Category Archives: personal post
Doctor Who and the Daemons director Christopher Barry has sadly passed away. He famously helped introduce the world to the Daleks, but Daemons is my all-time favourite of the Time Lord’s adventures. Yes, I cleaved to a fuzzy, fifth generation VHS copy for many years (much of it in b/w) until the show finally became available on DVD. And yes, like many of ‘a certain age’, I devoured the Target novelisation. The BBC website posted a lovely obituary of this amazing, talented man – aside from his outstanding contributions to Dr Who, Mr Barry also helmed The Tripods (another childhood fave of mine) and many more.
Christopher Barry, I salute you – with five rounds, rapid.
The world is also a lesser place for the loss of filmmaker extraordinaire Alain Resnais. His Last Year in Marienbad has haunted me for years, and continues to do so. It was lovely to see his life and work so celebrated in memoriam this week. ‘Innovative and unusual’ just about nails it:
And while I was composing this blog entry, I was saddened to hear about the death of Selim Lemouchi. Frontman of one of my favourite bands The Devil’s Blood (and later of Selim Lemouchi and His Enemies), he was a fiercely talented musician who passed far too soon, aged 33.
I’ll leave it to Selim (with his sister Farida on vocals) to roll credits on these three blazing stars, who will all be missed by any who knew, or knew of, them.
Happy Horrordays y’all!
And it just wouldn’t be that time of the year without the Christopher Lee Christmas Message.
Take it away Sir Christopher of Lee!
Here’s to a stonking 2014.
A strange phenomenon has swept the planet. In a plot twist that defies time and space, it is now kind of cool to like Doctor Who. As the world over seems to be going batshit mental in anticipation of the special anniversary episode, i’ll just take a moment to pause and reflect.
It wasn’t always this way you see – as many folks of a certain age will know, being into Who used to be something you kept very much under your wide-brimmed hat.
I am an (unearthly) child of the 70s, so “my” Doctor was Tom Baker. I admire each of them of course, and especially Jon Pertwee who starred in my favourite ever Doctor Who adventure ‘The Daemons’.
I was lucky enough to meet Tom Baker many years later during my London Dungeon days in the mid 90s. He is a giant of a man and he bellowed his ideas for bringing out a live victim for the Theatre of the Guillotine show with that mad, brilliant glint in his eye.
I remember watching, lump in throat, as Baker’s Doctor regenerated into Peter Davison’s incarnation like it was yesterday. A new generation of fans will experience that powerful feeling of optimistic loss soon enough when Matt Smith’s Doctor regenerates into Peter Capaldi’s.
I met Doctor the Fifth, too, many years later at a party and recounted how i’d once seen him at a telly shoot when i was a kid. I remembered being astonished that the Doctor ate sandwiches! “He eats!!!” Mr Davison laughed. Like all the actors portraying the Doctor he came across as a charming and thoroughly likeable man. Those qualities are probably what has kept the character and show going for a staggering 50 years.
Well, that and the rubber monsters.
(See, we Whovians knew they were cool all along)
Happy 50th, Doctor!
There it is then, the first book i ever bought and read on screenwriting. It was written by Syd Field, who has passed away aged 77.
If you told me back then that i’d someday be teaching university classes using some of Field’s theories i’d never have believed you. But then i’d never have believed it possible that i’d be a produced screenwriter either, if not for the inspiration i gained from Syd Field and his book.
Today, i raise a cup of coffee in salute to the man who was such a legend that he even had ‘PLOT PNT’ on the license plate of his car.
Syd, you were one of a kind and you’ll be missed. Here’s to you.
Happy Halloween dear f(r)iends!
Plenty of Tricks and Treats for you here, in Count Frazula’s Halloween Playlist:
(Spotify) Halloween Playlist 1 – Count Frazula
And here’s my favourite of the latest Halloween viral videos (thank goodness the characters in my tales aren’t this sensible! HELL NO!)
