Sunday, 8 January 2023

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn

Wyrd Britain reviews 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn' from Kenneth Graeme's 'The Wind in the Willows'.
I'm sure that for many people that title up there evokes memories of Astronomy Domine, Instersteller Overdrive and Lucifer Sam but it's original appearence was as chapter seven of one of Syd Barrett's favourite novels, 'The Wind in the Willows'.

Written by Kenneth Graeme - originally as stories to entertain his young son - and first published in 1908, 'The Wind in the Wilows' tells the stories of the anthropomorphised animals of the riverbank such as Mole, Ratty (actually a water vole), Badger and Mr. Toad.  The book has a overarching narrative but in line with it's origin as stories to entertain a young boy it also includes a number of short stand alone digressions such as the often excised chapter seven. A beautifully pagan piece of writing 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn' tells of Mole and Ratty'search for Otter's missing son Portly who they find nestled between the hooves of the wild god.

This adaptation is taken from the 1969 TV series made by Anglia Television, narrated by Paul Honeyman over John Worsley' stunning illustrations.

..........................................................................................

If you enjoy what we do here on Wyrd Britain and would like to help us continue then we would very much welcome a donation towards keeping the blog going - paypal.me/wyrdbritain

Affiliate links are provided for your convenience and to help mitigate running costs

Sunday, 25 December 2022

Christmas with the Sex Pistols

Wyrd Britain reviews the BBC Four documentary 'Christmas with the Sex Pistols'.
Happy Christmas everybody I hope this finds you well.

Here we have the story of the two gigs the Pistols played on Christmas Day 1977 in Huddersfield at the height of their infamy, the last gigs they were to play in the UK and less than a month before they were to implode on the US tour.

John, Paul and Steve tell their stories of Christmas in the 1970s and particularly of the gigs they played that day for the locals that evening but especially the one at the party in the afternoon for the children of striking firemen complete with a Rotten instigated cake fight that looks like the most fun gig ever.

It's a genuinely lovely documentary with the 4 members (and others) reminiscing over some great footage about the gig and the times and offering some interesting observations which makes for a fascinating and really very welcome addition to their story.

I hope you enjoy and merry Christmas to you all.

..........................................................................................

If you enjoy what we do here on Wyrd Britain and would like to help us continue then we would very much welcome a donation towards keeping the blog going - paypal.me/wyrdbritain

Affiliate links are provided for your convenience and to help mitigate running costs

Saturday, 17 December 2022

Literary Hauntings

Wyrd Britain reviews 'Literary Hauntings' from Tartarus Press.

Available now from Tartarus Press is this fantastic new guide book  to the uncanny or perhaps I should say to uncanny influences.

The literary equivalent of Janet and Colin Bord's essential 'Mysterious Britain' and 'The Secret Country' it probides an exploration of the real world locations that have "inspired the best fictional ghost stories of Britain and Ireland". Contributors include Tartarus Press head honchos R.B. Russell and Rosalie Parker along with Mark Valentine, John Howard, Mike Ashley, Swan River Press' Brian J Showers and others and it makes for fascinating reading

If you've ever been fabulous enough to want to float down the canals of Elizabeth Jane Howard's 'Three Miles Up', visit Thomas Carnacki at Cheyne Walk or to climb Arthur Machen's Hill of Dreams then in this fantastic book you'll find your guide to the destinations of all your best nightmares.

 ..........................................................................................

If you enjoy what we do here on Wyrd Britain and would like to help us continue then we would very much welcome a donation towards keeping the blog going - paypal.me/wyrdbritain

Affiliate links are provided for your convenience and to help mitigate running costs

Sunday, 27 November 2022

Nebulous

Wyrd Britain reviews 'Nebulous' from BBC Radio 4 and starring Mark Gatiss.
It's 2099 where following various environmental disasters which have reduced human knowledge, changed the Earth's orbit, split much of the UK into islands and vastly reduced the human population we find Professor Nebulous (Mark Gatiss), destroyer of the Isle of Wight and head of KENT (Key Non-judgmental Environmental Taskforce), investigating environmental dangers as he attempts to restore the world while also taking in laundry to supplement their funding.

