Monday, 30 April 2012


Howard Keel (Bill Masen), Nicole Maurey (Christine Durant), Janina Faye (Susan), Kieron Moore (Tom Goodwin), Janette Scott (Karen Goodwin), Carole Ann Ford (Bettina), Mervyn Johns (Professor Coker), Geoffrey Matthews (Luis de la Vega), Gilgi Hauser (Teresa de la Vega)

Director – Steve Sekely, [Uncredited Additional Scenes – Freddie Francis], Screenplay – Phillip Yordan, Based on the Novel by John Wyndham, Producer – George Pitcher, Photography – Ted Moore, Music – Ron Goodwin, Special Effects – Wally Veevers, Makeup – Paul Rabiger, Production Design – Cedric Dawe. Production Company – Security Pictures.
Sailor Bill Masen is in hospital for an eye operation. With his eyes bandaged, he is unable to witness a freak meteorite shower that occurs that night. When he wakes up in the morning, Masen finds London in chaos with the entire populace having been blinded by radiation from the meteorite shower. The shower has also brought with it triffids, a form of ambulatory, carnivorous plant that now emerge to prey upon the helpless populace. Gathering a small group of seeing survivors, Masen makes his way across Europe fighting off the triffids and searching for survivors to reorganise civilisation.
In the 1950s, British author John Wyndham was for a time regarded as a successor to H.G. Wells. Wyndham had considerable success with novels such as The Day of the Triffids (1951), The Kraken Wakes (1953), The Chrysalids (1955) and The Midwich Cuckoos (1957). In effect, Wyndham took the apocalyptic science-fiction of Wells and reworked it into disaster parables for middle-class England of the 1950s. John Wyndham’s books proved very popular in the time, as much with crossover audiences as they were with science-fiction readers.
This film of the John Wyndham novel is mostly – and rightly so – lambasted for the complete demolition job it does of the book. The script was from Phillip Yordan a prolific Hollywood screenwriter who wrote a number of Cinemascope religious/historical epics – El Cid (1961), King of Kings (1961) and The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), and had revealed an equally clod-handed hand for science-fiction with Conquest of Space (1955). The director was Hungarian émigré Steve Sekely, who had made a number of crime thrillers in the 1940s and previously visited genre material with the cheap Revenge of the Zombies (1943).
Most insulting of the changes that the film rings up is its need for a happy ending where humanity overcomes the triffid menace. This is hilariously tipped by a prominently featured sign: “Seawater: Warning – Highly Dangerous” sitting in the lighthouse – and it is no cheesier than when Dorothy employed it against the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz (1939). The ending with the masses trouping in a long line up to a church to, what the narrator ominously informs, “give thanks” for their delivery, unhappily looks back to the pious ending of the equally pillaged film adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds (1953). It is an ending that seems all the more false for the abject cheer in the face of the situation ie. 99% of the world having been blinded.
On the plus side, it should be said that The Day of the Triffids has its occasional moments. After a dull opening, the film impresses for a time, even if all that impresses has been taken direct from John Wyndham. The blindness is neatly introduced in a scene where a doctor gets Howard Keel to examine his eyes, confirming the diagnosis of blindness, then sends him to find a non-existent satchel while behind a screen one can see the doctor running up to the window and then the smash of glass as he jumps through. Steve Sekely is even good enough to improvise a series of apocalyptic vignettes of his own invention, most impressively the cutaway to the panic of the passengers aboard a plane about to crash because it has no more fuel. However, by the time the film has reached the continent, any semblance to John Wyndham has been abandoned and the plot peters out into a series of lacklustre incidents.
The effects work is of a decidedly variable quality. The opticals work with a meteorite shower flashing down behind and lighting up the interior of the conservatory is fine, as are the patchwork opticals of a burning London. However, when it comes to actually having to build models it seems the budget has run out, failing at all to show the crashing of the train into the station or the plane into the docks. The triffids move exactly as though they are being pulled along on a low trolley from below camera-height. At least Steve Sekely whips them up into some occasionally effective scares – one scene with a triffid closing in on a skidding car was clearly mimicked seventeen years later by John Carpenter in The Fog (1980). The lighthouse scenes with Kieron Moore and Janette Scott were in fact shot afterwards by Freddie Francis, later to become a genre director for Hammer and Amicus, when the film that Sekely delivered was not up to running length.
The film was remade as a tv mini-series The Day of the Triffids (1981) by the BBC, which is an excellent adaptation that is much more faithful to the novel and has far more convincing Triffid effects. The Day of the Triffids (2009) was a further tv mini-series remake from the BBC with Dougary Scott as Bill Masen and Joely Richardson as Josella, although this widely departed from the John Wyndham novel.
Other John Wyndham screen adaptations are Village of the Damned (1960), from Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos (1957), which was remade as Village of the Damned (1995); the alternate world film Quest for Love (1971); and the children’s tv series Chocky (1984) about an alien visitor. 

