A baby Oliver Cromwell is kidnapped by his Grandfather's pet monkey.
Thursday, 25 September 2014
Sunday, 21 September 2014
We couldn't decide whether this unpleasant and hungry looking creature was a cat, a dog, a mutated rabbit, a 'mind spider' or a Taiwanese poster for 'Gremlins' before realising that it was just a rubbish painting and not worth the six and a half hours we'd just spent arguing about it.
Wednesday, 17 September 2014
We sometimes appear to be a bit hard on Guy N. Smith - but know that it comes from a good place: we love the man and his work, and derive endless enjoyment from it. We wouldn't join a fanatic's club, though, even though, according to our research, membership includes an annual meet with Mr. Smith - at his house.
Sunday, 14 September 2014
The best Guy N. Smith novels are the ones with a simple premise, the sort of thing that can be summarised in a few words – big, nasty crabs, for example, or deadly locusts, killer Mummy, evil Punch and Judy Show, etc. This list is not exhaustive. It’s difficult to sum up ‘Mania’ so succinctly, but it’s something along the lines of ‘snow storm forces normal people to take refuge in a guest house in Donnington run by sadists and populated by lunatics and perverts. Oh, and Satan has made one of the residents pregnant’.
The hellish hotel / asylum is only sketchily realised, a kind of ‘Fawlty Towers’ where Basil is a religious maniac and flasher, Sybil a torturer, Manuel an occult book collector, Polly a compulsive masturbator and Terry the chef a lascivious alcoholic tramp. The heating doesn’t work, the toilets won't flush, the Devil lives in the basement and there’s always stodgy pie and cold chips for tea.
‘Mania’ is rambling and muddled but, rather in the style of a good shaggy dog story, it does keep your attention as it is being told, even though you know it’s ultimately going to end with the realisation that you’ve been wasting your time. Its main issue is that it is rather subdued, as if Smith didn’t necessarily have enough confidence in the story and characters to do what he does best: put his foot down and go fucking mental.
Naturally, that doesn't stop Guy from hyping his own work from the very beginning, over egging this particular souffle with the following startling, completely untrue pre-prologue statement:
You are about to embark upon a journey into the darkest recesses of the human mind, an exploration of the unknown. Travel at your peril for your safety, your sanity cannot be guaranteed. For some there may be no return.
It's like putting a 'Danger of Drowning' sign on a foot spa.
Thursday, 11 September 2014
Saturday, 6 September 2014
Alan Landsburg served as executive producer on ‘Ants! It Happened At Lakewood Manor’, one of three creepy crawly creature features that he worked on in 1976 / 77 (the others were ‘The Savage Bees’ and ‘Tarantula: Deadly Cargo’ – yes, we know bees aren’t really creepy crawlies under normal circumstances, but these are SAVAGE, so all bets are off).
The ever canny Landsburg then wrote a book called ‘The Insects Are Coming’ about the mini-beast threat, citing the three films that he’d just made as evidence. We really miss that guy.
In ‘Ants!’*, the construction of a casino next to an old family hotel unearths a colony of mutated ants who are immune to normal insecticides and really pissed off at being disturbed. Equipped with a poisonous bite and, of course, strength in numbers, the ants proceed to swarm over people and, by sheer tenacity, toxic mandibles and the liberal use of slow motion, manage to overcome their much larger human enemies.
Hairy building site manager Robert Foxworth does his best to stop the attack by tearing up their nest with a bulldozer but, funnily enough, this just makes it worse. Much worse.
The film follows an almost hypnotically soothing pattern: characters are introduced, we are shown close ups of ants doing stuff, we get to know the characters, they are killed by ants. For a story set on a building site it’s not exactly ground breaking (yes, that is clever wording, thanks), but it’s compelling viewing, especially when they try and combat the ant invasion by digging a trench around the building, filling it with petrol and setting it alight.
In the end, the surviving protagonists are reduced to hiding at the very top of the hotel, holding what look like enormous joints in their mouths and hoping that the ants will be pacified by the smoke until they can be rescued. It all seems a bit pathetic, really – they’re only fucking ants, after all.
* We’ll dispense with the somewhat superfluous suffix now – Lakewood Manor is a made up place, so who cares what happened there? If it was, say, ‘Ants! It happened at Disneyland’, it would be a different matter.)
Thursday, 4 September 2014
Here’s a book by the late Alan Landsburg from the Alan Landsburg Wing of what we are now calling The Alan Landsburg Memorial Library. It’s a fascinating read, and the writing of it (as part of the ‘In Search Of…’ TV show) took him all over the world, which is nice. As Alan writes in the introduction -
The passage is worth posting in order to illustrate two of Alan’s greatest qualities: his enthusiasm, and his imagination.
Tuesday, 2 September 2014
We have just found out that prolific writer, producer, director, documentary maker and pseudoscientific genius Alan Landsburg died on August 13th. We are desolate.
Landsburg worked for Time Life and National Geographic; he worked with Jacques Cousteau; he worked with Leonard Nimoy. He wrote a dozen books and gave us over 2,000 hours of edutainment, including around fifty television films including ‘Tarantula: Deadly Cargo’, ‘The Savage Bees’, ‘Burned At The Stake’ and ‘Mysterious Island of Beautiful Women’.
He was a hero to us because he KNEW that the Earth is an even weirder place than it already appears: place where the ancient past and the distant future are inextricably linked, where ghosts are real, where mysterious animals roam the uncharted wildernesses of the world, where aliens pop by whenever they feel like it, where the human mind can kill or cure or set something on fire, where nature is always one step away from utterly engulfing civilisation - and because Landsburg KNEW this, his greatest work starts with the premise that the weirdest answer is always right then works backwards, pouncing on every scrap of evidence as justification for his faith.
His most famous show, ‘In Search Of…’ might as well have been called ‘Ipso fucking Facto’, so eager is it to present theory as reality - and reality as something that is infinitely complex and utterly bizarre. As you might expect, that had an enormous influence on our world view.
Rest in peace, dear Alan. You’ll have all the answers by now, we hope you’re not disappointed.