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.
It was a genuine pleasure to be the guest on Hannah’s Bookshelf today, hosted by Hannah Kate on North Manchester 106.6 FM.
Two hours of chat – two hours! – meant we covered a lot of ground, not least chatting about some of my books but also common areas of interest such as short fiction and classic horror films and TV.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect for me was being invited to choose my ‘apocalypse books’ – the works I’d choose to safeguard if the world was headed for the shredder.
I selected Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte), The Rats (James Herbert) and The Collector (John Fowles), all novels that affected me in some way or another.
I’ll post a link to Hannah’s show when it lands. In the meantime, to my writer pals, you could do a lot worse than to contact Hannah and offer yourselves up as guests.
You can find her here.
Listen in to North Manchester FM 106.6 on Saturday afternoon when I’m the guest of Hannah Kate on Hannah’s Bookshelf.
We’ll be discussing my latest book FANTASTIQUE – Interviews with Horror, Sci-Fi & Fantasy Filmmakers as well other titles in my back catalogue.
But there’ll be a chance to consider influences, inspirations and maybe even authors and themes that get under the skin. I’m sure horror will make an appearance somewhere, particularly as host and guest both write short fiction.
So please tune in. You can find out more here.
Just contributed a quick opinion piece to BBC Radio York, speaking with Nathan Turvey about the Great Exhibition. Is the north outside of the great metropolitan elite of the south, or is that a concept that is as redundant as it is inaccurate?
I was sad to hear of the passing of Gene Wilder, a performer who redefined the notion of comic acting in the 1970s and into the 1980s. I was asked to give my thoughts on this ground-breaking all-rounder by my colleague Nick Ahad, who was sitting in for Andrew Edwards on BBC Radio Leeds’s Big Yorkshire Phone-In.
The link is here. The segment begins at 13.01.
“Come with me and you’ll be
In a world of pure imagination…”
Gene Wilder 1933 – 2016