REVIEW: Richard Schheib
IMAGES: Marcus Brooks

Sunday, 29 April 2012


Director/Producer – George Pal, Screenplay – David Duncan, Based on the Novel by H.G. Wells, Photography – Paul C. Vogel, Music – Russell Garcia, Special Effects – Wah Chang & Gene Warren, Makeup – William Tuttle, Art Direction – George W. Davis & William Ferrari. Production Company – Loews Inc/Galaxy Films. (1960)

Rod Taylor (George), Alan Young (David Filby/James Filby), Yvette Mimieux (Weena), Sebastian Cabot (Dr Philip Hillyer), Whit Bissell (Walter Kemp)

At a dinner party on New Year’s Eve of 1899, George, a Victorian inventor, unveils his plans for a time machine to his dinner guests and astounds them by displaying a miniature working model. That evening George embarks on his maiden journey in the life-size version. Marvelling at seeing time speeded up, he passes through World Wars 1, 2 and 3 and eventually arrives in the year 802,701. There he meets the descendants that humanity has turned into – the gentle, lotus-eating Eloi. Among the Eloi, he falls for the lovely Weena. He then becomes embroiled in a fight to save the Eloi from the brutal, cannibalistic, underground-dwelling Morlocks.
The Time Machine was one of the finest films to emerge from George Pal. Pal was the single most important contributor to science-fiction in the 1950s, having produced such films as Destination Moon (1950), When Worlds Collide (1951) and The War of the Worlds (1953). (See below for George Pal’s other genre productions). The success of the adaptations of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) and Around the World in 80 Days (1956) had produced an interest in period science-fiction. After a number of Verne adaptations, filmmakers started to turn to Verne’s contemporary H.G. Wells as a source.
H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine (1895) is a science-fiction classic. It essentially popularized the concept of time travel and certainly of the time machine. H.G. Wells was a socialist with considerable opinions about the way society should be – in later life, social crusading took over completely from his fiction writing. In The Time Machine, his vision of humanity’s future was a satirical vision of the British class conflict. 
The Eloi are much more savagely condemned in the book than they are here in the film – Wells saw the Eloi as the upper-classes, dulled by creature comforts, while the underground-dwelling Morlocks were a stand-in for the Victorian mill workers. In an element that is missing from the film, Wells saw the relationship between the two as co-dependant and exploitative – the Morlocks provided everything for the Eloi while the Eloi in return allowed themselves to be devoured. 
In the film, the Eloi are merely an innocent race that needs to be delivered from oppressive thrall by an outsider. Now the story is not too different from 1950s science-fiction films such as Captive Women (1952), World Without End (1956), Beyond the Time Barrier (1960) and The Time Travelers (1964) where usually an astronaut or test pilot travels into the future and does two-fisted combat with the mutants and saves a remaining human girl. Gone altogether also is H.G. Wells’s climactic scenes where the time traveller travels into the far-flung future and sees humanity evolved into crustaceans and the end of the world.
Elsewhere though, The Time Machine remains a singular delight. Like 20000 Leagues et al, George Pal keeps the book to the period when it was written. Much charm is wrought from the beautiful production design and quaint Victorian attitude to science. The writing in these scenes is whimsical, especially the touching sequence where Philby tries to persuade George against using the device. The future scenes do descend to pedestrian adventure. However, the time travel sequences – where we see Rod Taylor accelerating the machine and everything around him speeding up, the passage of time being measured by candles melting and plants blossoming in seconds, the flickering of day and night overhead and the changing of fashions in the shop window opposite – hold a sense of wondrousness that is quite magical.
Right up until his death in 1980, George Pal had always planned a sequel to The Time Machine. One script that circulated incorporated H.G. Wells’s climactic ideas of the far future and the doom of humanity. Many writers have used the H.G. Wells novel as a basis for sequels and alternate histories.
The Time Machine was remade badly as a tv movie The Time Machine (1978). The Time Machine (2002) was a lavish big-budget remake, which had the novelty of being directed by the grandson of H.G. Wells. There is an appealing throwaway gag in the film here, – if one looks closely they can see that the plaque on the time machine shows that George’s real name is ‘H. George Wells’. The appeal of H.G. Wells himself as time-traveller is a recurrent one, having also been done in the film Time After Time (1979), the mini-series The Infinite Worlds of H.G. Wells (2001) and episodes of Doctor Who (1963-89) and Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993-7).
George Pal’s other genre films are:- The Great Rupert (1949), Destination Moon (1950), When Worlds Collide (1951), The War of the Worlds (1953), The Naked Jungle (1954), Conquest of Space (1955), tom thumb (1958), Atlantis, the Lost Continent (1961), The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962), 7 Faces of Dr Lao (1964), The Power (1967) and Doc Savage – The Man of Bronze (1975).
REVIEW:Richard Scheib
IMAGES: Marcus Brooks


