Saturday, 30 November 2013

Notes On Ghosts



001 I don’t generally like anything that starts with a dictionary definition, but I was curious to see how ‘ghost’ was described. The OED answer is –

1. An apparition of a dead person which is believed to appear or become manifest to the living, typically as a nebulous being – OR –

2. A slight trace or vestige of something – OR –

3. A faint secondary image produced by a fault in an optical system.

At least one of those answers also speaks volumes when questioning what a ghost is, not just what we mean by the word. I don’t know which one is right, but I’d probably say two with a touch of three, but I’m not sure how, in this context, you could have two without one.

002 I’ve never properly seen a ghost, but then I’ve never looked very hard. I once went to the site of Borley Rectory with some friends and we all got stupidly scared at standing on a patch of grass that once apparently had a haunted house on it but it was very dark, we were quite drunk and we were expecting to be frightened, so frightened we were. I have subsequently heard the tale re-told to include a mysterious floating light which could have been a ghost, but I have no recollection of that whatsoever. I was probably peeing up a tree at that point, although you think someone would have said ‘oh, by the way, while you were urinating we saw a ghost’. On a tangential note, why do men insist on pissing up against things? If there is a single tree in an acre of bushes, you can bet that it will be singled out for a visit. Is it shame, safety or the primeval urge to mark your territory? Our animal instincts always assert themselves in intensely personal situations. I need the toilet now.

003 When I was 10, my Nan died. It was terrible, and I took it badly. My Dad tried to make sense of it for me (and perhaps for himself, she was his Mum) by saying that ‘death is just a part of life, and no-one really knows what happens next. Maybe she is in another place, and can see us now – maybe she’s here, sat over in the corner – but we just can’t see her’. It was the single most terrifying thing I had ever heard. It still is, I think. I have to say that I do sometimes believe that my house is haunted, but I think it’s more likely in need of better draught excluders. In any respect, I’m okay with the ‘ghost’ – I’ve lived there for ten years and whatever the intermittent late night presence is, it hasn’t yet tried to touch me up or take me over, so I’m not bothered. Perhaps I’m not its type.

004 Ghosts always seem to me to be figures not of fear, but intense sadness. I mean, what sort of life is that for a dead person? Tied eternally to a single spot, compulsively re-enacting the same rituals, walking the same battlements, rattling the same chains? It’s horrible. And everyone you encounter is scared of you. Perhaps ghosts are like a bad scratch on a record or a locked groove, doomed to repeat the same few seconds over and over again - or like a goldfish, by the time they realise what they are doing they forget what they are doing. I hope ghosts lack consciousness, or at least sentience: the idea that they know that they are ghosts is too awful to contemplate.

005 You may have noticed that I write about ghosts as if they are real. I think they are real. I don’t necessarily think that they are ‘an apparition of a dead person which is believed to appear or become manifest to the living, typically as a nebulous being’ but they are something, perhaps psychological, perhaps psychogeographical, perhaps a natural phenomenon that we haven’t discovered yet. But then I watch a lot of horror films and TV, I read a lot of horror books, so a ghost to me is like true love for a romantic novel reader, magic for a Harry Potter fan. That said, I don’t believe that vampires or werewolves exist. Mummies, yes.

006 There’s a great deal to say about ‘A Ghost Story For Christmas’, but I’ve run out of steam a bit so I’ll just say that it is one of the greatest things the BBC ever did. These Ghost Stories are not just for Christmas, they’re for life.

007 ‘Ghost Stories for Christmas’ debut at the Showroom Cinema on Tuesday 3rd December with ‘Whistle & I’ll Come To You’, ‘Lost Hearts’ and ‘Stigma’. If that doesn’t excite you, check your pulse, you may be a ghost yourself. On Tuesday 17th December it’s ‘A Warning To The Curious’ and ‘The Ash Tree’. White sheets are optional. More HERE and HERE.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Notes On The Gothic


001 I used to go out with a Goth. She drank Pernod, and only wore purple and black. Her hair was extraordinary, crimped and crenelated and blow dried upside down. The funny thing was how funny she was. I had expected that Goths would be miserable, but, for her, it was exciting, like riding the Ghost Train, or watching a Hammer film or reading a scary book late at night and having to put the big light on: morbid, perhaps, but not maudlin. But Goth girlfriends are not really what we’re talking about.