Nebulous ran for 3 series on BBC Radio 4 between January 2005 and June 2008 with the first episode being remade in 2019 as the animated pilot you can see below.

Wyrd Britain reviews 'Nebulous' from BBC Radio 4 and starring Mark Gatiss.

The show is an affectionate spoof on the cornerstones of Wyrd Britain such as Quatermass, Doctor Who and Doomwatch and indeed the finale of the pilot episode revolves around a notable reference to The Day of the Triffids movie.  It features a strong cast including the likes of the series' writer and producer Graham Duff as Rory Lawson and the great David Warner as Nebulous' nemesis Doctor Klench alongside guest stars such as David Tennant, Peter Davison and Kate O'Mara. Not every joke lands cleanly and episodes are often a little too crammed for their own good but such is the curse of the radio play with it's need to avoid dead air but the series as a whole is a thoroughly enjoyable pastiche of the type of shows we champion here which deserves it's place alongside them.

You can watch the animated pilot below with the rest of the series available to own on disc or download from your retailer of choice or you can listen to them here -  https://archive.org/details/nebulous5

 ..........................................................................................

If you enjoy what we do here on Wyrd Britain and would like to help us continue then we would very much welcome a donation towards keeping the blog going - paypal.me/wyrdbritain

Affiliate links are provided for your convenience and to help mitigate running costs.

Tuesday, 22 November 2022

Dusky Ruth & Other Stories

Wyrd Britain reviews 'Dusky Ruth & Other Stories' by A.E. Coppard.
A.E. Coppard
Penguin

Beyond that woeful 1970's soft porn image that (dis)graces the cover this is another delightful collection of gently bucolic and occasionally supernatural tales from the pen of a master.

I've read more than a few of these stories before in the modern collection I reviewed here the other year such as the lovely title piece, the gently strange 'Adam & Eve & Pinch Me', the devious humanity of 'Weep Not My Wanton' and the gossipy comraderie of 'The Field of Mustard'.  Betyond those are other treasures such as the fairytale of 'The Bogey Man', the delicate familial love displayed in 'The Cherry Tree', the love story of 'Polly Morgan' and many more.

Coppard was a true master of the short story.  Few of the stories in his collections are particarly weird or supernatural but I recommend them unreservedly to devotees of both as he was blessed with an imagination imbued with a pastoral fecundity that allowed it to roam paths trod and untrod through the countryside that fueled it.

..........................................................................................

If you enjoy what we do here on Wyrd Britain and would like to help us continue then we would very much welcome a donation towards keeping the blog going - paypal.me/wyrdbritain

Affiliate links are provided for your convenience and to help mitigate running costs.

Sunday, 6 November 2022

Mr Nightingale

'Mr Nightingale' is an episode of the 1977 BBC1 series 'Supernatural' where an initiate tells a story ro gain membership of the 'Club of the Damned' and here it's the story of an Englishman (Jeremy Brett) in Hamburg on business staying with a local family who discovers he has a double or does he?  Dum Dum Duuuuum!

With very limited sets but a solid cast pulled from the supporting casts of such Wyrd Britain delights such as 'Countess Dracula' (Lesley-Ann Down), 'Doomwatch' (Bruce Purchase & Donald Eccles) and 'The Tomorrow People' (Mary Law) and a workable, if slightly hackneyed, story it could have worked but unfortunately doesn't and the lion share of it's failure must be borne by it's lead.  Brett is very much of the Vincent Price school of acting and has never seen a piece of scenery that he didn't want to chew.  Here he's dialled all the way up to 11 and utterly manic in the role of the increasingly doolally title character but his performance elicits cringes and sniggers rather than any empathy .

I hadn't intended on posting this here as in all honesty I thought it was really quite awful but as it would have been Brett's 89th birthday this last week I thought I'd embrace the opportunity and besides someone may enjoy it.

