Sunday, 24 February 2008

CAN'T BEAT THE BIG SCREEN?

For the past 3 years, visits to the cinema have been out of my reach for a variety of reasons. Chiefly, the time and money involved in actually arriving at the venue before we even pay for our admission have made this venture prohibitive, and then there's a number of other obstacles which will be familiar to most other cinema regulars. Firstly, you invariably encounter some knob who seems more interested in holding conversations on his/her mobile phone than actually watching the film. Then, you can sometimes be seated in front of a couple who couldn't agree on which film to see, and end up with a film that neither really wanted to see. Cue 90 minutes of inane chitchat, involving last nights party or how the boss is really going to get his at work the following day. Of course, if both the aforementioned groups have taken the evening off, you can usually rely on being stuck near some 'foodie' who proceeds to demolish a mountain of popcorn/hotdogs/ soft drinks in glorious 5.1 surround sound. Maybe I have a sign above my head saying 'please fuck up my evening'? Even the London Film Festival encounters some of these problems as flashlights dart across the auditorium in an effort to seat latecomers, mobile phones ring out and refugees from Burger King munch their way through a little 'snack' to keep them going. Christ, it's like being in Mickey D's in a blackout with Mulder and Scully running back and forth! Maybe I'm wise to stay at home and wait for the latest films to hit DVD? Well, just had some exciting news that will prompt me to put going to the movies back on my list.

At the end of May, the city of Derby will see a new 12 screen multiplex open in the new Westfield shopping centre. This will be the first Cinema De Lux to open in the UK, bringing stadium-style seating, digital projection equipment and the latest Dolby sound system. This will enable the cinema to screen the increasing number of films that are only released digitally. There will be two Director's Hall screens, with ultra leather seats, live pre-show introductions and escorted seating service. This multiplex will also be able to show movies in 3D and will major on Hollywood movies, though there is the promise that there will be opportunities to screen arthouse/independent films. At the moment, a pricing policy has not been announced but the siting of this cinema bang in the city centre will make life a lot, lot easier for many of us.
Later this year, the city's Metro Cinema will re-open in the city centre, with 2 screens in the new Quad building. This will mean that we again have a cinema offering the very best films from all over the world. I have fond memories of the old Metro cinema. It was where I first saw the likes of BETTY BLUE, THREE COLOURS TRILOGY, DIVA, BLOOD SIMPLE, PARIS TEXAS and many more. Now, I can look forward to a brand new development with state of the art equipment, including digital projection as well as 35mm and 16mm. The cinema will even be able to hook up with the BFI for live events from The London Film Festival, and promises to become a first-run cinema with access to new titles on the day of release. No more waiting for the likes of the latest Almodovar to become available some 2 months after it's London opening. Both of these new buildings will have bar and restaurant facilities and, I hope, adequate security staff to evict any dickheads who disrupt proceedings.
Looks like being an exciting year and, providing admission costs are not sky-high, we look forward to attending on a regular basis. I've always believed the cinema is the best place to experience a film and while I love watching movies at home on my admittedly modest viewing equipment, I'm delighted by the development of these two new theatres.

Not had much time to blog here (due to my wife landing me a gig writing DVD reviews for a web site) but hope to post on all things Joy Division as soon as time permits.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

MANC MUSIC POLL

Today sees the start of my latest poll, and this time it's music related. I've seen most of these bands play live, and have a good number of albums which reflect that Manchester has spawned more than their fair share of awesome bands. To be honest, I'm hard pushed to decide who to vote for as the likes of The Smiths, The Buzzcocks, Oasis and The Fall have long been favourites of mine. Maybe I'll plump for Joy Division later on as this band will be featured on a special blog to tie in with the DVD release of CONTROL. I'm sure there are a few groups I've left out, so leave me a message if your own choice is missing and I'll add it so you can vote.

