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.


Wednesday, 17 January 2018

The Mummy's Shroud.

Was snowed in last night but I barely noticed as I was cloaked beneath the shroud of the lost Pharaoh Kah-T0-Bey. Had never seen this one before. Made by Hammer Films in 1967 and starring Andre Morell and Michael Ripper as the wonderfully named Longbarrow (The ancestral family name of The Doctor's lineage being The Prydonian House Of Lungbarrow.) There is also a fantastic turn in it by the legendary Roger Delgado as the shady protector of the Boy Pharaoh's tomb who snarls and spits swarthy curses like the demonically possessed. Or at the very least, religiously possessed.
              As always Andre Morell slips beneath the skin of his character and brings much gravitas and a learned quality to his adventurous explorer and tomb raider. Micheal Ripper always delivers no matter how small the role and he looks great in this one as Longbarrow. a forerunner to Indiana Jones's friend Marcus.
             The Mummy in this movie is a vengeful gaurdian protecting the tomb of The Boy Pharaoh and boy is he vengeful. This is no Howard Carter creeping sickness. This is a shambling undead and unforgiving shade bent on living up to his promised curse. He actually dispatches one of the unfortunate trespassers using photographic acid, burning his victim alive. He even crushes one of their heads in his bare hands, his rank old crusty millennia old hands. I wont say which victim..
                ...In order to preserve some sense of suspense and jeopardy.
                 I think this was one of four mummy themed movies made by Hammer Films. The next one being Blood From The Mummy's Tomb which brought this unconnected series to a close around the beginning of the seventies.
                 Hammer produced a wide range of differently themed horror movies in their time and in so doing they created a fantastic back catalogue of nightmares that continue to quicken the pulse and chill the blood. The house Of Hammer was more than an idea, it was, and is, a place.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

The Man And The Snake.

Found this wonderful adaption of an Ambrose Bierce short story while ghost hopping on Youtube.  Someone had uploaded this haunting little tale of a man who is confronted by and taken over by a snake which wills him to a terrible fate. It was made in 1972 and starred John Frazer and Andre Morell , it was directed by Sture Rydman for Jocelyn Films (Who were also responsible for that ghostly gem The Return, another story by Ambrose Bierce.)
              In this story a young teacher visiting the home of one of his pupils is given a tour of a "snakery", a hot house where some very dangerous snakes are kept as pets and for study. John Frazer plays the teacher, a very engaging , likeable, fellow with Andre Morell (Mu favorite Quatermass!) playing Doctor Druring, keeper of the "snakery." There is even an appearance by Damaris Hayman, Ms Hawthorne of Devils End herself, at the dinner table scene. This is a pleasantly atmospheric tale, its execution a great example of British film making with the character acting on display reminding the viewer of an age when this type of story telling felt utterly authentic and real. Even the soundtrack is so very charming, in much the same way as the one for The Return also was.
               This story, like the other, has a short running time and yet there is much in it that will deserve and reward a revisit.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Invasion. (1966)

One of my Christmas treats this year was a copy of this movie INVASION. distributed by Network(Boy, they have some amazing stuff in their back catalogue.) I was intrigued by it after a having a conversation about the Doctor Who writer Robert Holmes. The chap I was speaking to mentioned that Robert Holmes had incorporated elements of his story for the movie into his script for Spearhead From Space. The Doctor Who story he wrote which introduced The Third Doctor Jon Pertwee as well as recurring bad race The Autons. I was intrigued enough to put it onto a wants list for Olde Saint Nick.Glad I did too. its a lovely wee late night treat.
               It is very atmospheric. Mostly set in a rural hospital surrounded by leafy forests in which a crashed alien craft is discovered by a very UNIT-like set of troops. A mysterious figure is taken to the hospital after it is run down by accident by a swinging couple(Its an odd and very British mix of science fiction and kitchen sink drama.) Various medical tests reveal the patient to have unearthly origins and before too long the hospital is further isolated by a force field set up by the alien figures who are in pursuit of the patient who is no innocent visitor from beyond the stars.
              British character actor Edward Judd plays the over worked melancholy doctor who discovers their patient is not all they appeared to be to begin with. (The odd plastic/rubber outfit worn by him is a dead giveaway.) Edward Judd had a good line in world weary seen it all before types and his character is a ferocious smoker. He practically chews the smoke from his cigarette. Shocking bad habit for a medical man. One would think he would know better.
              Cheekily enough I also saw some other shared themes from a much later Doctor Who story. Smith And Jones, which introduced the lovely Martha Jones to the many worlds of Doctor Who. When the Judoon transport the hospital where Martha is an intern to the surface of The Moon in order to isolate it so they may track down their alien quarry.It is much the same as the technique favored by the aliens in INVASION. Although the Judoon win hands down when it comes to visually representing how an alien life form might appear. The aliens in INVASION are basically just Asian people in futuristic jump suits, like the hench men of Dr No.
                No one I have spoke to since watching the movie remember it but they are all familiar with the themes. It is so often the way with some of these wee obscure and quite forgotten gems...

