Tuesday, December 31, 2019

My Year in Schlock

So, as 2019 staggers to an end, once more I've determined to maintain a lone vigil at its bedside until it gasps its last.  I say 'lone', but I will be accompanied by a large plate of sausage rolls, beer and maybe even a whiskey or two.  You know, I've tried, in the past, to get into all this celebrating the New Year thing, but it just isn't me.  I see it as more of a contemplative time of year - a time to reflect.  One of the things I could never buy into about the New Year is the idea, perpetuated by people who should know better, that once the tired old year expires at midnight, we step into a brand new, freshly minted, year, where we can all start afresh, putting our problems behind us.  If only.  Unfortunately, experience has taught me that life simply doesn't work that way: the problems you had on New Year's Eve will still be there on New Year's Day - and beyond.  But I'm not here to be gloomy on this, the last day of the year (not to mention decade).  Equally, I'm not here to make predictions about the coming year: the future is unknown and not worth speculating about. Not that I'm going to start doing one of those retrospectives of my past year - just read the last twelve months of posts here to get an idea of what's been going on.

I thought, though, that I might briefly look back at the schlock I've watched this year.  I have to concede that it hasn't been a vintage year for watching schlock movies and I've been equally remiss when it comes to writing them up here.  Part of the problem lies in the fact that I simply don't have the energy I had before I was ill a couple of years ago.  I'm afraid that all the stress, high blood pressure and diabetes - not to mention the treatments for them - have taken their toll.  I'm still hopeful of a more or less full recovery, but it is turning out to be a much a slower process than I anticipated.  But to get back to the schlock - of the relatively meager number of films I watched and wrote about, a handful stand out.  First up, Al Adamson's Dracula Vs Frankenstein: compared to many of Adamson's patchwork films, often assembled from footage shot years apart with the finished product frequently completely different from the project's original intent, this film is surprisingly coherent.  Indeed, it is a highly entertaining, if somewhat rickety, homage to the Universal 'moster rallies' of the 1940s. 

Next up, Brutes and Savages, a faux Mondo so bad that it makes you appreciate just how good the real article is and, more importantly, the level of cinematic skill required to pull this sort of film off.  Split Second, watched in tribute to the late Rutger Hauer, was an unexpectedly enjoyable piece of schlock from the nineties, featuring a great, against type, performance from its star, some decent action, a relatively witty script and a well-realised vision of a dark future blighted by global warming, (not that that will ever happen, eh?).  Humanoids From the Deep was another blast from my formative years.  A curious throw back to fifties-style monster movies, with added sex, which, if not as bad you think it will be, certainly doesn't live up to the controversy which surrounded it upon its release in 1980.  Finally, the absolute highlight of of my year in schlock has to be Nocturna, the incredible 1979 vanity project by belly dancer extraordinaire Nai Bonet.  By turns inept and beguiling, this nominal horror comedy also encompasses disco, romance, soft porn and even Blaxploitation.  All of them badly. It has to be seen to be disbelieved.  But really, it has to be seen.  For connoisseurs of schlock, Nocturna is truly a delight.

So there you have it - my year in schclock.  I'm not much of one for giving recommendations - what we like and don't like is deeply personal and I wouldn't presume to inflict my pleasures on other people - I would say that if you were to watch five schlocky movies in 2020, you could do a lot worse than these five.  And if you do want to watch them, as far as I'm aware, they are currently all available on YouTube.  Anyway, that's it for this year - see you all in 2020.  Oh, and a Happy New Year to you all.


Monday, December 30, 2019

Today Must be Monday

Christmas continues.  I really am beginning to lose track of what day of the week it is - today, apparently, is Monday.  For the first time in living memory, I'm beginning to feel listless during this interregnum between Christmas and New Year.   Days of doing nothing but lie in bed or on the sofa reading or watching TV are beginning to wear thin.  That said, I still ended up spending a large part of today in bed, reading one of those old Eagle annuals I bought before Christmas.  I really do need to start being more active.  Actually, I did do something today: I repeated my trick from a couple of years ago of nearly burning the house down while incinerating some old papers in the garden.  The problem is that the incinerator really is more fun to use with the lid off: the flames are higher and everything burns more quickly.  On the other hand, it does mean that even modest gusts of wind result in bits of blazing paper blowing everywhere, even into the kitchen through the open back door.  The incineration of the old paperwork is part of my clear out plans, which seem to have been progressing extremely slowly for months now.

Perhaps they will speed up with the New Year.  I somehow doubt it.  But it is that time of year again when we're all supposed to be making resolutions and vowing fresh starts.  It's all in vain.  Nobody ever sticks to them.  Nevertheless, it is the time of year when we are inundated, via the media, with all manner of uplifting advice for improving our lives.  Apparently the secret of success is to be the 'best version of yourself you can'.  Whatever the fuck that means.  But hey, it isn't just the end of year this time, but the end of a decade, as well.  Which means that not only will we have to spend the next few days putting up with those futile retrospectives of the past year, but of the entire decade.  I do so hate them - they are thing I dread most about this time of year.  They are simply a way for lazy journalists and TV programme makers to fill up column inches and broadcast hours without actually putting in any effort.  I don't need to be told what happened over the past twelve months, I know what happened - I lived through it at the time.  Yeah, I know, I'm moaning again.  But like I said, it is nearly the end of the year, so I think I'm entitled to at least one last ill-tempered post before it is over!


