Saturday 28 February 2009


Da makes a passionate and sustained argument for fiscal frugality after Cousin Jim expressed his belief in the need to spend, spend, spend! Grahame looks on passively, painfully aware of the sexual tension underlying the debate.


Meanwhile, some welcome good news emerged with word that the Two Jims have signed contracts to appear in a new version of Waiting for Godot. They are pictured in rehearsals.

Miss Brahms RIP

Mrs Slocum complaining to Miss Brahms about her pussy

Actress Wendy Richard dies at 65
Former EastEnders actress Wendy Richard has died at the age of 65, her agent has confirmed. The star, who played Pauline Fowler in the BBC One soap opera for 21 years, had been suffering from cancer. Her agent Kevin Francis said: "She was incredibly brave and retained her sense of humour right to the end."

Last October, Richard revealed she had an aggressive, terminal form of cancer. Soon after that she married her long-term partner John Burns. Francis said the star passed away in the Harley Street Clinic in London with her husband by her side.

In an interview with the Sunday Express last year, Richard revealed she had already planned her funeral and written her will. She discovered the disease had returned after her usual annual check-up, which revealed cancerous cells in her left armpit. She told the paper: "Now I have a cancerous growth on my right kidney and the cancer has spread to my bones. It's more aggressive this time, unfortunately, and has spread to the top of my spine and left ribs."

Bill Treacher, who played Richard's on-screen husband Arthur Fowler in EastEnders, said the actress was a "true professional". "We worked together for over 11 years and we never once had an argument," he said.

June Brown, who also co-starred in EastEnders as Dot Branning, said: "I loved working with her. We were good partners, we really enjoyed our scenes and that's why I missed her so much when she left. She was a very kind woman, particularly if anybody was ill. She would rush round finding doctors, and she was always giving you unexpected presents," she added.

Veteran actress Mollie Sugden who appeared in Are You Being Served? with Richard described her as "a daughter I never had and I shall never stop missing her".

In 2000, Richard was awarded the MBE for services to television and in 2007 she was given a British Soap Award for Lifetime Achievement for her role in EastEnders. As well as her 21 years on Albert Square, Richard starred in sitcoms Are You Being Served?, Dad's Army and Grace and Favour.

She joined EastEnders when the programme began in 1985 and remained in it until 2006, when her character died. The reason she gave for her departure was because she objected to a storyline that saw her character remarry. "I left because I wasn't happy," she revealed in 2008. "Also, I couldn't believe in what they wanted me to do and unless I can find some truth in what I am doing, I cannot play it. Pauline remarrying was wrong. Some women never remarry. My mother never remarried after Daddy died. I always had it in my heart that Arthur was Pauline's husband and that was that."

Story from BBC NEWS:

Such a pity that a lot of people will know her only from the sentimental, miserablist shit that is Eastenders, rather than as a gifted comic actress.

1965 Aged 22, joins the cast of soap The Newcomers
1970-73 Stars in four episodes of Dad's Army as Private Walker's girlfriend, Shirley
1972 Plays Miss Willing in Carry On Matron
1972-85 Stars as Miss Brahms in the series Are You Being Served? (pictured)
1985-2006 Appears in more than 1,400 episodes of EastEnders as Pauline Fowler
2008 Films her last TV role as Mrs Crump in Marple: A Pocket Full Of Rye

Thursday 26 February 2009

Not you, the other monkey...

In honour of JH: The Music Box steps, then and now...

