Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Exposing the Filmic Fronds

There has been much talk lately in hauntological circles concerning the hidden emanatory power of the classic 1970 British horror film Blood On Satan's Claw (aka Satan's Skin). Linda Hayden, who plays coven mistress Angel Blake, is obviously the 'Key to Claw', as she directs the unfolding events under the Devil's Command, and in this context it is interesting to note that she starred in a later, lesser known British horror effort entitled Exposé (aka Trauma aka The House On Straw Hill) made in 1975. In this film too, she acts as a sort of psychic catalyst who attracts a lot of exoteric/esoteric weirdness into her immediate environment.

Previously relegated to the original 1984 DPP "Video Nasties" list, Exposé is much more than a mere Straw Dogs clone, and certainly deserves the "cult classic" label. It features some great players, has British porno connections, and was shot in Norfolk - the most haunted county in England. The (apparently uncut) version can be seen

(Linda made her feature film début in the notorious but flawed 1968 sexploitation flick Baby Love, in which she plays the hellcat Luci [the fallen half of Lucifer?]. This moving picture also features that other blonde-haired woman of mystery, Diana Dors, known in some circles as the "Doorways to Goddess Diana".)

Disco Doctor

When Disco was a virus...

Found (and blogged about) here, where you can hear it too...

A Peculiar Atmosphere Of Cranky Scholarship

I took great exception to the review of Final Destination 5 that was recently posted on It wasn't the notion that a film so banal and meaningless as to qualify as pornography should be so lauded which got to me (“five headsplats out of five”, no less). Rather, it was this unforgivably assumptive summation:

“If you like watching blandly attractive people getting burned, maimed, twisted into anatomically unlikely heaps of quivering flesh, well, then you're a horror fan.”

I'm a horror fan, and yet I find the idea of anyone, be they “blandly attractive” or not, being so dispensed with for the sake of entertainment to be exactly the opposite of my idea of fun. In fact, a few years back I found myself sadly declaring that I just don't like horror. I just found the notion of getting your kicks from such gratuitous slaughtering as passes for "horror" these days most upsetting.

Turns out, though, that it wasn't horror per se I found (and find) so abhorrent. Rather, it's modern horror. Put simply: I'm convinced that, by-and-large, people have forgotten how to make a good horror film.

I was reminded of just how beautiful and chilling the genre could be yesterday afternoon when, whilst passing a very agreeable afternoon in the BFI Mediateque at the Derby Quad, I was given the opportunity to watch the original 1968 Omnibus version of Whistle & I'll Come To You for the very first time.

That, friends, is how you do horror. It's not about the headsplats or the flayed corpses. It's about spookiness, creepiness, atmosphere and the undying power of suggestion. The ghost in Whistle... is little more than a sheet blowing in the wind (or, later, lifted slowly from a bed). However, I found such images – when taken in the context of the rest of the film – to be of the most genuinely unnerving I've ever seen.

And I have seen a lot.

What really struck me, though, was the film's minimal approach to storytelling. There's no music and very little dialogue – and much of what dialogue there is forms a similar role to that which is found in such quasi-silent affairs as the first half of Holy Mountain and even Mr. Bean. It's mumbled, subdued and clipped: It serves to move the story forward whilst creating a vaguely-otherworldly feel. In this case it also functions to make our hero – played impeccably by Michael Hordern – come across as eccentric, bumbling and completely adorable. His final fate, then, is rendered all the more affecting because we simply cannot help but love him.

This is a far-cry indeed from the disposable ciphers found in much modern horror who only seem to exist in order that they may be maimed in increasingly appalling ways. Whistle... relies upon solitude, eerie winds, wide-open spaces, overcast skies, fears of the dark, bumps in the night and outstanding performances in order to deliver its thrills. It's anti-spectacle, but for me it's 42 minutes contain more substance than the combined running times of all five Final Destination films (or all 724 Saw films, for that matter).

I'm not calling for a blanket ban on blood and gore in cinema. Far from it. Let the gorehounds have their bloodbaths. So long as I don't have to watch, everybody's happy.

What I can't stand, though, is the idea that films are being constructed around these scenarios rather than the other way around. It cheapens the genre, gives it a very bad name (as if it wasn't unfairly maligned anyway) and leads to horribly cynical fare such as The Human Centipede II, the Guinea Pig series and, yes, every single Saw sequel that ever has and ever will be released. These films have been specially made to court controversy and, in some cases, to be banned. I struggle to think of anything more tedious than contrived controversy. It's of no benefit for anyone, and any film-maker who rubs their hands in glee at the notion that they've achieved notoriety deserves to be subjected to exactly the tortures which they take such delight in dreaming-up.

