Saturday, 20 June 2015

Whitby abbey

I've been sitting on these photos a bit but it's only now that I've found time to process them. As mentioned in a previous post, I visited the seaside town of Whitby earlier this year and spent a couple of lovely afternoons walking around the Abbey and neighbouring church.

The fishing port of Whitby has a long and interesting history, and consequently quite a few claims-to-fame. One of its most exciting (and lucrative) is the Dracula connection.  Bram Stoker was a visitor to the town, and set parts of his famous novel there. The abbey fell into ruin after the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century. The hulking stone carcass that rises far above the town is no doubt one of the reasons why Stoker chose it as a setting. The craggy skeleton perches on a cliff and consequently the ruin is one of the first things you see as you come over the moorland from the south west from inland.

Most of the southern walls have tumbled down so visitors are able to walk right through the length of the trancept and nave and look out over the substantial grounds. There are some wonderful scultpural details still visible, and the nearby almshouses also retain some excellent corbles shaped like heads. It was bright and sunny when we visited, but I can imagine it being utterly terrifying on a dark, wet and windy winter's night.

Although the abbey provides a wonderful backdrop in Dracula, it's actually the graveyard of the neighbouring church of St Mary's which hosts one of the key scenes in the novel - where Mina discovers 'something dark' looming over the prostate from of her friend Lucy. I took quite a few shots of the graveyard with my analogue Nikon camera and have yet to process the film, so I'll post them in due course.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

The sad state of Nottingham's cemeteries

A few weeks ago I went back to Nottigham's Rock Cemetery, which I've previously blogged about. It was a great oppotunity to do some research on vampires in preparation for my trip to Whitby, which I'll blog about soon.

Despite it being a sunny day with the cherry blossoms blooming, it was sad to see that there has been a lot of vandalism and pillaging. Several of the niches containing ashes had their doors ripped off and the contents strewn about. Another monument had clealry had some kind of (no doubt sculpted) mandala torn away. The resulting carcass was left with a kind of internal spine of brick exposed - a gaping maw howling in rage at the perpetrators.

Sad times.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Lost Soul

I am thankful to my pal Steve who gave me a heads-up that the documentary Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau was playing in Nottingham. I went to see it a few nights ago and I can assure you it's a corker.

The producers did an excellent job of giving what felt like quite a fair appraisal of the ill-fated exploits of the cast and crew on their remote set in Northern Australia. While it is clear that Stanley's vision would have made a far more interesting film than actually emerged, the trials and tribulations are thoroughly investigated and the documentary excites on a level beyond the simple teasing of a hypothetical masterpiece. On this note, many of the interviewees (including Stanley himself) are hilarious and special mention should go to Marco Hofschneider who seems like a really nice person caught in the centre of an increasingly bizarre madhouse (culminating in being, quite literally, punched "in the nuts" by the dwarf who went on to steal his screentime). Notably absent are Val Kilmer and David Thewlis, the first of whom comes off very badly, while the latter is barely mentioned.

Stanley is refreshingly dry and up-front about his interest in, and use of, witchcraft. He explains that he asked "Skip", a friend of his, to perform some magical fixes to get him the gig. I am not sure how serious to take him when Stanley goes on to exlain that his misfortunes were due to Skip falling ill and all his work unravling. This results in lightening hitting the filmmakers' mother's house and hyenas being seen by her neighbours (and there were hyenas on the wallpaper where Stanley was staying... so it all makes sense, y'know?). I did notice that on the bookshelf behind Stanley was the book Werewolves and Shape Shifters: Encounters with the Beasts Within by John Skipp and I wondered if this was the "Skip" referred to.

Regardless of the merits of how he was treated, the experiece was clearly very hard for Stanley. He retreated afterwards to a remote ruin in Monts├ęgur, France where he has only more recently returned to the commercial world of film. He freely admits that he feels far more at home amongst the stones of the Cathar strongholds and the memories of the dead than he did amongst the machinery of Hollywood. He likens himself to a Moreau figure, and I hope the world will remember him for his pioneering and unique vision and not the filmic bloodbath in which it culminated.

Some of the amazing concept art produced by Graham Humphreys for the movie. These hint at the far deeper and more coherent themes which Stanley wanted to explore.

Marco Hofschneider - stuck it out despite being patronised by Brando, bullied by Kilmer and puched in the groin by two-foot-tall Spanish dwarf