Ian Carr RIP

Ian Henry Randell Carr 21.4.33 – 25.2.09
Ian Carr was probably the greatest jazz trumpet player that the UK has produced. Certainly he was one of the great innovators in jazz and his award-winning band Nucleus captured the attention of a far wider audience than those usually commanded by more conventional jazz groups. Educated at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne he took a degree in English and served in the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers during National Service where he rose to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.
Ian Carr started out his professional jazz career in his home town of Newcastle in the 1950s playing in his brother Mike’s band, the EmCee 5 for which he underwent an audition to prove his worth (he passed it). By the early 1960s Carr had moved down to London from the North East of England and for a time played in bands led by flautist and saxophonist Harold McNair. He then joined established reedsman Don Rendell to form the Rendell Carr Quintet which recorded five albums for EMI’s Columbia label under the supervision of the British Svengali of jazz, Denis Preston for his renowned 'Lansdowne' jazz series of recordings. During this period Carr also performed and recorded with the New Jazz Orchestra whose members included the likes of Neil Ardley, Jon Hiseman and Barbara Thompson with whom he had subsequent associations in different musical projects. He also recorded albums under the aegis of Michael Garrick, Joe Harriott, Amancio d’Silva, Stan Tracey and Guy Warren of Ghana to name but a few.
Although the Rendell Carr Quintet was musically successful, as reflected in the Melody Maker jazz polls of the period, where the RCQ regularly won the small group category, Carr was beginning to yearn for greater, more adventurous careers pathways. Following an ambitious set of compositions for the notable album ‘Greek Variations’ (with other tracks composed by Don Rendell and Neil Ardley), Carr formed his own band Nucleus along with Karl Jenkins (keyboard, reeds) and John Marshall (drums) both former alumni of Graham Collier’s band plus New Zealand saxophonist Brian Smith, Jeff Clyne on bass and Chris Spedding on guitar. Nucleus recorded nine albums for Polygram’s Vertigo label between 1970 and 1975 and later for other labels including the US Capitol label. The group won first prize at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1970 and went on to play at the Newport Jazz Festival where they wowed audiences.
The original personnel of Nucleus changed after the first three albums, and many well-known jazz and rock names variously supplemented its ranks including Jack Bruce, Allan Holdsworth, Ray Russell, Alan Skidmore, Bryan Spring and Tony Levin. Carr was always the leader and main inspiration of Nucleus and often its chief composer, as with two Arts Council bursary-funded albums ‘Solar Plexus’ and ‘Labyrinth’. Carr recruited guest stars of international reputation for these projects including Kenny Wheeler, Harry Beckett, Gordon Beck, Norma Winstone and Tony Coe. Nucleus also played a major role both in the recording and live performances of ‘A Kaleidoscope of Rainbows’ by Carr’s great friend, Neil Ardley.
By the late 1970s and with the dissolution of Nucleus, Carr, along with erstwhile New Jazz Orchestra colleagues Barbara Thompson and Jon Hiseman, became founder members of the superb United Jazz and Rock Ensemble which recorded a dozen albums including ‘Live in Schutzenhaus’. the biggest selling jazz album produced in Germany.
Carr also had a successful writing career and following his book on British jazz ‘Music Outside’ (Latimer, 1973 and republished in 2008) he went on to write the definitive biography of his hero, Miles Davis and later a biography of Keith Jarrett. He was also musical consultant for two films about these two musicians, made by the director Mike Dibb. Carr also co-edited the Rough Guide to Jazz with Digby Fairweather and Brian Priestley.
Ian Carr was also a broadcaster and amongst other projects he narrated a six-part series for BBC Radio 3's 'Jazz File' on the life of Miles Davis, broadcast to celebrate the 80th anniversary of Miles' birth in 2006. He was also an inspiring teacher and Associate Professor of Jazz at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He also taught at the Weekend Arts College for groups of young jazz musicians in North London and many of today’s jazz stars, such as pianist Julian Joseph and vocalist Cleveland Watkiss (both of whom performed at a tribute concert for Carr held at the Guildhall School of Music in November 2006) were inspired by him for his boundless enthusiasm and encouragement. He continued playing until the beginning of the twenty first century, with revived versions of Nucleus, a duet album with John Taylor (‘Songs and Sweet Airs’) and yet another project with Neil Ardley, Zyklus. He also guested with the orchestras of George Russell and Mike Gibbs.
Personally, Carr had his share of troubles with the death of his first wife Margaret in childbirth in 1967. He developed bowel cancer in the mid-1970s but following surgery, he managed a swift recovery from this illness. He also suffered from bouts of depression and one of his later albums was entitled ‘Out of the Long Dark’ reflecting his emergence from this condition. In the early 2000s he had a succession of mini strokes but continued to work and play, however, he was later afflicted by Alzheimer’s Disease. He spent his last years in specialist care homes.
Wider public recognition came late for Ian Carr receiving 'Services to Jazz' presentations from both the BBC Jazz Awards and the Parliamentary Jazz Awards coincidentally in the same year (2006). Despite all his troubles, Carr remained an irrepressibly cheerful and enthusiastic person and was a true inspiration to countless friends, colleagues and fans alike.
Roger Farbey


Terry has asked for a seven day extension to the Short Story deadline. He says he 'simply hasn't had time' for creative thoughts this week. The request has been granted so entries should now be submitted on Friday, March 6. It will give those who have written stories a chance to hone them to perfection and - are you reading this PJ - tone down the sordid sex references. As for ties I'd gladly wear one if the image of Jeff Bridges is replaced with that of our special guest for the evening, Jimmy Henderson. Who will, of course, be meeting up with us AFTER the meal.

FNB Tie!

Should Friday night be a jacket and tie occasion, in honour of... well, just for the hell of it?
Other items of clothing optional but no shorts please.

Wednesday 25 February 2009

Benjamin Britten

Benjamin Button. Although your choice would make for a more interesting movie.

And the first pub is The Bridge. I think...



