Author Archives: Peter Fuller

The Road to Arrow FrightFest 2018 | Videoman director Kristian A Söderström

 

Kristian A Söderström

So Kristian A Söderström, who are you, where do you come from and what’s your creative arts background? I grew up in Gothenburg Sweden and was a film fanatic from the start. I got me an education in film directing from UCLA in Los Angeles, but I’ve studied film theory and psychology as well. For many years now, I’ve been making short films and commercials while trying to finance feature films. I write and direct.

What’s the Swedish horror movie scene like? Is it a vibrant culture? Or has it been very limiting and hard for you to break through? I would say that the Swedish horror and genre scene is almost non existent. I’ve had a lot of problems financing films. Some years ago I was asked by a commissioner at the Swedish film institute if a script I submitted was supposed to be a horror film or a drama. I answered, ‘It’s supposed to be both.’ That was something they could not tolerate. Anyhow, horror has never been a popular genre with the film financiers in Sweden. Experimental stuff is also tough. At the moment it seems like you either must make a nordic noir, a comedy or an obviously ‘important’ film. There are always exceptions to this off course, but generally speaking, not.

VIDEOMAN

Is the movie autobiographical, are you that central VHS collector, Ennio, and is that your house covered in fabulous Italian posters and wall-to-wall videos? The main character, Ennio, is a combination of three people I know. One of them is me. So there are definitely autobiographical moments in there. It’s not my house depicted in the film, altough I own a lot of Italian movie posters. I collect them, as well as movies.

You are clearly a massive Italian horror/Giallo fan, so in keeping with the playful atmosphere of movie choose: Dario Argento or Lucio Fulci? That is a really tough adoration match…I will go with Argento though. He was the one that got me into Italian genre cinema and his filmmaking inspired my desire to make movies.

The ‘stolen’ video is Zombie, any reason why you picked that title? In Sweden in the early 80s, we had a similar thing to the UK to Video Nasties. A distributor called Video Invest put out 26 horror titles. After a debate on national telly, these films were quickly banned from the video stores. Many years later these titles, from this particular distributor, became a VHS collectors wet dream. Therefore I wanted it to be one of these. Zombie, which for some reason carries the cover of City of the Living Dead, was chosen because of the cover art, which I love. It’s also a Fulci film. The main character has a thing for Fulci, the same goes for me.

Videoman

Of course Ennio’s VHS obsession is yet another of the many addictions you depict. Is that what Videoman is really all about? On the surface it’s a film about film fanaticism and 1980s nostalgia. Thematically, it’s a movie about loneliness, passion and addiction. The starting point of this film was me meeting a video store owner who had not taken a vacation for 14 years. He seemed to be imprisoned by his passion (films). The thought of how something you love can lead to loneliness and exclusion was something that really appealed to me.

Stefan Sauk from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Lena Nilsson and Martin Wallstrom (Mr. Robot) are your main stars and they are all terrific. How did you go about casting them? When deciding on which script to make as my low budget feature debut, my path crossed with Stefan Sauk, whom I kind of forgot as an actor. I liked him very much many years ago when he was making a very far out thing on television. I realised that he could bring the black humour and desperation that I needed for the main character Ennio. Stefan being long time absent from feature film work also fitted Ennio, who is trying to make a comeback, life-wise. Lena Nilsson was an up-and-coming star in the 1980s. She also had not worked in movies for many years. Stefan told me I should see her as he thought she was great. I did and was blown away by her naturalistic presence. Simone, who Lena is playing, like Ennio, has gotten stuck in the 1980s. Both these characters were successful back then, that’s why they’ve gotten obsessed with trying to evoke these times anew. Life seemed to be imitating art a bit with these two actors. Regarding Martin Wallström, he was so amazing in Mr. Robot and he got so much hype that I thought it impossible to get him in my small movie. He loved the script though and the rest is history.

Videoman

Your poster tag line is ‘A Movie Can Change Your Life’, do you truly believe that? Well yes, I think that’s possible. In the case of Ennio in Videoman, the Zombie film becomes a financial life saviour, like the bicycle in Bicycle Thieves. In real life I think that a movie can have a very strong impact. It can hit you in many different ways. It can make you question yourself and others, it can make you obsessed and so on. Sometimes you will never be quite the same after watching a particular movie. In a small way, or a big way…

Great score by Waveshaper and Robert Parker, how did that come about? It’s great, isn’t it! John Carpenter is the reason that I wanted to have analogue synths on the soundtrack of my first feature. I loved him and his scores since forever. I’ve been a fan of the neo analogue synth movement ‘Synthwave’ since Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive. When I realised that Waveshaper, whom I adored, was actually Swedish, I had my producer track him down. Through Waveshaper I got to Robert Parker. These two side by side felt like a match in heaven, in order to reach the whole pallette of feelings in this genre bender of a movie.

