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Friday, 26 April 2013

SPIDARLINGS - A Horror Musical

I must admit to being immediately intrigued when I received a message to the Facebook  page for this blog from Rahel Kapsaski, the  artistic Director of Après Vague Productions informing me about the current production of their first Feature Film "Spidarlings". She kindly asked me if I would look at the trailer they had produced and if I liked it, would I write a few words about it on here.

Now, at this moment in time, the internet seems awash with independent productions of Science Fiction and horror, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. The ability to make such productions as been revolutionised by the advent of the Internet and Social media - it truly is an exciting time for those of us that yearn for something a little different, something a little less 'mainstream' within these genres that we love so much. ……. and boy do I love something a little different.

I envy the creativity and drive that it takes to produce work on what is often the most meagre of budgets and limited location opportunities.  That's not to say that mainstream horror for example should be disregarded in the belief that it has become too formulaic, there are numerous examples of productions that are still continuing to shine. We may not be in the golden age of horror of the 1970's any longer, but that doesn't mean there isn't anything out there worth paying attention to.

Sandra Samacá  (Director of photography)    

The people involved in 'small' independent ventures like these should demand our appreciation and attention. They are the true cutting edge of Science Fiction and Horror at this stage of the 21st Century and since starting this little blog of self-indulgence I've been lucky to have been involved in a small way with some excellent people doing the most excellent of works. 

So what is this Spidarlings?

Spidarlings is a Horror/Musical and a Tongue-in-cheek satire about the British Welfare system. The film, written and directed by Salem Kapsaki, set to songs and music by Jeff Kristianis about to go into post production and will premier this summer at the DUFF ( Detroit Under ground Film Festival) and  Film 4 Frightfest - not bad eh? 

The movie is the story of Eden (played by Sophia Disgrace) and Matilda (Rahel Kapsaski)

And well, things just aren't going too rosy for the young couple who are near penniless and face being evicted by their landlord after falling disastrously behind with their rent. To make matters worse, no money is forthcoming from the social services, which is of little surprise as the girls have had a conscious lifelong fight against becoming one of society's normal people. 

However, living on the edge of society has come at a price. so much so that Matilda eventually has to settle for working at a local nightclub (the wonderfully named 'Juicy Girls'), and soon suffering the attentions of the men who pay to drink and talk with the girls of the club - she hates it. 

Could things get worse for the lovely couple? Erm, yes.

Could life get any weirder than it is already? Gloriously so.


For soon the female staff at  "Juicy Girls' start suffering hideous deaths at the hands of a sadistic serial killer, which is not a good thing. What is good is that as a consequence of the killings, a good deal of money comes into Matilda's hands. This turn of events doesn't please Eden, well that is until she is 'persuaded' to accept the newly acquired money with with a present of a tarantula spider ( the present of choice for all of us naturally). However, the arrival of the very 'special' Spider has profound effects on one and all!!

So I ask you to watch the trailer for the movie (see below). Put aside any pre-conceived notions that you may have about Independent Horror productions……. I ask you, just where can you go wrong with Horror, Drag Queens, Lesbians, a nightclub called 'Juicy Girls', mass murder and a very special Tarantula Spider called Rainer?! If that wasn't enough, there is also a guest appearance from the legendary director, Lloyd Kaufman of The Toxic Avenger fame….. well I'm sold. 

Lloyd Kaufman as Mr Banner with Sophia Disgrace and Rahel Kapsaski

One final thing, I implore you to listen to the film's title song by Two Russian Cowboys feat Cleo  Spider in love. I listened to it earlier today and it's completely addictive.

If you love your John Waters, Divine and The Cramps…… you will love this I hope. I can't wait for the full movie later in the year and hope to be talking to some of the film's contributors soon.

For more information on Spidarlings - their Facebook page is here.

The Trailer for Spidarlings

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The Man who Haunted Himself.

There are a number of supposedly undeniable laws of cinema that people seem to believe are absolute beyond all scientific deniability. For example, Law number 1; Roger Moore's only major acting skill in portraying any emotion was to raise an eyebrow ( just one at a time mind you). Law number 2; George Lucas lost the plot with The Phantom Menace (Yes Jar Jar Binks, I'm talking about you) . Then of course there is Law number 3; the old chestnut, that The Exorcist is the most terrifying movie ever ever made.......ever.