Thursday, 26 April 2012


The BFI is to make the complete series of the BBC's classic Ghost Stories finally available on DVD this year.

These much-loved tales terrified BBC TV audiences at Christmas throughout the 1970s. Most of the instalments were directed by Lawrence Gordon Clark and based on M.R. James's celebrated supernatural stories.

With only three of the twelve BBC Ghost Stories previously released on DVD (by the BFI in 2002), the films in this brilliant series have been high on many film and TV fans' 'most wanted' DVD lists.

The films are a key influence on recent British ghost and horror films, including The Woman in Black, and have inspired many screenwriters and filmmakers including Mark Gatiss (The League of Gentlemen, Sherlock).

The first two volumes will be released in August 2012 in celebration of the 150th anniversary of M.R. James's birth. Two more volumes will follow in September, while the fifth and final volume, as well as a complete Ghost Stories for Christmas box set, will follow in October.

Volume One includes two versions of the chilling Whistle And I'll Come To You: Jonathan Miller's 1968 adaptation, starring Michael Hordern, and the 2010 re-imagining, starring John Hurt.

Volume Two includes The Stalls of Barchester (1971), starring Robin Hardy, and A Warning to the Curious (1972), starring Peter Vaughan, as well as Christopher Lee's Ghost Stories for Christmas: The Stalls of Barchester (2000).

Other DVD and Dual Format Edition (DVD and Blu-ray discs together) releases from the BFI between July and September include:
The Children's Film Foundation, Volume 1: London Tales (DVD) – the first in a new series of releases of the fondly-remembered films from the archives of the Children's Film Foundation, includes John Krish's The Salvage Gang.

The British Transport Films Collection, Volume 10: London on the Move (DVD) – this welcome return for the popular BTF Collection turns its attention on the trams, buses and tube trains of London.

Wonderful London (DVD) – a unique collection of fascinating historical films shot in 1920s London.

The Soviet Influence: Battleship Potemkin/Drifters (Dual Format Edition) – two masterpieces – Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 classic, and John Grierson's ground-breaking 1929 documentary – are paired in order to examine the influence that Soviet cinema had on the British filmmakers of the 1930s.

