Monday, 31 December 2012
A NEW million-pound attraction could be coming to Whitby in the near future, the Gazette can exclusively reveal. Paragon Entertainment, the company which designed the Jorvik Centre in York, has recently signed a deal to create visitor attractions based upon the legendary studio, the Hammer House of Horror.
Paragon chief executive and Whitby resident Mark Pyrah said the town is ‘number one’ on his list of preferred locations.He explained: “I strongly believe Whitby is a fantastic site for one of these attractions.“We’re hoping Hammer is going to be a groundbreaking attraction and we won’t look at another site, other than Whitby, in the north east.”
The Whitby attraction would be one of only four in the United Kingdom and could provide a welcome boost to the Whitby tourist industry – Paragon designed the Titanic Belfast experience in Northern Ireland which has received over a million visitors in its first year alone.“We’re hoping Hammer is going to be a groundbreaking attraction,” said Mr Pyrah, whose father Colin Pyrah MBE established the company in the 1980s when they won the commission to design the Jorvik centre.
After a year of discussions, on 17 December Paragon reached the agreement with Exclusive Media, for the rights to exclusively use the ‘Hammer’ brand.The agreement runs for 10 years and provides for further extensions thereafter.
Simon Oakes, CEO and President of Hammer Films and vice-chairman of Exclusive Media commented: “We are excited to be working with Paragon.“They are one of the leading companies in the UK who have a deep understanding of what UK customers want in terms of exciting visitor attractions.“This deal with Paragon gives Hammer another exciting way to give our audiences and fans a chance to get involved with the characters and worlds created in our films and take fans to the next level in terms of visitor attraction and experience.”
Hammer has an illustrious history of successful horror productions, including classics such as The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and Dracula (1958). More recently, the return of Hammer to the horror scene was heralded with The Woman in Black, starring Daniel Radcliffe, which broke UK box office records and received considerable critical acclaim.“We want to create a series of horror visitor attractions,” said Mr Pyrah.“They could be museum-based or attraction-based – by picking things from the films – or it could be a scare attraction, it depends on the local audience.”
The next task for Paragon is to find a suitable location within Whitby and so the company is on the look-out for heritage-style or gothic buildings in a prime location near the harbour or seafront.
Anyone who believes they own or know of a suitable site is urged to get in contact by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday, 30 December 2012
Director Freddie Francis and co star Veronica Carlson look on as Christopher celebrates his birthday and cuts his cake on the set of Hammer Films 'Dracula Has Risen From The Grave' at Pinewood studios in 1968
Saturday, 29 December 2012
Anthony Perkins (Norman Bates), Janet Leigh (Marion Crane), Vera Miles (Lila Crane), John Gavin (Sam Loomis), Martin Balsam (Milton Arbogast)
Director/Producer – Alfred Hitchcock, Screenplay – Joseph Stefano, Based on the Novel by Robert Bloch, Photography (b&w) – John L. Russell, Music – Bernard Herrmann, Special Effects – Clarence Champagne, Makeup – Jack Barron & Robert Dawn, Art Direction – Robert Clatworthy & Joseph Hurley. Production Company – Shamley.
Secretary Marion Crane is given $40,000 to bank by her boss. Instead she takes the money with the intent of using it to help her lover Sam Loomis out of debt. She flees, driving from Phoenix City to California. That evening she stops off to spend the night at a lonely backroad motel run by Norman Bates. However, when she goes to take a shower, she is stabbed to death by what appears to be Norman Bates’s mother. When Loomis and Marion’s sister Lila come investigating, they encounter the twisted mind of Norman Bates, dominated by the memory of his dead mother to the extent that he is driven to dress up as her and kill the women he is attracted to.
One hates to draw up All-Time Bests lists but without any doubt Psycho is one of the greatest and certainly the most famous of all horror films. It features in both the American and British Film Institutes’ Top 100 lists. At the time Psycho was made, Alfred Hitchcock has risen from a young director of promise in early English sound cinema to making a series of great thrillers during the 1930s and 40s. In the 1950s, Hitchcock had successfully made the move into colour, producing some of his finest work during this time. By the time of Psycho, Hitchcock was out of favour with Universal who granted the film a less-than-stellar budget. Despite their disinterest in the film, Psycho proved an unexpected sleeper, largely due to a judicious release campaign where Hitchcock managed to get theatres to sign a contract that refused to let people in after the film had started. Few understood Psycho at the time and it took some time for it to attain its classic status. Alfred Hitchcock was nominated for a Best Director by the normally conservative Academy Awards but Time Magazine for example failed to include Psycho in that year’s Top 10 list but the following year included William Castle’s inferior Psycho copy Homicidal (1961) on the list. Psycho has since become acknowledged as a cinematic landmark.
