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‘The Finishing Line’: The grisly British educational film that scared kids and shocked parents
10.13.2014
07:58 am

Topics:
Movies

Tags:
Horror
Educational Films
British Transport Films

Blood on the tracks
 
In 1977, a short film was produced in Britain to discourage children from playing on the railway lines and vandalizing trains—both problems in England at the time. But the documentary-style production did more than that: it scared the knickers off of kids and riled up their parents. The subsequent controversy surrounding this educational short was so great that it was ultimately banned. Even today, watching it is a shocking experience not soon forgotten.

Commissioned by British Transport Films (BTF) to be shown in schools, The Finishing Line (1977) is perhaps the most notorious educational film ever produced. The 20 minute short is akin to a gory episode of The Twilight Zone, or a Rod Serling-directed fake documentary. The atmosphere is so odd and the child body count so high, that it’s a wonder anyone thought this was a good idea to show to kids (the ages of the target audience was eight through twelve). Put simply, it’s a child’s nightmare come to life on the screen.

The film was directed by John Krish, a BTF veteran; Krish’s The Elephant Will Never Forget (1953), which documented the end of London’s tram system, is still one of the organization’s most popular movies. In a 2013 interview with the magazine devoted to blood spilled on the screen, Fangoria, the 90-year-old Krish said he was surprised BTF even wanted to make The Finishing Line:

I came up with this idea of a sports day on the railway line, and I was absolutely sure they would turn it down so that I could get on with something else, and bugger me, they loved it. They loved it! The psychologist in the British Transport’s employ said, ‘This is exactly what we need!’

The Finishing Line begins in a festive atmosphere of children and adults gathering for what looks like a day of fun, but the mood quickly turns foreboding, when medical personal appear with preparations for the inevitable carnage that will take place.

In the film, various events are staged on or near the train tracks. A kind of dystopian reality is presented, where games of life and death are the norm. At times, it brings to mind the black comedy Death Race 2000 (1975), in which racecar drivers earn points by killing pedestrians, but there’s no laughing at The Finishing Line. Here, children lose their lives in games staged by adults, and there is little mourning for the dead. In this world, there is no such thing as “innocence.”

Krish’s documentary-style filmmaking creates a tone that is completely unsettling. Weirdly, the film is staged as a child’s fantasy (what kind of kid would fantasize about his classmates being killed?!), yet the realistic look of the film could still be misinterpreted by a young person as an event that actually happened. If nothing else, the shear amount of gore and dead bodies is enough to upset any pre-teen viewer.

Though the director claims it was unintentional, The Finishing Line contains elements of the horror genre. For the last event, Krish filmed the kids walking briskly through a dark tunnel, capturing it in such a way that the children approach the camera as shadowy figures. The scene resembles something straight out of future horror films The Brood (1979) and Children of the Corn (1984). There’s no music, just the sound of hundreds of shuffling footsteps coming closer and closer. It’s very creepy.
 
The Great Tunnel Walk
 
Krish wanted the final moments to resemble the carnage of a war zone after a battle, and the sight of adults and teenagers carrying a hundred or so dead kids—symbolically laying them across the tracks, and doing so with a complete lack of emotion—is truly startling.

“The cumulative effect is shocking, and must have been all the more so for the young audiences to whom the film was screened. Not surprisingly, it immediately generated controversy, even becoming the subject of a Nationwide (BBC, 1969-84) television debate following a television screening of the film. Some commentators and parents worried that children would be traumatized, others that it might actually encourage copycat vandalism. Many defended the film as an appropriately tough response to a serious problem. Nonetheless, in 1979 the film was withdrawn and replaced by the much softer Robbie.” (BFI Screenonline)

All told, Krish has had four of his pictures removed from circulation, telling Fangoria, “I’m the only documentary director who’s had four films banned! And I rejoice in that.” In 2003, he was honored with a retrospective, which included the first public airing of The Finishing Line in over two decades.
 
John Krish
John Krish

Though it may have been inappropriate for the audience it was created for, The Finishing Line stands as a fascinating and significant film from a director still getting his due. It’s a disturbing and strange little picture—it’s also unforgettable.

The short is available for purchase via British Transport Films Collection Vol.7 – The Age Of The Train, and as a bonus on the DVD of Captured, another of Krish’s banned works.

