Tuesday 31 March 2015

Geoffrey Jones - Locomotion (1975)

This is the third of three films produced by British documentary film director Geoffrey Jones commissioned (according to the BFI) for the 150th aniversary of the introduction of the Stockton to Darlington Railway.

Even if you've little or (like me) no interest in trains this is still well worth 15 minutes of your time.

Constructed entirely from stills and old footage with no commentary or dialogue but with a stunning electronic soundtrack composed by Donald Fraser (incidentally the co-creator of the TV series "Rock Follies") and performed, uncredited, by members of folk-rock legends Steeleye Span.

His two earlier films, 'Snow' (from 1963 and also the bearer of a very fine soundtrack) and 'Rail' (1967) are both also available by clicking on their names back there.

Friday 27 March 2015

The Young Ones

It seems that every generation has it's comedy zeitgeist; whether it be The Goon Show, That Was The Week That Was, Monty Python, The Goodies, Vic and Bob, Spaced, Little Britain or The Mighty Boosh.  A group of comedians turn up and say just the right things with just the right amount of humour to capture the times.  For me and mine it was The Young Ones.

4 student housemates, violent punk Vyvyan (Adrian Edmondson), depressed hippie Neil (Nigel Planer), pretentious anarchist wannabe (P)Rick (Rik Mayall) and smooth wideboy Mike (Christopher Ryan). Alongside them were arranged a comedy who's who of the era including Alexei SayleBen Elton, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. Over two series of 6 episodes each the quartet unleashed much needed comedic chaos over the British airwaves creating legions of fans and detractors each as vehemently entrenched in their position as the other.

Much of it does feel a tad dated today but it's also still wickedly funny and ridiculously creative.

The video below, 'Bambi', was the opening episode of series 2 and my favourite episode and has them picked to appear on University Challenge (and it's got Motorhead in it too).

Buy it here - The Young Ones - Series 1-2 [DVD]



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Tuesday 24 March 2015

Tales of the Dead Man

John Wagner & John Ridgway

I was completely taken in by this when I first read it many years ago. This time all the clues are there, the 'Have you seen his eyes?' part in particular. It's beautifully written and paced to perfection. More happens in one two page Wagner spread than in most writers entire issues. He is the master of the 5 page 2000ad format. There's just no-one to touch him, Pat Mills included.

John Wagner
It's also good to be able to say that after all these years since it was published Wagner is still nailing it. I've picked up a few Dredds lately and they've all been good. The only slightly duff one was vol 14 (I think) of the Complete Dredd books. It had the first Ennis stories in it and it was pretty poor in places.

Ridgway I have a strange relationship with. At first glance I find his style quite a turn-off but once I'm into the story his artwork is the perfect place to be.

I'm so glad I picked this up. I remembered it as being proper good and 20 odd years later it's still a real  ride.

Sunday 22 March 2015

Manic Miner

Xmas of 1982 there was only one present that any of my friends were hoping for, a ZX Spectrum; the worlds most useless, annoying, frustrating, 'R Tape Loading Error' ing, wonderful, amazing, glorious, 8 bit personal computer.  Mine came with two games the brilliant 'Jetpac' and another game called 'Crypt' (I think) that was the opposite of brilliant.

I loved my Spectrum and played 'Jetpac' to death but it wasn't long before one game came to dominate above all others, the absurdly addictive 'Manic Miner'.

Created by Matthew Smith, Manic Miner was a platform game where you took Miner Willy through a series of 20 levels collecting flashing objects and avoiding a variety of weird creatures such as ducks, jellyfish, toilets, leggy pacmen, kangaroos and seals balancing balls on their noses all on pain of running out of air or bumping into one of the marauding critters losing all your lives and getting squished by a Monty Pythonesque shoe.

It went on to spawn a number of sequels but none of them managed to capture the sheer, addictive fun of the first (although 'Jetset Willy' came close) and some 30 odd years on it remains a ridiculously playable game.

You'll find a link to a flash version of the game below the following jolly tune.  Enjoy

Play the Manic Miner flash game here

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Wyrd Britain Mix 1

Uploaded today is the first in a very irregular series of mixes featuring some of the music that soundtracks my days here at Wyrd Britain towers.

I have pretty eclectic music tastes ranging from the dark and noisy to the perky and twee and this first mix, I think, reflects this.

Hope you enjoy.

Tracklist (with start times)
Sapphire and Steel - theme [00:00]
Coil - Going Up [00:50]
Paddy Kingsland - Tamariu [09:11]
Matt Berry - Gather Up [11:44]
White Noise - Firebird [14:04]
Trees - The Garden of Jane Delawney [16:57]
The Barbara Moore Singers - Singing Low [20:58]
Current 93 - The Magical Bird in the Magical Woods [23:26]
Jim Williams, Martin Pavey, Blanck Mass - Baloo My Boy (feat Richard Glover) [32:04]
Lindisfarne - Winter Song [34:43]

Sunday 15 March 2015

British Film Forever - Magic, Murder & Monsters: The Story of British Horror & Fantasy

This is one episode (of 7) from a 2007 series celebrating the British Film industry.  Most of it seems absent from YouTube but the one I'm most interested in sharing with you all is here.

