Tuesday, 21 December 2010


Last week I finally managed to complete a project with Disco I've been trying to get done for ages: a photoshoot to build up a press pack for the production to try and garner some sponsorship for the May dates.
It was the usual nightmare trying to get everybody together on one single night near Christmas but no-budget circumstances will always rear when you do these things - so I stretched it into two nights at two different studios. We couldn't quite get everybody together at the same time but no matter, our photographer the amazing Mr Mark Tew put his back into it and we came up with some corking shots.
Our main hassle was that our main Stud character is supposed to have great flowing 70s bouffant locks perched on his head. And as the show isn't on until May my main man Charlie, who'll be playing the part, was sporting rather short hair. So the next (literal) headache was getting a wig. And not some stupid cod-afro worn at bad stag nights, but a realistic syrup Charlie could sport and genuinely pull in the ladies...
In a week? Impossible, you shout. No, not for this production; not for this crazy fool of a writer/director. Step forward Siobhan Harper-Ryan, lovely make-up and hair artiste; the magician on a little show I co-wrote and filmed a decade ago called 'Tales of Uplift and Moral Improvement'. Within minutes, she posted that she possessed an impressive selection of hairpieces and the deal was done. This sort of thing keeps happening with Disco, making it officially a 'blessed' show.
Now it was down to the lovely Jeanette Gregory to practice on the actors. For three of them this was the first thing they were asked to do since their audition and I thank all involved for being so enthusiastic. Jeanette was kind enough also to expose these nice people to the seedy horrors of The Stud, playing in the background on DVD as she fiddled with their hair and made them wear silly vintage clothes. Again, for no pay, everyone involved pulled off a miracle...

Obviously, the Stud is a raunchy film. And Disco is a raunchy play. However, Disco is also a comedy so I wasn't going to publicise this show like an FHM shoot. The idea is that somehow, in an amusing fashion, we're laying into that idea. So the photos had to be glamorous but also wrong in some small way.

I want to thank Jeanette and the cast for braving the wilds of Worthing for the Monday night and especially Andrea for going to the pool hall next door and borrowing some pool cues - when the director and every other male present chickened out. You are a rock!

Look I would have gone, honest, only I was busy. And that. With clothes and make-up and hair. Helping, I mean...

To find the shots themselves, I went back to various iconic shots from 1978 - photos people would have forgotten but as soon as they saw them would recognise. The first was easy. I've tried to attach some of my own phone-pics to give you a rough idea...but believe me, they're not in the same quality league as the actual Mark Tew deal. Guess which 70s immortal game cover photo we're after here... Thanks to Emma for the Hove Studio, Leanne for the Worthing Studio, Mark, Jeanette, Dick Douglass (pictured), Kat Marchant (pictured), Charlie Allen (lurking in the background), Nneka Barnes, Alex Barnes, Ann Feloy and for pool cues the irreplaceable Andrea Regan. We're a cru!
We had a lot of fun doing the shoots. Thanks to everyone involved on two freezing December evenings. If this is how the show is going to progress, it's going to be great.
Apologies for the brevity of this blog - I've got a stinking bastard cold and I have to get back to re-drafting Disco ready for rehearsals in January. There's a lot to do. But we have some photos!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010


I guess for marketing reasons if nothing else, it’s time to start writing about the big writing project ‘going down’ in Messingham Town. It's a long blog 'cos it's the first one.

There have been rumours and now I can confirm: yes, I am putting on a comedy musical play inspired by the great Brit-shit Joan Collins movie The Stud. Funny, passionate and, yes, just a little bit naughty.

We’re called Disco Bianco and we’ll be previewing in May at the Brighton Fringe at the Komedia before moving on to a more regular home at a wonderful real disco called Funky Fish.

We’ve got a beautiful sexy cast, great dancing and some brand new original, but perhaps nonetheless rather familiar sounding disco tunes composed by the wonderful Perrier award winning Waen Shepherd himself.

So here’s the blog about what it’s all about. Cinzano Bianco all round – just don’t spill it down her blouse!
Too late…


I’m not going to bang on about The Stud. It was a naughty film back in the 1978, and I remember as a vile little boy reading through the novelisation in my local bookshop. I say reading; basically staring at the photos stuck in the middle. The Stud seemed to me the epitome of sexy glamour (and in a weird way, still does). I am ill.

