You are currently browsing the monthly archive for February 2008.

                                    Cloverfield                                 

I went to see Cloverfield again today, and it was as terrifying and intense as the first time. As a connoisseur of the ‘giant monster attacks city’ genre, (and yes there are enough of them to be a genre, you should come round my house sometime!) I was hoping I might enjoy this film. But I didn’t quite expect it to be one of the best films I’ve seen in years.

Yes it’s a very simple premise, and yes the camera waves around all over the place. That’s not the point. It’s about ordinary people trapped in the middle of an unimaginable, horrifying situation, simply trying to escape with their lives. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the old Lovecraftian nameless dread portrayed so well before. Just thinking about the monster makes me feel a bit funny!

Obviously the shadow of September 11th hangs over any story about New York being attacked. I would say it’s about 9-11 in the same way the original Godzilla film was about Hiroshima; It’s the tragedy and destruction, the death and the fear. The people in the middle of it all.

An absolute classic, and one of the defining films of the decade.

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One of my favourite things in the world is the 1960s TV series Dark Shadows. I just love it. This is the story of my relationship with the show and my ongoing quest to watch all 1,225 episodes.

Credits

The first episode of Dark Shadows I watched was the introduction of Barnabas Collins, the vampire. Though in a way he had been in the show since the beginning…

The matriarch of the Collins family, Elizabeth Collins-Stoddard, has a problem with unwanted houseguests, the extremely dodgy Jason Maguire and his lowlife pal Willie Loomis. She can’t ask them to leave because Jason is blackmailing her. Eighteen years previously he helped Liz cover up the murder of her husband, Paul Stoddard. He’s buried in the basement of stately Collinwood, the family seat. Liz hasn’t left Collinwood since that night eighteen years ago.

Liz was played by Joan Bennett, who was the star of Dark Shadows. A massive film star in the 1940s and 50s, she appeared in half a dozen Fritz Lang pictures, Max Ophuls’ The Reckless Moment with James Mason, and was Mrs Spencer Tracy in the original version of Father of The Bride. Her character is the heart of Dark Shadows, and gave the show a real sense of drama and purpose.

The loathsome Willie Loomis hears a story about Collins family members traditionally being buried with all their jewelry, and is particularly taken with the portrait of Barnabas Collins, who lived in the house in the 18th Century. He decides to find his tomb and rob his grave. Willie is played by a very young John Karlen, who would go on to play Harvey in Cagney and Lacey.  

Willie finds a secret room in the family mausoleum, containing a coffin sealed up with chains. He came for some jewels, and ends up the victim of a 200 year old vampire!

Blimey!

I was blown away by all of this when I first watched it. The next few episodes you find out that this is the original Barnabas Collins who supposedly went to England in 1795. Cursed to be a vampire, his own father chained him up in the coffin and he has been there, fully conscious, ever since. This immediately makes him a sympathetic monster, and audiences went crazy for him almost overnight. But how would the presence of a guilt ridden 200 year old vampire affect the balance of the show?

When someone steals Mothman’s priceless collection of Dallas memorabilia, he goes on an epic journey to find the culprit. A journey that will take him from the back streets of Delhi to the highest peaks of the Himalayas. Be here next week for part one of Mothman-The Philadelphia Experiment.

Mothman 4

Channel 4 don’t even return his calls now.

 Mothman 3

Sasquatch earned millions in the 90s as an Executive Producer on The X-Files, and he thinks he’s all that. So does his spoiled brat of a son Sasquatch Junior. Mothman thinks they’re both dicks.

If you can’t even remember who Mark Fowler is, just imagine Mothman is watching last night’s Eastenders!

OCTOFANBOY

On Saturday May 31st the third Prestonpandemonium comics event takes place in Prestonpans, East Lothian. It isn’t far from Edinburgh and is easy to get to.  I’ll be debuting a new comic, which makes it a must for all! A few guests have been announced so far, and an exhibition of art by the brilliant Malcy Duff, but Organiser Nigel Barker clearly has some surprises up his sleeve, so keep an eye on the website and I hope to see you there!

http://www.prestonpandemonium.com/

Mothman 2

Enter El Chupacabra, the mysterious goat-sucker…

 Mothman 1

The infamous Fortean fiend known as Mothman has grown weary of scaring people, and has retired to a remote cottage. There he spends his time watching daytime television and moaning about things with his monstrous mates.

This is the first of five strips I did for the comic B+B. Part 2 coming soon!

One of my favourite things in the world is the 1960s TV series Dark Shadows. I just love it. This is the story of my relationship with the show and my ongoing quest to watch all 1,225 episodes.

 Barnabas

Part One (of probably quite a few!)

 At the Bristol Comics Expo in 2004 I bought a shedload of cheap (and mostly rubbish) comics from one of the dealers. One of them was Dark Shadows no. 1 by Innovation Comics. I bought it mostly because by then the painted covers and licensed comics Innovation used to publish were making me feel nostalgic for my early days as a comic fan. It’s a truly rubbish comic, but in the back was an article about the original TV series (the comic itself is based on a 90s remake) which was pretty interesting. I began to get more and more intrigued by the show. The very idea of a daytime soap opera about vampires, witches and werewolves seemed crazy but somehow inspired. So one day I took a chance and bought the first DVD collection off eBay, hoping for the best…

 After a few episodes I started to realise it was something special. The beautiful 60s black and white cinematography and amazing Gothic sets,  coupled with the haunting theme tune and incidental music, soon had me hooked. The character and sheer drama of it, and the bloody audacity to do a soap opera about a 200 year old vampire. It’s like they made it just for me, I remember thinking. I was a hopeless Dark Shadows addict within a few days!

 The DVDs actually start at episode 210 (I’ll explain later) but contain a 15 minute segment giving the story so far. Orphan girl Victoria Winters gets a job as a Governess to the wealthy and mysterious Collins family, so influential the town of Collinsport, Maine is named for them. There she gets caught in the middle of a feud between the Collins family and the debonair Burke Devlin, who has served time in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Then she encounters the supernatural entity that is Roger Collins’ ex-wife, and is kidnapped by crazy Matthew Morgan, only to be rescued by a ghost, all at the same time as trying to discover details about her mysterious past.

It was one nutty ride, but not a great success on original transmission. With cancellation looming, creator Dan Curtis and his team decided to change perspective. The supernatural elements of the show had until that point been relatively low-key compared to the more traditional soapy storylines. All of that was to change, however, with the introduction in episode 210 of Barnabas Collins, the vampire…

Sorry there’s no comic strips yet, I’m working on it! I won’t bother you with the details but it’s either ditch Vista or buy a new scanner. Either way so help me God, tomorrow there will be Mothman!