Here it is, The Finishing Line:
 

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Leave a comment
‘Stephen King without a conscience’: The only known TV interview with horror writer Richard Laymon
10.25.2013
09:52 pm

Topics:
Books

Tags:
Horror
Richard Laymon
Splatterpunk

rallecnomyal.jpg
 
Ah, but doesn’t it always seem to be the quiet one who turns out to be the serial killer? You know, the quiet one with dead bodies in the attic, or with children chopped-up and archived in bubble-wrap under the floorboards? On the six o’clock news there’s the interview with the concerned neighbor who tells the world how the killer was, “Quiet and polite, always said ‘Good morning,’ and kept his yard neat.”  Yes, it’s those quiet ones—they’re the ones to watch.

Richard Laymon certainly was a quiet one, it was only his books that gave a clue to the mayhem going on in his mind. Laymon was a writer of horror fiction, specifically that genre known as “Splatterpunk”: brutal, disturbing, sadistic and violent tales of murder, sex and sadism.

Laymon was born in Chicago in 1947, and died of a heart attack on Valentine’s Day, 2001. He was the author of around 40 novels (one of which The Traveling Vampire Show won the Bram Stoker Award), and over 50 short stories, an output that saw him described as:

”Stephen King without a conscience.”

Laymon is certainly not to everyone’s taste. His books have been described as “sick,” “depraved,” “perverted,” “poorly written” and “disgusting.” All fair comment, but Laymon was an author of visceral horror, and one doesn’t get on a roller coaster to enjoy the scenery.

King was originally critical of Laymon’s work, and wrote in his book Danse Macabre:

There are haunted-house stories beyond numbering, most of them not very good (The Cellar, by Richard Laymon, is one example of the less successful breed).

King later changed his opinion, and became a “fan”:

“If you’ve missed Laymon, you’ve missed a treat.”

I’m not sure if “treat” is the right word, but America did miss out on Laymon during his lifetime, as few of his books were published in his homeland, and sales were almost non-existent. Laymon blamed this on a re-edit of his second book The Woods Are Dark, which saw the publisher cut 50-pages from the text. It basically finished his career in the States. But America’s lack of interest was in stark contrast to Europe, in particular the UK, where all of Laymon’s books were published, sold well, and received generally good reviews.

“In Laymon’s book, blood doesn’t so much drip drip as explode, splatter and coagulate. Its dynamic is described in salivating detail.” - The Independent (UK).

“A brilliant writer.” - Sunday Express (UK).

“This author knows how to sock it to the reader” - The Times (UK).

I can recall popping into bookshops in Glasgow and London during the 1990s and being able to find Laymon’s grisly tales displayed as prominently as King and Koontz. It may have helped that Laymon had a last name alphabetically close to the other two.

I started reading Laymon around the time of his death and devoured all of his books within a couple of months. They were compelling pulp horrors, but at the same time troubling because of Laymon’s often sleazy use of sex and torture as a device to create horror. Laymon argued he was reflecting the world as he saw it, and claimed:

”Horror writers are specialists in worst case scenarios.”

Laymon’s books are filled with such scenarios, which you could argue are little more than reflections of the writer’s own fear at being powerless to stop such terrors happening to himself or his family.

I can tie my own love of horror film and fiction to being scared shitless at a carnival when I was about five-years-old. I had dared to enter the “Ghost Tunnel,” which was basically an enclosed metal walkway consisting of a long, dark corridor, mirror-walled, with sliding panels, from inside of which two teenagers, dressed in rubber skeleton masks and gloves, attacked and pummeled anyone foolhardy enough to enter this nightmarish sideshow. I was terrified and (almost) loved every moment of it.

If this was the spark, then watching The Blob a few months later on TV, provided the fuel. The film’s all-consuming gelatinous goo (“Indestructible, indescribable, nothing can stop it alien!”) was responsible for recurring nightmares—one could argue this was some subconscious fear of my troll of a father’s attempts to destroy my nascent personality.

Horror fiction by its nature tends towards the conservative, the conformist, where the alien, the strange, and the abnormal are to be feared and ultimately defeated. This may explain why Laymon’s work is often denounced as “sick” and “depraved” because in his books the typical hero and heroine don’t win, but usually end up victims of the killer, the monster, or the sex mad beast in the cellar.