Now on the face of it, those three laws of cinema are pretty much water tight in their assumptions. I personally love The Phantom Menace, but even putting aside the absolute annoyance (& not to mention racist undertones) of Mr Binks and the sheer total mind wrenching annoyance of the brat kid who played Annakin, much of the movie is something of a meandering & soulless piece of cinema. The Exorcist is a great film I agree. It frequently tops various all time favourite horror film lists with it's incredibly frightening set pieces, a stunning ensemble cast and eminently quotable sections of dialogue. (It's not MY personal favourite, but it's up there somewhere). Finally, yes it's a well known fact that Roger Moore couldn't really act, even if his life depended on it. We all love him, he may not be a favourite bond ( he is actually mine), but we all snicker a little at his limited acting range. 

Well actually, dear reader, on that last point we may be quite wrong. In fact I would argue that people would be very, very wrong. For you see, Roger could act when given the right role, and boy was he given the right role in a little known 1970 psychological thriller/horror called The Man who haunted himself.

Just why this gem of British thrillers is still largely ignored outside its' small but loyal cult following will be discussed shortly. Suffice to say at this point, that it is criminal that it doesn't have a much wider following.

The story is taken from a short story from the  'Alfred Hitchcock presents' series. It features a very British, a very strait laced upper middle class character called Harold Pelham. "Hmm, so far that doesn't sound too much of a stretch for Mr Moore" I hear you say........well, hold on a moment, there's more. Harold is a very successful business executive in a large electronics company whose life reflects his very conservative outlook on life; 

He is your archetypal Bowler hat and umbrella brigade, he takes few chances, his relationship with his wife lacks passion, oh, he also has a rather unfortunate moustache. Still not convinced?Well lets continue.
All is running smoothly in Harold's world until one day when he is involved in a terrible car accident. The reason for the car accident seems either to be a panic attack or possibly some sort of momentary demonic possession of Harold that forces the car off the road at high speed. Needing emergency surgery he is taken straight to hospital where, whilst on the operating table, he is declared clinically dead. This is until suddenly a double heartbeat is seen momentarily in the scanner just before Harold then starts to slowly recover his vitals. 

After a long convalescent in hospital he's eventually released, only to find that his beautifully ordered world has been turned upside down. Harold soon discovers that a precise double of him has recently been seen in places that he's never been, and has upsurged his place as head of the family. His business has been undermined as a merger that he previously actively opposed has now taken place. It seems that he has even had the gumption to undertake an extramarital affair. This 'other' Harold seems to have a distinct taste for the high life.

At first he thinks that this is all some elaborate practical joke played by his family & friends. However , the number of occasions when he is confronted with stories of people having dealings with him when he couldn't have possibly been there lead Harold to start doubting his own sanity. So the question is  whether Harold is going insane or has his life been taken over by a malicious double of himself?

This is one of the great strengths of this movie, as from the moment Harold leaves the hospital and starts to 'discover' that he may have a doppelganger, the audience is left guessing right to the end about what is actually taking place. Are the series of events merely delusions of Harold lying unconscious in his hospital bed, is he suffering from Dissociative identity disorder or is he in fact really being forced out of his own life by his alter-ego? Consequently, the movie on one level becomes an exercise in examining the human condition. Psychological explanations start to abound in ones mind - Freudians would cream themselves trying to analyse the battle emanating from his unconscious between his Id (the new, bad, exciting and lustful Harold) and his superego (the old staid, conservative and rather boring Harold). 

Clinical Psychologists would counter that (nonsense) with the argument that Harold's disorder is thought to stem from trauma , in this case, physical and mental trauma from the car accident. That Harold's separate dual personalities are in fact  a coping mechanism. Or, as the rest of us may argue, this is a supernatural event and that a doppelganger has indeed being created and now it's a battle between the two to see who will come out the winner. I'll leave that up to you if and when you get to see the film.

So this brings me back to addressing one of the laws of cinema. Namely, Roger Moore's limited acting ability. Moore himself has gone on record as saying that this is the only movie he ever appeared in that he was allowed to 'act'. Always regarded as a pretty boy leading man, firstly in the 60's television series, The Saint, then with Tony Curtis in The Persuaders and finally as a certain secret agent chappie - all a good body of work no doubt in which no-one of sound mind could deny the charm and humour be brought to his roles. The problem was that none of these roles tested the RADA trained actor as he fast became a hostage to the typecasting roles that came his way. On the one hand Moore is far too much of a gentleman to complain about this situation, after all he has gained riches and fame on the basis of a perceived lack of acting range. However, it is clear from numerous interviews that he feels  this movie, out of everything he has ever been involved in, is clearly his best work. He isn't wrong.