On Sunday afternoon Da was accompanied by a photographer on a tour of 22 bars in central Newcastle. Over the coming weeks the photgraphs will be published as part of a new DA DRINKS column. All you need to do is identify the bar in which the popular singer-songwriter is pictured. First up is....


The FB's are to meet on Friday to celebrate PJ's 37th birthday - like Benjamin Button he is growing younger year on year. In 2010 he will be 11 and is determined to mark the occasion by fitting into his uniform from St Bede's RC Secondary School, circa 1969. The venue for this year's bash is Marco Polo in Dean Street, Newcastle. A table for six is booked for 7.30pm. All FB's who are participating in the inaugural FB'S Short Story competition are asked to bring five copies of their effort. After last year's no-show TK has confirmed his attendance. And a special guest appearance from a certain Mr Henderson is on the cards. No, it's not the dearly departed Dickie.

Tuesday 24 February 2009

Da's Doings

Like Titus Oates I may be gone some time.

Monday 23 February 2009


TERRY AND DA DON'T SEE EYE TO EYE... The published pictures illustrate an extraordinary falling out last night (MONDAY) between two of the FB's. It errupted after the successful launch of the latest poetry collection from Tom Kelly at the Lit. and Phil. Society in Newcastle. Reports are sketchy but it seems Da stormed off after Terry accused him of having a goldfish floating in a glass compartment in his shoulder.

Frank Ferrante as Groucho

An Evening with Groucho:
The REAL Captain Spaulding:

Women in Music #1

One for Terry:

... and all Friday Night Boys of a certain age.

Here's another one since it's your birthday soon:

Control yourself, Terry.

Da's Doings

An occasional post of news and blather for the discerning FB.

In a moment of weakness spilled the beans about my prospective short story to Paul yesterday so will be pulling out of that particular contest. Not a bad thing in hindsight as it will save me the bother of writing it up. It was very Mills & Boon mind. More important stuff to do like attending Tom Kelly's reading at the Lit & Phil tonight.

Purchased the DVD of my film night film today.

Sunday 22 February 2009

Night of the Demon

Did anyone think Hobart farm was like Sunderland and the 'true believers' were actually Mackems? And I surely can't be the only FNB who fancies a seance with his beer one Friday night. Grahame - an unusual film choice - we all feared you'd be MUCH more pretentious.
Short stories needed for next Friday - of 1,000 words, is that right? - and an Italinate opera the week after.


Terry admits going to same presentational skills school as Grahame and Dave admits to owning only one shirt. Da admits everything.

Friday Night Boy Film Night - seems so long ago...

Saturday 21 February 2009

Grahame's triumph

Let's face it. Grahame has changed everything. His innovative film choice shook the FB's to their foundations. Now it's over to PJ (whose impressive back is pictured) in three weeks time.

Thursday 19 February 2009

The Public Enemy

The Public Enemy (Warner Brothers, 1931) Directed by William A. Wellman

Starring James Cagney, Jean Harlow, Edward Woods, Joan Blondell, Mae Clarke.

The movie is based on a story called Beer and Blood, by John Bright and Kubec Glasmon, two native Chicagoans, who knew the city of gangsters as well as anyone, and many of the scenes in the movie are based on actual gangland killings.

James Cagney plays Tom Powers, who, along with his childhood pal, Matt Doyle (Edward Woods), is a young petty thief, who grows up to be a rum-running hoodlum during Prohibition. Woods, a rather genteel actor, was originally cast as the lead, but director William Wellman quickly realised he was outshone by Cagney, and went to Warners Bros. studio boss Darryl Zanuck to ask for the actors' roles to be reversed. (This was doubly tricky, as Woods was engaged to the daughter of powerful and famously bitchy Hollywood columnist Louella Parsons). But Wellman got his way and, after supporting roles in four earlier and mostly undistinguished feature films, The Public Enemy made Cagney a star.

Cagney's portrayal of Tom Powers was revolutionary in modern cinema; he's amoral, callous and only shows real affection to his rather clinging and cloying mother (played by Beryl Mercer). Film critic Dwight Macdonald, writing in Esquire, said: "Tom Powers is a human wolf, with the heartlessness and grace and innocence of an animal, as incapable of hypocrisy as of feeling; the smiling unreflective delight with which he commits mayhem makes Humphrey Bogart look like a conscience-stricken Hamlet." Macdonald also notes how director William Wellman "uses Cagney with subtlety, keeping him in the background much of the time while secondary characters occupy the foreground...So it is all the more powerful when Cagney moves up into the foreground at the big moments; our taste for this extraordinary actor has not been blunted by seeing too much of him."