Friday, December 27, 2019

Easing to the End of the Year

We have now entered one of my favourite times of the year: those strange days between Christmas and New Year.  Normal time seems suspended.  Most people are still off of work and still celebrating the festive season, but, unlike Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year, there is no set format for the celebrations.  Everything is improvised - we sail aimlessly through lazy days of doing nothing much at all.  Today, for instance, aside from a shopping foray, I basically did bugger all: a lot of lying in bed, a lot of watching TV programmes I now have no memory of - all the perfect antidote to the drudgery of work and its meaningless routines.  I always look forward to this annual limbo - it always seems the best way to see out the old year: after month after month of events piling on top of each other, a few days of utter inaction.  It is especially welcome this year, a tumultuous twelve months, culminating in that bloody election, have left me exhausted.  It's time for some rest, recuperation and reflection before returning to the fray.

Of course, the flip side to all this inactivity is that it leaves me with bugger all to post about here.  Not that there's anything new in that.  i have to say that, creatively, I've found the past year very difficult.  How I've managed to keep any kind of schedule over at The Sleaze is beyond me.  Inspiration has been sadly lacking.  I've somehow been able to come up with stories at the last minute from the sketchiest of ideas.  Other times, I've managed to use posts from this blog as the unlikeliest of source material for stories.  It really has been a struggle.  You'd think, though, with everything that has gone on in the world over the last twelve months, coming up with satirical stories about it all would be easy.  The trouble is, though, that much of what is now happening seems beyond satire.  I mean, Boris Johnson, a morally degenerate liar and proven political incompetent with no moral compass, is Prime Minister.  Elected with a majority in parliament.  You just can't satirise this shit.  Rather than making me laugh, it just makes me despair for the future of the human race.  And you know what's really bad?  That nobody seems to care.  The world is going to Hell and the majority don't seem to give a shit.  On that optimistic note, I'm going back to doing nothing.


Thursday, December 26, 2019

A Break With Tradition

So, here we are: Boxing Day.  Another Christmas done, (except that, as I always seem to point out at this time of year , it isn't - the Twelve Days of Christmas are only just beginning), presents all opened, relatives put up with, turkey eaten. (Thankfully, I didn't have to experience the latter two - one of the benefits of a solitary Christmas is that you can abandon all those bloody 'traditions').  Anyway, I spent an extremely tranquil, low-key, Christmas Day - Director's Cut of Peckinpagh's Wild Bunch in the afternoon, (accompanied by some very good brandy), everything rounded of by Guinness Milk Stout and classic Dutch schlock Amsterdamned.  I enjoyed it so much that I did something similar today: Mad Max: Fury Road this afternoon and I'm planning a re-watch of Profondo Rosso later on.  Yet, despite all my determination to break with tradition, on Christmas Eve I found myself watching the Midnight Mass on BBC1 (I tried watching the ITV equivalent, but found it was being presented by Mylene Klass and populated with minor league celebrities - we get enough of their bollocks the rest of the year, so I changed channels).  I haven't done that in years.  I'm not religious, quite the opposite, but I felt a powerful urge to watch this.  I suspect that it was all about seeking comfort in familiarity.  Time was that - when there were only three TV channels - that everyone saw in Christmas watching this, (unless they were at the real thing in their local church, something I can't do as I'm such a sinner the water would boil in the font and I'd risk being struck by a thunderbolt as I entered the church).  When I was a kid, it just wasn't Christmas until you'd gone through this ritual.

Familiarity becomes ever more important as you get older.  Certainly that's my experience.  Like it or not, as the years pass by, we gradually lose touch with what's 'current' and 'in', not to mention 'trendy'. You realise just how much energy you are wasting trying to 'keep up' - as for familiarising oneself with new technology, well, who has the time?  And what's the point, when you know that the old ways still work?  So, in the face of an ever-changing world you can't keep up with, (even if you wanted to), you instead seek reassurance in the familiar.  It's what nostalgia is based on.  Of course, you have to be careful of this yearning for times past, as it can all too easily abused: let's face it, Bexit was, in part, the result of a nostalgia for a past that had never really existed, fueled by unscrupulous right-wing politicians.  But, to return to the point, this yearning for familiarity is particularly powerful at Christmas: we all seem doomed to continually try and recreate the Christmases of our childhoods, or rather, our inaccurate memories of what we think they were like.  I know that I did.  For quite a while after I turned my back on family Christmases in favour of going solo, I tried to replicate aspects of those Christmases of yore, in what I ate, when I ate it, what I watched, etc.  But it was pointless, it could never be the same.  Besides, there was a reason I stopped participating in those Christmases: all too often they were crap, wracked by arguments and petty disputes which rendered them utterly miserable.  I yearned for them to end.  So, I gradually shed those vestiges of Christmases past and started just taking the season as it came. I've enjoyed it a lot more since I shrugged off tradition.  Which makes this year's lapse into tradition in the form of the TV midnight mass all the more puzzling.  That said, I did enjoy it - although that might have something to do with the glass of whiskey which accompanied it.

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Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Lights of Crapchester 2019

The Lights of Crapchester 2019 from Doc Sleaze on Vimeo.

So, here we are again: Christmas Eve and a video of some local Christmas lights here in Crapchester.  Why do I do it?  I really don't know.  Anyway, if nothing else, this marks the end of my Christmas preparations.  I can relax on the sofa now.  Actually, I've already spent a large part of the day there, watching old films.  When not doing that, I've been baking sausage rolls.  I'll be going back to the films soon as I'm giving the pub a miss.  It was packed last night, so it will undoubtedly we worse tonight.  I'm just too old for all that shit.  So, as I settle back onto my sofa, it only remains to wish everyone a Happy Christmas.  See you on the other side.