Around 2000, Richard Laymon was interviewed for Dark Dreamers, which seems to be the only interview he gave to TV. Laymon comes across as a quiet, rather mundane (if slightly creepy) high school teacher, but from his words you know there’s something dark and unsavory going on in his mind.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Behind the scenes of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ with ‘Mia and Roman’
09.12.2013
02:58 pm

Topics:

Tags:
Roman Polanski
Horror
Mia Farrow


 
There’s no denying that Rosemary’s Baby is one of the scariest and creepiest movies ever made. The first time I saw it, I was up “late” with my mother, who was waiting for my father to come home from a night shift, and it was on TV. I don’t know how old I was—young—but even if I didn’t exactly get what was going on, I certainly got the gist of it and that was enough for it to be, well, fucking frightening.

The whole friendly old people and Satan routine was a new one in screen horror and when you throw in those primordial maternal fears of a pregnant woman, holy shit is that film intense. Rosemary’s Baby is an evergreen movie masterpiece. It’s a film for the ages and will still be watched as long as the human race exists. It’s a perfectly cut cinematic diamond.

This fascinating time capsule piece “Mia and Roman” was made soon after the film had wrapped production—this isn’t a made for DVD extra produced decades later—and features tons of behind-the-scenes footage. Polanski discusses how supreme attention to the smallest details are of paramount importance to him as a director and describes how he likes to watch the actors block out their scenes without any suggestions from him before he decides where to place his camera.

We also see Polanski driving race cars and fencing. Farrow lists all of the animals she has in her menagerie and spouts some “love and peace” stuff that she’d learned hanging out at the ashram with the Maharishi and the Beatles. Farrow says that she and Polanski just “groove together” and he (very sincerely) praises he professionalism as an actress to the hilt.

Krzysztof Komeda’s haunting score for the film is used throughout. Komeda would die from a head injury not long after completing work on Rosemary’s Baby.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Tales from Beyond the Pale’: An interview with Glenn McQuaid & Larry Fessenden

Tales_from_Beyond_the_Pale
 
It’s near midnight when I make the conference call to Glenn McQuaid and Larry Fessenden. Outside I can hear early Halloween revelers making their way home - shouts, laughter, a distant scream. McQuaid is the writer and director of I Sell the Dead, which starred Indie King of Horror, Fessenden – who has been making horror films as an actor, writer, producer and director since 1985, when he set-up his company Glass Eye Pix.

The line crackles, then a faint casual tone. It’s answered, and there’s something of the séance about their voices – distant, ghostly, far off – as they come through. Eventually ‘Hello,’ Glenn’s soft Irish lilt, and we greet each other through a deafening roar. ‘Like a hurricane’ one of us says. ‘Better try again.’ This time we’re clear, and in the room.

Since 2010, McQuaid and Fessenden have been scaring the bejesus out of listeners, with their anthology radio series of top drawer horror stories called Tales from Beyond the Pale. Recorded live in front of an audience at a New York theater, Tales… brought the magnificent acting skills of Vincent D’Onofrio, Angus Scrimm, Ron Perlman, and James Le Gros, together with the writing talents of Fessenden (who also acted in certain shows), McQuaid, Graham Reznick, Ashley Thorpe, Paul Solet, J. T. Petty, Sarah Langan and Jeff Buhler. These tales of mystery and imagination varied from science fiction (“This Oracle Moon”) to fantasy and horror (“Trawler”, “Hole Digger”, “The Demon Huntsman”, “The Conformation”), and were an instant success.

The original idea for the series came to Glenn, when he and Larry were driving upstate, listening to an old Boris Karloff broadcast.

Glenn McQuaid: ‘Larry and I were driving up to the set of Jim Nichols’ movie, which Larry produced, and we were listening to an old Boris Karloff radio play. The rain started down and we found we were enrapt by this old time radio drama. And I just turned to Larry and started proposing the idea - that this was something that Glass Eye Pix could get behind, and we both talked about it.

‘A coupe of months later, we started to take the idea seriously. It came out of a desire to get a lot more of our own content out there. Initially we had treatments and outlines for projects that had been sitting around too long, and we thought this would be a good platform to get our own work out there, as well as the work of all our friends and collaborators - people like Paul Solet and Jeff Buhler. It was a desire to keep working to keep getting ideas out there, and I think it was very tempting for Larry and I to try something, which was essentially new for us at the time.

‘Basically, the project grew out of a desire to get stuff out there from ourselves, but almost more importantly from other people and step in as curators in a way, and design the anthologies. We reached out to people we’ve either worked with before, or had met and have enjoyed their work.

