Sunday, 31 October 2010

HORROR WEEK: He's behind you

This sequence from 'The Innocents' is the most genuinely frightening thing I have seen in over 30 years of watching horror films. The still pictures only slightly neutralise the worst of the effect. Happy Halloween.

HORROR WEEK: Sounds horrible

Not much to say on the BBC's 'Death & Horror Sound Effects' apart from that a cassette version of it was one of my first ever pocket money purchases and I was absolutely obsessed with it.

What my parents must have thought hearing the sounds of screaming, sawing, snuffling and endless torture coming from my room night after night I can only guess at, but I grew up to be a fairly balanced and reasonable adult who only occasionally succumbs to the urge to KILL.

Two more volumes followed, and they have many merits, but this is definitely the holy grail for the horror sound afficiando.

I am particularly pleased to say that parts of this are still on a continuous loop in the chamber of horrors at Louis Tussaud's in Great Yarmouth, and have been since the early eighties. Long may they roll.

Here is a selection of horrible things from Side 2 of this seminal recording.

HORROR WEEK: Can this thing really protect me?

Thomas Carnacki is the most famous creation of Edwardian writer William Hope-Hodgson. Essentially a supernatural detective, or ‘ghost finder’, Carnacki specialises in the arcane, and his cases are fascinating in the way they mix science and the supernatural, the paranormal with the more common place.

In some stories, for example, Carnacki battles with ageless, malevolent forces from other dimensions; in others, his adversaries are gangs of thieves, or unbalanced young men who fake hauntings to divert attention from their own nefarious activities.

Carnacki’s main defences against evil are ancient rituals from ‘The Sigsand Manuscript’ and the use of his patented ‘Electric Pentacle’, a Heath Robinson jumble of valves and bulbs that keeps otherworldly entities out, or in, until they can be banished back to whence they came. In a later story, the pentacle is retooled to project the spectrum as, apparently, manifestations can be combated using the correct combination of colours.

Genuinely chilling at times, always interesting, the stories have always remained in print and are easy to find wherever books are sold. In recent years, Carnacki has been revived, both in serious and satirical stories, and has appeared as a member of Alan Moore’s ‘League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ as well as a companion to the second Dr. Who in one of the hundreds of spin off books that the series has inspired.
Sadly, Cranacki has only appeared on screen once, to my knowledge, in a single episode of the excellent early seventies show ‘The Rivals Of Sherlock Holmes’.

‘Rivals….’, which has recently been released in two DVD sets, presented a series of cases from the raft of Victorian and Edwardian detectives who would have been contemporaries to Arthur Conan Doyle’s deathless creation. It’s a great programme, and I will return to it here in the future. For now, here’s a clip from the Carnacki episode, ‘The Horse Of The Invisible’, where Carnacki (underplayed nicely by Donald Pleasence) demonstrates to Betty Spencer the three key attributes needed to combat the spooky equine apparition that threatens her and her fiancee: patience, the electric pentacle and a sense of humour.

Saturday, 30 October 2010


As the late John Lennon never said: "so, this is Halloween, and what have we done?"

Well, I don't know about you, but we've what we usually do: a musical horror mix for you all. 'Bat Flap' is very seventies and can make any shopping trip seem even more like 'Dawn Of The Dead' than it does normally.

As a last desperate attempt to sell out, this will be available over at Found Objects, VG Plus, Timothy Whites, Martins the Newsagents, Woolworths, Woolco and Mister flipping J's. There is no difference in the mixes available, it's just a scattergun response borne out of creeping desperation for attention.

It will also be broadcast on November 5th over at the reliably excellent The Garden Of Earthly Delights.

Download here. Tracklisting in comments.

Friday, 29 October 2010

HORROR WEEK: Wax works

Previously posted over at Found Objects, where it was met with silence. I like it, but then I done it.

Now you know what I did last Summer.

HORROR WEEK: Fair warning

This means you, Unmann.

HORROR WEEK: Hammer Time - Blood from The Mummy's Tomb (1971)

HORROR WEEK: It's midnight...

The Doomwatch Beatles were formed in 1985 whilst the key members were studying at the University of Avoncaster. Living communally, the band never performed the same composition twice, and rarely recorded their performances: what archive material remains is very rare and often unfocussed and of poor audio quality.

