A labour of love for its director, The First Film receives its TV debut this coming Sunday, March 5, on Film Four.
The First Film is the story of Louis Le Prince, the ex-pat Frenchman who invented moving pictures in Leeds, Yorkshire, in October 1888.
One of the key moments in the documentary is the recreation, 125 years to the day, of ‘Roundhay Garden Scene’, a brief sequence shot by Le Prince and widely regarded as the first film ever shot. I was privileged to be a part of it.
I wrote about Le Prince and his pioneering work in my 2008 book Made in Yorkshire, which is referenced in The First Film. A marvellous piece of detective work, it is a long overdue tribute to a remarkable man.
I was delighted to see my name among the nominees for this year’s Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards.
The nod – my fourth – is for my 2016 release FANTASTIQUE – Interviews with Horror, Sci-Fi & Fantasy Filmmakers, published by BearManor Media, a book that has been well-received and reviewed and that I’m particularly proud of.
But there’s some stiff competition from other books and other writers including my friends and colleagues Dennis Bartok and Jon Towlson. What’s more the compendium Unsung Horrors, to which I contributed, is also up for the same award. So I am competing against myself!
The voting ballot is here.
I’ll be at the University of Bradford this afternoon at the invitation of Dr Mark Goodall to give a lecture to students on film journalism.
There have been a few of these recently, including a masterclass/workshop at Sheffield Hallam (for Dr Sheldon Hall) and another over at Leeds Trinity for my good friend Liz Rymer.
Here I am in full flow…
A few years ago I did a day’s work on The War I Knew, a WWII adventure written and directed by Ian Vernon.
I’m always up for being in a movie, and the attraction of this one was a glorious death scene. That and poncing around holding a Schmeisser sub-machine gun.
Anyway, on one of the hottest days of the summer me and some war re-enactment chaps did our bit to defend a farmstead from an attack by a ragbag band of allied troops. Naturally we all got blasted to bits; I was particularly pleased with my death scene.
The film is now out on DVD, retitled D-Day Survivor. Have a look.
In a year that’s seen both Olivia De Havilland and Kirk Douglas turn 100, I couldn’t let the day go by and not pay tribute to my friend Roy Ward Baker, who was born 100 years ago today.
Roy was a remarkably versatile filmmaker whose later reputation with Hammer and films such as Quatermass and the Pit and The Vampire Lovers is the period most people seem to point to when regarding his career. He later had a strong association with Amicus.
But he was active from the 1930s, working with Hitchcock and, from the 1940s onwards, as a director himself on a wide range of movies. They included Morning Departure, Inferno, A Night to Remember, Flame in the Streets and The One That Got Away.
He was a talented man and a kind man. I was privileged enough to work with him back in 2000 when I presented a retrospective of his work at Bradford Film Festival. The following year he wrote the foreword to my first book An Actor and a Rare One – Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes.
And when I received an award for it he came along to London’s National Film Theatre as my lucky charm.
Roy was a tremendously fine filmmaker. More than that, he was my friend. Wherever he is, I hope he’s enjoying a glass of something classy.
Roy Ward Baker 1916 – 2010
I’m delighted to hear that my latest book FANTASTIQUE has made it onto the Holiday Gift Guide at Forces of Geek. Thanks to editor-in-chief Stefan Blitz for that. If you wish to check out the full line-up, click here.
My grandfather, Bill Barraclough, celebrated his 40th birthday in May 1940 in France. He was part of the British Expeditionary Force and, just a few short weeks later, was part of Operation Dynamo, one of over 300,000 soldiers evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk.
So the one big film of 2017 that I’m looking forward to is Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, which chronicles that period – a moment that changed the course of World War 2.
I’m less interested in the eclectic cast – Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Harry Styles – than I am in the milieu and atmosphere.
It’s been done before. John Mills and Bernard Lee starred in Dunkirk, and there have been TV adaptations of the story and many documentaries.
But I get the sense that Nolan will do justice to the story on a grand scale. And the backdrop will be authentic and, for those of us who have a personal connection, no matter how distant, rather poignant.
Bill Barraclough died in 1948, aged 48. His wife (my grandmother) always said it was due to him swallowing the filth that filled the waters of the English Channel during the Dunkirk evacuation.
I wrote a little about his experiences a few years back. You can read it here.
My set visit to Ghost Stories last week was, I think, my 22nd location report since 1987.
Others have included The King’s Speech, Brassed Off, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, Swallows and Amazons, Wall of Tyranny, Little Voice and ’71.
You can read some of them elsewhere on this blog.
Here’s co-writer/co-director and star Andy Nyman giving me his best creepy peep…
Unsung Horrors is the second anthology of reviews, interviews and overviews of sometimes forgotten films. Conceived and edited by the team behind ’70s Monster Memories and We Belong Dead magazine it contains 200 entries including three by me on Race with the Devil, The Black Panther and Dark and Lonely Water.
It can be ordered now. See the image below for details.
Twenty years ago Brassed Off was released and the country went brass band crazy.
A year earlier I’d been on location in Grimethorpe for a day’s shooting. I listened as Ewan McGregor and Tara Fitzgerald described the raw emotion of being a part of the story. I talked with writer/director Mark Herman about the roots of the film. I interviewed producer Steve Abbott about the film’s route to the screen. And I witnessed Pete Postlethwaite, with co-star Stephen Tompkinson, raging about the legacy of the Thatcher government and the rape of the Yorkshire coalfields.
Earlier this year I organised a reunion screening of the film at the Ilkley Film Festival. Present were Abbott, Tompkinson and fellow actor Philip Jackson; Mark Herman was poorly. To all of them Brassed Off represents that rare thing – a job that was much more than a job at the time, and which has taken on enormous meaning in the decades since.
On the night they also recorded interviews for producer Mark Burrows and it is his 60-minute documentary that emerged from their memories.
Today the government decided not to hold an inquiry into the ‘Battle of Orgreave’. Brassed Off is as relevant today as it was back in 1996, and holds a harsh spotlight up against a terrible period in modern British history.
Listen in tomorrow at 12 noon on BBC Radio Sheffield here.