Quite simply, he is a revelation in this role, or rather, roles. He is on camera in virtually every scene of the film as either the good or bad character. This revelation may be in part due to the fact that he was directed by one of the finest of British directors, Basil Dearden, who had previously been responsible for such cinematic classics as The Assassination Bureau, Khartoum and Dead of Night. Dearden brings out in Moore a performance of genuine depth and conviction that perfectly conveys the range of emotions in his character which start from vague confusion and ending in raging fear and unrelenting paranoia. Not only does Dearden let Moore show the true range of his acting abilities he moves the pace of the movie along at a cunningly effective pace until the final thrilling climax. I won't spoil the ending for those that haven't seen it, but the final scenes where Harold finally 'see's the truth are spellbinding, traumatic and thoroughly effective.

Sadly, this was to be Basil Dearden's final movie as shortly after he was decapitated in a car accident in virtually one of the locations where he had filmed only months before.

So why is The Man who haunted Himself  a triumph of supernatural story telling and yet performed poorly on it's initial release? Indeed, to this day the film has yet to attain the level of acclaim that other releases that suffered the same initial fate have now garnered. I will be the first to admit that some aspects of the movie haven't aged as well as some of its contemporaries of that era, the musical soundtrack for one. However, it's partly because of how it's aged which I suggest actually gives it an added charm. I think the reason why it is underrated is two-fold. Firstly, Moore has gone on record in his autobiography that the movie had no chance from the moment it was completed due to the amateurish marketing and diabolical under promotion on  the film's behalf. It's not an uncommon problem, British horror has historically suffered from lacklustre or inaccurate marketing and publicity campaigns. Movies such as The Wicker Man, now regarded quite rightly as classics of their genre's, suffered from problematic theatrical releases but have gained huge status in the intervening years. 

The Man who haunted Himself has not achieved that modern day classic status, which brings me onto the 2nd reason for it's continuing obscurity; and that it Roger Moore himself. In the 1980's the satirical puppet show Spitting Image featured a long-running joke about Roger's acting (or rather lack of) ability. Scenes would feature his director pleading with him to show anger, the puppet Moore would respond by raising his left eyebrow. The director would then ask for fear, the right eyebrow would be raised… get the picture? 

The fact is is that Moore has never been taken seriously as an actor by the general public, and also by various 'film critics' that quite frankly should know better. When I am king of the world (and its only a matter of time) I will make it my first job to make sure sure everyone gets the chance to watch this masterpiece. Because my friends, one of cinema's laws has been broken, Roger Moore can act.

Have a looksee at the rare cinematic trailer to wet your appetite.

Monday, 8 April 2013

An Interview with, and an appreciation of, Adrienne Barbeau

The fifth Dimension is very proud to produce the transcript of a short interview with the actress, director, singer and author, Adrienne Barbeau.

Adrienne Barbeau is a much loved favourite of horror fans worldwide having appeared in unquestionable classics of the genre such as as Wes Craven's Swamp Thing  and George A. Romero's Creepshow (both in 1982) . Perhaps her most celebrated appearances took place in John Carpenter's original The Fog in 1980 and his classic Escape from New York in 1981. In addition, who could ever forget classics such as the Roger Corman Burial of the Rats for cable television or the wonderfully titled Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death?…… not me, thats for sure!

Apart from gracing the the plethora of horror productions Adrienne has had a rich and varied career as a singer, talk show host and in the last few years, she has gained a name for herself as an author. The release of her memoir, There Are Worse Things I Could Do in 2006 which chronicles her amazing life with accounts of being a go-go dancer working for the mob; her breakthrough stage role of Rizzo in “Grease”; her romantic relationships ; marrying the genius of horror filmaking, John Carpenter; giving birth to twins at the age of 51; and talking about her extensive and varied body of horror work. 

After that she turned to fiction with Vampyres of Hollywood, a thriller about an A-list Hollywood scream queen who just happens to be a 450 year old vampire. The sequel Love Bites has also now been released which again follows the exploits of scream queen, Ovsanna Moore.

Adrienne succumbed to my pestering and kindly agreed to answer a few questions on her life and career.

(FD) When did you first start acting & what/who inspired you to do so?

(AB) I started taking ballet when I was 3, and then voice lessons when I was 10.
I don't remember being inspired by anyone, but I did have a mother who was very encouraging. By the time I was in Jr. High school, I was doing school plays and musicals with a community theatre group and really enjoying myself.

(FD) What was your first big break? 

Adrienne centre front as 'Rizzo' in the stage production of Grease.

(AB) My first great job was playing Tevye's second daughter Hodel in *Fiddler on the Roof * on Broadway. I consider that a big break because I was finally supporting myself as an actor!

I stayed in the show almost two and a half years. But it was *Grease *that led to *Maude*which led to everything else, so I suppose you could say that was the jumping off point.

(FD) You have a huge fan-base of horror fans throughout the world. Do you feel as if your work in horror has eclipsed your extensive body of workoutside that genre?

