Escape From Old Trafford

I once had the enormous pleasure of meeting the director John Carpenter at the National Film Theatre, where he’d presented a lecture on his idol, Howard Hawks. I pointed out that he’d paid homage to Hawks’ westerns (Assault on Precinct 13) and science fiction (The Thing), but never tried his hand at a ‘screwball’ comedy. He joked that he might do just that, but with only two movie credits this century (2001’s lacklustre Ghosts of Mars and 2010’s barely-released The Ward), it’s unlikely we’ll ever see him in Bringing Up Baby mode.

In any case, Mr Carpenter is now pursuing a different path, albeit one which feeds on his parallel career as a soundtrack composer: rock star. Which is why Saturday evening found me at the Victoria Warehouse, a short distance from Manchester United FC’s home ground. The European leg of his Release the Bats tour had originally included two nights at Manchester’s Albert Hall, but a switch in promoters precipitated a conflation of both events into one venue, a massive concrete box with all the ambience of a multi-storey car park (and comparable acoustics, according to some who ended up standing at the back). A makeshift sign near the entrance alluded to Escape From New York, but the building itself was a far more convincing nod to that movie.

Doors opened at 6:30pm, and most of the 4,000 ticket-holders seemed to have made their way inside by 7pm, but other than a couple of technicians, the stage remained empty until 8:30pm. Luckily, I’d managed to finesse my way into the balcony area, which offered very limited seating, but the vast majority who’d expected to watch the concert in relative comfort were instead forced to stand for three hours with a restricted — or non-existent — view of the 75-minute set.

The sole saving grace was the performance by Mr Carpenter and his band, which was excellent, although the balcony may have been the only place where it could be properly enjoyed. In amongst the instantly recognisable Halloween, The Fog, Big Trouble in Little China et al, we were treated to tracks from his two volumes of Lost Themes, belted out in a mesh of synthesiser and heavy guitar.

So, great gig, lousy location. To quote Beth Abbit’s review in the Manchester Evening News, “It’s disappointing that this highly anticipated opportunity to see a hugely iconic movie man at work was hampered by an unsuitable alternative choice of venue.”

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Towards the next frontier [3]

The inaugural episode of Ghostwords TV is now available online, featuring an interview with Ramsey Campbell, news and reviews, editorial opinion and a personal tribute to David Bowie. You can subscribe to the feed here.

Festival memories [2]

Here’s a nice photo of the actress Valerie Leon and myself at the 1996 Festival of Fantastic Films in Manchester. She’s reportedly busy filming a new horror comedy, Pitfire of Hell, co-starring fellow scream queen Ellie Church, directed and co-written by Bob East. Ms Leon is 5’11” tall, by the way, and I’m pretty sure she was wearing high heels.

Towards the next frontier [2]

For those who recall our pre-Xmas announcement, Chrissie’s and my plans for Ghostwords TV continue apace. We’ve managed to pull together the equipment we need for the initial launch, dressed the ‘set’ (aka the upstairs bedroom Chrissie uses as an office, the same function it had when I first freelanced back in the early ’90s) and filmed a couple of brief tests. We’re probably a couple of weeks away from releasing our first episode, but would strongly suggest anyone who wants to catch the show from the get-go should immediately subscribe to our YouTube channel.

 

 

Festival memories [1]

I’ve been looking through a few of my photo albums and it struck me it might be nice to dust a few of the pictures off for a wider audience. The two below were taken at Manchester’s Festival of Fantastic Films in 1995, when the guests also included directors Roger Corman (whose Gas-s-s-s and The Trip are about to be released on R2 Blu-ray by Signal One), Robin Hardy (The Wicker Man) and Norman J Warren (an old friend, whose canon includes Satan’s Slave and Inseminoid).

Anyway, here’s a rather nice snap of myself with Hammer scream queen Barbara Shelley, who rather curiously — albeit charmingly — thought we already knew each other. Perhaps she mistook me for one of the Martian bugs she’d encountered in Quatermass and the Pit.

Oddly enough, Ms Shelley wasn’t the only actress present who’d had to fight off an invasion from the Red Planet, since we were joined by Ann Robinson, who apparently quit showbiz after The War of the Worlds in order to marry a matador (although she had a brief cameo alongside original co-star Gene Barry in the Spielberg remake).

The horror, the (Birmingham) horror…

As previously mentioned, the Birmingham Horror Group held its inaugural meeting on 5 December in Acocks Green, when the turn-up comprised James Brogden, Ray Holloway, Louise Palfreyman, Chrissie Harper and yours truly — plus, addressing us via Skype from his home in Wallasey, group president Ramsey Campbell. A follow-up gathering took place on 2 January, but a virtual appearance by Dez Skinn unfortunately fell foul of wifi problems. The next is scheduled for 6 February; details will be posted here.

Birmingham Horror Group launched

Back in November, I reported plans for the Birmingham Horror Group, and I’m pleased to report the first meeting took place as scheduled on 5 December, within the cosy confines of the Spread Eagle pub, Acocks Green. To make the evening even more memorable, honorary president Ramsey Campbell made a special appearance via Skype (you can see a short video clip at the Group’s website).

The next gathering will take place at the same venue on Saturday, 2 January. In the meantime, Chrissie Harper’s design for our logo makes its debut to the immediate left.

New horror group rises from the slab

A new monthly gathering for horror and dark fantasy fans in Solihull and Birmingham will be launched next month at the Spread Eagle pub in Acocks Green. British horror author Ramsey Campbell has agreed to be the group’s honorary president, and plans to attend the inaugural meeting via videolink. For full details, please contact me via steve.green@ghostwords.co.uk.

Edit 1/12: The initial gathering will be held from 7pm on Saturday, 5 December. The group’s website will be launched very shortly.