Picnic at Hanging Rock mirror shot

Picnic at Hanging Rock (Australia, 1975)

Strange things happen in the middle of nowhere.

Picnic At Hanging Rock tells the story of a girl’s college in the Australian outback, forever changed by the events of Valentine’s Day 1900. Based on the novel by Joan Lindsay, three girls and a teacher go missing on a picnic to a nearby rock. Efforts to find them and the mysterious nature of their disappearance have a far-reaching effect on the local community.

It is a slow film but one with a thread of tension running through it. The nature is awe-inspiring- especially the sheer scale of the titular Hanging Rock. The panpipe music by Gheorghe Zamfir that accompanies the landscapes is used to emphasise their hypnotic beauty. In contrast, ethereal piano music is used to accompany the girls (in particular Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5). Despite the peaceful soundtrack, it is difficult to relax while watching. Every few minutes, there is another tug at the string. The watch that stops working, the loud ticking clock on the headmistress’s office wall, the trancelike effects of the heat, ants crawling over hands…. All these elements come together to create a tense yet beautiful, painterly film.

Read more about Picnic at Hanging Rock (Australia, 1975)

Paul Newman and Mike Lookinland in The Towering Inferno

The Towering Inferno (1974)

“One these days, they’re going to kill 10,000 in one of these fire traps. And I’m gonna keep eating smoke and bringing out bodies. ’Til somebody asks us how to build em.” Chief O’Hallorhan (Steve McQueen), The Towering Inferno.

The Seventies was a decade where disaster movies, such as The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and Earthquake (1974), thrilled audiences with dramatic stories and special effects. Recent events in London, however, remind us that such dreadful disasters do happen in real life. The Towering Inferno (1974), the story of a 138 storey building beleaguered with deadly safety issues, has sadly never been more relevant.

Read more about The Towering Inferno (1974)

What You Can’t See Can Hurt You!

Introducing four of the best British psychological horror films from the early 60s- The Innocents, The Haunting, 80,000 Suspects and Repulsion.

……from Professor Spool’s archive

At Halloween most television and cinema schedules will be dominated by the usual ‘scary suspects’ – Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, werewolves, Freddie, Jason and maybe even a Mummy. Such horror creations are so readily visible on the screen whether they are steeped in folklore like vampires or based on real life Jack the Ripper type serial killers.

In concentrating on these overt, bloody and often very gruesome depictions, schedulers frequently overlook the primal basis of all horror – fear itself.  The very fear that lurks deep in our psyche and that can manifest itself in so many different ways.  One such manifestation is that which is unseen – you may be able to sense danger, your sub-conscious may play tricks on you, the sounds you hear  may add to the dread and foreboding that occupy your thoughts.  What you can’t see can hurt you – it can produce irrational behaviour, questions our very sanity and understanding of what is real or a figment of our fevered imagination.      

Let me now recommend four fine celluloid examples that are immersed in the very atmospheric fear I have just described.  This quartet of black and white ‘mind-chillers’ were all made in Britain in the early sixties.

Read more about What You Can’t See Can Hurt You!