Sunday, 25 November 2012

THE RECKONER - a review by Paul Worts


Stephen Oxborrow’s The Reckoner is in many ways as ruthlessly efficient in its execution as the film’s titled protagonist(s). 

With a negligible budget it delivers a serrated knife-edged 12 minutes. Ambitiously photographed in scope format, The Reckoner‘s taunt editing slices through its tale of fatal kidnapping. Geoffrey Robe is (worryingly) convincing as ‘Matt Gore’, the lead captor ultimately charged with carrying through on the threat to kill hostage Claire (Mel Hayward) and thereby ensuring her rich daddy will be “coming up one Father’s Day card short.”

Director Oxborrow has stated that the film is intended as an ‘extended trailer’ for a feature-length version, and the dénouement certainly opens up the possibility of expanding the concept. Given the prominent (and effective) deployment of iPhones during key scenes, perhaps Apple would consider a product placement deal? Then again, given the amount of surprisingly convincing on-screen violence, perhaps not. Indeed there is one particular sequence where – whilst the action is understandable in the context of the film’s overall context – the method of dispatch seems to display an unmerited degree of sadism.

But overall The Reckoner is a strikingly bold 12 minute calling-card. It will be fascinating to see what these clearly very talented filmmakers go on to produce next given (hopefully) a bigger budget (or indeed any budget for that matter).

(The Reckoner was a very close runner-up in the first Misty Moon International Film Festival).


Sunday, 18 November 2012

FOR, WORDS – A Review by Paul Worts

“And I’m old, I’m older than you, but I still find the time to be stupid and crude”

Winner of the First International Misty Moon Film festival, this short (4mins 47secs) film is either: a glossily poetic depiction of dementia; the most artistic commercial for life insurance ever made; or a genuinely affecting and succinct evocation of a life-long love with a nod to the opening from Pixar’s ‘UP’.  All in all I think I’ll choose the latter interpretation.

Written, produced and directed by Julia Lowe and David Hayes, For, Words is a film which gently waltzes in perfect harmony to the Keston Cobblers’ Club song of the same name.
The film opens with two music-box figurines dancing entwined. We are then introduced to an elderly couple – the lady sits at a table with her back to the camera whilst her (presumed) husband shuffles towards her with a slightly tottering tea-tray. We are not shown either of the couple’s faces, although there is a framed black and white photograph on the table of a school-age boy and girl. As the tea is poured we see a small note by the cup with the name ‘Charles’ handwritten in feint pencil. So far so cosy.

But preconceived expectations are then literally dismantled before our eyes. The photograph is torn down the middle – parting the monochrome young couple. A wall-framed ‘Home Sweet Home’ embroidered motto is taken down off the wall; a telephone is unplugged and a toilet cover is unscrewed. Scissors cut through tartan cloth and cricketing paraphernalia is strewn across a garden fence. A montage of carefully crafted shots of mundane minutiae being disassembled and reused to build some kind of abstract outdoor structure build in tantalising glimpses. Just as the ‘reveal’ appears imminent we cut to a flashback sequence where we see the origins of the note when it is passed to ‘Charles’ behind teachers back in class. Images of the schoolgirl and boy featured in the photo show our young explorers trying out rudimentary space helmets fashioned from colanders and spoons on a summer lawn before they turn and pose for the aforementioned photo.
As the content of the note is revealed, so is the finished construction. Young dreams realised, our explorers dance against a backdrop of a bric-a-brac space rocket and a smoking fuse of rope and matches.             

For, Words is a perfect fusion of song and images, an evocative visual carousel which lingers long in the mind and reaps rewards with repeated viewings.  

  

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

An Interview with Michelle Shields by Paul Worts

At the 1st Misty Moon International Film Festival, the short film Dark Worlds: Slasher and and the feature-length Frankenstein: Day of the Beast were both shortlisted for competition. Dark Worlds: Slasher went on to win the judges vote on the first night and made it through to the final. Both of these films featured stand-out performances by a young actress by the name of Michelle Shields. In an exclusive interview for Fleapits and Picture Palaces, Michelle opened up to me about subjects ranging from corsets to cosplay costumes; from comic books to conventions; from comedy to Cagney and much, much more...     

I began by exploring her early childhood influences...

From as early as I can remember I’ve always known that I wanted to be an actress and I’ve always wanted to entertain people. There’s a home video of me, I’m maybe 2 or 3 and I’m spinning in a circle saying: “one, two, three, action!” I’ve always had a love for it.

That would be a nice extra for a DVD release one day! At school you received many awards for your singing and acting ability. Is there any particular role / song stand out as a memory for you?


I always loved to do Italian songs, but in terms of favourite roles at school I’d have to say ‘Marty Maraschino’ from Grease. She’s kind of like supposed to be the sexy one in the group. Now, I really wanted to be into the character, so I told my teacher I wanted to wear a nightie on stage for the slumber party. And I remember her giving me this look like ‘are you sure; this is a high school play?’ I said I was going to wear shorts underneath it and stuff, but my character would do this! In the end she said if you want to do it then go for it! I remember being into the character was what I really liked to do: and that’s something that’s never changed for me.

What was the first film you saw which really made an impression on you? [Mine was ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and in particular the Wicked Witch who gave me nightmares]

That’s a tough one! When I try to think back to the earliest films that I’ve seen, I was one of those kids that wasn’t really sheltered from the blood and gore – and I think I turned out fine!