002 The original Goths were a Germanic tribe who sacked Rome. We’re not talking about that, either. We’re also not discussing architecture, although that has an integral role to play. Our Gothic is a literary style which became a cultural sensation and then a way of life. This Gothic is a heady combination of horror and romance, a kiss before dying. It flourished in the 18th and 19th centuries, where love was inextricably linked to death and to loss – a place where life was constantly threatened by a myriad of illnesses and conditions that medical science couldn’t yet cope with, where every person who survived beyond birth was automatically entered into the lottery of surviving to adulthood.

003 The signifiers of Gothic are many, and some have become clichés, a short hand for fear: a desolate or deserted place, an innocent heroine, a tyrant or a monster, a hero; candles and cobwebs, cellars and hidden passages, lives in peril, surrender, succumbing, evil to be overcome. Think of the pale, frail things of Gothic literature – lives spent in shadow and solitude, in big gloomy houses and partially ruined castles; hard, doomed lives, with love or death as their only solace and, sometimes, a love beyond death.

004 There is not always a supernatural element, but there is always a sense of the unnatural: you don’t need a ghost to be haunted; you don’t need a vampire to get your neck bitten.

005 I always meant to write something about the 1,225 episodes of extraordinary US goth soap ‘Dark Shadows’, but then Jonny Depp and Tim Burton came along and ruined it all. Those two need shooting. Or at least stunning. Perhaps they’ll then make a film that has a spark of something in it that isn’t all flip, facile, ironic hipster bullshit.

006 Gothic is easy to parody, indeed, it parodies itself. It has a sense of humour, it needs one, in case it becomes overwhelmingly grim. Gothic is popular, so it renews itself from generation to generation – it’s always the new black. It fulfils the primal instinct to reach out into the darkness, never knowing quite what your fingertips will touch first.

007 The Gothic Season starts at The Showroom Cinema, Sheffield, in November. ‘Hammer Bites’ starts on the 1st of December with a screening of ‘The Curse Of Frankenstein’. ‘Dracula’ and ‘The Mummy’ follow on the 8th and 15th. I will be presenting the films, with Gothic expert Andrew Smith on hand to stop me banging on about my ex-girlfriends. On the 15th of December, there will be records played in the bar, and I will be debuting my soon to become world famous horror themed disco set. Beware, I have a record called ‘Sexy Dracula’ to play.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Notes On A Certain Tendency In British Films, 1961-1967


001 The Kitchen Sink was a watershed for British cinema, as well as a crucible in which a number of great careers were forged. Would a watershed put out a crucible, do you think? In any event, wet or hot, it was a big deal. Within a few years, however, these films exchanged youthful defiance for decadence and, finally, disillusionment. In this, they reflect the arc of the sixties, which started so brightly and optimistically but, in the end analysis, turned out to be more complex and dark than popular cliché would allow.

002 ‘A Taste Of Honey’ is a film which resonates with love and kindness, not least in its ground-breaking choice of main characters (a teenage single Mother, a homosexual, a black man) and the compassionate, sympathetic way they are presented and played. The film that launched a thousand Smiths songs, it is, ultimately, a hopeful film, especially given that, outwardly, the circumstances and surroundings are so grim. Rita Tushingham is great, and Murray Melvin is brilliant. He always is. The sixties worked for Rita Tushingham, and she worked the Sixties. In a previous decade, her options would have been limited: even assuming that she could have made it into films, her career would have perhaps been confined to playing a succession of comedy barmaids, or silly housemaids, perhaps the odd murder victim. But – in the sixties - she is a star. Funny looking, gawky, unashamedly Northern, unapologetically working class, very talented, Rita took her chance and surfed the zeitgeist to Hollywood. She came back, of course, most did, but what a ride it must have been.