..........................................................................................

If you enjoy what we do here on Wyrd Britain and would like to help us continue then we would very much welcome a donation towards keeping the blog going - paypal.me/wyrdbritain.

Affiliate links are provided for your convenience and to help mitigate running costs.

Friday, 4 November 2022

Titus Groan

Wyrd Britain reviews 'Titus Groan' book one of the Gormenghast trilogy by Mervyn Peake.
Mervyn Peake
Vintage

Titus, heir to Lord Sepulchrave, has just been born, he stands to inherit the miles of rambling stone and mortar that stand for Gormenghast Castle. There are tears and strange laughter; fierce births and deaths beneath umbrageous ceilings; dreams and violence and disenchantment contained within a labyrinth of stone.
Starts with the birth and ends with the first birthday celebrations of the heir to the grand, tradition-bound castle of Gormenghast. A grand miasma of doom and foreboding weaves over the sterile rituals of the castle. Villainous Steerpike seeks to exploit the gaps between the formal rituals and the emotional needs of the ruling family for his own profit.

This book / series has been on my must read list pretty much since I learned of it's existenceand I knew that one day I'd get the urge to read it and that day finally arrived.  Was it worth the wait? Yes, pretty much but I wasn't as blown away as I'd hoped to be.

Titus Groan is the freshly born heir to the House of Groan, the ruling family of the monolithic castle of Gormenghast and surrounding country.  Gormenghast is a place of ritual where every action is governed by centuries of ritual and heritage that permeates through it's labyrinthine corridors and highly stratified hierachy.   Into this system comes the self serving, psychopathic figure of Steerpike, a kitchen boy with his eye on something more for himself, something better.

It's a richly imagined and intrically plotted novel of Machiavellian intrigue going head to head with the immovable force of entrenched tradition.  It is though very slow,  so slow in fact that I actually jumped when some 200 pages in a character fell over but in it's inexorable advance we get plenty of time to watch the progression of Steerpike's plans and to marvel at his callous, unflinching manipulation of those around him.

It's a book unlike anything else I've read with a bold and frankly astounding vision at it's heart and I wish I liked it more than I did but really I've never been much of a fantasy fan but like it I did and I'm looking forward to book two to see where this long, drawn out introduction to the gothic environs of Gormenghast and it's inhabitants leads.

..........................................................................................

If you enjoy what we do here on Wyrd Britain and would like to help us continue then we would very much welcome a donation towards keeping the blog going - paypal.me/wyrdbritain

Affiliate links are provided for your convenience and to help mitigate running costs.

Sunday, 30 October 2022

The Mutations

Wyrd Britain reviews The Mutations (Freakmaker) starring Donald Pleasence & Tom Baker.
Made in 1974 by Cyclone & Getty Pictures Corp and occasional director Jack Cardiff - more famous for his work as a cinematographer for the likes of Alfred Hitchcock and John Huston - 'The Mutations' (also known as 'Freakmaker') is the story of a mad scientist by the name of Professor Nolter (Donald Pleasence) who's attempting to create a plant / animal hybrid by feeding rabbits to a tree and by kidnapping and experimenting on his own students.  Helping him in these endeavours is  freak show owner Mr Lynch played, under heavy prosthetics, by Tom Baker in a very familiar looking outfit and who 2 months and 4 days on from the movie's release make his debut as The Doctor.

Wyrd Britain reviews The Mutations (Freakmaker) starring Donald Pleasence & Tom Baker.
Truly it's a bit of a mess and really only composer Basil Kirchin who provides an often beautifully dissonant but also groovily jazzy and filmic score and the various cast members populating the freak show come out of the movie with their heads held high.  Pleasence and Baker are both reliable enough and the fabulous Jill Haworth ('The Haunted House of Horror', 'It!' & 'Tower of Evil') is reduced to a little more than a bit part with the leads being given to the woefully wooden Brad Harris and Julie Ege neither of whom have the charisma or the acting chops to carry the film.