I remember watching Abbot and Costello Meets Frankenstein, and I used to watch it over and over. I think what I loved so much about it was that it had that kind of suspenseful horror aspect to it, but it was also so funny - it had comedy – my two favourite things wrapped up into one. Growing up I was always more into the Marx Brothers, The Three Stooges and I’m also a big Jerry Lewis fan. So growing up I was more into comedy but I still had a real love for horror, and Abbot and Costello Meets Frankenstein was the first film I remember really bringing those two aspects together. I thought this is what I want to do; I want to make people laugh and scare them at the same time.

So my nightmares as a youngster involved The Wicked Witch, what was the worst nightmare you can remember having as a child?

I honestly think that because I was exposed to horror films from such an early age I was never one of those kids who would watch A Nightmare on Elm Street and not be able to go to sleep afterwards because I knew it was just a movie. But I do have to say that especially when I was really little I was actually really religious. I don’t think this is something I’ve ever really said in an interview before but when I was little I really wanted to be a nun.  

How young were you?

I’m talking about first, second, third grades: six, seven, eight years old. I was really into it, I used to wear black all the time and the kids at school would call me the devil – ok well that’s ironic! But I remember having dreams when I was really little, it was always a recurring dream of me fighting the devil.

Right...

In hell.

Ok...

I’m sure that is a normal thing for a child that age to be dreaming about right? I always remembered in my dreams never being necessarily afraid or scared of the devil, it was more like: ‘I have to get you before you get the people I love’ type of thing. It was never a nightmare where I woke up scared for my life, it was more like a nightmare where I’d wake up and run downstairs or next door and see if my grandparents were ok or my dad was ok type of thing.

Blimey that’s intense, thank you for sharing that with me.

Yeah, well that’s what happens when people ask me different questions!

Ok, so you obviously felt a calling to be a nun at an early age; how does a young novice nun celebrate Halloween?


Halloween is one of my favourite holidays, even up to present day. I make all my costumes and I’m a real stickler for making sure things are accurate. I couldn’t just go and buy one off the peg. Honestly I was just doing some finishing tweaks for next year’s costume!

Now that is an attention to detail! So what was your costume this year?

I was ‘Poison Ivy’, which was one I was working on a few years ago but I got frustrated and threw it in the back of the closet because I had to sew every single leaf onto this costume so it took a lot of hours and a couple of years ago I wasn’t as patient... But this year I thought I’m going to do that. And I helped my boyfriend make a ‘Scarecrow’ costume for him because we’re both big ‘Batman’ fans. But I can remember being like this all my life – I remember being in third grade and I really loved ‘Elvira’. So, I got one of those kiddie Elvira costumes and I put it on and thought this doesn’t feel right at all and I remember going to my parents and saying I need balloons...

Erm...

And they kinda laughed at me and I said trust me it’s gonna help. I remember we had a parade around the school for the parents...and there I was in an ‘Elvira’ costume and two big balloons on my chest!

They would never have allowed you in the convent you realise that don’t you?

I know! I had mixed feelings as a child!

So, can we have a world exclusive – can you reveal what your costume is going to be for next Halloween...?

Well...I’m working on a couple of different ideas. I will tell you what I’m going to do for Comic Con. I do like to cosplay a lot. I’m currently working on a group costume. We’re doing characters from the video game Batman: Arkham City and I’m going to be doing ‘Harley Quinn’ in mourning.

You do like ‘Batman’!

Honestly I make a lot of different costumes but I would say the majority of them are different Batman characters. And I’m always doing villains, I should probably do a good character soon, but the villains are just more interesting.

How did your ‘big break’ come about at 16 with the film ‘Timeserver’?

My dad was looking through the paper and he found a little clip saying there were auditions in the town next to us...

Had you gone to any auditions before that?

No, it was the first audition that I ever went to that was not school-affiliated or anything like that. I didn’t necessarily know a lot of the tips about going to auditions that I know now - so I was sixteen, and I went to this audition wearing my normal clothes. These included: red and black leopard fur pants; fishnet t-shirt; and I had chains for suspenders that were hanging all the way down to my ankles. I was dressed kind of odd and probably not wearing what you should wear to an audition [!] I remember getting weird looks from the director and assistant director and I auditioned and I thought: ok I did my best and we’ll see what happens... I got a call about two weeks later from the assistant director and she said we thought you were too young for the role you auditioned for but we really liked the way you dressed and we’ve decided to add a character where you can dress like that in the movie.

Hey, that’s not a bad start, you’re first film and they wrote a part just for you!

Yeah it was pretty cool. They made a punk frat girl called ‘Dot’ and in the movie I had Liberty spikes that I got my friend to do for me so I was pretty excited!

You then went on to formally study acting – what’s the most useful piece of advice / training you were given – and the least?

That’s a tough one...Probably the most helpful thing that stuck out for me was how important it was to stay consistent with things, for example, reproducing the same mannerisms on take after take for continuity. And the least: I had one eccentric teacher who used to start class by having us all go up on stage and say pick an animal and be that animal for the next 10 minutes. I understand where it was coming from, but being on stage with 20 other people barking like a dog for 10 minutes – I don’t think it was really necessary.

Well that answers my next question which was going to be which animal did you usually choose?

Actually I was usually a tiger. I’m a fan of tigers, but sometimes I’d try to switch it up.

So how did the biggest ‘Batman’ fan ever get a role in ‘The Dark Knight’?

