Friday, June 30, 2017

The Incredible Melting Man (1977)

I really need to get back into the schlock movie write ups.  Of late, they've become very intermittent.  Which is largely the result of not having had the time to watch the films themselves.  There have been far too many distractions, not all of the good.  I still have the idea at the back of my mind that I might try spinning the schlock movie stuff into a separate website, but I just haven't had the time.  Work developments also mean that I'm unlikely to have the time to do anything about it in the next couple of weeks.  I'm trying to schedule some extended leave in August, when I can sit down and watch some more schlock, then write about it.  But to get to the point of this post, in anticipation of returning to the business of schlock movie watching, I thought I'd present an appetiser in the form of a 'Random Movie Trailer' for The Incredible Melting Man, a film of which I have fond teenage memories.

For a film made in 1977, The Incredible Melting Man is a very traditional type of monster movie.  It's makers clearly set out to make something reminiscent of the classic science fiction monster movies of the fifties and sixties.  Indeed, in plot, structure and even monster, it is very reminiscent of First Man in Space (which, itself, was clearly inspired by The Quatermass Experiment), whilst its title invokes Jack Arnold's The Incredible Shrinking Man.  Both feature an astronaut who has an encounter with something nasty in space, which results in them transforming into something monstrous after returning to earth.  Whist the First Man in Space ended up a blood sucking monster covered in a horrible crusty alien infestation, the protagonist of The Incredible Melting Man, well, melts.  His skin starts to dissolve horribly after returning from his trip to the rings of Saturn, sending him insane and giving him a lust for human flesh.

Most of the film follows his cannibalistic rampage after he escapes from a secure medical facility and the attempts of his one time best friend and space scientist to stop him.  All of which involves a lot of wandering around barren outdoor locations, where various campers, fishermen and dwellers in remote houses meet grisly ends.  All very traditional in monster movie terms but, being the seventies, it is all done with a lot more gore than you would have got in the fifties or sixties.  The whole thing is done a great deal of gusto and, in spite of the film's low budget, the title monster is actually disgustingly impressive, featuring some highly effective make up effects.  Also, being the seventies, the film eschews the usual upbeat endings of classic monster movies, ending with just about every main character dead.  Taking a leaf out of The Incredible Shrinking Man's book, the Incredible Melting Man is neither destroyed by a combination of science and the military, nor is he cured.  Instead, he just melts away, his sticky remains swept up by a cleaner.

Hopefully, this will have sated the appetites of schlock seekers, at least until I find the time to get back to the schlock movies in earnest.  These write ups are actually the most popular things I post here. (And thanks to Gav Crimson once again, for recently giving my Big Zapper review on the 'Schlock Express' podcast some more Twitter love).  Right now, I'm mulling over the idea of taking a sabbatical, career break, or whatever they call it nowadays, from work, for up to a year.  Not just so that I can watch more movies of this ilk, obviously, but it would give me more time to indulge my interest in this subject.  We'll see.


Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Whipping Shed

A while ago That's Crapchester, our ultra local TV news station, had, as part of its daily line up of three stories, some items about local sheds which were contenders for the Shed of the Year title.  (I know that sounds like a completely made up competition, but I can assure you that it is very real).  Among the sheds I saw featured were one that was some kind of mini cathedral and another, owned by a fire man, which was a sort of miniature fire station, complete with fireman's pole (but not fire engines).  All of which left me wondering what secrets might lurk in other Crapchester sheds and whether they might feature in the Shed of the Year contest.  Sure, most of them are being used as repositories for garden tools and assorted junk and a few more probably host model railways, but I'm sure that others harbour more exotic secrets.  I mean, when I was a child, there was this kid a few doors down who tried to make his own fireworks in his dad's garden shed, but succeeded only in blowing it up.  Although slightly scorched, he survived the experience - his old man went mental at him. though.  No wonder my parents decided to move the family off of the council estate.

Then there was that kid I knew at school who used his garden to shed to store, read and whack off to, his highly impressive collection of jazz mags (mainly sourced from hedgerows).  Now, he isn't to be confused with that other kid I knew at school who amassed an equally impressive stash of porn by somewhat different means.  He was the one who wormed his way into the confidence of the Head of Music to the extent that he was allowed access to the keys to the department's main building (which was situated on the opposite side of a main street to the rest of the school, along with the drama and woodwork departments) in order to open it up first thing in the morning.  Of course, the reason he wanted such early morning access was in order to intercept the first post (which used to arrive before eight o'clock in those days), as he'd been ordering some horrendous hard core porno mags in the Head of Music's name.  As you can imagine, it all ended badly when the kid in question was sick one day and the Head of  Music opened up the building and the first post. Apparently, he nearly had a heart attack and had to brought round with smelling salts.  You can guess the consequences.

But we've strayed from the kid with the shed: eventually he graduated from just using it as a repository for his smut, to turning it into a 'photographic studio', where he took shots of various girls from the local convent school, in various states of undress.  All under the pretext that he was helping them put together 'portfolios' for their modelling careers whilst they were helping him out with his art A-level course work.  Not that he was studying art, obviously.  I'd have liked to have seen his shed-cum-photographic-studio featured in Shed of the Year.  Almost as much as I would like to see the shed of that bloke from a couple of streets away featured. He has reputedly transformed his garden shed into an S and M sex dungeon.  Which makes perfect sense when you consider that his house doesn't have a cellar (the usual venue for such things), so it is only logical that he should set up shop in the shed, instead.  Allegedly, he's blacked the windows out and installed various restraints, chains and manacles.  There's a strong rumour that one wall has a rack full of whips and riding crops mounted on it - I've also heard that he has a brazier and branding irons in there, not mention a home made rack.  During the week it's just him and his wife who use it, but on weekends he invites round friends, so that they can enjoy being suspended from the ceiling and whipped.  Several local Tory councillors are reputedly regulars.  But sadly, neither That's Crapchester nor the Shed of the Year contest have yet seen fit to feature him. 