You describe Videoman as ‘Dario Argento meets Mike Leigh’. Can you explain some more? Dario Argento and Mike Leigh are two of my greatest influences. I’d like to combine realistic filmmaking (Leigh) with genre elements (Argento). I love complex characters that feels like real human beings and I also love the mood and storytelling of horror films. I feel like there often exists a segregation between commercial and ‘important’ movies, such that it must be either or. I want to change this. I think people like Ben Wheatly, Alice Lowe and Peter Strickland are breaking down barriers like these. They are very inspiring to me. Kill List, Prevenge and Berberian Sound Studio are masterful and innovative filmmaking.

Videoman plays on Sunday 26 August at Cineworld Leicester Square.

Tickets: http://www.frightfest.co.uk/2018Films/videoman.html

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The road to Arrow FrightFest 2018 | Signature Entertainment and FrighFest team up to present some curated horror hits!

Arrow FrightFest 2018

Discover suspense, terror and everything in between as Signature Entertainment and FrightFest team up to launch FrightFest Presents, an all-new venture geared to delivering a host of undiscovered genre features to the UK audience and world stage.

Arrow FrightFest 2018 kicks off on Thursday 23 August at Cineworld Leicester Square and the Prince Charles Cinema, unleashing a monster marathon of horror heaven over the Bank Holiday weekend… including these beauties from Signature Entertainment and FrightFest Presents…

Tickets and info available here: http://www.frightfest.co.uk/

THE DARK
Directors: Justin P. Lange and Klemens Hufnagl
Cast: Stars rising star Nadia Alexander (The Sinner, Seven Seconds, Blame)

The film follows Mina (Alexander), a young woman who was murdered and stalks the forest that saw her demise. Anytime some unfortunate soul enters her area, they are quickly dispatched and become her feast. But when she stumbles across a young boy named Alex (Nichols) in the back of a car who shows signs of clear and horrifying abuse, she can’t bring herself to do away with him. Rather, she becomes his protector while trying to protect her own little world. As police and locals search for Alex to help bring him home, their own growing relationship seems to be changing Mina in ways she never thought possible.

Screens 3.30pm & 4pm Monday 27 August at FrightFest
Home Entertainment Release: October 2018

SECRET SANTA
Director: Adam Marcus (Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday & Texas Chainsaw 3D)
Cast: Michael Rady, Drew Lynch, Debra Sullivan, A Leslie Kies

The Pope family’s Christmas Eve dinner goes horribly and hilariously wrong when someone puts something in the party punch causing everyone to tell the unvarnished truth at the already dysfunctional holiday reunion. When the head of the household psychopathically freaks-out, the scene is set for murderous mayhem and splatterific revenge as the deviant relatives reveal their long-buried hatreds and festering loathings.

Screens 11am Monday 27 August at FrightFest
Home Entertainment Release: November 2018

BOAR
Director: Chris Sun (Director of multi-award winning film Daddy’s Little Girl)
Cast: Stars horror star Bill Moseley (House of 1000 Corpses, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Devil’s Rejects) and John Jarratt (Wolf Creek)

In the harsh, yet beautiful Australian outback lives a beast, an animal of staggering size, with a ruthless, driving need for blood and destruction. It cares for none, defends its territory with brutal force, and kills with a raw, animalistic savagery unlike any have seen before.

Screens 11.15pm & 11.45pm Friday 24 August at FrightFest

PIMPED
Director: David Baker
Cast: Stars Benedict Samuel (Gotham, The Walking Dead, Home and Away)

A psychological horror thriller, Pimped follows Sarah Montrose, a woman who isn’t well-equipped to live within society’s accepted lines of behaviour, struggling with her own identity, desires, and loves. When all this is threatened by two scheming men, Sarah has to fight for herself to take revenge all the while embracing her psychopath alter-ego.

Screens 6.45pm Friday 24 August at FrightFest

LIFECHANGER
Director: Justin McConnell
Cast: Lora Burke, Jack Foley, Elitsa Bako

A murderous shape-shifter sets out on a blood-soaked mission to make things right with the woman he loves but had to leave behind for her own safety’s sake. But zipping between ever-faster body snatches is becoming confusing, mind-bending and more debilitating by the minute. Something has got to give. Like dark romance, feral natural instincts and fractured sanity. Time to take a dive into the deep aliveness that comes from following your broken heart, in acting on what you love despite the monstrous circumstances, alien limitations, hidden emotions or fears of the shocking unknown.

Screens 9pm Friday 24 August at FrightFest

FRIGHT FEST
Director: Ante Novakovic
Cast: Dylan Walsh, Madison McKinley, Romeo Miller

Blood runs rampant on Halloween night when the Mayor of Sommerton decides to mount a live Fright Fest event within the
walls of a long abandoned lunatic asylum. Only problem is a van of criminally insane prisoners crashes just outside and the trick or treaters think their murderous acts are part of the performance. Enter if you dare.