Just luck! That for me was more of a fan geek thing than an actress point of view honestly. I got to be on set for a couple of weeks; I got to meet Heath Ledger (as the Joker because he was really in character the whole time) and Gary Oldman; and Christopher Nolan picked me out of the crowd. I was in Chicago, which I’m very familiar with – and there are Gotham City taxis – in the bank scene the ATMs said ‘Gotham City Bank’ on their screens. Such an attention to detail.

Now let’s talk about one of the films shortlisted for the Misty Moon International Film Festival: ‘Frankenstein: Day of the Beast’. I understand you were originally being considered for a support role before you were cast as ‘Elizabeth’ the lead?



Yes, I was being considered for the role of ‘Agatha’ (which was played by Tricia Martyr in the film). She did a great job by the way and she helped out with special effects; she was on set everyday and she was a life-saver she helped me with my corset everyday – I absolutely love her! Anyways, I emailed the director and said I really appreciate being considered for the role of ‘Agatha’ but I’d love to audition for the role of ‘Elizabeth’. He agreed and I guess it just kinda clicked for both of us. I was at the audition for most of the day and I read for all the Victors too. (Quite a few; a good half-day worth). I remember Adam [Adam Stephenson – ‘Victor Frankenstein’] being one of them and I remember Ricardo [Ricardo Islas – director] saying to me: “Wow, he kinda looks like Peter Cushing!” So hearing that I hoped the guy would do a good job – he certainly looked the part – and he did a really good job: he’s amazing in the movie too.

It’s a traditional historically set film. Which do you prefer: modern or period (I presume the corsets are quite restricting!).



Well I do have to say the corset was something I pushed for because I wanted to make it as accurate as possible. It helped with posture and everything. But actually the corset went down so far that especially in the tunnel scenes when I was hunched over for a long period of time, I got a lot of bruises on my thighs from the corset. I had a lot of breathing trouble with it as well but I said I need to do this because it’s a period piece and it needs to be accurate darn it!

And the other film we saw you in – which made it through to the final, was the short film ‘Dark Worlds: Slasher’, a nice twist on the familiar stalking serial killer premise. Presumably a chance to ‘turn the tables’ with the role of ‘Allison Smith’ was something that particularly appealed?

Yes I really love it when twists and turns can be put on things.

Given a project with a short running time, does your preparation differ in terms of portraying your character from say a full-length feature film where you have a lot more time to build a character on screen?

Surprisingly for me there isn’t a whole lot of difference. I use a lot of my schooling that I’m doing now in the field of psychology. In preparation for a role I sit down and try to create a back story for my character; try to look at why they are the way they are – what could’ve happened in their lives. Sometimes I’ll try to go as far as finding out what their zodiac sign is and what kind of influence that could have on their personality. Once I get all that it’s usually pretty easy for me to go in and out of the character. I will say it’s easier when you’re doing a long film because you’re constantly in that mindset. ‘Slasher’ I filmed in just one weekend. The filming went pretty quick, but the book by Zack Daggy helped a lot with the back story.

Inevitably your roles in the horror genre have given rise to you being described as a “Scream Queen” title. You’ve been quoted as saying however that you don’t really consider yourself to be one, but rather that you are an actress that portrays one.

Well I think being a ‘scream Queen’ is really just type-casting. While it’s a respectable title and a lot of people wear it with pride and that’s fine, I feel that once you’re a ‘scream queen’ it’s very hard for you to do anything else in any other kind of genre. It’s hard for a ‘scream queen’ to do a drama or a comedy without the audience saying: ‘Ok, when’s the guy with the axe coming out?’ I do have a lot of respect for ‘scream queens’. Linnea Quigley is one of my idols and good friends and she is one of the best ‘scream queens’ in my opinion.

Personally I’d really like to do more comedies but it’s really kind of hard to find people who want to do comedies in independent film.

Speaking of comedies, one of your most recent roles was in ‘Divorced Dudes’. Sounds like an opportunity for comedy there?

I do a cameo in ‘Divorced Dudes’. Tim Krueger (who played The Monster in ‘Frankenstein: Day of the Beast’) is one of the leads in it - actually there’s quite a lot of ‘Frankenstein’ people in it and it was nice to get to work with them again. I play one of the women that one of the divorced guys is trying to go out on a date with. I had some free-range with the character so I decided to make her...

Let me guess, it’s either a punk or a nun?

A punk character with fire-engine red hair.

Now of course with your love of comic books – Comic Book Divas must be another dream project for you?

Yeah it really was. Just like I grew up watching the Universal horror films like ‘Frankenstein’ and then when I got to play ‘Elizabeth’ it was a dream come true for me, ‘Comic Book Divas’ was along the same lines. They wanted to use my likeness in comic books for different characters and I was like this is the coolest thing I’ve ever heard of! So getting hold of a comic book and looking through it and seeing me as a vampire or a superhero it’s just really brings out that child-like nature in me and it’s just wow this is neat! You know, you can never really meet ‘Bruce Wayne’ but you can meet Michelle Shields!

And of course one of the ways fans can meet you is at conventions. Do you enjoy them and are there any stand-out funny moments with fans that you can recall?

I absolutely love going to conventions and my absolute favourite part is talking to people and meeting my fans. I know at conventions you’re supposed to get yourself ‘out there’ and ‘network’, but for some reason I’m never more myself than at conventions. When people come to my table and they say ‘Oh what are you about?’ and I say ‘Oh I make movies and comic books but tell me more about you – are you enjoying the convention?’ There’s usually always people at my table because I just sit and talk to them for hours! At the last convention I did in California I talked to a bunch of people at my table about horror movies and Batman for about an hour and a half. I really love asking other people why they love things.