In an interview, Cagney revealed that his characterisation of Tom Powers was partly based on an old pal of his father's, called Jack "Dirty Neck" Lafferty (great name!), a criminal who ended up in Sing Sing. But Cagney added: "I played Tom as a kind of tribute to Jack, but without his sense of humour. (My italics) No time to do that." Playwright Robert Sherwood said that part of Cagney's achievement in The Public Enemy was to play Tom Powers as "a complete rat," but still manage to somehow elicit sympathy from the audience.

The Public Enemy is still mostly remembered for a brief scene, when Cagney pushes a grapefruit into the face of actress Mae Clarke. This was based on a real life episode, when Chicago gangster Hymie Weiss rubbed an omelette in his moll's face. Since an omelette would have proved too runny, director Wellman chose half a grapefuit, creating a scene which was both very funny and highly shocking for cinemagoers of the time.

Look out for little physical touches by Cagney (or what he called "goodies"); the way he pushes his cap forward on his head, to denote assertiveness; the shortarm jab or soft punch he uses throughout the movie (which even his mother copies); or the almost balletic dance he executes on the sidewalk after flirting with Jean Harlow during a short car ride. An accomplished dancer, Cagney uses his whole body throughout the movie, making his co-stars look rather wooden in contrast. (Harlow, in particular, is very stagey. Look out for her very stilted vocal performance as she reclines on a sofa, while Cagney comes on like a tortured NY street punk).

Commenting on Cagney's performance, director Martin Scorsese said: "He lets it go. He doesn't care - he gives himself to the camera. He's almost like a psychopath." Scorsese also believes that Cagney's performance marks the moment where "modern screen acting begins." But Scorsese also notes how most of the violence happens offscreen, somehow making it more shocking. This includes the execution of Putty Face, Tom Powers' old criminal mentor, or the scene where a mad-eyed Cagney shoots the gangsters who have murdered his friend Matt Doyle (and we hear the groans of the dying as the wounded Cagney staggers into the street, like a cowboy, his two guns still smoking).


Wednesday 18 February 2009

The Bridge

The Bridge ( , the UK's premier Bob Dylan fanzine.
Visit today for knowledge and recreation!

Louis Bellson RIP

February 17, 2009
Louie Bellson, Dynamic Jazz Drummer, Dies at 84
New York Times

Louie Bellson, a crisp and dazzling drummer who worked with many of the major figures of the swing era and a gracious entertainer who made frequent appearances at the White House and on “The Tonight Show,” died on Saturday in Los Angeles.

He was 84 and lived in Los Angeles. His death was announced by Remo, the drum company for which he was a vice president. Matt Connors, the company’s manager for artist relations, said Mr. Bellson had been recovering from a broken hip since November.

Mr. Bellson was a dynamic, spectacular soloist known for his use of two bass drums, a technique he pioneered as a teenager and developed from a novelty into a serious mode of expression. But he wasn’t strictly a solo exhibitionist: his attentiveness and precision made him a highly successful sideman, and he was capable of extreme subtlety.

He always proudly maintained that Duke Ellington had called him the world’s greatest drummer. During his tenure with the Ellington band in the early 1950s he was often granted a long drum feature, which he attacked with relish and poise. He also wrote compositions like “The Hawk Talks” and “Skin Deep” that were regularly performed by the band. Later, in 1965, he participated in Ellington’s first Sacred Concert.

Before joining Ellington’s band, Mr. Bellson logged time with the top-flight orchestras of Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey and Harry James. He later worked briefly with Count Basie and Ella Fitzgerald. As a regular on the impresario Norman Granz’s Jazz at the Philharmonic tours in the 1950s, he appeared in combos with all-stars like the trumpeters Roy Eldridge and Dizzy Gillespie, the alto saxophonist Benny Carter, and the pianists Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson.

In 1952 Mr. Bellson married the singer and actress Pearl Bailey, who had a Top 10 hit that year with her version of “Takes Two to Tango.” He became her bandleader, and their high visibility was significant at a time when interracial relationships were far from common.

Partly because of Ms. Bailey’s political views, the couple enjoyed warm relationships with the administrations of Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford, and they were often invited to the White House.

Ms. Bailey died in 1990. Among Mr. Bellson’s survivors is Francine Bellson, his second wife and manager.

Mr. Bellson was born Luigi Paulino Alfredo Francesco Antonio Balassoni in Rock Falls, Ill., on July 6, 1924. His father owned a music store, and he began playing drums at age 3. He was a considerable talent by his teenage years: at 17 he won the Slingerland National Gene Krupa contest, beating out thousands of other young competitors. (Krupa, one of the world’s most popular drummers at the time, picked him as the winner.)

