Manchester Memories [4]

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I’ve just seen a copy of the first progress report for this year’s Festival of Fantastic Films in Manchester. It includes a report on last year’s event, and there’s me in the middle photograph, interviewing the delightful Jenny Hanley on stage. The resulting article appeared in February’s issue of The Dark Side.

DVD review: The Doctors – The Sylvester McCoy Years (2018)

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In a near-echo of the problems Doctor Who suffered during the closing years of its original run, the sixth and seventh incarnations of the titular Timelord present quite a challenge for Reeltime Pictures as it repackages individual instalments of its popular Myth Makers series into these compilations.

Chief among these is the lack of co-stars to profile: the Doctors portrayed by Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy only had three companions between them, and one of those – Bonnie Langford’s somewhat less than universally loved “Mel Bush” – has yet to be interviewed by producer Keith Barnfather and his team.

It’s surprising, then, that the existing episodes with McCoy and Sophie “Ace” Aldred (hosted by Nicholas Briggs and shot in 1994 and 1991, respectively) were not augmented in some manner, although the latter does pop up alongside Barnfather in the introduction and past ‘updates’ haven’t always proven successful, most notably the disjointed Nicholas Courtney contribution to The Jon Pertwee Years. If McCoy had any clue he’d be enjoying one final huzzah the following year, in the ill-fated tv movie marking Paul McGann’s debut as the Eighth Doctor, he certainly doesn’t let on, and Aldred’s involvement as a production assistant offers evidence of the close bond between them which still exists to this day.

The focus then switches to three actresses who portrayed notable supporting characters in the series: Lisa Bowerman (featured in the final serial, “Survival”, then subsequently cast as “Bernice Summerfield” in various Big Finish audio spin-offs), Jessica Martin (“The Greatest Show in the Galaxy”) and, most interesting from a biographical viewpoint, Angela Bruce (“Battlefield”). Bringing up the rear is a 2002 chat with former story editor Andrew Cartmel, who offers a tantalising insight into how a 1990 season would have treated the Doctor (a new companion, to begin with).

The interviews with Martin and Bruce were conducted earlier this year by Reeltime’s “Ace” reporter, and Sophie’s uniquely personal perspective does introduce a fresh angle into the equation. I for one certainly look forward to her next Myth Makers assignment.

DVD review: Bella in the Wych Elm (2017)

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Although Tom Lee Rutter’s debut feature shares with Ian Merrick’s The Black Panther (1977) both a factual basis and a heart of England setting, the former’s “Midlands phantasmagoria” eschews grimy realism for a more abstract account of the mysterious discovery of a woman’s corpse inside a hollow tree in wartime Warwickshire.

Was she the victim of a bizarre Satanic cult, a Nazi agent eliminated by her own comrades or merely an inconvenient lover? Rutter’s drama-documentary follows in the journalistic footsteps of contemporary local reporter W Byford Jones, whose ‘Questor’ column first explored the myriad possibilities. The film’s low budget is to some extent compensated for by Rutter’s use of authentic locales and non-actors for many of the roles (the narration by ‘Tatty Dave’ Jones certainly boosts its Black Country flavour), although he does go a little overboard with the flickering retro photography, which would be more appropriate had the murder taken place fifty years earlier. Nonetheless, this is an intriguing curio, and not without its ‘folk horror’ charm.

[This film was released on DVD by Carnie and is also available via Amazon Prime. The limited edition includes two alternative ‘silent movie’ edits (unusually, of differing durations) with fresh scores, a trailer and three postcards.]

Photo Album: David Sutton, 2016

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I interviewed the author and editor David Sutton at the October 2016 meeting of the Birmingham Horror Group, the text version of which subsequently appeared in the magazine Fear. We first met at the third Fantasycon, held at a nearby hotel in February 1977, so we were well familiar with each other’s work (I’m holding a copy of the journal I co-edited, Critical Wave, which carried a feature on Fantasy Tales, the award-winning digest he co-edited).

Photo by Chrissie Harper

The Lure of the Silver Scream [12]

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There’s a new project in the pipeline at Vamporama Films: a gothic short entitled Monsters, to be directed by Chrissie Harper from a script she’s conjured out of a story idea of mine. Taking the lead role will be William Hayes, who mesmerised the audience at our special screening event in October. More news soon, but for now, here’s a detail from one of Chrissie’s storyboards.

Photo Album: Carl Jones, 2016

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Back in July 2016, I was asked to be a guest on Carl Jones’ weekly movie show The Big Picture, which aired on the regional channel Big Centre TV. We had a lot of fun, as you can see here, and that appearance led to my colleague Chrissie Harper and I producing a series of news reports for Carl. Sadly, neither The Big Picture nor Big Centre TV survived the year.

Photo by Chrissie Harper

The Forbidden Lady

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I interviewed the actress Dagmar Lassander at the 2016 Festival of Fantastic Films in Manchester. I can’t say too much at the moment, but my colleague Chrissie Harper is currently editing footage from our conversation on stage into a short documentary, under the working title The Forbidden Lady. More news soon as I’m able to announce it.

Nappy Days

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Had a highly entertaining conversation with actor/director Dominic Brunt on Thursday, followed up two days later by a short chat with his wife and regular collaborator Joanne Mitchell. The topic was their movie Attack of the Adult Babies, which gets its DVD and Blu-ray release from Nucleus Films on 11 June. Touch wood, my feature will appear in Dark Side shortly afterwards.

Photo (c) Ginger Nuts of Horror