- Created: 16 November 2017 16 November 2017
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After several years of “meaning to go” to the Cinema Museum in Kennington, I went to last night’s screening of Bad Day at Black Rock. What a wonderful place the Cinema Museum is but possibly not for much longer.
The landlord is the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust and it is planning to sell to a developer. Losing the museum would be a tragedy. This dispiriting affair fits in with the loss of the Carnegie Library and threats to Dulwich Hamlet. There’s a petition to save the museum here.
The building itself was once the Lambeth Workhouse. Inside is a collection of cinema equipment, lobby cards and posters. In the winter, they use a small, easy to heat screening room downstairs. Upstairs though is the most beautiful room. Old time music playing, high and comforting brick walls, a barrel-like ceiling and chequered table cloths. The bar was a table with a bewildering selection of bottled beers (I went for the Guinness Dublin Porter) and the cafe offered coffee, tea and snacks. It's also the summer screening room.
Bad Day at Black Rock is a gripping, grown-up movie from the mid-50s. The opening shots show a train hurtling through desert, before it slows and stops at a no-horse town. Off gets Spencer Tracey, black suited and without the use of one arm. He gets an unfriendly reception from a lean and mean Lee Marvin and a boorishly nasty Ernest Borgnine. Robert Ryan bides his time while we start to learn what the town’s dirty little secret is. Among those who have turned a blind eye are Dean Jagger, superb as a drunk and tame sheriff and Walter Brennan’s Doc, who has the best line; “I’m consumed with apathy”.
The film is one that’s always topical. John Ericson’s hotel manager – straying into spoiler territory here – says “We were all drunk. Patriotic drunk”. Bad Day at Black Rock is a liberal movie but it’s taut and tough not bleeding-hearted.
Two criticisms would be an unsubtle musical score and the single female role, played by Anne Francis, being underwritten.
The museum’s programme to the end of the year includes a few gems, including several with strong female parts. The regular film noir slot on 12 December is the very twisted Nightmare Alley. Tyrone Power stars alongside Joan Blondell, Coleen Grey and Helen Walker.
Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes is on the next day, with Dame May Whitty’s Miss Froy and Basil Radford and Naughton Wayne’s cricket-obsessed Charters and Caldicott among the passengers. The sparky leads are Margaret Lockwood and Michel Redgrave.
Then on 27 December, Joan Crawford and Bette Davis bring their real life feud to the screen in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. It's heaps of fun in a grand guignol sort of way.
There's more info here.
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- Created: 31 October 2017 31 October 2017
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“I was forty years old and a failure as an actor when the opportunity to play Dr Frankenstein was offered to me. Despite years of endeavour both in America and in British television, I could see no future and was about to give up acting to design scarves for a living.”
Thus wrote Peter Cushing. Like fellow local lad, Boris Karloff, Cushing appears to have been a perfect gentleman and exceptionally modest. By the time the Curse of Frankenstein came up, he had a solid reputation as a theatre and especially television actor, with roles like Mr Darcy, Beau Brummell and Winston Smith under his belt.
Sadly for the scarf industry, Cushing landed the role as the amoral Baron and the next couple of decades making horror movies, mostly for Hammer and its rivals Amicus, Tigon British and Tyburn.
The Curse of Frankenstein, made in 1957, cleaned up at the box office and gave Cushing’s career new impetus. It also paired him with Christopher Lee for the first time (they had appeared in a couple of films together but never shared a scene). Hammer followed up with a succession of gothic horrors like Dracula, the Revenge of Frankenstein and The Mummy. At Amicus, he became a fixture in portmanteau movies like Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, Torture Garden and the House that Dripped Blood. He played the doctor in a couple of Dr Who movies and Sherlock Holmes numerous times.
Cushing was one of those actors, seemingly incapable of giving a bad performance. He played it straight even when confronted with giant moths (The Blood Beast Terror), underwater, Nazi zombies (Shock Waves) and the garbled mess that was Tender Dracula.
Late in his career he was an icy Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars. George Lucas wanted some gravitas in his space sage and turned to Cushing and Alec Guinness to provide it. Cushing described Tarkin’s uniform as being like that of an Edwardian chauffeur. That uniform including tight-fitting boots and the pair he was given were painfully small. He asked to be shot from the waist up and he was able to stomp around in carpet slippers. I wonder whether he wore a CGI pair in Rogue One.
In 1983 he reunited with Christopher Lee and Vincent Price, with 1940s Dracula, John Carradine also thrown into the mix, for the sadly, disappointing House of the Long Shadows. One of his last roles was as the Swedish bookshop owner in Top Secret. They lovingly spoofed publicity still for The Skull in which he holds a magnifying glass to his eye and also filmed his scene with Val Kilmer and Lucy Gutteridge backwards.