This is your psychology fascination isn’t it?

It probably is. I spent quite a lot of years in retail too and I feel that really helped me with talking to people one-on-one. And you know whether people buy something from my table or not I always try to be the one person to put a smile on their face for the rest of the day.

And I’m convinced you do just that. Do you get nervous meeting other actors at conventions?

You know I’ve never really been like that. It’ really cool what they do but they’re just people and I’m sure they would just like someone to talk to them as a person.

If you could go back in time and ‘bag’ any role either in the horror genre or not, what would it be and why?

That’s a hard question to answer, but if I could go back in time and do any kind of role I would really like to be in a movie with James Cagney and do a song and dance. I love musicals and I think James Cagney is one of the most talented people ever to have walked on this earth and if I could be in a movie like Yankee Doodle Dandy with him that would be just awesome!

So what’s next for Michelle Shields, and do you have a clear / structured career path or do you just go with the flow?

I don’t do everything that I’m offered; I pick my roles carefully. I don’t do anything with nudity. I don’t like doing stuff that’s mundane and been done before like the bimbo running up the stairs. I really try to find things that are different. I really love doing the crazy off-the-wall characters - someone I can make a cool costume for and maybe have a weird accent or some kind of limp or something!

One movie I’m going to be working on soon is called: Hells Little Angels. I’ve always been a fan of grindhouse films like Faster, Pussycat! Kill Kill! and I really like the idea of a sweet innocent woman being anything but and you realise she’s actually a deranged killer! I really like this twist on things. So I’m going to be one of three girls who have, well let’s just say they have some ‘interesting’ hobbies...

You've sold it to me!

Also, a re-visioning [not a remake] of the original ‘Night of the Living Dead’ which takes place on the same night but in a different part of the town. It tells different stories about that night which I thought was really cool. And the original ‘Barbara’ is going to be in it as well which is also cool.

Talking to Michelle Shields was a really ‘cool’ experience – and something tells me she is destined for even ‘cooler’ and greater things in the future. 

To keep up to date visit Michelle's official website HERE 

 


Tuesday, 30 October 2012

An Interview with SHIVER producer Robert D. Weinbach by Paul Worts

“There’s a lot of obstacles in the way of making a movie; it’s like fighting a small war.”

Shiver producer and screenplay writer Rober D. Weinbach began his film career in Spain as producer of Platero & I (based on the Nobel Prize winning book by Juan Ramon Jimenez). Subsequently, he produced and co-authored two other films in Spain. One, Hallucination Generation starred George Montgomery and a young actor by the name of ‘Danny Stone’, aka Danny Steinmann, the director of Friday the 13th part V: A New Beginning.  The other film, Cauldron of Blood (aka Blind Man’s Bluff) starred the legendary Boris Karloff. Amongst his many other projects Mr. Weinbach co-authored and produced The Mutations (aka The Freakmaker) starring Donald Pleasence and Tom Baker, and directed by Academy Award and New York Film Critics winner, Jack Cardiff (The Red Shoes, African Queen and Sons and Lovers).  Today he lives in Los Angeles and is a Directors Guild and Writers Guild member. Shortly after the screening of Shiver at the Raindance Film festival in London I caught up with the films’ remarkable producer and screenplay writer.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

An Interview with SHIVER director Julian Richards by Paul Worts

Julian Richards with Paul Worts at the Raindance Film Festival
Invited as an Official Selection for the 20th Annual Raindance Film festival, ‘Shiver’, directed by multi film festival award winner Julian Richards, was recently screened at the Apollo Cinema in London. Featuring an award winning tour-de-force performance by horror genre favourite Danielle Harris (Halloween, Hatchet 2, Stake Land) and a cast including John Jarratt (Wolf Creek, Rogue); Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers, Sleepy Hollow); Rae Dawn Chong (Commando, Tales from the Darkside: The Movie) and a soundtrack by ‘Re-Animator’ composer Richard Band, there were more than enough reasons for Fleapits and Picture Palaces to be there. Following the film’s screening and the director’s on stage Q&A, Paul talked exclusively to Julian.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

SHIVER - a review by Paul Worts

Adapted from Brian Harper’s 1992 novel by producer Robert D. Weinbach, Shiver is a psychological thriller starring Danielle Harris who once again finds herself being stalked by a seemingly unstoppable serial killer. 
This time her tormentor doesn’t wear a mask; nor does he bear the scars of a hatchet; but instead wears a mask of normality: at least at first glance. We first meet ‘Franklin Rood’ (played by John Jarratt) in a diner and witness his awkward and unsuccessful attempt to invite Kathy, a beautiful waitress (Nikita Esco) out to the movies. Unsurprisingly rejected, something inside Rood snaps and whilst initially appearing to leave the diner, he is in fact waiting in his car for darkness to fall and for Nikita to finish her shift. Rood brutally beats Kathy to death in the car park, and with his until now latent bloodlust fully ignited, ‘The Griffon’s’ trail of slaughter begins.

12 years later and Rood has set his sights on ‘Wendy’ (Danielle Harris), a legal secretary who lacks the self-belief to ask her boss for a well-deserved pay rise; has a platonic relationship with nice-guy ‘Jeffrey’, and an incredibly unsupportive mother played by Valerie Harper. As Rood closes in on Wendy, and bodies begin to pile-up all around her, Detectives ‘Sebastian Delgado’ (Casper Van Dien) and ‘Mavis Burdine’ (Rae Dawn Chong) are left to deliver some fairly clunky dialogue whilst playing catch-up with ‘Rood’ using pre-digital 1990’s methods of investigation.

