Dracula Risen hearse smile

Gothmas 2019: Dracula by the Northern Ballet

[personal profile] lady_lugosi1313 and I booked our tickets for the Northern Ballet's Dracula some six months before the actual performance, because we had both enjoyed it so much when they last did it in 2014 (LJ / DW).

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Now that I have seen this version of Dracula for a second time, it's confirmed the provisional opinion I had of it beforehand - that it is the second best adaptation of Dracula I've ever seen, with only Hammer's cycle of Dracula films above it. As regular readers will realise, I have seen a lot of Dracula adaptations, and Hammer's will always remain the ultimate interpretations to me - so that's the highest praise I can possibly give. This time, the performance we saw was filmed and transmitted live to various cinemas around the country, and I am really hope that also means it might be made available on DVD at some point, as I would love so much to be able to watch it again. And, since the casts changed from performance to performance during its run, I will record here that ours was as follows:

Dracula: Javier Torres
Old Dracula: Riku Ito
Mina: Abigail Prudames
Lucy: Antoinette Brooks-Daw
Jonathan: Lorenzo Trossello
Renfield: Kevin Poeung
Dr Van Helsing: Ashley Dixon
Dr Seward: Joseph Taylor
Arthur: Matthew Koon
The Brides: Rachael Gillespie, Sarah Chun and Minju Kang

Well done and thank you so much to all of them!

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Figure on the sea shore

Gothmas Eve 2019: Nunkie as M.R. James, 'The Ash Tree' and 'Oh Whistle...'

The trouble with Gothmas (i.e. Halloween) is that so many awesome spooky shows of various kinds get put on at that time of year, and inevitably they all clash with one another, making it impossible to go to all of them. One of the two shows I went to this year only floated across my radar fairly late, but when [twitter.com profile] hickeywriter got in touch to say that Nunkie (aka Robert Lloyd Parry) was performing two M.R. James stories in Leeds Library on Gothmas Eve, I knew I should go. It nearly didn't happen because, with so much else on at the moment, by the time I went to the website to book tickets for me and [personal profile] lady_lugosi1313 they had sold out! But luckily she is pally with the staff at Leeds Library, and there turned out to be a few no-shows anyway, so we got in.

I was so glad we had! I have been to see Nunkie perform more times than I can remember now - a lot will show up via my M.R. James tag, but not all as I haven't blogged them systematically. Sometimes when a performance is coming up, at this point often of stories I've seen him do before, I wonder whether it's worth going again, but this show reminded me of why the answer is yes. It's not like repeatedly watching the same DVD recording (though I'm by no means against that) - he is a living, evolving performer who is just getting more and more out of the material as time goes by.

This time, we had 'The Ash Tree' first, during which he drew documents out from an archival box to 'read' them to us as testimonies of the events reported, as utterly naturalistically as though this were a real endeavour, chattered cheerfully about the practice of the Sortes Biblicae and got incredible value out of his hand, a candle and a simple slap on the table to represent the hairy spider-creatures from inside the ash and the soft plump as they fell to the floor. Perhaps best of all, though, was his physical acting-out of Sir Matthew Fell's contortions in his bed, which in the dim light of the single candle looked genuinely almost inhuman to me.

Then followed 'Oh Whistle And I'll Come To You', during which he elicited appreciative chuckles with his descriptions of golf and the various rather unlikeable characters of the story, before making us see perfectly the shape of the Templars' preceptory where the whistle is found, the shape and movements of the figure on the sea-shore and of course its crumpled linen face, helpfully represented by a pocket-handkerchief. I was on the edge of my seat in rapt attention and wonder throughout pretty much all of both stories, and will very definitely make sure I remember to keep coming back for more in the future.

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19. Vampirella (1975 / 2019), staged reading at the Regent Street Cinema, London

A General Election has been called, and I am the chair of a Liberal Democrat constituency party in a very, very winnable target seat. So I am unlikely to get much time for LJ / DW until after it has finished. BUT I've recently been to three very cool performances of different kinds, so I am damn well going to make the effort to record them before they entirely disappear from my memory.