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Doc Sleaze is Feeling Unwell

I've spent the past couple of days feeling decidedly unwell.  I've been experiencing intermittent bouts of feverish temperatures and a sore throat.  Plus some coughing and sneezing.  It seems to have eased off now, but has left me in no mood to actually write anything constructive here today.  The symptoms have all the hallmarks of an allergic reaction to something - though to what, exactly I'm not sure.  It's perhaps no coincidence that the feverish feelings started on Sunday, after I'd been outside doing some 'gardening' (attempting to restore my 'lawn' by sowing some more grass seed, a type optimised for growing in shady areas this time) - perhaps I breathed in some pollen which I reacted badly to, who knows?  All I know is that I was still feeling rough enough this morning to consider calling in sick with work.  Although to be fair, I was also in no mood to go in today after another set to with a manager trying to ride roughshod over established protocols which say that we can't be called out for 'urgent' jobs after five PM, even if we're still out on the road, toward the end of the day yesterday.  Despite being backed up by own line manager, it left me feeling depressed and exasperated.  Not to mention a couple of steps closer to the exit door.

Speaking of which, I'm finding my current employment so intolerable that I've even found myself calculating how many hours a week on the minimum wage I'd have to work to earn enough to live on if I get sufficiently desperate that I have to jump ship and take just any other work available.  I could, of course, just walk out and survive on my savings (which I could do, I've calculated, for at least three years now I don't have a mortgage).  But as I've said before, I'd rather avoid having to run down my savings in that way.  Ideally, I need to find alternate employment, preferably part time, which pays more than the minimum wage and isn't either mind-numbingly boring or potentially dangerous.  As a result of my future financial future, several unexpected and large recent outlays (replacing the boiler and keeping the car on the road), I'm currently reluctant to spend anything more than absolutely necessary (the fact I'm a skinflint is also a major factor here).  Which means that I still haven't bought a replacement for this wheezing laptop.  You wouldn't believe how difficult it is to find a laptop with decent specs at a reasonable price.  Indeed, prices seem to have rien steeply in recent weeks.  It also doesn't help that the likes of Argos have some promising looking machines on their website, but they all seem to be permanently out of stock, begging the question as to why they are still advertising them?  Bastards.


Monday, June 26, 2017

They'd Never Get Away With It Nowadays

Another reminder, if one were needed, of how much things have changed, even during my lifetime.  The above is a TV commercial for Manikin cigars, from some when in the seventies, which falls into the category of 'they'd never get away with that now'.  Not only can you not advertise tobacco products on TV anymore, but the sheer, naked, sexism of the ad seems, seen today, breathtaking.  Equating the smoking of a good cigar with the pleasure of seeing a semi-naked young woman, (Caroline Munro in this case, who was usually the Lamb's Navy Rum girl when not being chased by assorted monsters and Roger Moore in various seventies fantasy movies), cavorting about some island paradise now seems incredibly crass.  But it was par for the course back in the seventies - the mantra then was that 'sex sells'.  Especially when it came to such masculine accoutrements as cigars.  Indeed, the inherently phallic cigar had long been given an association female sexuality and male dominance.  I well remember, in my childhood, Cuban cigars being said to derive their potency from having been rolled on the thighs of virgins.  (Which was why mother wouldn't let my father smoke them).

But it wasn't just cigars which were advertised by scantily clad women on TV.  I well remember the Sure deoderant ads in the seventies, which featured semi-naked women running around the jungle to demonstrate that the part of their backs sprayed with Sure wasn't perspiring.  Like the Manikin adverts, they were skillfully shot to hint at the possibility of female nudity, without ever showing anything.  Back in the seventies, when the only possibility of seeing nudity on TV was by either watching sub-titled continental art house movies on BBC2, or sitting through the worthy but turgid Play for Today, those adverts seemed hot stuff to adolescent males.   Interestingly, continental TV ads have never had a problem with the odd flash of nipples or buttocks - for some products the commercials we saw in the UK were carefully edited versions of these, with the 'offending' bits removed.   But to return to the Manikin ad, this just one of a whole series of similar commercials which I recall running throughout the seventies.  They succeeded a series of black and white ads from the sixties which again focused on the 'masculinity' of cigar smoking, this time by showing a man doing something 'manly', like driving a diesel locomotive, whilst smoking a Manikin.  This would be accompanied by a voice over saying: "Man, man, man, Man-ikin!"  So much for the sophistication of the sixties.


Friday, June 23, 2017

Romance, Violence, Supercops and Shape Shifting Snakes

I've been a miserable git all week.  Maybe it was the heat.  Maybe it was all the depressing stuff in the news.  Then again it might just have been the sheer shittiness of another week in my job.  Whatever the reason, my posts here have been ill-tempered all week.  So, this time, as it is the end of the week and a forty eight hour wank-a-thon (or, as you may call it, the weekend), beckons (yeah, that's right, I stole that from an incredibly obscure Adam and Joe series they did for Channel Five), I thought I'd instead write about something that, lately, has been bringing unexpected joy into my life.  Thanks to the magic of Freeview, I now have access to no less than three Hindi language TV channels: Rishtey, Rishtey Cineplex and Colors.  Now, despite not speaking a word of Hindi, the programmes these channels show have always fascinated me.  Watching films and TV shows in a language you don't speak is always a fascinating experience, as you try to discern meaning from just the images and intonations of voice.  Watching films and TV shows in a foreign language and set in a completely different culture is an even wilder experience, as all the regular (from a European point of view) cultural references and signifiers are absent. 

Of late, a particular favourite programme of mine has been a drama series running on Colors, in which some characters started turning into other characters and, eventually, turned into giant snakes.  Well, sometimes they were all snake, at other times they were only snakes from the waist down.  There were clearly all sorts of conspiracies going on and it seemed that the snake people were the good guys.  To my eyes, it was all just so amazingly surreal.  The bright colours favoured for both sets and costumes in these Hindi productions just added to the air of unreality.  Some research revealed that what I'd been watching had been a recent, top rated, TV series in India, involving a shape shifting snake ( a creature from Hindu mythology), who was seeking those responsible for her mother's death, in order to take revenge upon them.  As it turned out, some of my confusion over the narrative had stemmed from the fact that I'd seen episodes from both the first and second series (in which the same lead actress plays her character's daughter), without realising it. 