Anyway, The Stud, which I’m not going to bang on about. When I finally got to see the movie a few years ago, I had a mixed reaction. On the one hand I could tell it was dreadful. It was also utterly unsexy.

On the other hand, as a fan of William Friedkin films, I genuinely had the impression there was talent here; that somehow the film-makers were making the ultimate alienating 70s movie. I mean: surely mere ineptitude can’t explain why you open on a starkly lit midriff shot of a woman awkwardly pulling on her pants… Can’t explain why the soundtrack is so loud (with such giants of the dancefloor as Biddu, Leo Sayer and Hot Chocolate) you can catch only fragments of dialogue. Can’t explain why Joan Collins looks so tired and there’s no third act.

A little bit of me thinks they meant this, that they were making a statement about the sin of glamour by presenting it in such an unflattering way. Enough already. I was hooked: either The Stud is brilliantly awful or it’s a brilliant piece of Hogarthian satire. I don’t see why it can’t be both. And if you want to see a genuine piece of shit, watch the sequel: ‘The Bitch’ and compare the two.


And in fact, the story is absolutely sound. Except there’s no third act. It’s Faust, it’s Pygmalion – with a boy who’s plucked from the gutter, makes a deal with the devil (or Joan Collins) given everything he wants and finds out he doesn’t want it. Falls in love and is brutally betrayed; ending up by walking out into a new life. There’s an archetype there if you want it. And I want it. In all its grubby cheap glitzy glory I want it. And I wrote the third act.


I originally wrote Disco Bianco – then called The Disco – as a four part TV series with input from my friend Mr. Alex Kirk. The BBC sort of liked it but didn’t like what they saw as a lack of likeable characters. I tried putting likeable characters in but they were so boring. I preferred empathetic characters… and I’ll stop there about technical writing stuff.

In March I won the Live Ammunition! Pitch festival (well, runner-up, same thing) and got a batch of books about how to make no-budget films. Disco was perfect.

At the time I was trying to get a short film together: one woman in a room; nice and cheap and easy. Only in July I was cast by my friend Christopher Regan in his no-budget movie. This was so wildly, ridiculously ambitious I immediately junked my boring one-woman-in-a-flat short and decided on Disco, which I then rewrote the thing as a low-budget movie.


Only something was bugging me. Back in the summer (seems so long ago now, boo hoo) – I’d bumped into a producer friend and her writing partner who told me about this play they had written. A play designed to sell to Bill Kenwright or somebody rich; which could go on tour and make some money. Really commercial, really fun. And I guess that idea stayed with me.

So, I rewrote the thing as a play. I didn’t (and still don’t) think I could lose: rewrites always help. Okay, putting a play on of this size was unfamiliar territory but I could get round the frustrating and pointless task of trying to get film companies to read scripts by having something to show them. I could also market the idea and see what it looked like.
Funnily enough, although I originally planned to follow my producer friends show; she’s now producing Disco Bianco – I think to see how we do it; if we do it; and steal all the good bits. Say hello: Ann Feloy!


And that’s where we are now. Except that was four months ago and since then I’ve been casting and rehearsing and sorting and convincing people to give up their time to get involved.

There’s lots of stuff to discuss: managing to get the brilliant Waen Shepherd to agree to write some great cheesy songs that sound like disco songs from 1978 you know but aren’t – (you should hear La La Lenin. You really should. Boney M did cut that single, I swear it).

This week I’ve locked down a cast – my word they’re talented AND good-looking. Bastards. And we’re about to start the publicity machine. Our dates are booked for the Brighton Fringe and we’re definitely committed.

It’s going to be scary. I don’t know if we’ll succeed. There’s lots to talk about. Lots to blog about. Stay with me. Please. I need you. Really I do. Right now.

So come on down to Disco Bianco. Where The Stud and The Bitch collide.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

We Can Be Heroes


A few weeks ago I wrote and directed a short comic film dealing with a character who makes porno films on his council estate. When we screened the short, reaction was a lot of laughter as well as general discomfort and displeasure at what is, admittedly, a very brutal kind of comedy. Although nothing ‘naughty’ was shown – the film was perceived as strong in laying bare the anti-glamour of this subject.
The DP and I intended to force a reaction from a viewer, as an ‘in-yer-face’ trailer for a longer comedy series idea about the current UK delusion of the entrepreneurs dream; otherwise known as ‘rich people taking money off stupid poor people by pretending their desperate ideas have value’.

