Chester Comic Con – The Director’s Cut

Chester Comic Con

Sunday 24th September 2017

OK – so remember when I wrote my blog post about Chester Comic Con a while ago?  I ran out of memory space on my WordPress site and couldn’t post all of the photos I had taken.  Almost all made it, but not quite.

Then came Halloween Horror Fest, and although the space issue was solved I didn’t get chance to complete the images taken from Chester.

Until now.

Here, in true George Lucas style, I have re-visited the event and present for your enjoyment, the missing shots taken on that day.

Most of the these bonus pics simply weren’t used due to lack of space; some here are alternative versions of shots used.

Either way, I hope you enjoy.

As well as fantastic Cosplay costumes and various stalls selling all manner of wonders, there were also a few vehicles on display…

As I mentioned in the previous Chester Comic Con blog, I saw a great Q&A session with Martine Beswicke, Caroline Munro and Madeline Smith.  Best thing of the day!

Well done everyone at Chester Comic Con – it was a fab day!  Looking forward to next year.

The Abominable Halloween Horror Fest

The Babadook (2014)

I had heard that this film was good, and The Babadook didn’t disappoint.  This Australian movie was very impressive.

Centred around a widowed mother and her young son, the film is original and different right from the start.  The young boy, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), is having a troubled time; even more so when he encounters a book about Mr Babadook.  Suddenly, his fears of what hides in his room at night become more fraught. 

The mother, Amelia (Essie Davis), eventually becomes embroiled in the uncanny happenings as the Babadook seems to materialise.  Slowly, their relationship – and their existence –  becomes warped by the strange Babadook creature, until their reality threatens to fall apart.

The Babadook is both chilling and innovative; full of suspense and yet also a sharp psychological thriller.  How much are we experiencing for real, and how much is imagination?  This film very cleverly avoids cliche, whilst creating a forbidding atmosphere and genuine tension.

It’s also thought provoking and will stay with you for days afterwards.  Brilliant and highly recommended.

9/10 

The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

Horror legend Vincent Price stars in this cult classic about an esteemed doctor (and organist), in a terrible tale of revenge and murder.

Phibes’ beloved wife died tragically on the operating table, and he is now driven to kill the medical team he deems responsible.  There follows a series of grisly murders based on the biblical plagues of Egypt, each intricately designed by Phibes. 

There are plenty of moments of dark humour as the police officers attempt to put the clues together and trap the murderer, but Phibes is always one step ahead.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes is a great film, plenty of gruesome scenes and Vincent Price on top form.  An imaginative soundtrack and beautiful Art Deco set design create a fantasy that is wonderful to watch.  Seriously, the sets are fantastic.

Of course, as a big fan of punk/goth rock veterans The Damned, I was thrilled to put together the connection between this film and “13th Floor Vendetta” on the bands “Black Album”.  Just one of many reasons I thoroughly endorse this quirky little gem of a movie.

Oh, and did I mention that my favourite horror movie beauty Caroline Munro appears as Phibes’ wife (if only in photos)?

8/10

Halloween Horror Fest – Vampire Hunter

Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter (1974)

I remember being about nine or ten years old, and my Dad telling me he’d stayed up late watching a vampire film the night before.  In it, the vampire hunters buried toads in the ground as a way to detect the undead.  Fast forward to my late teens, and I saw this very scene was part of Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter.  That was pretty exciting, in a very nerdy way!

This film from Hammer studios was something of a departure, as they investigated ways to breathe new life into their usual formula.  Brian Clemens of television’s Avengers fame took on writing and directing duties; adding numerous flourishes to refresh the vampire mythology. Kronos

Captain Kronos (Horst Janson) is the hero of the piece, roaming Europe with his companion Professor Grost (John Cater) and beautiful Carla (Caroline Munro) to rid the land of the undead.  They receive a call for help from old friend Dr Marcus (John Carson), whose village is plagued by a strange form of vampirism.  There follows a hybrid of classic Gothic Hammer horror and swashbuckling adventure, that is full to the brim with novel ideas and variations on traditional vampire folklore.

Originally planned as the first in a series, unfortunately this was not to be.  Changing tastes in horror films led to a decline in the traditional Hammer approach; the studios waning success meant that Kronos was a one-off.  It’s a great shame, as the new approach really pays off.  It’s almost a prototype for Blade (or even the disastrous Van Helsing).

One of my favourite Hammer films, Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter has everything you could want.  The level of detail with regard to vampire lore and the new twist on the familiar are just some of the films strengths.  This film is a true classic and should be enjoyed by all!

Furthermore, I usually hate sequels and remakes – but Captain Kronos would be a great franchise to rise from the dead.  Apparently Tarantino is a fan.  Now that would be interesting…

10/10

Did I mention that the stunning Caroline Munro appears in this film?  Here’s some proof…

Memorabilia at Birmingham NEC – part 2

22/23 November 2014

Some more photos from Memorabilia at the NEC in Birmingham.