My viewing experience has improved somewhat recently, as some of the movies shown on the three channels have been run with English sub-titles.  That said, in a lot of the films the cast actually speak a mixture of Hindi and English, meaning tat even without the sub-titles, you can often get the gist of what's going on.  Anyway, thanks to these developments I've been able to enjoy several contemporary Hindi romantic comedies.  Actually, to be honest, I've not watched them in their entirety, as shown on TV with commercial breaks, they generally run up to three hours long, but I've seen enough of them to get the general idea of what's going on.  Earlier this evening, for instance, I saw the better part of The Bride of Humpty Sharma (I'm not going to even attempt to type the original Hindi title), a tale of the titular character falling in love with a girl from the country who is betrothed to a doctor an a marriage arranged by her father.  Much hilarity ensues when Hunpty and his friends turn up in her home village and try to persuade her father that he is a more suitable potential son in law.  Actually, for a romantic comedy, there seemed to be a lot of beatings up of the hero and his friends by the girl's male relatives.

Last weekend I caught most of Postmortem on a Romance 2, which was a bit like Men Behaving Badly, with bachelor flat mates all becoming romantically involved (with different girls) but ultimately deciding that they preferred their single lioves and the company of their male mates.  More than a little misogynistic, it was, nonetheless, reasonably entertaining, with all the, to me, alien cultural references, making it fascinating.  It's not all romantic comdies, of course.  The other night I caught part of a non-subtitled epic involving (I think) an Indian army officer battling terrorist incursions in a mountainous border area.  Tonight I've watched parts of what seems to be, in part at least, a parody of  rogue cop-type films, also without sub-titles.  Not that sub-titles were needed to understand what was going on - the hero was some kind of tough unorthodox cop (with a natty Errol Flynn-style pencil moustache), who thinks nothing of taking on entire gangs of heavil armed bank robbers single handed.  All the other cops are buffoons and he emerges from furious and hugely violent fights looking impeccable, not even a hair out of place.  So, there you are, my new fixation: Hindi-language films.  I have to say that, of late, watching them has entertained me immensly.  If you have Freeview, you should give them a try.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Repossess the Palaces

So, either Prince William or Harry, (it's no good expecting me to tell which one is which, to me they are like Ant and Dec in that respect: they seem entirely interchangeable and I fail to understand their appeal), has been saying that no member of the Royal Family actually wants to be King or Queen.  Good, you can all fuck off then.  It's no good playing the 'we do out of a sense of duty for the greater good' card with me - it cuts no ice.  They are utterly irrelevant, serving only to legitimise an outmoded class system.  They are the living embodiment of the kind of privilege and entitlement which continues to blight this country.  So, while there's still the whiff of revolution in the air, let's get rid of the bastards.  Repossess the palaces - they could use them to house all those ordinary people who can't afford to live in London any more.  Or maybe they could use them to rehouse the survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire.

I go through these phases of republicanism.  Most of the time I'm quite indifferent toward the Royal Family.  I tolerate them as an irrelevant anachronism because, I reason, they have no real power.  But every so often I see some nonsense like the Trooping of the Colour or the State Opening of Parliament, and my blood starts to boil over what they represent.  Then there are these puff pieces in the press, which try to convince us that the younger Royals aren't a bunch of profligate playboys and wastrels, but, in fact, are just like 'us'.  Except that they aren't and can't ever be like us.  They are born into a world of privilege and can never truly grasp what life is like for us peasants.  which brings me to the point which emphasises the sheer ludicrousness of their very existence in twenty first century Britain: the fact that their only qualification for the job is birthright.  How on earth can any rational person accept the concept, let alone the reality, of a hereditary ruling class?  It is, quite literally, a medieval concept.  I know that they are only a constitutional monarchy nowadays, but the amount of deference they are accorded, when they only hold their positions because they were born to them, is astounding.  And now it turns out that none of them even want the job (has anyone told Prince Charles that?).  So what's the point of them?  Get rid of the idle bastards.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Blighting Summer

Apparently this year's Glastonbury Festival starts on Friday.  Which means that it must be Summer.  There have been other clues, (apart from the sunny weather, but that means nothing these days, we have heat waves in Spring and Autumn on a regular basis now - but there's no global warming, Trump tells us), such as increasing amounts of tennis cluttering up the TV schedules.  Indeed, with the Queens tournament in full flow in London, it can only be a couple of weeks at most before the curse of Wimbledon falls upon us.  At least there's no Olympics, World cup or European Championship this year to further disrupt the TV schedules.  I know, I know, I'm sounding like a real old curmudgeon, aren't I?  Resenting the preponderance of sports and festivals during the Summer months because they disrupt my attempts to ignore the good weather and sit inside watching the TV instead. 

Not that I watch any more TV in the Summer than I do at any other time of year - I just resent being deprived of the opportunity of watching TV by these events, which inevitably overrun and make it impossible to watch stuff when it is convenient to me.  There's nothing worse than sitting down in front of the TV in expectation of being able to watch something, only to find that it isn't on because of sport or festivals.  Or worse, that it was scheduled to be on, but has been delayed due to Wimbledon or whatever, overruning.  Meaning that you constantly have to be checking to see whether it has started yet, thereby exposing oneself to the tennis or whatever else it is that you have no interest in watching.

The other reason that I have such a downer on music festivals like Glastonbury is that they just encourage other people to try staging similar, more local, events.  Obviously, these don't boast the saving grace of the bigger festivals of actually featuring acts that you might have heard of and, more importantly, might be musically competent.  Instead, we get abominations like Crapchester Shite, sorry, Crapchester Live, which is due to blight a weekend for me somewhen in the next month or so, featuring local self styled musicians, who are uniformly awful.  That said, it isn't just the fact that, for those of us with the misfortune to live close by the venue have to put up with two solid days of having our ears assaulted by what sounds like people moronically shouting over some atonal cacophony, which annoys me the most. 

No.  It's the fact that the cretins who attend it seem to think that they can use my back garden as some kind of short cut to the venue (it actually isn't, quite apart from the fact that it isn't a public right of way in the first place), and their friends seem to think they can use the alleyway running behind this terrace of houses as a urinal.  Year in, year out I have to put up with this, but every time I try to complain about it, I'm shouted down as some kind of kill joy.  I suppose what I should do is follow some of these bastards home and shit in their gardens whilst playing loud music and throwing empty beer cans all over the place.  See how they like that. 