Screens 11pm & 11.30pm Saturday 25 August at FrightFest

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Black Sunday (1960) | Revisiting Mario Bava’s Italian gothic horror in haunting HD

La maschera del demonio

As today (10 August) marks the 58th anniversary of the Italian release of Mario Bava’s Black Sunday (aka La maschera del demonio) back in 1960, what better way to celebrate than by re-visiting the 2013 Arrow Video Blu-ray.

Black Sunday (1960)

In 17th-century Moldavia, princess Asa (Barbara Steele) is sentenced to a cruel death for sorcery and adultery – a spiked mask is driven into her face. Two centuries later, Asa and her devil-worshipping lover Igor rise from their crypts to destroy the descendants of Asa’s cursed family…

1960’s Black Sunday (aka The Mask of Satan) is one of the most significant films in the annals of horror cinema. It was Mario Bava’s directorial debut and launched Barbara Steele‘s career as the decade’s queen of horror. Evoking the Universal horrors of the 1930s and 1940s, while still offering the modern shocks found in Hammer films like The Curse of Frankenstein, Black Sunday gave Bava the chance to hone the romantic style that he had fashioned co-directing Riccardo Freda’s 1957 horror, I Vampiri.

The result is a hauntingly-beautiful gothic chiller, with a host of classic sequences – from Asa’s grisly execution (which resulted in the film being banned in the UK for eight years) to Igor’s frightening resurrection – that have become staples of the horror genre, influencing a host of film-makers, from Roger Corman to Tim Burton. And behind the fake cobwebs and fog-shrouded sets, the gothic horror also contained a key theme that would recur in later Bava films: the eradication of desire by men fearful of female sexuality. But that’s another story…

THE ARROW RELEASE
Vintage horror completists will certainly want to add Arrow Video’s dual format (Blu-ray/DVD) 2013 release to their collection as it greatly improves on the 1999 DVD version.

While that did contain the director’s cut (aka The Mask of Satan), Arrow’s release allows you the choice of either the English or Italian soundtrack. And, in a must-have first, it also includes the US theatrical cut of Black Sunday, featuring a score by exotica maestro Les Baxter, and dubbing that is marginally better than the director’s cut.

First up is the European (Mask of Satan) Director’s Cut with the option of either Italian with subtitles or English audio, next is the big-one (and unique to this release): the US AIP theatrical cut (under the title Black Sunday) with the option of either Italian with English subtitles or the English dub (which is different – and marginally better – to the European cut). It also features the US score by exotica maestro Les Baxter.

The extras maybe the same as the 1999 release (an 8-minute interview with Barbara Steele, and the excellent Tim Lucas audio commentary), but also included is the rarely-seen 1957 Italian horror, I Vampiri (in Standard Definition, but looks great), which was directed by Riccardo Freda but completed Bava. Topping it all is the suitably atmospheric artwork from British illustrator extraordinaire Graham Humphreys.

 

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Nicolas Winding Refn’s ‘Unadulterated Expressway for the Arts’ online streaming channel goes live!

byNWR.com

Today sees the launch of byNWR.com.  Born from Nicolas Winding Refn’s passion for the rare, the strange, and the crazed, this FREE online streaming service is an ever-expanding world of original creative content. Carefully curated by a special guest editor, the quarterly volumes are divided into three monthly chapters, each featuring a meticulously restored film. The movie itself is just a touchstone, however, a talisman used to inspire a wealth of personally created new material, whether it be articles, biographies, essays, or original music, video and photography, all of it accompanied by a wealth of previously unseen cultural artifacts connected to the film itself.

THE NEST OF THE CUCKOO BIRDS

For the opening volume, Refn invited biographer and journalist Jimmy McDonough as the first guest editor for Regional Renegades. He is author of critically acclaimed biographies on Neil Young, Tammy Wynette, Russ Meyer, and others. The Ghastly One, his biography of infamous director Andy Milligan, was dubbed “a masterpiece” by Time magazine and John Waters has repeatedly named it as one of his all-time favorite books.

shanty town

Regional Renegades first highlights the indescribable 1965 Bert Williams epic THE NEST OF THE CUCKOO BIRDS, a previously lost low-budget gothic melodrama from the Florida Everglades.  Next comes the unhinged camp of Texas director Dale Berry, HOT THRILLS AND WARM CHILLS (1967), and last is Jose Pietro’s notorious tale of interracial backwoods lust, SHANTY TRAMP (also 1967).

Missing Links, byNWR’s second volume, will arrive in September and is guest-edited by Refn favorite Little White Lies, while a French edition will be unveiled in 2019.

Check out the following links:

byNWR.com

instagram.com/bynwr_official

twitter.com/byNWR_official

www.facebook.com/byNWRofficial

 

The Mountain of the Cannibal God (1978) | Sergio Martino’s notorious exploitation cult looks ravishing on Blu-ray

From Shameless in the UK comes the 2k restoration release of Sergio Martino’s 1978 Italian horror The Mountain of the Cannibal God (minus the gratuitous animal cruelty) on Blu-ray and DVD.

