Sunday, 28 April 2013

Empire Strikes Back behind the scenes photos

joinyouinthesun has just uploaded some behind the scenes photos from The Empire Strikes Back. I am not sure how widely these photos have been distributed in the past (if, indeed, they have at all), but now I think of it I don't remember seeing many on-set shots when the original Star Wars trilogy was released. It's only more recently that images have done the rounds on the interwebs. I am sure that Lucasfilm (and now Disney) carefully control which images are made public.

With the rise of the DVD and the internet there has never been such need for 'extra' content. The lure of exclusive material drives sales and attracts subscribers (which may in turn generate advertising revenue). Studios and publishers working in all media are now very aware that content is king and has immense value. They archive the Making-Of process knowing that every snippet has the potential to garner an audience. However, all this must be balanced against the potential damage that can be wrought by spoiling the magic, releasing designs which could be used in sequels and - worst of all - off-message content.

Star Wars, is, of course, a special case. It occupies a space in modern culture unlike anything else. Perhaps it is so fondly remembered and enough time has passed that photos of Chewbacca grabbing Leia's boobs are not a threat any more.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Phase IV trailer

Below is the trailer to the 1974 Saul Bass movie Phase IV. I seem to remember watching this many years ago when I was ploughing through the 'greats' of the sci-fi film genre. I also vaguely remember it being quite boring. However, now my interest in 70s psychadelia has been awakened, I am awestruck by the trailer and really appreciate both the visuals and analogue decay of the footage.

Bad memories or no, I must look into getting hold of a copy.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

New old Alien toys

Back in the late 70s sci-fi was all the rage thanks to a small film called Star Wars. Off the back of the Lucas jugganaut was a goldmine of merchandise sales the likes of which Hollywood had never seen before. Toys were, of course, a massive part of this cash cow. When Fox greenlit another sci-fi film the eyes of Kenner's execs clearly changed to dollar shapes and went 'ker-ching!' and they started sculpting 3¾" figures. The trouble was no one told the poor beggars that Alien was going to feature liberal amounts of inter species oral sex, chest-bursting, tail rape and Sigourney Weaver in her pants.

Kenner did famously release the large Alien doll, now a collector's item which fetches hundreds. They canned the 3¾" line but it has lived on in fan culture as one of the most famous 'nearly-made-it' merchandise items (helped by the fact we have photos of the prototypes). Well, the company Super7 have clearly been wining and dining the right folk at Kenner for they are releasing figures from these original prototype molds! They even come complete with retro-backing cards, dodgey likenesses and woefully limited articulation.

The line features all five of the original sculpts. Included is the full grown alien, with removable transparent head dome, extendable jaws and glow-in-the-dark details. Preorders will begin at Comic Con and each figure will be $19.99.

Via The Toy Box

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Rats, walls and Nigel Kneale

This week's excitement has taken the form of an horrific bout of food poisoning. I've used the down-time to watch a few episodes of Beasts, Nigel Kneale's 1976 ITV series of short horror stories. Although I don't think I am alone in my estimation that these are not the writer's best works, I do feel each tale has its merits.

The series comprises of six hour-long stand-alone stories. Each concerns itself with animals in some way and reflect Kneale's preoccupations with ancient horror, primeval nature and terrors perceptible only to certain individuals. The first one I saw was During Barty's Party. I won't ruin it but it is a tale of petit bourgois paranoia, media hysteria and nature wreaking its revenge. Most importantly there are strong links to the HP Lovecraft story The Rats in the Walls. Both narratives play on our fear of packs of rats invading the spaces of our houses which we cannot reach. Their quasi-poltergeist ability to scratch and scuttle within the fabric of our homes is masterfully put to use in both tales.

Oddly a quick bit of google-fu tells me that Kneale professed not to have read any Lovecraft, so we must put down any similarities to great minds thinking alike. In Barty's Party the rats are horrific in themselves, while in Walls they are herald to a much greater horror so primeval in stature that Kneale would most certainly approved. In real life I think Mother Nature would begin her campaign of revenge not with rats but with infection. And quite possibly food poisoning....

Sunday, 7 April 2013

White Ladies Priory in Shropshire

Last weekend I took a trip across the Midlands to hunt down a ruined priory. Nestling next to some woods amongst the rolling hills of Shropshire is White Ladies Priory - so called because its denizens of old wore white habits.

The building is a good example of late 12th century architecture in the Romanesque style. Though we are unclear when it was founded, the first written evidence of the priory dates from 1186. The surviving structure is quite simple - a basic cruciform with small transepts which lacked any chapels. Surrounding the stone church would have been other buildings which supported the life of the priory. Little remains of these satellite structures suggesting that they were timber-framed and so would have decayed completely. Nearby is the 17th century Boscobel House, famous as the hiding place of Charles II after his escape from the Battle of Worcester.

An interesting aspect of the priory is the exact status of the women who lived there. They were classed as 'canonesses regular' of the Augustinian Order. Such women formed religious communities but were distinct from nuns because they had more contact with the outside world. Clearly this outward-looking philosophy went a bit too far on one occasion, for in 1338 Bishop Northburgh accused Prioress Alice of Harley of financial mismanagement. He also criticised her extravagant dress and her passion for hunting with hounds.

Today the ruins of the priory are sheltered away from any main roads and stand in quiet contemplation. Their South-East aspect is hemmed in by a small wood while one can look out across the Shropshire hills in the other directions. One can imagine Alice setting out on a cold morning, wrapped in her too-fine furs with her dogs in tow, much to her Bishop's chagrin.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Something I have been working on...

Now I fully admit the photo below is not the most inspiring image I've posted. However, it shows the results of a very successful test I was keen to carry out. Hopefully the eventual fruits of the endeavor will be more exciting for readers.

Stay tuned! Trust me...

Monday, 1 April 2013

Welcome to Scarfolk!

Scarfolk. An English every-town perpetually trapped in the 1970s. It's very normal there. Children are run over, drown, contract rabies and are molested on a daily basis. When not perishing they sing along to IRA telephone bomb threats and are issued with textbooks like Foreigners & How to Spot Them.

Thankfully, Scarfolk is not real. It is the brainchild of the immensely talented Richard Littler (the self-styled town Mayor). He mines the public information films, manuals and cultural detritus of the decade to produce out-of-place artifacts which are both hilarious and terrifying in equal measure. The power of his pieces comes from the fact they could (almost) be real. In the 70s there was a school of thought that children were best educated by showing them the potential consequences of their (ill-advised) actions. Thus a whole genre of 'scare-formation' posters and films exists. Littler pushes these just a little bit further and in do doing he tests our notions of how we educate our children.

The Creative Review has just published an excellent interview with Littler in which he talks about his methods and influences. Stop, look and listen to him as he evokes our collective memories of growing up in the 1970s.