Monday, June 19, 2017

White Van Terror

It just never ends, does it?  On top of everything else, we now have actual white van men driving their vehicles into groups of Muslims.  But don't worry, he won't be a terrorist, he'll just be mentally ill.  I must admit that I heaved a sigh of relief when I finally saw the pictures of the idiot who was driving the van in last night's incident at Finsbury Park: I didn't know him.  For a moment, when the first details of the attack were emerging, I feared that it might have been someone I'd had the misfortune to encounter on election night.  I'm sure we've all had similar encounters - that drunk who crashes the conversation, derails it completely and just won't go away.  Or worse, as in the case of this guy, going away but keep coming back to derail the conversation again, after he'd been given short shrift by other groups of drinkers.  Anyway, the last time I saw him he was wandering off (having finally got the message that, despite our politeness, the group I was with really wanted him to piss off and stay pissed off) declaring how, the next day, he was going to go out and stab some Muslims, (this, don't forget. was only a few days after the London Bridge business).

Now, I know that there are undoubtedly a lot of drunken racists out there and, like this guy, many of them are also builders who probably have white vans, there was just something about this guy that worried me.  So, when I saw those reports last night, unable to sleep in the sweltering heat, I feared the worst.  It's a sad reflection of the current state of our society that not only do there seem to be large numbers of these reactionary idiots out there, but now we seriously suspect that they are actually capable of carry out their drunken threats.  To digress, have you noticed that every time one of these incidents occur, they are accompanied by the death of a much loved family entertainer?  Manchester bombing: Sir Roger Moore dies.  London Bridge attack: Peter Sallis dies.  Grenfell Tower fire: Anita Pallenberg dies.  Finsbury Park attack: Brian Cant dies.  It surely can't be coincidence, can it?  Is there a conspiracy at work here?  Is somebody offing celebrities from my childhood and using the aftermath of tragedies as a cover, so that nobody notices?  Even worse, is somebody staging these tragedies so as to 'bury the bad news' about the demise of these public figures?  Anything seems possible these days.

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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Things Come Apart

It never ceases to amaze me how fast things can unravel.  One minute a situation seems stable and you just can't see how it will ever change, then suddenly it is in complete chaos and seemingly tottering on the verge of collapse.  Only a couple of weeks ago, for instance, Theresa May seemed to be heading for an election victory, presaging decades of unchallenged Tory political hegemony - now, she's struggling to form a government and is beset on all sides with problems.  It is almost unbelievable how things have turned around: Corbyn suddenly appears competent and statesman like, while May cuts a forlorn, shambolic figure, incapable of articulating her message to her own party, let alone the electorate.  It's like we've strayed into a parallel universe.  (Actually, if we have, there are few things in my life I'd like turned around - but that's another story altogether).  Of course, as is often the way, as May tries desperately to cling to power, events seem to conspire to push her closer to the edge.

The thing about tragedies like the Grenfell Tower fire is that it requires leading politicians, particularly the Prime Minister, to set the tone for the nation's emotional response.  This generally involves showing compassion toward the victims and their families.  Unfortunately, as the election campaign showed, May is clearly not comfortable mingling with the masses, she obviously finds it difficult to make an emotional connection with strangers.  Which makes her seem unsympathetic and uncaring in the aftermath of the fire.  It doesn't mean that she actually doesn't care - I can't believe that anyone would be left unmoved by the terrible events in Kensington - it is just that she clearly cannot express these feelings.  Sadly, in modern politics, appearances are crucial and when Corbyn and Sadiq Khan have both visited the area and, visibly moved, have spoken to those affected, it leaves May looking distant and disconnected.  Just like she did during the election campaign. 

The fact is that people expect an emotional response to something like the Grenfell Tower fire - people should be angry about it.  And boy, are they angry - we've got people demonstrating on the streets, besieging Kensington and Chelsea Council's offices and marching on Downing Street.  I note, however, that the media have been trying to characterise the recent events as a 'storming' of the council offices, trying to put an aggressive spin out, trying to turn a protest into a mob and implying that these people have no right to be angry.  They are still trying to tow an establishment line, but they are increasingly out of touch with the public mood, just as they were during the election campaign.  I remember when all those riots broke out early in Cameron's premiership and Britain's cities were burning night after night, the authorities apparently unable to impose law and order, I hoped that maybe something was changing in Britain, that established orders could be toppled.  But, in the end, nothing came of it.  The 'natural' order was restored.  This time feels different, perhaps the world finally is turning against the greed and selfishness which seems to have prevailed over our society for too many years now.  It's just a pity that people had to die to start it all off. 


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Burning Red Tape

We seem to be beset with tragedies right now - if it isn't another terror attack then it is a tower block transformed into an inferno.  I always feel uneasy about making political points in the wake of such tragedies - it feels like exploiting the grief of the bereaved for partisan political advantage.  But, let's face it, the terrible fire in Kensington was the culmination of years of government cost-cutting and out sourcing of essential public sector work to contractors who are only interested in taking the money and doing the absolute minimum in return.  I'm not saying that this exactly what happened at Grenfell tower, or that it was the primary cause of the horrendous loss of life - that's for the official investigations to establish.  But we all know that the pressure on local authorities to cut costs and the obsession with cutting 'red tape' creates a dangerous environment for the poor and disadvantaged.  It's not as if we've not had enough warnings of the consequences of cutting that 'red tape': how many examples have we seen in recent years of fires in Far Eastern sweat shops which kill hundreds of workers, because there were no adequate fire safety measures in place?  And now something similar has happened here.

Because all that 'red tape' that business wants cut is, in the main, legislation put in place to protect us, both in our workplaces and our homes.  But the rich bastards resent having to pay for the 'red tape' because it cuts into their profits.  That's why they like to bang on about how we need to be more like one of those Far Eastern economies, with their 'light touch' regulations - so that they can exploit us more and put us at risk.  They want to take us back to the dark days of the industrial revolution, when health and safety in the newly mechanised workplace was non-existent, and the life expectancy of workers was frequently measured in hours, as they ended up mangled by the machinery.  So, next time you hear some moron going on about 'health and safety gone mad', just remember those pictures of that tower block on fire.  Just remember the pictures of its burnt out skeleton, because that's the inevitable consequence of subverting safety in favour of convenience.  You know, I never thought that I'd wake up one morning to find scenes of a residential tower block in the UK burning like a candle dominating the news.  Yet here we are.  We really should be ashamed that we've allowed it to happen.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Flesh and Blood Show (1972)

Pete Walker's first foray into horror after years of knocking out sex movies, The Flesh and Blood Show is, structurally at least, surprisingly conventional.  Unlike his later efforts, such as House of Whipcord, Frightmare and House of Mortal Sin, The Flesh and Blood Show doesn't mount an all out assault upon the conventions of the genre, using it as a vehicle to satirise and critique the hypocrisy of contemporary moral standards.  Instead, Walker presents us with a relatively conventional 'old dark house' type of movie, except that the main venue is a deserted end-of-the-pier theatre, rather than a mouldering country pile.  Which isn't to say that it isn't without interest or lacking in many characteristic Walker touches.  The most obvious of these is the amount of naked flesh on display (both male and female), which was still unusual in horror films of the era, (Hammer and various independent producers were showing a few bared breasts and bums, but Walker gives us much more, including some brief full frontal male nudity). 