Much earlier in his career, he’d tried his hand in Hollywood, appearing in a Laurel and Hardy movie. While there, he visited another south Londoner, Ida Lupino, while she was filming High Sierra with Humphrey Bogart. A very Cushing anecdote is that with the Second World War underway, he gave a pint of blood. In true Tony Hancock fashion, he collapsed and had to be given two pints to revive him.
Back in England in 1942, he signed up with ENSA; Entertainments National Service Association or Every Night Something Awful as the armed forces audience dubbed it. It was while appearing in Noel Coward’s Private Lives that he met his future wife, Helen Beck, to whom he was devoted.
Although he is most strongly associated with Whitstable, as a small boy, he lived on quiet, leafy and genteel Desenfans Road. It seems an appropriate place. Here is a list of five Cushing films and television programmes to watch. Some are well know, some less so.
1. The BBC’s 1984 (1954) is a bleak and claustrophobic piece, set in shabby living quarters, soulless work places and bomb-damaged London. While Cushing was consistently watchable, he didn’t always get to display his range. His Winston Smith is a tour de force of doubt, suspicion, fear, love, hope and despair. He had a script by the estimable Nigel Kneale and the chance to bounce off Andre Morrell, Donald Pleasance and Yvonne Mitchell, who was particularly effective in the final scene. The programme was broadcast twice, performed live each time, with a few filmed, exterior inserts. Very little of Cushing’s early TV work survives but fortunately this one does. It provoked controversy when it was broadcast, with questions in the House of Commons and Prince Philip announcing he and the Queen had watched and enjoyed it.
2. Cash on Demand is a tight, little thriller made by Hammer in 1961. It never overreaches. Cushing plays a bank manager, a stickler for rules, obsessive about tidiness and unpopular with his staff. A visitor posing as an insurance company representative turns out to be a bank robber whose accomplices are holding Cushing’s wife and child. The film is a battle of wills between Cushing and the equally wonderful Morell. It’s a joy to watch.
3. The list needs a Hammer horror. The early ones are generally better regarded but are often a bit dull. Frankenstein Created Woman was made ten years after Curse. It has a bleak opening scene, that wouldn’t have been out of place in Witchfinder General. On a gorse-covered hill, a man is led to a guillotine. He’s full of bluster until he sees his young son watching. The action shifts forward a decade and the boy is working for Frankenstein. Cushing gives his usual steely performance but this time tempered with forbearance and even warmth, particularly for Thorley Walters’ befuddled Dr Hertz. This time, Frankenstein has strayed from his usual territory into the capture and transfer of the soul of an executed man into the body of his drowned girlfriend. It’s an odd but rather affecting film.
4. One of Cushing’s favourite roles was Sherlock Holmes. He was meticulous in his preparation, considering Holmes the most complex character he played. He even had a collection of Holmes memorabilia, including the Strand magazine, with its Sidney Paget illustrations. These informed his portrayals. His first go was in The Hound of the Baskervilles, which is more Hammer than Holmes. For the BBC, he exhibits the requisite tics and quirks in sixteen solid, if ever so slightly stilted episodes. In his early seventies, he made The Masks of Death. It’s fairly routine as Holmes films go but Cushing’s scenes with Irene Adler, The Woman are splendid. Anne Baxter acts her something like a worldlier (All About) Eve and there is a palpable tension between them and even some spite on Cushing’s side. Holmes still clearly smarts from being outwitted by her 25 years earlier.
5. In Tales from the Crypt, Cushing is Arthur Grimsdyke, a lonely old man, whose habits and rundown property annoy a vindictive neighbour. The neighbour harries him to suicide. This was one of Cushing’s favourite roles and he gets to tug at the heartstrings with a sympathetic portrayal, before rising for the grave to exact a bloody revenge.Add a comment
- Created: 24 October 2017 24 October 2017
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Whether you are stepping out from beneath the confetti on your big day, charming the board of your company into a New Year's bonus, or simply organising an impromptu neighbourhood knees-up, realising you don’t have enough bubbly to complete the job can be a harrowing experience.
Those fears are now being laid to rest by London start-up ‘The Finest Bubble’ who promise to be able to deliver from their enormous Champagne list anywhere in the capital at the drop of a top, flat or bowler hat! Having teamed up with local bicycle and motorcyle courier companies, The Finest Bubble are offering consumers a two hour champagne emergency service this Christmas.
With a choice of over 300 champagnes - from 75cl bottles to giant Nebuchadnezzar (the equivalent of 20 bottles) - there’s no occasion they can’t cover: family celebrations; that mythical pay rise; birthdays, anniversaries, engagements.
