Archive for Dracula

Cornish, pasty

Posted in FILM, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 16, 2017 by dcairns

“Doesn’t this one have some kind of political subtext?” asked Fiona as I prompted a viewing of PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES, Hammer’s sole walking-dead opus. And it sort of does. It might be due for a revival, actually, since Trump is supposedly bringing coal back.

I couldn’t remember if I’d seen this before. And possibly a year from now I won’t remember having seen it. But it’s not devoid of interest, the points of interest just didn’t come thick and fast enough to entirely satisfy.

I’d read about the film in the Gifford and had a strong memory of the image of a zombie, face contorted in a horrible mask-like grin, holding an unconscious — in fact, as I discovered, DEAD — girl. I hadn’t realized that the girl was the striking Jacqueline Pearce or that the zom was Ben Aris, best known as a comedy actor. He executes one of the great pratfalls of all time in ROYAL FLASH, having been hit with a champagne bottle at a locomotive christening ceremony. Of course, he was tall, which is why he was chosen here. Hammer nearly cast loveable CARRY ON film dope Bernard Bresslaw as the creature in CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, you know. Had they done so, and then gone on to cast him as Dracula, probably none of us would be here today.

I also remembered reading Leslie Halliwell’s snarky remark, in an otherwise fairly positive review — why doesn’t the Cornish tin mine owner simply employ normal workers instead of reanimating the dead? Well, obviously a zombie labour force would have advantages, not needing food or rest, and being incapable of independent action and thence, industrial action. And in any case, the film tells us that the history of fatal accidents at the mine is what put off the living employees. Using animate corpses is Health & Safety Gone Mad!

As ever in Hammer, the unsympathetic portrait of the landed gentry is balanced by an unappealing depiction of the lumpenproletariat, with surly local yokels and a stupid, scowling policeman played by the inescapable Michael Ripper.

The B-list cast is helpful in some ways — André Morrell, a fine Dr. Watson, is here cast as staunch Dr. Forbes — the good guys, of course, are solidly middle-class. And the fact that he’s not Peter Cushing allows us to forget, some of the time, that he’s playing an absolute Peter Cushing role. John Carson, doing his very best James Mason voice, is a fair but un-sexy substitute for either Christopher Lee or, at a push, Charles Gray. When the good doctor starts talking about waiting for a recently deceased female to reanimate, we know we’re in terribly familiar terrain.

Famously, director John Gilling anticipates a lot of Romeroesque imagery and action with a dream sequence in which he goes hand-held and deutsch-tilted as the recently deceased haul themselves from their graves and surround the hero in billows of dry ice fog. It gives the film a boost, and makes you wish they had gone for more ad hoc cinematography more of the time, though a pursuit sequence with fox-hunters chasing a girl — borrowed from HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES — also benefits from a lot of panting wobble in the camera department. Throw in some full-blooded crash zooms and you have something a bit more modish in technique that Terence Fisher’s classical approach.

The lighting only gets seriously stylish in the mine interior, where the sulphurous coloured gels make for an almost Bavaesque look, and Gilling gets some nice compositions by posing some of his undead workmen close to the lens, staring sightlessly past us.

Miniature coffins are always creepy, but sadly the plasticine and ketchup approach to voodoo dolls is disappointing, and the female dolls all have big boobs, which looks silly.

Framegrabbing the climax, where the mouldy miners catch fire, we can see the flame-retardant masks worn by the stunt artists, and very scary they are too. Only Aris’s zombie makeup is very effective — the other stiffs, with their pancake pallor, seem slapdash — so the masks, which looks a lot like actual mummified bodies, could have been a good way to go. They also remind me of this mask, worn by the Reverend Alexander Peden when he was a fugitive in Scotland in the 17th century. The original Leatherface!

Halloween soon. Try making one of these. Your neighbours will shit themselves.

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Count Sherlock Summerisle Dooku de Richleau

Posted in FILM with tags , , on June 15, 2015 by dcairns

thedevilridesout01

My Christopher Lee tribute/obituary/reminiscence is up at The Chiseler.

I wasn’t sure how Fiona’s brother Roddy would take the sad news. He knows Christopher Lee was an actor, and therefore mortal. But he also seems to believe in Dracula as a real person, though perhaps not real the way his sister or his care workers are real. Real like Jesus, maybe. Or Santa Claus, whom he also purports to believe in, but probably just for fun.

A week or so ago he asked me “Has Christopher Lee made any more DRACULA films?” — so it was a matter of ongoing interest. On Friday he rang up and said, “Have you heard the sad news?” So he took it much the same way we did. You shouldn’t get TOO upset about the death of aged celebrities you’ve never met. But we did all WANT to get to meet him, someday.

Thing Roddy Said During Dinner

Posted in FILM with tags , on December 18, 2013 by dcairns

dracula-christopher-lee

Roddy, my brother-in-law, has learning difficulties. He lives in Dundee. And this year it was decided that he wouldn’t be joining us for Christmas — too many incidents recently involving what I’d better leave described only as behavioral difficulties — so we thought we’d have him visit Edinburgh for a meal on his birthday and let him celebrate Christmas in the sheltered housing where he lives, which he did one previous year when he was ill and enjoyed. He didn’t really enjoy last Christmas because the stress of being away from home was a bit much. So Fiona feels a bit guilty but knows she shouldn’t.

(The loss here is not getting to watch movies with Roddy, which is always entertaining. Recently I read about Williams Syndrome, Roddy’s condition, and it fitted his viewing habits precisely — Williams people watch TV intently, and are fixated upon the people’s faces. They tend to see faces as friendly, unlike autistic people who find them frighteningly unreadable — Williams has been described as the anti-autism. And they tend to find animation uninteresting, as Roddy mainly does — except Scooby Doo — because the people’s expressions are not interesting and detailed enough.)

It was a nice dinner. Roddy has given a set of antlers to wear by the party of girls at the next table, and he entertained us with his impressions.

R: Shall I do Prince Charles? (regal gesture) “Hello, I’m Prince Charles.”

D: That’s just the same as your Dracula impression!

R: No, this is my Dracula impression. (regal gesture) “I am Dracula. Ha ha ha.”

D: But Dracula doesn’t laugh like that.

R: Aye he does.

D: When has Dracula ever laughed? You’re thinking of the Count from Sesame Street.

R. Oh. Right. How should I do Dracula then?

D: Say, “I am Dracula and I bid you welcome.”

R: “I am Dracula and I bid you welcome. To my castle. Ha ha ha.”

Fiona at this point becomes hysterical with laughter. Possibly something to do with the Diazepam.

Roddy’s carer, John: Why’s he laughing? Is it a funny castle?

D: “I am Dracula and I bid you welcome to my bouncy castle.”