The plot is pretty straightforward: a group of young performers are brought to the pier theatre by an unseen producer to rehearse a new show (the titular 'Flesh and Blood Show'), due to a lack of money and local accommodation, they are also forced to sleep there but quickly find that their numbers are being rapidly reduced by an unseen killer.  The murders aren't shown in any detail and there certainly isn't any gore (perhaps surprisingly, bearing in mind the movie's title).  Walker instead aims at building atmosphere and suspense, greatly aided in the former by the empty theatre's sense of desolation and isolation.  The plot unravels slowly, with red herrings galore and even a vanishing body thrown in, but eventually builds to a flash back centred denouement (this sequence was originally shown in 3D).

Not surprisingly, the killer's motivation lies in the past of the theatre - a cuckolded Shakespearean star reliving his earlier murder of his unfaithful wife and her lover (also his co-stars in a wartime production of Othello).  In this respect, the film is superficially similar to another British horror movie released the following year: Theatre of Blood, in which Vincent Price's long assumed dead Shakespearean ham takes his revenge upon the critics who slated him, murdering them in methods derived from the bard's plays.  Coincidentally, both films also feature the deranged thespian being assisted by a daughter.  The Flesh and Blood Show, however, is shot on a much lower budget and lacks the Vincent Price movie's flamboyant sadism and black humour. 

Despite the conventional horror movie structure, some of the themes which would come to dominate later Walker horror projects do begin to emerge here.  Most notable of these are the inability of the authorities to effectively deal with, let alone acknowledge, anything which lies outside of their narrow parameters of 'normality, and the exploitation of the young by older 'establishment' figures in order to satisfy their own repressed perverted desires.  What's missing is the overt attack on the supposed 'moral superiority' of the exploiters: whereas in later films these figures would take the form of judges, priests and family patriarchs, here the role is given to a broken down and clearly insane actor - not an authority figure in any conventional sense.

The film features a semi-'name' cast, from whom Walker elicits, in the main, decent performances.  The nominal lead is Ray Brooks, playing the revue's director, and the cast also includes Jenny Hanley (who takes her clothes off - or rather a body double does, judging by the way the scene is shot), Luan Peters (who spends a large part of the film naked, without the aid of a body double) and  Candace Glendenning, an actress who briefly seemed to have a promising career ahead of her, but quickly found herself specialising in stripping off in low budget horror flicks.  Also present is Robin Askwith, in his pre Confessions days (he played straight roles in quite a few horror flicks in the early seventies, most notably the magnificently barmy Horror Hospital) and Judy Matheson, an actress who seemed to spend a lot of the early seventies being victimised in various horror films.  No wonder she later became a continuity announcer for TVS, my local ITV franchise.  Patrick Barr, as the murderous actor, gives good value and became something of a Walker favourite.

All-in-all, The Flesh and Blood Show is a reasonably entertaining horror flick - it flags somewhat in the middle, but picks up toward the end.  It makes good use of its locations and features decent performances from its cast.  But there is nothing really outstanding about it.  Indeed, the most interesting thing about it is the fact that it was directed by Pete Walker as, to those who have only seen his later horror films, it is so conventional.  Of course, Walker's subsequent directorial career would eventually come full circle, with his last - to date - film being 1983's House of Long Shadows, another conventional 'old dark house' movie, albeit featuring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Vincent Price and John Carradine, made for Cannon. 


Monday, June 12, 2017

On the Rails

I'm absolutely exhausted by all the fall out from last week's election - and it isn't over by a long chalk yet.  Mind you, I didn't help my energy levels any by sitting up to all hours on Saturday night/Sunday morning, drinking beer and watching The French Connection for the hundredth time on Film Four in an attempt to wind down after all the politics.  Anyway, I think we all need a break from politics, at least here on Sleaze Diary.  So, a quick update on my model railway.  The track for the main running lines is in place, but not ballasted or fixed down.  Right now, I'm engaged in the labourious task of running, by hand, my most pernickity and sensitive rolling stock to try and find any problem areas where they derail.  My 'problem' rolling stock are several Mainline Mk1 coaches and the older of my two Wrenn CCTs - these all fall off of the track at the slightest excuse.  There's also a mainline ex-LMS luggage van with similar propensities.  My old Hornby Mk1 coaches are generally better behaved - unless they are coupled to their Mainline equivalents.  Old Lima coaches, I've found, are pretty much bullet proof and will run over even the worst laid track without problems.

Once I've identified and dealt with the problem areas, the underlay will go under the track and it will be lightly fixed down.  I'll then have to temporarily connect each loop in turn to a controller and repeat the tests with my most 'sensitive' locomotives, to check that there aren't any areas of track that they 'object' to negotiating without derailment.  Then I can think about fixing the main loops down properly and turn my attention to laying the track for the various sidings.  Here's a quick view of the layout under construction, looking toward the non-station side (I know it's a mess, but it is a work in progress):

The area in the top left hand corner will eventually be the site of a small goods yard with a couple of sidings.  In the top right hand corner there will be a small locomotive shed and facilities.  The area below the main lines currently covered in unused track and points will eventually be a marshalling yard where the stock will be shunted together into trains, (a fuller explanation of this will come when the layout is more advanced.

This shot shows part of what will be the station area (you can see some of the Hornby platform sections I've been using to align the track).  Also visible are some of the rolling stock I'm using for testing purposes.  The troublesome Mainline luggage van is on the inner loop, coupled to a well behaved Lima Siphon van.  The equally troublesome Wrenn CCT is the uncoupled van beind them, at the bottom of the picture.  The Mainline Mk1s are out of shot, but are part of the formation which includes the Hornby CK and Lima BGseen at the top right of the photo. 

So there you have it, photographic proof that my model railway layout does exist and isn't just a figment of my imagination!