Effectively dissolved on band leader Milton Zigo’s defection to the fledgling Unmann-Wittering group (then known as Unmann-Wittering Overdrive) in 1986. Derek Root and Colin Terhew achieved success in partnership as research scientists specialising in simian psychology. Malcolm Trimble is a successful author and media personality, writing both popular science books (‘What Do You Know?’, also a successful TV show) and horror novels (‘Monolith’, ‘The Moths’, the Bernice Van Helsing series). Milton Zigo left U-W after a poisonous few months and ultimately disappeared on a scientific expedition to Belize, and has been missing, presumed dead, since March 1998.

'Midnight In The Middle Ages' is a long improvisation inspired by paranoia inducing drugs, flickering lights and staying up for three days watching horror films and slowly beginning to think that they are real and the world is just a film set, yeah, and we're all actors but don't know it until they say 'cut', like, when we die, yeah?

Thursday, 28 October 2010

HORROR WEEK: What a howler

Like most rational, intelligent and good looking people I am slightly obsessed with 'The Twilight Zone'. Has any show ever delivered such quality and ingenuity for so long?

I can literally think of scores of the 156 episodes of the original series that stand as some of the most well-written, well-acted and well-executed pieces of drama ever to appear on TV. Of all of these memorable slices of television genius, the episode which particularly sticks with me and seems completely in keeping with this week's theme is 'The Howling Man'.

Written by Charles Beaumont, broadcast in November, 1960, and filmed with bags of gothic and at skewed, unsettling angles, the story concerns an intense American called David Ellington who becomes lost and sick whilst on a walking trip through Europe in the early twenties. Close to collapse he stumbles into a castle, and a hermetic order of monks reluctantly take him in.

As he recuperates he is disturbed by a blood curdling howl from the depths of the castle and, on investigating, discovers a man imprisoned there in a cell barred by a wooden staff . The man says that his crime was to kiss his sweetheart in public and that the religious order, headed up by the insane Brother Jerome, have imprisoned him out their own exaggerated sense of moral justice.

Ellington confronts Brother Jerome who explains that the howling man is not a man at all, but The Devil. He states that the Brotherhood caught him at the end of The Great War and have kept him a prisoner, using the holy power of 'The Staff Of Truth' to contain him. Brother Jerome points out that the world has experienced a period of relative peace and stability since The Devil's capture, a peace and stability that would be shattered if he were ever set free.

Naturally, Ellington frees him. And, as the howling man, makes his way to freedom, an awful change takes place --

After this faux pas, Ellington devotes his life to recapturing Old Nick, but fails to do so before The Lord of the Flies has had the opportunity to start World War Two, The Korean War and to instigate the nuclear arms race (evil is obviously measured in relation to US involvement).

As the story closes, Ellington finally has the rubber Horned One trapped again, locked in a hotel room, escape route barred by mystical The Staff Of Truth. All Ellington has to do now is keep him there until he can contact Brother Jerome and hope that the nosy housekeeper doesn't let him out...

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

HORROR WEEK: Cliff edge

HORROR WEEK: Who's laffing now?

I used to collect these as a kid. I even, God help me, used to find them funny. It was a different time. I drew the line at the dusty slab of day glo coloured gum that came in the packet, however, even I wasn't that stupid.

Monday, 25 October 2010

HORROR WEEK: Sounds terrible

'Dr. Terror's House Of Horrors' was the first Amicus portmanteau film, released in 1965. It's not bad, but lacks the stand out story required to make it a classic.

Directed by shoestring horror maestro Freddie Francis, all the usual suspects are there: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Michael Gough and, um, Roy Castle.

Castle stars in the dreaded comic episode that each of these films has to have by law, the sobering tale of jazz trumpeter Biff Bailey who, whilst on tour in the West Indies, steals some music from a voodoo ceremony and has to face some unamusing consequences.