Leaving aside the curious question that seemed to be asked of me: why hadn’t I made a more glamorous film about pornography – (or whether the world really needed this short) I faced a familiar criticism of not making my characters ‘likeable’.


The thing is: I liked these characters. Admittedly, the short came out of a much longer screenplay where they are explored more thoroughly but essentially the main guy is a man who makes his living making no-budget, seedy porno films.

I’d like to use a better word: heroic. After all, the Kray Twins were probably ‘likeable’. At first.
And I think the main man in my story is heroic. He lives in dire poverty. Along with everyone else he knows, he has never left his South London estate and perceives the world only through a haze of alcohol, bad drugs, junk food, internet porn and squalid television. Abandoned to and castigated for living in a benefit culture, devoid of education, my hero does what he can for his family without resorting to drug dealing, violence or crime.
The character’s virtue is his determination to succeed and his talent. Had he been born in Notting Hill and gone to a good school he would have been making adverts for useless products, or directing awful pretentious movies, or managing pointless marketing events or working in wine or something equally as important. Instead, he uses what he knows and what he has been programmed to know.

To tell the truth, I think some people didn’t like my film because it was ugly. Sorry. That’s my aesthetic. In this film.
Or they just thought it was talentless crap. Fair enough. Nothing I can do about that.


The subject of the heroic protagonist is something I’ve often chatted about, drunk, in pubs – so a blog is the perfect place to continue.

I’d like to get this straight – I’m not in love with Bad Boy characters; who quite often don’t turn out to be that bad or, and this is quite usual in film, characters who are essentially stupid wish-fulfilment sadistic fantasies for geeky morons.

I guess we’re really talking about good/bad characters versus real/unreal characters. At one end of the spectrum: Superman, Conan and at the other, well – I would say Flashman, or McNulty in The Wire.

Let’s say ‘The Incredibles’. A cartoon for Christ’s sake. I remember rooting for the villain, that ginger-haired geeky kid whom fate had decreed had nothing special about him.
To take on these perfect types who had done nothing to earn their powers, this villain had to work for it; build everything from scratch. I wanted him to succeed; to make the Incredibles suffer. Okay, he went loony and tried to blow up the world or something, but that was only because the ‘goodies’ wouldn’t let him play.
Don’t give me some tortured teenage arse ‘cursed’ with super-strength or water-breathing or cool vampirism or great fighting skills. Some people get cancer, you nob.


Of course, the more 3D you make a character the more audience you’re going to lose (except, oh er remember Jaws – with its famous endless rehearsal time for its three main actors to, y’know, develop their roles). Give ‘em a simple thuggish Van Damme or an Arnie and you’re gonna get a large slice of the pie. Complicate it a bit?
Maybe a Western or Historical with Clint or Russell (increasingly rather bizarrely: James Purefoy) okay, we’re still all there if the star can carry tortured – as long as he succeeds and kills everyone.
You’ve got Rom-com heroes next – can be a bit tortured and even a bit rotten, as long as they look good and come round in the end.
Moving up we throw in some 70s now – Warren Beatty in almost anything he did. Badlands. The Last Detail. The mighty Friedkin’s Sorcerer. Now we’re talking some big failures at the box office.
Next thing to go is looks: get rid of glamour and we’re left with Sweet Smell of Success and Foreign World Cinema and ordinary people in situations way out of their control… and now we’re into arthouse and nobody watching.


As in the films of my ultimate hero: Alexander Mackendrick,
my heroes are essentially characters capable of good or bad, depending on what life throws at them, without any real control over their surroundings and little hope of reward. And if they are good, quite often they know in advance that goodness will destroy them. That bad people will profit from their goodness. It’s probably a 70s thing (see earlier blog re: disaster movies).

Maybe that’s why it’s comedy for me. Ash in Evil Dead 2? A perfect movie. This guy tries everything, deserves his redemption and ends up on a mountain in 1300AD crying about how unfair it all is. That’s a hero.
The Ladykillers. Kind Hearts and Coronets. Even Day of the Dead. Watch them now.