Cardiff isn't much of a director and after a promising start the film begins to lag and the monster when it appears is hysterically bad but beyond the creature feature there's a rather lovely little riff on Tod Browning's masterpiece 'Freaks' that's bursting to get out but never quite manages too.


..........................................................................................

If you enjoy what we do here on Wyrd Britain and would like to help us continue then we would very much welcome a donation towards keeping the blog going - paypal.me/wyrdbritain

Affiliate links are provided for your convenience and to help mitigate running costs.

Sunday, 9 October 2022

The Trollenberg Terror (The Crawling Eye)

"Didn't you see? His head! It was torn off!"

Written by legendary Hammer Films screenwriter Jimmy Sangster and released in 1958 'The Trollenberg Terror' (or 'The Crawling Eye' in the US) is the story of an investigation into the deaths linked to an inexplicable, unmoving, radioactive mist on the side of Mount Trollenberg (not actually) in Switzerland.  Doing the investigating is intrepid US troubleshooter Alan Brooks (Forrest Tucker), intrepid journalist Philip Truscott (Laurence Payne) and intrepid mind reading sisters Anne (Janet Munro - The Day the Earth Caught Fire) and Sarah Pilgrim (Jennifer Jayne - beloved of us here at Wyrd Britain for being the pseudonymous screenwriter (as Jay Fairbank) of Tales That Witness Madness and Son of Dracula).

What we get here is a good old fashioned alien invasion movie with shades of 'X the Unknown', 'Island of Terror' and 'Night of the Big Heat' and like all good creature features it's a load of B movie tosh littered with cliches, rubbish monsters - in this case a giant eyeball with tentacles - and a heroic, fiery last stand which, of course, is everything one could want in a monster movie.


..........................................................................................

If you enjoy what we do here on Wyrd Britain and would like to help us continue then we would very much welcome a donation towards keeping the blog going - paypal.me/wyrdbritain

Affiliate links are provided for your convenience and to help mitigate running costs.

Thursday, 22 September 2022

Look Around You

Wyrd Britain reviews 'Look Around You'.
When people talk about the golden age of British television comedy you can be fairly sure they're about to rehash tired old cliches about everything from 'Hancock's Half Hour' and 'Steptoe and Son' to 'Fawlty Towers' or 'Only Fools and Horses' but personally these shows and their ilk left me cold.  I was entirely the wrong generation and of a very different inclination to find any of them at all funny.  For me comedy first properly grabbed my attention with 'The Young Ones' but my golden age includes shows such as 'The Day Today', 'Brass Eye', 'Jam', 'Spaced', 'Black Books' and the hauntological fever dream that was 'Look Around You'

Wyrd Britain reviews 'Look Around You'.
Created by Robert Popper and Peter Serafinowicz 'Look Around You' was, in it's first series, a note perfect and fabulously daft pastiche of the types of daytime educational shows that you half watched when the TV was wheeled into the class in school or which you stared at uncomprehendingly over a snotty tissue when home ill. The second series featured longer episodes in the pop-science style of 'Tomorrow's World' that introduced the country to amongst other things The Petticoat 5 "the computer made by women for women", synthesizers and rap music.

Wyrd Britain reviews 'Look Around You'.

As fun as the second series is, it's that first series of 10 minute shorts (plus the double length pilot you can watch below) that's the gem.  The pair perfectly captured the cheap and cheerless nature of these shows and each episode is filled with incomprehensible experiements, lingering shots of beakers, wires and oscillators, absurdly named equipment, grimy 1980s landscapes, bearded scientists and pencils, pointing.  It's an obvious labour of love that no matter how often I watch it never fails to evoke disquietingly flu-like feelings of nostalgia.

"Please ensure you have your copy book at hand as you'll be asked to take down notes from the screen at various points throughout the programme."


..........................................................................................

If you enjoy what we do here on Wyrd Britain and would like to help us continue then we would very much welcome a donation towards keeping the blog going - paypal.me/wyrdbritain

Affiliate links are provided for your convenience and to help mitigate running costs.