Although I have recently warmed a little to Castle after reading he was a chronic agoraphobic who used to hide in a wicker basket between takes of 'Record Breakers', I've never had a lot of time for him, despite his numerous achievements (and world records): for me, he was always a bit too smarmy and eager to please and he gives a irritating performance here (apparently, Acker Bilk was originally due to play the part, but had a heart attack shortly before filming started). The saving grace of the segment is the appearance of the marvellous Tubby Hayes Quartet, who do a couple of rousing numbers and back the irrepressible Kenny Lynch on the song 'Give Me Love'.

To add insult to injury, however, it was Castle and not Tubby who got to release a single to promote the film. The A Side is an awful sub-Goons comedy track that bears no relation to the film except for a shared title. It's about two minutes too long and fails utterly as a promotional tie-in in that it must have actually put people off seeing the film, so I'm not going to subject you to it here.

The b-side, 'Voodoo Girl' is better but then it's basically a version of the number Tubby and the boys play in the film with a slightly squarer arrangement, some awkward lyrics ('the goat is now left to eternally dream') and Castle's fairly average vocal stylings. A squandered opportunity.

For an earful on how it should have sounded, here's the version that the marvellous Mr. Jonny Trunk released a couple of years ago in a limited edition of 666.

That's better. For those of you that haven't seen the film, it turns out they're all dead in the end.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Terrifying announcement

Something horrible this way comes...

no, not the UB40 version of 'I Think It's Going To Rain Today', but, to celebrate the lead up to Halloween, next week is Horror Week here at the U-W Blog.

There'll be scary music, scary noises, scary films and scary television, culminating in a scary new hour long mix on All Hallows itself, so remember to pop back every day for another bob in our virtual apple barrel.

That may be the worse sentence I have ever typed. I'm frightened already.

Broken windows and empty hallways

I have lots of favourite records, but a lot fewer favourite songs. 'I Think It's Going To Rain Today' is on that short list, a combination of words and music that I generally like in spite of who may be performing it.

An extraordinarily melancholic and reflective song with a wonderful, spare melody and enigmatic but evocative lyrics, to me it reeks of loneliness, existentialism and cynicism - which must be why it's proven to be Randy Newman's most covered song, with artists as diverse as Nina Simone, Mama Cass, Leonard Nimoy, Miss Barbara Dickson, Joe Cocker, Neil Diamond and Francoise Hardy all having a pop at it over the years. Here's Judy Collins with a somewhat static but beautifully enunciated performance.

By the way, the UB40 version is shit. No song, no matter how great, could survive that sort of treatment.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Graham Crowden, R.I.P

Graham Crowden has died at the age of 87. Ridiculously tall and eccentric, Crowden cornered the market in megalomaniac doctors,
crazed academics and unhinged scientists, appearing in 'If....', 'O Lucky Man!', 'The Final Programme' and dozens of other films, TV dramas and sitcoms.

In 1974, he was first choice to replace Jon Pertwee as Dr. Who but turned it down, saying he was too busy doing other things to tie himself down to one show for so long.

Six years later, Crowden did appear in the series, but he took the short term option of playing arch villain Soldeed in 'The Horns Of Nimon', usually agreed to be one of the worst stories of the Tom Baker era. He gives a ridiculous performance, but it's quite brilliant at the same time.

Finally, here's a slightly more restrained Crowden at his sinister best in a clip from Lindsay Andersons final instalment of the Mick Travis trilogy, 'Britannia Hospital':

We shall not see his like again.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Unpleasant Proposal

It's hard to believe, but David Bowie is thirty years old and drug free in this not great video for a not great song from his 1977 album, 'Low'. I'm sure there's some elaborate conceptual reason why Bowie is dressed like Quentin Crisp on a cruise and keeps pursing his lips like he's suffering from irritable bowel syndrome but I can't quite work out what it is. All I do know is that the chance of him getting married using this approach is very slim indeed.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

British Statue Number Sixteen

Billy Fury (1940-1983)
Albert Dock, Liverpool,
Statue by Tom Murphy.

Monday, 18 October 2010

You're a bad dog, baby

By the mid-70's, Tom was no longer at the height of his late sixties hip swivelling powers. Noticeably broader in the beam, thicker in the voice and stompier of the foot, his performances from this time are always professional and entertaining, but lack the energy and nuances of his late sixties peak. In this clip he seems to have borrowed a few moves from his friend Elvis Presley, who, ironically, had stolen liberally from Tom a few years earlier as he sought to revive his own career.