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Pharos The Egyptian.

Really enjoyed The Beetle by Richard Marsh and yet I could not shake the feeling after completing it that I had somehow read it before or else something incredibly like  The themes, the atmosphere, the sheer Victorianna and sense of upright daring-do, all terribly familiar. It was as though an ancient Egyptian scarab beetle were fluttering about my head trying to remind me of a life lived before..No, thats too strong. I just felt i had read something a long time ago that felt it may have sprang from the same pen. So I went looking in the old book room and before too long I found the very thing; Pharos The Egyptian by Guy Boothby.
               I read this book way back in the eighties. While I was staying in a house in Portumna, Galway. I found it among a pile of books by Walter Machen and old school books. It is a Victorian supernatural mystery, off course, about a long lived and wickedly cruel Egyptian called Pharos who is actually a mage from ancient times surviving using lost magics of that era. As i suggested, it feels as though it may have slipped from the same pen but is in fact a great wee novel in its own right. Utterly of its time and completely entertaining for that very reason. It also has a few pulp themed illustrations which add to its beguiling quality of swarthy supernaturalism. Guy Boothby was a best selling and hugely prolific writer in his day. His most infamous creation being the criminal occult mastermind Doctor Nikola who sought to create a potion that would lead not only to immortality but could also reanimate the dead. He was hell bent on ruling the world although I think he never quite considered the massive headache and stress bucket such a goal would become if Successful. Guy Boothby died a young man, only thirty eight when he was carried away by pneumonia, dying at his home. Sad.
              Dust off your smoking jacket, check out your study windows are bolted shut against the howling wind and rain outside, throw another log on the fire, uncork a nice Merlot, put your feet up and prepare to be to speak.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

The Beetle.

Came across a copy of the book The Beetle by Richard Marsh in a visit to an Oxfam bookstore. It is a book I have been keeping an eye open for since first hearing of it being mentioned during a documentary on the life of the writer Robert Aickman I watched a couple of years back. I think Marsh was a distant past relative of Aickman, which just goes to show the truth of Conan Doyle's statement about how art in the blood can take the most curious forms. The book was published in 1897, the same year as Dracula, and in its day actually sold better than Stoker's classic horror novel. I fear it quite forgotten about these days as I have not seen it mentioned anywhere else. Some things last all the ages while others do not.
           I am enjoying it. It is quite barmy. A swarthy Victorian supernatural melodrama all purple hues and quirkily humorous prose. Oh yes, there is a sense of humor at play among the various beastly and ghastly situations that beset the upright British sensibilities that abound and a cigar and port imbiding old boys club eccentricity about it. Like a tale emerging from the recesses of the comfortable familiarity of an old red leather armchair in a swathe of hand rolled Turkish cigar smoke. A tale almost too terrible to tell, or so it keeps warning us. They should release a talking book version with The League of Gentlemen cast performing it. Respectfully off course. I mean it as a compliment.
              It is quite a weird read. The story involves a group of crusty upper echelon Victorians and their travails surrounding  Egyptian scarab chicanery,where a shape shifting Egyptian Supernatural entity seeks revenge on and upcoming Member Of Parliament, cloaked in the cultural prejudices and misunderstandings of the day. Politicians are upright and virtuous, foreigners are shady and shifty and ladies always stand by their men no matter how trivial they are treated.
              I do love the idea that in Germany this book was called Der Skarabus...
              Now that really sounds like Victorian Melodrama to get ones teeth into. Dracula Be Damned!

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Angel Of War.

This one caught me quite off guard. Which is to say I had no time to put a stoney face in place , nor no reason to either I suppose, while sitting drawing, listening to it. I had got to the story Angel Of War and at some point I stopped scribbling, as I sat at my drawing table, and drifted completely into the narrative, the performances. Just incredible. it all come together and I found myself utterly moved and engaged by this story by writer Roy Gil. Almost embarrassed to admit it but at some point a big wet tear fell..Do not really want to admit it but it has never happened to me listening to an audio drama before. Yes,it is one of my favorite art forms but on the very best of days I never felt as lost in the audio realm in quite this way.
             The world of the trenches in WW! has always had quite a haunting effect on me. From novels and poetry and music inspired by this monstrous conflict I have always found it the very cauldron of lost humanity. Just looking at photographs can set me off. I have always felt kinship with the shell shocked. Maybe growing up in Ardoyne during the particular years I did I got to see the best and worst of humanity. Not that I am effecting a comparison with life in trenches and life on Etna Drive, that would be lunacy.
              Its a wonderful production. The writing, the acting, the wall of sounds and music that throw shapes upon the canvas of the listeners imagination.
              The stories in this series assume Dorian Gray was real, that his terrible story was true.
              Stories such as this make me believe in that truth.