Latest Post

Poltergeist (2015) – notes

Poltergeist (2015) – notes

Kim’s film notes on the reboot of Poltergeist. Continue reading

On the web

  • My review of Spring is online.
  • My review of A Girl Walks Home  Alone at Night is online.
  • My Empire review of Spooks The Greater Good is online.
  • Martin Stiff at Amazing15 has designed Titan's outstanding Anno Dracula series covers.  Here's an Anatomy of a Cover piece highlighting the process, including several unused designs.
  • My Empire review of Monsters Dark Continent is online.
  • I contributed to this BBC Radio 4 documentary on occultism in the 1970s, available online for the rest of the week.
  • My Sight & Sound review of Avengers Age of Ultron is online.  NB: spoiler warning.  In contrast, here are my notes on The Avengers (Avengers Assemble).
  • ... on Bleeding Cool, to tie in with the release of the trade paperback of Witchfinder: Mysteries of Unland.  Includes the first issue of the miniseries as a bonus!
  • The 1932 Boris Karloff film The Ghoul is out on BluRay from Network, with a Kim Newman/Stephen Jones commentary track.
  • My brief notice of Stonehearst Asylum is online.
  • My brief review of the remake of The Town That Dreaded Sundown is online.
  • ... in connection with my Miskatonic lecture, here's an interview with me about the film Death Line.
  • My next novel will be The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School.  Here's the school register, by House (Ariel, Desdemona, Goneril, Tamora and Viola) and Year, plus the staff list.       Ariel     First Form   Susan Ah Hilda Courtney Jane Dogge Phaedra Hunt Demeter London (Captain) Lydia Marlowe Jean Orfe Ivy Prosser Anne Sercombe Janet Thaw   Second Form   Maria Biddlecombe Martina Bone Emily Dace Anne D’Arbanvilliers-Cleaver (Captain) Georgaina Fell May Forrest Monica Frensham Venetia Laurence Lucia Maunder Valeria Mrozková   Third Form   Hannah Absalom Chastity Banks Catherine Bourbon Chloe Catchpole Octavia Benjamin Bizou De’Ath Natalie Laverick Evelyn Lowen Catherine Trechman (Captain) Sybil Vigo   Fourth Form   Christina DeManby (Captain) Isabella Fortune Arabella Hughes Idominea Lescaulles Titania Mondrago Sally Nikola Fleur Paquignet Cassandra Wilding Heather Wilding Priscilla Wilding   Fifth Form   Susan Byrne (Captain) Thomasina Campbell Alexa di Fontane Dorothy Dungate Frances Farragh Prima Haldane Marion Keith Sonali Shah Charlotte Teller Rosina Terrell   Sixth Form   Angela De’Ath Jean DuGuid Jane Ferrers Enid ffolliott (absent) Yeong-ae Kim Brenda Manders Patricia Peale Doreen Stockwell Alexandra Vansittart (House Captain) Rebecca Youell       Desdemona     First Form   Elizabeth Chick Jennifer Dawes Pearl Dennison (Captain) Gawky Gifford Louise Hartley Ruth Hipgrave Taff Jones-Rhys Helen Knight Avril Parrish Ellaline Terriss   Second Form   Janet Blake Nancy Dyall Philippa Farjeon Dorothy Fulwood Elisabeth Gaye Kathryn Hall (Captain) Lillian Hyson Cynthia Moul Violet O’Brien Polly Palgraive   Third Form   Maude-Lynne Arbuthnot Kali Chattopadhyay Clodagh FitzPatrick Moraticia Frump Lydia Inchfawn Thomasina Hoare-Stevens (Captain) Emma Naisbitt Verity Oxenford Amanda Thomsett Serafine Walmergrave   Fourth Form   Janet Aden Ella Bowman Honor Devlin Susan Foreman Nicola Helfrich Charlotte Knowles Rosanna Kyd Lucinda Leigh Aurora Martine (Captain) Clare Saxby   Fifth Form   Dorothy Abbott Theresa Crockford (Captain) Fiona Fergusson Dilys Frost Rosalind Kaveney Saskia Kriegsherr Amelia Lipman Winifred Rose Pamela Soon Doreen Wychwood   Sixth Form   Gowan Caulder Marigold de Vere Constance Hern Dolores Howe Daisy Keele Morrigan McHugh