Saturday, 5 December 2020

Peel Sessions 13

This is the music from week thirteen of our celebration of the 37 years worth of Peel Sessions.

This week...
The Wedding Present (1988)
Buzzcocks (1978)
Here & Now (1978)
Aswad (1976)
The Beat (1979)
Pale Saints (1989)











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Thursday, 3 December 2020

The English Heretic Collection: Ritual Histories, Magickal Geography

Andy Sharp
Repeater Books

Andy Sharp delivers a visionary field report based on fifteen years of deep vein creative research expeditions to England's strangest landscapes with a host of tragic players.
From its inaugural Black Plaque in honour of Witchfinder General director Michael Reeves, this unique collection follows a veridical trajectory to the frontiers of belief. Reeves' film becomes a conspiratorial cauldron drawing in a host of tragic players in the end game of the Sixties. The Cornwall of Du Maurier's The Birds is ploughed to reveal the hidden psychic codes of our Blitz spirit.
In a powerfully relevant occult rendering of a bruised Island, the myth of Churchill is dissected and re-animalised. New maps of hell are drawn by colliding the forensic vision of JG Ballard and Lovecraftian magic. Actors, witches and psychopaths maraud across a nightmare terrain of murderous henges and abandoned military bases; conflating creative research into a surreal documentary, history as hallucination. Geography becomes an alchemical alembic, a vale of soul-making distilled by the lysergic psychobiology of Stanislav Grof, the alcoholic lyricism of Malcolm Lowry, and the convulsive travelogues of the Marquis de Sade.
If history is revealed as paranoid ritual, how do we escape its time traps to wild new imaginative geographies? The English Heretic collection is a darkly comical, urgently lyrical, mental escape hatch from the hells of our own making.

Andy Sharp's English Heretic was an audio / textual project that over the course of some 15 years engaged in a series of psychogeographical, magickal investigations into the various physical, metphysical and fictional characteristics and characters of that notional vision of Britain that we celebrate on Wyrd Britain.

Sharp's literary conjourings present an exhaustive and occasionally exhausting survey that encompasses everyone and everything from J.G. Ballard to Kenneth Grant via Angel Blake and from Orford Ness to the Manchester Morgue via The House on the Borderland.

It makes for a fascinating read but not a particularly straightforward one.  Andy is exploring the magickal connections between his subjects whereas my inerests in such matters are minimal.  At best it could be said that me and occultism / magick met up in a pub once had a nice chat over a couple of beers and then happily went our separate ways.  I find that there's too much of a stylistic link between psychogeography and conspiracy theories in the rolling logic of their construction albeit with the former relying on an obsessive attention to history and literature whilst the latter just requiring gullibility but it's this link that I often find equally fascinating, frustrating and sometimes, it must be said, a little silly.

Like I said though what Andy has done with English Heretic makes for a captivating read that, even for those with a passing interest in all the various flavours of wyrdness this country has manifested, is well worth your time and money and beyond that if you are a devotee of the more occult flavoured history of the country then it is heartily recommended.

Buy it here - UK / US

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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.

Monday, 30 November 2020

3 Wyrd Things: Rosalie Parker

For '3 Wyrd Things' I ask various creative people whose work I admire to tell us about three oddly, wonderfully, weirdly British things that have been an influence on them and their work - a book or author, a film or TV show and a song, album or musician.

This month: Rosalie Parker

Rosalie Parker co-runs Tartarus Press with R.B. Russell. She has written four collections of weird short stories, The Old Knowledge (2010), Damage (2016), Sparks from the Fire (2018) and Through the Storm (2020), out now from PS Publishing. Her stories have appeared in various anthologies, including Supernatural Tales, Uncertainties II, Shadows and Tall Trees, Best New Horror 21 and 30, and Best British Horror. 

It is our pleasure to present her selections for this month's 3 Wyrd Things.

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Film
Frank (2014)
Buy it here - UK / US

Frank is an extraordinary black comedy Directed by Lenny Abrahamson. It’s a British/Irish production inspired by papier-mache head wearing Timperley comic and pop star Frank Sidebottom, about an experimental band called soronprfbs, led by Frank (Michael Fassbender). Frank is not seen out of his aforementioned outsized head until the end of the film. The band go to Ireland to record their debut album in a remote cabin, which ends up taking more than a year. They are invited to play in Texas, where they continue to experience personal and creative differences and gradually implode. The final scene may or may not be a surprise. The themes of mental illness and creativity are handled with insight, integrity and delicacy. It’s moving, weird and very funny.