This first one was another staged reading of an unproduced Hammer script held at De Montfort University's Cinema And Television History (CATH) Research Centre, similar to the ones I have been to before of The Unquenchable Thirst of Dracula (LJ / DW) and Zeppelin v. Pterodactyls (LJ / DW. This time, though, rather than being part of the Mayhem Film Festival in Nottingham, it was produced by [twitter.com profile] kierantfoster, who has just completed a PhD on the unmade scripts, and got some postdoctoral funding to put it on. He told me he would be doing this at the Vampire Festival I went to in July (LJ / DW), so I kept a careful eye out in the months that followed, leapt on the tickets when they came out and enthusiastically recommended it to all my horror-loving friends. Kieran even commissioned a special poster by Graham Humphreys just for the event:

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[twitter.com profile] JohnJJohnston was kind enough to offer me crash space at his flat in south London for the night, so we met up beforehand for a bite to eat, strolling through Soho past Hammer House (where the studio's offices once were) on the way:

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Then it was on to the cinema where more or less everyone who was involved with Hammer and is still with us was there - Caroline Munro of course, because she had a part in the reading, but also Judy Matheson, who had contribute a voice-over, and Madeleine Smith and Renee Glynne (script supervisor), I assume just because they wanted the fun of being at a Hammer performance, not to mention all the people who do Hammer art, and books, and run Facebook groups.

The set-up for the reading itself was similar to the other ones I've been to - a cast of actors, most with one major part and a couple of minor ones, reading the script with appropriate body-language and accents, with occasional music and animations projected onto the screen behind them to help the story along. Here is Jonathan Rigby doing a bit of opening narration, before settling down into his major role for the evening of the ageing, alcoholic stage magician Pendragon:

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Having read up a bit on the history of the script and its various woes before the performance, I found that the most pressing question I had for [twitter.com profile] kierantfoster in the bar before things began was, "Is it actually a good story?", to which he replied "Er, it is now." From this I gathered that judicious editorial work had been done - but I still have to say that the plot-line was pretty bonkers and hard to make much coherent sense of. Besides which a fortnight has already passed since I saw it, so my memory of it may not be particularly sharp.

Still, these are the outlines as far as I can remember. The story is set in mid-70s (when the script was originally written), and the major locations are Bermuda and London. Bermuda beach, we gradually learn, is where Vampirella first fell to Earth, in the form of a bat, after an alien race called Akrons destroyed her home planet, Drakulon, where the rivers run with blood. There, she met alcoholic stage magician Pendragon, who helped her adjust to life on Earth and took her to London where her alien powers lent his act a new lease of life. But she cannot fully remember who she is or where she came from, and is only able to access her past in scant fragments via hypnosis with the help of her boyfriend, Allan. Meanwhile, planes and ships are disappearing in the Bermuda Triangle. They are scooped up, scanned, and then either returned or destroyed. And in London, a scientific organisation called Space Operatives for Defence and Security (SODS), of which Allan is a part, are trying to work out the cause of multiple cases of apparent mass murder and mutilation across the globe.

Early in the story, Pendragon and Vampirella perform their show at a London casino, but we also notice that a strange blue-eye man is tracking Vampirella. He turns out to be one of the Akrons who destroyed her planet, who is also operating the alien base which has been plucking vehicles out of the Bermuda triangle. Vampirella inevitably ends up captured and transported to the base, where she sees horrible visions of brains in jars, but initially she is returned to SODS, where the team are struggling to get their supercomputer to help them work out the cause of the mystery deaths. Their efforts, though, are undermined when their chief (played by Caroline Munro, though in a role originally intended for a man) turns out to be an alien infiltrator, whereupon Vampirella kills her. Vampirella is transported to the alien base again, where she this time confronts the blue-eye man and learns about her past and his role in destroying her planet. He suggests that they should team up and become all-powerful together, but instead she reveals the identity of the base to SODS, who destroy it. Vampirella escapes back down to Bermuda beach, where Pendragon is sitting, and they leave together.

Vampirella as a character originated in a series of comic books, and the story sort of makes sense on that level - casinos, aliens, teams of scientists, kidnappings, supercomputers etc. Indeed, it may have worked best not as a live-action film, as Hammer were planning, but as an animation, where the very staccato story with sudden jumps from one scene to another without much obvious logic behind them might have seemed less surprising. I think it also suffered pretty badly from just having too many characters in it, so that none of them was very well-developed. Still, the core pairing of a washed-up but charmingly paternalistic Pendragon (a role originally intended for Peter Cushing) and a resourceful but out-of-place Vampirella was sound.