Psycho adapts a 1959 novel by Robert Bloch (who on the basis of this sole credit became a major name in horror writing particularly during the 1960s). The book is an effective psycho-thriller but one suspects if filmed as it was it would never have become the classic it is today. The most distinctive difference between the film and the book is that of Robert Bloch’s characterisation of Norman Bates as corpulent and bespectacled, something the film almost entirely reverses. What made the crucial difference was the film’s expanding the first few chapters of the book out into an extended preamble where we become engaged in the mundane amateur theft and flight of Marion Crane.
There are many reasons why Psycho is a classic. One of the principal reasons is its structure. The first hour of the film is construed as one giant seduction of the audience upon Alfred Hitchcock’s part. We are drawn into Janet Leigh’s cross-country flight. Hitchcock keeps us perpetually on edge and intensively involved. The scenes have an edgy paranoia – the alienating openness of the desert highways; the sinister cop in the mirror shades peering through the car window; Marion’s apprehensiveness as she sees her boss crossing the street or the cop car returning as she tries to conduct the car sale. After involving us in this small crime and flight for nearly an hour, Alfred Hitchcock then kills the protagonist off with a jolting abruptness. It is a genuine shock pulling the carpet out from under our feet – involving us in one story and then conducting a startling switching of the tracks in the middle of it. (Hitchcock did similar things in The Birds (1963) a couple of years later).
Of course, the shower scene where Janet Leigh is killed has gone on to become probably the single most famous scene in cinema history. It is important to analyse exactly what is so classic about it. There had been murder and death depicted on screen before but never had it been so exactingly staged and methodically detailed. For an era when most death was only shown in terms of absurd bulletholes the size of a dime that never managed to spill any blood, this must have come as a considerable shock. Secondly, there is the very coldness of the scene. There is such precise randomness to the detail that Alfred Hitchcock shows us – the way Janet Leigh falls across the bathroom floor, the shower curtain popping off its rings as she falls, the camera observing with cool detachment the flow of blood down the drain and her blankly open eye as her bodies lies on the floor. Never before had death been rendered with such coldness and such unromanticised lack of dignity. The very next scene – Norman’s cleanup of the room – is one that Hitchcock follows with mathematically exacting precision – the scene is a continuity person’s dream. Perhaps the greatest chill this scene holds is seeing the $40,000 tossed away and sunken into the swamp without even a second thought. Clearly, there was something even more disturbing than simply petty crime going on here.
And certainly there was. Psycho was the first of a new type of film – the psycho-thriller. There had been mad killers in various works of film noir and earlier than that in films such as The Cat and the Canary (1927) and Hitchcock’s own The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1926). However, these are largely works of Grand Guignol melodrama where psychopathology involved lots of sweaty, twitchy barnstorming and unnerving glares of an actor and was all theatric effect but held little in the way of psychological motivation. Psycho invoked Freudian psychology as motivation and cut the psycho-thriller through with a host of Freudian childhood traumas, split personalities and confused gender roles.
The crucial piece of damage that Psycho did to liberal psychology was to forever tie psychopathology to a Puritanical view of sexuality. It is a view that lurks at the basis of every psycho-horror film since from the Italian giallo film to slasher films such as Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980) and modern descendants of Psycho like Fatal Attraction (1987) and Basic Instinct (1992). The central underlying thesis of Psycho is that sex screws you up. We are first introduced to Marion Crane in a hotel room where it is implied that she has just been having a sexual tryst with her unmarried lover. It is hard to believe today but at the time the sight of Janet Leigh in a black bra was something shockingly licentious and has been more than once mentioned as having an erotic charge for viewers of the time. Later we are invited to voyeuristically join in and watch from Norman’s point-of-view as she undresses and showers. When Marionis killed, it seems that she is being punished for being so provocative, that she stirred Norman’s sexual urges, which his puritanical mother then needed to come into action and clamp down on by killing Marion. There is the sense behind Psycho that in letting such permissiveness out of the bag, we unwittingly stir up something that has become so repressed and fucked up that when it is emerges it does so with lethal consequences. This similar sense – that freedom of sexuality cannot be permitted without deadly consequences resulting – runs through all the abovementioned films and innumerable copies of them.