The combination of energy, precision and showmanship that marked Mr. Bellson’s playing was perfect for the big-band era and made him a worthy competitor and colleague to the other drummers in his league. Buddy Rich, with whom he sometimes sparred in heavily promoted drum battles, was among those who professed their lifelong admiration.

Mr. Bellson also led his own bands for decades: small groups as well as ensembles like the Big Band Explosion. In 1969 his was the band chosen to back James Brown on “Soul on Top,” a crossover jazz album released on the King label. In contrast to many of his contemporaries, Mr. Bellson spoke appreciatively of popular music, including rock ’n’ roll, throughout his career.

He was also a prolific composer who performed and recorded a number of his own pieces, sometimes branching beyond swing to orchestral and choral work. Especially in his later years, he was a tireless educator and clinician who nurtured generations of young musicians, particularly fellow drummers.

Among the honors Mr. Bellson received were a Jazz Masters Award from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Living Jazz Legend Award from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He was also designated an ASCAP Jazz Living Legend by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.

Mr. Bellson remained active until his recent injury. On his own label, Percussion Power, he released “The Sacred Music of Louie Bellson & the Jazz Ballet,” which included a big band, strings and a choir, in 2006. His most recent album — “Louie & Clark Expedition 2,” made with the trumpeter Clark Terry — was released last year.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

Louis Bellson - still swingin' at 80!

Tuesday 17 February 2009

X-ray vision

Unfounded rumours that Grahame is to screen Man with the X-Ray Eyes on Friday have been dismissed. His chosen film will be 'much more populist', he has revealed. Which is great news for one Friday Boy who is now planning a Roger Corman fest. Over to you, Jim.

Night of the Demon

“Like one upon a lonesome road he walks in fear and dread,
because he knows that close behind a frightful fiend doth tread.”
- Coleridge

Jacques Tourneur’s Night of the Demon (1957) is a (largely) subtle and atmospheric movie set in England and based on the M. R. James short story Casting the Runes (1911). Many critics regard it as one of the high points in the horror genre, despite the somewhat clunky, though brief, monster footage that was in keeping with the contemporary trend in horror ‘monster’ movies; think of Jack Arnold’s Creature of the Black Lagoon (1954), for example, or the giant ants in Gordon Douglas’ Them! (1954).

The plot concerns an American Professor, John Holden, flying to England and investigating a Satanic cult’ led by Julian Karswell. He had been invited there by Professor Henry Harrington, but in the interim, he has mysteriously died and his niece, Joanna, blames Karswell. Holden, of course, becomes involved with Joanna but remains sceptical of Karswell’s powers until it is almost too late.

As you’d expect from Tourneur, who had directed several unnerving classics of the genre like I Walked with a Zombie and Cat People (both 1942), as well as the seminal film noir, Out of The Past (1947), the mise-en-scène's combination of cinematography and lighting creates an atmosphere of fear – take the sequence where Holden leaves Karswell’s house and returns to Joanna Harrington through the menacing woods; the séance that starts off comical but swiftly

turns unsettling; the children’s party at Karswell’s estate when he demonstrates his powers to the sceptical Holden; or Holden alone in the dark, narrow, empty hotel corridor.

However, you will have to be charitable to the special effects involved in the demon’s two brief appearances and Holden’s fight with a stuffed ‘leopard’!

Screenwriter Charles Bennett, who had worked with Alfred Hitchcock on a number of films (The Thity Nine Steps (1939), Sabotage (1936) and Foreign Correspondent (1940), among others), held the rights to the original story and wrote a script based on it under the title The Haunted. He sold the script to independent producer and former child actor Hal E. Chester, who initially planned to make a monster movie aimed at a teenage audience. However, when the script was submitted to the BBFC, they balked at a film that seemed to acknowledge the existence of demons and the successful practice of black magic and demanded a number of changes, including the removal of a scene in which a painting of a black mass was to be shown! Eventually, it was decided to go for an X certificate and an older audience, but even then, the BBFC demanded cuts, including references to what being a “true believer” entails. Bizarrely, this sequence remains in the final cut that was released in the UK.

Tourneur has since claimed that he rewrote some of the script to give it a “pseudo-honest” feel to it. He was brought in to direct under recommendation to Chester from the producer Ted Richmond; the producer of Tourneur's previous film Nightfall (1957). Arguments occurred during filming between Chester and Tourneur. One event was during the filming of the wind scene, Tourneur tried to convince him that he needed to upgrade his two electric fans to two airplane engines. When Chester hesitated, Tourneur's friend and leading actor Dana Andrews threatened to leave.

Although it’s often suggested that Chester insisted on the inclusion of the monster after most of the movie was shot, it’s now apparent that he wanted this from the start to make it more commercial and he secured the help of blacklisted Cy Enfield to intergrate the monster in the story and Enfield may even have directed the process shots involving its appearance – against the wishes of Tourneur who claimed, “The scenes where you see the demon were shot without me...the audience should never have been completely certain of having seen the demon."