Matilda Pelham (House Captain) Adrienne Penny Valmai Smith Donna Wise           Goneril     First Form   Jane Addey Selina Briss Maureen East Marina George (Captain) Julie Godfrey Julianna Keddle Dianne Poynton Sabine Saussure Tzara Tetzlaff Millicent Trundleclough   Second Form   Margaret Carmichael Wilhelmina Fudge Muyun Ker Freya Outerbridge Annie Pridhaux Ruby Raven Tabitha Spikins (Captain) Lillie Stevenson Jane Thicke Emily Usborne   Third Form   Katherine Berthaiume Rachel Cray Miriam Ellacott Joycelyn Hilliard Hermione Jago (Captain) Priyanki Khalsekar Isabel Loss Ekaterina Pendill Jemima Sieveright Linda Thiele   Fourth Form   Sophie Calder (Captain) Helen Davisson Cara Fielder Aconita Gould Mary Jones Netta Kinross June Mist Dorothy Ooms Ninja Sundquist Phoebe Wellesley   Fifth Form   Hjordis Bok Roberta Hale Janice Marsh Euterpe McClure Helen O’Hara Sarah Pinborough Emilia Pitt-Patterson Primrose Quell Susan Su Alicia Wybrew (Captain)   Sixth Form   Araminta Armadale Eliza Beardsworth Katherine Brown Maisie Collins Wendy Fernandes Lucretia Lamarcroft Gilbertine Myddleton Florence Rhode-Eeling (House Captain) Alraune Ten Brincken Charmaine Yip           Tamora         First Form   Sarah Ackland Mary Candlewick Vera Claythorne Olivia Duel Damaris Gideon (Captain) Louise Gilclyde Laura Harvey Iris Overton Felicity Quilligan Carlotta Smith   Second Form   Cleopatra Cotton Elaine Finn Cecily Garland Miramara Ghastley Siobhan Grimm Faith Merrilees Cunegonde Quive-Smith (Captain) Tanya Six Victoria Silk Esther Stuckey   Third Form   Allegra Bidewell Barbara Bryant Mary Jarvis Selma Head Clara Mill-Carston Bridget Mountmain Silja Mueller (Captain) Louise Sawley Sarah Stallybrass Francesca Stone   Fourth Form   Zenobia Aire (Captain) Sarah Carnadyne Ottilie Churchward Miranda Crowninshield Humphrina Jarrott Gwendolyn Nobbs Mara Rietty Susannah Thorn Phyllis Thorpe Ruby Wool   Fifth Form   Erica Boscastle Lucia Bewe-Bude Caroline Cowper-Kent Flora Griffin (absent) Jacqueline Harper Margaret Hume Sylvestra Phillips Sylvia Starr Clementine Talbot (Captain) Heike Ziss   Sixth Form   Henrietta Buller Bryony Burtoncrest Zealia Clock Beryl Crowninshield Sidonie Gryce (Head Girl) Moria Kratides Elva Kyle Dora Paule Stheno Stonecastle Felecia Tingle         Viola     First Form   Carol Coker Alison Hills Hazel Hood Yung Kha (Captain) Margaret Ring Monique Soutie Harriet Speke Marianne Toulmin Cecily Wheele Jemima Williams   Second Form   Marie Adkins Annabelle St Anne Karen Featherstowe Emanuelle Gotobed Joan Hone Eve Lapham Juliet Lass (Captain) Muriel Lavish Helen Oakes Marian Phair   Third Form   Heather Beeke Theosopha Busby (Captain) Simret Cheema-Innis Ann Dis Sarah Ladymeade Abigail Pulsipher Antoinette Rayne Priscilla Rintoul Angela Stannard Morgana Vail   Fourth Form   Kitten Carnes Barbara Chess Isola Doone Daphne Gallaudet Philippa Hailstone Unorna Light Harmony Meade Sara Paço (Captain) Laura Tallentyre Susannah Thorne   Fifth Form   Ida Acreman Doris de Marne Ellen Eyre Sally-Anne Flyte Oona Kite Holly Queenhough (Captain) Gladys Sundle Mary Thompson Lavinia Trent Kathleen Vaughn   Sixth Form   Edith Brydges Catherine Bunn Unity Crawford Amora Dove Patricia Kearney Margaret Lapham Helena Mansfield (House Captain) Martha McAndrew Joanne Storey Jocasta Upton             Staff   Dr Mrs Myrna Swan   Dr Ailsa Auchmuty The Reverend Mr Percy Bainter Miss Ethel Bedale Miss Violet Borrodale Miss Elizabeth Downs Miss Jennifer Dryden Miss Catriona Kaye (acting) Mrs Rosemary Wyke   Hilda Percy Louise Humphreys RRC Nellie Pugh Joxer Chidgey  
  • My brief Empire review of The Signal is online.
