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Thursday 6 June 2024

Starve Acre (trailer)

Starve Acre movie trailer
Today brought the first trailer for the upcoming adaptation of Andrew Michael Hurley's 3rd novel, 'Starve Acre'.

'Dark and sinister forces invade an archaeologist's home as he investigates a mythic folklore about an ancient oak tree on his land.'

Starring Matt Smith and Morfydd Clark and directed by Daniel Kokotajlo, Hurley's folkloric rural horror looks to be in good hands with the trailer offering an intense experience that bodes well for the finished film.


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Saturday 1 June 2024

Shoreline Ritual

Wyrd Britain reviews 'Shoreline Ritual' by Grey Malkin and Fogroom.
It's been a while since we heard from our friend Grey Malkin (formerly known as 'The Hare And The Moon') here on Wyrd Britain but this new EP made in collaboration with 'Fogroom' provides the perfect opportunity to reacquaint your ears with his music.

Shoreline Ritual comes with the enigmatic note that it...

might be a narrative.
A cautious exchange.
A bridge between here and there.
It could be about strange occurrences along the coast,
or old dreams, loss and the sea.

It feels fragile, nebulous, adrift and elegant. 
It's a spell cast into the wind, a message carried by the waves and it's mesmerising.

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Thursday 30 May 2024

The Garden of Time

Wyrd Britain reviews 'The Garden of Time' by J.G. Ballard.
J.G. Ballard
4th Estate

Recently used as the theme to the cavalcade of shallow excess that is the Met Gala this promotional chapbook (heralding a new series of reissues) of Ballard's short story - originally written in 1962 - of the death of beauty amidst the inexorable advance of the masses and their crass consumerist ways was a delightful read.

The story of a husband and wife holding back the inevitable by plucking the flowers of time from their garden in a knowingly futile attempt to delay the advancing hordes.  These immaculate but anachronistic lovers, with their elaborate clothes, beautiful music, and perfectly curated collections, fearful of change and trapped in the amber of an unchanging, untainted, romanticised past, are eventually swamped by the advance as time marches ever on, trampling all before it except, perhaps, love.

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Sunday 26 May 2024

The People That Time Forgot

Wyrd Britain reviews 'The People That Time Forgot' starring Doug McClure, Patrick Wayne, Sarah Douglas and Dana Gillespie.
Amicus' 1977 direct sequel to 1974s 'The Land That Time Forgot' returned us to Edgar Rice Burroughs' dinosaur riddled antarctic island, 'Caprona' where Doug McClure's 'Bowen Tyler' had been stranded at the end of the previous movie.  Last seen trudging over snowy mountain peaks in the company of Susan Penhaligon's 'Lisa Clayton' to throw the message in a bottle into the sea that has spurred his chldhood friend 'Ben McBride' (Patrick - son of JohnWayne) to mount a rescue mission.  Accompaying him into the unknown are photographer 'Lady Charlotte 'Charly' Cunningham' (Sarah Douglas - 'Ursa' in the first 2 'Superman' movies), paleontologist 'Norfolk' (Thorley Walters), his mechanic 'Hogan' (Shane Rimmer) and, along the way, a cave-woman named 'Ajor' played by singer Dana Gillespie.
Wyrd Britain reviews 'The People That Time Forgot' starring Doug McClure, Patrick Wayne, Sarah Douglas and Dana Gillespie.

Directed, as was 'The Land..', by Kevin Connor - who also sent McClure to both Atlantis and 'The Earth's Core' - this one is every bit as flawed and fun as it's predecessor.  The story is flaccid, the dinosaur effects are risible and the cast are poor (except McClure - I won't have a word said against McClure) with Wayne being boorish and bullying and an unlikeable lead, Douglas overplaying her role, Walters and Rimmer acting as comic relief and Gillespie providing the cleavage. 

Written by future 'Amtrak Wars' author Patrick Tilley it's a pretty by the numbers adaptation that was the last gasp of the Amicus studio but when I was a kid Doug McClure was my absolute favourite and to this day his three Amicus monster movies rank amongst my favourites although I'll admit this one is solidly in third place.