Friday, June 09, 2017

Post Election Musings

OK, I've calmed down since the early hours, when I was in a state ecstasy over the election results rolling in.  Since then, Theresa May has, incredibly, clung on to power, despite losing her majority, by doing some kind of deal with a bunch of sectarian extremists from Northern Ireland (I thought Corbyn was meant to be the one who pandered to extremists).  It will all end in tears, mark my words.  The sheer arrogance of May is breathtaking: announcing that she was going to carry on with a minority government, she failed to acknowledge the fact tat she had just lost her parliamentary majority in an election she hadn't needed to call.  Most significantly, she failed to address the fact that she had justified calling said election on the basis that she was asking the electorate to give her a mandate to negotiate a 'hard Brexit' ('no deal is better than a bad deal') and that they had patently refused to grant her such a mandate.

Anyway, I thought I'd offer some final thoughts on the election, particular with regard to the opinion polls.  It is now clear that most of them were overestimating Tory support.  Or rather, they underestimated badly the turnout of Labour voters, particularly young Labour voters. The only polling organisation which consistently got it right, even correctly predicting a hung parliament, was YouGov, yet they were vilified throughout the campaign, with accusations that their methodology was wrong.  We now know that it wasn't.   It's obvious that mobilising the youth vote was key to Labour's unexpectedly good showing in the election.  Without taking anything away from Corbyn's role in this, I'm sure that the youth turnout was in large part down to lingering anger over the EU referendum, where the 'Leave' vote was fueled by older voters, much to the chagrin of predominantly 'Remain' younger voters.  What's essential now is that Labour continues to engage these voters and try to harness their support to try and further improve their electoral standing.  The high youth turnout can't be allowed to be a one off.

OK, that's it for now.  I'm sure I'll return to this subject, but for now, I'm exhausted from staying up too late reveling over the results.  I'm going to make myself a toasted cheese and bacon sandwich and doze through some bad TV.

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"The Rich C**ts are Shitting Themselves"

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!  OK, I know it's early days, but that exit poll did me a power of good!  Best of all, it looks like it is, more or less, panning out.  Even if we don't get a hung parliament then, at the very least, the Tory bastards should only get, at the best, a small majority, which should hobble them somewhat and undermine May's standing in the party.  I was in the pub when the headline came up on our smartphones that the pound was falling on the international markets on the basis of that exit poll.  My friend Bob's reaction was: "The rich cunts are shitting themselves that all those fucking tax loopholes and tax havens are going to get shut down."  I'd dearly love to see that as a headline in the Financial Times.  But it sums up what this election has really been about: whether the country is run for the benefit of everyone, or just for the benefit of a wealthy minority, be they individuals or corporations.  If the exit poll is in any way accurate, then it seems opinion is swinging toward the former idea.  It also indicates that Labour can gain ground by campaigning on a centre left platform, rather than by trying to out do the Tories in terms of economic austerity.

Anyway, here's the bit where I admit that I was clearly wrong about Jeremy Corbyn.  I'm still not a supporter, I still have very real doubts about his leadership but, fair's fair, he's fought a good campaign and it seems to have paid dividends.  I said in an earlier post  that if Labour managed to force a hung parliament in this election, I'd take my hat off to Corbyn.  Well, the hung parliament still might not happen but, I'm prepared to give him a hat tip right now.  So, here's my hat, actually several of my hats, not on my head, but hung up on my coat hooks - I've taken them all off for Corbyn tonight:

Ah well, I think I'll go to bed now - the BBC are still trying to find some kind of evidence of Tory swings to contradict their own exit poll, but I think it's still safe to get some sleep.  I think that the rich cunts are still shitting themselves.

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Thursday, June 08, 2017

Car Troubles

I can't help but feel that I'm heading toward the end of my relationship with my current car.  I'd always maintained that it only had to last until the mortgage was paid off, then I'd think about replacing it with something that didn't have so many niggling problems.  Well, this week it did its best to fulfill this prophecy on its own account.  Yesterday it went in for what should have been a simple service. I didn't get it back again until lunchtime today, accompanied by a huge garage bill.  To be frank, I could have bought a new car with the amount I had to fork out today.  I'm really not happy.  That's another chunk of the windfall I got from my mortgage endowment policy pay out down the drain barely two months after receiving it.  Of course, I've had all the usual smart arses telling me that I should have bought a new car instead of having the work done. 

Well, it is easy to be wise after the event.  The fact is that, when I took the car to the garage, I had no idea they were going to come up with the list of urgent remedial action needed that they did.  (I have to say, I'm more than mildly surprised that none of this came up as advisories at the time of the last MoT in October).  Moreover, I have to have a car in order to do my job - being off the road yesterday caused havoc - and buying a new one takes time.  Just finding one I might want to buy takes an age.  So, I really had no choice but to have the current one repaired, regardless of the expense.  An expense which could get higher - I only had the essential work done on the car, there's a whole list of other stuff which allegedly needs doing if it is to get through another MoT.  However, I'm afraid that, on top of the expense of replacing the clutch last year, this latest episode has left me feeling that I just want to cut my losses.  I really don't want to put it through the MoT again when I know that will incur yet more huge expense. 

All my instincts are telling me to run the bloody thing for the next few months so as to get some value from the money it has eaten up, then replace it before the MoT in October.  The trouble is that the money I spent keeping the car on the road this week constitutes a large chunk of the money I'd been planning to spend on its replacement.  Consequently, I'm inclined to follow my late Uncle Charlie's advice (he was in the motor trade for many years after the war), which was to buy something cheaply, provided it had a long MoT and just run it - no proper services, just change the oil and filters - until that was close to expiry. He'd then get it checked over to see what was needed to get it through the MoT: if it was minor stuff, he'd get it  MoT'd for another year, if it was likely to be expensive, he got rid of it and started again.  Likewise, if it suffered a major fault between MoTs, he got rid of it and started again.  He reckoned that, selected wisely, a cheap old car could safely be relied upon for two or three years service at minimal expense.

In fact, I've already been doing some looking and found some interesting potential bargains, particularly amongst the cars taken as part exchanges by dealers.  These are often in decent nick and need little done to them.  The only proviso is that they are often older, larger cars with bigger engines, which not only potentially increases running costs (lower mpg) but also attracts a higher rate of road tax and insurance.  But it's all swings and roundabouts: you can get a lot of car for a low price.  My other main worry about buying older vehicles is durability - the fact is that the mileages I have to put in for work and, most significantly, the sorts of roads I'm also forced to use, are what have damn near killed my current car.  I'm slightly worried that buying something with an already high mileage might be tempting fate,  We'll see. 


Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Faking Terror

Whilst the events of the London Bridge terror attack were unfolding on Saturday night and the early hours of Sunday morning, I had a terrible thought: what if the attackers weren't real Jihadi terrorists, but Jihadi re-enactors?  You know, like those guys who spend their weekends dressed up as Nazis, fighting mock battles against other blokes dressed up like British soldiers or American GIs.  These re-enactment people cover all sorts of historical eras, not just world war two.  There are the Sealed Knot lot who dress up as cavaliers and roundheads and others who pretend to be confederates and union soldiers to recreate US civil war battles.  I've even seen some dressed as Roman legionaries squaring off against others smeared with woad, pretending to be ancient Britons.  Then there are the fantasy battle types - I used to drink in a pub where a group of these jokers would come in after their practice sessions.  Believe me, there are few things more bizarre than looking across at the next table in a lounge bar and seeing four blokes in chain mail sat around drinking beer.  I'm convinced that there also probably groups who re-enact more modern stuff like the Vietnam war: they most likely spend their weekends defoliating Surrey with Agent Orange, while the staff from the local Chinese restaurant lurk in the undergrowth in black pyjamas, pretending to be the Viet Cong.

So, I don't think it unreasonable that there might be people out there who spend their weekends recreating terror attacks - blacking themselves up and waving fake knives around.  Indeed, the fact that the London Bridge attackers were wearing fake 'suicide belts' reinforced my suspicions that they were part of a terrorist re-enactment group.  (I have to say, that when I saw that picture of the prone terrorist wearing what looked like beer cans around his waist, my first thought was that the police had shot 'Duff Man' from The Simpsons by mistake).  Perhaps, I thought, they'd planned to make a mock attack, running through Borough Market 'stabbing' people with rubber knives and expected to be met by a bunch of their mates dressed as armed policemen toting paintball guns.  Instead, in a tragic misunderstanding, they found themselves mown down in a hail of real bullets fired by genuine police officers.   Of  course, it quickly became apparent that I was wrong.

As the stories of the terrorists running into pubs, bars and restaurants, randomly stabbing customers, emerged, another thought occurred to me.  Earlier on Staurday evening, I'd seen part of that film about the Krays, Legend, I got to thinking how bloody lucky the terrorists were that half of London's boozers and clubs weren't still controlled psychopathic homicidal thugs.  I mean, you couldn't see Ronnie and Reggie taking too kindly to a bunch of knife wielding maniacs bursting into one of their pubs and attacking their clientele.  Knives are no match for sawn off shotguns.  Which set me thinking further - perhaps what Theresa May needs to do is mobilise organised crime against extremists.  I'm sure that a few knee-cappings of likely suspects round the back of the local mosque, for instance, would go a long way to deterring future attacks. I'm also sure that that 'heavy mobs' in the East End could 'persuade' local Imams to divulge the names of the potential Jihadis in their congregations.  That said, I'm pretty sure that modern London gangsters just aren't up to the 'quality' of the likes of 'Mad' Frankie Fraser, the Krays or the Richardsons.  Nevertheless, I'm sure such a proposal would make an eye-catching last minute knee jerk reactionary addition to the Tory manifesto.

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Monday, June 05, 2017

'Enough is Enough!'

"Enough is enough!" declared Theresa May in the wake of the most recent terror attacks.  Couldn't agree more, I thought, we've had more than enough of your knee jerk reactionary 'policies' and opportunistic attempts to use these attacks for your own political purposes.  Fuck off and fuck off, now.  But sadly, she's still here.  Until Thursday, at least.  Apparently we're too tolerant of extremists, she says.  Really?  Who is too tolerant of them?  Which extremists are we too tolerant of?  I suspect that what she really means is that we are simply too tolerant.  That we should be busy attacking and harassing anyone who looks or thinks differently to 'us'.  But as is so often the case with right wingers of her ilk, May clearly has no grasp of the origins of 'extremism'.  She can restrict immigration all she likes, try to close down the internet, force Muslims to 'integrate' or enact any number of new laws repressive of our freedom of speech, but it won't make any difference: there will still be nutters prepared to drive vans into pedestrians and stab random passers-by.  Because extremism thrives on repression.  It also thrives among those who feel disenfranchised and ostracised by the establishment.  The terrorists always traditionally recruit their foot soldiers from the ranks of the dispossessed.

Jeremy Corbyn clearly has a better grasp of the roots of extremism: the creation of failed states by Western military interventions which achieve not so much 'regime change' as a power vacuum in which the extremists can operate freely and spread their ideologies.  Which isn't the same assaying that terrorism is our own fault for invading Iraq or bombing Libya, despite what the right wing press would have you believe.  It is a simple statement of fact - the reality is that whilst deposing dictators, such actions have failed to follow this up by creating strong (and stable) successor regimes.  which, in the long run, results in nutters running around our streets stabbing strangers or blowing themselves and lots of innocent bystanders up.  Which doesn't mean that we 'had it coming' or 'deserved it' because of our role in the interventions which created the environments which breed extremism.  It just means that we have to accept that these things don't happen in isolation, they are the consequence of an historical process in which we played a part.  All of which is pretty heavy stuff for a Monday, but hey, I had a shitty day at work (one which has moved me ever closer to the exit door, as there is only so much disrespect, rudeness and downright stupidity I can endure - enough is enough), so I'm not in the mood for anything light hearted.  Back to the usual bad taste tomorrow. Hopefully.


Friday, June 02, 2017

Berserk! (1967)

A 'Random Movie Trailer' to round out the week: Berserk! from 1967.  A Produced by notorious schlockster Herman Cohen, (he was the man behind such low budget classics as Konga, Craze, I Was a Teenage Frankenstein and Horrors of the Black Museum, amongst many others), Beserk! is sort of a companion piece to his prehistoric ape man on the loose movie Trog.  Both star Joan Crawford who, incredibly, Cohen had managed to get under contract at the tail end of her career.  Whether it is any better than Trog - a truly abysmal film - I can't rightly say, having never seen Berserk! in its entirety.  It's film which, even during my seventies childhood when they'd show just about any film in the late night schedules, rarely, if ever, turned up on TV. 

