Thursday, 29 August 2013

AN INSPECTOR CALLS (1954)


You've probably heard of An Inspector Calls - it's one of those titles that is so familiar it feels like it's become part of the English language. However despite everyone knowing it's name, I'm guessing that not that many of us have actually seen it these days. And if you not, that is something to rectify immediately!

Based on JB Priestley's 1946 play of the same name, this movie was shot in gorgeous and atmospheric black and white by Guy Hamilton, who would do on to direct a host of Bond movies, and stars the brilliant Alastair Sim - two facts that alone should have the dedicated movie buff rushing to track it down. Now the plot is seemingly fairly straightforward - a well-to-do family are sitting down for dinner when a police inspector arrives. Apparently a young woman has committed suicide and the inspector is seeking to uncover the circumstances around this tragedy.


Now the movie plays out almost like an anthology movie, as each member of the family realises that they all have encountered the girl and recounts their dealings with her. As the story continues it becomes apparently that each one has played a part in her downfall, leading to a climax that will have your jaw dropping.

In some respects, this movie is the anti-It's A Wonderful Life - instead of friendly old Clarence leading the characters through flashbacks that illustrate the value of their lives, here we have the charming but increasingly sinister Sim carefully questioning the family and revealing their moral failings and unthinking attitudes that have in concert driven a woman to suicide. On one hand it's a damning dissections of the social attitudes of its day - but its themes still reason today, and the way in which it illustrates how our actions can impact the lives of others is still fascinating and thought-provoking.

However despite all of the above both sounding terribly bleak and tediously dry, the story is told with a real charm and the unraveling of the mystery makes for highly intriguing viewing. And there's a touch of dark magic to the proceedings. For some characters, in a fashion not unlike A Christmas Carol, will find a recognition of their sins and a redemption of sorts through the careful questioning of Sim's inspector.


Sim of course pretty much steals the show as Inspector Poole, delivering a masterful performance as a detective who subtly dissects his witnesses. And you can't help feeling that his Poole was one of the seeds that would inspire a later detective famous for this canny questioning, Columbo. However he have excellent performances from the rest of the cast too, in particular Bryan Forbes as the young somewhat wayward son, and Jane Wenham as the unfortunate Eva Green.

Now at first the movie may appear to be just another drawing room mystery and at points may be appearing to heading into pure melodrama. However as the movie progresses you'll find this far from the usual stolid British detective story - presenting a frank look at the underside of both society and human nature, and builds to a powerful climax. It is a quite brilliant movie - rich and drama and atmosphere and delivering an ending that is as excellent as it is unexpected.




Wednesday, 28 August 2013

OLD HORRORS & ANCIENT MYSTERIES



Many moons ago, in my dim and distant schooldays, a classmate had a rather splendid collection of horror comics donated to him by a wayward uncle. Naturally he was soon very popular, with kids clamouring to borrow assorted titles from his newly found hoard of horrors, and of course I was one of them! Now I read many great comics from that treasure trove of terror but one particular series really grabbed my attention - being extremely nasty, atmospheric and gory. Two tales in particular stuck in my mind one in which a mother revealed in spectacular fashion to her daughter the correct way to a man's heart, and another about three horrible old gossips who are punished for their wicked ways in a horrific but darkly ironic fashion.

However over the years, while the memory of those tales and their graphic black and white imagery burned brightly in my mind, I did forget the actual title of the comics in which they appeared - well in fairness, I was reading a whole hosts of horror comics at the time, most of which had exceeding similar sounding titles featuring the words 'weird', 'terror', 'fear' 'horror' etc. In more recent years, every now and then I would take the internet and run searches on the titles I did remember to try track down those tales - but alas to no avail!

Now recently over on the Hypnogoria Facebook page, I started a new gallery which recounts the history of horror comics. And while researching the assorted entries, I discovered a marvelous site Comic Book Plus - a vast archive of old comics, to either read online or download, for FREE and completely LEGALLY as these works have lapsed out of copyright. So then, unsurprisingly over the last few weeks I've been happily exploring their archives and enjoying the delights of pre-Comic Code horror comics.



Now there's tons of great stuff there, including an archive of titles from Key Publications who were often said to have produced some of the nastiest pre-Code horrors, often out-doing the notorious leaders in the field EC, creators of the infamous Tales from the Crypt, the Vault of Horror and Haunt of Fear.  Key had several horror titles such as Weird Chills and Weird Tales of the Future. But it was their other titles -Mister Mystery and Weird Mysteries - that filled me delight, for I instantly recognized the hosts as the mysterious figures who had introduced those two most memorable tales from my youth!