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Monday, December 23, 2019

Seasonal Dishonour

I see there's a lot of speculation that Nigel Farage, the ball sack, might get a knighthood in the New Year's Honours list.  While we shouldn't be surprised, as the donkey faced git gave the Tories a helping hand into Downing Street by withdrawing his Brexit Party candidates from seats with sitting Tory MPs in the general election, if it does happen, it will mark another devaluation of the already largely discredited honours system.  It makes me glad that I turned down that OBE a few years back.  Ha!  That's the one good thing about the honours system - if someone turns one down, it is never officially confirmed or denied that they were ever offered one in the first place.  So, anyone can claim to have rejected an honour without fear of contradiction.  (There are, apparently, some notable public figures who did turn down honours, including Albert Finney and Honor Blackman - the latter because she is a republican).  So, was I ever offered an OBE for services to British sleaze?  Let's face it, people have been awarded far higher honours for far less: usually dubious services to political parties.  I'll let you decide.

But, to paraphrase Vincent Price in Cry of the Banshee: 'Let us banish thoughts of braying Brexit bastards'.  We are, after all, on the verge of Christmas - a time of joy and goodwill to all men (except those Tory bastards).  I finally finished work today, (I was only in to catch up with my paperwork), so I'm now free to spend the festive period sitting on my sofa watching films.  (Pure bliss as far as I;m concerned).  That said, right now I'm working on sequencing the various segments of a new podcast I want to get posted over at the Overnightscape Underground before Christmas.  Once that's done, there is the annual film of the 'Lights of Crapchester' to be put together.  You know, I really don't know why I keep producing those films - it started as a one off joke, but seems to have become a tradition.  I cannot deny that, this year, I have put minimal effort into the filming.  There seemed to be fewer external lights on display than usual this year.  Perhaps it is a sign of times - either austerity biting or good taste returning.  Certainly, my neighbours have disappointed - none of them have indulged in any outlandish displays to amuse me.  Anyway, I'm being distracted right now by Talking Pictures TV:  they are showing a 1970 episode of Special Branch featuring the lovely Yutte Stensgaard from Lust for a Vampire, (she's playing 'Miss Zagreb', a beauty pageant contestant (or maybe a spy) - Danish and Croatian accents are obviously similar).


Friday, December 20, 2019

Bottling It

I decided to do some clearing up today, it being Christmas and everything.  So, I thought that I'd make a start by getting rid of the collection of empty beer bottles which had been cluttering up my kitchen work top.  I mean, not only were they taking up valuable space, but they made it look as if I'm some kind of desperate alcoholic.  Not that I am - they'd been building up for quite some time now.  The four Coors Light bottles, for instance, I'm sure dated back to late Summer.  Anyway, I decided that they were all going to the bottle bank.  I say 'bottle bank', it's actually a glorified skip in the corner of the car park where my car lives.  By the end of Christmas and New Year it is usually full to overflowing.  So, I went about removing their caps (it's a peculiar quirk of mine that, after I've drunk the beer, I stick the cap back on the bottle - obviously, though, you can't stick them in the bottle bank with the caps still on).  Now, you might think that I just put those bottle caps in the bin.  But no, I just added them to the collection I already had from the last lot of empties.  You see, I have this enduring fantasy that, eventually, I'll have enough identical caps to make a draughts set (two sets of twelve - I favour English Draughts).  I'm still not there yet - I really should think more carefully when buying bottled beer to make sure that it has the type of caps I need,

But to return to the point: I gathered up all of the bottles in a carrier bag and lugged them over to the bottle bank. I took great pleasure in hurling the lot into the one marked 'Any Colour Glass'.  Actually, I can't say that I see the point of this label, as the other bin is labelled simply 'Coloured Glass'.  What's the difference?  (Once upon a time, they were colour coded, with one exclusively for clear glass).  Having disposed of the lot, I went off to do some shopping, secure in the knowledge that there was newly cleared space in my kitchen.  So, you can imagine my surprise when I got home and went into the kitchen to put away my shopping, only to find those four Coors Light bottles still sitting on the kitchen work top.  Now, I know that I'd stuck them in that plastic bag and thrown them in the bottle bank.  Yet there they were, sat there mocking me.  None of the other bottles had reappeared,  Just them.  All pretty spooky, eh?  OK, I know that it isn't much of a Christmas ghost story, but it is the best I've got.  I'm afraid that we've been pretty short of the weird stuff of late here in Crapchester.  Unless you count that business of some bloke from down the street hallucinating that my car had been broken into.  He claimed that the car alarm had woken him up and that the next morning the boot was open.  Except that he couldn't remember which night this was meant to have happened and that the boot has never been open when I've gone to collect the car.  There is also no physical evidence that anyone had ever tampered with the car in such a way that would set the alarm off.  Personally, I think that he's on drugs.  Or drunk.  Or both.  Either that, or there's a phantom car thief out there.  Perhaps the same phantom who brings empty bottles back to my kitchen...


Thursday, December 19, 2019

Creature With the Atom Brain (1955)

I was going to return to the political dray again today, but I'm just too tired.  I find the continued posturing of the so called 'Corbynistas' on Twitter dispiriting: despite Labour having suffered a disastrous election defeat, they still won't accept that, in large part, it was down to Corbyn's poor leadership.  Oh no, it was the fault of those nasty 'centrists', (who haven't been in charge of the party for four years), or those 'hard remainers' whose demands for a new referendum alienated those Labour leave voters, (Labour actually lost more remain voters than leave voters), or it was all the fault of the hostile press, (when aren't they hostile to the prospect of Labour governments?).  I try to comfort myself with the thought that these poisonous pillocks don't represent the majority of Labour voters and members with their blinkered devotion to a failed and discredited political strategy.