Psycho was enormously influential. The shower sequence has been quoted and parodied in numerous films including The Phantom of the Paradise (1974), High Anxiety (1977), Squirm (1976), Dressed to Kill (1980), Fade to Black (1980), The Funhouse (1981), Killer Tomatoes Strike Back! (1991), The Killer Condom (1996), Scream 2 (1997), From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money (1999), Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003) and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005). In Halloween (1978) and sequels, John Carpenter names Donald Pleasence’s psychiatrist Sam Loomis in homage to the character here.
There were three sequels – Psycho II (1983), Psycho III (1986) and the cable movie Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990). The first two are worthwhile. Anthony Perkins stars in all three sequels and directed the second. The film was bizarrely remade shot-for-shot by Gus Van Sant as Psycho (1998). Bates Motel (1987) was a tv pilot for a never-sold anthology series starring Bud Cort as someone who inherits the Bates Motel after Norman’s death. The announced tv series Bates Motel (2013– ) tells the story of Norman Bates’s childhood starring Freddie Highmore as Norman. Hitchcock (2012) is a drama about Alfred Hitchcock and the making of the film. The Silence of the Hams (1994) is a parody.
Alfred Hitchcock’s other films of genre interest are:– The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1926), Elstree Calling (1930), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Rope (1948), Strangers on a Train (1951), Vertigo (1958), The Birds (1963) and Frenzy (1972). Hitchcock also produced, introduced and occasionally directed the anthology series Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-62). Hitchcock’s life is depicted in the films The Girl (2012) and Hitchcock (2012).
Robert Bloch’s other genre scripts are The Cabinet of Caligari (1962), Strait-Jacket (1964), The Night Walker (1965), The Skull (1965), The Psychopath (1966), The Deadly Bees (1967), Torture Garden (1967), The House That Dripped Blood (1970), Asylum (1972), Three Dangerous Ladies (1977) and The Amazing Captain Nemo (1977).
Screenwriter Joseph Stefano also wrote the psycho-thriller Eye of the Cat (1969) and the horror film The Kindred (1986), as well as served as producer on the classic genre sf series The Outer Limits (1963-5).
Review: Richard Schieb
Images: Marcus Brooks
Review: Richard Schieb
Images: Marcus Brooks
Produced in close co-operation with Tim Burton and the production team, this lavish hardcover official companion volume to the film includes a Foreword by Johnny Depp and an Introduction by Tim Burton, alongside scores of photos, concept drawings and production designs, and interviews with the cast and crew.
A Limited Edition version of the book is also available, featuring the 'Art of Barnabas Collins' by Tim Burton, a print exclusive to this edition, along with a signed tip-in sheet by Tim Burton. You can order this book here.
Peter Cushing followers around the world will be having a double celebration on New Years Eve this year. 2013 marks the 100th anniversary of Peter Cushing's birthday in 1923. The Facebook Fan Page has seen a 400% increase in the page following in 2012 and have had a great response to their posts and features. Next year looks to be a another cracker! If you haven't joined them yet, skip along to their page, join up and help them celebrate!
Thursday, 27 December 2012
Edward Judd (Peter Stenning), Janet Munro (Jeannie Craig), Leo McKern (Bill Maguire), Arthur Christiansen (Editor)
Director/Producer – Val Guest, Screenplay – Val Guest & Wolf Mankowitz, Photography (b&w) – Harry Waxman, Music – Stanley Black, Special Effects – Les Bowie, Art Direction – Anthony Masters. Production Company – British Lion/Melina-Pax. UK. 1961.
Coincidentally, both the Americans and the Russians detonate hydrogen bombs at the North and South Poles at the same time. Soon after, Britain begins to experience a freak heatwave. Peter Stenning, a journalist at The Daily Express, receives a tip-off from his girlfriend Jeannie Craig, a switchboard operator in government offices, and uncovers the fact that the explosions have caused an eleven-degree tilt of the Earth’s axis. He prints an article, which results in her arrest. Then comes the even more disturbing announcement that the explosions have knocked the Earth out of its orbit and sent it on a course towards the sun. As the heat rises, The Thames dries up and water rationing and communal showers are instituted. There is panic and rioting all over England. The only hope lies for scientists to detonate further nuclear weapons in the hope that this might jolt the Earth back into its correct position.
The Day the Earth Caught Fire was one of a host of films that came out in the early 1960s confronting the possibilities of nuclear war full on. This grimly real genre had been started by On the Beach (1959) and still ahead would be the likes of Panic in Year Zero! (1962), Dr Strangelove or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), Fail-Safe (1964) and The War Game (1965). The Day the Earth Caught Fire was a personal project mounted by director Val Guest, best known within the genre for the first two Quatermass films. (See below for Val Guest’s other films). Guest found some difficulty mounting the project and eventually ended up financing it in part with his own money.