IMG_3746One of the best costumes I saw on the day was this model, fully covered in gold, to appear as Jill Masterson from Goldfinger.  A very clever and well executed idea, she was tehre to promote a James Bond magazine collection.  What made it even more interesting was that Shirley Eaton, who played the girl covered in gold paint in the original film, was also there signing autographs on the day.

There are always plenty of celebrity guests at the event.  On this occasion I shook hands with actor Cary Elwes, star of The Princess Bride amongst many other films.  I also met a few other people as you can see below.

Appearing at the event was the wonderful Caroline Munro, star of Hammer films and of course The Spy Who Love Me (plus many more great movies).  I met Caroline and got her autograph (again!).  She was really sweet and remembered me from the last time we met. IMG_3758

 I also me gorgeous glamour model Lucy Zara, who was really cool and friendly. IMG_3761

The next Birmingham Memorabilia is at the end of March.  Unfortunately I won’t be able to attend as I’ll be off to Sci-Fi Weekender.  So there’ll hopefully be tons of pics from that instead!  Looking forward to the next NEC gathering in November…

Hallowe’en Horror Fest AD 1972

Dracula AD 1972 (1972)

1872: Count Dracula is locked in mortal combat with arch enemy, Lawrence Van Helsing.  The Count (Christopher Lee) is destroyed, though Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) also perishes from his wounds.  A disciple of the vampire collects some of the ashes, and Dracula’s ring; burying them at the site of a church.

1972: A group of young London groovers are persuaded to take part in a satanic mass “for kicks”.  Amongst the group is Jessica Van Helsing (Stephanie Beacham), grand daughter of Lorrimer Van Helsing (Cushing again) and descendent of the original vampire slayer.  Little do they know that one member of the group, Johnny Alucard (Christopher Neame), is himself a disciple of Dracula – and intends to resurrect the Count.  dracula_ad_1972_poster_06

Following a bloody ritual in a deconsecrated church, Dracula (Lee) is revived, and he begins to plan his revenge against the House of Van Helsing…

With this film Hammer attempted to drag their Gothic horror films into the modern era.  So in Dracula AD 1972, we’re presented with a Dracula in (then) modern day swinging London, complete with cars, rock’n’roll bands and hip young kids out for a good time.  It’s for this reason that the film is most often derided as silly, if not damn near sacrilegious.

The young hippies are given a look and slang that most surely must have been out of place by 1972.  Viewed now, the dialogue is sometimes hilarious.

Despite the harsh opinions held by many about Dracula AD 1972, I love it.  As a confirmed fan of all things from the seventies, I find it outrageously good fun to see Dracula in this anachronistic setting.  What we lose with the lack of traditional Gothic period setting, we gain in a campy, retro London with funky Blaxploitation style music and cool sets.Yes, the kids’ dialogue is ridiculous, but it’s also great fun if the audience just accepts it.

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My VHS and DVD copies

As a glimpse of an imaginary 1970’s London, I find this film really enjoyable.  Part Hammer and part The Sweeney, if you will.  That it was an inspiration for Tim Burton on Dark Shadows is well documented, and hopefully means that Dracula AD 1972 is finally getting some recognition for it’s attempt to inject new blood (haha!) into the Count.

There are some bloody moments, but nothing too shocking for a modern audience.  What we do get is a great performance by Peter Cushing, who really embodies his role as occult expert with authority.  Lee, too, is imposing and majestic as Dracula, truly menacing and physically powerful.  It would’ve been great though to see the Count stalking around London for victims at night more, certainly a missed opportunity.

The youngsters give it a good go despite the atrocious (or funny) lines – Beacham and Neame are both great.  Plus Michael Coles as the Inspector gives us a character that is actually believable.

My personal favourite element of this film though is the wonderful, bewitching Caroline Munro.  Here Ms Munro appears in one of her most iconic roles as Laura Bellows, and she has never looked lovelier.  Good performance too, though it would’ve been great to see Caroline resurrected as a Bride of Dracula.

So despite some utter ridiculousness and a couple of wasted opportunities, I can only recommend Dracula AD 1972 as not only one of my favourite Hammer films, but one of my favourite films ever.  Cool soundtrack, too.

“Dig the music, kids!”

10/10 for me

9/10 for everyone else

Hammer Glamour

Through out its illustrious career, the Hammer film studio became synonymous with two things: horror and sex.  The studio’s reputation encompassed both the lurid Technicolor gore; and the heaving cleavages of its female stars.

To say that’s all Hammer movies were does them a great disservice, yet the two key elements of horror and glamour have become the trademarks for which the company was known.  Alongside the great Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, numerous beauties also  graced these fine films. raquel-welch-one-million-years-de

There’s a great book, “Hammer Glamour” by Marcus Hearn (Titan Books, 2009).  If this topic is of interest to you, I recommend you pick it up.  I’ve been lucky to meet some of the female stars of classic Hammer movies at fan events, and they’ve been kind enough to autograph my copy of the book for me.