Cria Cuervos (Dual Format Edition) – Carlos Saura's 1976 masterpiece of Spanish cinema, released for the first time on DVD and Blu-ray.

Pathé Colour Stencil: The Fairy Films (DVD) – a collection of rare French fairytale and fantasy shorts from the birth of cinema, with newly-commissioned scores from composers including Chris Watson, Philip Jeck and Fennesz.
A Woman Under The Influence (Dual Format Edition) – John Cassavetes's hard-hitting masterpiece, with breathtaking performances from Gena Rowlands and Peter Falk, finally gets its Blu-ray world premiere.

The Lacey Rituals: the films of Bruce Lacey (and friends) (DVD) – an extraordinary collection of films from British counter-culture hero and artist Bruce Lacey, including Richard Lester's The Running, Jumping & Standing Still Film.

Thursday, 19 April 2012


Dark Shadows star Jonathan Frid has died in Canada. The 87-year-old actor reportedly died of natural causes at Juravinski Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario.

Frid was best known for playing vampire Barnabas Collins on gothic television soap opera Dark Shadows. The series originally aired on ABC in the US between June 1966 and April 2, 1971.Frid also starred in 1973 television movie The Devil's Daughter and 1974 film horror Seizure. He filmed a cameo appearance - his final acting credit - in Tim Burton's forthcoming film remake of Dark Shadows, which stars Johnny Depp as Barnabas. Depp previously admitted to being "obsessed" as a child with Frid's performance as the 200-year-old vampire. "I loved the show when I was a kid [and] I was obsessed with Barnabas Collins," the Hollywood star said in 2009. "I have photographs of me holding Barnabas Collins posters when I was 5 "



Dracula: Prince of Darkness - An update from Studio Canal:

We are pleased to announce that the reworked edition of Dracula Prince of Darkness DVD and Blu-ray double play will be ready on Monday 30th April.

If you have already contacted VDC then your copy will be dealt with as a priority. If not please email the following address with proof of purchase and they will be able to send out a replacement disc to you.

Email -

We apologise for the time it has taken to inform you of this date but we needed to be sure that all of the work has been done to the highest possible standard. We thank you for your continued patience in this matter and we hope you enjoy your news discs upon delivery.


Here's the press release we just received regarding the Blu-ray and DVD debut of The Woman in Black: "Daniel Radcliffe stars in THE WOMAN IN BLACK, the hit CBS Films ghost story that scared up more than $53 million at the box office, which will be released on Blu-ray™ and DVD by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on May 22nd.  In the supernatural thriller, Radcliffe (Harry Potter) plays Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer who travels to a remote village where he discovers the vengeful ghost of a scorned woman is terrorizing the locals. 

The film also stars Ciaran Hinds (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Academy Award® nominee Janet McTeer (2011, Supporting Actress, Albert Nobbs) and Liz White (Wild Bill)."

"THE WOMAN IN BLACK Blu-ray™ and DVD both include commentary by the writer and the director as well as two all-new featurettes: "Inside The Perfect Thriller: Making Woman in Black," a discussion with the filmmakers and cast; and "No Fear: Daniel Radcliffe as Arthur Kipps," in which Radcliffe discusses the most challenging and interesting parts of playing this character.

"THE WOMAN IN BLACK is directed by James Watkins (Eden Lake) and produced by Richard Jackson (Setup), Simon Oakes (Let Me In) and Brian Oliver (The Ides of March). The screenplay is by Jane Goldman (X-Men: First Class) and based on the 1983 novel by Susan Hill. The film is a Hammer and Alliance Films presentation, in association with Cross Creek Pictures and is a Talisman production in association with Exclusive Media Group and The UK Film Council. Executive Producers are Guy East, Nigel Sinclair, Tobin Armbrust, Marc Schipper, Neil Dunn, Xavier Marchand, Roy Lee and Tyler Thompson. CBS Films released the film theatrically on February 3, 2012.

