Thursday, 5 May 2011
BRITISH HORROR CINEMA
Edited by Steve Chibnall & Julian Petley
An extremely readable collection of essays regarding British horror films...there are a couple of chapters nearer the end which stray into the sort of overly-verbose territory that has me breaking out in cold sweats and having flashbacks to my Master's Degree studies, but overall I found this book to be very accessible and highly enjoyable.
It truly is a mixed bag, wth no two chapters ever really overlapping any of those that will either precede or succeed it, taking in everything from a history of British censorship to Amicus, and it is a wonderfully engaging blend, with all credit due to the editors for their inspired and judicious selection.
However, in keeping with that grandest of traditions, they have truly saved the best until last. Firstly, we have an interview with Clive Barker and Doug Bradley, and then we moveon to what must be the piece de resistance (and my favourite chapter in the book) from Richard Stanley, the director of 'Hardware'. Let me ask you, how many books have you read recently which contain gems like this?:
"In point of fact, Hardware went into pre-production at a time when I thought I had put the movie business behind me for good. Having become embroiled with a Muslim guerrilla organization, I was about as far away from the Scala as I could possibly be, doing my bit to help the mujahedin to fight the communists in Afghanistan. I had just crossed the border back into Pakistan in order to get medical attention for one of my companions who had been wounded in the battle for Jallalabad when I found myself collared by the anxious producers and returned to England to start shooting my first feature as a director."
This guy didn't direct Rambo III...he lived it. Beat that, Mr. Stallone. It certainly trumps my oft-repeated claims about having been a ninja or working in porn, that's for sure.
Stanley's contribution is worth the price of admission by itself, although his recollections of the Scala left me feeling as if I needed a shower to get clean again. It takes in a lot of topics, most interestingly the Jamie Bulger murder, in the aftermath of which Stanley was present at the parliamentary hearings on video nasties.
It really brought back some happy memories of that era for me. Anyway, I'm off to dig out my VHS of 'Hardware', and perhaps see what I can do about getting myself a copy of 'The Lair of the White Worm', by fair means or foul!!!
Let me leave you with this:
"The debacle also proved to be the last straw for my then girlfriend who had been around just long enough to know that things weren't about to get any better. Clearing my odds and ends forcefully from her appartment, she singled out a copy of The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, Dario Argento's debut feature, for particular condemnation 'This is exactly the sort of shit I don't need in my life any more!' she spat, flinging the tainted cassette in my general direction, followed a moment later by a VHS copy of Michael Mann's flawed occult thriller The Keep."
There but for the grace of God go I...although having women pelt you with Giallo flicks on VHS sounds like the sort of kinky sadomasochistic action that certain people would pay a pretty penny for, especially if they were the ultra-rare 'big box' rental versions. Just another thing future generations will be missing out on now that everything's gone digital.
Anyways, back on topic, is it worth the money? Well, it will cost you something like £16-17 new from Amazon, and for my money, that's a tad overpriced (although lest we forget, I am tight-fisted) when you consider the type of book you could get from FAB Press for that sort of price. Still, I got my copy from the local library, so I'm not complaining.
Is it one I'll be ading to my permanent collection, should it turn up on Ebay for £6-8 in the near future? No, probably not...if I were engaging in any sort of academic study wherein the British horror film would be covered then I'd say it was an essential buy given the amount of quoteworthy analysis contained within, but I'm not. It was very much a 'one and done' experience for me, although one that I enjoyed a great deal.
Now, why doesn't some enterprising publisher tap up Richard Stanley for an autobiography?