Sunday, 18 September 2022

The Earth Wire and Other Stories

Wyrd Britain reviews 'The Earth Wire and Other Stories' by Joel Lane published by Influx Press.
Joel Lane
Influx Press

Joel Lane (1963–2013) was one of the UK's foremost writers of dark, unsettling fiction, a frank explorer of sexuality and the transgressive aspects of human nature. With a tight focus on the post-industrial Black Country and his home city of Birmingham, he created a distinct form of British urban weird fiction.
His debut collection, The Earth Wire was first published in 1994 by Egerton Press and is reissued in paperback by Influx Press for the first time in over twenty-five years.
Love and death. Sex and despair. The Earth Wire is a thrilling, disturbing examination of the means and the cost of survival.

Unfortunately I never got to read Lane's stories when he was alive but I know he was held in high regard by a number of folks I know and admire so when I heard that some of his work was being reprinted by Influx Press I grabbed two of the collections that intrigued me the most.  

This first collection was originally published in 1994 a time most assuredly reflected in the pessimism at the heart of many of the stories.  These are stories formed out of the stifling confines of - at that point - 15 years of Tory government. When to be poor or to be different was to be less and when for many people - myself included - to be anything other was to be as impossible as it was unthinkable.  Lane's characters exist in the dark and claustrophobic confines of a post Thatcher Britain that has fallen even further into dismal fascistic hell than it thankfully did. Confronting Lane's characters isn't the mask of gurning buffoonary we are currently subjected to but the shaven headed, booted thuggery we came to know in the 70s and 80s returned.  

These stories though aren't solely social and political fiction this is weird fiction of the highest order.  Taking his cues from the likes of Robert Aickman and M. John Harrison Lane's characters exist in worlds of confusion, delusion, transformation and hallucination.  His stories are succinct and beautifully strange often dropping us into a broken reality tantalisingly familiar yet deliriously other.

..........................................................................................

If you enjoy what we do here on Wyrd Britain and would like to help us continue then we would very much welcome a donation towards keeping the blog going - paypal.me/wyrdbritain

Affiliate links are provided for your convenience and to help mitigate running costs.

Thursday, 15 September 2022

Who is David Tibet?

Who is David Tibet? - Wyrd Britain
Today I'd like to share with you this lovely little film made in the run up to the opening of musician, poet, publisher and painter David Tibet's first US art exhibition at the California State University, Fullerton, Begovich Gallery titled 'Invocation of Almost'.

The film, made by Reypak Creative and commissioned by the university to, I assume introduce Tibet to a wider audience likely unfamiliar with him and his work in all it's many forms, features contributions from Tibet himself along with exhibition curators Jacqueline Bunge and Shaun Richards along with various fans of Tibet's work and provides a tantalising glimpse of what looked to have been a fantastic and lovingly assembled exhibition of his work.


..........................................................................................


If you enjoy what we do here on Wyrd Britain and would like to help us continue then we would very much welcome a donation towards keeping the blog going - paypal.me/wyrdbritain

Affiliate links are provided for your convenience and to help mitigate running costs.

 

Tuesday, 13 September 2022

The Last Days of New Paris

Wyrd Britain reviews 'The Last Days of New Paris' by China Mieville from Picador.
China Mieville
Picador

It's 1941. In the chaos of wartime Marseille, American engineer - and occult disciple - Jack Parsons stumbles onto a clandestine anti-Nazi group, including surrealist theorist André Breton. In the strange games of the dissident diplomats, exiled revolutionaries, and avant-garde artists, Parsons finds and channels hope. But what he unwittingly unleashes is the power of dreams and nightmares, changing the war and the world forever.

I've read and tried to read a few of Mieville's books over the years and have struggled and failed with most but made it through 'Kraken' which was interesting but I must admit I found it really slow going.  I spotted this one a little while ago and it kind of jumped out at me on the shelf so I thought as it's essentially a novella - and I really do love a novella - I'd give it a go.