  • My review of the restoration of Powell and Pressburger's The Tales of Hoffmann is online at Electric Sheep.
  • My Screen Daily review of We Are Still Here is online.
  • Did Rod McKuen have any idea what the film was about when he wrote the saccharine end title theme song ‘Jean’ (‘run if you will/to the top of the hill’)?  It’s among the most tonally inapt songs ever foisted on a movie, and was probably responsible for me not getting round to seeing it until now – I remember the saucy AA-certificate trailer and the chart success of the song, but was too young to see it in 1969 and not that interested in Ronald Neame-directed adaptations of Muriel Spark novels starring theatrical knighteds in the subsequent decades.  It was a big film – awarded and widely-seen – on release, but rather quickly fell out of fashion, like a lot of big studio art projects.  I’d wager that its commercial success was split evenly between admirers of Maggie Smith, who was recreating a stage star role, and leches who were waiting for young Pamela Franklin’s nude scene.  It’s a fussy preservation of the story, with art-direction ideas like dressing everyone in drab greys and not having all the settings be dourly grim so that Smith’s wardrobe as the unconventional teacher can stand out all the more.  However, it still works because of the material and the lead performances – Smith’s Jean Brodie comes on like the sort of inspirational teachers we’re accustomed to in the likes of Dead Poets Society and Dangerous Minds, clashing with the stuffy higher-ups (Celia Johnson) and fiercely devoted to her girls (‘the crème de la crème’), but it gradually becomes apparent that she’s a self-deluding and actually dangerous lunatic.  Amid all her talk of art and passion, she insists on her arbitrary preferences as facts (Giotto is the best Italian painter) and weirdly tries to shove one of her budding pupils onto her former lover, art teacher Lloyd (Robert Stephens).  Smith’s Jean Brodie, who claims descend from Deacon Brodie, is set against protégé-turned-nemesis Sandy (Franklin), who bridles at being classified as the sensible one and slips into Lloyd’s bed, only to be upset when she sees that his nude portrait of her – like all his paintings – looks like Jean.  The telling flaw is Miss Brodie’s enthusiastic admiration for fascist strong men in Italy and Spain, which leads her to romanticise the brother of a pupil who has gone to fight in the Civil War (misunderstanding which side he’s on) and encourage his sister to go off and get killed for principles that are actively evil.  Smith is such a vibrant performer and Sandy such a flawed character that the struggle between the two isn’t as cut-and-dried morally as it might be, which makes this a much more disturbing picture than it would be if remade now.  That said, the notion of sheltered students becoming radicalised and rushing off to die in wars they can have no understanding of is even more relevant now – and a plot strand that might have seemed far-fetched then parallels 2015 headlines about schoolgirls haring off to join ISIS.  With Gordon Jackson, Rona Anderson, Isla Cameron, Molly Weir and Ann Way on the staff and Diane Grayson, Jane Carr and Shirley Steedman in the class.  Scripted by Jay Presson Allen, whose play gets a bigger push in the credits than the novel. 
  • ... at the Rio Cinema on April 4th, as the Cigarette Burns contribution to the Sherlock Holmes in London season.
