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) …
Japanese New Wave cinema of the 60s and 70s was a rebellion against established styles of filmmaking. Major Japanese film studios began to promote young assistant directors to helm their own features- about young people and aimed at the youth market. These directors would deliver a kick of creative revitalisation into Japanese cinema. They would tackle challenging themes- sexuality, political radicalism, social inequality- all against the background of Japan’s postwar identity struggle.
Read more about The Japanese New Wave Film Rebellion …
“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) …
The second film in this analysis of two film adaptions of the gothic vampire novella Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu.
The first part of this article dealt with a little known French adaption of the classic short story (if you haven’t already- read Part 1 here). Next, we will look at the more widely released The Vampire Lovers, British studio Hammer’s take on the story. Although their source material is the same, Et Mourir de Plaisir and The Vampire Lovers are very different films in terms of tone, style and execution.
Read more about A Tale of Two Carmillas- part 2: The Vampire Lovers (1970) …
As soon as that distinctive theme tune commences… you know you’re in for an hour of enjoyable escapist entertainment!
……from Professor Spool’s archive
Towards the end of the 1960s, Roger Moore was hanging up his halo as Simon Templar, making a lightweight British cinema thriller Crossplot (1969) with his ‘The Saint’ (1962-1969) TV series producer Robert S. Baker – and he was being touted as the next James Bond. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Hollywood matinee idol Tony Curtis had been receiving critical acclaim for playing against type as the real life serial killer Albert DeSalvo in The Boston Strangler (1968). Little did either actor probably know at this time that media mogul Lew Grade had plans that would bring them both together in The Persuaders! It would be, in the early seventies, one of the most expensive British TV series.
Read more about The Persuaders! (1971) – An Anglo American Alliance! …
An analysis of two film adaptions of the gothic vampire novella Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu.
Predating Dracula, Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla (1872) has continued to provide inspiration for many vampire films and has spawned various adaptions.
It is a short story set in 19th century Styria about a young woman called Laura who becomes close friends with her mysterious houseguest Carmilla. Around this time Laura begins to have strange nightmares and her health starts to decline. Carmilla is later revealed to be the vampire Countess Millarca Karnstein by General Spielsdorf, whose niece Bertha was suffering the same symptoms. The vampire is subsequently staked by vampire expert Baron Vordenburg- yet it is implied that Laura never recovers from her encounter.
Recently, Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla has been given an interesting new reimagining in the Youtube series Carmilla (2014), which sees the action transported to a modern day university.
This two part series will analyse two very different earlier adaptions of the source material- Et Mourir de Plaisir (And to die of pleasure, 1960) and Hammer Horror’s The Vampire Lovers (1970). First, we will look at Et Mourir de Plaisir– directed by Roger Vadim (Barbarella) and starring his then wife, Annette Vadim as Carmilla.
Read more about A Tale of Two Carmillas- Part 1: Et Mourir de Plaisir (Blood and Roses, 1960) …
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! …
Why do all the passengers from an airline go missing mid-flight? How does a food critic wind up in the middle of a desert after a night at the opera? Why has the ground floor of a stately home, found to contain a mentally handicapped young man and the dead body of a woman, been constructed inside an old warehouse? These are just some of the unsolved mysteries- ranging from the believable to the outright bizarre that British 1960s TV series Department S throws at you in its gripping opening title sequences.
Read more about Department S (1969, UK) …
An effortlessly stylish, twisty and entertaining gothic suspense. This kitsch avant-garde masterpiece from Japanese auteur Kinji Fukasaku, starring female impersonator Akihiro Miwa, has to be seen to be believed!
Read more about Black Lizard (1968, Japan) …