Another problem is the material: by now, people rarely wrote for Tom - he simply sang whatever come along, like Gilbert O'Sullivan's ultimately rather crappy 'Get Down'. It's okay, it's even quite good fun, but it's just not Tom Jones quality.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Jones the Voice, Part Three

Not a tremendously popular feature this, it must be said but, in the bloody minded spirit of having already done the other posts and the sound files and all that as well as being slightly incredulous that nobody has downloaded the second part, here's part three, whether you want it or not. Part four will be here soon, too, and you probably won't want that either but at least that will be an end to it.

So, side two, part one: a nice and groovy version of Sam Cooke's 'Shake' kicks off the proceedings, and Tom does his whistle. I know what 'shake it like a bowl of soup' means, of course, I just don't know why it's seen as such a good thing. Try shaking a bowl of soup, you'll see it only leads to trouble. Next up is an great version of 'That Lucky Old Sun' that showcases Tom's ability to switch from cheeky chappy to impassioned balladeer over the course of a few bars.

After a well-deserved round of applause, Tom introduces his MD ('Mr. Johnny Harris') and his 'hoodlum' backing band The Squires before performing his Bond theme, 'Thunderball' - not a great song by any means, but you can't doubt the Jones boy's commitment to the cause. That segueways nicely into a casual, almost throwaway version of 'That Old Black Magic' which Tom keeps just this side of raucous. It's nice stuff, if you'll give it a chance.

Anyway, you can download it here and the very best of British to those that do.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Open the door and see all the people

Wolf People have a new album, their debut, out this week called 'Steeples'. I'm not prone to hyperbole about rock bands, particularly new ones, but this is one of the best records I've heard all year and you need to get it.

The young and hairy group have created a brilliant 21st century blend of all that's best about classic rock, prog, folk and psych and paired it with some great songs to make a truly essential album.

Most often compared to Black Mountain, or even Jethro Tull (mainly on the strength of 'Tiny Circle's flute freak out), they are clearly their own men, but, in full flight, they remind me most of Peter Green's incarnation of Fleetwood Mac, and anyone who has ever heard the incredible 'The Green Manalishi With The Two Pronged Crown' will know how very, very cool that is.

Great VHS Idents: Video Programm Service

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Kids get killed...don't be one

Here's the first post U-W output of our new project TOMTIT, as posted over on 'Found Objects'. 'Kids Get Killed' basically cuts twenty three minutes out of terrifying 1976 public information film 'Apaches' and reduces it to a montage of senseless, horrible death and despair with a new and original soundtrack. We did it all this weekend, and we're quite pleased with it.

Things you just don't see anymore

Let's really start to live

Can anyone explain the concept behind this odd snippet from Tom's TV series? Camp men in TJ logo'd jump suits pulling levers? Dancing colour coded dolly birds? A giant flashing portrait of Tom that, at the end, the camp men press their hands against in an act of worship? It's pretty enigmatic.

There's also a good bit when a smirking Tom turns his back to us, just so we can get the full benefit of his wiggling arse. Ah, Tom, what a star you are.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Beware the cold caress

US trailer for Roy Ward Thomas' 1970 tits and teeth epic 'The Vampire Lovers'. Not the greatest Hammer film ever made, but Roy does his usual decent job.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Roy Ward Baker, R.I.P

Roy Ward Baker, who has died at the age of 93,  may not have been an auteur, but he was a great professional who directed a dozen or so of my favourite films, as well as episodes of most of my favourite vintage TV series, so he more than deserves a decent send-off.

Roy did more or less every job there was in his chosen profession, and worked with pretty much everybody. Starting out at Gainsborough Studios (where he made the tea), he quickly progressed through the ranks, working with Hitchcock on his penultimate British film 'The Lady Vanishes', before joining the army at the outbreak of World War Two.

Further honing his skills on documentaries produced by the Army Kinematograph, Roy directed his first film in 1947 and was constantly employed at home and abroad for the next 45 years (he spent three years in Hollywood, and worked with Robert Ryan, Marilyn Monroe and Richard Widmark).