I live in the UK, in the leafy county of Buckinghamshire, and (as anyone who has read my books will know) I derive a lot of inspiration from the local landscape. Eagle eyed readers familiar with my neck of the woods will spot my local Christmas tree plantation within the pages of ‘The Jack in the Green‘ and the dank passageways of Hellfire Caves in the third act of ‘The Lamplighters‘. I was out jogging this morning on the steep sylvan slopes of ‘The Lucifer Glass‘ and it reminded me how much inspiration I glean from the places I frequent (it also reminded me how out of shape I am after long hours behind the writing desk, but that’s perhaps another story).
It was Fathers’ Day here in Blightly a few weeks ago, and my family and I decided to pack a picnic and head out in the drizzle somewhere. As it was ‘my’ day I got to choose the destination, and so I opted for a place that has been something of a lifelong icon for me – Hampden House.
Hammer Films took (eek!) possession of the building in 1979 and made it the company’s base of operations until 1982. During that period, Hammer moved into telly and filmed several episodes of Hammer House of Horror and Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense in and around the building and environs.
As a youngster, I was raised on a strict diet of Hammer Horror movie double bills. Later, at the tender age of 11, it was the turn of the TV series to creep the hell out of me, especially the episode with the gnarly-fingernailed hitchhiker…and the werewolf episode complete with pregnant wolf-mother scoffing chopped liver as she drove to the obligatory house in the woods.
As we sat opposite the very house that appeared in those hallowed opening titles, eating our sandwiches in the rain I realized how lucky I am to have such amazing, inspiring places on my doorstep.
So join me in raising a plastic Thermos cup of lukewarm tea in a toast to a little inspiration.
It goes a long way.
What are the places that inspire you, and why? Comment below please!
I had the rare pleasure of drinking with Mr. Banks on a few occasions and enjoyed being set straight on a couple of things by him. We laughed a lot about my then favourite word, “cuntstruck”. Then he was away for his beloved kebab.
A lovely man with a brain the size of several planets, the man and his brilliant work shall be sorely missed. By one more than all – his wonderful wife Adele, my dear friend and The First Lady of Horror, to whom i send all my love and hopes and booze x
At time of writing, Michael Gove is still breathing. No justice in this world.
It came as a shock to hear of James Herbert’s untimely passing last week. Just a few days earlier I was walking to work and paused to admire a bookshop’s window display for ‘Ash’, the great man’s latest – and now last – novel. Much has been written about Mr Herbert hence, and I particularly enjoyed Colum’s thoughtful piece at Dreadful Tales, which also includes tributes to David B. Silva and Rick Hautala, two more genre giants who sadly passed recently. Christopher Fowler’s brilliant blog gave further insight into the phenomenon of Herbert’s fiction and author Hari Kunzru evoked the school kid hobby of passing around dog-eared copies of The Rats and The Fog in an attempt to out-gross one another.
From a personal perspective, a couple of blog posts ago I mentioned how I admired Mr Herbert from afar during an interview he did at The London Dungeon many years ago. I remember how starstruck I was to see the great man in person. Now I think of it, so was everyone else in the room (or rather, the dungeon) that day as he wrapped everyone around his finger with his charm and fantastic sense of humour.
And I remain starstruck to this day.
Sure, the numbers are one thing (23 novels, worldwide sales of over 54 million copies) but the man’s ideas are another. Each and every book brought something fresh, enticing and fun to the party. An author friend posted online that he felt sad that there would be no more James Herbert books. I feel that sense of loss too, but the great thing about true legends is that they never really die. I haven’t read ‘Ash’ yet, and I’m looking forward to savouring each and every page. And I realised when I snapped the photo to accompany this blog entry that I never finished reading ‘Portent’. And when I’m done with those? Books like Herbert’s demand to be read and re-read, over and over.
Because true legends never really die.
R.I.P. James Herbert. May your tales haunt the nightmares of generations to come.
The London Dungeon is moving.
What? They can move dungeons now? Apparently so.
The old Tooley Street venue, famed for its crumbling, rumbling arches (situated beneath London Bridge railway station) and dank, dripping alcoves is to be dropped in favour of new premises further along the river near to the London Eye. It will be interesting to see if the new locale will try to emulate the atmosfear (pun intended) of the old, or create the shock of something new.