003 The Swinging Sixties! Oh, for a time machine and a few hundred quid in old money. You jump in your MG and cruise to Carnaby Street to buy some new gear: you’re going out tonight – you go out every night. But the reality is that for millions the Swinging Sixties only swung for others. And what props up the dream for the select few? What underpins their new liberties, new freedoms, the new opportunities for a few lucky people at the epicentre? Alfie might be having a ball, but he does it at the expense of his girlfriend’s, who he treats like shit. In ‘Smashing Time’, Rita Tushingham and Lynn Redgrave arrive in London from t’North and spend a frantic few weeks at the vanguard – they model, make records, have sex, get fucked; used up, worn out, they get the next bus home. Alfie ends up feeling like shit, too, like a little boy who has eaten too many sweets. Charlie Bubbles knows that feeling, and Joe Lampton, and Diana Scott and George Best and Tara Browne and Brian Jones and Marianne Faithfull. By the end of the 60’s, a great many people will have tummy ache.

004 ‘The Knack (& How To Get It)’ is a very swinging film – fast, wacky, hip, stylish – but the main theme is threat, with Rita Tushingham as Little Red Riding Hood and Ray ‘Mr. Ben’ Brooks as the big, bad wolf. His character wears leather gloves, for fuck’s sake, like a mod Dr. No . Brooks is at the epicentre of his own scene, but he needs a constant supply of mugs, victims, consumers, consumables – he’s not fussy, they are disposable items, there’s always more where they came from. He’ll wear himself out, eventually, but not before he’s worn out everyone else around him.


005 ‘Charlie Bubbles’ is perhaps the personification of what I’m fumbling around trying to say – working class talent is recognised, leading to fame and riches. But, for Charlie, it’s just not all it’s cracked up to be, the playground has become a prison cell. Not of the new world, no longer of the old, Charlie ends up slumped in a chair, barely a thought in his head apart from to try and get away somewhere – anywhere. From delight to disillusionment: it’s slightly too dramatic to say that the dream has become a nightmare, but it’s certainly become a massive pain in the arse.

006 Films that could have made the arc a little clearer: ‘Billy Liar!’, ‘Darling’, ‘Life At The Top’, ‘Alfie’, ‘Nothing But The Best’, ‘Smashing Time’, ‘Straight On ‘til Morning’. Just watch them at home in date order and draw your own conclusions, perhaps staging a Q & A with your family acting as an enquiring audience. Don’t forget to use the word ‘zeitgeist’.

007 Subverse Britannia 2 takes place at The Showroom Cinema in Sheffield on consecutive Sundays from the 10th of November, and will feature ‘A Taste Of Honey’, ‘The Knack’ and ‘Charlie Bubbles’, plus Q + A’s and records. Full details HERE.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Notes On 'Night Of The Demon'



001 Director Jacques Tourneur is something of a hero of mine, having directed a number of film noir and horror films which rank amongst my favourites. Nothing in ‘Cat People’ or ‘Out Of The Past’ can prepare you for ‘Night Of The Demon’, however. Whereas Tourneur normally gets his effects through subtlety and suggestion, shapes in the shadows, here the producer rode roughshod over his tendency to ambiguity and inserted a stop motion demon. Tourneur hated it, but I rather like the way it sets out the stall and lets you know immediately that black magic is real, monsters are real, Satan is real, Hell is a real place and, if you’re not very careful, you’re going there.

002 There’s something very persuasive about fictional worlds where witchcraft and magic are real, everyday things. In ‘Night Of The Eagle’ (1961), for instance, Peter Wyngarde finds that his academic career has been furthered by his wife’s mystical interventions, then finds out that all the faculty wives are doing the same. In ‘Cast A Deadly Spell’ (1991), magic is a mundane affair and people live alongside zombies, demons and other assorted monsters as if it were the most natural thing in the world (Fred Ward plays a private investigator called Philip Lovecraft, by the way. It’s an interesting film, check it out). In ‘Night Of The Demon’ a children’s party can instantly turn into a black magic battleground, just as the good old, cosy old British Library can become a weird, hallucogenic place of great psychic danger.