  • This underrated 1945 picture was an entry in the horror-comedy cycle kicked off by the Bob Hope Cat and the Canary.  It's complete with secret passages, a scheming mad family, a  mystery villain, a smart aleck city slicker hero and a nonsense rhyme (‘Honors flysis/Income beesis/Onches nobis/Inob keesis’) that’s a clue to a hidden fortune.  George Marshall, director of The Ghost Breakers, even lets it get self-referential when it seems as if a bit with a wheezing pipe organ is being lifted from the earlier film (‘the one with the zombie?’).  However, it’s an old dark house farce crossbred with hillbilly comedy – a mix also attempted in Whistling in Dixie (1942) – which makes this startlingly like a rough sketch for the redneck horror films of the ‘70s and ‘80s.  Poll company employee Pete Marshall (Fred MacMurray) ventures into the backwoods in search of a previous ‘snooper’ who hasn’t come back, and wanders into the homestead of the criminal degnerate Fleagle family.  Spotting the dead cow skull décor, Pete asks 'You folks in the slaughterin' business?'  Later, this even hits on a horror expression which didn’t come into use for decades ('Shall I splatter ‘im now, Maw?' 'No, splatter ‘im outside.') and the Fleagle family runs to archetypes like the snarling, canny matriarch Mamie (Marjorie Main), dimwit superstitious thug twins Mert and Bert (Peter Whitney), snarling gangster Bonnie (Barbara Pepper) and simple-minded mooncalf beauty Elany (Jean Heather).  Heroine Claire (Helen Walker) shows up impersonating escaped con Bonnie and sleuthing around for a stash of stolen money, and the initially-overhwelmed, fast-thinking Pete joins her in trying to stay alive.  Mamie’s latest husband is mad scientist Johnson (Porter Hall), who has invented a luminous poison that makes dogs and people glow and gets into all the food at a madcap family meal (which has a definite Texas Chainsaw vibe).  Johnson dies early, making for a glowing corpse, but comes back as the (spoiler!) surprise culprit.  It has a lot of inspired runabout and visual gaggery, with a classic vaudeville crazylegs routine – copied from a 1926 Syd Chaplin film The Better ‘Ole, and itself reused by Gene Wilder in Haunted Honeymoon – perfectly executed by MacMurray (who also pulls off a clever pretending-to-see-a-ghost schtick), and a rigged-up barnyard machine that turns all the Fleagles into haybales (still alive, though the gruesome possibilities are there).  For a nonstop comedy, it still has moments of nastiness: Johnson battering a tied-up Elany, who thinks he’s a ghost, and forcing her to sing is actually one of the cruelest moments in ‘40s cinema.   I’m surprised it’s not been remade with Bruce Campbell.
  • On March 7th, I shall be doing an event for the Cambridge University Science Fiction Society. All welcome.
  • My Empire review of Hyena is online.
  • I've recently watched a German DVD release of assorted Holmes materials - unsubtitled, but easy to follow. You'll already have the BFI's release of the Douglas Wilmer Sherlock Holmes on order; the German TV series uses the same scripts, so you can watched paired episodes and improve your language skills (one episode missing in English survives in German). Also included are a German language version of Terence Fisher's Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace which looks a lot better than the bleary grey US release, and a 1966 TV movie about the Edalji case which has the same plot as the forthcoming UK TV miniseries Arthur and George.
  • My Sight & Sound review of It Follows is online.
  • My Screen Daily review of [REC]4 is online.
  • My Empire review of It Follows is online.
  • My Sight & Sound review of The Duke of Burgundy is online.
  • I saw the 1921 British version of The Hound of the Baskervilles at the Barbican, with live piano accompaniment from Neil Brand. Here are my notes on the film - caution: reveals whodunit. Eille Norwood has the distinction of being the only one of a multitude of silent screen Sherlocks to own the role the way the likes of Rathbone, Brett or Cumberbatch did – eclipsing other contemporary portrayals and becoming the default Holmes for a generation. William Gillette and John Barrymore were bigger stars, but one was recreating his stage hit and the other crammed a Sherlock into a much more complicated screen career – and both drew on Gillette’s play, which should really be seen as the first Holmes pastiche and attempt to add in elements Doyle didn’t include in his originals, rather than the original stories. Norwood and his preferred Watson (Hubert Willis) appeared in three series of short films based on the stories and Norwood starred in two feature films, based on The Hound of the Baskervilles (with the grey, dignified, unmoustached Willis) and The Sign of Four (with the younger Arthur Cullin stepping in to do the romance). Norwood got the Doyle seal of approval and his performance is sincere, focused and respectful – plus he has the proper beaky nose and casts a striking silhouette, whether seen from a distance on the moors (played by