What I can say, based on the trailer and other excerpts I've seen, is that appears to be typical of Cohen's UK made films: slick looking and packed with semi-star names, most of whom are quickly killed of for budgetary reasons.  (As always, Cohen favourite Michael Gough is on hand). They often feature bizarre and ingenious methods of killing people (which are also highly exploitable in trailers) and are effectively crime/horror hybrids, as the identity of a mysterious killer is sought.  Berserk! also falls into a curious sub genre of British horror movies: the circus-themed horror film.  Perhaps the most notable entry in this small group of films was 1960's Circus of Horrors, a remarkbly sadistic movie featuring Anton Diffring as an on-the-run plastic surgeon staffing his circus with criminals he has given new faces.  Berserk!, however, would seem closer to the Harry Allan Towers produced Circus of Fear, which was effectively a British attempt at a German 'Krimi' type of film. 

Berserk! is another of those films I keep meaning to try and track down and watch, but am always put off doing so because the quality of the other Cohen films I've seen.  Despite often featuring some top line talent on both sides of the camera (Freddie Francis, for instance, directed several movies for Cohen), they usually disappoint, offering garish thrills but never quite delivering.  To be sure, some of them are hugely entertaining in their utterly barmy way - Konga, Horrors of the Black Museum and Black Zoo, (all featuring magnificently insane performances from Micheal Gough), in particular, come to mind here - and they frequently offer a level sadistic cruelty rarely seen in British horror films of the period, but they never feel completely satisfying.  That said, I have some hopes that Berserk! might be a reasonably entertaining movie, being directed by Jim O'Connolly, a producer, director and writer with a small, but interesting, number of directorial credits, including the Ray Harryhausen cowboys-versus-dinosaur epic  Valley of the Gwangi and the utterly insane horror film Tower of Evil.   Now, that's another movie I really must get around to discussing here...


Thursday, June 01, 2017

Mind the Gap

Well, it's all getting a bit exciting now, isn't it?  The election, I mean.  Obviously.  Those opinion polls showing a sharply narrowing gap between Labour and Conservatives and Theresa May's dismal performances are certainly giving the Tories and their friends in the press jitters.  It's an oft repeated truism that it isn't so much that opposition parties win elections than it is that ruling parties lose them.  And the Tories really do seem to be doing their best to lose this one, with policy U-turns, a poorly thought out manifesto and a leader who appears aloof and arrogant.  But to focus on the Tories' failings as the cause of their - apparent - decline in the polls would be to denigrate the effectiveness of Labour's campaign.  I must admit that they have surprised me: against all odds they've mounted a decent campaign.  They've been able to keep the focus on issues where they are strong: health, education and social care.  They've been helped in this by the fact that May can't really campaign on the economy and deficit reduction, as the Tories have proved so feeble in this area.  Clearly, she'd like to make the election entirely about Brexit.  But it's clear that she's misjudged the public mood badly - for most of the electorate, regardless of whether they were 'leave' or 'remain', Brexit is a battle which has already been fought and nobody particularly wants to rehash it.

All of which has forced the government to try and fight the election on issues where they are traditionally weak.  For once, Labour has seized the opportunity and done their best to push home their advantage.  I also have to say that, although I'm not a fan of Corbyn (as I've made clear here, at some length), he's had a pretty good campaign and has gone a long way to establishing himself as a reasonably credible Prime Minister-in-waiting.  Labour have sensibly played him to his strengths: sincerity and compassion.  It has provided a stark contrast to May's soulless and robotic performances.  Ironically, for someone I've always criticised for spending too much time preaching to the converted, Corbyn has done a good job of at least appearing to be spending time speaking to the wider electorate, whilst May's 'public' appearances have all been carefully orchestrated so as to avoid contact with anyone but Tory supporters.  (In reality, most of Corbyn's set-piece appearances have also been to invited and carefully vetted, but Labour have been far more astute at spinning these to the media).  Overall, Corbyn's certainly shown more leadership qualities than before and has handled the media superbly over the past couple of weeks. I'm still not a fan, but the improvement in his performance can only be good for Labour.

That said, I still don't think they have any realistic chance of winning the election.  But that recent piece of YouGov research which indicated the possibility of a hung parliament means that there is still everything to play for.  If Corbyn can prevent the Tories' from achieving an overall majority, I'll take my hat off to him.  It would be just about the most sensational electoral turnaround in living memory.  Of course, not all of the opinion polls are showing such a stark narrowing of the gap between Labour and Conservative voters as YouGov, indicating that these could be 'rogue' polls.  As, indeed, they could be.  But one also has to consider the differing methodologies being employed by te different pollsters.  It's worth bearing in mind that, after the supposed failure of the pollsters to correctly call the outcome of the 2015 election, with the allegation that they were overestimating the Labour vote, they now adjust them accordingly.  The logic is that the Labour vote is less likely to mobilise on election day - people might tell pollsters that their intent is to vote Labour but, in the event, they don't bother to vote at all.  It is entirely possible that, this time around, the pollsters are over-compensating, pushing the figure for potential Tory voters too high,  Or, it could be that YouGov have got it wrong. We won't know until the votes are cast for real, of course.

The other complicating factor is the UK's 'first-past-the-post' system of electing MPs.  The total share of the vote each party garners nationally has next to no bearing on the number of seats they win.  It is entirely possible for a party to take a majority of the popular vote yet not win enough seats to form a government.  (This has happened twice since the war, in 1951 when Labour won the popular vote but the Tories gained most seats and in the February 1974 election, where Heath's Convervatives narrowly won the popular vote, but had insufficient seats to form even a minority government).  The problem for Labour is that they might well be gaining ground in the pols, but if those votes are spread evenly across the country, it still won't be enough to win key constituencies.  It could also be that their increae in support is concentrated in constituencies they already hold which, once again, won't help them take seats from other parties.  Either way, it is entirely possible that, come he morning of 9 June, Corbyn could have polled a higher percentage share of the votes thhan his predecessor, but still end up with fewer seats than Ed Miliband.  (Another reason for Labour to get wholeheartedly behind the campaign for electoral reform in the UK).  Which would be hugely disappointing. But, as I've said, we won't know how it pans out until the end of next week.  All we can do is continue to get behind Corbyn, whether we like him or not, and actually get out there and vote next Thursday. 

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