So, rather than talk about politics again, I thought that I'd keep up this week's schlock movie theme with a 'Random Movie Trailer'.  This time it is for Sam Katzman's 1955 B-movie Creature With the Atom Brain. Basically a forties zombie movie 'updated' to the Atomic Age, it features a gangster seeking revenge on his enemies via corpses reanimated with nuclear power by an ex Nazi scientist.  Rather than voodoo, the dead are brought back to life using atom-powered brain implants, which not only allows them to be remote controlled, but also makes them indestructible. Unfortunately, they also leak radiation, making it possible for the authorities to track them with Geiger counters.  Apparently, it's based on scientific fact.  Which scientific facts, I'm not sure.

Katzman was a prolific producer of B-movies and serials, usually for Columbia, throughout the forties and fifties.  All were cheapskate productions with costs pared to the bone, which usually ensured that their profit margins were maximised.  Most, like Creature, rarely ran much over seventy minutes, so didn't outstay their welcome.  The short running lengths also ensured that they moved along briskly, never wasting too much time on characterisation or exposition.  Perhaps Katzman's best known film is seminal rock and roll musical Rock Around the Clock, featuring Bill Haley and the Comets.  Creature was directed by Katzman regular Edward L Cahn,, a veteran of the B-movie scene, who later plied his trade with fellow low budget schlock purveyors AIP.  


Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The Lost Continent Revisited

While we're on the subject of unlikely theme songs in Hammer films, The Lost Continent's really has to be mentioned.  This was another late period Hammer movie I caught up with again over the weekend, (it was airing on Talking Pictures TV).  I've written about it before - it is completely and utterly barking mad, starting as a sea faring drama involving dangerous cargoes and mutinies, before taking a left turn into a weird lost world story, involving killer seaweed and giant crabs and scorpions.  The film apparently had a troubled production history, with original director Leslie Norman being fired early on and replaced by Michael Carreras.  Shooting reportedly overran the customary Hammer six week schedule and was curtailed, (as was Hammer's custom), which possibly explains why the actual 'lost continent' part of the story only kicks in two thirds of the way into the film and seems very hurried and under developed.  The original score, commissioned from Benjamin Frankel, (who had earlier scored Curse of the Werewolf for Hammer), was dropped and replaced by a score from Gerald Schumann.

This new score included songs by jazz/soul trio The Peddlers, a somewhat unusual choice for a film of this type.  Certainly, the song which plays over the titles isn't quite what one would expect from a film called The Lost Continent, although it isn't as jarring as 'Strange Love' in Lust For a Vampire. Still, The Peddlers were relatively popular at the time and director/producer Carreras' status a a jazz fan might have had something to do with their presence.  To be fair, their theme song adds to the already off-kilter nature of the film, which is hugely entertaining in its own bizarre way.  I must admit that I have a weakness for films which apparently start as one genre then abruptly turn into something else completely.  The Lost Continent is a fine example of such a film.  It really is worth catching, if nothing else for the sight of Eric Porter somehow keeping a straight face as the bizarre plot unfolds around him.  Oh, and Suzannah Leigh gets molested by a giant octopus.  What's not to like?

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Monday, December 16, 2019

Strange Love

So, with that election result having completely fucked up any Christmas spirit I was beginning to feel, I decided that a dose of early seventies lesbian vampirism was what I needed to buoy my beleaguered morale over the weekend.  Consequently, I dug out my DVD of Lust For a Vampire, Hammer's 1971 follow up to the previous year's The Vampire Lovers. which had proven a hit for the company.  In fact, such was its success that Lust For a Vampire was rushed into production - despite being released in 1971, its copyright date is 1970, the same year its predecessor was released - and it looks a hastily put together film.  Everything about it feels slightly makeshift. It couldn't have helped that the original director, Terence Fisher, dropped out at short notice, followed by original star Peter Cushing.  They were replaced by frequent Hammer writer Jimmy Sangster and Ralph Bates respectively.  Sangster subsequently admitted that, despite having already directed Horror of Frankenstein for Hammer, he didn't really have a clue what he was doing.  For his part, Ralph Bates - who was much younger than Cushing and, despite being a good actor in his own right, was unable to bring the sort of gravitas his role required - once described Lust as the worst film he'd ever made. 

While Lust For a Vampire really isn't as bad as Bates thought, it certainly isn't top drawer Hammer, coming from the period when Gothic horror's cinematic popularity was waning and the company felt that ever increasing injections of sex were required to sell their films.  The interesting thing about Lust is how much it down plays the lesbian aspect which had been a big selling point for The Vampire Lovers.  While the lovely Yutte Stensgaard's Mircalla/Carmilla/Marcilla still goes in for a fair bit of female breast biting, she also falls for a man, as seen in the above clip.  This sequence is accompanied by the song 'Strange Love', performed by Tracy, a teen singer of the era who released a few singles, something I'd forgotten about until watching the film again yesterday.  It's introduction really is quite jarring - not only does it sound more like the sort of thing I'd expect to hear on the soundtrack of a 'Mondo' movie, it seems odd that it should be played over a scene of heterosexual vampire action.  While female vampire falling for mortal man might be 'Strange Love', I still think that lesbian vampire action is stranger.  (And certainly would have been viewed as such in the early seventies, where portrayals of lesbianism, vampire or otherwise, were considered 'daring').