Tourneur, speaking to Midi-minuit fantastique, as printed in Jacques Tourneur: The Cinema of Nightfall (Johns Hopkins University Press), by Chris Fujiwara, claimed, “The scenes in which you really see the demon were shot without me. All except one. I shot the sequence in the woods where Dana Andrews is chased by this sort of cloud. This technique should have been used for the other sequences. The audience should never have been completely certain of having seen the demon. They should have just unveiled it little by little, without ever really showing it. They ruined the film by showing it from the very beginning with a guy we don’t know opening his garage, who doesn’t interest us in the least.”

However, it was in the original script and its presence had been debated over before any of the film was shot, so there is no doubt Tourneur knew of it.

Bennett’s reaction to the visualisation of the demon was even angrier: "If [Chester] walked up my driveway right now, I'd shoot him dead."

An American ‘star’ was vital to help the film’s distribution in the US – a factor in the appearances of many American actors in British films of this time, whether second-grade types like Forrest Tucker in Hammer’s The Abominable Snowman (1957) or former starts like Brian Donleavy in the same studio’s The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) and Quatermass 2 (1957). Dana Andrews fits into this second category – a major star whose career was experiencing a downturn (not unlike Tourneur’s) and like Donleavy, it was said that his drinking hampered his performance and there are certainly scenes in Night of the Demon where he seems a little off-key.

The most striking performance is Niall McGinnis as Karswell; his affability conceals his sinister intent and while he is ruthless to others, he is aware that he's tapped into the secrets of demonology to gain power, but he also knows he is vulnerable to the forces of the demon too.

The film’s production designer was Ken Adam, later to make a name for himself on the James Bond series as well as by his work with Stanley Kubrick. A particularly fine example of his art is the set for the interior of Karswell’s house. While its columns and statues suggest a temple, the chess-board floor pattern indicates the battle of wills between Holden and Karswell and the space of the set is beautifully exploited by Tourneur’s use of deep focus when Holden breaks in and is filmed from the top of the stairs, seemingly alone until a hand dramatically grabs the top of the banister.

Chester cut thirteen minutes of the film for the American film release and the title was changed to Curse of the Demon. Some of the narration is absent from the titles, the aeroplane sequence is shorter and some of the scenes with Karswell and his mother are cut. One key scene missing is the one with Karswell's mother showing Joanna the occult book; another is Holden's visit to the Hobart farm to secure a release for his examination of Rand Hobart. Holden's experience in the hallway of the hotel is moved and the new fades and dissolves aren’t well-disguised and one cut even occurs in the middle of a previous dissolve!

Night of the Demon was released in the UK in December 1957 as part of a double bill with the American film 20 Million Miles to Earth. In the United States, as Curse of the Demon, it played drive-ins and cinemas with The True Story of Lynn Stuart and The Revenge of Frankenstein.


Night of the Demon (1957)
Director: Jacques Tourneur Writer(s): (in credits order) M.R. James (story Casting the Runes) (as Montague R. James), Charles Bennett and Hal E. Chester
Cast: Dana Andrews - Dr. John Holden, Peggy Cummins - Joanna Harrington, Niall MacGinnis - Dr. Julian Karswell, Maurice Denham - Professor Henry Harrington, Athene Seyler - Mrs. Karswell, Liam Redmond - Professor Mark O'Brien, Reginald Beckwith - Mr. Meek, Ewan Roberts - Lloyd Williamson, Peter Elliott - Professor K.T. Kumar, Rosamund Greenwood - Mrs. Meek, Brian Wilde - Rand Hobart, Richard Leech - Inspector Mottrarn, Lloyd Lamble - Detective Simmons, Peter Hobbes - Superintendent, Charles Lloyd Pack - Chemist, John Salew - Librarian, Janet Barrow - Mrs. Hobart (deleted from US print), Percy Herbert - Farmer (deleted from US print), Lynn Tracy - Air Hostess (deleted from US print), Ballard Berkeley - 1st Reporter, Shay Gorman - Narrator, Walter Horsbrugh - Bates, the Butler, Michael Peake - 2nd Reporter, Leonard Sharp - Ticket Collector

A detailed piece on the film:
A comparison between the source material and the film:
A website dealing with M. R. James:
M. R. James; Casting the Runes:

A good book on the making of the film and some of the controversies around it is Tony Earnshaw's Beating the Devil: The Making of Night of the Demon (The National Museum of Photography, Film and Television and Tomahawk Press, 2005)

The title song of Kate Bush's album Hounds of Love, uses a soundbyte of dialogue from Night of the Demon: “It’s in the trees…it’s coming", a line spoken during the séance as someone has a vision of the demon’s attack.

