Saturday 31 October 2020

Peel Sessions 8

This is the music from week eight of our celebration of the 37 years worth of Peel Sessions.
Only five sessions this week as Tuesday was the 40th anniversary of Motorhead's Ace of Spades.

This week...
Television Personalities (1980)
Loop (1987)
Electro Hippies (1987)
Peter Hammill (1977)
The Only Ones (1978)


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 -

Sunday 25 October 2020

Devils of Darkness

A secret vampire cult that lives in the caves beneath a small town in Brittany snacks on a family of Brit holiday makers but not before one of their party, Paul Baxter (William Sylvester who had also starred in Devil Doll a year earlier), makes off with the head vampire's all powerful, and very cheap looking, bat talisman at which point the action switches from rural France to swinging mod Chelsea - "With it? I’ll say she is".  

The head neck nibbler called, I kid you not, Count Sinistre (Hubert Noël) really wants his trinket back and so takes the time to set himself up as a painter complete with attic studio - as you do - and proceeds to seduce a young model - as you do.

These late 50s and early 60s (this one was made in 1965) are often pretty mannered affairs and this is no exception, it's also a silly load of old Dennis Wheatley style tosh all red robes, incantations and ominous pronouncements - "When you're monkeying with black magic you don't know what you're up against.".  Sylvester is as ineffective as a lead here as he was in that other movie, Noël is about as 'sinistre' as beige paint and director Lance Comfort struggles vainly to build any sort of menace but it does have its moments - the bleeding painting is a nice touch - and personally I love a bad B 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 -

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

Saturday 24 October 2020

Peel Sessions 7

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

This week...
The Damned (1978)
Four Tet (2003)
OMD (1979)
Henry Cow (1973)
The Orb (1997)
Splodgenessabounds (1980)


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 -

Friday 23 October 2020

The War Hound and the World's Pain

The War Hound and the World's Pain - Michael Moorcock
Michael Moorcock
New English Library

"The forest flourished, a lush and spreading refuge from the Wars, coolly green and welcoming. Beyond its borders the land burned flame red, blood red, ghastly black. Men and women, hacked to death, choked the paths and streams as the Armies of Religion clashed and slaughtered. Carrion-hung gibbets loomed starkly through the smoke and all the land was desolate. The forest was a refuge. Yet silent, utterly silent and without life, as through it wearily rode the War Hound, Graf Ulrich von Bek. To come suddenly on a castle."

This is the story of Ulrich Von Bek and his quest for the grail at the behest of his master Lucifer who has tired of Hell and wishes to return to a state of grace.

Von Bek is a soldier of the 100 year war, a mercenary captain of some skill but no reknown.  Finding his way to a deserted castle he meets his love and acquires an insight into the fate of his soul and a bargain that would enable him to avoid it.

In the great fantasy tradition this is a quest book but one that is more travelogue than most.  We are subjected to little, very little, of the tedious hacking and slashing and girding of loins that generally comes with the territory and in it's place is a tour of the worlds that Bek must traverse and a meditation on just what the grail is when he eventually finds it.

It makes for an enjoyable read for a non fantasy head like me.  There are links to the Elric books in the manner of the world - not to mention the Elric / Ulrich hint - but strangely for a book about Heaven and Hell and all points in between this is a much more grounded read than I was expecting and is all the better for it.

Buy it here - UK / US.


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 -

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

Sunday 18 October 2020

The Flesh and Blood Show

The Flesh and Blood Show
As the title implies boobs take precedence over blood in director Pete Walker's - Frightmare (UK / US), House of Whipcord (UK / US) - 1972 sexploitation horror as a group of unfeasibly attractive young actors and actresses are hired to begin work on a new play at a ramshackle end of pier theatre where they begin to meet grisly but not particularly gory ends.

The cast of nearly knowns are led by Ray Brooks who will look familiar to some and sound familiar to many from his other job as the voice of Mr. Benn and Jenny Hanley who was proof positive that in the 1970s you could have parallel careers in horror and sexploitation movies - Scars of Dracula (UK / US), The Ballad of Tam-Lin (UK / US) - and as a children's television presenter - Magpie.  The rest of the cast features several more Hammer alumni, Luan Peters - Twins of Evil (UK / US) & Scars of Dracula - Judy Matheson - Twins of Evil & Lust for a Vampire (UK / US) - and Patrick Barr - The Satanic Rites of Dracula (UK / US) - along with Robin Askwith and Candace Glendenning who had appeared together earlier that same year in another proto slasher, the vastly superior, Tower of Evil (UK / US).