For me, the most effective scene by far consisted of a party hosted in their echoing old ballroom by two elderly sisters, Gloria and Constance, who have sent their man-servant out to invite their society acquaintances of the past without realising that they are all long dead. Instead, Pendragon and Vampirella show up, for plot reasons which I can't now remember, followed shortly thereafter by a motorbike gang who get right into the spirit of the party. The sisters are mainly just delighted that anyone has come, while Vampirella uses her alien powers to conjure up visions of the guests they had originally invited, who dance with them for a while, but then gradually fade away. I got the impression from the script that this was intended as visible fading, in which they would become more and more transparent before disappearing, but in my head it was done via edits - each time the camera cut to a new angle on the room, there were just fewer and fewer dancers until only the living ones were left.

Vampirella is a very different kind of vampire from Hammer's more usual gothic variety, both in that she is actually an alien and in that she behaves largely like an ordinary human being, only killing when people deserve it (e.g. the alien who has infiltrated SODS). But I was pleased to find that the story was designed to dovetail with the Dracula 'universe' nonetheless. This was partly done through two characters called Adam (the father) and Conrad (the son) Van Helsing, who come after Vampirella as though she were a typical Hammer vampire, but fail when garlic proves to have no effect on her. I like to think they are maybe the brother and nephew of Lorrimer from Dracula AD 1972. Also, at the end of the film, as Vampirella and Pendragon walk off Bermuda beach, a horse-drawn hearse pull up and its driver informs them that his Master invites them to perform at his castle, whereupon a hand wearing a ring embossed with a D extends from the coffin inside. ♥

The linking narration from the original script was shared out between the various members of the cast when they weren't busy with other roles, and was similar to other Hammer scripts I've seen or read in the quantity and quality of descriptive detail. Indeed, it included some quite nicely worked out linking devices, like a from-space view of Earth switching to life on the planet by cutting from an image of the globe to a spinning bicycle wheel. I missed Jonathan Rigby's narratorial voice as we'd enjoyed it in The Unquenchable Thirst of Dracula a little bit, but he was great as Pendragon (pronounced as PENdra-gon rather than the more usual pen-DRAgon), channelling Peter Cushing quite uncannily in the role. This wasn't just about his vocal delivery, but something about his stance and the angle of his head which almost made the shape of his face seem to change and acquire a Cushing-esque gaunt profile and long nose.

Georgina Dugdale, whom I didn't even realise until afterwards is Caroline Munro's daughter, played Vampirella, interestingly choosing to do her as sweet and demure (but deadly when she needed to be), rather than the default sexy superhero that the character's comic art suggests. Caroline Munro herself unfortunately stood out a bit as less in command of her role than the others, and she obviously felt it hadn't been her best performance. I chatted to her briefly in the bar afterwards, as I was wearing a T-shirt with a big picture of her in Dracula AD 1972 on it, and a Hammer super-fan who knows her quite well insisted on taking me over so she could see it, and when I asked her if she'd enjoyed it she said straight away that she wished they'd had more rehearsal time. But she has such a lovely warm personality, and was so gushingly proud of her daughter (with good reason!) that no-one could possibly mind.

I came away feeling that it had probably never been a terribly good story, and there were probably good reasons why it was never made, but that it had been a brilliantly fun evening watching it come to life with an audience of appreciative people, and having the chance to reach that conclusion for ourselves. There is plenty more yet to be discovered in the Hammer script archive, and I for one will be there next time it's tapped into.

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Dracula 1958 cloak

Classical Dracula and War of the Worlds

I'm uncomfortably aware that I haven't written anything other than WIDAWTW posts for over a month, or indeed commented much on other people's entries. The approach of term coincided with the local constituency party that I am chair of having to go into high alert due to the likelihood of a General Election being called at any moment, so it has all been teaching-related activity and campaigning. Last weekend, though, I took myself down to London for an epic weekend which combined delivering a talk on Dracula and Classical Antiquity to the Dracula Society on the Saturday evening with going to the immersive musical version of Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds the following day - and today I finally have a day off to write about it.

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Collapse ) Then at the end, we were invited to pose in our pairs for pictures in front of a green-screen, of which this was very much the best final result for me and Fiona, pretending to be menaced by Martians:


I'm normally pretty cynical about that kind of add-on money-making ploy for an experience which you've already paid quite a considerable amount of money for, but given that it had actually been a really enjoyable afternoon, and that the full set of pictures came complete with a digital download code which meant that we could both access them, I decided to go for it. All in all, A++ would fight my way through red weed again.