Lydia the Tattooed Lady

The Marx Brothers' post-Paramount films suffer from the infusion of too much "plot" and the boys having to take on supporting roles to far less interesting characters. Sometimes, as in A Night at the Opera, the mix is right; sometimes , as in A Day at the Races, it's almost there, but after that, it's the law of diminishing returns. That's not to say there aren't any worthy moments in the later movies. At the Circus has several great scenes, if you can wade through business like Florence Rice singing 'Stand Up and take a Bow' to a circus horse (!), or any scene she shares with Kenny Baker...

One of the highlights, of course, is Groucho singing Lydia the Tattooed Lady:

My life was wrapped around the circus.
Her name was Lydia.
I met her at the world's fair in 1900,
marked down from 1940.

Ah, Lydia.
She was the most glorious creature
Under the su-un.
Thais. DuBarry. Garbo.
Rolled into one.

Lydia oh Lydia, say have you met Lydia,
Lydia, the Tatooed Lady.
She has eyes that folks adore so,
And a torso even more so.

Lydia oh lydia, that encyclopidia,
Oh Lydia the Queen of Tatoo.
On her back is the Battle of Waterloo.
Beside it the wreck of the Hesperus, too.
And proudly above waves the Red, White, and Blue,
You can learn a lot from Lydia.

La la la, la la la, la la la, la la la

When her robe is unfurled, she will show you the world,
If you step up and tell her where.
For a dime you can see Kankakee or Paris,
Or Washington crossing the Delaware.

La la la, la la la, la la la, la la la

Oh Lydia oh lydia, say have you met Lydia,
Oh Lydia the Tatooed Lady
When her muscles start relaxin',
Up the hill comes Andrew Jackson

Lydia oh Lydia, that encyclopidia,
oh Lydia the queen of them all!
For two bits she will do a mazurka in jazz,
With a view of Niagara that nobody has.
And on a clear day you can see Alcatraz.
You can learn a lot from Lydia.

La la la, la la la, la la la, la la la

Come along and see Buffalo Bill with his lasso.
Just a little classic by Mendel Picasso.
Here is Captain Spaulding exploring the Amazon.
Here's Godiva but with her pajamas on.

La la la, la la la, la la la, la la la

Here is Grover Whalen unveilin' the Trilon.
Over on the West Coast we have Treaure Island.
Here's Najinsky a-doin' the rhumba.
Here's her social security numba.

{whistles}La la la, la la la, la la la, la la la

Oh Lydia, oh Lydia that encyclopaedia,
Oh Lydia the champ of them all.
She once swept an Admiral clear off his feet.
The ships on her hips made his heart skip a beat.
And now the old boy's in command of the fleet,
For he went and married Lydia.

I said Lydia
{He said Lydia}
They said said Lydia
{We said Lydia}
La La!

Written by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg (writers of Over the Rainbow and many other American songbook classics) for At the Circus in 1939, it also appeared in The Philadelphia Story in 1940 and The Fisher King in 1991. Originally, it contained the lyrics, ""When she stands her lap gets lit'ler/When she sits, she sits on Hitler"; fortunately, MGM wanted the lines removed because the song would sound too dated, although Groucho did sing that version on various radio broadcasts following the film's release.

If you can't work it out, there's a concordance for the song here -

Like me, however, that blogger's stumped by "Mendel Picasso", but it has been suggested elsewhere that this was something of a conceit and was the name of a famous tattoo artist of the time.

Sunday 15 February 2009

X: The Man With X-Ray Eyes

X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963) is a haunting, low budget sci-fi/horror film directed by Roger Corman from a script by Ray Russell and Robert Dillon. The underrated Ray Milland, heading towards the tail end of his career where only a few gems stood out among pretty dire movies like Frogs ( 1972) and the heavily (not to say turgidly) symbolic The Thing with Two Heads (1972), plays Dr. James Xavier, a famous scientist, who develops eyedrops to increase the range of vision.

Using himself as a guinea pig, he realises he can see through people’s clothing and he saves the life of a girl whose medical conditon had been diagnosed incorrectly; however, his continued use of the drops increases his “x-ray” powers until he can no longer control them and he can only see textures and lights that he cannot understand. As a result,his beahviour becomes unpredictable and his colleagues fear for him.

Things go from bad to worse when he accidentally kills a friend and has to go the lam. Initially, he gets work in a carnival and then he usees his owers to win at a casino. After driving into the desert, he ends up in a religious revival meeting where he explains to the preacher: “No. I've come to tell you what I see. There are great darknesses. Farther than time itself. And beyond the darkness... a light that glows, changes... and in the centre of the universe... the eye that sees us all.”