Music
David Bowie
Space Oddity (1969)
Buy It Here - UK / US

I first heard this single at my friend Nina’s house in the small Buckinghamshire village where I grew up. We played it over and over again until I knew every note and nuance. It has an indefinable longing and infiniteness about it which I found myself able to slip into, aged nine. I can still recapture that feeling whenever I hear the song. I’ve always been fascinated by exploration, and although I have done some adventuring into the unknown, I’m a slightly nervous traveller. I’ve never wanted to be an astronaut.



Book
Emily Bronte
Wuthering Heights
Buy It Here - UK / US

Bronte’s tale of mixed-race Heathcliff after he is brought to live, an abandoned orphan, on an isolated Yorkshire farm had a certain resonance for me. I read it first aged about 13 in my cold bedroom in the old, haunted farmhouse in which I grew up. It’s a tale of adolescent love and hate, class, rejection and vengeance, and the supernatural and horror elements are fundamental to the story. Heathcliff is the archetypal outsider (cf Frankenstein) and although Bronte’s portrayal of him as he seeks revenge for ill treatment is utterly unsentimental, her skill in the telling means that he retains some of our sympathy. His drawn out death as he seeks to be haunted by and reunited with his dead love Cathy is a Gothic tour de force. Aged 13, the book was like nothing else I’d read. For the last 20 years I’ve lived in North Yorkshire, not too many miles from the Bronte’s Haworth, so the book has gained a new resonance for me. When I re read it last I was struck by how well it stands the test of time.

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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


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Sunday, 29 November 2020

The Asphyx

Sir Hugo Cunningham (Robert Stephens - 'The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes') is a parapsychologist who, whilst photographing people on the brink of death, discovers a smudge on the film that he comes to see as evidence of the existence of an 'asphyx', a spirit attracted to those about to die.  After the deaths of his son Clive (Ralph Arliss - 'Kickalong' in Quatermass (UK / US)) and his fiancĂ©e Anna (Fiona Walker) he determines, with the help of adopted son Giles (Robert Powell), to learn how to trap these spirits and achieve immortality for himself and his family.

With it's Victorian setting, anachronistic machinery and blurred line between science and the occult 'The Asphyx' occupies the same sort of proto-steampunk area as William Hope Hodgson's Carnacki stories (UK / US).  Its an improbable and fairly plodding affair that is somewhat lacking in wit and takes itself far too seriously by which I'm not asking for jokes or pratfalls I just wished it would have enjoyed it's absurdities and fully invested in them.  As it is it's a stilted mixture of the outrageous and the staid which makes it a fun and watchable curio but, for me at least, not much more than that.

Buy it here - UKUS - or watch it below.



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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, 28 November 2020

Peel Sessions 12

This is the music from week twelve of our celebration of the 37 years worth of Peel Sessions.

This week...
Wire (1978)
P.J. Harvey (2000)
Jesus & Mary Chain (1984)
biG GRunt (1970)
Chumbawamba (1993)
Deviated Instinct (1990)













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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, 22 November 2020

Island of Terror

In their short lifespan Planet Film Production made five films; two crime movies, a horror - 'Devils of Darkness' - and two science fiction movies - 'Night of the Big Heat' (UKUS) and 'Island of Terror'.

In many ways both 'Night of the Big Heat' and 'Island of Terror' can be seen as a bit of a job lot as they share very similar concepts - strange creatures terrorising a remote island - a director - Hammer legend Terence Fisher ('Dracula' (UK / US), 'The Curse of Frankenstein' (UK / US)) - a composer - Malcolm Lockyer - a cinematographer - Reginald Wyer (a regular Terence Fisher collaborator as well as working on 'Night of the Eagle' (UK / US)) - and principal cast - Peter Cushing.

In this instance the strange creatures - named 'Silicates' - are created in a lab on the island where they are trying to cure cancer.  The Silicates are greenish blob things with Triffids like stingers that feed on the the bones of their victims.  Impervious to axes, petrol bombs and dynamite it's up to the trio of doctors - Cushing, Edward Judd ('First Men in the Moon' (UK / US), 'The Day the Earth Caught Fire' (UK / US)) & Eddie Byrne - along with scream queen Carole Gray ('Devils of Darkness') to find a way to end their threat and save the islanders.