The Finest Bubble was founded by Nick Baker in September 2014 with a dozen champagnes and the idea of testing the concept of same day delivery of champagne in London. He soon discovered that customers love a reliable, well priced, fast and confidential service and so their range of champagnes organically grew into their collection today. Now they have over 300 champagnes and deliver within two hours in London and next day for the rest of the UK.Add a comment
- Created: 16 October 2017 16 October 2017
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From the back of the church comes rhythmic clapping and percussion. On screen, Mr and Mrs Bunting, landlord and landlady of a boarding house, go the door. It’s the police, led by Joe, the detective investigating the serial killer called The Avenger. Joe speaks; “We’ve come to have a word with your lodger”. They go upstairs as the tempo picks up and into the lodger’s room. The suspect is kissing Daisy. She is the landlords’ daughter and Joe’s girlfriend. Add a comment
Prince Luitpold of Bavaria in London to announce that “beer is for all occasions!” especially weddings!
- Created: 10 October 2017 10 October 2017
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Prince Luitpold of Bavaria has been in London this week extolling the benefits and joys of beer drinking. During a lunch the Prince gave at Royal Windsor Racecourse on Monday we were served a different beer for each course. The pairings were surprisingly better than I expected (being a more wine orientated drinker) but, perhaps given the profiles of the different beers, they are more obvious than we might imagine. Add a comment
- Created: 03 October 2017 03 October 2017
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My walk to work takes me through Brockwell Park. This morning was one of those cold, crisp mornings. The leaves are a lovely mix of green, gold and red. My wandering mind stopped lighted on sloe gin. This rich and warming drink is very easy to make, with has just three ingredients; gin, sloes and sugar. Opinion about the proportions varies and I guess there are family recipes aplenty. Add a comment
- Created: 10 September 2017 10 September 2017
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We at InDulwich tend to do things at our own pace and if we are on trend it is more by accident than design. I did remember an article in the Guardian declaring edible flowers to be the “summer’s hottest food trend” but it was returning from a summer holiday to discover that nasturtiums had taken over the garden that stirred me to action. Add a comment
- Created: 05 September 2017 05 September 2017
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There is Montepulicano d’Abruzzo wine everywhere in London but how do you sort the truly remarkable from the truly ordinary? Well, it is all in the taste, and considering that I have visited this winery, tasted their wines and enjoyed them emphatically, here is a very decent tip:
Cantina Zaccagnini, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo - a rich full bodied red wine with smooth silk tannin, cherry, spice and a hint of chocolate. Perfect for a whole range of dishes especially roasted foods but equally pleasant with lighter dishes or with cheese.Add a comment
- Created: 17 August 2017 17 August 2017
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When the new version of Beauty and the Beast was released, an Icelandic woman sent a message via Facebook to her daughter asking if she would like to see it. Realising she had directed it to the Finance Minister by mistake, she sent a quick retraction. ‘Oh well, I’ll see it later’ came the reply.
- Created: 18 July 2017 18 July 2017
- Hits: 2188 2188
We once spent a weekend in Ryde on the Isle of Wight. It rained steadily and heavily. We had a room in a cheap B&B. We had an energetic five year old with us. A lull gave us half an hour on the beach but the rest of the time was miserable. We divided it between some mediocre cafes and an arcade where our kid played air hockey (fun at least) and had her first taste of a shoot ‘em up video game (hmm....). We dived into a cinema that was showing Top Cat: The Movie. It was desperately awful, even our daughter thought so.Add a comment
- Created: 06 July 2017 06 July 2017
- Hits: 677 677
Walking around the Giacometti exhibition at the Tate Modern there is an unmistakeable intensity in the air. It’s always been there since our first encounter in the sculpture garden of The Maeght Foundation, Saint-Paul de Vence in the South of France. Giacometti achieves something in his creations many other sculptors can only dream of; he imbues them with the fiction of life. The sensation of presence lasting only a split second, a first glance, emanates from the work in front of you. Add a comment
- Created: 19 June 2017 19 June 2017
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There is something about oppressive hear, when the air thickens and the sunlight bears down like a thing with mass. Movement slows and becomes more deliberate. Hurry is pointless.Add a comment
- Created: 19 May 2017 19 May 2017
- Hits: 1107 1107
It’s a sultry summer night, 23 July 1977. After much pleading, the thirteen year old me is allowed to stay up for the first half of BBC2’s double bill of horror. The film is Son of Frankenstein and I am sucked in by the heavy gothic atmosphere, the weird, expressionistic sets and lighting, the haunting music played by Bela Lugosi’s Ygor and finally, Boris Karloff’s monster.Add a comment