The tale of the macabre mom turned out to be 'Mother's Advice' in Weird Mysteries #7 (which you can read here). The tale of horrid old gossips proved to be more elusive, but further digging revealed it to be a tale in Mister Mystery #13. And this excellent blog not only identified the mag in which I read them - a reprint title from the end of the '70s called Ghoul Tales -  but also reprints both strips in the black and white format I first saw them in!




Saturday, 24 August 2013

HYPNOBOBS 124 - He Is Legend Part V


In the final part of our epic Richard Matheson retrospective, Mr Jim Moon examines the great writers' later works and adaptations. We discuss Bid Time Return which became the movie Somewhere in Time, travel beyond the veil of death with What Dreams May Come, open The Box, and round off with A Stir of Echoes.



DIRECT DOWNLOAD - He Is Legend Part V

HYPNOBOBS HOME DOMAIN - Full archive, RSS feed and other useful links

HYPNOBOBS on iTunes

HYPNOBOBS on STITCHER



   HYPNOBOBS is hosted by GeekPlanetOnline and is part of the ROGUE TWO Podcasting network.


CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS


Thursday, 15 August 2013

THE WHISPERER IN DARKNESS (2012)


The Whisperer in Darkness is one of HP Lovecraft's most famous tales, one of his later works that blends horror and science fiction to ground-breaking effect. However as influential as Lovecraft has been on both the horror genre and pop culture in general, screen adaptations of his work have been somewhat scarce - or rather screen adaptations that bear any real resemblance to the tales they are alleging to bring to screen is perhaps somewhat nearer the mark. 

A case in point is a previous attempt to film this story, 'Whispers' in Brian Yuzna's HP Lovecraft's Necronomicon (1993). Like many purported HPL adaptations, this segment in that early '90s horror anthology takes some elements of the tale, but in such a loose fashion that most would not connect it  to the original source text. And sadly this is all too frequently the result of many screen adaptions of tales from the Old Gentleman of Providence, with many Lovecraftians feeling that the best pieces of cinema that capture the ethos, tone, and imagination of his work have actually been movies that have been loosely inspired by his stories, such as John Carpenter's In The Mouth of Madness rather than films bearing either his or his stories' names. 

However Lovecraftian cinema isn't a complete wash-out and indeed in recent years we have seen some excellent movies derived from his writings. In 2005, a group of dedicated fans - actually Lovecraft LARPers - HP Lovecraft Historical Society  (or HPLHS for short) undertook a hugely ambitious project to film one of his most celebrated works, The Call of Cthulhu. While still only a fan short clocking in at 47 minutes and made for a tiny budget of $50000, it was extremely faithfully to the source, but the movie's inspired masterstroke was to make the film as it would have been when Lovecraft's seminal tale of Elder Gods was first published back in 1928. Hence it was it was silent, filmed deliberately scratchy black and white, and used vintage special effects technology. The results were fantastic and HPLHS Call of Cthulhu (2001) was a huge success and hailed as an instant classic.



Now spurred on by this success, HPLHS's next feature The Whisperer in Darkness (2011) was an even more ambitious affair, with a bigger budget and a full feature length running time. Like its predecessor, this too is shot in gorgeous black and white, using their patent Mythoscope to recreate the look of a period movie. However as the original tale was written in the 1930s, this time the movie is a talkie and tonally takes its cues from the genre films of that era. Hence we have alien technology as Ken Strickfaden would have envisaged, stop motion Mi-go Willis O'Brien style, and a far more pulp feel.

Again the movie is quite faithful to Lovecraft's original tale, as you'd expect from die-hard Lovecraftians, however as the story comprises mostly of a series of letters and a conversation, the screenplay had a good deal more work to do to turn this classic tale into a feature length movie. For while the story is one of Lovecraft's longer pieces, it is still a work of short fiction and hence some expansion has been necessary. But rather than pad out the original text - a move often leading to flabby films with thin narratives - instead directer Sean Branney and writer Andrew Leman instead have opted to follow Lovecraft closely, telling the complete story (with some minor additions) on the screen in the first two acts, and then adding their own new continuation of the tale in the third.

Obviously this insertion of new material is the most controversial aspect of this production, with some feeling that these sort of additions to the text are diluting the power of the tale. And I can understand this purist view, especially when the sections of the movie so beautifully bring the story to the screen. However structurally with the third act effectively being a bundled sequel, the new material does no great violence to the original tale, and that third act is such glorious fun, personally I find it hard to start quibbling over its non-canonical status.