Does this make any sense? Is there a point to this rambling? Am I going crazy? Thanks for reading. I’m stopping now.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010




Does anyone remember this ITV Kids Drama from 1972?

In a decrepit 2nd hand bookshop in Worthing, I found this battered old paperback novelisation of this show 'CHILDREN OF AVALON'S RING' which apparently aired over six weeks in the summer of '72 but I have no memory of at all. Here's the blurb from the back of the book. I'll post a photo of the book as soon as I find someone to scan it in for me. I'm also transcribing the first chapter to see if anyone remembers the thing. Did it even go on telly?


A novelisation of a Thames TV serial by MARC FAIRWEATHER

When NICHOLAS HONEY’s boarding school is closed down after an economic crash, the young boy is forced to take a long trek across a blighted United Kingdom to find his parents.
With petrol rationed and the country in ruins, Nicholas finds only peril in a desolate, abandoned London.

Rescued by the charismatic bard ROBIN and his girlfriend STACEY, Nicholas travels by barge to the stone circle of Avalon in the West Country. Here Nicholas learns he must take the final stand against the collapse of society and an unlikely villain – KING ARTHUR himself.


First transmitted April 7th 1972


Written by Marc Fairweather

Directed by Christopher Drinkwater

Produced by Susan Price

For Thames Television


NICHOLAS HONEY – Steven Caton-Morris
MICKEY – Mike Full
ROBIN – Christopher Ralph
GARFIELD – Roger Pelham
STACEY – Connie Dornfield

That's all I've got. I'll post Chapter One when I've transcribed it in.

Thursday, 15 July 2010


Well, second meet really, but first with more than three people.

In the gorgeous surroundings of Brighton’s Marwood Eighties room – oddly appropriate – my new found actors read through the lines I’ve been sweating over for a couple of years now. The second part isn’t quite finished – Alex and I wrote only the first episode, which I’ve converted into the first part; so the final, deeply moving climax (definitely the right word) of The Disco, is still missing so far.


Obviously, any first read-through is a nightmare and I optioned not to let my actors, one of whom I’d never even met, have any information about the play in which they’d agreed to be in. So that got them nervous.

Didn’t matter. They read it great and I did feel smug how much everyone was laughing at the gags. Difficult to gauge the success of the structure but I never felt there were too many saggy moments.

After the read-through I had to ask if they were up for it. All – Kat, Tom, Dick and Terry (loving how 70s those names sound together) – gave me a thumbs up. No, not that kind of thumbs-up, stop it. My Joan Collins – the lovely Sarah who wasn’t there – has already given her blessing, so we are a company!


I explained all we need now is money, a venue, loads of really glittery Disco costumes, a set, a composer, disco songs, dancers, a house band and an amazing DJ to play the specially written guest narrator character DJ Daddy Cool. Oh and a band willing to hang around the whole show to play one song at the end.

No one seemed to think these deficiencies presented a real threat to the existence of the Disco, so who am I to contradict them.

Job done, we retired to one of Brighton’s hostelries so I could get to know these people. They turned out to be lovely. Then realised they all had proper jobs and had to get up in the morning. So THAT’s what you do to get money. Ah.

Can’t wait for the next meeting. Very excited today – hence this blog. And maybe next time we’ll have the whole cast…and even the whole script!

So if you’re reading this, please come and see my show.

Together they are THE DISCO

Well, we’re underway. I have for some months been working on a project I intend to invest a lot of energy and time bringing into being. The ambition is simple: to provide the ultimate good night out.

I don’t want to use the word Theatre. I really don’t want to use the word Theatre. Because you’re gonna ask how it is possible for the phrase ‘ultimate good night out’ be placed in the same sentence as the word ‘theatre’ without the necessary use of a third phrase: ‘The opposite of the…’being placed at the front of that initial phrase? (Keep up)


And if any of you reading believe otherwise, ponder this truism: how is it when you go to the cinema, no matter how mediocre the movie, you anticipate at least some moments of excitement, thrills, fulfilment? Whereas, I dare anyone to deny they trudge into the first act of any theatrical piece hoping it isn’t going to last too long, be too slow, that the main actress’s obligatory abortion speech doesn’t involve too much crying…
In other words, you expect cinema to be good until it isn’t, and dread theatre to be bad until it isn’t.