Ursula Andress braves tarantulas, alligators, anacondas and treacherous terrain as she goes in search of her missing scientist husband, Henry, on a ‘wild and uncontaminated’ island in New Guinea.

Enlisting the services of Stacey Keach’s professor Edward Foster and jungle explorer Manolo (Claudio Cassinelli), Susan (Andress) and her brother Arthur (Antonio Marsina) set their sights on the mountain of Ra Ra Me, where Henry’s clandestine expedition was headed. But everyone have their own private reasons for reaching this mystical destination… and not everyone is going to survive the ‘orgiastic pandemonium’ that ensues…

Also known as La montagna del dio cannibale (in Italy), Slave of the Cannibal God (in the US) and Prisoner of the Cannibal God (in the UK), Martino’s exploitation flick was banned in the UK as a ‘video nasty’ until 2001 for its violent imagery. Shameless have now reinstated the long-missing original dramatic gore, but has wisely chosen to ‘soften’ the animal suffering visuals which were patently inserted, completely out of context, to cater for commercial stipulations of the day. However, that bestiality scene involving a ‘disinterested’ pig remains intact!

Frankly, I think this rebuild makes for much more suspenseful jungle adventure (like King Solomon’s MInes meets Emmanuelle), while Giancarlo Ferrando’s cinematography of the jungle and its wildlife, and the cave locations (all shot in Sri Lanka,) really shine in this restoration. The camera also loves Andress, who looks flawless despite her many ordeals, which include climbing a genuinely dangerous waterfall and being turned into a living goddess coated in honey. The music score, by Guido and Maurizo de Angelis, is also one I could happily listen to in its own right. My only niggle is the film’s unflattering portrayal of indigenous culture (but that is something that’s problematic of many Mondo-style exploitation flicks of the era).

Martino has fully supported Shameless’ efforts not to ‘pander to exploitative and unnecessary violence against animals’, and the director explains that in detail in the extras that are included in this release.

SPECIAL FEATURES
• Cannibal Nightmare – Return to The Mountain of the Cannibal God: Documentary
• Sergio Martino on filming animal cruelty
• Theatrical trailer
• Italian credits

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The Night Walker (1964) | William Castle’s twisty thriller moves to a haunting Vic Mizzy beat

The Night Walker (1964)From Final Cut Entertainment comes the first-time UK DVD release of William Castle’s 1964 thriller The Night Walker.

In her last feature film before heading to TV land, Barbara Stanwyck reunited with her former husband Robert Taylor for this mystery-suspense from legendary showman Castle, who casts aside his usual gimmicks and instead relies on the reputation of Psycho author Robert Bloch, who wrote the screenplay under the original title, The Dream Killer.

The Night Walker (1964)

Stanwyck plays Irene Trent, a former beauty-parlour owner who is plagued by dreams of a fantasy lover. When her blind, possessive inventor husband Howard (Hayden Rorke) is killed in an explosion in the upstairs lab of their mansion home, Irene inherits his fortune…

But fact and fantasy get all messed up when Irene’s lover (Lloyd Bochner) appears before her and whisks her off to be married. Unsure whether it was a dream or not, Irene enlists the help of her husband’s attorney, Barry Moreland (Robert Taylor), to uncover the truth… But all is not what it seems as The Night Walker makes his nightmarish return…

The Night Walker (1964)

Aside from the twists, turns and red-herrings, there’s some genuinely creepy moments to be found in the monochrome chiller, including a frightening image of a hand clutching an eyeball, which jumps out at you in the opening sequence as Paul Frees narrates a prologue on the subject of nightmares.

When I first saw this film as a youngster, I was deeply shocked by Hayden Rorke’s cane-tapping entrance from out of the shadows, which slowly revealed his horribly burned face. But it wasn’t his disfigurement or the idea that he might be an undead ghoul that disturbed me – it was seeing I Dream of Jeannie‘s Dr Bellows playing it mean and despicable. But I have to admit his make-up was pretty cool.

While light on the camp hysterics of the same-year’s Strait-Jacket (starring Joan Crawford), Castle’s woman in peril follow-up is a surreal, entertaining treat that will have you guessing till the very end. Stanwyck plays it with serious intent, and earns our sympathy (and respect) as a result, while Vic Mizzy’s harpsichord-fused score deftly underpins the film’s funereal tone (now: is it just me, or does the main theme sound like Food, Glorious Food from Lionel Bart’s Oliver). The exteriors were all shot at the Higgins-Verbeck-Hirsch mansion in LA, which would become home to Elsa Lanchester and an army of rats in 1971’s Willard, while Mizzy’s catchy soundtrack got a Percepto Records CD release in 2002 (which now fetches ridiculous prices).

The Night Walker (1964)

There’s also a collectable paperback tie-in, written by Sidney Stuart and based on Bloch’s screenplay, which was published in 1964 by Awards Books. This features the same imagery as the poster art, which was a variant of Henry Fuseli’s influential 1781 painting The Nightmare – of a demonic creature crouching over a sleeping woman. In the poster art, this incubus is painted as a horned devil, which does not appear in the film. However, it does have a curious link to Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth.