(AB) I don't think so. Depends on your age, really. Most of my *Maude * fans don't even know about the genre films, and then the horror fans probably don't know about the stage work. Probably don't care, either! That's okay with me; as long as there's something I've done that they enjoyed, I'm a happy camper.

(FD) One consistent theme in your characters is that of a strong, resilient woman. The role of Stevie Wayne in The Fog is a case in point. Is that thesort of woman you feel more comfortable playing?

(AB) It's definitely the sort of role that comes easy to me. And that I'm drawnto. Not too comfortable playing victims. 

That smokey sexy voiced DJ in The Fog

(FD) Is that the type of strong female character you feel has been lacking in horror movies?
(AB) Oh boy, I'm not the person to answer this question. I can count the number of horror movies I've seen on one hand. I love doing them; don't like watching them.

(FD) Apart from your fine performance & the sexy radio DJ voice .... What is It about The Fog do you think that now more than ever resonates with fans?

(AB) Maybe the atmosphere? The lack of CGI? The telling of a really good ghost story with characters you care about set in a great location?

(FD) Was it difficult working with your then husband John Carpenter on that movie and indeed also on Escape from New York? 

(AB) Not at all. I love working with John, as, I think you'll find, does every other actor who's had the opportunity. You can read more about ourspecific experiences together in my memoir *There Are Worse Things I Could Do. *I get to tell some fun stories about "The Master of Horror" there.

(FD) In Escape from New York, you appeared with one of my favourite actors, Donald Pleasence. What was he like to work with?

(AB) I loved Donald. He was hysterically funny. There were times when he had me laughing so hard I had to ask John to hold the roll because I couldn't get it together to say my lines.

(FD) In fact, your list of directors in horror reads like a who’s who of iconic directors of the Genre. What was it like working with Wes Craven (Swamp Thing) and George.A Romero (Creepshow)?

(AB) Again, both fantastic men to work for. Brilliant, supportive, kind, knowing what they want on screen and how to get it in the best possible way.

In 'Swamp Thing'

A grizzly end for the scream queen in 'Creepshow'

(FD) These days you're fast gaining a new audience with your Writing career - how did that change of career direction happen?

(AB) I started taking a writing class to fill the void left in my life by the passing of a very close friend. Quickly learned if you're going to take a writing class, you have to write. So I started telling stories from my career -- filming with rats all over me in a studio in Moscow when the government declared Martial Law and civil war was threatened; dating Burt Reynolds long 
before the filming of *Cannonball Run; *making *Swamp Thing *in the swamps with the gators and snakes;  as one of the first go-go girls in NYC in a mobbed up cocktail lounge -- things like that, and that eventually became a best selling book, which then led to the Vampyres of Hollywood books.

(FD) In Vampyres of Hollywood, we are introduced to Ovsanna Moore, who is known as the 'Scream Queen' of Hollywood. Anyone we may know per chance? :-)

(AB) Well, you know what they say..."write what you know". :-)

(FD) I found Vampyres of Hollywood a wholly enjoyable read ...Satire,elements of film noir & Characters full of depth and dimension. Have you had anyone in the film business accuse you of basing any of the characters on them? 

(AB) As you know, most of the recognizable characters are dead. At least, inreal life. So they're not complaining. When I wrote Tom Atkins in as a character, I made sure I read it all to Tommy first to get his blessing. As for the villains, I doubt that anyone would want to be acknowledged as having anything in common with them, save their professions as agents and paparazzi.

(FD) For those who haven’t read ‘Love Bites’, your recent follow up to Vampyres of Hollywood, what can you tell us about that story?

(AB) I like *Love Bites *even more than *Vampyres of Hollywood. *It has more of my sense of humor, I think, and more sensuality or sexuality or whatever you call it, with the love triangle between Ovsanna and her female assistant and the detective, Peter King. And I get a kick out of the scene with vampyre Orson Welles morphing in and out of a rat's body. I haven't got a clue where that came from in my head, but it makes me laugh.

(FD) What does the future hold for Adrienne Barbeau - author? More Ovsanna Moore hopefully?

(AB) Well, *Love Bites *was just released digitally as an e-book on Amazon, soI'm pleased about that. And I'm supposed to be writing a one-woman show based on *There Are Worse Things I Could Do,*but  I my sons' soccer games seem to be taking precedence so it might be a few more months before that sees the light of day. In the meantime, I'm recording a name yet to be revealed video game and waiting for the next good script to come along while I look forward to visiting my son, Cody (Carpenter, for all your horror readers) in Japan.

I'd like to thank Adrienne again for her time. The interview was conducted by email over the 7th and 8th of April.