Enough of that. Let’s talk about me.

My new script THE DISCO had its second read-through last night. All but one of the cast were present. Not only present but wonderful. I outlined the master-plan (to make this the ultimate good night out, remember) and we proceeded from there.


What is THE DISCO? Well, it’s based on TV idea by myself and Mr Alex Kirk. We had some good feedback from the BBC but not enough to pursue.

Something about the idea wouldn’t die, so I’ve rewritten the Disco for the stage.

The Disco’s starting point is the wonderful 1970s British movie ‘The Stud’. Yes, the one with Joan Collins. If you’ve not seen it, beware. Is it genius or is it shit? It’s shit. No, it’s genius. No, it’s shit. It’s shit genius.

I’m not going to go into too much detail but think a sleazy Mamma Mia – with spangly boob-tubes, Boney M and Findus Crispy Pancakes. I’ll write another time about what happens and that. This blog is going to be about the process of getting The Disco – comedy, music, costumes – on its feet and becoming, yes, the Ultimate Good Night Out.

More to follow. Deal with it.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010


Hello all you as yet unrealised potential readers. Here's another blog excerpt. This is something I was inspired to write when wonderful writer Chris Regan asked me to be in his crazy short film - JENNY RINGO AND THE MONKEY'S PAW. It's about using Monkey's Paw and is an idea that's been spinning around for years. It took Chris's film to fertilise that idea egg. As it were.

Obviously, if you're normal you'll be unfamiliar with any of the following. If you're a geek, you'll know everything.


Well done – you’ve come into possession of WW Jacobs fabled Monkey’s Paw – a magical item granting the user three wishes. Fantastic!

Except, this Paw has the unfortunate tendency to rebound the wishes onto the user to their horror and regret. The wishes rebound ironically and without mercy, leaving the wretched victim wishing he’d never come in to possession of the dire object.

This document is an attempt to guide the new owner of a Monkey’s Paw to the safe usage of the item and, in particular, to gain successful advantage of the Monkey’s Paw’s three wish mechanism without cost of any kind to oneself or loved ones.

NB. Although we are using the Monkey’s Paw specifically in this instance, the principles outlined below should also apply to other three-wish delivery items such as Aladdin’s Lamp, Rings of Power etc. The Monkey’s Paw example is used here as it appears to be the most difficult and lethal magical wishing item to master.


With sufficient preparation, these rules can aid the careful user to gain advantage.

First, we must attempt to define how the Monkey’s Paw works.

Upon receipt of the Monkey’s Paw, the user is allowed three wishes. These wishes must be spoken aloud while holding the object. The Monkey’s Paw must grant these three wishes.

The wishes must also be spoken one after the other, as human beings are unable to speak three wishes at once. This may seem facile but is in fact a very important factor – see below.

As soon as a wish is spoken, the wish will take effect. This is usually to malign effect and although the consequences of the wish may not become apparent until later (see the story), the actual magic takes place immediately. Speed of delivery of wishes is a very important factor in safe usage of the Monkey’s Paw. So be ready.

Although we cannot be absolutely certain, for safe usage we must assume the Monkey’s Paw’s powers both physical and supernatural are unlimited and capable of any action of any kind instantaneously throughout the universe.

As we can see, the Monkey’s Paw is immensely powerful. These rules appear to be immutable and if they are not, interpretation should always assume the worst-case scenario.

So, the Monkey’s Paw will fulfil a spoken wish while simultaneously attempt to cause maximum ironic damage immediately the wish is spoken. The damage can be assumed to encompass not only damage to the user but to the users’ family, anyone else in the human race and the physical components of the universe itself – ie. Starting fires, earthquakes, disintegrating solar system etc.


Although not strictly a rule, it is prudent to assume that the wishes themselves must be as simple and direct as possible. The Monkey’s Paw does not seem to allow complicated wishes full of conditional clauses – for these often contain supplementary wishes and must be assumed to count as so. The likelihood is the Monkey’s Paw will select the most damaging sub-wish and use this against the user.