The Night Walker (1964)

On the audio commentary of Optimum Home Entertainment’s 2006 Blu-ray release, del Toro revealed his inspiration for the Pale Man (the ogre who inserts a pair of eyes into the palms of his hands) was based on an image from a film poster that he once saw as a youngster. While he doesn’t mention the name of the film, he was most probably referring to The Night Walker, because of that eyeball in the hand that appears in the opening sequence and on the poster art (which Final Cut have reproduced here for their release). By the way, I have to credit film historian Tim Lucas for being the first to muse over this connection. But I think he’s hit the mark.

The Night Walker (1964)

Final Cut Entertainment’s UK DVD release features a lovely print of the film, but is lacking in bonus content – like the audio commentary that was included on the Shout Factory Blu-ray release in the US (whose trailer I have included below). Still, if you are a collector of William Castle’s films, and don’t have a multi-region player, then you should consider adding this to your collection.

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Space Truckers (1996) | Buckle up for a cheesy interstellar romp!

Space Truckers (1996)

When his profits are stolen following a delivery of genetically modified pigs, maverick space trucker John Canyon (Dennis Hopper) takes a profitable, no-questions-asked cargo to Earth, accompanied by apprentice trucker Mike (Stephen Dorff) and hitchhiker Cindy (Debi Mazar). But when they are captured by pirates, led by Captain Macanudo (Charles Dance), they discover the secret cargo is an army of androids that capitalist corp chief EJ Saggs (Shane Rimmer) plans to use to takeover the Earth…

Space Truckers (1996)

I cannot believe I have never seen Space Truckers – and its by one of my fave genre directors too – Stuart Gordon (aka Mr Re-Animator), who got this gig on the back of success of 1992’s Fortress starring Christopher Lambert (whatever happened to him, btw?). So why did I miss this first time round? Well that’s because it never got a theatrical release, only HBO TV screening. But now Second Sight has brought out this must-get Blu-ray so that sci-fi fans can pay a much over-do revisit.

Space Truckers (1996)

Gordon’s cast is a most excellent one and everyone plays it serious, especially scenery chewer Hopper, who plays a likeable hero this time round. Stephen Dorff and Debi Mazar provide the eye candy, especially when they step out of their cybergoth-meets-Starlight Express costumes and get all naked and sweaty. Cheers star George Wendt fame sneaks in a bizarre cameo before being sucked out into space, and its great to see Shane Rimmer in anything.

Space Truckers (1996)

Charles Dance, meanwhile, steals the show as the disfigured half-man, half-machine ‘sonofabitch gimp rapist murderer’, who looks like a leather daddy steampunk version of Long John Silver, with a metal claw. He also gets some great lines like ‘If I had an anus, I’d probably soil myself’. Also making some excellent cameos are fanboy favourites Vernon Wells, Barbara Crampton and Sandra Dickinson.

Space Truckers (1996)

Famed conceptual artist Hajime Sorayama created the designs for the space vehicles and the fantastic sleek and sexy six-foot robots. Interestingly, having just watched the Netflix reboot of Lost in Space, I couldn’t help notice how similar its robot design was to Sorayama’s  – as was a key story element, when the Hub is breached and our heroes need to find a way to escape.

 

Space Truckers (1996)

Space Truckers is all about fun and lots and lots of colour… in fact, there’s so much of it on display, its almost eye-watering. But it all works to highlight the film’s overall retro feel – making it a great companion piece to Flash Gordon and TV’s Buck Rogers, but also Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror follow-up Shock Treatment.

If you like your sci-fi colourful, camp and with an extra dose of cheese, then you are going to love Space Truckers. Oh! And watch out for the old lady in the cubicle – she’s a scream!

Out now on Blu-ray in the UK from Second Sight, with a host of special extras…

SPECIAL FEATURES
Space Trucking with Stuart Gordon: A new interview with director Stuart Gordon
Scoring Space Truckers: A new interview with composer Colin Towns (its a great score BTW!)
The Art of Space Truckers: A new interview with art director Simon Lamont
• Cover art by Rich Davies
• English subtitles

Peter Cushing’s handprints get a new home at the Whitstable Community Museum

Peter Cushing Handprints

On Saturday 26 May 2018, I spent a wonderful day in the coastal town of Whitstable in Kent to celebrate Peter Cushing’s 105th birth anniversary and see the handover of the legendary actor’s handprints to the Whitstable Community Museum & Gallery by long time fan Chris Hassell.

Peter’s secretary Joyce Broughton provided some great anecdotes about her dear friend, whom she always called ‘Sir’, while the museum’s volunteers put together a mini exhibition of Peter’s personal artefacts and memorabilia from some of the many items that they have in storage.

Chris Hassell and Joyce Broughton with the handprints

Lunch followed at the Peter Cushing pub – a former cinema where many of Peter’s classic Hammer films were shown; followed by a walk to Peter’s former home and his bench at Cushing’s View.