Stensgaard, (a Danish actress who appeared a lot on British TV in the late sixties and early seventies, especially in sitcoms), has an unfortunate habit of going slightly boss eyed when in the throes of sexual ecstasy, or being staked, for that matter, which makes these scenes unintentionally comical.  (Mind you, that didn't stop me from a having a considerable crush on her when younger).  Which, effectively, is the film's entire problem - there are just too many loose ends, unintentionally comic sequences (virtually all of those featuring Mike Raven's Count Karnstein, for instance), for the film ever to work properly as a horror film.  It is very entertaining, though.  But one can't help but speculate on what might have been if Hammer's master of the Gothic, Terence Fisher had been at the helm.  Or if it had been Peter Cushing as the schoolmaster being seduced by young school girl vampires, (which might sound too sleazy for Cushing, but let's nt forget that only a few years earlier, he had appeared in another sleazy sex and horror film, Corruption, or his rape scene in the Fisher directed Frankenstein Must be Destroyed).

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Friday, December 13, 2019

The Morning After the Election Before

I ended up watching Holiday Inn on Film Four this afternoon.  I needed some escapism to wash away the bad taste of that election result.  These days probably isn't as well remembered as the late White Christmas, which also starred Bing Crosby and involved an inn in New England, but Holiday Inn is significant for being the film where the song 'White Christmas' was first heard, (twice, in fact).  It's all reassuringly familiar: Bing Crosby loses one girl to best pal Fred Astaire meets another and nearly loses her to Fred as well, but woos her back through a combination of laid back pipe smoking and crooning.  Everybody ends up happy and all is well with the world.  If only real life could be like a Hollywood musical, eh?  But sadly, it isn't.  All too often, we don't get the happy endings we desire.  Obviously, I'm disappointed (to put it mildly) with the general election result, but not really surprised.  I briefly allowed myself to hope that we might see a repeat of the miracle of 2017, when Labour came from behind to deny the Tories an outright majority, but it was all in vain.  Over the next few days and weeks we're all going to be subjected to all manner of analyses, post-mortems and recriminations over what went wrong for Labour.  On top of that we'll be bombarded with every columnist and commentator telling us what Labour should do next. 

As always in such situations (and I've experienced a few in my time) I'm drawn back to the final moments of the film version of The Quatermass Experiment.  As Brian Donlevy's Quatermass strides away from Westminster Abbey, where he has just fried his former colleague turned monster to death, his assistant calls after him, asking what he's going to do now - without looking back, Quatermass just growls 'Start again'.  The film's final image is of his new rocket launching skywards.  Because that's all we can do: get back up, reassess the situation and find a new line of attack.  Which doesn't mean ditching your principles or core policies, just finding a better way to present and implement them.  Like it or not, in today's media obsessed world, presentation matters.  Most of all, you have to persuade people who are not committed to your cause that your policies will benefit them.  Labour has spent far too much time over the past few years preaching to the converted.  With the Tories lurching to the right, Labour has an opportunity to try and reclaim the centre ground of British politics.  I don't mean that they should become a 'new' New Labour, but there are ways to make their policies more palatable to this middle ground without compromising them completely.

Most of all, the multitude of online Labour chatterers have to accept that they aren't representative of the traditional working class Labour voter. The latter are, in general, socially conservative and not 'progressive' in the way that the 'Twitterati' like to think they are.  The must also now accept that a large part of Labour's problem lay with its leadership.  Nobody is saying that Jeremy Corbyn isn't a decent human being.  Clearly he is, but he is no leader.  His lack of decisiveness has proven fatal to Labour's electoral chances.  Why should the electorate trust someone who can't even seem to be able to take decisive action over allegations of anti-Semitism in his own party.  His sitting on the fence over Brexit was symptomatic of the problem.  All too often, it seemed that his strategy was to try and hope that difficult situations would resolve themselves without him having to take a decision, because making a decision might alienate someone.  But that's the nature of politics - you are always going alienate someone, but that shouldn't prevent you from being decisive.  His unpopularity with large swathes of the electorate, particularly among traditional Labour supporters, was also a huge handicap.  It's no good saying that it shouldn't matter, that politics shouldn't be a popularity contest, because that's exactly what elections are.  And don't get me started on all that nonsense from his camp about a 'gentler, kinder politics' - that went well in the face of a Tory campaign of lies and smears, didn't it?  Politics is brutal and you have to be prepared to fight fire with fire.  By which I don't mean that you have to lie yourselves, but that you have to be prepared to exploit any weakness in your opponents.  If they throw a handful shit, you have to respond with two handfuls.

Anyway, it isn't my intention to conduct an in depth post-mortem on yesterday's debacle for Labour.  God knows there's already enough of that going on in social media.  I've already seen the 'Twitterati' start turning on the Labour Remainers blaming them, because if only they'd let Jeremy 'honour' the Brexit referendum result he wouldn't have lost those Labour leavers in the North.  Yeah, it's everybodys but their fault, or even worse, Corbyn's fault.  We really need to avoid this game of trying to avoid culpability.  It is also over-simplistic to try and pin it all one single cause.  It wasn't entirely down to Brexit, or to Corbyn or any other individual factor, it is far more complex than that.  The fact is that in the 1990s and 2000s Labour redefined first itself, then British politics,  It did so by modernising itself and finding a way of bringing its message into line with the aspirations of a majority of voters.  Which sounds obvious, but it is something that Labour has subsequently failed to do since losing power in 2010.  They lost then because they were too closely identified with the financial crash, had a an indecisive leader and, frankly, were out of ideas and losing touch.  They lost again in 2015 because the then party establishment thought they needed to 'out Tory' the Tories rather than following Ed Milliband's instinct to present a proper alternative to austerity.  They did better in 2017 because they rode the wave of anti-Brexit feeling, but ultimately failed to understand that.  This time, they lost because their leadership seemed incapable of convincing the electorate that they could deliver on their policies.  So, like I said, we need to 'star again' - new leader, new approach.