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Saturday 18 May 2024

Underworlds: A Compelling Journey Through Subterranean Realms Real and Imagined

Wyrd Britain reviews 'Underworlds: A Compelling Journey Through Subterranean Realms Real and Imagined' by Stephen Ellcock.
Stephen Ellcock
Thames & Hudson

A darkly evocative compendium of images exploring natural, constructed, imaginary, and subconscious underworlds, curated by renowned image collector and social media figure Stephen Ellcock. Underworlds takes readers on a captivating visual odyssey to the underbelly of everything, beginning with depictions of life and natural systems existing beneath the surface of the Earth and ending with imagery that emanates from the depths of our subconscious. Work by world-renowned artists―from Peter Paul Rubens and RenĂ© Magritte to contemporary artists such as Kara Walker and Roger Ballen―is featured alongside recently unearthed images from archives around the world.

Wyrd Britain reviews 'Underworlds: A Compelling Journey Through Subterranean Realms Real and Imagined' by Stephen Ellcock.

Split across five chapters - 'Beneath the Surface', Human Habitation and Exploration', Underwter Worlds', 'Imagined Underground Worlds' and 'Subliminal Realms' - this beautiful book explores humanities obsession with what lies below.  Exploring burial chambers and mines, caverns and Charon, Hells, hallucinations, hollow Earth and hermits Ellcock takes us on a fascinating visual journey of everything underneath.

Wyrd Britain reviews 'Underworlds: A Compelling Journey Through Subterranean Realms Real and Imagined' by Stephen Ellcock.

My own interests lean towards the fictional so those chapters on caves, crypts, sewers, quarries and the like were of less interest than those exploring our imaginative relationships but throughout Ellcock has chosen images that present a sumptuous feast of art and photography that encapsulates the creative interplay between the real and the imagined in our eternal need to explore the unknown and the hidden, and our obsessive search beneath and beyond. 

Wyrd Britain reviews 'Underworlds: A Compelling Journey Through Subterranean Realms Real and Imagined' by Stephen Ellcock.

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Friday 3 May 2024

Fifty-One Tales

Lord Dunsany
Serenity Publishers

I've never really properly dug into Dunsany's writing before beyond an anthology short or two but this collection called to me (despite it's hideous cover art) and proved to be something entirely wonderful.

The title sums up the book concisely and almost perfectly except it could potentially have utilised the word 'Tiny' as most of these tales are very short indeed - between half a page and three pages each. Most are written as a morality fable of sorts, often with an environmental theme, and read as a block they get to feel a little preachy but spaced out, a couple at a time, they proved to be miniature imaginative marvels with some absolute gems amongst them like, 'The Tomb of Pan' and 'The Prayer of the Flowers' that made for a perfect introduction to the worlds of Dunsany's imagnation.

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Sunday 28 April 2024

The Time Machine (radio play)

Wyrd Britain reviews the BBC Radio 3 adaptation of the H.G. Wells novella 'The Time Machine'.
Starring Robert Glenister ('Hustle') as the Time Traveller with William Gaunt ('The Champions') as H. G. Wells this adaptation of Wellls' post-apocalypse novella was first broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in February 2009.

The play makes some slight framing differences to the orignal, having an elderly Wells tell the story as true, as well as including the story's excised ending but it's generally a faithful and well construced adaptation that offers a welcome return to a classic.

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Wednesday 24 April 2024

Don't Get Me Started: What's Wrong With Blasphemy?

Wyrd Britain reviews the Stewart Lee documentary,   'Don't Get Me Started: What's Wrong With Blasphemy?'.
This documentary was made by comedian Stewart Lee after far-right fundamentalist Christian groups whipped up a frenzy of protests about 'Jerry Springer: The Opera' that he co-wrote and produced organising protests at theatres, against the BBC showing and against Maggie's Centres, a cancer charity providing palliative care, to which the production had made a donation.  Lee's documentary takes these protests as his starting point to present a fascinating and funny investigation into religious intolerance and its impact on the arts via interviews with folks like Alan Moore and Polly Toynbee.

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Monday 22 April 2024

Circles of Stone: Weird Tales of Pagan Sites and Ancient Rites

Wyrd Britain reviews "Circles of Stone: Weird Tales of Pagan Sites and Ancient Rites' from the British Library Tales of the Weird
Katy Soar (editor)

Standing stones, stone circles, tumps, barrows and ancient clearings still remain across the British Isles, and though their specific significance may be obscured by the passing of time, their strange allure and mysterious energy persist in our collective consciousness.
Assembled here in tribute to these relics of a lost age are accounts of terrifying spirits haunting Stonehenge itself, stories of awful fates for those who impose modernity on the sacred sites and grim tales in which unwitting trespassers into the eternal rites of pagan worship find themselves part of an enduring legacy of blood. To represent the breadth of the sub-genre, authors include Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood and Rosalie Muspratt alongside lesser-known writers from the periodicals and journals of the British Library collections.

It's been a little while since I dug into one of the Tales of the Weird series but this one had the perfect subject matter to lure me back.

The book opens oddly with an extract from the wonderful 'Ringstones' by Sarban, the pen name of British diplomat John W. Wall, a story I thoroughly enjoyed when I read it in the Tartarus Press edition a few years back and it doesn't deserve to be experienced in this diminished manner.

Through the rest of the book we are provided with the usual array of authors of note - Algernon Blackwood, E.F. Benson, Arthur Machen, H.R. Wakefield and Nigel Kneale  - and those who are unfamiliar.  There are a number of standouts.  The quintet metioned are all well represented with Wakefield's 'The First Sheaf' being a long time pulpy fun favourite. Whilst, of those lesser known, Frederick Cowles' 'Lisheen' proved to be a devilish read and Mary Williams' 'The Dark Land' was a poignant tale of the power of the land.

For the most part this is a solid read and lovers of a stone circle or a standing stone will find much to enjoy here and the collection has a number of highlights but it's odd beginning, a stuttering ending and some thematic repetition between the stories means I'm left with a slight feeling of incompleteness and I'd love to see the series revisit the topic in a more definitively wide ranging fashion. 

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Friday 22 March 2024

Hammer: The Studio That Dripped Blood

Wyrd Britain reviews the documentary 'Hammer: The Studio That Dripped Blood'.
Made in 1987 a long time after the studio's heyday this is an affectionate look at the golden years of Hammer Film Productions - the later TV work is ignored.  

Featuring some of Hammer's greats alongside the behind the scenes folks who made them so and lots of rare footage of them all working at Bray studios it makes for an engagingly nostalgic watch.

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Sunday 17 March 2024

The Projected Man

Wyrd Britain reviews "The Projected Man'.
Made and released in conjunction with the Peter Cushing movie 'Island of Terror', 'The Projected Man' has scientist Dr Paul Steiner (Bryant Haliday - 'Devil Doll' 'Tower of Evil') over-reacting to his funding being pulled by testing his teleportation device on himself and getting all burned and murdery with his new electric hand of electro death.

Taking it's queues from such sci-fi classics classics as 'The Fly' and 'The Quatermass Xperiment' this is a fantastic flop of a film.  Haliday's gruesome make up and some entertainingly cringy dialogue aside there's little to recommend here with its cliche riven script, it's wooden cast and dreadful climax it's a bad movie but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Thursday 29 February 2024

Lud-in-the-Mist (radio play)

Wyrd Britain reviews the radio adaptation of 'Lud-in-the-Mist' by Hope Mirlees.
The prosperous town of Lud-in-the-Mist is situated at the confluence of the rivers Dapple and Dawl on the edge of Faerie.  The staid little town, proud of it's rational, traditional and mercantile nature and fearful of the influence of it's neighbour, is beset by an influx of 'Faerie Fruit' and it's up the the mayor, Nathaniel Chanticleer, to investigate, an investiation that is to profoundly change the town.

This BBC Radio version of Hope Mirrlees' fabulous novel was adapted by Joy Wilkinson (who, for television, has provided scripts for 'Doctor Who', 'The Watch' & 'Lockwood & Co') and is narrated by Olivia Poulet with an appearence by Mirrlees superfan Neil Gaiman whose own 'Stardust' owes an obvious debt to Mirrlees' creation.  It's a bold attempt at adapting the novel but not an entirely successful one.  It's too short and much has been omitted that both colours the world and drives the plot so it's missing some of the magic of the novel but it's an interesting attempt.  I love the original novel so this would have needed to have been perfect to convince me but it's an enjoyable enough attempt.