Jumping between two points in time it tells the story of a Jack Parsons initiated occult event in Paris in the early days of the Nazi occupation that results in the manifestation of various surrealist artworks and of the effects of that event and the arrival of these 'Manifs' and the Nazi's own demons on the city some 10 years later.

It's nicely written and whilst all the moving parts are in place the story never really gets up a head (made of) steam but at it's heart this is a pure pulp romp very much in the spirit of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' and lets be honest here Jack Parsons, a pioneering rocket scientist and an Aleister Crowley devotee occultist, is a fantastic Indiana Jones substitute but this is a Mieville pulp romp with higher aspirations formed from the always intriguing intellectual premise of art as a weapon because, as it says on Woody Guthrie's guitar, "This machine kills fascists".

..........................................................................................

If you enjoy what we do here on Wyrd Britain and would like to help us continue then we would very much welcome a donation towards keeping the blog going - paypal.me/wyrdbritain

Affiliate links are provided for your convenience and to help mitigate running costs.

Sunday, 11 September 2022

The Restless Ghost

Wyrd Britain reviews 'The Restless Ghost' from Dramarama, Spooky.
Based on the story of the same name by Leon Garfield, a staple of many a ghostly anthology, 'The Restless Ghost' is the story of two young lads, Bostock (Stephen Rooney) & Harris (Jonathan Jackson), who decide to play a trick on the old sexton (Wilfrid Brambell) who stops them scrumping apples by dressing up as the ghostly drummer boy (Matthew Peters) who reputedly haunts the graveyard.

Unlike a number of the other 'Spooky' episodes that launched the long running Dramarama series this one isn't actually all that spooky with it's studio sets and it's very old fashioned storyline but it holds together well and has some solid performances from the cast (even the kids) which is rounded out by Colin Jeavons, an actor with strong wyrd credentials having appeared in the likes of Doomwatch, Doctor Who, Kinvig and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy but who will probably be most widely remembered alongside Jeremy Brett's Sherlock Holmes as Inspector Lestrade in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.


..........................................................................................

If you enjoy what we do here on Wyrd Britain and would like to help us continue then we would very much welcome a donation towards keeping the blog going - paypal.me/wyrdbritain

Affiliate links are provided for your convenience and to help mitigate running costs.

Tuesday, 6 September 2022

Mischief Acts

Wyrd Britain reviews 'Mischief Acts' by Zoe Gilbert.
Zoe Gilbert
Bloomsbury Circus

Herne the hunter, mischief-maker, spirit of the forest, leader of the wild hunt, hurtles through the centuries pursued by his creator.
A shapeshifter, Herne dons many guises as he slips and ripples through time – at candlelit Twelfth Night revels, at the spectacular burning of the Crystal Palace, at an acid-laced Sixties party. Wherever he goes, transgression, debauch and enchantment always follow in his wake.
But as the forest is increasingly encroached upon by urban sprawl and gentrification, and the world slides into crisis, Herne must find a way to survive – or exact his revenge.

Zoe Gilbert is the author of 'Folk' a book I've had in my hands a bunch of times but never actually got around to buying and reading.  This, her second novel, however was waving at me from the new release pile in the shop and insisted on being taken home and read.

The book takes the form of a series of vignettes all relating to the ever shrinking wood that's home to Herne the Hunter and various associated spirits.  Her stories tell of Herne's genesis, his capricious nature and his waning influence through the ages on those who interact with the wood.  Some tales work better than others, some are more developed, some feel more instinctive and some a little clumsy.

In the end though what we have is a love letter to the woods and to the myths, the legends and the histories that reside within them in much the same way as Robert Holdstock's sublime 'Mythago Wood' cycle did.  It tells the story of our relationship with our history and with the natural world and finds us very much wanting before injecting just a hint of optimism into it's green and growing wooden heart.

..........................................................................................

If you enjoy what we do here on Wyrd Britain and would like to help us continue then we would very much welcome a donation towards keeping the blog going - paypal.me/wyrdbritain

Affiliate links are provided for your convenience and to help mitigate running costs.