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Thursday, December 12, 2019

No Nativity Blues

Well, a reminder if any was needed as to why we don't usually hold elections in the middle of winter: I trudged to the polling station through some truly foul weather - rain, winds and the cold.  Oh, and it was dark.  You know, it is usually pleasure to walk down to the polling station to cast my vote, as elections are usually held in the spring or summer.  But today, I was just left feeling miserable.  But hey, as I write this, the polls are still open so we shouldn't be discussing, analysing or commenting on politics.  If we were a mainstream media outlet, of course.  Which this isn't.  Nonetheless, I don't feel like talking politics today.  We've had too much of it over the past few months.  Besides, there will be time for more of it, much more of it, after the election results are known.  So, let us seize this brief lull in hostilities to discuss the other topic of the moment: Christmas.  I've been thinking about Nativity plays a lot lately.  Not that I've attended any, as I don't have children of my own.  But it's the season when they are going on in primary schools the length and breadth of the UK, featuring in newspaper stories and on TV.  Every year there seems to be at least one made up story either about Nativity plays being banned by 'Looney Lefties' so as not to offend Muslim parents, or 'politically correct' versions being foisted on schools.

Not that I see any evidence of this sort of thing happening in real life.  I checked with my friend recently and she told me that her little boy had been a king in his school Nativity.  Which seems perfectly conventional.  Anyway, one of the reasons for my sudden interest in Nativity plays is that, for the life of me, I don't recall my infant school (as we called primary schools back then) ever staging one.  It wasn't that I never got picked to play a part in one, I just don't remember one taking place at all during my three years in infant school.  I feel deprived. Mind you, it was still the 'Swinging Sixties' during my first couple of years there.  Perhaps Nativity plays weren't considered groovy enough then.  Maybe we had a psychedelic 'happening' instead, which I don't remember because of the psychotropic drugs we were all given.  Years later, in junior school, (that's secondary school to you youngsters),  I did have a part in a school play.  When I was ten I played a Dane in a production about King Alfred and the cakes.  The character even had a name, which I've long since forgotten, rather being called 'Second Viking'.  He had quite a bit of dialogue, most of it, as I recall, complaining about the British weather.  Actually, now I think about it, I had a part in a junior school play even before that: I was a dead patient in a play about Dr Lister.  OK, I know that neither part was as prestigious as having been in a Nativity play, but what the hell, at least I wasn't relegated to set building or playing a tree.  Clearly I had true artistic talent, even then!

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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Blue Christmas

The Tories' general election campaign today took a bizarre twist when Prime Minister Boris Johnson was pictured brawling with a shopping centre Santa in Newcastle.  While senior Tory sources initially briefed sympathetic media sources that Johnson had come out on top, having given the Santa a 'bloody good pasting', mobile phone footage to the contrary, taken by a bystander, has subsequently emerged.  In the video, the Tory leader is seen being knocked to the ground by the enraged Father Christmas, before being repeatedly beaten with a sackful of presents, as he pleads for mercy.  The contretemps is believed to have started after Johnson, on the campaign trail, paid a visit to the shopping mall's Christmas Grotto.  "It was bloody bizarre, I can tell you," Gary Twannock, who claims to have been the Santa on duty, told a local newspaper this evening.  "It had a bit quiet like, up until then, with most of the kiddies still at school, then this great tub of lard comes in and sits on me knee!  He was such a fat bastard I thought he was going to bust me legs!  I told him to bugger off, but he wouldn't budge."  According to Twannock, Johnson then proceeded to reel off his Christmas 'wish list'. "He was mumbling and prattling on about how he wanted a Parliamentary majority, a no deal Brexit, tax cuts for the rich and the courts emasculated," says the thirty nine year old Geordie.  "He said that if I didn't deliver it all, then I was going to find it very difficult when it came to entering the UK in my sled in future, implying that my immigration status might be under threat.  I mean, the bloke was clearly off his trolley."

With the aid of his elves and a couple of security guards, Twannock claims to have finally ejected Johnson from the Grotto.  It wasn't at this point, however, that things really kicked off.  "I went for my lunch after that," explains Twannock.  "When I got back to me Grotto, I found the bastard had taken my bloody place!  There he was, wearing one of my spare red jackets, a Santa hat and sporting the scruffiest looking fake beard I'd ever seen, trying to indoctrinate the kiddies!"  Twannock, who has been Santa in a variety of stores and shopping centres for the past eight years, alleges that the Tory leaser was attempting to indoctrinate the children under cover of the persona of the much beloved seasonal icon.  "He was telling them that they'd get everything they wished for if the persuaded their parents to help him 'Get Brexit Done' - if they didn't, they'd just get a stocking full of shit instead," a still shocked Twannock recalls.  "It was bloody outrageous!  An absolute abuse of the sacred bond of trust between kiddies and Santa!  The man is obviously a moral degenerate!  I saw red, I can tell you - I punched him in the face!"  An enraged Twannock followed this up by dragging the fake Santa from the Grotto and ejecting him from the Shopping Centre, before continuing his assault.  "Obviously, I didn't want to upset the kiddies too much, by having them see Santa beat up the Prime Minister," he explains.  "So I thought it best to take it outside." The confrontation quickly escalated as several of Santa's elves waded in to kick Johnson in the genitals, before the Tory leader was eventually dragged away by his security detail.

