Friday, 23 November 2012

Seen On The Big Screen (BFI Southbank): Shock Corridor (1963), Directed by Samuel Fuller

From allmovie by Rovi: 'Shock Corridor represents filmmaker Samuel Fuller at his most excessive, but few would have it otherwise. Peter Breck plays a ruthless journalist who believes that the quickest way to a Pulitzer Prize is to uncover the facts behind a murder at a mental hospital. To glean first-hand information, Breck pretends to go insane and is locked up in the institution. While pursuing his investigation, Breck is sidetracked by the loopy behavior of his fellow inmates. During a hospital riot, Breck is straightjacketed and subjected to shock treatment. By now almost as crazy as he's previously pretended to be, Breck begins imagining that his exotic-dancer girlfriend Constance Towers (a Samuel Fuller "regular") is actually his sister! Typical of the Fuller ouevre, the characters in Shock Corridor are either saved or destroyed by their individual obsessions.'

Blu-Ray From My Collection: The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957) Directed By Terence Fisher

From BFI Screenonline: 'Released onto a market dominated by science fiction 'creature features', the success of Terence Fisher's The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) revitalised and reinvented the ailing horror genre. Critics were horrified by the colourful blend of blood and sex, but the film was a huge commercial and artistic success.

Despite the success of Hammer's The Quatermass Xperiment (d. Val Guest, 1955) and X - The Unknown (d. Leslie Norman, 1956), and other studios' efforts like Devil Girl From Mars (d. David MacDonald, 1954) and Fiend Without A Face (d. Arthur Crabtree, 1958), the science fiction genre belonged firmly to the Americans. Fisher's retelling of Mary Shelley's classic (which could itself be classed as science fiction) would prove to be Hammer's first successful foray into the closely related but temporarily stalled horror film market.

Fearing litigation by Universal, owners of the 'classic' 1930s and '40s films, Fisher had to rethink certain elements of the Frankenstein story. Universal were particularly protective of the Monster's image - the flat topped head, the electrodes (or bolts, as many people mistakenly assume) on the sides of the neck - and refused to allow its likeness to appear in other films. Make-up artist Phil Leakey returned to Mary Shelley's novel for inspiration, avoiding any resemblance to Jack Pierce's design for the Universal films. The Monster's new appearance was suitably gruesome. Played by Christopher Lee, it now seemed recognisably stitched together from assorted body parts.

Shot in colour, The Curse of Frankenstein proved a visceral retelling of Mary Shelley's story. Eyeballs, severed hands and surgical procedures are presented in a relatively unflinching style. At one point, the Monster is shot in the head and blood gushes from its wound. This approach distanced the film from Universal's monochrome, more suggestive horrors. The film was met with great enthusiasm by paying audiences, but alienated and horrified critics.

Another important departure from the established pattern of Frankenstein films was the emphasis on the Baron, played with cool, calculating brilliance by Peter Cushing, rather than his creation. It was Cushing who would return in subsequent films, not his ill-fated first attempt at creating life.

The Curse of Frankenstein was also the first horror film to feature Cushing and Christopher Lee together. This successful partnership would be repeated in Fisher's Dracula (1958), and soon became a regular feature of many British horror films.'

Blu-Ray From My Collection: The Company Of Wolves (1984), Directed by Neil Jordan

From allmovie by Rovi: 'The Company of Wolves is Little Red Riding Hood for the Alien generation. Sheltered 13-year-old Sarah Patterson, living on the edge of a foreboding woods, is visited by her grandmother Angela Lansbury. The old lady delights in telling Sarah the most horrific stories, usually involving what happens to little girls if they trust wolves--the actual, rather than symbolic kind. Later on, Sarah sets out through the woods to visit her grandmother. She makes the acquaintance of a seductive young huntsman (Micha Bergese), who turns out to be.....well, what big teeth he's got. The ads for Company of Wolves, showing a wolf springing from the open mouth of poor little Sarah Patterson, were warning enough for the faint of heart. Actually, the horror is secondary to the remarkable Grimms-Fairy-Tale ambience which the film successfully sustains from beginning to end. And, in keeping with the original unexpurgated versions of most fairy tales, the sexual subtext is never far from the surface. Director Neil Jordan would further develop some of the subliminal themes in Company of Wolves in his 1994 production Interview with the Vampire.'

CD's From My Collection: Vashti Bunyan: Just Another Diamond Day (1970)

CD's From My Collection: Paul Kantner/Jefferson Starship: Blows Against The Empire (1970)

CD's From My Collection: T. Rex: Electric Warrior (1971)

Friday, 16 November 2012

14th November: The European General Strike And Day Of Protest Against Austerity

Fantastic day in Europe on Wednesday! It's a thing of beauty when people find solidarity and fight back against the acceptable and state sanctioned violence of capitalism and austerity. Shame once again that the UK was as a lifeless as the grave but that can all change...

"And so Southern Europe continues to tremble on its very foundations. As smoke rises from the streets of Madrid, Lisbon, Rome and Athens, one thing is becoming ever more apparent: the question is no longer if but when the social explosion will hit. The outrage is building up, and with unemployment rising, austerity deepening, and a generation of Europeans increasingly disillusioned by state intransigence and outraged by police violence, such an outburst of popular rebellion seems ever more inevitable. All it will take is a spark."

See Reflections on a Revolution's account here

Postscript: An unintentionally interesting article from usually boring Blairite hack, Martin Kettle here.

"But we are going to have to get used to austerity. Because relative scarcity, and the need to do more with less, are not going to go away in a hurry. Austerity is remaking our world. The point is to make the best of it. Welcome to 21st-century Europe."

"Today's quarterly inflation review by the Bank of England is merely the latest in a series of indicators that remind governments and peoples across Europe and beyond that the old days are simply over, done, finished. Recovery would be sustained but slow, said the Bank. The economy was sluggish. The environment unfavourable. Things might be weaker for longer."

"The message is hard to miss. Times have changed. The only thing that is certain is further uncertainty. We may have come out of recession again, but the idea that Britain, let alone the countries of the eurozone, can expect to see any resumption of the kind of growth rates to which we have all been accustomed since the second world war, is increasingly fanciful. We are living through not a downturn but an epochal change, and we need to make a more consistent effort to understand what this implies"

But I have news for you Mr Kettle. As things go from bad to worse for the working class and the rich are visibly seen to get even richer, flaunting their obscene wealth and power; strikes, occupations, blockades, riots and other types of resistance combined with regrettable but understandable social collapse will intensify throughout Europe, eventually spreading to these shores. Your system based on profit and power for the minuscule minority and utter misery for the vast majority, including the degradation of the planet, is reaching an end-point. There are no guarantees this will end in a better society but there is one thing I'm sure of-we are fucking well not going to get used to it!   

Friday, 9 November 2012

CD's From My Collection: Swans: The Seer (2012)

This has to be my album of the year. An epic 2 CD masterpiece of droning but pounding avant-rock minimalism (Faust and Can spring to mind) enthused with stark but visionary Americana. Dark but beautiful.