We’ve been here many times before of course, but director Julian   Richards (Darklands, The Last Horror Movie) just about manages to navigate a path through generic thriller clichés whilst pulling off some genuinely unsettling and disturbing moments. Veteran Australian actor John Jarratt (terrifying in Wolf Creek) here gives a more restrained - if at times uneven - performance as Rood, with sudden outbursts of violence punctuating more quieter subtle moments of suppressed threat.  But the film is carried head and shoulders on the intense performance of Danielle Harris. Having faced-off against the likes of ‘Michael Myers’ (four times in total, including twice as a child), and having beaten deformed swamp-monster ‘Victor Crowley’ (Hatchet 2) into a bloodied pulp, it’s hard to be in any doubt that ‘Wendy’ will eventually find the strength and courage within to fight-back and overcome her tormentor. It is a testament to Danielle Harris’ award winning performance that the journey her character is forced to undertake is made more riveting than either the script or her onscreen nemesis fully warrants.


Filmed largely in rain-drenched Portland Oregon, director Richards makes the most of some visually arresting locations; gives us several powerfully visceral set-pieces and a deliciously macabre unveiling when killer ‘Rood’ treats ‘Wendy’ to his little ‘light-show’. Some ropey digital blood effects lessen the impact of a key shoot-out scene; law-enforcement officers seem to practically queue up to be dispatched by ‘Rood’, and naming a detective ‘Mavis’ really doesn’t work on a dramatic level. But Shiver is Danielle Harris’ film, and her performance alone is worth the price of admission.    


***(out of 5*)


See also: interviews with Shiver director Julian Richards, and producer / screenplay writer Robert D. Weinbach







Thursday, 4 October 2012

Mark Patton - An Interview By Paul Worts


Shortly before Mark Patton arrived in London to appear at the Entertainment Media Show and to host a very special evening at The Misty Moon Gallery, I caught up with the world’s first male ‘Scream Queen’ and star of Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge.

Mark Patton is a fully paid up subscriber to the notion of serendipity. “I’m a firm believer that if one door closes it’s so another can open”. At the tender age of 11 Mark was offered a recording contract: “I could’ve gone onto become the first openly gay Country & Western singer!” (He had to turn it down due to his father’s objection to him singing in bars at such a young age). In 2011 Mark was scheduled to appear at a signing event in the UK for the first time but injured his back shortly before he was due to fly over which forced him to cancel. Oh yes, and in-between these two events 33 years apart, he would audition for a role in a low-budget horror film to be directed by Wes Craven. The part of Glen in Nightmare on Elm Street eventually went to a then unknown actor by the name of Johnny Depp... “You know at the time I was a bigger name then Johnny Depp. That was his first film. I’d already made Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean directed by Robert Altman, having previously performed the stage play on Broadway and Anna to the Infinite Power and Johnny Depp was just Johnny Depp. Nobody knew who he was.” [Johnny’s door certainly opened on Elm Street – even if he seems to have since forgotten this].  (cont'd...

Monday, 27 August 2012

The rise (and fall) of Jason Voorhees - FRIDAY THE 13TH / FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2

Technology tended to arrive late in our household. In the early 1980’s, by some quirk of technological geography, some of my friends had an early form of home cable TV. They would often regale me with tantalisingly lurid descriptions of some of the juicy horror films they’d viewed. And then came the home video revolution where once again my appetite was stoked by my friends’ gruesome summaries. But amongst all this vivid video viscera there was one title which, above all the others, stood out as being the one I most wanted to watch: Friday the 13th. 
I can still recall my pal Adrian detailing every murderous set piece with Grand Guignol glee. Crucially though, when describing the classic shock moment finale, he neglected to mention one aspect of the scene which actually made my first viewing of the film just that little bit more special...
As detailed in a previous posting (The Afternoon HE Came Home) the first horror film I saw in the cinema was Halloween 2, but the most significant experience of that wonderful year (1982) was the double bill of: Friday the 13th & Friday the 13th Part 2. The venue was my old beloved ABC Edgware Road of course, and my companion that day was Adrian (who hadn’t seen Part 2). We’d arrived far too early (probably due to my eagerness) and had to wait outside the cinema in the rain. I stared transfixed up at the poster which was posing the ominous question: “How many times can death strike in one night...Now double it.” As the rain pelted down forming puddles at our feet I made a pact with Adrian that we would sit as far apart in the cinema as possible so as not to dilute the terror on the screen with nervous whisperings and shared sniggering.  And so it was that I took my seat about five rows from the screen in studio 1 on that early afternoon at Edgware Road and waited for the lights to go out.
(cont'd...

Friday, 24 August 2012

CARRY ON SCREAMING

“What must you think of me, I’m such a terrible hostess, I haven’t offered you a thing.”

“I wouldn’t say that Miss…”


 Arguably the most memorable and most quotable of the entire Carry on… series, the team take the conventions and trappings of the classic Hammer horror film, stir in a House of Wax plot, some Addams Family styling, and infuse it with their own unique chemistry of nudge-nudge wink-wink humour. The result is an infectious potion of clever word-play, not-so subtle innuendo and affectionate pastiche.