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Christ Church Mercury

6. Arthur Machen (1894), The Great God Pan

I read this because it was published while Stoker was writing Dracula, and both use pagan gods to stand for the abject, evil and Satanic - though Machen's novella focuses almost wholly on that idea, whereas in Stoker's Dracula it's only part of a tapestry of related concepts. The Great God Pan is part of efflorescence of fin-de-siècle stories and artworks about Pan, mainly inspired by an anecdote about his death in Plutarch, De Defectu Oraculorum 17 and thoughtfully examined in this 1992 book chapter, which I wanted to get to grips with as part of Dracula's context and a possible influence.

Having read it, though, I don't think the influence is particularly strong or direct. Both certainly reflect similar anxieties about what lurks beneath the façade of contemporary civilisation, within us, in the past and / or in the untamed places of nature - but those themes are more or less what all horror stories are about. And both present their stories as a collection of accounts from different viewpoints which only gradually come together - but again, many late 19th century novels did that. What makes them quite different is that Dracula is manifest and present within his eponymous novel, whereas Pan does not manifest directly to any of the point-of-view characters in Machen's. Indeed, he isn't wholly an embodied being at all. Rather, Pan, Satan and Nodens are all treated as attempts to express by metaphor an evil too horrific and inhuman for human minds otherwise to understand; as much something psychological, or the pure concept of evil itself, as anything embodied. As one character puts it, "Such forces cannot be named, cannot be spoken, cannot be imagined except under a veil and a symbol, a symbol to the most of us appearing a quaint, poetic fancy, to some a foolish tale."

That was all slightly disappointing to me, as I was hoping for something both a bit more embodied and a bit more ambiguous - a Pan simultaneously alluring and terrifying, who might sound sweet music through wooded glades and yet also leap savagely with snorting nose and bloodied fingernails upon the unwary transgressor. Machen's Pan doesn't really span that divide, existing rather on the wholly-terrifying side of the equation. I shall have to browse through the book chapter I've linked above for something more along the lines I was looking for - unless anyone reading can recommend a different fin-de-siècle story or novel which comes closer to ticking those boxes? Do I want G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday or Saki's 'The Music on the Hill' (which sounds good anyway), or what?

Anyway, although it wasn't quite the novel I was expecting or perhaps really wanted, I still got good value out of reading this one. The way it draws on Classical motifs, and especially the landscape and gods of Roman Britain, to construct its image of evil reminded me of the realisation I had made while watching the BBC TV version of Nigel Kneale's Quatermass and the Pit that it is in part a response to the discovery of the London Mithraeum (LJ / DW). I guess this novel, and other material like it, also forms part of the literary backdrop which made Kneale's story possible.

It does some interesting things with story structure. The chapters from different points of view I've already mentioned, but the final chapter is literally called 'The Fragments', and includes texts with deliberate lacunae in them to bring the story to a dim, half-understood conclusion which the reader is left to patch together. This is essential to the way Machen has dealt with Pan throughout, the whole point being that no human mind can witness him / it without going insane. And it plays around nicely with the relationship between city and country. Pan is unleashed in the remote Welsh / Romano-British countryside, but his worst effects are felt in the heart of London. So Machen uses rural metaphors to describe the encroachment of the rural (primitive) into the city (civilised). One dimly-lit London street looks "as dark and gloomy as a forest in winter", while in another "the wind blew as blithely as upon the meadows and the scented gorse".

The critical reception section of the Wikipedia page is right to draw attention to its outright misogyny, though (third para). The force which Pan represents is brought into the world in the person of a woman, Helen Vaughan, whose main modus operandi is to lure men to her and then drive them to kill themselves. Even worse, she is born in the first place by the actions of a doctor who performs a brain operation on her mother, Mary, and who justifies his actions to a demurring friend on the grounds that "I rescued Mary from the gutter, and from almost certain starvation, when she was a child; I think her life is mine, to use as I see fit." Mary, by the way, is only seventeen, and in addition to seeming to think he has the right to perform experimental brain surgery on her, the doctor has also evidently brought her up to call him 'dear' and solicit kisses from him in what read to me as a very power-abusing relationship. The operation destroys Mary's mind, while her body survives only long enough to give birth to the child, Helen, (always the true purpose of women in misogynistic novels) and while the doctor does come to regret his actions by the end of the story, it's not at all clear that he would have done if it hadn't been for the consequences which followed. Both Helen and Mary also exist only from the two-dimensional perspective of the male characters - Helen never speaks, but just goes round being evil and ruining men; Mary speaks a few lines before the doctor's operation, but only to submit meekly to his will. Still, Wikipedia also tells me that there is a feminist response to the novel called Helen's Story by Rosanne Rabinowitz which tells the whole story from Helen's point of view - and that could be truly awesome.