‘For instance, I met Paul Solet while I was showing I Sell the Dead and he was showing Grace at Fright Fest Presents… in Glasgow, and we just got on well together. When we started shifting gears with Tales from Beyond the Pale, I started reaching out to Paul Solet, Jeff Buhler - he’s another film-maker that I like, and similarly Larry reached out to a few folks he was intrigued by.’

Larry Fessenden: ‘Yeah, we hooked up with Simon Lumley, who I’d never met, I think you met him. Simon Barrett as well, who Glenn and I have both worked with, I was in Simon’s film You’re Next, and Glenn worked with him on V/H/S.

‘It’s really expanding the community, which is the other agenda, something I’ve always tried to do. It’s my theory that if there is enough of us in the same boat, then maybe we can all rise up together and take over Tinsel Town.’
 
sean_young_tales_from_beyond_the_pale
 
More tales from Glenn McQuaid and Larry Fessenden, after the jump…
 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

Rising Star: An interview with Glenn McQuaid


 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Sugar Hill’ and her zombie hitmen should be on your Halloween movie list
10.15.2012
07:48 am

Topics:
Movies

Tags:
Horror
blaxploitation
Sugar Hill

Sugar Hill movie poster
“She’s Super-Natural”- and that is a top-notch Afro pun.
 
As we relish the season of scary movies, it’s easy to get discouraged when rifling through all your old stand-by DVDs. Have all the Halloween movies memorized? Can’t stay awake through another Friday the 13th sequel or remake?

Fear not! There are so many unsung glories of the horror genre!

Sugar Hill is a blaxploitation/horror crossover gem that has all the pulpy hallmarks of both. It’s a surprising yet sensible combo; though blaxploitation only rarely intersected with horror, the blood and guts so frequently thematic to both make for a simpatico pairing. When Sugar’s fiance refuses to sell his night-club (his voodoo-themed night club, naturally), the mob beats him to death. What follows is the classic revenge plot of a blaxploitation film, mixed lovingly with the campy gore of a supernatural zombie flick—what’s not to love?
 

 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
The trauma of watching ‘The Odd Life of Timothy Green’

Trauma_odd_timothy_green
 
From when I first saw Bambi at a tender age, I have always suspected that Walt Disney and his famous studios were responsible for releasing some of the most horrendous implements of torture, used to torment and traumatize small children. Possible proof of this can be seen in this rather disturbing video clip posted by Meredith Borders over at Bad Ass Digest:

Friend of a friend Geoffrey Roth took his sons to see the movie The Odd Life of Timothy Green, and, well, it affected them. Roth and his wife filmed the boys’ intense emotional response to the movie, which is apparently really, really, really, super, insanely sad.

These little fellas spoil the end of the movie, but dudes. Trust me. It’s worth it.

Thanks to Geoffrey Roth for giving me permission to post this amazing video.

Amazing? Not sure about that. Also, I wonder exactly why any parent would want to film their kids’ distress, which only reminds me of the end credits to Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom.
 

 
Via Bad Ass Digest
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Ringu Pingu: When iconic horror film meets children’s favorite penguin

ringu_pingu
 
When horror film Ringu meets animated children’s TV character Pingu, you know it’s going to end in tears…

A fab mash-up made by Colin at lofifofilm. Nice.
 

 
With thanks to Anne Billson
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Lee Hardcastle: ‘5 Second Horror’
03.09.2012
02:54 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Animation

Tags:
Horror
Lee Hardcastle

5_second_horror
 
Lee Hardcastle‘s 5 Second Horror. ‘Nuff said? Made for 100 Horror Films.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
He Is Legend: It’s Richard Matheson’s Birthday

richard_matheson_twilight_zone_william_shatner
 
Richard Matheson, the author and screenwriter, celebrates his eighty-sixth birthday today. Few writers have been as original or, as influential as Mr. Matheson, whose novels, stories, and screenplays have infused our cultural DNA. Watch / read any sci-fi / horror / fantasy entertainment and you will find Matheson’s genetic code somewhere in the mix.

Over a career that has spanned 6 decades, Matheson has produced a phenomenal range of novels and short stories, many of which have supplied the basis for such films as I Am Legend (the version with Vincent Price is better than Will Smith’s, though Charlton Heston’s The Omega Man is best), The Incredible Shrinking Man, A Stir of Echoes, The Legend of Hell House, Duel (Dennis Weaver has never been better), Button, Button (read the story, forget the film version The Box) and of course Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.

