'd like to hear it you can catch the latest episode on the Listen Again page or simply find The Scarifyers on the A to Z listing of programmes. I'm particularly impressed by the way the writer, Paul Morris, takes real between-the-wars facts and mucks them about a bit. In this case it's the almost-forgotten technology of sound mirrors. These have always fascinated me. The idea was to use huge concrete surfaces to focus soundwaves onto microphones, so that operators on the English coast could detect the engine noise from incoming enemy (i.e. German) aircraft. Of course, in the story it turns out that the sounds are not coming from the beastly Hun, but from something older and far more dangerous. Ia! Shub-Niggurath! A bit player in the Lovecraft Mythos gets a starring role at last. It's

A Round of Writers

I can't for the life of me think of a better collective noun for literary types than a round, which for people elsewhere on earth is an English drinking expression. Not that I'm implying the writers I'm linking to are all boozy. But you know what I mean. Dylan Thomas, Jeffrey Bernard, the Algonquin mob, Orwell down the pub - they're all at it.  Anyway, here are some writers whose work has appeared or will soon be appearing in ST. Huw Langridge is an interesting chap, whose story 'Last Train to Tassenmere' will be in ST15 next spring. I also have to admit that - if it's really his photo on the blog - he's younger and considerably better-looking than me. Gol' darn it. Also more photogenic than me, and more talented and much more successful (I sense a theme emerging) are Ray Russell and Rosalie Parker. This husband and wife publishing team run Tartarus Press , and a story by each of them will appear in ST next year.  Now a very fine Welsh writer whose

The Pitt Pendulum

Hammer Films are synonymous with British horror/suspense. You can't really talk about Dracula or Frankenstein without at least a cursory glance at their screen manifestations. And among all the Hammer stars, Ingrid Pitt was the first lady of screaming, fangs, cleavage and so on. Well, there's an American-made tribute to Hammer in the pipeline, and guess who's in it? Nice to see Ms Pitt's career has not ended and that all those years in skimpy night-attire on cold sets have at least provided her with a bit of work in her mature years. Here are some Pittesque places to try - she has a MySpace page and all: I almost forgot! As well as her Hammer work, the lovely IP was also in Doctor Who, with Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning. I may faint...

Demons of the Mind

This 1972 Hammer feature is unusual, as it's a 19th century Gothic horror with none of the regular stars. No Cushing, no Lee, not even a hint of Ralph Bates. Instead we get some, ahem, interesting performances from mainstream thesps in a film that's a bit of a footnote to the Hammer canon. It seems the original title was Blood Will Have Blood , but distributor EMI didn't like that - too intellectual. So a line from an early scene was used instead.  The 'demons of the mind' are being pursued by Dr Falkenberg, played by the late Patrick Magee - a superb actor and well cast here as a fashionable Vienna physician who may be a total charlatan. We are in a vaguely Ruritanian setting, and a reference to kilometres sets it sometime after the Napoleonic era. Falkenberg is on the way to the castle of Baron Zorn, a psalm-quoting widower who has locked up his son and daughter because they are tainted by the 'bad blood' of the family. The youngsters are being kept very

The Scarifyers

Anyone who likes good old radio drama (hello Oscar Solis!) might enjoy The Scarifyers, which begins a re-run on BBC7 this Sunday. It's a comedy-drama, really, but features some interesting ideas and decent gags. The stars, Nicholas Courtney and Terry Molloy, are old hands and never put a foot wrong. Courtney plays a hard-nosed Scotland Yard detective who's keen to prove he's not past it. Molloy's character, Professor Dunning, is an academic who writes ghost stories, and is clearly based on M.R. James. You can find out more about the Scarifyers and their wacky, pre-war adventures at the Cosmic Hobo site here . The series that starts on BBC7 at six pm and midnight is the first adventure, The Nazad Conspiracy. I heard and enjoyed The Devil of Denge Marsh last year - it was distinctly Lovecraftian in theme, complete with guest appearance by Shub-Niggurath. All great fun. 

The Squelch in the Case of M. Valdemar

'I presume that no member of the party then present had been unaccustomed to death-bed horrors; but so hideous beyond conception was the appearance of M. Valdemar at this moment, that there was a general shrinking back from the region of the bed.' ST14 is sort of with the printer, now. Communication lines are open, the price seems fair (this printer is much cheaper than local ones I've used before) and I'm reasonably happy with the magazine. I spend so much time reading and re-reading stories that I forget why I liked them in the first place. Editor Syndrome - I know everything about fiction but I don't know what I like (with apologies to Thurber).  Anyway, let's consider a mildly interesting point. Why did I choose the online name Valdemar Squelch? Well, it's a rather feeble joke, which is one point in its favour. But I've always found 'The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar' one of Poe's most interesting stories. If you don't know it, you

Bish Bash Bush

You stood in the belltower,  But now you're gone.  So who knows all the sights  Of Notre Dame?  They've got the stars for the gallant hearts.  I'm the replacement for your part.  But all I want to do is forget  You, friend.  Hammer horror, hammer horror,  Won't leave me alone.  The first time in my life,  I leave the lights on  To ease my soul.  Hammer horror, hammer horror,  Won't leave it alone.  I don't know,  Is this the right thing to do? Who calls me from the other side  Of the street?  And who taps me on the shoulder?  I turn around, but you're gone.  I've got a hunch that you're following,  To get your own back on me.  So all I want to do is forget  You, friend. There was no Hammer film of The Hunchback of Notre Dame , as it happens. But I suspect that's not the point. Incidentally, the role of Quasimodo has been played by Warren Clarke, Anthony Hopkins, Mandy Patinkin, Anthony Quinn, Charles Laughton, and Lon Chaney, among others.

Nigel and the Witches

An old friend has kindly lent (loaned?) me The Ultimate Hammer Collection. Given the rotten weather, sitting and watching some old British horror is an attractive prospect. And amid the usual Dracula and Frankenstein flicks are some rarities - or at least, films I've never seen. Perhaps the most interesting is The Witches , a 1966 production starring Joan Fontaine. As the presence of such a big name star suggests, this is altogether more ambitious than the usual Hammer feature, and this is reflected in the script by Nigel Kneale. It's based on a novel, The Devil's Own , by Peter Curtis - a pen-name for a female crime writer, Nora Lofts. This may explain why the story has several strong female characters. As well as Joan Fontaine, the film stars Kay Walsh, and theres' a small role for a young Michele Dotrice. We also get Leonard Rossiter as a smooth but not wholly trustworthy doctor, and Duncan Lamont, a British movie regular who a year later would play Sladden in Quate