The Tory Party has subsequently issued a statement condemning Santa, describing him as an obvious left-wing activist.  "Just look at the way he dresses in red," a spokesperson claimed.  "Not to mention the fact that he is forever pushing his socialist agenda on to innocent young children, convincing them that it is possible to get something for nothing every Christmas.  Worse still is his obvious socialist propaganda on the redistribution of wealth through present giving.  The bastard."  Denying charges that they themselves were spreading crude propaganda based entirely on unsubstantiated lies and smears, the Tory spokesperson added that voters should be ware that when Jeremy Corbyn had burned down the Reichstag and blamed the Jews, he had been assisted by Santa Claus.


Monday, December 09, 2019

Christmas Fatigue

There came a point on Saturday when, standing in Crapchester town centre amidst the chaos that is the Christmas shopping season, that I just wanted it to all be over.  Christmas, that is.  Well, not Christmas itself, but all this bloody madness that surrounds it.  Even as I wished it all over, feeling that I had reached the end of my tether, I remembered that I still had stuff to wrap when I got home.  This year the hectic bit came early for me as, for reasons I'm not going to go into, I had to get all my present buying done, stuff wrapped and distributed by this past weekend.  The strain on both my mental state and wallet have been tremendous.  While everything is now done and dusted, I'm left feeling exhausted but still facing another couple of weeks at work before I get some time off over Christmas.  Hopefully the weariness will wear off over the next week or so, as I would like to enjoy Christmas.  As I said, it's all the insanity which surrounds the season these days which gets me down.  I don't know if the Christmases of my childhood really were simpler than the ones now, or whether they just seemed simpler because I was perceiving them through a child's uncomplicated world view.

It's probably a sign of encroaching age, but there are times that I find myself yearning for those Christmases of yore.  I miss the old tinsel Christmas tree that the cat had an irrational hatred for, not to mention the smell of those ancient paper streamers my father used to put up in the living room every year.  That's when we knew that Christmas had arrived - when my dad got those decorations down from the attic.  Most dated from the fifties and sixties - they included some glass Christmas tree baubles which were far superior to anything you can get now - and there were rarely further additions.  I'm sure today that they would be condemned as a fire hazard, bearing in mind that so many were basically coloured paper.  But nostalgia is a wonderful thing, because the truth is that many of those Christmases weren't that great.  At their worst they involved far too many people crowded together in the house for several days with all the associated temper fraying and irritations.  Some of them were downright miserable, with squabbling siblings and furious family arguments.  All of which, of course, is why I tend to spend Christmas by myself these days - I enjoy the tranquility.

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Friday, December 06, 2019

The Search for Schlock

I've been letting the pop culture stuff slide here of late, I know.  Apart from the posts about my collection of horror movie related books and stuff about old annuals, other things have been occupying my thoughts.  (Although I tried to make up for it with yesterday's 'Random Movie Trailer').  I just haven't had time lately to do much pop culture imbibing, (that said, I do have a backlog of stuff I watched months ago to write up).  The trouble is that we've had this combination of Christmas preparations and a general election campaign going on simultaneously, both of which have been taking up a lot of my attention.  While the election will be over by this time next week, Christmas is going to be rumbling on for the rest of the month.  I have, however, managed to sort out the main part of my preparations - organising presents for my two great nieces who live in the US.  Earlier this week I got everything ordered for them on Amazon and everything should now be winging its way to my niece, their mother, to sort out stuff like wrapping them and ensuring they are under the tree on Christmas Day. 

With that done, dusted and off of my mind, I can hopefully start turning my attention back to other things.  Traditionally for me, Christmas is a time when I  take advantage of the break from work to settle down and catch up with schlock.  This year, I have to say, I'm finding it difficult to obtain anything I want to watch - everything schlocky and obscure seems to be out of print on DVD.  I'm currently down to trying to locate third choices.  Having given up on online retailers, I'm now down to scouring charity shops and the second hand DVD section of my local CEX store.  For a while it seemed as if nothing was too obscure to be released on DVD and sold through Amazon, but the tide of schlock now seems to be receding.  (Although there does seem to be an increase in European schlock like giallos on Blu Ray - the problem with this being that they are often expensive and I don't have a Blu Ray player.  I know, I could play them on my laptop and cast them to the TV, but that's just too much hassle, to be frank).  Anyway, one way or another I'm determined to get my hands on some schlock this festive season and, come the New Year, be able to start writing about it.

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Thursday, December 05, 2019

The Twilight People (1972)

The Twilight People was another of those movies that turned up a lot in the late night schedules when I was a kid, but was too young to be allowed to stay up and watch.  So I had to be satisfied with poring over the brief synopsis provided in the Daily Mirror's TV listings page.  Even at that tender age I could tell that it was a rip off of H G Wells' Island of Dr Moreau.  As the trailer tells us, it concerns a man trapped on an island where a mad scientist is creating animal-human hybrids in hope of creating a super race.  It all sounded terribly exciting and exotic to my young self - far more interesting to the sort of stuff served up in prime time in those days.  Even then I was drawn to schlock, you see.  Anyway, even though I wasn't able to see it, the jilm's title stayed with me and, over the years, I learned that it was a US-Philippines co-production, one of many such science fiction, horror and action films shot on low budgets in the Philippines during the sixties and seventies.  Twilight People was directed by Eddie Romero,, who has gained something of a cult following with this and a number of similar exploitation films.(Interestingly, he later turned his back on exploitation and found acclaim directing Filippino language films exploring the history and culture of the Philippines).