Well, that's a little extreme. Perhaps instead these tedious twats should be invited to a viewing of Whistle... in order that they can be reminded of just how marvellous, dignified and timeless the form can be.

Though, so wired, jaded and desensitised are they that I imagine that they'd squirm through such a viewing and consider it as torture.

Shame. On my part, though, next time I find myself depressed by yet another pornographic remake of a classic (“Now in 3D with extra-eye gouging!”), rather than declaring my dislike of horror, I'm instead going to remind myself of how beautiful the medium can be when it's not trying to cater for such erections as are induced by slit-throats and Rube Goldberg implements of death.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011


Hello, readers. A little bit of very exciting news from your favourite blog (apart from FO, natch) Mounds & Circles; the whole of this week is ZARDOZ WEEK. That's right folks, every post from Monday to Sunday will be full of Zardoz goodness. Never heard of it? Well tune in right now by clicking:



Wednesday, 24 August 2011

A Dennis Wheatly and a Mysterious Britain

A couple of recent finds.  Mysterious Britain from a lovely bookshop 
in Winchester.
The Dennis Wheatly book was being thrown out and was sitting on top of a bin with some other books.

Monday, 22 August 2011

The Edge of Running Water...

Not my own scan, but I couldn't resist re-posting the spectacularly sinister cover for this 1967 edition of Willian Sloane's 1939 novel, via Too Much Horror Fiction.

Definite 'Blood on Satan's Claw' vibes.

(Some great galleries of other gothic horror paperback artwork available on the same blog here and here.)


Saturday, 20 August 2011

One Dick & Nineteen Moorcocks

We visited Powis Castle yesterday. I should have brought a camera. The castle itself was full of artifacts from India, secret passages leading to indoor tents which, using mirrors, were made to look bigger; giant murals, taxidermised animals and trompe l'oeil wood panelling. An old woman sat at a piano in the old ballroom playing Bach - she was murmuring operatically under her breath. The grounds were full of strange statues, winding yew paths, dead ends, labyrinths and fountains. A man and woman in period dress and costume appeared to stalk us. It's well worth a day trip.

I should have bought a camera.

The best bit, though, was a second hand book sale in the old kitchens. In the corner of a room which must have been a parlour or cold storage was a box on which was scrawled "2 for 50p". Evidently, they'd had this box for a while and thought they'd never get rid of any of it. Hence the "too good to be true" price.

For it was indeed too good to be true. The box was full of science-fiction paperbacks, and a very large majority of them were by Michael Moorcock.

Two for 50p. I've had great difficulty in tracking down any of these books, and here they all were, at an unbelievable price. £11 would have netted me the entire box, but I only had £5.00 (four of which was borrowed). As such, I had to pick and choose. In doing so, I was obliged to commit the worst sin that any booklover can ever commit - I was forced to judge books by their covers. Yes, so abundant were the Moorcocks that I ended up plying for whichever had the most beautiful covers - and these are some of the most beautiful covers I've ever seen.

So. One Dick and nineteen Moorcocks for £5.00. Life is worth living.

Here's a Health to the Barley Mow

Here's a Health to the Barley Mow: A Century of Folk Customs and Ancient Rural Games DVD

Surprisingly, no-one at FO seems to have mentioned this so I shall shout for it. A two-disk extravaganza chock full of "poetic documentaries, long un-seen television reports and rare silent film footage" on British folk dances, games and rituals from yesteryear to recent thymes, featuring just about everything from Dwile Flonking to Kitchel Throwing. A bit pricey but glorious time-travelling stuff. More details here.

The Museum Of Bad Art

About the best new thing I've come across on the WWW lately has to be the Museum Of Bad Art (MOBA). Established in 1993 in Boston, USA, its website and three physical galleries are lovingly dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of 'bad' art, especially painting.

MOBA describes its approximately 600-piece collection as ranging from "the work of talented artists that have gone awry to works of exuberant, although crude, execution by artists barely in control of the brush", and MOBA's worldwide network of Friends regularly donate choice examples, many of which have been bought at thrift stores or salvaged from trash cans.

A suitable name is assigned to any untitled work, and each one is presented with a tongue-in-cheek description that pokes a sly and knowing snook at the 'good' art scene.

Whilst some of the paintings are undoubtedly awful and unintentionally hilarious, others have that genuine, Undefinable Weirdness quality - often seen in 'mentally ill' or 'disturbed' people's art - which suggests that their creators are in intimate contact with some other - more frightening but wonderful - well of inspiration or dimension. Check it out here.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Page 62

Not found, exactly, but worth mentioning if only because it mentions THIS VERY BLOG.

So come on, who's read it, and whaddidya think?