If you'd like to read The Great God Pan yourself, the whole thing is on Project Gutenberg, and I can confirm that their free Kindle-formatted version works very nicely.

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18. The House in Nightmare Park (1973), dir. Peter Sykes

AND FINALLY (for now), this is a fairly standard narrative about a dysfunctional family bumping each other off for an inheritance with Frankie Howerd thrown in for comic relief, which I watched with [personal profile] lady_lugosi1313 after it was screened on Talking Pictures recently. It wasn't awful, but it dragged a lot more than it should have done given the suspenseful potential of the plot. Frankie Howerd was relatively toned down, perhaps so that he would fit appropriately into a story about family murders, but it ended up feeling like an unhappy compromise - neither funny enough nor horrific enough to entertain. To be fair to it, the sets and a lot of the cinematography were actually very good, and we had fun spotting all the cliches and guessing what was going to happen. But it wasn't a patch on comparable British horror comedy Carry on Screaming.

Since no more need be said about this film, I hereby declare myself UP TO DATE with reviewing at long last. That's basically taken me the whole of the bank holiday weekend, but it was a worthwhile investment. Who knows what crazy things I might get up to now!

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Claudius god

17. Horrible Histories: The Movie – Rotten Romans (2019), dir. Dominic Brigstocke

I saw this one with [personal profile] lady_lugosi1313. We noticed that it was on its last week of screening in Leeds despite only having been released a couple of weeks earlier, and that the cinema wasn't exactly packed out, so I'm guessing it perhaps hasn't done as well as hoped. And that's a pity because I thought it was great on all levels - cast, story, jokes, songs and historical detail.

The setting is the Boudiccan rebellion, and the main storyline follows a Roman boy, Attilius (or Atti for short) who is forced into the army by Nero as a punishment, and a 'Celtic' (I would have preferred 'British', but I get why they did this) girl, Orla, who is desperate to be a warrior but whose Dad won't let her as she is too young. Their utterly wholesome narrative involves her taking him prisoner, them falling (very chastely) in love, and both of them eventually coming to realise that war is actually a bad thing as it tends to end up with people being hurt.

The research was really solid, and what I particularly liked about it was that the script not only reflected a strong knowledge of the relevant source material, but that it also drew direct attention to the nature of those sources and their problems. So we saw a classically-megalomaniacal version of Nero being told that no-one really knew what had happened to Boudicca, and dictating his own preferred version to his tame court historian - who, for bonus meta-referential points was Horrible Histories' real-life historical consultant, [twitter.com profile] greg_jenner. Then, as if that weren't enough, a Roman rat popped up over the closing credits to tell us all about the conflicting historical accounts of the events depicted. The value of that for children just getting to grips with history is immense, and I was so pleased they had taken the time to do it.

I was also pretty impressed by the way they had handled the topics of Roman imperialism and cultural change, both inevitably raised by the historical period and setting. We were shown very clearly that most of the 'Celtic' characters weren't in the least bit interested in Roman 'civilisation', while those who were (as represented by them e.g. incorporating Roman columns into their round-houses) didn't consider having their political autonomy arbitrarily taken away a reasonable price to pay for it. As a children's film, it had to come to a happy ending after Boudicca's rebellion, so we didn't see that being brutally repressed (in fact, most of the final battle was conveyed as a dance-off), and instead the Romans and the 'Celts' reached a cheerful accommodation with one another. But even this was very much about characters who had developed mutual respect for one another's cultures over the course of the film, rather than the Celts coming to appreciate 'what the Romans have done for us'. In short, if a generation of future Classics / Anc Hist students are out there watching this, I should get fewer in my classes assuming that Roman imperialism was a beneficent civilising mission.

There were too many great jokes and inter-texts to list in detail, but obviously it was beyond wonderful to see Derek Jacobi reprise his role as Claudius for a few short minutes, before being bumped off by the machinations of an almost equally wonderful Kim Cattrall as Agrippina. I thought there was a touch of David Morrissey's Aulus Plautius in Britannia lurking behind Rupert Graves' Suetonius Paulinus, too, as well as in the design of the Roman camps and the way Atti was treated after being recaptured from Orla (though this was obviously a very sanitised, child-friendly version of what happens in Britannia). As for jokes, watching in Yorkshire I think my favourite had to be seeing the Brigantes (our local tribe) portrayed with strong Yorkshire accents. Overall a great watch and a most worthy addition to the canon of screen portrayals of Roman Britain.

