Friday, March 18, 2011

More Friday Night Musings

You're probably expecting me to launch into a curmudgeonly denunciation of today's Comic Relief telethon, as I've done in previous years. However, whilst I still find all that in-your-face celebrity do-goodery largely unpalatable, this year I've decided to give the attacks on celebrity insincerity and hypocrisy a rest. Besides, it would have been a bit hypocritical on my part as, this year, I actually did contribute. Yes folks, one of those two and a half plus million pounds that Chris Moyles raised with his fifty two hour presenting marathon on Radio One was mine. So, next time you are tempted to slag off Moyles for being laddish or sexist, just stop and contemplate on the fact that he succeeded in getting this curmudgeonly old git to contribute to charity. Admittedly, it was late at night, I was drunk, and I used someone else's mobile to text the donation in. (Actually, I did use my own mobile, even I'm not that much of a bastard).

On a completely unrelated note, today I was saddened to learn of the death of one of my favourite actors - the great Michael Gough has died at the age of 94. Most people probably remember him for playing Alfred the butler in the Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney Batman films. He also had a distinguished career on stage, and as a character actor on both TV and films. However, I fondly remember him for giving some truly insane performances in some of the lowest rent, most threadbare British horror movies of the 1960s and 1970s. Everybody thinks of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee as being the great British horror icons of that era, but Gough appeared in the films that even they wouldn't. Although, to be fair, one of his earliest genre roles was supporting Cushing and Lee in Hammer's excellent 1958 Dracula, and he also gave an entertaining performance in Hammer's 1962 Phantom of the Opera. But these roles in the relatively upmarket productions of Hammer were the exception, rather than the rule, for Gough- he was more likely to be found in the less illustrious (but often far nastier) productions of Anglo Amalgamated, Tigon or Merton Park Studios.

He specialised in playing quietly deranged intellectuals, like the murderous crime writer in Horrors of the Black Museum, or the loopy scientist in Konga. The latter is surely the worst King Kong rip-off ever, with Gough turning a chimp into a giant man in a gorilla suit, which then menaces a street in Croydon, whilst holding a Michael Gough doll in one hand. But possibly my favourite Gough films were Tigon's 1969 witchcraft thriller Curse of the Crimson Altar, (one of the best 'swinging sixties youth culture as envisaged by middle-aged film makers movies' ever made in the UK), and Norman J Warren's delirious micro-budgeted 1976 black magic thriller Satan's Slave. In the former, he gives possibly the most lunatic performance of his career as Christopher Lee's deranged butler. In a film full of eccentric performances, particularly Boris Karloff, Gough eclipses them all. In Satan's Slave he's back to playing one of his usual demented intellectuals, but sporting the most amazing ginger moustache and wig. This time he's the apparently kindly uncle who's actually the head of a Satanist Cult, (whose rituals seem mainly to serve as an excuse for getting Candace Glendenning to take her clothes off at regular intervals). It's another alarming performance in an alarming film. A great actor who really pulled out all the stops when he graced low-budget horror films, Gough always gave great value for money. He'll be sorely missed.



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