CAVEAT EMPTOR: Although the following method seems to provide safe usage, there is always the risk the Monkey’s Paw can alter its own rules although this has never been evidenced. Proper safe usage should take some account of the possibility of cheating by the Monkey’s Paw. However, the probability remains the Monkey’s Paw will not alter its own potential and powers and we proceed from that assumption.


The safe method outlined below uses the three wishes as sub-wishes to one overall wish – that of giving the user anything they want. By considering the three wishes as one big wish, safe usage is much more likely.

In order for safe usage of three wishes, the user must proceed from the necessity to safeguard his/her well-being as well as the well-being of others and the environment in which they exist.

The assumption must be made that as soon as a wish is uttered, the Monkey’s Paw will instantly create a method to undermine the wish and cause regret by ironic fulfilment of the wish.

By this argument, we define our aims:

1/ Keep the user safe

2/ Keep others safe

3/ Protect user’s environment

4/ Gain advantage in a way not available by non-Monkey’s Paw means

NB. Although this is a three wish system, religious users will be delighted to learn they can achieve their goals in two wishes, leaving a third wish spare.


Wish Three is easy. This is the user’s desire wish, when all safeguards have been established. We will focus now on Wishes One and Two.

Assuming safety of oneself and others and environment for past, present and future must be achieved – a suitable specific cover-all word has been selected: this word is REGRET.

Therefore, one’s primary wish should be never to regret wishing on the Monkey’s Paw. The wording can probably be made more precise but the simplest we have found is:

I wish never to regret wishing on the Monkey’s Paw.

This places the Monkey’s Paw in a difficult bind – it must fulfil the wish; not allowing any unpleasant repercussions.

The user may think from this point he or she is safe to use the other wishes, but this is not necessarily true.

The Monkey’s Paw has one option here: to annihilate the User instantly, rendering him or her incapable of regret. It fulfils its bargain and also rebounds the wish on the user. Therefore, it must be assumed the Monkey’s Paw will do this – by heart attack, envelopment in fire, destruction of the universe or any other way.

As mentioned before, religious people may choose to free up a wish and select this as their first wish. This is possible because should they be instantly annihilated by the Monkey’s Paw they will presumably enter the after-life proscribed by their faith. This afterlife may provide a method by which a soul, or some other definition of protection of the self and its consciousness from extinction, will still enable the user to feel regret; in which case the rules of the wish still hold good.

For the purposes of safety, the assumption of this document is that the most probable post-death condition is complete extinction of the self.

Therefore this wish, as all-encompassing as it is, must be protected by a preceding First Wish.

The purpose of the First Wish is to enable the user to protect his or her self from this annihilation. Again, careful wording has been selected:

I wish to live out my natural pre-Monkey’s Paw wish life-span.

Although convoluted, this wish remains simple and direct. It is a clear single wish.

There are of course, three possibilities still for failure.

1/ The User’s natural lifespan is not long enough to speak the second wish.

It is the assumption of this document that although this is a risk, the probability is that one will live long enough to get to speak the next wish. By the third wish, as one can safely wish for anything, the user can correct any difficulties arising from natural lifespan problems.

2/ The Monkey’s Paw can make the surrounding environment hellish, making life not worth living for the user.

In other words, the Monkey’s Paw can, although obliged to keep the user alive for their natural span, use this ironically to cause them torment, pain or damage the world around them. EG – The Monkey’s Paw might cause a meteor collision on the planet, killing everyone and making the Earth uninhabitable – meaning the user is in constant torment and yet cannot die.
Again, this can be righted by the second wish – that of never regretting using the Paw.

3/ It is feasible the Monkey’s Paw may destroy the Users ability to speak – eg. Burn out their tongue – but this, in our opinion, is a transgression of its own rules and an admission of failure on the part of the Monkey’s Paw.
There is a difference in the potential annihilation by premature speaking of Wish Two outlined above because the annihilation in that case is caused by ironic implementation of User’s wish.

This reaction also implies the Monkey’s Paw already knows and can react to the consequences of fulfilling Wish Two. Again: cheating.
Again there is no evidential basis.

There is no recorded instance of the Monkey’s Paw removing a user’s ability to speak all three wishes. This does not, of course, mean it wouldn’t do this. User beware!