The film is made on a slim budget, nevertheless Val Guest manages extraordinary things with it. He depicts the scale of the disaster with a remarkable economy. Special effects artist Les Bowie creates some striking matte shots of a dried-up Thames and the cracked, parched earth outside the Kremlin, the Taj Mahal and other world landmarks. Particularly good is Guest’s ability to incorporate stock footage of desiccated desert, of forest and building fires and of emergency services rushing into operation – in one scene, he even manages to insert Edward Judd into the middle of a CND demonstration. Even more striking is when he pans away from the disaster scenes to reveal the names of English landmarks to the extent where you are never sure what is real and what is not.
Guest also scored the coup of being able to shoot the film in and around the offices of the real Daily Express newspaper – he even obtains an appearance from then-editor Arthur Christiansen as himself. It is something that, along with Guest’s soberly documentary-like depiction of such an environment, more than credibly grounds The Day the Earth Caught Fire. It is, for example, at least half-an-hour in, observing the life of the newspaper office and Edward Judd’s self-destructive habits, before we arrive at the heatwave. These scenes are crafted with some surprisingly good characterisations, particularly as we follow Edward Judd’s hero going from down-and-out alcoholic to gaining his feet again. The dialogue is sharp and well written – the scenes between Edward Judd and Janet Munro have a surprisingly adult level of banter for the time. The show is stolen in large part by a wryly cynical performance from Leo McKern.
The Day the Earth Caught Fire is much more of a science-fiction film than any of the abovementioned nuclear war films are. Their concerns with the nuclear situation fell well within the possibilities of contemporary technology, whereas The Day the Earth Caught Fire concerns itself with the sweeping climactic changes of an entirely hypothetical (and scientifically ludicrous) scenario. Certainly, there are few films that manage to convey a basically scientifically nonsensical premise with such an absolute and thorough conviction – in truth, the detonation of the entire modern nuclear arsenal would barely even cause an earthquake that would be felt across the other side of the American continent, let alone move the Earth from orbit. Whatever The Day the Earth Caught Fire lacks as science, it more than makes up for with its entirely credible social portrait of the situation – images of water-riots, queues for communal showers in Hyde Park, people buying water on the black-market just to tend their garden.
Perhaps the most interesting part of The Day the Earth Caught Fire is the way it ends on a deliberate note of ambiguity rather than resolution. People sit about waiting for the outcome of the attempts to correct the Earth’s orbit but instead of offering an ending, in the last shot Guest pans away to reveal two different copies of the next day’s newspaper headline – one saying ‘Earth Doomed’, the other saying ‘Earth Saved’. The film then fades out, leaving the world’s fate uncertain.
Val Guest’s other films are:– the comedy Mr Drake’s Duck (1951) about a duck that lays radioactive eggs; various of Hammer’s Nigel Kneale adaptations The Quatermass Xperiment/The Creeping Unknown (1955), Quatermass 2/The Enemy from Space (1957) and The Abominable Snowman (1957); as co-director of the James Bond spoof Casino Royale (1967); the prehistoric drama When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970); and the sf pop music film Toomorrow (1970).
Copyright Richard Scheib
Images : Marcus Brooks
For anyone who has missed it. Here is Sir Christopher Lee's Christmas message for this year. We think Peter would have loved this. Still, working... and rocking. Happy Christmas, Sir. He is and always shall be a national treasure and a legend.
Wednesday, 26 December 2012
Sylvia Anderson, Ray Barrett, Alexander Davion, Peter Dyneley, Christine Finn, David Graham, Paul Maxwell, Neil McCallum, Bob Monkhouse, Shane Rimmer, Charles Tingwell, Jeremy Wilkin, Matt Zimmerman
Director – David Lane, Screenplay – Gerry Anderson & Sylvia Anderson, Producer – Sylvia Anderson, Photography – Paddy Seale, Music – Barry Gray, Visual Effects – Derek Meddings, Special Effects – John Whittacker-Cook, Art Direction – Bob Bell. Production Company – AP Films. UK. 1966.
Zero X, the first manned Mars expedition, is launched but is sabotaged before it even leaves the atmosphere by the international master-criminal The Hood. A second Zero X mission is planned, but people are dubious until International Rescue, a hi-tech disaster aid organization run by the Tracy family from a secret island base, agree to act as security for the project.