The Flesh and Blood Show was originally presented partly in 3D so if you have some 3D glasses hanging about then they'll come in very handy during the Shakespearean flashback scene late in the movie.

The Flesh and Blood Show
It is all a rather cheap and slapdash affair with a paper thin plot but the cast seem to be enjoying themselves although the director's constant need to get yet more bare breasts on the screen to the point that you almost expect one of the actresses to suddenly whip her top off during the credits is more exasperating than titillating.  It is very, very much of its time and in general feels more like the sex comedies that Askwith would become famous for - Confessions of an Axe Murderer maybe - than any of its contemporary horrors.  I quite like cheap and slapdash though and whilst this one is never, and I really do mean never, going to be hailed as a forgotten classic it does make for a fun watch.

Buy it here - UKUS - or watch it below.


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 -

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

Saturday 17 October 2020

Peel Sessions 6

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

This week...
Magazine (1978)
The Primitives (1986)
The Fall (1983)
Appendix Out (2001)
Zion Train & Ruts DC (1996)
Hawkwind (1970)


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 -

Friday 16 October 2020

Man In A Black Hat

Man in a Black Hat, Temple Thurston, Valancourt Books, Mark Valentine
Temple Thurston
Valancourt Books

This strange novel opens at a country estate sale, where after a round of intense bidding, Mr Crawshay-Martin wins the auction for a 16th-century manuscript containing the occult secrets of the order of the Rosicrucians. But he does not get to enjoy his purchase long: the following morning, he is found dead inside his locked room, his throat slashed and the book missing. The police write the case off as a suicide, but Crawshay-Martin's friend Dr Hawke isn't so sure. He suspects the mysterious Gollancz, whose face, partly concealed beneath a black sombrero hat, does not seem to have aged a day in thirty years. Who is Gollancz, and what terrible powers of life and death does he possess? Temple Thurston's weird story will keep readers guessing until the final confrontation between the doctor and the Man in a Black Hat.

Originally published is 1930 this is part of a reissue project undertaken by Valancourt of forgotten and neglected gems of weird crime and thriller fiction.

E. Temple Thurston was an author, journalist, playwright and travel writer most well known at the time for his travel book about English canals, 'The Flower of Gloster' - and his play, 'The Wandering Jew' whilst this novel slipped into - undeserved - obscurity much like the author himself.

Falling under the umbrella term of 'metaphysical fiction' (recently explored in a pair of blog posts by Mark Valentine on his Wormwoodiana blog - part 1 & part 2) Thurston's tale of a Rosicrucian mystic and a locked room murder made for a fascinating read.  Sharing kinship with the likes of Charles Williams and David Lindsay it's a rumination on magic and the nature of reality if in fact the mystic in question, Gollancz, did indeed commit the murder whilst also somehow being many miles away.

The confusion and frustration our protagonist, Dr. Hawke, feels whilst trying to puzzle out the improbable how of things is contrasted by the cool certainty of his counterpart.  Perhaps unusually for a locked room mystery we are always in concert with the good Doctor that Gollancz is indeed guilty and we are swept along in the wake of Hawke's erratic ruminations and investigations.

The book - as is the case with a number of these reissues - contains an introduction by the aforementioned Mark Valentine (where I cribbed the background info from) who provides one of his characteristically informative author overviews as well as thoughts on the template for our villanous mystic.

A truly captivating, thoroughly enjoyable read that hopefully with this reissue will now be enjoyed by the wider audience it deserves.

Buy it here - UK / US.


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 -

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

Wednesday 14 October 2020

3 Wyrd Things: Edward Parnell

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.

(photo by K Walne)
This month: Edward Parnell

Edward first came to my attention in October 2019 with the publication of the hardback edition of his excellent Ghostland: In Search of a Haunted Country.

Ghostland tells of his "search of the ‘sequestered places’ of the British Isles, our lonely moors, our moss-covered cemeteries, our stark shores and our folkloric woodlands." and of the influence these places have exerted over some of the countries greatest writers of the uncanny such as Arthur Machen, William Hope Hodgson and M.R. James whose work he had returned to during turbulent times in his own life.

Alongside this the book also functions as both an autobiography and memoir of his relationships with the various members of his family and of the birdwatching hobby he shared with his brother in a moving meditation on love and loss and the power of stories, themes he also explored in his 2014 novel The Listeners (UK).