To recap, the three wishes should be stated clearly and unambiguously in this order:

WISH ONE: I wish to live out my natural pre-Monkey’s Paw wish life-span.

WISH TWO: I wish never to regret using the Monkey’s Paw.

And now safely on to,

WISH THREE: I wish to get everything I ever wanted.

Although it must be admitted really only one wish will gain the User advantage, this is surely better than no wishes or terrible repercussions from unsafe usage. In any case, Wish Three should encompass any average users needs.

Obviously, no document can completely cover all risks attached to usage of the Monkey’s Paw. The safest course of all is never to make any wishes.


Wednesday, 2 June 2010

First Blog - Disaster!

This is my first blog! Hello to all of you out there. The aim of this blog is for a sad 40something man to learn how to blog and to write out hopefully informative and entertaining prose for any of you wishing to become me.

I thought I'd begin by discussing movies - my favourite subject. My life in movies, as you wish...


We start with the 1970s. Specifically the mid-1970s...

It’s funny to think the mid-70’s were responsible for instilling into a narrow strata of British youth the sense that life is essentially meaningless and individual free will subject to the indifferent, random whims of the universe. Life, death and in between are mere chance and the concept of control over one’s environment is pure illusion.
We’re talking of course about disaster movies.
Disaster movies were massive. I can now only think of the zombie remake Dawn of the Dead coming close to why people would pay money to have their faces rubbed in existential faeces. ‘You are nothing!’ These films scream at you. With huge budgets.
Every conceivable awful natural catastrophe seemed to be fair game, with the Hollywood studios coming up with increasingly bigger and better ways to swipe dozens of tuxedo-wearing men and ball-gowned women out of existence.


The big daddy of disaster movies is, oddly, one of the smallest in scale. The Towering Inferno when compared with such massive mayhem as Earthquake or Poseidon Adventure is small fry – only as Towering Inferno is the culmination of its genre predecessors, it seems massive.
For Towering Inferno is massive from start to finish. To begin with the titles announce this film is based on not one but TWO books – The Tower, and The Glass Inferno. Too big for one book these guys piled two into one building on fire movie. Twice the disaster!
As Scream revealed with horror movies, the disaster movie worked to strict rules.
Paul Newman and Steve Macqueen would survive (although Chuck Heston was swept away in Earthquake, you knew Paul and Steve were going to make it. You just knew). I didn’t know who Fay Dunaway was, or William Holden, so they didn’t count. For everyone else, it was just a matter of time. What mattered in Towering Inferno was how they got killed. And in Towering Inferno there were so many ways.
We start with a great one: a dozy 3 quid an hour Security Guard opens the cupboard door with the fire inside. Why? Because people are stupid and incompetent, the film’s subtext tells us.
Nice Building Manager Guy rushes to stop him only to be enveloped in a blast of flame. So the nob guard escapes and the nice guy pays for being helpful. Just like life.
As a kid, I liked Robert Vaughn’s death best – kicked out of the chair lift just for trying to restore order; thoroughly undeserved and therefore better. But as an adult, slimy Richard Chamberlain doing the kicking, then causing his own downfall by overloading the same chair lift, seems more satisfying.

My primary memory of the actual watching of Towering Inferno remains my Dad, a fireman himself, sat next to me in the dark, studying the film until:
Steve and his heroic fire boys are stumbling through a corridor high up in the Towering Inferno. Fire burns at the end of the brightly lit corridor. My Dad quietly states – unconsciously I think – ‘That room would be full of smoke’. And I realised in reality you wouldn’t see a thing. Not in a real towering inferno.
Even at 9 I understood you couldn’t fill a film corridor full of smoke or you wouldn’t see Steve and the boys fight the fire. So it wasn’t real. What? HOW? My reality took a sudden lurch to the left.
Maybe the Tower had air fans? Maybe it was a weird, special fire that didn’t smoke.
And off we go. The seeds are sown for the habit of ridiculous justifications that continues even now for daft against-logic film conventions. (My mate Mike’s Star Trek ones are brilliant).