It’s no easy task, but here are my favourite ten Hammer actresses.  It’s been a pain-staking process analysing the contribution of each of these ladies, but my selection is below.

10. Martine Beswicke

Appearing in three Hammer movies (One Million Years BC, Prehistoric Women and Dr Jekyll & Sister Hyde), Martine Beswicke’s career with Hammer covered both gothic horror and dinosaur movies.  Dr Jekyll & Sister Hyde is her greatest contribution, where in a novel twist on the traditional tale, she plays the evil “sister” transformed from Dr Jekyll (Ralph Bates).  She also appeared in two Bond movies – From Russia with Love and Thunderball. I’ve met Martine and she happily signed my copy of “Hammer Glamour”.

9. Barbara Shelley

The lovely Barbara Shelley appeared in more Hammer movies than anyone else on this list.  Her films include The Gorgon, Rasputin the Mad Monk and Quatermass & the Pit.  Barbara’s best role, however, was in Dracula Prince of Darkness, where she is transformed from Victorian lady to vampiric creature of the night.  She also appeared in the great Village of the Damned.  Again, Ms Shelley has signed the book, I’m very happy to say – she was extremely nice, for a vampire.

8. Stephanie Beacham

I remember Stephanie Beacham from numerous television appearances growing up, notably Dynasty.  She appears in Dracula AD 1972 as Jessica Van Helsing, granddaughter of Peter Cushing’s Professor.  A great camp classic, this is one of my favourites, and Stephanie looks ravishing.  I’ve yet to meet Stephanie to ask her to sign the book, I’ve got my fingers crossed.

7. Veronica Carlson

Starring in three Hammer horror films, Veronica holds the distinction of having starred alongside two different Baron Frankensteins: Peter Cushing (in Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed) and Ralph Bates (The Horror of Frankenstein).  She also appeared in Dracula Has Risen From the Grave – all great films.  Ms Carlson was lovely when I met her not too long ago. proxy

6. Valerie Leon

Although she appeared in just one Hammer film, Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb, Valerie Leon makes a fantastic impression in it.  A great film and a beautiful actress.  She also appeared in Carry On and Bond movies, making her a true 70’s film sensation.  You can read more here.  Very charming and another welcome signature for the book. Countess-Dracula

5. Ingrid Pitt

No-one encapsulates Hammer Glamour more than Ingrid Pitt.  She seems synonymous with horror movies.  Classic films she starred in include the brilliant The Vampire Lovers and Countess Dracula, alluring as the evil Countess.  She also starred in genre classics for other studios, such as The House That Dripped Blood and The Wicker Man.  Sadly, Ingrid passed away in 2010.  A true legend. HAMMER GLAMOUR CARLSON OMARA 10

4. Kate O’Mara

Gorgeous Kate O’Mara appeared in The Vampire Lovers and Horror of Frankenstein.  Prim in the former and sexy in the latter, Kate’s contribution to Hammer is excellent.  Her exotic looks have been a regular on-screen ever since, I remember her well in Dynasty.  I’ve not met Kate, but would love her to sign my Hammer Glamour book.

3. Madeline Smith

madeline-smith-hammer-horrorAppearing very briefly in Taste the Blood of Dracula, Madeline Smith looks absolutely dazzling in The Vampire Lovers and Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell.  She also appeared briefly in Theatre of Blood and was a Bond girl in Live and Let Die, as well as numerous other film and TV credits.  Ms Smith has signed the book and was very nice too.

2. Raquel Welch

Possibly the most beautiful woman to ever walk the planet, Raquel Welch became a screen icon when she appeared in One Million Years BC.  Unfortunately, she never appeared in any more Hammer movies (hence she only reaches number two in this list).  Raquel has made many other great films in a pretty fabulous career, since her debut in that “silly dinosaur movie” (her words, not mine!). caroline-munro-dracula-a-d-1972-publicity-shot

1. Caroline Munro

The stunning Caroline Munro appeared in two of my favourite Hammer films, Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter and Dracula AD 1972.  She’s also appeared in many other cult classics – try At the Earth’s Core and Starcrash, for starters.  Ms Munro is probably most famous for her role as Naomi in The Spy Who Loved Me.  With her beautiful, long brunette hair, I’ve been smitten with Caroline for a long time.  She’s also a very lovely person with plenty of time for her fans, as I found out when I met her.  Caroline Munro is a Queen of classic cult cinema, and top of the Hammer Glamour list!

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Meeting Caroline Munro at NEC Memorabilia

A special mention should be made to some of the lovely ladies who didn’t make the top ten, including Joanna Lumley (Satanic Rites of Dracula); Catherina Von Schell (Moon Zero Two); Julie Ege (The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires) and Ursula Andress (She).  There are many more, of course.

If you’d like to buy a copy of “Hammer Glamour”, you can find it here.

www.hammerfilms.com