Ghostland is published in paperback on the 15th of October 2020 and you can buy it here - UKUS.

He can be found at  - - and on Twitter.

We urge everyone with an interest in the writers we feature here on Wyrd Britain to check out Ghostland and we are immensely pleased to be able to present to you his selections.


The Go-Between
L. P. Hartley
(Buy it here - UKUS)

Choosing just one book for this list is so difficult – I cycled through any number of contenders including: The Collected Ghost Stories of M. R. James, Alan Garner’s The Owl Service, The Usborne Guide to the Supernatural World, the stories of Algernon Blackwood, Arthur Machen or Walter de le Mare, or Janet and Colin Bord’s gazetteer of ancient sites, Mysterious Britain...

In the end though, I’ve settled on L. P. Hartley’s The Go-Between (1953). It’s a wonderful, haunting novel, about the naivety of youth, about class, about the mysteries of the English countryside (and its weather) – and about the complicatedness of human relationships. Along the way there are childish spells and curses, and significant encounters with a brooding deadly nightshade plant (“It looked the picture of evil and also the picture of health, it was so glossy and strong and juicy-looking”); Hartley himself also happened to be a very competent writer of supernatural short stories.

Above all though, The Go-Between is a novel dominated by an overwhelming sense of yearning for that which has been lost (whether that’s innocence, hope, or just time), and of the difficulties of trying to re-examine and make sense of our half-buried memories. It’s something that’s encapsulated in the book’s famous first line, a line which surely everyone is familiar with:

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”

At the novel’s heart is its young protagonist Leo Colston, whose aged older self begins his backwards-looking journey after discovering his childhood diary from 1900, hidden in the bottom of a cardboard box filled with various other forgotten reminders of that golden age: empty sea-urchins, two rusty magnets that have lost their magnetism, and “one or two ambiguous objects, pieces of things, of which the use was not at once apparent”.

Leslie Poles Hartley was born at the end of 1895 in the Fens at Whittlesey, not far from my own childhood home in south Lincolnshire. As fellow flatlanders, Hartley and I were bewitched by the otherness of the wooded Norfolk countryside after being raised among the empty expanse of all those breeze-stripped washes and ruler-straight Fenland droves. In the summer of 1909, Hartley was invited by a rather grander classmate, Moxey (his surname an approximation of The Go-Between’s Maudsley), to stay at West Bradenham Hall, a few miles from my own grandmother’s small west Norfolk cottage (Bradenham became Brandham in the novel). The hall – the ancestral home of Henry Rider Haggard – had been rented by the Moxeys, and it was at Bradenham where much of Hartley’s later inspiration for the novel originally stemmed. The novel’s setting in Norfolk is another aspect that draws me to it, given that I have now myself lived in the county for longer than I have anywhere else. (The excellent 1971 Joseph Losey film adaptation starring Julie Christie and Alan Bates was also filmed in my adopted county.)

The Go-Between, with its naïve narrator – the embodiment of ‘greenness’ in his newly gifted Lincoln Green suit – who is privy to an adult world beyond his comprehension, certainly fed into my novel The Listeners, a slice of WWII-set Eastern gothic, brooding nature, and family secrets set in a village based around the tiny hamlet in which my grandmother lived. And it also fed into my second book, the narrative non-fiction Ghostland, in which I attempt my own rather Leo-like examination of various haunted writers, artists and filmmakers, as well as my own haunted past…

Windy Old Weather
Bob Roberts (1960)

My musical tastes are rather eclectic, albeit also quite rooted in the past – ranging from ‘60s garage and Northern Soul, through to New Wave, ‘80s electronica, ‘70s-era Springsteen, and various whimsical soundtracks to the children’s TV series of my youth (like Bagpuss or The Moomins). I’m also partial to the odd spot of folk music and, with a strong love of the ocean, have become strangely attracted to old sea shanties. One such that really sticks with me is on an EP single I own dating from 1960 titled Windy Old Weather. It includes wonderful artwork and an extensively illustrated booklet, describing itself as a “record of sea shanties and saltwater ballads with skipper Bob Roberts”.

Alfred William “Bob” Roberts (1907–1982) was a sailor, folk singer and collector of traditional British maritime songs. He was also the author of a number of nautical books, and known for various appearances in the 1950s on BBC radio and television. As well as being a vocalist, he also played the melodeon, a “British chromatic button accordion”.