Thunderbirds (1964-6) was the cultiest of Gerry Anderson’s puppet series. Anderson and his wife Sylvia emerged in the 1950s with puppet series such as Torchy the Battery Boy (1957), The Adventures of Twizzle (1958), Four Feather Falls (1960), Supercar (1961-2) and Fireball XL5 (1961-2), which all marked a gradual move from children’s shows to young adult techno-fantasies. Bursting into colour, Anderson had considerable success with Stingray (1963-4) and then peaked with Thunderbirds, which was a huge transatlantic hit. Anderson then went onto the lesser successes of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (1967) (which is probably Anderson’s best puppet series), Joe 90 (1968) and the part-live, part-puppet flop The Secret Service (1969). After that the Andersons abandoned puppet-making for live-action with the sf film Doppelganger/Journey to the Far Side of the Sun (1969), the detective series The Protectors (1971-2) and the popular sf series’ UFO (1970-2) and Space: 1999 (1975-7). Following his divorce from Sylvia in 1977 and a number of aborted projects, Anderson made a solo return to puppetry with the likes of Terrahawks (1983-6), Dick Spanner P.I. (1986), Space Precinct (1994-6) and Lavender Castle (1999), efforts that have only looked back at past successes and met with mediocre reception. Nevertheless there is a cult that surrounds Anderson. A great fascination of Anderson’s series was the models – their wonderfully imaginative designs and functionality – and the pseudo-technobabble. Some people love the bizarre puppet movements – you have never really experienced life until you have been at a convention with an entire room of people marching like Anderson puppets and reciting Thunderbirds technical dialogue, while there was a celebrated mime show Thunderbirds FAB that toured in the 1990s doing a comic parody of Anderson puppetry.
This was the first of the two feature films that the Andersons spun off during the height of Thunderbirds mania. I suppose it would be fatuous to call the film wooden-headed, but after one sees two or three episodes of the tv series (or any other Anderson series for that matter), the endless scenes of puppets conducting countdowns do become a bit predictable. The film has the feel that it would be better off on the small-screen than the large. This was something the second film, Thunderbird 6 (1968), succeeded in transcending much more successfully. The sequel was much better sustained dramatically, but here the suspense is piecemeal and the central narrative irregular. The Thunderbirds aren’t too well linked to the Zero X story and the story becomes somewhat bent out of shape in having to introduce series regulars like The Hood and Lady Penelope – The Hood is not much of a threat and it is never particularly clear why he is trying to sabotage the Zero X, while there has been included a contrived car chase sequence in the middle for the sole purpose of introducing Lady Penelope, Parker and the pink Rolls-Royce.
The stars of the show are really the models – the introduction of the Tracy Brothers over the opening credits is each preceded by the models they fly, for instance. The Zero X scenes reveal what the Andersons do best – making models and blowing them up. The opening scene with the unveiling of the Zero X, with all of its elaborately detailed modular parts joining together and dwarfing the other tiny models on the field, is fabulous and is one part where the film really takes advantage of the big screen. On the other hand there are certainly also some unconvincing effects – the Pink Rolls taking to sea, the wire model of Alan swinging away from the Zero X at the climax.
The film doesn’t take itself too seriously. The end credits are shown against The Royal Marines Marching Band doing a rendition of the Thunderbirds theme and then moving in formation to spell ‘The End’. The credits also thank the controllers of the film’s fictional Glenn Field for co-operation, note that “Martian sequences filmed by Century 21 Space Location Unit” and point out that “none of the characters appearing in this photoplay incidentally resemble any persons living or dead ... since they do not yet exist.” There’s a puppet dream sequence that offers a bizarre mix of adolescent romanticism and Space Age dream where Gordon cavorts through space with Lady Penelope and ends up hanging from a crescent Moon before, no doubt symbolically, falling to Earth; also included are puppet versions of Cliff Richard and the Shadows, singing a number while hopping about on giant space-faring guitars.
The film ended up being a big flop, nevertheless the Andersons produced a slightly better sequel, Thunderbird 6 (1968). There is some confusion about the Thunderbirds films as, during the 1980s, many episodes of various Anderson series, including Thunderbirds, were edited together as films and screened on tv under the umbrella title Supermarionation Sci-Fi Theatre. The reedited Thunderbirds tv movies are Countdown to Disaster (1981), Thunderbirds in Outer Space (1981) and Thunderbirds to the Rescue (1981). Thunderbirds (2004) was a big screen remake of the series with actors instead of puppets.
Review: Richard Schieb
Images: Marcus Broos