The preacher replies, “You see sin and the devil! But the lord has told us what to do about it. Said Matthew in Chapter Five, ‘If thine eye offends thee... pluck it out!’” - which he does, to save his sanity, but Corman inserts a freeze-frame optical effect that seeks, for a fraction of a second, to show Xavier with empty eye-sockets...

This was Milland’s second Corman film, coming just after the excellent, if liberal, adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s Premature Burial (1962) and his self-directed post-apocalypse gem, Panic in the Year Zero (1962). Corman shot the film in just three weeks on a budget of $300,000. A highlight of the movie is the is Corman’s use of (admittedly crude by modern standards) visual effects to show Xavier’s point of view, especially the almost surreal journey through Las Vegas, where the audience sees the skeletons of buildings floating in space through his eyes.

A couple of youtube links:

The Man With X-Ray Eyes Gold Key comic book adaptation (only 12 cents!). For more details see:

Saturday 14 February 2009

RIP Estelle Bennett

From the Associated PressNEW YORK – Estelle Bennett, one of the Ronettes, the singing trio whose 1963 hit "Be My Baby" epitomized the famed "wall of sound" technique of its producer, Phil Spector, has died at her home in Englewood, N.J. She was 67.Bennett's brother-in-law, Jonathan Greenfield, said police found her dead in her apartment on Wednesday after relatives had been unable to contact her. The time and cause of death have not yet been determined. Greenfield is the manager and husband of Bennett's sister, Ronettes lead singer Ronnie Spector.The Ronettes were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007; its Web site hails the group as "the premier act of the girl group era." Among their admirers were the Beatles and the Rolling Stones; their exotic hairstyles and makeup are aped by Amy Winehouse.The Ronettes — sisters Veronica "Ronnie" and Estelle Bennett and their cousin Nedra Talley — signed with Spector's Philles Records in 1963.Their recording of "Be My Baby" hit No. 2 on Billboard magazine's pop music chart that year. Among their other hits were "Walkin' in the Rain" and "Baby I Love You."They also did a memorable version of "Sleigh Ride" that appeared on Spector's "A Christmas Gift for You" album. Their last Philles single was "I Can Hear Music" in 1966.The songs feature Spector's elaborate arrangements that blend many instruments into a smooth, pulsating "wall.""They could sing all their way right through a wall of sound," Keith Richards of the Stones said as the Ronettes were inducted into the rock hall. "They didn't need anything. They touched my heart right there and then and they touch it still."But their string of hits had tailed off by the time they split around 1967.Ronnie Bennett had married Spector in 1968 but they divorced six years later.Greenfield said Ronnie Spector was devastated over her sister's death."Estelle was Ronnie's sidekick in the Ronettes," Greenfield, of Newbury, Conn., said Thursday from New York. "She was very much into fashion and worked with Ronnie on the whole look and style of the Ronettes."After the group's breakup, Bennett rarely made public appearances.For nearly 15 years, the women waged a lengthy, and ultimately unsuccessful, court battle with Spector over royalties.They sued Spector in the late 1980s, saying he had cheated them out of royalties by using their music in ways not authorized by their recording contract. For example, "Be My Baby" was played in the opening credits of the smash 1987 movie "Dirty Dancing."A trial was held in 1998, and in 2000, the judge ordered Spector to pay $2.6 million in past royalties and interest for the use of Ronettes songs as background music in movies, videocassette recordings, and advertising.But New York State's highest court threw out that ruling on appeal in 2002. The judges noted that the contract did not actually mention secondary rights to the use of music, so-called "synchronization rights," which are a more modern phenomenon in the entertainment industry. But under New York state contract law, the court said, the singers did not control those rights unless their contract specifically said they did.At the group's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2007, Ronnie Spector did not mention her ex-husband, but he sent a note that was read at the ceremony saying, "I wish them all the happiness and good fortune the world has to offer." In recent years, Phil Spector has been battling criminal charges in the shooting death of actress Lana Clarkson. Bennett was born in 1941, her sister in 1943 and Talley in 1945, according to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Web site. According to the book "He's a Rebel," a biography of Phil Spector by Mark Ribowsky, the Ronettes first began performing as the Darling Sisters and later worked as dancers at New York's Peppermint Lounge, the epicenter of the early 1960s dance craze, the Twist. Their first recording contract, with Colpix, went nowhere, but then they were signed by Spector. In addition to her sister, Bennett is survived by a daughter, Toyin Hunter of Santa Monica, Calif., and three grandsons. By POLLY ANDERSON, Associated Press. Associated Press writers Bill Newill in Trenton, N.J., and Daisy Nguyen in Los Angeles contributed to this report.