Monday, 13 August 2012

An Interview with Fenella Fielding by Paul Worts


In delicious anticipation of The Misty Moon Gallery’s upcoming evening dedicated to her, Paul Worts was granted an exclusive interview with the seductively (and quite literally) smoking-hot temptress from ‘Carry on Screaming’; the truly iconic and velvety voiced Fenella Fielding. Although perhaps best known for her role as vampish Valeria Watt, Ms. Fielding has an extraordinarily rich and diverse CV which ranges from Carry on to Chaucer by way of Chekov; from Dickens to ‘Danger Man’ to ‘Dougal and the Blue Cat’; and from Shakespeare to Shaw and the plays of Ernie Wise (what he wrote).


Now I recently went along to the National Portrait Gallery for the sole purpose of viewing one particular photograph. Can you guess which one it was?
I think you’re going to say it’s the picture of me.

Indeed I am. It was the display of photographs by former Vogue photographer Peter Rand. Now there are three images of you in the Gallery’s library, but Kenneth Williams apparently has four...

Oh well!

And rather disappointingly, when I enquired in the gallery’s bookshop as to whether there was a postcard of your photo to purchase one of the two assistants at the counter informed me there wasn’t (although I could order a print). I continued to browse for a few moments and passing by the counter on my way out I overheard one assistant whisper to her colleague: “Carry on Screaming”...

I don’t know what to say! Do you know a woman stopped me in the street yesterday and she said, “Oh, it’s you!” and then she said, “May I kiss you?” and before I had the chance to say yes or no she did and kissed me on the cheek and said “I can’t get over you!”

Now I mentioned Kenneth Williams earlier, who of course you firstly worked with in the comedy stage revue Pieces of Eight written by Harold Pinter and Peter Cook. What was it like working with Kenneth back then (some six years before Carry on Screaming)? Was it, shall we say, a bit of a ‘challenge’ at times?


Well yes because he didn’t always feel like it. And if he didn’t feel like it he would kind of throw it over to you – so I had to play both parts at once! But on the other hand when he did feel like it he didn’t really want you to be in it at all! It was a tricky time. 18 months of it, but the thing is when we did Carry on Screaming we got on fine. But I think you see with film it’s different because you only do each scene once, if it’s done right that’s it – you move on to the next – you never have to do it again. But with the stage you had to do it every night – eight times a week – and if it goes on for a long time that’s a great many repetitions.


From Kenneth Williams to Patrick McGoohan (absolutely no connection) who you firstly worked with on an episode of ‘Danger Man’...

He was absolutely lovely.

And then of course you provided the voice of the Loudspeaker Announcer & Telephone Operator in the cult classic series 'The Prisoner'. Did you ever visit Portmeirion during the filming?

No, and as a matter of fact I didn’t see the series itself till years and years later (and I mean only a few years ago). I didn’t know anything about The Prisoner at the time because when it was first broadcast if you were out for the evening you missed it [no TiVo back then] and I was in plays and shows at the time. So I had to listen to other people talking about it which was very interesting...For example, I went to a dinner party one particular night and practically everybody there was a writer of some sort, a script writer or a playwright and they were all talking about The Prisoner and saying how fascinating it was and what a brilliant series it was and what they couldn’t make out – any of them – was how it was going to finish. 

So you’d only got around to seeing it a few years ago, and at the time you’d had no advanced glimpse as to how it was going to finish?

That’s right. I recorded it in a sound box at the studio, and I had no idea at the time what it was even about! I remember Patrick popped in to see me before I recorded my parts. He said be careful, don’t make it too sexy! Well, from the script I saw in front of me I couldn’t possibly see how it could sound sexy!

Oh I don’t know I’m sure you would have found a way...

Some people apparently do find it sexy! Well all I can say is it takes all sorts!

And yet you weren’t originally credited for it?     

No, but I had tons of fan mail from it so people must’ve known it was me mustn’t they?

Now before we get on to a certain film with the word ‘Screaming’ in the title, I must ask you about ‘The Old Dark House’ horror-comedy remake, directed by William Castle.


Our remake was about the millionth remake I think! It was meant to be a comedy-horror film. I know it didn’t get a premiere, and I know that they kept on thinking they hadn’t done it right – we must take out the comedy they said – and make it more horror. So they did that and then that was not a good idea, so then they took out some horror and put back the comedy! I don’t really know what it’s like now; I think they must have lost some bits with all the cutting out and changes! Is it a good film, I just don’t know?


Well I enjoyed it immensely. It was entertainingly unpredictable – then again after what you’ve just told me I can see why! And of course what an amazing cast: Robert Morley; Joyce Grenfell -   

Lunchtimes on the set were wonderful!

I can imagine. And of course Mervyn Johns, who was also in one of my favourite scary films of all time – ‘Dead of Night’.

Oh yes! That was a wonderful film – now that one frightens me!

‘The Old Dark House’ was a Hammer co-production. Now I’ve always wondered why Hammer never asked you to be in one of their horrors. I suppose after ‘Carry on Screaming’ they feared the audience couldn’t take you seriously in a full-blown horror film?

I think that’s it, yes.

Which is a shame...

I suppose so, but I’ve not really seen many horror films so I don’t know whether it would have been a good idea or not. The most brilliant horror film I did see was Rosemary’s Baby. I mean to me that was really frightening and a brilliant movie altogether.  [Although the tension was momentarily broken for Fenella by spotting ‘The Old Dark House’ director William Castle in a cameo role during the scene where Mia Farrow runs into the phone box!].