Interestingly, the plaque which has been missing for a while was recently returned to the museum, and Joyce was over the moon – as it was she who had organised to have it made in the first place. She is now hoping to have it reinstated on the bench very soon. Let’s just hope no-one vandalises it again.

Courtesy of the Peter Cushing Association, here’s a copy of the press release which tells the story of the handprints long journey to the museum.

At the end of the post, I have included a video that I made of the museum exhibition, which was mounted in 2013 to mark Peter’s centenary. The museum is now looking at redevelopment plans, which enable more of Peter’s personal items to go on permanent display.

THE TALE OF THE PETER CUSHING HANDPRINTS
Peter Cushing was one of the most beloved and important actors for the genres of horror and fantasy films. He began in British Theater before making a name for himself in Hollywood with such films as The Man in The Iron Mask and A Chump at Oxford. Cushing returned to his native England during World War II and soon after became a television star with such hits as Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Creature and Beau Brummell. To his fans however, Mr. Cushing is recognized mostly for his work with Hammer Films. He began to star in many of Hammer’s horror and fantasy films starting in the late 1950’s, which consequently breathed new life and energy into the nearly forgotten genre of classic horror films.

These films gained such favor and popularity with the public that Mr. Cushing was quickly catapulted to international stardom. Such classics included The Curse of Frankenstein, Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas, Horror of Dracula, The Mummy, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed plus many more. He also appeared in films for Amicus – Hammer’s rival. Some of these classics included Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, Dr. Who and the Daleks, Daleks Invasion Earth 2150 A.D., I Monster, Asylum, and Tales from the Crypt. Mr. Cushing capped off his career in the late 1970’s with Star Wars.

From then on, he made only a handful of films with Biggles being his last in 1986. Still very active in retirement, Mr. Cushing wrote two autobiographies, received the O.B.E. (Officer of the British Empire) in 1989, helped in raising money for cancer research, along with painting, collecting books, and bird watching in his spare time.

Peter Cushing Handprints

I couldn’t resist getting my pic taken with ‘the relic’

The Peter Cushing framed handprints you now see displayed at the Whitstable Museum were almost lost to history if not for the diligent actions of Peter Cushing Association member Chris Hassell. Peter Cushing had his hands cast in plaster in 1992 at Leicester Square in London. The plaster prints were framed and eventually displayed at the Prince Charles Cinema in London.

Years later a member of the Peter Cushing Association informed the group about the prints in their fanzine ‘The Cushing Courier’ which immediately struck the curiosity of Hassell who, finding no information about them in Cushing’s own autobiographies, wrote to the Prince Charles Cinema explaining about the Peter Cushing Association and inquiring about the prints.

Peter Cushing Handprints

Uwe Sommerlad and Chris outside Peter Cushing’s former home in Whitstable

Peter Cushing Handprints

The view from Peter Cushing’s former home

Little did he know the events he would set in motion but weeks later Hassell received a postcard from Ben Freedman, owner of Robins Cinemas, who asked if he would like to come to London to collect the handprints! The Prince Charles was originally owned by the Cannon group and Robins Cinema had taken it over. Freedman wanted the prints to be housed in a suitable location relevant to fans of Peter Cushing.

Amazed at the response, Hassell reached out to Freedman who explained to him that the Cinema would consider donating the handprints to the Peter Cushing Association, so it could be displayed at a final resting place for all fans of Peter Cushing to view. Hassell worked with the first president of the Peter Cushing Association, Brian Holland, to send an issue of ‘The Cushing Courier’ with a letter outlining the plan for the handprints. On July 27, 1999, Robins Cinemas called Hassell to inform him they would be happy to donate ‘The Relic’ (the nickname Hassell gave the handprints) to the PCA.

After an unforeseen circumstance, Hassell was unable to pick up the handprints at Robins Cinema on October 22 at the Prince Charles Cinema. As described by Hassell, “Picture, if you will, a shallow wooden tray about four inches deep, eighteen inches square with sides almost one-inch-thick, filled to the brim with heavy and hardened years-old plaster. Inset into the plaster, a pair of hand-prints, above which is etched a very familiar signature and a date (‘92). Unfortunately, the middle finger of the left hand-print shows some slight damage but, otherwise, the plaster is perfect. Between, and slightly below, the two hand-prints is embedded a five-pointed golden star. In the middle of this star are engraved two words: ‘PETER CUSHING’.”

Peter Cushing Handprints

A montage of pics taken at the Peter Cushing pub

After the pickup, the PCA was awaiting a decision on whether the Whitstable Museum or the Theatre Royal, Chatham would become the final resting place for the Peter Cushing handprints. Unfortunately, the Theatre Royal closed-down and the PCA went through changes in leadership which delayed the final decision. The Whitstable Museum, with its permanent display of some of Peter Cushing’s personal items, was chosen as the final resting place of the handprints and Hassell was once again tasked with arranging the final trip. On May 26th, 2018, Peter Cushing handprints will finally be on display at the Whitstable Museum in town he called home.