The movie gives us Lovecraft's story and then delightfully takes us into new territory, that while being completely fresh is faithful to Lovecraft's themes. But the fresh material also allows The Whisperer in Darkness  to recreate the dynamics of the 1930s horror movies it is also paying homage too, so it has a last reel complete with an exciting chase and a battle with the monsters. Yes, there's more action than you generally expect find in Lovecraft's stories, however its not entirely out of keeping with the Old Gentlemen's work.

For while there is the well-worn cliche that all his tales end with a hapless narrator just going mad and/or being eaten, At the Mountains of Madness with a daring escape while pursued by a shoggoth, and in The Shadow Over Innsmouth we have the FBI raiding his invaded seaport and torpedoing its aquatic horrors. So then, the thrills and spills in the last act of this movie can be rightly be considered Lovecraftian. Furthermore the climax of The Whisperer in Darkness mirrors exactly the kind of thing that frequently occurs in Cthulhoid role playing games, and with the last act echoing several classic Chaosium Call of Cthulhu adventures, the movie is also a tribute to that classic tabletop RPG that over the years has brought legions of new readers to HP Lovecraft's works.

Hence if you adore Lovecraft, pulp fictions and old SF/horror movies, The Whisperer in Darkness is a must-see. It's a brilliantly literate and loving crafted piece of low budget film-making, showing the HPLHA really spreading their wings. And I for one can't wait to see what they will produce next.  




Sunday, 11 August 2013

HYPNOBOBS 123 - He Is Legend Part IV: A trip to Hell House



In this fourth part of our series of tributes to the late great Richard Matheson, Mr Jim Moon takes a trip to the infamous Belasco residence, better known to the world as Hell House. We discuss the original 1971 novel and its  movie incarnation Legend of Hell House (1973).


DIRECT DOWNLOAD - He Is Legend Part IV: A trip to Hell House

HYPNOBOBS HOME DOMAIN - Full archive, RSS feed and other useful links

HYPNOBOBS on iTunes

HYPNOBOBS on STITCHER

The two podcasts mentioned in this show can be found here -

The InsideOutcast 110 Hell House Commentary (PAL)

or

The InsideOutcast 110 Hell House Commentary (NTSC)

The Gentlemen's Grindhouse #5 - Hell House



   HYPNOBOBS is hosted by GeekPlanetOnline and is part of the ROGUE TWO Podcasting network.


CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS




Saturday, 10 August 2013

WITLESS FOR THE DEFENCE 04 - The Core (2003)


Here comes the judge! Here comes the judge!

His lordship Chris Johnson once again calls in his crack team of legal eagles - Pete Kelk of Shonky Lab and Mr Jim Moon - to pass judgement on The Core (2003). Is it a great disaster movie or just a disaster of a movie? Will they excavate a hidden gem or sentence it to be buried alive?

Grab the episode at the WftD site here

or

WITLESS FOR THE DEFENCE 04 - DIRECT DOWNLOAD

or

iTunes - Witless for the Defence



Wednesday, 7 August 2013

STOKER'S MANUSCRIPT by Royce Prouty


When Joseph Barkeley receives a call enlisting his services to authenticate the original draft of Bram Stoker's Dracula, he is intrigued. And he agrees to return to his childhood home of Romania and hand-deliver the manuscript to a most mysterious buyer...

Mr Jim Moon likewise receives a call - to review a new book from a first time novelist which is based around the literary genesis of the Count and plays with Stoker's mythology.





Sunday, 4 August 2013

HYPNOBOBS 122 - A Tribute to Richard Matheson Part III



In the third part of our epic tribute to the late Richard Matheson, Mr Jim Moon takes a trip through the televisual terrors conjured by the great writer in the 1970s. We look at the early Spielberg feature Duel (1971), Carl Kolchak's run-ins with The Night Stalker (1972) and The Night Strangler (1973), and discuss his many collaborations with the legendary Dan Curtis such as Trilogy of Terror (1975) and Dead of Night (1977).

Direct download - HE IS LEGEND Part III

HYPNOBOBS HOME DOMAIN - Full archive, RSS feed and other useful links

HYPNOBOBS on iTunes

HYPNOBOBS on STITCHER



   HYPNOBOBS is hosted by GeekPlanetOnline and is part of the ROGUE TWO Podcasting network.


CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS