I’m delighted to announce I’ve joined the panel of judges for January’s inaugural Black Country Horror Shorts Film Festival, at the suggestion of fellow judge (and old friend) Adam Nevill. More details soon.
The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot (2018)
Sparky; certificate 15 (out now)
Originally written for Dark Side magazine
When perhaps the last of the mythic man-beasts also known as Yeti begins to stray from its usual territory in the Canadian wildwoods, spreading a deadly disease which threatens all living creatures, the US Government press-gangs the legendary hunter responsible forty years earlier for assassinating Adolf Hitler in the final days of World War Two. In addition to his remarkable tracking and combat skills, Calvin Barr’s rare immunity to the virus carried by the Bigfoot may be our own species’ single hope to avoid destruction.
The difficulty with this film, the feature debut of writer-director Robert D Krzykowski, is that it hangs almost entirely upon the excellent performance from Sam Elliott (Hulk, Ghost Rider) as the world-weary Barr, haunted by both his past (Aidan Turner steps in for the counterfactual WW2 flashbacks) and the future happiness he was denied. Entertaining as the premise is, it would be nothing without Elliott at its heart.
Voodoo Man (1944)
Fabulous Films; certificate 12 (out 24 June)
Originally written for Dark Side magazine
The last of Bela Lugosi’s films for “Poverty Row” studio Monogram, Voodoo Man reunited the fading horror legend with William Beaudine, who’d directed him in the previous year’s The Ape Man. Shot over seven days during the autumn of 1943, this rather lack-lustre resurrection drama also features intermittent support from George Zucco and John Carradine, although only Zucco seems to be enjoying himself.
Lugosi plays the latest in a long line of deranged scientists, Dr Richard Marlowe, who’s been kidnapping lone women motorists in a bizarre attempt to rejuvenate his deceased wife (who looks darned fresh for someone who apparently died in 1912). Marlowe’s inventions include an EMP device capable of stalling car engines and some form of remote viewer linked to a television screen, but it doesn’t seem to occur to him that both might prove useful to the US war effort, such is his obsession with the voodoo ceremonies conducted by Zucco.
This is a very slight affair, a bundle of deranged sorcery, police incompetence and unlikely coincidences which is wrapped up within sixty-two minutes. Lugosi deserved better, and makes little effort to hide his own knowledge of just how far he’d fallen since 1931’s Dracula.
The Running Man (1987)
Fabulous Films, certificate 18 (out 24 June)
Originally written for Infinity magazine
Despite earning Arnie Schwarzenegger his first $5m paycheck, The Running Man is a film he still regards as a missed opportunity and a relative failure.
Based upon a pseudonymous novel by Stephen King (optioned before the secret came out, the real identity of book’s author “Richard Bachman” was well known by the movie’s release, although King blocked an on-screen credit), the main drama is set in a dystopian United States where the economy has collapsed, civil rights have been flushed down the toilet and the masses are kept subdued with a mix of reality television and the titular gladitorial contest. The unimaginable future of 2019.
Executive producer Rob Cohen initially wanted Miami Vice star Don Johnson to play the novel’s hero, Ben Richards, but the studio went for action hero Arnie, a choice which also disappointed King. Cohen also approached actor Paul Michael Glaser to direct, but the former Starsky and Hutch hearthrob considered he had insufficient time for pre-production, only changing his mind (unwisely in the opinion of many, particularly Schwarzenegger) when Andrew Davis (The Final Terror) reportedly ran four days behind schedule and $8m over-budget (of an estimated $27m) by the start of his second week behind the camera.
Davis’ replacement by Glaser both unsettled and angered the film’s star, who thought the latter ill-prepared and too fixed on a small screen aesthetic. The Running Man grossed $38m domestically, earning a small but tidy profit, but Arnie remained certain it could have hit $150m with more experienced handling.
That said, it’s a lot of undemanding fun. Richard Dawson (fresh off hosting the popular quiz show Family Feud) sleazes and snarls in equal measure as the contest’s ratings-hungry presenter and puppet master, and there’s solid support from Maria Conchita Alonso (Predator 2), Yaphet Kotto (Alien) and Marvin McIntyre (Short Circuit) as the other ‘runners’. Steven E Souza had worked with Schwarzenegger on Commando two years earlier, so knew how to balance the comic book violence and tongue-in-cheek dialogue, although the movie might have benefited from a larger injection of socio-political satire.
Print-wise, the Blu-ray retains the original grain and texture, whilst Fabulous is to be commended for encoding the DVD version without PAL speed-up.
Extras: Trailer; commentary track by director Paul Michael Glaser and producer Tim Zinnermann; commentary track by executive producer Rob Cohen; two short 2003 documentaries, Lockdown on Main Street (exploring the theme of US civil liberties post-9/11) and Game Theory (an examination of the growth of reality television).
I find myself in the news this week, rather than reporting it, but there’s no pleasure in the spotlight. North Wales Live posted a story this morning regarding the tragic and needless death of my three year-old dog Oscar whilst on holiday near Betys-y-Coed. The driver who hit him did not stop, an act which was both immoral and illegal. There is nothing more worth saying.
This is all rather worrying: a list of the reasons patients were confined to a lunatic asylum in London during the period 1864-89. I never realised reading a novel could be so hazardous, although there are a few authors I can think of whose success is quite mindboggling.
Edit: I’ve just noticed the spelling of “rumor” in that list, which seems a little odd for a London hospital, although this could have been taken from a US book on the subject.
If these posters are official, it looks as though current Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall plans to bring John Simm back into the series as The Master, in direct contradiction of his original announcement that no legacy villains would reappear (the BBC allegedly has to use the Daleks every season, or pass the copyright to Terry Nation’s family, hence the New Year’s Day “special”). It’s further rumoured the storyline will involve Brexit, which sounds both desperate and yet more evidence of Chibnall’s creative vacuity. Seriously, why is this useless pillock being allowed anywhere near the world’s longest-running science fiction show?
Update: I am indebted to Doctor Freedom for warning me these signs may be some kind of prank or Brexit-related spoof. Trouble is, after Season 11, how can we discern the real Who from the fake rubbish?
Considering I began reading superhero comics in the mid-1960s and writing about them in the mid-1970s, it’s slightly odd that it’s taken until now for me to write a letter to one. Still, here it is, fresh from the pages of The Immortal Hulk #14, with a reply from writer Al Ewing.
I first encountered Star Trek on the afternoon of Saturday, 12 July 1969, just four days before Apollo 11 set off on its quarter-million-mile journey to the Moon. The BBC, unlike NBC in the United States, chose to run the series in the intended order, which meant its UK premiere was ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before’. We’re only a couple of months away from the fiftieth anniversary of both that broadcast and Neil Armstrong’s tentative first step upon the lunar surface, and I will confide it was the former which had a greater effect upon my life.
Incidentally, another early fan via those BBC screenings was Janet Quarton, later to run the Star Trek Action Group (which I joined soon as I heard about it circa 1977) and later still to be honoured by Gene Roddenberry himself through the naming of the Next Generation character “Q”.
The indignities one suffers when producing a giallo thriller…