Synopsis:  Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe), a widowed lawyer whose grief has put his career in jeopardy, is sent to a remote village to sort out the affairs of a recently deceased eccentric. But upon his arrival, it soon becomes clear that everyone in the town is keeping a deadly secret. Although the townspeople try to keep Kipps from learning their tragic history, he soon discovers that the house belonging to his client is haunted by the ghost of a woman who is determined to find someone and something she lost… and no one, not even the children, are safe from her vengeance. 

Blu-ray™ and DVD Special Features include:
  • Commentary with Director James Watkins and Screenwriter Jane Goldman
  • Inside The Perfect Thriller: Making Woman in Black Featurette
  • No Fear: Daniel Radcliffe as Arthur Kipps Featurette

Monday, 16 April 2012


On Saturday 21 April a very special limited edition will feature original soundtrack music from Hammer’s Dracula A.D. 1972 and The Satanic Rites of Dracula. This collectors’ item will only be available through independent record shops as part of Record Store Day, the annual campaign to provide customers at UK and US shops with unique releases. A list of participating shops can be found at the Record Store Day website.

The 7” EP is pressed on red vinyl and strictly limited to 666 numbered copies. Side A features three tracks from Mike Vickers’ score for Dracula A.D. 1972, and Side B features three tracks from John Cacavas’ equally funky score from The Satanic Rites of Dracula. This will be Hammer’s first vinyl record release since 1974, and will not be available on any other format.

The record is released by renowned label Music On Vinyl, who have worked with soundtrack specialists Silva Screen. “We decided to focus on the two Dracula films from the 1970s as these scores were enjoyable blends of traditional horror and funky contemporary sounds,” says Silva Screen’s David Stoner.

David adds that the EP will be highly sought after. “The nature of Record Store Day is that these limited editions are only available on the day and through indie stores signed up to the event. Some copies will be available from but we can only offer them for sale one week after the event and only while stocks last. Once they’re gone, they’re gone!”

Dracula A.D. 1972/The Satanic Rites of Dracula: Original Music from the Classic Hammer Horrors
Catalogue number: MOV 7013
Barcode: 8718469530755



Jared Harris, who’ll next be seen in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, will star as an unorthodox professor in the latest production from the UK’s Hammer. Supernatural thriller/horror pic The Quiet Ones will be directed by Quarantine 2‘s John Pogue. Harris will play a charismatic but controversial professor whose methods lead his students off the grid for a dangerous experiment to create a poltergeist. The story and original screenplay hail from Tom DeVille with revisions by Craig Rosenberg, Oren Moverman and Pogue. Shooting starts in the UK in June.

James Gay-Rees (Senna, Exit Through The Gift Shop) is producing in association with TPSC Films. Tobin Armbrust, president of worldwide production & acquisitions at Hammer parent Exclusive Media, is overseeing production alongside director of development, Shira Rockowitz. TPSC Film’s president Steven Chester Prince is also producer on the project for the newly formed independent film division of The Traveling Picture Show Company. Exclusive Media is handling international sales on The Quiet Ones.


John Richardson: Tumak, Raquel Welch: Loana, Robert Brown: Akhoba, Percy Herbert: Sakana, Martine Beswick: Nupondi.

Director: Don Chaffey. Screenplay/Producer: Michael Carreras. Based on the Film One Million B.C. Written by George Baker, Joseph Frickert & Mickell Novak. Photography: Wilkie Cooper. Music: Mario Niscimbene. Music Supervisor: Philip Martell. Visual Effects: Ray Harryhausen. Prologue Design: Les Bowie. Special Effects: George Blackwell. Art Direction:  Robert Jones. Production Company: Hammer Film Productions. 1966

Among the prehistoric Rock Tribe, Tumak, son of the chief Akhoba, kills a wild animal. However, when Tumak tries to take his share of the food, Akhoba callously beats him and then kicks him off a clifftop. Tumak survives and sets out on his own. Collapsing from exhaustion, he is found by Loana of the Shell Tribe. Tumak is impressed by the Shell People’s more advanced practices, including cave painting, spear fishing and the use of shells as plates. Driven out by the Shell People, he and Loana try to survive together in the wilderness. There they have to deal with dinosaurs as well as Tumak’s jealous brother who has killed their father and usurped leadership of the Rock Tribe.