I’m a big fan of Matheson’s writing and firmly believe that if ever the Nobel Prize committee should think about reflecting talent rather than paying political lip service to short term causes, then they should seriously consider giving Richard Matheson the award for literature, as few writers, other than say Ray Bradbury or Stephen King,  have inspired so many young people to write, and more importantly, so many to read.

Happy Birthday Mr Matheson! And to celebrate, here is the classic Twilight Zone episode of Mr Matheson’s superb short story Nightmare at 20,000 Feet. Enjoy!
 

 
With thanks to Tim Lucas
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Shade Rupe’s excellent short film ‘T is for Trick’
10.29.2011
03:13 pm

Topics:
Movies

Tags:
Horror
Clive Barker
Shade Rupe
T is for Trick

image
 
It’s getting near Halloween, and what better to celebrate than watching writer and film-maker, Shade Rupe‘s excellent short film T is for Trick.

So impressive is Shade’s film that the legendary horror writer and director, Clive Barker sent Shade a note of his approval:

Hey there Shade,

That was an elegantly shot, sharply edited and strongly conceived and directed four minutes of film-making. Colour me impressed. You managed to imply a whole range of character options for us, from which entirely plausible narrative solutions spilled. Very fine, courageous work from you and your actors. I hit the heart to say I’d been there. I hope it helps and i will certainly make sure my guys do the same.

Bloody good work, my friend.

Clive

Who could disagree with Mr Barker? But judge for yourself, and if you like, then you might like to vote for Mr Rupe’s success, by ‘hitting the Heart Vote button’. You will not be disappointed.

Check here to vote for Shade’s film T is for Trick to be included in the ABCs of Death.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Vincent Price: ‘An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe’

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Vincent Price is on sparkling form in An Evening With Edgar Allan Poe, in which the Master of Horror presents his unique interpretation of 4 tales by “the most original genius America has produced” - “The Tell-Tale Heart”, “The Sphinx”, “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Pit and the Pendulum”. Directed by Kenneth Johnson, who later created the classic series V, this is a classic TV adaptation from 1970, capturing Price at his electrifying best.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

100 tiny portraits of Vincent Price


Vincent Price hams it up in the bathroom


 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Two Ghost Stories from Shelley and Algernon Blackwood

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I don’t believe in ghosts, but I’ll tell you of the time I saw one. It was summer, I was 18 and working in a 7/11.

Early one morning, at seven-thirty to be precise, I was awoken by someone pinching my toe. There, clearly at the foot of my bed, was my great aunt, dressed in a dark overcoat, as if she had somehow arrived to see me.

“I’ve come to say goodbye,” she said, but never opened her mouth.

We looked at each other for several moments. Then I rubbed my eyes, and she was gone.

Fifty miles away, in a hospital ward, my great aunt died at exactly seven-thirty in the morning. How to explain it, I can’t say, but there it is.

I’ve always had a fondness for ghosts stories, tales of horror and things unknown - they are fine entertainments. Of late, I’ve been collecting such stories recorded in journals and biographies, which often reveal a similarity in the haunting or, in the telling of the tale.

The following come from the journal of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and the great writer of supernatural tales, Algernon Blackwood, a man whose stories chilled my schoolboy days. Like the tale of my great aunt, there is a similarity to these tales, of ghosts returning to visit the living.

IX. - Journal

Geneva, Sunday, 18th August, 1816

See Apollo’s Sexton,* who tells us many mysteries of his trade. We talk of Ghosts. Neither Lord Byron nor M.G. L. seem to believe in them; and they both agree, in the very face of reason, that none could believe in ghosts without believing in God. I do not think that all the persons who profess to discredit these visitations, really discredit them; or, if they do in the daylight, are not admonished, by the approach of loneliness and midnight, to think more respectfully of the world of shadows.

Lewis recited a poem, which he had composed at the request of the Princess of Wales. The Princess of Wales, he premised, was not only a believer in ghosts, but in magic and witchcraft, and asserted, that prophecies made in her youth had been accomplished since. The tale was of a lady in Germany.