the real Dartmoor, which has rarely been done) or in shadow over a shot of a witness telling his story (one of director Maurice Elvey’s striking touches). As with all Holmes films until 1939, the assumption is that the story takes place in the present – with a motorised bus trundling out to Baskerville Hall and Beryl (Catina Campbell) in bobbed hair and a beret among so many tweedy or stiff-collared men. The story is slimmed down but done straight, which means that Norwood is offscreen for a long stretch while Watson is supposedly handling the sleuthing – indeed, Watson gets to shoot the dog here, while Holmes is off having a fistfight with Stapleton (Lewis Gilbert) in the mire. It seems that screenwriters William J. Elliott and Dorothy Westlake took it that everyone had read the twenty-year-old novel and don’t bother much with concealing the villain’s identity – he’s seen in a false beard spying on 221B Baker St as Dr Mortimer (Allan Jeayes) and Sir Henry (Rex McDougall) consult Holmes and his lookalike portrait as wicked Sir Hugo is prominently displayed. Most screen Stapletons are exaggeratedly decent chaps in their early scenes, a tipoff as to their ultimate guilt, but Gilbert plays him like a glowering brute of the sort often seen in films of this vintage – it’s not his scheming for the inheritance that makes us hate him, but that he beats up, knocks down and ties up his ‘sister’ (actually wife). Beryl is given some Pearl White-style escaping to do – burning the bonds with a knocked-over candle, tying the sheets into a rope. Barrymore (Fred Raynham), the butler, skulks in sinister fashion and signals to the doomed convict, who is his brother rather than brother-in-law here, but takes part in the rescue of Sir Henry from the dog, which is given an optical glow which comes and goes in the print I saw. In contrast with Rathbone, who celebrates the solution of the case by demanding ‘the needle’, Norwood signs off by asking for a ‘whiskey and soda’. It’s too swift to be as atmospheric as it might be – the Dartmoor locations, augmented by a prop monolith, could have done with more exploring – but it does rattle along, proving this one of the most indestructible of all stories. Mme d’Esterre, the official Mrs Hudson of the series, appears briefly.
  • My Screen Daily review of The Treatment is online.
  • My Screen Daily review of 88 is online.
  • My Screen Daily review of Stonehearst Asylum (previously Eliza Graves) is online.
  • My review of Predestination is online.
  • My Empire review of Coherence is online.
  • My review of Jupiter Ascending is posted online.
  • My tiny Empire review of the British found footage film The Rendlesham UFO Incident is online.
  • My Empire review of The Duke of Burgundy is online.
  • My Empire review of Son of a Gun is online.
  • ... here I am introducing a Mario Bava double bill on BBC2's much-missed Moviedrome strand in 1990.
  • I've written an essay which appears among the extras on Eureka's BluRay/DVD release of Bill Gunn's movie Ganja & Hess.
  • ... I've contributed an article to the Guardian's Whiplash special. I also researched this insults list and helped devise this which-mentor-are-you quiz.
  • The story of the Reverend Henry James Prince.  Features a footnote including me.
  • At the Westfield Stratford City shopping centre in London currently you can visit the Hidden House - an immersive haunted house experience based on the Grimm Fairy Tales, and created by Unlocked Vision. Kim and some of his chums went along last week and were suitably terrified by the creepy house and its spooky residents. If you'd like to win two tickets into the ghoulish mansion, then suggest a caption to the photograph featured below. The best entry by 6pm on Tuesday, 23 December will nab the prize. Leave your suggestions in the comments. The Hidden House will be open for brave explorers until 4 January 2015 - a perfect antidote for Christmas cheer.
  • ... is posted at the Wickergirl site.
  • Look, up in the sky ... Simon Taylor's short film, Umbermensch!, based on my short story, is online.
  • My Screen Daily review of The Pyramid is online.
  • My Empire review of Wong Kar Wai's The Grandmaster is online.
  • I've written a piece on the British s-f films Invasion and Unearthly Stranger, available in Network's British Film Collection.
  • My Empire review of Monsters Dark Continent is online.
  • I shall be interviewed by Barry Forshaw at the Barbican Library on December 1st.  Do come ...
  • My 1990 horror novel Bad Dreams will shortly be reissued by Titan Books, with extras that include my hard-to-find novel Bloody Students (previously published as Orgy of the Blood Parasites, as by Jack Yeovil) and an afterword about how the books came to be written, explaining the involvement of Neil Gaiman, Phil Nutman, Stefan Jaworzyn, Norman J. Warren and Richard Gordon.  The cover is another splendid Martin Stiff/Amazing 15 creation. It can be pre-ordered from Amazon UK and Amazon US.  
Kim

Kim’s Tweets

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 19,995 other followers