I enjoy all of the shanties on the record, but the one that really sticks out for me is the title track. Its back and forth rhythm mimics the North Sea’s swell, and it has me hooked with its opening line: “As we were a-fishing off Haisboro’ Light…” (Haisboro – spelled, in true Norfolk fashion as Happisburgh – is a village on the county’s north-east coast that’s gradually being washed away by the unrelenting sea.)

As the song progresses we’re introduced to various fishes, which in turn breach out of the water and seemingly speak to the crew of the boat – they half-taunt and tell the fishermen of the turning weather, warning them that they ought to head back towards land. It’s all rather magical and poetic (“Then up rears a conger as long as a mile / Winds comin’ easterly, he says with a smile”), certainly whimsical (I could picture it, for instance, as one of the stories told by the rag doll Madeleine in Bagpuss), but utterly compelling – and all delivered in Roberts’s endearing salty Dorset drawl.

It’s a song that makes me long to be at the coast, gazing down from those crumbling cliffs by Happisburgh Light into the grey-dark of the sea. It also makes me want to write about the ocean, a challenge that hopefully one day I’ll undertake.

Dead of Night
(Ealing Studios, 1945)
(Buy it here - UKUS)

Warning – this contains spoilers

“If only I’d left here when I wanted to, when I still had a will of my own. You tried to stop me. You wouldn’t have done if you’d have known,” says Mervyn Johns’s troubled protagonist Walter Craig to Frederick Valk’s Freud-like psychiatrist Dr Van Straaten, prior to the inevitable, nightmarish end sequence of the classic 1945 Ealing Studios portmanteau horror film Dead of Night. Inevitable, because Craig is a man who wakes each morning from the same unconscious, barely recalled terror – and because he has already informed us how events are set to play out.

At the start of the film, Craig arrives in a reverie of déjà vu at a Kentish farmhouse he’s never previously visited, summoned there by a man he’s unacquainted with to look into redesigning the place. The architect has the dawning realisation that the house forms the backdrop to his nightly recurring dream, and that his fellow guests, all uncannily familiar to him despite their having never met, might be mere phantoms in his head.

Dead of Night contains five embedded narratives recalled by the occupants of the farmhouse. The first concerns a premonition of an avoided future – its most memorable moment is the fateful line uttered by Miles Malleson’s bus conductor/hearse driver: “Just room for one inside, sir.” (The segment is loosely based upon a short story by E. F. Benson.)

The next, a gothic children’s Christmas party that’s haunted by the ghost of a murdered small boy (and inspired by the murder at the heart of Kate Summercale’s true-crime book The Suspicions of Mr Whicher), is much more atmospheric, as is the third tale, that of an antique mirror that possesses its owner. Some questionable light relief is provided by Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne’s comedic, ghostly golf shenanigans (a reprise of their sport-obsessed cameo in Hitchcock’s 1938 The Lady Vanishes), before we come to the last and most celebrated of the stories, in which Michael Redgrave’s unhinged ventriloquist Maxwell Frere is driven insane by his papier mâché companion.

However, it’s the film’s masterful, playful framing device (directed by Basil Dearden) that sets Dead of Night apart, providing both its end and its beginning. Because, at its climax we witness, once more, Craig’s identical arrival along a tree-lined country lane that followed on from the opening credits. First, though, we must spin back four minutes, to the moment Mervyn Johns’s character rises from his chair in the flickering, fire-lit lounge.

Craig saunters towards the camera and the seated Dr Van Straaten, blankly demanding why he had to set into motion what’s about to come: “Oh Doctor, why did you have to break your glasses?” Craig towers behind the psychiatrist, removing his tie and strangling the larger man with a casual ease. A voice in his head urges Craig to hide and suddenly he finds himself in the familiar surroundings of the Christmas masquerade of the film’s second section.

The teenage Sally Ann Howes and a massed rank of costumed children urge the murderer to join in their game of hide and seek. Craig flees up the same shadowed staircase Howes herself had previously traversed en route to offering comfort to the ghostly young Victorian victim, only this time the scene is skewed at an angle that recalls another film with a similarly mind-blowing ending: Robert Wiene’s masterpiece of German expressionism The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1919). Craig pauses in front of the haunted mirror of director Robert Hamer’s third segment, which shimmers in a psychedelic haze, prior to accosting Hayes and dragging her to the attic. There, he strikes the blow to her face he earlier predicted he’d be powerless to prevent.