William Castle was of course legendary for his cinema gimmicks, like suspending skeletons above the audience or most infamously for wiring up the seats in the auditorium to give patrons a mild electric shock during ‘The Tingler’ with Vincent Price.

Oh gosh that would do it wouldn’t it! I did a poetry reading with Vincent Price at the Wigmore Hall once.

Wow! And what did you read?

Ooh, some pretty scary stuff...I don’t want to tell you actually because I might just recite it at the Misty Moon on the night...

Intriguing...Okay that’s one question I can’t ask you then! So, in that case let’s move away from the scary stuff (for now at least) and talk about comedy, particularly your experiences working with the legendary Morecambe and Wise.


It was lovely - a big thrill. It was wonderful to be asked, and having done it once it was then wonderful to be asked to do it again. And everyone was so jealous of me I can’t begin to tell you! Glenda [Jackson] didn’t do it until after I’d done it!

She obviously saw what she was missing! Did they do a lot of rehearsal before they recorded? It looked so natural and at times improvised?

That’s the marvellous part isn’t it? They rehearsed very thoroughly. Eric was the boss, and he more or less told Ernie what to do. I mean Ernie knew what to do but Eric told him more. They rehearsed a lot which I found a great relief.

Right, now of course as part of the ‘Evening with Fenella Fielding’, the Misty Moon Gallery will be screening the one and only ‘Carry on Screaming’ – naturally. So let’s start at the beginning...

They had already asked me to do Carry on Cleo and I didn’t do it because I was going off to America at the time. 

How was it working with Harry H. Corbett [drafted in as a replacement for Sid James who was unavailable at the time of filming]?

It was lovely darling, so nice, so sweet; we’d have lovely chats between scenes.

Speaking of scenes...the”Do you mind if I smoke?” scene...did it require many takes?


Well we only did it twice. In fact I asked for a retake. I told Gerry [Gerald Thomas, director] why - I won’t mention why to you – [I’m intrigued!]. Gerry said ‘fine’ and so we had a retake, which was most unusual because providing you got the words out on a Carry On film it was usually straight on to the next scene as quickly as possible!  My character of course was meant to be a take on that lady in the Addams Family [Morticia Addams].

Was it true you had to buy your own ring as part of your costume for the role?

Well, yes. I went out with the lovely wardrobe lady one day and she took me to a place called Paris House in South Moulton Street that did costume jewellery. She wanted me to have these tube shaped gold-earrings. Well, while I was there I thought wouldn’t it be lovely if I had a ring with a big drop of blood in it [as you do]. So I asked if I could and she said, “Well, you can if you like, I don’t disapprove of it, but if you do you’ll have to pay for it yourself!” So I did – it was nine quid! (And I still have it – although it doesn’t come in handy that often now).

And did you get to keep the dress?


Oh good lord, I wore it every day for six weeks! No I haven’t got the dress. I had to have a ‘leaning board’. It’s something they give you for a tight frock. You just lean backwards on it on a slant. I couldn’t really sit down in it without spoiling it. I mean the only time I sat down in the whole film was in that scene with Harry.

So going to the loo must’ve been quite tricky as well!

That’s just a question of disrobing completely!

And you got along with Kenneth Williams a lot better by then as well?

Yes, it was like all the ‘difficulty’ had completely been forgotten – thank heavens.

Now, your voice once gave me nightmares – not from ‘Carry on Screaming’, but from a far more terrifying film: ‘Dougal and the Blue Cat’ (1970) and your voice as The Blue Queen...

Gosh!

And then far less disturbingly, I believe you were once considered for the voice of Lady Penelope in ‘Thunderbirds’?


There was talk of it yes, but it never came to anything.

And with that gorgeous voice you’ve naturally done a number of spoken word recordings. What would you say is your favourite recording?

I’ve done loads of radio plays. I did Hedda Gabler - the same week that I recorded a little novelty record called: ‘Big bad mouse’ [1966]. I’m quite keen on that.

Now more up to date, I understand in February of this year you read an extract from Mary Shelly’s ‘Frankenstein’ down in the Old Vic tunnels.

Oh yes that’s right! I’d never read it before, nor ever seen a Frankenstein movie, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I found it quite chilling.

Well perhaps I could give you a crash course in horror some time?

Well, fine! Fire away, I’d love it!

Theatre-wise, not quite horror, but certainly sinister and spooky, you played Mrs Danvers in a production of ‘Rebecca’. 

That’s a wonderful roleReally and truly, but it wasn’t a wonderful production. Dear me no. We had a week’s rehearsal!

That’s less than a Carry on film!

Unbelievable. Never again. I didn’t get anything to wear until the opening night!

Let’s pretend I didn’t mention that then (!) Any particular role you always wished you could have played?

There’s that lovely lady in ‘Uncle Vanya’ (Helena), but I love the fact I’ve done ‘Hedda Gabler’ on stage as well, and then there was ‘Nora’ from ‘A Doll’s House’; they’re wonderful parts.

And just before we conclude our little chat, let me lower the tone if I may and ask you who is the sexiest actor (or actress) you’ve worked with?

Oh good lord! I can’t possibly say. (You’ll have to ask me on the night!)

How do you celebrate Halloween (if at all)?

In the usual way, going to a party.

You wouldn’t watch a scary film then?

Well...no, I’d much rather have a lovely time!