This lady, Minna, had been exceedingly attached to her husband, and they had made a vow that the one who died first should return after death to visit the other as a ghost. She was sitting one day alone in her chamber, when she heard an unusual sound of footsteps on the stairs. The door opened, and her husband’s spectre, gashed with a deep wound across the forehead, an din military habiliments, entered. She appeared startled at the apparition; and the ghost told her, that when he should visit her in future, she would hear a passing bell toll, and these words distinctly uttered in her ear, “Minna, I am here.” On inquiry, it was found that her husband had fallen in battle on the very day she was visited by the vision. The intercourse between the ghost and the woman continued for some time, until the latter laid aside all terror, and indulged herself in the affection which she had felt for him while living. One evening she went to a ball, and permitted her thoughts to be alienated by the attentions of a Florentine gentleman, more witty, more graceful, and more gentle, as it appeared to her, than any person she had ever seen. As he was conducting her through the dance, a death-bell tolled. Minna lost in fascination of the Florentine’s attentions, disregarded, or did not hear the sound. A second peal, louder and more deep, startled the whole company, when Minna heard the ghost’s accustomed whisper, and raising her eyes, saw in an opposite mirror the reflection of the ghost, standing over her. She is said to have died of terror.

* Mr. G. Lewis, so named in English Bards and Scotch Reviewers - M. S.

The second story comes from Mike Ashley’s Starlight Man, the biography of the fantastic writer, Algernon Blackwood. In this extract, it is 1887 and the young Blackwood, just in his early twenties, has taken a keen interest in the Society of Psychical Research, an organization established by “some of the most notable men in the land and devoted to the series exploration of psychic phenomena.”

This group can be traced back to the Ghost Club, which was established at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1850. By 1882, this club had galvanized into the Society of Psychical Research (SPR), and conisted of “highly respected men - no charlatans. And early members to the SPR were of similar stature - Lord Tennyson, William James, John Ruskin, W. E. Gladstone, Mark twain and Charles L. Dodgson (better known as Lewis Carroll) plus eight Fellows of the Royal Society, including the later Nobel Prize winner Joseph Thomson.”

Blackwood’s father Sir Arthur Blackwood was loosely involved with the group, but only as a debunker of spiritualism. Any evidence that the group provided to confirm Sir Arthur’s no-nonsense, rational view of life was to be commended. However, for Algernon, stories of ghosts, ghouls and things-that-went-bump-in-the-night proved far too attractive for the young man.

Of course, Algernon went on to become world famous for his chilling stories of the supernatural and the occult - as well as his more spiritual and esoteric tales, including the original book for Edward Elgar’s Starlight Express, which later formed the basis for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical. In 1887, Algernon was interested in joining the SPR after reading one of the group’s books

This was Phantasms of the Living (1886) and it was a book that young Algernon found fascinating. It includes several cases that he adapted for his own stories. Perhaps the best known was a case reported by Lord Brougham (1778-1868) while at Edinburgh University in 1799. He had made a pact with a university friend that whoever died first should try to appear to the other. Brougham was one day relaxing in his bath when he saw his friend sitting on a nearby chair. The vision soon faded but he made a note of the occurrence. Soon afterwards he returned to Edinburgh, only to receive a letter to say hat his friend had died in India. The core of the story is the same as Blackwood’s “Keeping his Promise”, also set in Edinburgh, where a dead friend keeps an appointment.

Blackwood rarely mentioned his involvement with the SPR, though he touched upon the subject in his last television talk “How I Became Interested in Ghosts”, in which he discussed the investigation of a haunted house. Blackwood is a superb horror writer, and is better than H. P. Lovercraft, who once said of him:

“Of the quality of Mr. Blackwood’s genius there can be no dispute; for no one has even approached the skill, seriousness, and minute fidelity with which he records the overtones of strangeness in ordinary things and experiences..”

He lived a rich and full life, worked at dozens of jobs, including farmer, undercover spy during the First World War, adventurer, writer, and lastly as a regular presenter of the BBC in the 1940s. His stories of the supernatural and the unknown are amongst the greatest written. They have also provided episodes for Rod Serling’s Night Gallery and his classic tale “Ancient Sorceries” was more than an influence on Val Lewton’s The Cat People.

With Halloween coming these stories may provide some atmosphere to all that Trick and Treating.

Now behave, here’s The Fall.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
John Carpenter: The Man and His Movies

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This is great wee documentary on one of cinema’s finest directors, John Carpenter: Fear Is Just the Beginning…The Man and His Movies, which examines the great man’s work over 4 decades.