I'm pretty certain the title 'Magic, Murder & Monsters: The Story of British Horror & Fantasy'  is going to tantalise most, if not all readers of Wyrd Britain.  It's a 90 minute look back at the golden age of the genre filled with clips and talking heads. It's not really covering any new ground but is entertaining enough way to spend an hour and a half in the company of some old favourites.

I hope you enjoy.

Sunday 8 March 2015

Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter

Made right at the end of the road for Hammer films just before the wolves howling at the door rather than the ones howling at Dracula's castle made their move.

Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter tells of the heroic Captain (Horst Janson) and his magnificently named companion Professor Hieronymus Grost (John Cater) who are called in to investigate the mysterious deaths of a number of villagers who seemingly have died of old age long before their time.  Recognising that the deaths were caused by a different type of vampire to the leech variety they, along with local girl Carla (the one and only Caroline Munro) set out to save the town.

A joyous mix of swashbuckling action and Hammer's trademark fanged villany Captain Kronos was to have launched a new franchise onto the world but instead left us with a tantalising coda to what had been whilst giving a tiny taste of what could have been.

But it here -  Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter [DVD] [1973]

Judge Dredd: Year One

Michael Carroll, Al Ewing, Matt Smith
Abaddon Books

Three celebrated Judge Dredd writers take you back to Dredd’s first year on the streets of Mega- City One as a full-eagle Judge, in three thrilling novellas.
Bred to dispense Justice, the young Dredd is not the wizened veteran we know, but a Judge with built-in determination and little experience. In City Fathers, the brutal murder of a Justice Department-sanctioned spy uncovers something new and dangerous in the sector’s murky black market. Unless Dredd can stop it, chaos will be unleashed. 
In Cold Light of Day, a savage killing spree results in the deaths of two highlyregarded Judges, and many consider Dredd to be responsible: a decision he made five years earlier – while he was still a cadet – has come back to haunt him. The third story in the collection will debut in this collection and is guaranteed to thrill.

 3 prose novellas featuring the early street years of Judge Joseph Dredd two of which - Smith's and Carroll's - have appeared previously as ebooks but I can't get into the whole reading from a screen thing so happily this dead tree edition is most appreciated. I've read a few 2000ad novels in the past and with a couple of exceptions they were a fairly turgid bunch so curiosity but no great expectations sent me into this but I really enjoyed it.

Al Ewing
All three stories are pretty much typical Dredd shorts with the exception that he is still a little inexperienced and the other judges have yet to learn to be in awe / fear of him and neither have the residents of Mega City One.

Matt Smith
The three novellas touch on several key areas of the Dredd universe - control of the population (City Fathers), the brutality of the justice system, the city and the Cursed Earth (Cold Light of Day) and the corruption of Rico (Wear Iron).  They are all good, solid, fun reads with only Rico's complete corruption ringing false.  The level of contempt for the badge he displays would have had the SJS down on him in seconds.

There's nothing here to upset the applecart and as a prequel you know how everything is going to pan out but these are three entertaining Dredd backup stories that serve (and serve well) to put some detail into an aspect of Dredd's life that the comic has never covered.

Buy it here - Judge Dredd Year One: Omnibus

Friday 6 March 2015

The Bride That Time Forgot (The Adventures of Brenda and Effie: Book 5)

Paul Magrs
Headline Review

Something is biting people on the streets of Whitby. In an ordinary town, this would be worrying. Here, it's disastrous, and only Brenda has guessed why. She's also trying to prepare for a packed festive break at her B and B. But when unexpected help from the shadows of the past arrives to illuminate the dangers awaiting them all, Brenda realises that unless she can find a way to save Effie, the consequences may be eternal.

So back to Whitby we go where we drop ourselves straight into the aftermath of the return of Alucard and the nibble he took out of Effie's neck at the end of the previous books shenanigans.

Things have not been going well for our favourite crotchety old witch and it's not long before the arrival of Brenda's monster hunting ex beau takes her misery to a whole new level with his stake happy ways.  Mixed in with this you have a cult based around the pulp fantasy novels of Beatrice Mapp based in the matriarchal world of Qab to which Brenda inevitably has long forgotten links.

It was a rollicking good read that didn't let up it's breakneck (or should that be biteneck) speed for a second.  It left things open and full of questions but as there's still another one of these to go in the series so I'm a happy man whose breath is bated.

Buy it here - The Bride That Time Forgot (Brenda 5)

Monday 2 March 2015

Doctor Who: Harvest of Time

Alastair Reynolds
BBC Books

Hard sci-fi writer (and scientist) Reynolds takes a turn at the Doctor during the era when the polarity of science was at it's most reversible and does a damn fine job of it.  He's obviously having a frankly ridiculous amount of fun playing with the third Doctor, Jo, the Brigadier and the Master.

As always during this time the Earth is being invaded by a vicious alien race, The Sild, who are appearing in force from the future.  Alongside this the various members of UNIT seem to be developing a problem with remembering the existence of the Master.

In their efforts to stop the invasion the Doctor and the Master head off into the far future only to discover that they themselves may actually be somewhat to blame for the situation.

It's all excellent fun.  It's a big budget version of a no budget TV show and is a blast all the way to the final page.  I love the way he's kept to the spirit of the age but has widescreened the whole thing.  The vibe is right, the characters are right and the whole thing absolutely romps along.