Without warning, Craig is seated alongside the malevolent, foul-mouthed puppet from the final story (stylishly directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, as was the Christmas party). Hugo urges Craig to “take a seat, sucker”, as the camera pans around the gathered cabaret faces that leer down at the guilty man – and the audience. The strangler is carried aloft to a prison cell manned by Miles Malleson from the first tale: “Just room for one inside, sir,” he once more intones, this time with added relish. On the opposite side of the cell from where Craig cowers, sits Hugo, who, in the most menacing scene of the film, takes to his feet and begins to walk. The crowd of onlookers grin like hungry wraiths through the bars of the door as an undersized actor in dummy make-up strides towards Johns and places his hands on the architect’s throat, before the shot pulls rapidly back to reveal the silhouetted darkness. Now Craig is lying in the bland, comforting surroundings of his own house, awakened by the sound of the phone beside his marital bed that’s ringing to summon him, once more, to that all-too-familiar cottage.

It’s a future of purgatorial dread and guilt that must hardly have been the uplifting tonic conflict-weary audiences were expecting when the film opened in London just one week after the second world war had finally reached its own grim conclusion.

It’s also a film that I can endlessly rewatch, marvelling at the way its storylines entwine and at how masterfully its ending – the most difficult of things to pull off – is handled.

Watch it here -


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 -

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

Tuesday 13 October 2020

Tom Chantrell

Quatermass and the Pit - Hammer - Tom Chantrell
Whilst his work has never been properly acknowledged in the hallowed halls and his name is missing from books detailing the works of the great artists of 20th century Britain here at Wyrd Britain we would like to take a moment to acknowledge and tip our hats to a man who's art thrills me as much as an adult as it did as a child, Tom Chantrell.

If, like me, you grew up watching horror and science fiction movies then there's every chance you are as familiar with Chantrell's work as with any other artist you could care to name.  

Taste the Blood of Dracula - Hammer - Tom Chantrell
In a career as a graphic designer and poster artist that spanned some six decades Chantrell was responsible for painting many of the most iconic images in movie history, from the 'Carry on...'films, to 'One Million Years BC', from 'Death Race 2000' to 'Come Play With Me', from 'Dawn of the Dead' to that film with the annoying robots and the shiny sword things as well as producing unforgettable book covers like the one that adorns Dennis Gifford's 'A Pictorial History of Horror Movies' and album covers for the various Geoff Love movie theme collections.

His long standing relationship with the Hammer studio meant that they would often sell a movie to potential investors based solely on a title and a Tom Chantrell poster design before even a word of the script had been written.

We at Wyrd Britain think it's high time that the work of this amazing artist was celebrated more widely and we are very happy to able to share with you this rather lovely documentary made at the end of last year featuring his family and various fans that celebrates an artist of rare talent.


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 -

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

Sunday 11 October 2020

The House That Dripped Blood

The House That Dripped Blood, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Amicus
The House that Dripped Blood was released in 1971 as the third of Amicus Productions' 7 fabulous portmanteau horrors alongside 'Dr Terror's House of Horrors' (UKUS), 'Torture Garden' (UK / US), 'Tales from the Crypt' (UK / US), 'Asylum' (UK / US), 'Vault of Horror' (UK / US) and 'From Beyond the Grave' (UK / US).  As usual in these things it features 4 (in this instance) short tales and a framing story that this time all revolve around the tenants of the titular house as let to them by a certain Mr. A. Stoker (John Bryans).

Written by 'Psycho' author Robert Bloch the movie revolves around a Scotland Yard Detective's - rather lacklustre - investigation of the disappearance of the latest tenant, a famous horror movie actor, and the stories he's told of the fates of the previous occupants.  

We have shadows of Bloch's most famous creation here with two tales of madness and two of the supernatural.  The stories are of variable quality with the third story featuring Christopher Lee being the standout but each has its charms as Peter Cushing elevates the second simply by his presence and Jon Pertwee and Ingrid Pitt's joyously hammy performances in the fourth are a sheer delight

The House That Dripped Blood, Jon Pertwee, Ingrid Pitt, Amicus
In contrast to its title the movie is a remarkably bloodless affair - not a single drop - and seems designed to play to a slightly different audience to its brother portmanteaus.  It is though great fun, it knows it's silly but tries for the most part to play it as straight as possible right up to the point where it just can't hold it in anymore and sticks some rubbish fangs onto The Doctor. 

Buy it here - UK / US - or watch it below.


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 -

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