Anyone interested in joining the Peter Cushing Association to enjoy and discuss his films and legacy (no dues to join, just request to join us on Facebook) please visit us at https://www.facebook.com/groups/petercushingassociation/

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The Old Dark House (1932) | James Whale’s macabre masterpiece restored and released at long last!

The Old Dark House (1932)

1932’s The Old Dark House is arguably director James Whale’s greatest cinematic feat, a macabre queer comedy disguised as a horror, delightfully acted (by lots of Brits abroad), and fused together with Whale’s stylistic, sardonic humour, well-knit scenario witty and insightful screenplay, and moody camerawork, lighting and production design. It is, quite possibly, the best British horror ever made – in Hollywood.

The Old Dark House (1932)

Taking its queues from JB Priestley’s 1927 novel, Benighted, and the ‘Old House’ chillers of stage and screen, Whale’s storm-driven adaptation finds five weary travellers becoming stranded at the ominous Welsh mansion of the reclusive and very strange Femm family, who are all quite possibly all insane. What follows is a wicked parody of the British class system, and one that features a performance from Ernest Thesiger that outshines even his iconic turn as Dr Pretorius in Whale’s The Bride of Frankenstein a couple of years later.

The Old Dark House (1932)

Thesiger plays Horace Femm, a sniffy little man, who is probably wanted by the police (for crimes we can only imagine) and has seething contempt for everything and everyone. He owns the house along with his pious half-deaf sister Eva (beautifully played by Eva Moore), and their scenes together provide the film with its most memorable moments and best lines: like ‘Have a potato’ and ‘How reassuring’.

Gloria Stuart and Raymond Massey play married socialite couple Margaret and Philip, while Melvyn Douglas is their playboy friend Roger. When a landslide forces them off the road, they seek shelter with the Femms; and are soon joined by Charles Laughton (making his screen debut and speaking his in native Yorkshire tongue) and Lilian Bond, who play the self-made businessman Sir William Porterhouse and chorus girl Gladys. But with no beds on offer, they are all forced to spend the evening huddle together around a fireplace after a frugal meal of roast, gravy and – yes- potatoes…

The Old Dark House (1932)

But it’s not long before the Femms skeletons starting coming out of the closet as the lights go out and the group are soon menaced by Boris Karloff’s mute butler Morgan, who hits the bottle and goes on a drunken rampage, which results in the release of Femm’s pyromaniac brother Saul (Brember Wills) from his locked attic room…

Whale’s shows off his perverse sense of humour through the stylistic, expressionistic camerawork (by Arthur Edeson, who also shot Frankenstein) in some very memorable scenes: like when Horace announces, ‘My sister was on the point of arranging these flowers’, then summarily throws them into the fireplace. Another is when Morgan makes his menacing entrance, and a particularly surreal funhouse mirror shot of Margaret and Rebecca, their features distorted in a vanity mirror. Then there’s the terrific trick shot of Morgan coming down the stairs only to reveal the hand on the banister is not his…

The Old Dark House (1932)

Packed to the rafters with morbid mirth and a sly wink at class and society, this is one of the most entertaining horror films of the 1930’s. The Masters of Cinema Series special dual format edition of James’s Whales’ queer comedy horror features a stunning 1080p presentation from the Cohen Media Group 4K restoration (with a progressive encode on the DVD), uncompressed LPCM audio (on the Blu-ray) and optional English subtitles; and includes a collector’s booklet featuring a new essay by Philip Kemp, archival material and previously unseen imagery and ephemera; and Limited Edition O-Card (first run only) featuring artwork by Graham Humphreys, created especially for the 2018 UK theatrical release. The special extras (below), however, are the icing on the cake, making this a must-have for any classic film collection…

The Old Dark House (1932)

Meet the Femms This video essay by critic and filmmaker David Cairns is exceptionally executed, with loads of informative back stories on the production, cast and crew, super behind the scenes photos, incuding Whales’ own set designs, and I really enjoyed hearing actors Steven McNicoll and Angela Hardie voicing the various characters in Priestley’s novel, Benighted, as well as the author himself and Laughton’s wife Elsa Lanchester.

Daughter of Frankenstein Sara Karloff talks candidly about her father and his work on this production, and has a great story about how Boris and Charles Laughton did not see eye-to-eye.

Curtis Harrington Saves The Old Dark House This archival interview has the late-director (who became a close friend of Whale’s) recalling his efforts in rescing the film from oblivion back in 1968. Please, someone, give this man a posthumous medal for doing this!

Commentary by Kim Newman and Stephen Jones This is a great listen, with some interesting bits of trivia  like that fact that Karloff was dubbed, and Kim makes a very interesting link between the film’s structure (and its class-based ensemble) to disaster movies. This was made prior to Gloria Stuart’s death (aged 100) in 2010, as the duo talk about her in the present tense, and their comments are all based on viewing an inter-negative print.