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Monday 26 February 2024

Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD

Wyrd Britain reviews 'Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD'.
Established at the same time as the nascent punk movement in the UK, 2000AD tapped into the same anti-authoritan zeitgeist. It was big, bold, bloody, beautiful and bonkers and for the best part of five decades this weekly anthology comic (and it's various spin offs) has been providing us with work from some of the worlds top comic creators. The role call of contributors is mind blowing, Alan Moore, Kevin O'Neill, John Wagner, Pat Mills, Alan Grant, Brian Bolland, Bryan Talbot, Simon Bisley, Garth Ennis, Neil Gaiman, Dan Abnett, Grant Morrison, Mike McMahon, Dave Gibbons and so many more. All of these guys - and it was almost exclusively guys, women creators have always been horrendously under-represented in comics generally and 2000AD in particular  - would go on to define how comics looked and what they said from the late 20th century on.

Between them they gave life to hordes of classic characters, future teen Halo Jones, dystopian cop Judge Dredd, alien freedom fighter Nemesis, mutant bounty hunter Strontium Dog, Celtic warrior Slaine, genetic soldier Rogue Trooper, alien teenage delinquents DR & Quinch,  pop culture superhero Zenith, the list goes on.

It also provided us with the single greatest panel in comics...

Gaze Into the Fist of Dredd

two Dredd films of varying quality (we heartily recommend the Karl Urban one) and an upcoming Rogue Trooper one.

Over the years I've been an occasional reader of the weekly comic but am an avid reader of the graphic novels.  Many of the classic 2000AD stories have been collected together in phone book (anyone remember phone books?) sized collections and the publisher - Rebellion - continues to issue nicely produced collections of more recent stories. 

This documentary was released in 2014 and features contributions from many of those mentioned above, some of whom are sadly no longer with us, as well as fans such as Geoff Barrow, Alex Garland, Scott Ian and Karl Urban, and is a fascinating and informative watch that tells much of the creation of a great British cultural institution.
 

 
(In the interest of clarity, a version of this post has appeared here before celebrating the 40th anniversary of the comic, but I wanted to update it to include this excellent documentary.)

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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 18 February 2024

The Dark is Rising (radio play)

Wyrd Britain reviews the Radio 4 adaptation of 'The Dark is Rising' by Susan Cooper.
Published 8 years after it's predecessor, 'The Dark is Rising', returned Susan Cooper to her Arthurian world but relocated the action from Cornwall to the Thames Valley.  

The story of Will Stanton, last of 'The Old Ones', is another episodic quest as the newly minted magician comes into his power by locating lost artifacts.  What elevates this beyond that first book however is Cooper's commitment to developing a coherent, mythic storyworld that is interwoven with icons of folkloric Britain, something she would continue to elaborate on across the rest of the series.  

This excellent adaptation was made for Radio 4 in 1997 and unfortunately was the last one they made which was a real shame as it's from the next book, 'Greenwitch', that entwines the characters from the first two books that the series truly shines but don't let that stop you listening as this is fabulous.  

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Sunday 11 February 2024

Over Sea and Under Stone (radio play)

Susan Cooper published 'Over Sea and Under Stone', the first in what would become known as 'The Dark is Rising Sequence' through Jonathan Cape in 1965.  It's the story of the Drew children, Simon, Jane and Barney, visiting with their great uncle Merriman Lyon in the (fictional) Conish town of Trewissick where, following their discovery of an old map, they become involved in a hunt for the Holy Grail. 

I first read Cooper's series as an adult and shorn of the wonder of a child I've long been of the opinion that this first book is definitely the weakest of the five, far too firmly entrenched in the Enid Blyton tradition of children's books whereas the others increasingly embrace a more complex Alan Garner-esque mythic storyworld and are all the better for it.  This adaptation made for Radio 4 and broadcast in 1995 is the first time I've revisited it since and I enjoyed it far more in this format.  An entirely sympathetic dramatisation with a strong cast it works well in this format with the tension kept at a peak as the three kids race around the village.

Unfortunately only the first two books of the sequence were dramatised (I'll return to the second soon) which is a real shame as the others - particularly books 3, 4 & 5 -  really are quite wonderful and I'd have loved to hear what they would have done with them.