The Tooley Street Dungeon holds a special place in my heart and many fond memories – I worked there for a few years back in the early 90s, made many friends and frightened a lot of people. Yes, my weekend job as a student was jumping out on tourists and scaring them half to death (a fainting meant it was time for lunch – job done) which really was as much fun as it sounds.
I impersonated Michael Jackson there once, following a rumour he was going to visit (these were much thinner days you understand) and I was chased down Tooley Street by rabid paparazzi screaming “Michael!” I even waved a single white-gloved hand at them from the upstairs window before the ruse was up – he’d gone to Hamley’s instead. I also secured my first ever runner’s job following a video shoot at the Dungeon, and had several fanboy moments meeting the likes of Robert Englund, Tom Baker and James Herbert who were just some of the stars being filmed/interviewed among the torture implements.
Now, thanks to the move, you can own a piece of this unique horror history. The Dungeon is holding a car boot sale in Pimlico on Feb 3rd, so if you fancy bagging some thumbscrews or a scold’s bridle of your very own you know where to go.
I recall a time during my tenure at the Dungeon when several old exhibits were to be consigned to the scrapheap. I rescued one – the curvy, blood-drenched form of Countess Elizabetha Bathory herself – took her home in a cab
“guess who i had in the back o’ my cab last night? only bleeding Countess Dracula! nah, she didn’t tip”
and placed her at the foot of my bed where i could keep an eye on her. And there she stayed, until I – like the Dungeon today – moved house… and discovered she was full of cockroaches.
RIP London Dungeon, here’s wishing you an equally ghastly afterlife (hopefully for the right reasons).
A few thoughts on filmmaking today, inspired by recent events and trends.
In addition to my screenwriting, novel writing and short stories, I also directed a couple of short films; On Edge (1999), Red Lines (2002) both with the now defunct Robber Baron Productions, and some TV promos; True Horror With Anthony Head (Discovery Channel, 2004).
So, I haven’t directed anything in eight years, and am often asked the question, in interviews and Q&As, why not?
Naive (and much younger) me thought that making a couple of award-winning shorts would pave the way to feature directing. Not so. I have scratched a living these past 8 years as a screenwriter/script doctor, secretly hoping those credits would also stand me in good stead for a feature debut. No dice, as yet.
It’s certainly not for lack of trying. Over the past decade I’ve had a number of potentially brilliant feature length projects in the works, writing and polishing and rewriting dozens of screenplay drafts for each at the behest of producers and executives keen on shaping the project to the demands of the marketplace.
Truth is, financing a movie seems to be the most difficult thing on earth. I recently completed a round of talks about one of my screenplays to which I’m attached as director and I was told point blank, by the producer that not one of his investors would risk financing a movie with a first time director attached – too risky.
So how do first time directors get to cut their first feature if no-one is willing to risk taking a punt on them? Surely the film biz is one built entirely on risk? “Nobody knows anything,” William Goldman reminds us – and even a seasoned director can make a turkey. It’s a frustrating chicken and egg situation and the longer it goes on, the greater the (perceived) risk.
All the meetings I’ve taken, all the unsuccessful funding applications I’ve made (for shorts and features) have taught me one thing – one simple, inconvenient truth:
Movies cost money – and it is usually someone else’s money. Even if you go down the microbudget route, you have to pay insurance for your shoot, catering for your cast and crew, transportation costs, etc., etc.
Add to that the growing trend in the movie business; first-timers get it done for free. “Just pick up a camera and shoot” is an approach that has worked for some, sure. But it sets a precedent. First timers are expected to self-finance and prove themselves, screenplays are expected to be optioned for free. This is a difficult environment for anyone who has a family to support, bills to pay. It’s “a game for the young” as wise old Admiral James T. Kirk once said.
After reading Christopher Fowler’s revealing blog post on the subject of “the death of the script“, it seems the new wave of first-timers are eschewing a script entirely in favour of improvised microbudgeters, edited on-set on laptops. No risk to anyone else, and the filmmaker (no longer a first-timer anymore) then gets hired to do studio remakes…
See, after a decade in development hell I’m becoming cynical! Maybe it is time to give up after all.
But I might just take one more meeting first.