Commentary by Gloria Stuart This is absolutely riveting. Stuart is a joy to listen to and she provides huge amounts of personal insight (the film was a real high point in her acting career): admiring Whales’ sardonic humour, the uncomfortable shooting for the actors, her regrets at being a young 22 upstart making her second film who was unaware of Eva Moore’s pedigree (a suffragette, one of Edward VI’s favourites and the mother of Laurence Olivier’s first wife, Jill Esmond), and shedding light on some truths about why Karloff and Whale weren’t on friendly terms during the shoot.

Commentary by James Whale biographer James Curtis This has lots of great insight into the film’s production, and I certainly learnt a few things. Did you know that Karloff’s mute butler Morgan became the model for the butler Charles Addams’ New Yorker cartoons? These were subsequently published as Drawn and Quartered, with a Foreward by Karloff and thus effectively the character became Lurch in The Addams Family. Curtis also examines the similarities and differences between Priestley’s novel and Whale’s screenplay – which makes for an interesting analysis.

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Death Smiles on a Murderer (1973) | The beguiling Italian Gothic horror gets a 2k reanimation

Death Smiles on a Murderer

With its enticing mix of black magic, bad science, vengeful ghost, murder, incest and voyeurism tied to a story inspired by Sheridan La Fanu’s Carmilla and the dark imaginings of Edgar Allan Poe, 1973’s Death Smiles on a Murderer (aka La morte ha sorriso all’assassino) is a beguiling Italian Gothic horror that owes as much to its mesmerising musical score as it does to its surreal, dreamlike imagery. But its also a twisted supernatural puzzle that will leave most viewers (including myself) scratching their heads.

Death Smiles on a Murderer

Set in early 1900s Austria, and told in flashback, it centres on the enigmatic Greta (played by Swedish startlet Ewa Aulin of Candy fame), who dies in childbirth by her lover, Dr von Ravensbrück (Giacomo Rossi Stuart) and is then reanimated by her hunchback brother Franz (Luciano Rossi). Killing Franz, who subjected her to years of sexual abuse, Greta inveigles her way into the home of Ravensbrück’s son Walter (Sergio Doria) and his wife Eva (Angelo Bo), where she uses her charisma and beauty to win their hearts before seeking her revenge…

Death Smiles on a Murderer

Now that all sounds simple enough, but I haven’t mentioned all the other sub-plots taking place, including the very odd presence of Klaus Kinski, who plays a perverted physician experimenting on a secret formula to bring the dead back to life – who suddenly gets killed off mid-way through. Frankly, his scenes are a bit of an obstruction to the haunting tale which was co-written and lensed by its director, Aristide Massaccesi (aka Italy’s legendary horror and sleaze exponent, Joe D’Amato).

Death Smiles on a Murderer

The surreal nature of the narrative might be disorientating, but Massaccesi uses that to effectively capture the dread and terror of his source material, and these all play out in scenes which reference Poe’s The Black Cat, The Cask of Amontillado, Ligeia and The Masque of the Red Death, as well as La Fanu’s Carmilla.

Massaccesi also has great fun with the genre. Not only does he pay homage to Roger Corman’s Poe chillers (Walter’s attire is so Vincent Price), Hammer horror, and Mario Bava’s Kill, Baby Kill! (which also starred Giacamo Rossi Stuart); he adds in lots of softcore sex (more than Hammer were attempting at the time), hints of giallo and some pre-splatter OTT gore (just witness Franz’s very bloody, very long death scene where he gets his eyes gouged out by a cat). But what will haunt me forever is composer Bert Pisano’s hypnotic score, that’s mournful and playful in equal measures. I just can’t get it out of my head.

Death Smiles on a Murderer

Arrow’s 2K restoration is simply gorgeous and contains an illuminating audio commentary from Tim Lucas, whose research and indepth knowledge really pays off, as he puts all the pieces of Massaccesi’s Gothic horror puzzle together with a shot-by-shot appreciation and analysis. The other must-sees are Kat Ellinger’s excellent video essay which covers the full breadth of the director’s work (and its truly mind-boggling how much he has done) and the 40minute-plus interview with Ewa Aulin. Thanks Arrow for another keeper…

Death Smiles on a Murderer

SPECIAL FEATURES
• Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Original Italian and English soundtracks
• Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM audio
• Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles for the English soundtrack
• New audio commentary by Tim Lucas
• D’Amato Smiles on Death: archival interview with the director
All About Ewa: Newly-filmed interview with the Swedish star
Smiling on the Taboo: Sex, Death and Transgression in the horror films of Joe D’Amato, new video essay by critic Kat Ellinger
• Original trailers
• Stills and collections gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by critic Stephen Thrower and film historian Roberto Curti

Pre-order in the UK via Arrow: http://bit.ly/2FiLyxd
Pre-order in the US via DiabilikDVD: http://bit.ly/2BLUKdL

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