During the late 1950s/1960s, Hammer Films had great success – indeed had built their reputation on – remaking a host of classic horror stories, including The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Dracula/The Horror of Dracula (1958), The Mummy (1959), The Two Faces of Dr Jekyll (1960) and The Phantom of the Opera (1962). Hammer’s final remake was this rehash of the creaky old caveman-vs-dinosaurs effort One Million B.C. (1940). The original One Million B.C. was not a particularly memorable effort – it mostly being seen today as stock footage rehashed in even cheaper films. Hammer billed One Million Years B.C. as their 100th film. It was made in collaboration with Ray Harryhausen, the cult American stop-motion animator responsible for the likes of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) and Jason and the Argonauts (1963), among others.Today One Million Years B.C. is mostly remembered for the camp value of Raquel Welch in a fur bikini – an image that has gone onto become a poster classic.

Raquel Welch’s presence has given One Million Years B.C. an undeserved reputation as a Golden Turkey – which it isn’t. In fact, One Million Years B.C. is the possibly the best entry to have graced the wildly anachronistic caveman vs dinosaurs mini-genre. Most of the efforts in this field bog down in trying to tell stories with grunts and hand signals. Not so One Million Years B.C. – it strips the story back to an absolute minimum. Almost nothing is left to the hand-signals and grunts – it is all relayed in terms of raw, physical expression and a series of exciting action sequences.

What decisively makes One Million Years B.C. the best of the caveman vs dinosaur films is Ray Harryhausen’s superb animation effects. Harryhausen had polished his art to perfection by the point he made One Million Years B.C. and there are some excellent scenes fighting off a giant turtle, where John Richardson impales a two-legged dinosaur on a spear or during Raquel Welch’s abduction by pterodactyl. The standout set-piece is the enthralling battle between the Tyrannosaurus Rex and the stegosaurus, which Ray Harryhausen animates even down to tiny details showing the T-Rex panting as it expires.

The filmmakers appear to have gone and shot on genuine volcanic locations. The colour photography is remarkably rich and florid. Acting is hardly a consideration here, although Robert Brown gives an effectively brutal performance – one where Brown is almost unrecognizable from his recurring role as the starchy M in the James Bond series. It may say something about One Million Years B.C.’s classic stature that the same plot (of a primitive man falling in love with a girl from a more advanced tribe) was more or less repeated in Quest for Fire (1981), a film that attempted to rewrite cavemen dramas with more accurate anthropological realism.

The success of One Million Years B.C. inspired Hammer to create a mini-spate of prehistoric films and this was followed by the likes of Prehistoric Woman/Slave Girls (1967), When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970) and Creatures the World Forgot (1971).

Ray Harryhausen’s other films are: The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), the granddaddy of all atomic monster films; the giant atomic octopus film It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955); the alien invader film Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (1956); the alien monster film 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957); the classic Arabian Nights fantasy The 7th Voyage of Sinbad; The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (1960); the Jules Verne adaptation Mysterious Island (1961); the Greek myth adventure Jason and the Argonauts (1963); the H.G. Wells adaptation The First Men in the Moon (1964); the dinosaur film The Valley of Gwangi (1969); the two Sinbad sequels The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977); and the Greek myth adventure Clash of the Titans (1981).

Don Chaffey was a director who made a handful of films during the Anglo-horror cycle, including several others for Hammer’s exotica cycle with The Viking Queen (1967) and Creatures the World Forgot (1971). Elsewhere, Chaffey directed Ray Harryhausen’s Jason and the Argonauts (1963) and the psycho-thriller Persecution/The Terror of Sheba (1974). In the 1970s, Chaffey moved over to work in US television and also made several children’s films with Disney’s Pete’s Dragon (1978) and the Hanna-Barbera film C.H.O.M.P.S. (1979).

REVIEW: Richard Scheib
IMAGES: Marcus Brooks
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