The Committee

The Committee is a 1968 film Directed by Peter Sykes and staring Paul (Manfred Mann) Jones. The film features a superb score by Pink Floyd, and even The Crazy World of Arther Brown make an appearance.  In the film Paul Jones who is unnamed is picked up and given a lift in a car. The driver of the car pulls over because he does not like the sound of the engine. When the driver is checking the engine Paul Jones slams the bonnet of the car down on him decapitating his head. After a while Paul Jones sews the drivers head back on. The driver wakes up and Paul Jones informs the driver he does not want to drive with him anymore and he should leave. A couple of years later Paul Jones is invited to join a committee. These committee groups seem to exist to keep the system??? up and running, but really seem to not do anything. Later Paul Jones encounters the driver who gave him a lift a few years before. The driver does not seem to recognise Jones or remember having his head cut of. Jones then asks the man "are your teeth ok?" Jones then spends the rest of the film talking with The Committee Director (Robert Lloyd) about his earlier actions involving the car driver.
The film is in black and white and is quite compelling. Take the sequence early on in the film, when a number of suit and tie gentlemen are walking through a building, accompanied by a 1st class Pink Floyd score. The camera follows these men going to a meeting, intercut with other images of old reel to reel computers and card index machines. The musical score by Pink Floyd at this moment is a must and would not sound out of place on Piper at the Gates of Dawn. After a very successful run in The West End in 68,  screenings of The Committee were almost non existant.  I won't pretend that I fully understood what was going on in The Committee, but that is what makes the film interesting and as a slice of 60s weirdness The Committee is definitely there.

Monday, 15 August 2011


Unfortunately this isn't my copy - but Misty was definitely an interesting title.

Update: I found this exact annual in a second hand shop today! 


It is traditional for a plaque to be placed above the tunnels under Main Street Station...[1]

...seeing it at Disneyland makes me cry every time. The plaque reads: "Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy" The words just don't seem as special here as they do right before you go under the tunnel and enter Main Street U.S.A for the first time. [2]

It was a busy day here, and I appreciate all who waved as they went past. It seems as if people used to stop and take notice of me, a lot more than these days. I suspect that it is just a change in culture and lifestyle, to hurry towards each destination...Disneyland was a much more formal place back then. [3]


Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Let's Make Puppets

It's Summer at between channels so turn off your TV set and do something less boring instead!

Junk Dog sounds like a new member of The Cramps. I don't know what Gogglenobs sounds like. All pics from 'Lets Make Puppets' by A.R. Philpott(Evans Bros. 1972). More to see and do at between channels.

Amateur Cine World part 2

Following on from the 1st Cine World post. Here are some more pages from the wonderful Amateur Cine World Magazine. Remember......they outdo Hollywood on 8mm.

Monday, 8 August 2011

phantassie doocot

Phantassie Doocot, East Linton, East Lothian in Scotland. The doocot (a "beehive" pigeon dovecote) is from the 16th century (medieval brutalism style). The 70s computer game style sign, I'm guessing, is a lot more recent. More pictures on my flickr.

Friday, 5 August 2011


19th Century Coffin Pendant.

"A most extraordinary gold pendant in the form of a coffin. On one side, the compartment is set with a weave of brown hair, overlaid with the gold initials GEB and an ivory plaque inscribed in sepia : Aged 34 Died Aug 15, 1785. Around the hair is an enamelled border inscribed : Twas the last pang that tore him from my breast. The other side is set with a weave of blonde hair, overlaid with the initials MAW and a sepia on ivory plaque inscribed : Aged 83, Died Nov 1838. It is bordered with an enamelled inscription : Tho lost to sight to memory dear. It is 2 inches long and 3/4 of an inch wide at its widest point. It comes in a fitted travelling case. An amazing memento mori piece.



Ghost poster spotted at Leamington Spa railway station by Norman Ferrous. Ta, Norman.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Amateur Cine World

Picked a few of these Amateur Cine World mags up from Snoopers Paradise in the North Laine Brighton. More of these at later date.

Monday, 1 August 2011


Merrie England

I was surprised and delighted to see this article in the July edition of British Vogue.

A Famous Dress

My friend posted the bottom image of Kate Middleton’s dress on her facebook page and I was struck by how haunting the image is. It reminds me of the room in New Zealand’s Larnach Castle where the wedding dress and accessories of one of Larnach’s unhappy wives is displayed. I’m not saying that Kate reminds me of those wives exactly, but seeing this dress as a museum object within months of the royal wedding just strikes me as uncanny. I can see why people would want to see it and that looking at an exhibition of a wedding dress is meant to be a happy occasion, but still – there’s something about it.