003 With regard to the demon whose night it is, it may not seem particularly scary now (in fact its face could best be described as ‘goofy’, it’s execution as ‘clunky’) but it is a real demon, not a mental suggestion, a will o’the wisp or trick of the light. The demon may resemble a hairy cousin of the animated monster from the old ‘Chewits’ advert (“He ate the Taj Mahal…”), but he is a supernatural creature who snatches up people and stomps them to death, a stone cold killer, an occult hit man from beyond our ken.

004 I’m all for scientific scepticism, but how long does it take Dana Andrews to cotton on that he is dealing with fanatics not fakers? That his soul really is in the balance? How much proof does he need? Like Brian Donleavy in the ‘Quatermass’ films, Andrews was supposed to have been drunk in pretty much every scene, but it’s hard to tell. What a trouper. The film has a great cast: Andrews, Maurice Denham, Peggy ‘Gun Crazy’ Cummins, Brian ‘Mr. Barraclough’ Wilde, Niall McGinnes, Reginald Beckwith…I’d like to think they were all drunk in pretty much every scene.

005 There is a séance scene in which medium Reginald Beckwith speaks with the voice of a small, dead girl. I have become somewhat hardened to horror over the years, i.e. repeat use has left me difficult to scare. However, all of that means nothing in the face of a middle aged man speaking in the voice of a small, dead girl, which, for some reason, I find terrifying. I would also find a small girl speaking like a middle aged bloke scary. I suppose I just don’t do disembodied voices very well, especially if they sound rather plaintive and confused.

006 The scenes with or about Rand Hobart have a sickly, oppressive feel, the sensation of dreaming that you are caught in quicksand. Tourneur draws a picture of unspeakable depravity with the merest of suggestions, a brilliant counterpoint to the explicit horror of rampaging Chewit monsters.

007 I will be presenting ‘Night Of The Demon’ at The Showroom Cinema on November 2nd at 7pm in the company of my friend Matt Cheeseman from The University Of Sheffield . The screening will be followed by a DJ set from Adrian Flanagan, one of the electronic warlocks behind the excellent Eccentronic Research Council, whose Pendle Witch obsessed album ‘1612 Underture’ I should have recommended a long time ago. If you do come, come and say hello. I promise not to stomp you to death. More HERE.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

The What and The Where and The When

 

Some dates for your diary. Well, actually, they’re dates for my diary, but you can come along too. I’d like that. My thanks to Matthew Cheeseman, a great facilitator who has made all this happen.

So, I will be at the Showroom Cinema in Sheffield for a fair proportion of November and December, introducing films and answering questions and playing records and generally enjoying myself by wallowing in all the things I love: British films, the sixties, horror, Hammer and scary old telly.

I’ll provide more detail as the events get closer but, for now, here’s a summary of where I will be at certain times. I feel like I’m setting up a series of alibis. Anyway, there’s more information and booking details, etc. HERE.

NOVEMBER 

Saturday, 2nd from 7pm: ‘Night Of The Demon’ (1957) + DJ Set from The Eccentronic Research Council 

Sunday, 10th from 2pm: ‘Subverse Britannia 2: A Taste Of Honey’ (1961) + Q & A 

Sunday, 17th from 2pm: ‘Subverse Britannia 2: The Knack’ (1965) + Q & A* 

Sunday, 24th from 2pm: ‘Subverse Britannia 2: Charlie Bubbles' (1967) + Q & A + themed records in the bar. 

DECEMBER 

Sunday, 1st from 2pm: ‘Hammer Bites: Curse Of Frankenstein’ (1957) + Q & A 

Tuesday, 3rd from 7pm: ‘Ghost Stories At Christmas 1: Whistle & I’ll Come To You + Lost Hearts + Stigma’

Sunday, 8th from 2pm: ‘Hammer Bites: Dracula’ (1958) + Q & A 

Sunday, 15th from 2pm: ‘Hammer Bites: The Mummy’ (1959) + Q & A + horror themed records in the bar.  