His film and TV resume reads like the inside of my head: he worked for ITC on 'Department S', 'The Persuaders', 'The Protectors' and 'Jason King', for Hammer on 'The Anniversary', 'Moon Zero Two', 'The Vampire Lovers' and 'The Legend of The Seven Golden Vampires' and with Amicus on 'And Now the Screaming Starts', 'The Vault Of Horror' and 'Asylum'. Incredibly, these examples are not exhaustive. His seventies CV alone gives me palpitations of excitement.

So, Roy Ward Baker may not have been a maverick or a ground-breaker. He may not have used the camera as a pen, scrawling his unique and individual signature across every frame of celluloid - but he had a long, busy, notable career and was respected as one of the best and most reliable directors in the business, and, when you take into account that he also directed the superb Hammer adaptation of 'Quatermass & The Pit', I'm sure you'll want to raise a glass with me to see the old boy off.

Here's a clip from the aforementioned, where Roy uses slightly overlapping takes as the credits roll to create a jarring, disorienting experience that reflects the traumatic events those protagonists left alive have just gone through.  Or, conversely, he just didn't have a long enough single take so stuck a few together. Either way, it's a great solution, memorably executed by a seasoned and eminently practical director.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Raise Your Hand

Whilst (as so many ladies have been) we are on a Tom tip, here's a 1969 clip that has the Jones boy duetting with Ms. Janis Joplin. Everything about it is so relentlessly groovy and energetic that I'm pretty sure it must have contributed to Jop's early death. My thanks to Bud Peyote for locating this fine piece of syncopated screaming.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Jones the Voice, Part One

Tom Jones' 1967 LP 'Live At The Talk Of The Town' is probably my favourite album of all time. It's not the greatest record ever made, or even the greatest record Tom Jones ever made but, of all the thousands of pieces I've vinyl I've owned in my life, it's the one I love the best, so much so that I've had about thirty copies over the years, and will still buy one now if I find it at a reasonable price.

Recorded at a time when Tom's career was only a few years old but already in high gear, the album captures for all time a night of fantastic entertainment at one of London's premier venues. Tom is in incredible voice throughout, equally at home with uptempo material and the slowest, saddest of Yiddish ballads (Tom is always loud, but can also be subtle, expressive and very poignant when he wants to be). His set is a mix of hits, standards and a couple of the cool, groovy soul numbers that he always liked to perform when he got the chance. Inbetween songs he's witty and amusing, and he is brilliantly supported by his 'hoodlum' backing group The Squires and his musical director, Mr. Johnny Harris. I wish to Christ I'd been there.

Here's part one of four. After a terribly serious intro, Tom slams into the Sam Cooke number 'Ain't That Good News', almost certainly whilst swinging his hips and thrusting his nethers towards the ladies of the audience. He gets his breath back with a light but dignified 'Hello, Young Lovers', saving his energy for a powerful, throaty 'I Can't Stop Loving You'. This little section ends with a note-perfect take on 'Whats New Pussycat?' - pretty annoying on record but in a live context it's whimsical and fun, and gives TJ another chance to flail his arms and bits about.

Oh, and I don't mean to be rude but, if you don't see or can't hear just how great this LP is, I don't want to know. If you love it, on the other hand, call me, perhaps we can get our people to sort out lunch, maybe a City Break.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Do The Clapham

I've been watching 'Fox' of late, an ambitious 13 episode, 11 hour series from 1980 about the lives of a working class London family.

The story unfolds slowly with lots of diversions and odd little moments that only make sense later or, sometimes, stay ambiguous and unexplained, you know, just like life. Writer Trevor Preston described the show as 'The Forsyte Saga' set in Clapham and, for me, it's a milestone of British television, full of ideas and packed with talent and drive.

There's a great cast, with gimlet eyed Peter Vaughan as the Dixieland jazz obsessed patriach, King Billy, and Bernard Hill, Derrick O'Connor, Larry Lamb, Eamon Boland and Ray Winstone as his five sons, all of whom want very different things out of life.

Here's a clip from the brilliantly titled fourth episode 'It's all them psychiawhateveryoucallit books he reads' in which young boxer Kenny Fox (Winstone) has a nightmare about his last fight, which has left his opponent in a coma. Recommended to anyone with eyes and a DVD player.