It's a fun movie that I've always thought has the feel of early 70s Doctor Who about it and with it's perils of science storyline it's certainly coming from the same place that would later give us Doomwatch.  There are some pacing issues but Fisher gives us a real tour of the island with various outdoor locations and a plethora of studio sets.  His slow reveal of the monsters is as effective as the creatures aren't and the finale as the panicked villagers are held seige in the village hall is very well done.

Buy it here - UKUS - or watch it below.



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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, 21 November 2020

Peel Sessions 11

This is the music from week eleven of our celebration of the 37 years worth of Peel Sessions.

This week...
Eno & the Winkies (1974)
The Heads (2000)
Test Department (1983)
Adam & the Ants (1978)
Broadcast (1996)
Cinerama (2001)















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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

Sunday, 15 November 2020

Tales That Witness Madness

Cashing in on the success of Amicus Productions' portmanteau horrors World Film Services' 'Tales That Witness Madness' follows the time worn tradition of four short tales within a linking story which in this case finds Donald Pleasence's Dr. Tremayne relating the stories of four of his patients to his colleague Dr. Nicholas played by Jack Hawkins in his final film role and who having had his larynx removed in 1966 due to throat cancer is dubbed here by Charles Gray.

The first story, 'Mr. Tiger', is a slight but amped up Calvin and Hobbes where young Paul's (Russell Lewis) meat eating imaginary friend takes a dislike to his bickering parents (Donald Houston & Georgia Brown).  

'Penny Farthing' is a silly, nonsensical and really rather pointless tale of antique dealer Timothy (Peter McEnery) who is repeatedly compelled by a photograph of Uncle Albert (Frank Forsyth) to ride his penny farthing back in time to meet Albert's sweetheart (Suzy Kendell). 

In 'Mel' Brian Thompson (Michael Jayston - Doctor Who's the Valeyard) becomes besotted by a dead tree he brings home and displays in his living room much to the dismay (and doom) of his wife, Bella (Joan Collins).

The final story, 'Luau' has Kim Novak as the magnificently named Auriol Pageant trying to impress her new client Kimo (Michael Petrovich) by throwing a party but he and his assistant Keoki (Leon Lissek) have a recipe plans for her precocious young daughter Ginny (Mary TammDoctor Who's Romana I).  It's tale of magic and cannibalism far and away the most brutal of the stories here that throws aside the more farcical nature of the previous three for a particularly bleak conclusion.

Director, Hammer and Amicus legend, Freddie Francis weaves his customary magic in a setting that reminds of Amicus' 'Asylum' (UK / US) from the previous year. The whole thing is massively daft but played entirely straight faced by all involved in what is a fun and perhaps underappreciated contribution to the portmanteau subgenre.

Buy it here - UKUS - or watch it below.





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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, 14 November 2020

Peel Sessions 10

This is the music from week ten of our celebration of the 37 years worth of Peel Sessions.

This week...
Black Sabbath (1970)
The Teardrop Explodes (1979)
Spiritualized (1992)
Steel Pulse (1977)
Quickspace (1999)
Freaks (Vivian Stanshall) (1971)














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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

Sunday, 8 November 2020

Lost Hearts

M.R. James - Lost Hearts - A Ghost Story for Christmas
From the story by M.R. James published in his 'Ghost Stories of an Antiquary' (UK / US) in 1895 this adaptation by Lawrence Gordon Clark for the BBC's 'A Ghost Story for Christmas' strand was screened on December 25th 1973.

Orphan Stephen Elliott (Simon Gipps-Kent) is sent to live in the grand and secluded home of his much older cousin, Mr. Abney (Joseph O'Conor), where he is haunted by visions of two ghostly children (Michelle Foster & Christopher Davies) with gaping holes in their chests where their hearts have been removed.

M.R. James - Lost Hearts - A Ghost Story for Christmas
It's a simple tale and a wonderfully effective one. Making good use of the short runtime Clark doesn't rush the story allowing it to gently unfold.  We have time to learn about each of the characters both living and dead and to experience Abney's giddy excitement at being so close to the fulfillment of his dream in a fantastic performance from O'Conor who could so easily have turned Abney into a pantomime villain.  Gipps-Kent gives fairly solid performance, as do James Mellor and Susan Richards as the houseservants  but we are treated to some mildly painful over-acting from the two ghosts.

Despite it's simplicity 'Lost Hearts' remains both one of my favourite James stories and one of my favourite of the adaptations and the scene of the two children dancing off into the distance having achieved their revenge makes me smile every time.

Buy it here - UKUS - or watch it below.

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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.