Tuesday, 17th from 7pm:  ‘Ghost Stories At Christmas 2: A Warning To The Curious + The Ash Tree’ 

*I won’t physically be at this one, so it will be twice as good. I will be sending good vibes, however.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Short Announcement


I know I’ve only just got back, but I have decided to put Island Of Terror on hiatus for a while. I seem to have less to say than I used to, and am saying it in a less interesting way, so I’m going to shuffle off for a bit and do a few other things. British horror and sci fi and all the rest of it are still massively important to me so, believe me, I will be back and we can carry on where we left off.



In the meantime, I will still be contributing to ‘Mounds & Circles’, the smut / art blog, as well as to ‘The Pseudoscientific World Of TOMTIT’, on which Fearlono and myself will shortly be presenting our first original audio works (we’re not calling it music). In addition, there is, or was, ‘Sub-Machine Gun’.

Please continue (or start) to follow this site for updates, especially regarding some interesting ‘Island’ related events coming up in November and December.



I’m not going to say too much more, as I will be coming back here and will be around elsewhere, but thanks for all your support and your interest over the last few years, it’s much appreciated.

TTFN,

Paul

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Burn, Baby, Burn








Disco Inferno courtesy of 'The Bitch'.

After The Stud


For all its artistic faults, ‘The Stud’ was extremely successful in financial terms and, naturally, a sequel was created, this time concentrating completely on perhaps the first films least interesting character, sophisticated slag Fontaine Khaled, as played by the increasingly witchy looking Joan Collins.

‘The Bitch’ is a mess from start to finish, so much so that I was surprised to see in the credits that someone had actually written it, and that someone actually claimed to have directed it (it was the same man, Gerry O’Hara, who should be ashamed of himself).

The format is familiar – short sex scene, long disco scene, tiny amount of plot, short sex scene, long disco scene, tiny amount of plot, short sex scene, etc. The world presented is supposed to be opulent and decadent, but just looks incredibly boring and the interiors, especially Fontaine’s bedroom, are unspeakable, like a Russian oligarch’s box room, jam full of fur, onyx and disgusting contemporary art.



There is a story in there somewhere, something about The Bitch getting stitched up by an Italian super lover on the make, a sort of role reversal of the first film that could have provided a mildly ironic counterpoint, although I should say at this stage that my reading of the ‘plot’ is subjective, and that there are no dramatic scenes to support this, and the actors are unable to convey the range of emotions needed to tell any sort of story, so who knows what the point is. Actually, it's pointless, and that's all there is to it. Now I'm not a person who insists on meaning, as long as the journey is enjoyable, as long as the trip is worth it. 'The Bitch' isn't worth it, and it isn't enjoyable, which to me is the true definition of pointless.

Characters from the first film crop up every now and again and, despite only a few months having passed between ‘The Stud’ and its sequel, they all seem terribly aged and exhausted, as if their wild lifestyles have finally caught up with them. If there had been a third film, it probably would have starred a bunch of skeletons.

There is disco dancing, which I like, especially a silly but enjoyable routine featuring Cherry Gillespie from Pan’s People and a topless lady with an impressive afro. Mostly, however, the cast and extras clomp about to unhip tunes by Quantum Leap, Leo Sayer and The Three Degrees, or, somewhat pathetically, to a track called ‘Everything Is Great’. It isn’t.

There’s a scene set in some tacky, sticky nightclub where the ‘beautiful’ people are chaotically throwing shapes to some rubbishy disco track, and the camera zooms in on a pair of flashing feet in a pair of stiletto shoes. It starts off alright but, within seconds, the feet have lost it and are all over the place, crashing down in an attempt to stomp the beat to death. Does the camera turn away? No. Do we cut to something else? No. And that’s ‘The Bitch’ in a nutshell and why I don’t like it. They don’t care, so why should I?

The Bitch






 



Friday, 27 September 2013

Getting Down


What's His Game?



‘The Stud’ may have seemed the perfect suburban adult entertainment in 1978, but today the signifiers of sophistication displayed in the film (furs, cocktails, poppers, loafers, top loading VCR's, Joan Collins) give it a laughably kitsch appeal that just about make up for its shortcomings as a work of art.