The film's star, John Ashley, an AIP exploitation film veteran who also has a co-producer credit, went on to produce the A-Team, while future Blaxploitation star Pam Grier can be seen in a supporting role.  I never have managed to watch Twilight People, something that action-packed trailer makes me regret.  On the other hand, I've seen enough Philippines shot exploitation films, (Superbeast and Daughters of Satan in particular, stick in my memory), to suspect that all of the film's highlights are contained in that trailer.  Sadly, many of these films turn out to be very rough and ready -  poorly paced, taking forever to get anywhere, featuring grainy photography, cheap production values and poor sound.  On the other hand, they can also feature some truly wild plots, wonderfully rickety monsters and some insane action. Not to mention early appearances by actors like Tom Selleck.  I have to say, judging by that trailer, Twilight People does feature some pretty decent make up for the beast people, (not to mention the lunacy of a flying bat creature), and I can't help but feel that it is probably far more entertaining than either the 1977 or 1996 official film versions of The Island of Dr Moreau.  Maybe one day I'll get around to watching Twilight People in its entirety. Until then, I'll make do with this fantastic trailer.


Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Charlatans, Political Pyramid Schemes and Death Cults

Some self-styled political leaders are, to me, such obvious charlatans, that I'm always left wondering why it is that so many people are apparently so easily taken in by them.  Take Nigel Farage.  Please, take him.  Someone.  Anyone. Just take him away.  Leaving aside all the patent bollocks he peddles about being 'one of us' and standing against the 'elites', (this from a privately educated former banker), just look at his current political vehicle, the Brexit Party.  Except that 'Party' isn't really an accurate description of it - it is more like a pyramid scheme with Farage at the pinnacle.  Now, just about all political parties charge fees to join and continue to levy subscriptions from their members, but in return for this contribution members get some access to the policy making process: the opportunity to attend conferences, vote on policy proposals and in leadership elections.  In the Brexit Party, however, your entry fee gives you no such privileges.  This 'party' is run more like a business, with Farage as chief excxutive, making all the decisions.  Even more bizarrely, if you want to be a parliamentary candidate for the Brexit 'Party', then you have to pay them a fee.  A non-refundable fee, as it turns out.  As you might recall, Farage recently made the unilteral decision not to oppose sitting Tory MPs at the forthcoming election, effectively withdrawing the his own party's candidates in those constituencies.  Now, you might think that, under such circumstances, the right thing to do would be to refund the stood down candidates their money.  But no.  Farage refused point blank to do so.  As I said, a charlatan.

But if the Brexit Party is a pyramid scheme fronted by a charlatan, does that make the Tory Party a death cult headed by a false messiah?  I mean, the obsession with Brexit (which sounds a lot like 'Exit', the pro-euthanasia pressure group) and repeated slogans like 'Get Brexit Done' (which sounds like the sort of thing you get people to chant as part of brainwashing sessions), are surely clues to the true nature of the party under Johnson.  Their election campaign seems geared to convincing people that going through with the hardest Brexit possible will somehow be good for them, even though the opposite is true - it is like encouraging disturbed and vulnerable teenagers to self harm.  But that's the thing, for a long time now the Tory Party has been about convincing people to vote against their own best interests.  How else to explain the re-election of Cameron - with a majority - after five years of economic austerity which left the majority of those voting for the Tories worse off?  But under the false Messiah that is Boris Johnson, it has become much worse.  He spends all his time mumbling barely coherent answers in the few interviews he gives, while spinning the electorate promises of some kind of post-Brexit heaven,  All based upon patent lies.  Then there's the timing of this election: just before Christmas.  Why was Boris so keen on a December date?  Could it be that the bastards aren't just planning to kill the economy with Brexit, but the entire population?  They get back in power, promise us milk, honey and Brexit, let us enjoy Christmas, then - POW!  They get us to drink the Kool Aid laced with poison.  Or maybe they are planning to poison our Christmas turkeys.  Who knows with these death cultist Tory bastards?

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Monday, December 02, 2019

Pork Scratchings and Sausages

You know, if you walk through what is euphemistically referred to as the 'Crapchester Christmas Market', (actually a collection of wooden sheds selling over priced tat cluttering up the main shopping centre during November and December), in early evening when the vendors are beginning to close up, you find yourself being accosted by stall holders desperate for a sale.  "You look like a man who like scratchings", a girl in charge of one such shed shouted at me as I came out of Sainsburys the other evening, for instance.  After initially thinking 'that's one Hell of a pick up line', my next thought was to wonder what sort of Christmas market stall specialises in selling pork scratchings.  (To be fair, it was also selling some kind of cider).  Anyway, the fact is that I don't like scratchings, pork or otherwise - not only have I nearly broken a tooth trying to crunch the bloody things in the past, but I really don't like those bristles you find on some of them tickling the back of my throat.  I do, however, know a dog that likes pork scratchings, (I suffered him crunching through a packet while I was in the pub the other day).  So, while declining the stall holder's offer, I promised to send the dog down if I saw him.

The whole experience left me wondering what sort of sales pitch some of the other stall holders use toward the end of the day.  I mean, does the guy at the German sausage stall start thrusting his wares at unwary passers by, declaring "You like the sort of person who'd like a mouthful of my huge bratwurst sausage"?  Imagine the possible hilarious consequences of such innuendo.  Benny Hill could have gotten a whole TV series out of it.  Actually, right now there are two stalls selling German sausages in Crapchester Christmas market.  Sensibly, they've been positioned at opposite ends of the market to avoid any rivalry spilling over into violence:  nobody wants to see two grown men dueling with their huge sausages.  It has occurred to me that, next year, Crapchester's apparent seasonal predilection for Teutonic sausage could be stymied by Brexit.  Tons of the things could find themselves sitting in queues at European ports, waiting to clear customs.  Consequently, there could be riots in Crapchester next Christmas, as punters deprived of their German sausages go on the rampage, refusing to assuaged by the selection of genuine English cheeses and chutneys being offered by the sister stall to the one selling scratchings.

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