Carpenter is an auteur in the style of Hitchcock, Hawks, Walsh and Fuller, who has managed to maintain his independence and singularity of vision against the fickleness of box office audiences and public taste. He also has a tremendous grasp of film history, which he references in his work: from Donald Pleasance’s doctor in Halloween taking the name of Samuel Loomis from Hitchcock’s Psycho, to re-interpreting Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo via George A Romero’s Night of the Living Dead in the classic Assault on Precinct 13.

John Carpenter: Fear Is Just the Beginning…The Man and His Movies interviews the maverick director and has contributions from Jamie Lee Curtis, Kurt Russell, Adrienne Barbeau, Debra Hill, and includes a look at the making of such favorites as Escape From New York, The Thing and The Fog.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
The house from H. P. Lovecraft’s ‘The Shunned Room’ is for sale

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The family home featured in H. P. Lovecraft’s story “The Shunned House” is up for sale. Situated at 135 Benefit Street in Providence, Rhode Island, this south-facing house was built circa 1764, and offers: 

Original wideboard floors, period details, 1/3 acre landscaped garden, 4 terraced areas, pergola, koi pond, 2 car garage with potting shed

All of which can be yours for $925,000, details here.

Lovecraft’s story describes the mansion house on Benefit Street, as the building where Edgar Allan Poe:

...the world’s greatest master of the terrible and the bizarre was obliged to pass a particular house on the eastern side of the street; a dingy, antiquated structure perched on the abruptly rising side hill, with a great unkempt yard dating from a time when the region was partly open country. It does not appear that he ever wrote or spoke of it, nor is there any evidence that he even noticed it. And yet that house, to the two persons in possession of certain information, equals or outranks in horror the wildest fantasy of the genius who so often passed it unknowingly, and stands starkly leering as a symbol of all that is unutterably hideous.

Interestingly, it was a house in New Jersey that inspired Lovercraft’s tale, though 135 Benefit Street does have its own strange history:

Because of its policy of religious tolerance, early Providence had no common burying ground, no single place where everyone agreed to bury their dead. So, in accordance with the practice of the day, each family had a plot on their own land which served as a family graveyard. To us, this might seem a bit ghoulish, but it was just business as usual in colonial America.

Around the time of the Revolution, Back Street was widened and straightened and renamed Benefit Street, to relieve the heavy traffic along the Towne Street (now South Main) and to be “a Benefit for All.” The remains in all those little family plots were removed to North Burial Ground, then just recently opened. Allegedly, though, some of the bodies were left behind, and still remain buried here to this day. And, according to local legend, a Huguenot couple lived, died, and was buried on the site of #135, and were among the bodies that were missed.

When Stephen Harris built this house, his family fell on hard times. Harris was a well-to-do merchant in Providence, and owned several merchant vessels; it is said that a few of those vessels were lost at sea shortly after the completion of the house. This led to other financial problems. Mrs. Harris also had a hard time—several of her children died, and others were stillborn. (I was told by the current resident, who has done her own research into the house’s history, that there was never a live birth in the house.) Probably the most (melo)dramatic part of the legend, however, is Mrs. Harris’s descent into madness, and her confinement to an upstairs room. She was occasionally heard to shriek out the window of this room, but in French—a language she didn’t know. Where could she have picked it up? Dead Huguenots, anyone?

Read H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Shunned Room” here.
 
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Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Michael Gough remembered

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Though Michael Gough, who died today, will be best remembered for his performance as “Alfred” in the Batman series, I’ll always remember the great actor more for his roles in a series of low budget British B-movie horror films - in particular the classic, Horrors of the Black Museum, Konga, The Black Zoo, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors and Horror Hospital; his work with Ken Russell (Women in Love, Savage Messiah) and Derek Jarman (Caravaggio, The Garden, Wittgenstein); and his roles in TV series like The Champions, The Avengers and Smiley’s People. Gough was always more than watchable as an actor,, who made even the most trashy films (Trog) enjoyable.

Here’s a small selection of highlights from Gough’s career, which gives only a hint of the quality of his talent and the diversity of his roles.
 

Michael Gough is resposible for a “huge, monster gorilla that is constantly growing to outlandish proportions let loose in the streets” of swinging London in ‘Konga’ (1961)
 
Previously on DM:

Michael Gough: ‘Horrors of the Black Museum’


 
More clips from Michael Gough’s career after the jump….
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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