Based on a best selling ‘novel’ by Jackie Collins, the film tells the story of an ambitious London nightclub waiter turned greeter turned club manager Tony Blake, played by saturnine Swiss actor Oliver Tobias. Tony wants his own club but, in the meantime, is stuck with ‘Hobo’ (absolutely nothing like ‘Tramp’), a swinging cellar populated by wealthy and unbearable middle aged people making jokes about child molestation, Legs and Co. dancing and a cool black DJ in a great big cowboy hat playing Leo Sayer records.

On top of this (literally) he has to contend with his boss, bored socialite Fontaine Khaled (played by Jackie’s sister Joan) who sees Tony’s frequent and vigorous affections as part of their working relationship, and has no qualms about letting him know this on a regular basis. What unfolds over the course of the next hour and a half is a tacky maelstrom of recrimination, class consciousness, disco, angry parrots, homosexual assault, wrinkly nudity, uncomfortable looking lift sex, uncomfortable looking swing sex and an eight minute filler sequence where Tony simply drives through the countryside in his MG.



Glowering Tobias gives a fairly wooden performance, and Joan Collins, as ever, makes your skin crawl. The film itself is obviously low budget, dimly lit and poorly located, re-using shots over and over and slumping unceremoniously from one scene to another. The result is a slightly crushing experience, detailing as it does the depressing, sleazy lives of idiots in a dingy, miserable world where prostitution and borderline paedophilia are presented as the zenith of jet set glamour.

In its defence, the film is very funny on all sorts of (mainly ironic) levels, and has some memorable dialogue (once you’ve seen it, you won’t be able to check your reflection in the mirror without growling ‘you handsome bastard’). It is also quite clearly and cynically designed to make as much as money possible by cutting costs and appealing to the lowest common denominator at every turn, so we shouldn’t expect a cinematic masterpiece. That said, the climactic scene, where a crushed and humiliated Tony fights his way out of the club as the countdown to the New Year begins, finally bursting out into the (day for) night at the stroke of midnight and taking a massive breath of clean and uncorrupted air actually achieves a level of profundity missing elsewhere in the film and, as he saunters off into the night, you wonder where’s he’s going and what (and who) he’ll get up to next. Sadly, the sequel ‘The Bitch’ is all about Fontaine and is irredeemably awful. But we'll pick that scab tomorrow.

The music for the film was put together by the enigmatic Biddu, a talented writer, arranger and producer who had a few glory years in the UK charts with hit records like Carl Douglas’ ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ and Tina Charles’ ‘I Love To Love’ before returning to his native India. Appropriately for this low rent celluloid opus, the soundtrack LP was released by US infomercial giants Ronco, famous for severely editing tracks to fit more on an album and their immortal range of household must haves like the Veg-o-matic and the Buttoneer.

Anyway, here is a pretty comprehensive American trailer, which will give you a damn good idea of what you’re up against.

video

If you were wondering, by the way, Oliver Tobias' Wardrobe is by Herbie Frogg.

The Stud








Thursday, 26 September 2013

Music Machine








To say that ‘Music Machine’ is my favourite British disco film sounds like faint praise but, in actual fact, it’s a film I have a lot of affection for, a bona fide UK exploitation film that is obviously in the thrall of ‘Saturday Night Fever’ but has all the edge of ‘Summer Holiday’.

Ill-fated Gerry Sundquist plays Gerry, a bit of a chancer who is also a bit of a dancer. When his local nightclub holds a competition for a pair of disco freaks to appear in some dodgy film, Gerry decides that this is his moment and goes all out for the prize, enlisting the fabulously exotic daughter of an African diplomat (played by ‘New Faces’ star Patti Boulaye) as his partner.

There’s the usual trials and tribulations on the way to the big night, dirty tricks, disappointments, confrontations, fallings out and flirtations but, for some reason, the only scene I can really recall is Gerry jerkily dancing up umpteen flights of stairs to the high rise flat where he lives with his Mum and Dad. In true ‘pad it out’ exploitation style this takes a long, long time - but does neatly summarise why Gerry lives for disco: his life is shit, his prospects are zero, the lift is broken but, on the plus side, but he can dance a bit and, when he’s doing it, everything else goes away.