Towering Inferno still stands up. Three hours of gruelling, grinding disaster. The only lapse comes about halfway through: Paul has gone rogue to rescue two kids and a blind woman from a burning room. In a fire escape, they find a huge hole in the floor and the stairs blocked. The only way up is to navigate a wobbly broken ladder. One by one, off they go – the ladder creaking and swinging. Disaster watches and hungrily waits. Only – let’s recap: it’s Paul, the blind woman and two kids.
So…they’re going to make it. All of them. We know that. There’s no Roddy MacDowell or equivalent tuxedo wearing waiter whose sweaty fingers slip on the metal rungs, or get caught out as the building rocks under an explosion; dropping to his doom with an anguished scream. This lot, they’re all going to make it.
I reckon Stirling Silliphant knew this when he wrote the script – because at halfway through a three hour film, a boy of nine is going to need the toilet. And he’s only going to go when he knows he’s not going to miss anything. Which is exactly what happened.
So there you go. The Towering Inferno. Genius.


You might be wondering where Jaws fits into all this. The most important, massive blockbuster until Star Wars. I’m afraid Jaws is one of those films. I first saw Jaws on telly in about 1983, one Bank Holiday evening and yes, it was as genius as I hoped it would be. One of the greatest movies ever. I came away feeling sad. Because I knew I’d missed a phenomenon.
In 1975 my Dad wouldn’t let me go and see Jaws.
I don’t know why really. I think he might have seen it himself and found it so gory and frightening he just wasn’t going to let me in there.
Oddly, he let me go to Grizzly – a terrible bloodless pile of garbage – perhaps in the belief that a bad film doesn’t corrupt in the same way. But there was no real pattern or consistency to this parental guidance. He just wanted to flex a few stern muscles. This was the man remember who took me to see Puppet on a Chain and When Eight Bells Toll at age four…
But why did it have to be Jaws?


I saw the Jaws trailer. We were on holiday in Bognor or somewhere and we went to see The Slipper and the Rose – a romantic musical reworking of Cinderella which I thought was great. Only before this came on, there was this trailer with that music. No shark, we weren’t going to see what that looked like in a trailer. Just screaming bathers, a camera nosing around the sea bed, and the image that stayed with me: a teenager on an inflatable swimming from one island to another, far out to sea as the sun set around him. A teenager you just knew was going to get eaten.

You did read that right. I know you know there’s no such sequence in Jaws – the boy on the inflatable is in it for seconds, he’s not really a teen and he’s not swimming to an island as the sun sets. But I swear that’s what my fevered brain made of the Jaws trailer.
I knew one thing: I had to see that movie. It was going to be the most frightening thing ever. And then my Dad wouldn’t let me.


The disaster movie came to its inglorious tacky end in 1979 with The Swarm; a movie I still remember fondly. Like a 40 year old Dad at a night club, The Swarm was ridiculously unfashionable in the new shiny post-Star Wars world. Mind, even in the disaster hey-day, The Swarm would have stood out as real crap. As a small bee remake of 50s giant ant masterpiece THEM, this comes off way worst. Let’s face it, it’s not really a disaster movie; it’s a monster movie in disguise.
As an adult the fatal weaknesses of The Swarm (too many ageing stars, bad effects, a really really useless idea) are so obvious they become comic strengths but as a boy, you want it to work. Sincerely, I wanted a film about African Killer Bees to work.
The African Killer Bees were, in my 14 year old head, pretty good really. They might have been stones thrown at dustbins or puppets or bad matte effects but I believed them. What went wrong for me was the failure of scale. Okay, Houston is wiped out but really you didn’t see anything but a few army guys in hazard suits flapping away until one ‘accidentally’ torches his mates with a flamethrower. There might be a truck that crashes. But hang on, we’ve had a nuclear explosion, we’ve had to wade through the eternity of a small town slowly under attack which I’d already seen on Clapperboard (pensioners go, as do some picnickers – and gratifyingly the little boy you think is bound to make it, doesn’t. Seeing in his fever a guy turn into a giant bee, then dying – not bad, but a bit theatrical; not capricious enough for me). Still, you had Caine as a scientist and a good bit on a US airbase with Bradford Dillman (Mr. Mid-Seventies).
Fond memories of The Swarm: me and Dad getting to the ABC in Aldershot late and missing the creepy opening pan of the dead soldiers on the airbase. We came in as Cainey wonders what could have happened? (Clue – it’s called ‘The Swarm’)…