Rather shockingly, it’s been three months since
my last confession my most recent posting here, during which time Monsters premiered at Leicester’s third Grindhouse Planet Film Festival and The Forbidden Lady appeared as an extra on Arrow Video’s release of Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion. Chrissie and I went down to London just before Xmas to meet up with my old friend Norman J Warren (photo below), who’s busy supervising the 2K remastering of his back catalogue, but other than that, neither of us have exactly been caught up in the social whirl. If social media has indeed replaced old-fashioned face-to-face interaction, it’s a rather dull and uninspiring substitute for the energetic pub gatherings and rambling early-hours conversations I used to enjoy so much back in the final quarter of the Twentieth Century.
One of the long-term plans for the Birmingham Horror Group when it launched in December 2015 was for members to host an old-style horror event in the city, as opposed to the soulless, commercially-orientated merchandise and autograph fairs which have proliferated since “geek culture” became fully monetised. After all, what’s the point in hanging out with friends in a pub, discussing old episodes of Doctor Who or your favourite comics, when you can stand in line to pay £45 to be photographed next to John Barrowman (£10 extra if he wears his “Captain Jack” overcoat) or buy five versions of the same superhero reboot with different covers but the same identical Manga-style interior art? In fact, why even hang out with friends in the first place, when there are thousands of “friends” willing to give pretty much any passing comment a ‘like’ on Facebook?
Well, I believed there was still life in the original concept — and boy, does it look as though I was wrong. Running the monthly group has long ago ceased to be the fun it should have been, the erratic turn-out proving most “fans” are now only willing to show up if there’s some kind of gimmick, like a guest speaker or a free screening, and prefer to scurry back to the warm glow of their computer screens as soon as that part’s over. As for the Birmingham FearFest, ticket sales have been embarrassingly lack-lustre, and we’re currently facing the very real likelihood of having to pull the plug on its incubator. It’s been suggested to me that it could simply be postponed until later in the year, allowing a new round of publicity, but I’m not convinced I have a sufficiently deep reservoir of energy or optimism.
A little over thirty years ago,so many people turned up at a Novacon I chaired in Birmingham that we ran out of programme books, and we’d printed more than 500. These days, I find myself quite literally unable to run a party in a brewery. The world has allegedly evolved, but I’m not sure whether I want any part of this latest mutation; it clearly wants no part of me.
Updated 4 May.
Rose of Eibon’s YouTube channel has been further updated to include my first three appearances on Made In Birmingham TV, successor to Big Centre TV. These comprise interviews with actress Edith Scob (12 November), movie director Norman J Warren (3 December) and film-maker turned festival organiser Marc Hamill (10 December). An extended version of the last of these is currently in the works.
As anticipated, Big Centre TV was officially absorbed by the Made TV network (becoming Made In Birmingham TV) as of 1 November, making my interview with Alan Jones – premiered on Halloween morning – the final item aired under the former’s Big Picture banner. We made our debut on the rebranded channel just under a fortnight later, when The Lowdown Birmingham showcased my conversation with Edith Scob. A further interview, with director Norman J Warren, is currently in the pipeline.
Update: The interviews with Edith and Norman aired as part of both Birmingham News Weekend Magazine and The Birmingham Lowdown: Best Bits, on 12 November and 3 December respectively.
[From SFX #33, 1997; thanks to Chrissie Harper for scanning this page for me.]
[Right-click above to open larger image]
There’s a little story behind this article (which unaccountably appeared without a byline, although I did receive a credit for the reviews of Satan’s Slave and Terror published in the same issue). I’d interviewed Norman at the 1997 Festival of Fantastic Films, but during the closing ceremony, whilst I was on stage with John Landis, some unknown scumbag sneaked into the main hall and stole the bag containing both my camera (with irreplaceable photos of myself with my new god-daughter, Heloise) and my tape recorder. Fortunately, Norman was agreeable to recreating our conversation via telephone, and my late wife Ann generously offered to transcribe the result.
Bringing the story forward to the present day, Norman is actually working on a new movie and has agreed to discuss this project on a forthcoming edition of Ghostwords TV.
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).