We’ve looked at youth cults before, as well as the transcendent qualities of dancing, and the two bump clumsily into each other here. Ultimately, ‘Music Machine’ is a cheap cash in, and the familiarity of the settings and the depressed feel of late seventies Britain is enough strip it of any trace of stardust – but there’s an endearing, poignant, totally understandable truth there in the way that it shows how young people live for Saturday night, and seize the opportunity to go out and get out, to momentarily escape their limited lives and the adult grind that is just ahead of them. You’re a long time grown up, for Christ’s sake, so why not be able to look back and remember that you once wore a white suit and danced like John Travolta?

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Oddments


Perennial heavy Pat Roach gets heavy in 'Gangsters', and I'm not just talking about his jewellery.

Gangsters: The Bottom Five

As a final 'Gangsters' note, I just wanted to revisit the bit about the ‘abysmal’ acting. I can’t think of another show that has such a poor cast. I’m not sure if there was a dearth of black and Chinese and Asian actors around at the time, but the ones they have (with the exception of Sayeed Jeffrey) are terrible, and elaborate, overwritten dialogue plus unconvincing performances / mangled diction leads to a number of strange, stilted, uncomfortable scenes that do nothing apart from highlight that it’s all a big panto. Perhaps given the show’s experimental leanings this was deliberate, but either way it makes for a slightly awkward and jarring experience.

Anyway, in reverse order, here, in my opinion, are the five worst actors.


Maurice had a long career as an actor, latterly appearing in 'Howards Way'. He was always pretty wooden, but here he has to keep it all together as the star and he starts creaking as soon as he's asked to convey anything out of the ordinary. One of his signature bad acting traits is a soundless, mirthless laugh, and he uses it a lot here and it really gets on your nerves because because it's so poorly executed and incredibly fake.   


This is writer Philip Martin. He can obviously act (he played the villain in the original play very well), but his second series impersonation of W.C Fields is funny for approximately two minutes and then just seems staggeringly self-indulgent, especially when he can't quite keep up the pretence in key scenes.


Familiar to British audiences in both Chinese and Japanese roles, Lee always seems fast asleep. When he speaks, you can neither hear nor understand him, and his face doesn't form any kind of expression, so you're fucked if you're trying to follow the plot.


Aside from the fact that we share a first name, Mr. Satvendar does very little for me apart from to annoy. Shrill, slow to react, fond of rolling his eyes and almost forgetting his lines, Paul adds insult to injury by suffixing almost every sentence with a high-pitched hollow giggle and killing virtually every scene he's in stone dead. Awful.


This fellow is just terrible. He can't even walk around convincingly and his laugh (bit of a  recurring motif - I often find you can judge an actor by how they laugh and cry) is a thing of cringing terror. Luckily, his character is written as something of a joke (he has a ridiculous hat and keeps quoting from gangster films) and he gets knocked off pretty quick so it's not like he's given much to do - but what he does do is SHIT.

Who's your favourite terrible actor? And your least favourite? And what's the difference? 

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Gangsters 2






 


Series two of 'Gangsters' followed three years later and goes off the rails almost immediately by introducing the Chinese Triads as a new adversary for the increasingly weary looking Kline. The Triads here are ridiculous, inscrutable stereotypes that owe a lot to Fu Manchu, but this seems deliberate, as this series seem intent on examing popular cliché and subverting the idea of the crime show. This also manifests itself by some bizarre fantasy interludes, an intermittent voice over in which the writer of the show (Phillip Martin) dictates instructions to a typist and Martin later appearing as a hit man who, for cover, impersonates W.C Fields (badly) all the time. This time around, the pretty decent theme tune has turned into a pretty awful theme song.



Clever clever, occasionally infuriating, totally self-indulgent, the series ends with one of the main characters simply saying ‘well, that’s that’ and walking off set followed by the writer throwing his script into the air. It’s not a completely satisfying show in any of its forms, but it is a great example of a time when the BBC had much more faith in its creative people, and was fully prepared to fund their stupid, bizarre, brilliant ideas, as long as at least a dozen people watched it. Them was the days.