Monday, 23 July 2012

Caroline Munro interview by Paul Worts

She was the face and body of Lambs Navy Rum. Bitten by Dracula, she then joined forces with a vampire hunter named Kronos; helped Sinbad on his Golden Voyage and tried to kill James Bond in a helicopter. And that’s only a fraction of her story. In an exclusive interview ahead of an event at The Misty Moon Gallery, Paul Worts reminisced with the wonderfully iconic Caroline Munro about her career which saw her work with the ‘holy trinity of horror stars’ and the greatest actor ever to have portrayed 007 on screen...


Before the modelling career and the acting, you were studying art...?
I was 16 and still at school. I was in Rottingdean, a very small village outside of Brighton. I went to life-study classes on a Saturday at Brighton Art College (a terrific art college) with a view to pursuing it in some way. I don’t know how I was going to earn my living but that’s what I thought I was going to do.


Well we’re all secretly hoping that when you come to The Misty Moon Gallery on Saturday it’s going to re-ignite your love of art and you’re going to take up art and painting once more...
That’s nice I like that!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

JAWS

Fake merchandise - real blooger
“Smile you son of a bitch!”

(This review contains spoilers - and a shark)

Recently restored and screened in cinemas, and sadly followed soon after by the death of one of its co-producers Richard Zanuck, I thought it was about time I revisited those sandy white beaches of Amity with their hastily produced ‘No swimming…’ signs dotted around…


Jaws was the first video cassette I owned. I played the tape so often I wore it out. I was only 7 years old when the film first hit cinemas in the UK. My father – despite my numerous entreaties – declined to take me to see it. I sometimes wonder whether this was for my protection or his… But, with the advent of home video, I soon found myself dipping my toes in the crystal blue waters of Amity and becoming acquainted with the titular Carcharodon carcharias (great white shark) known affectionately to its film crew as ‘Bruce’.


The trials and tribulations of filming Peter Benchley’s source novel are now well documented. The fact that the saltwater caused the mechanical model sharks to malfunction and even on occasion sink forced the young Spielberg to become more creative and suggestive when depicting the shark – and the film is all the more powerful for it. Helped immeasurably by John Williams’ shark motif, surely the most instantly recognisable and effective piece of film music ever committed to celluloid; a crisp screenplay bristling with eminently memorable lines; and a trinity of actors at the peak of their game; it is rightly regarded as one of the classic films of all time.

So ‘Bruce’ is a tad unconvincing when he belly-flops right out of the water onto the Orca and chows down on Robert Shaw’s salty sea-dog Quint. It matters not a jot. Deep Blue Sea in 1999, Shark Night 3D in 2011 and practically every other movie on the Syfy channel have given us CG sharks which, in theory, given the technological advancements since 1975, should have blown Jaws out of the water. The fact that they haven’t is a testament to good old-fashioned characterisation and storytelling – two things Jaws has in abundance.

Unfortunately, both the film and the original source novel by Peter Benchley did (however unintentionally) contribute immeasurably towards the demonization of the great white shark – a much maligned and misunderstood fish. But in popular entertainment sometimes you can’t make an omelette without cracking a few eggs – ask any piranha.




Friday, 29 June 2012

STORAGE 24 - ***

Johannes Roberts previous cinematic release ‘F’ (we’ll gloss over his giant bird flick for the syfy channel) centred on teaching staff trapped in a school whilst being stalked by faceless hoodies. In Storage 24, Johannes switches the location to a locked down storage facility in South London, and this time swaps the hoodlums for a vicious alien creature.

A suspected military plane crashes in London and an empty cargo container previously home to an alien creature lies nearby a storage facility in South London. Blissfully unaware of this, Charlie (Noel Clarke) is heading to the warehouse to confront ex-girlfriend Shelley - who is sorting through their stored possessions - and to ascertain exactly why she dumped him. Shelley had brought along two friends for moral support and together with Charlie and his best mate Mark they all become trapped in the warehouse when the power fails and the security shutters go into emergency lockdown.  The atmosphere is tense enough between the protagonists even before it becomes clear there is something else locked in there with them: something big, slimy and vicious...


With a budget “8 times less than Attack the Block” (according to co-writer, co-producer and lead actor Noel Clarke), Storage 24 (or ‘Attack the Lock-up’ if you prefer), knows it’s limits but plays to its low-budget strengths and doesn't short change the audience with either creature effects, gore or jump moments.

Noel Clarke’s original concept for the alien was originally inspired by one of Spiderman’s comic book enemies: ‘Carnage’. The final onscreen creature, designed by Paul Hyatt, is a blend of practical effects i.e. a man in a monster suit on stilts with a bit of CGI mapped onto the design. It reminded me of the creature Eric Stoltz’s character finally transforms into in Chris Walas’ The Fly II - albeit this time with added teeth and tentacles.


The cast acquit themselves very well with what appears initially to be a very simple set-up with little scope for character development. The themes of betrayal and the breakdown of relationships become increasingly influential as the mayhem ensues and no one escapes without being scarred – either emotionally or physically.
The director states John Carpenter as a major influence for this film, but there’s other films being referenced here too. One sequence where Charlie lifts his head up through a storage hatch in the ceiling to see if anything is crawling above them is clearly an homage to a similar scene in Aliens. As in Attack the Block, fireworks yet again feature in the defence against the alien menace, but despite the limited budget, there is still originality at work here. One prime example being the significance of a tiny yapping toy dog.

The final shot somewhat ambitiously sets up the distinct possibility for a sequel. However, this was not quite the commercial calculation it may first appear. The original scripted ending was beyond the limits of the film’s tight-budget – so an enforced rethink ironically resulted in a more spectacular premise.

Paul Worts