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16. Midsommar (2019), dir. Ari Aster

As this is a recent release still screening in some places, I will cut the bulk of this review. That's not to say it's a film that would seriously be ruined by knowing a bit about what happens in it, though. In fact, once the major parameters are established, it proceeds with dreadful inevitability towards its end-point, and that's a lot of how it generates its sense of horror. So if you're sure you'll like it and would prefer to see it unspoiled, go ahead - it's great. But if you're not sure and would like to use this review to help you decide, you won't really lose anything by reading it. And if you've already seen it and want to share views, come hit me up in the comments!

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Dracula 1958 cloak

13.-15. Films seen at the International Vampire Film and Arts Festival, Highgate

I've already written up the International Vampire Film and Arts Festival which I attended in July in its own right (LJ / DW), but deliberately saved reviewing the films I had seen there until I'd written up a large back-log of earlier viewings first. Now, their time has come.

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Donald Sutherland Body Snatchers

11 and 12. Hammer double bill at the Stockport Plaza

I saw these with [personal profile] lady_lugosi1313 and [twitter.com profile] HickeyWriter in June at the Stockport Plaza, a very splendid Art Deco cinema which looks like this:

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11. The Devil Rides Out (1968), dir. Terence Fisher

I've seen this one at least twice before, but surprisingly a search of my LJ / DW archives suggests not since I started reviewing all of the films I watch here systematically. At least, that is to say, I've half-watched chunks of it several times on the Horror Channel during that time, but not sat down and paid full attention from beginning to end of the film, which is my criterion for whether I then write the film up 'officially' or not.

Anyway, it's obviously great, in ways no-one particularly needs me to recap here. But I will note two things. One is that I became irreverently obsessed with the fate of the Eatons' car. We're primed for a casual attitude to cars by the Duc de Richelieu's response when Rex asks to borrow one of his - "Yes, take any of them" - but the Eatons have made no such offer when Rex arrives in it at their house with Tanith, and she takes the first available opportunity to slip into the driver's seat and escape. That's literally all they've ever seen of Tanith, but they are good people who trust and like Rex, so when he then asks to take their car in order to chase after her, they generously agree. I decided to pay careful attention to the outcome of all this, and the answer is that he then totals the car in the forest at the end of a high-speed chase, and when he and the Duc de Richelieu return to the Eatons' house (with Tanith and in yet another car), he says nothing at all about it and they don't ask about it, then or indeed ever at any point for the rest of the film. It's one of a few loose ends or unexplained transitions in the film, another being why Rex becomes so committed to helping Tanith in the first place, and led me to comment at the end that I felt the film must have been heavily, and not always entirely successfully, compressed from Dennis Wheatley's novel. [twitter.com profile] HickeyWriter, who has read it, agreed.

The other thing which struck me was about how the special effects during Mocata's (remote) attacks on the magic circle look on a big screen. Several of these effects have been pilloried over the years, and indeed a Blu-ray version in which they have been CGI enhanced was released in 2012. I'm pretty sure we were seeing the original, unenhanced version, but nonetheless the Angel of Death in particular actually looked really good and impressive to me on a big screen. It's to do with the angle of vision and the size of the image when you are sitting in a cinema seat, which together mean that it really looms over you as the horse is rearing and snorting. I think we too often forget this sort of factor when criticising special effects in vintage films - they were designed to capitalise on the spatial set-up of a cinema auditorium, and inevitably lose a lot of that impact the moment they are transferred to a home viewing environment.

12. Plague of the Zombies (1966), dir. John Gilling

This one I have reviewed here before (LJ / DW), so I won't repeat myself. But it was great to be able to drink in the fine details of the sets thanks to the big-screen image, which also made Dr Thompson's nightmare about being surrounded by zombies in the cemetery particularly effective.

We left on quite a high at the end of the night. Seeing the two as a double bill was splendid, although coming after the paciness, wit and crackling performance of Devil, Plague did come across as a shade more pedestrian and B-movieish (as indeed it and The Reptile avowedly were next to Dracula: Prince of Darkness and Rasputin). Still, more Hammer double bills in cinemas within a reasonable distance of my house will always be a good thing.

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