Monday, 11 February 2008

THE 2008 BAFTA RESULTS











The Royal Opera House in London played host to the 2008 Bafta awards last night, attracting top actors, directors and all-round movie folks to this plush setting in the Covent Garden area of our capital city. And the winners are:








BEST FILM: Atonement
* BEST BRITISH FILM: This is England
* DIRECTOR: Joel Coen/Ethan Coen – No Country For Old Men
* LEADING ACTOR: Daniel Day-Lewis – There Will Be Blood
* LEADING ACTRESS: Marion Cotillard – La Vie en Rose
* SUPPORTING ACTOR: Javier Bardem - No Country for Old Men
* SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Tilda Swinton - Michael Clayton
* FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE - The Lives of Others
* ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Juno – Diablo Cody
* ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Ronald Harwood – The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
* ANIMATED FILM: Ratatouille
* MUSIC: Christopher Gunning – La Vie en Rose
* CINEMATOGRAPHY: Roger Deakins – No Country For Old Men
* EDITING: Christopher Rouse – The Bourne Ultimatum
* PRODUCTION DESIGN: Sarah Greenwood/Katie Spencer – Atonement
* COSTUME DESIGN: Marit Allen – La Vie en Rose
* SOUND: Kirk Francis/Scott Millan/David Parker/Karen Baker Landers/Per Hallberg – The Bourne Ultimatum
* SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS: Michael Fink/Bill Westenhofer/Ben Morris/Trevor Wood – The Golden Compass
* MAKE UP & HAIR: Jan Archibald/Didier Lavergne – la Vie en Rose
* SHORT ANIMATION : The Pearce Sisters
* SHORT FILM: Dog Altogether
* THE ORANGE RISING STAR AWARD: Shia Laboeuf (voted for by the public)
* ACADEMY FELLOWSHIP: Sir Anthony Hopkins
* THE CARL FOREMAN AWARD for special achievement by a British director, writer or producer for their first feature film: Matt Greenhalgh (Writer) – Control








So, we have 4 awards for La Vie en Rose, the wonderful Daniel Day-Lewis scooping the leading actor award, the Coen's honoured for NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, and Sir Anthony Hopkins getting an Academy Fellowship. The award for Best British Film was interesting, with Shane Meadows beating off some stiff opposition with THIS IS ENGLAND. While I don't feel this is Shane's best work, it's good to see him in the limelight. For me, one of the most poignant moments was to see Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck take the award for THE LIVES OF OTHERS and dedicate it to his leading actor Ulrich Muhe, whose widow was in the audience. Ulrich's tragic death may have cast a shadow over the evening, but his magnificent performance will live on in this truly extraordinary film.




The BAFTA results will perhaps give us a few pointers regarding possible winners at the forthcoming Academy Awards, where the spoils will probably be shared out with no one film dominating. For those who put their money on Julie Christie bagging Best Actress.... well, last nights events show that maybe it's not cut and dried after all.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

ARGENTO POLL RESULTS

Thanks to those who took time to vote in the Dario Argento poll. The results are:

DEEP RED 7 VOTES
SUSPIRIA 3 VOTES
PHENOMENA 3 VOTES
BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE 1 VOTE
INFERNO 1 VOTE
TENEBRAE 1 VOTE
THE STENDHAL SYNDROME 1 VOTE

A special vote of thanks to Jeremy Richey, who publicised this poll on his excellent MOON IN THE GUTTER blog. Jeremy is currently running 2 polls, asking you to vote for your favourite Martin Scorsese film from the periods 1967-1987, and 1988-2006.I've already been over to cast my vote for THE AGE OF INNOCENCE and TAXI DRIVER and would encourage everyone reading this to head over there and cast your own vote http://mooninthegutter.blogspot.com/

I'll be starting another poll here later this week concerning the Manchester music scene which will tie in with my Joy Division blog.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

MAMMA MIA!



Stellan Skarsgard, Colin Firth and Pierce Brosnan head the cast in an adapatation of the Abba-inspired stageshow MAMMA MIA. Meryl Streep, Jule Walters and Christine Baranski also star in this tale about a girl who attempts to discover the identity of her father; a quest that leads to three men from her mother's past returning to a Greek island they last visited 20 years earlier. The show first opened in London on 23rd March 1999, and is still packing them in at The Prince Of Wales Theatre.


I was lucky enough to catch the show during a visit to London that same year, and had an enjoyable evening. This show has also been a hit on Broadway and in Berlin, which augers well for the feature film. The Swedish quartet deservedly enjoyed monumental success with a string of hit records that, for millions of people, formed part of the soundtrack of their lives. Now, we'll have the chance to see classics such as DANCING QUEEN on the big screen again, just over three decades on from Lasse Hallstrom's ABBA:THE MOVIE. By all accounts, Streep's singing voice is top-notch here, so plenty to look forward to.
MAMMA MIA opens at UK cinemas in July.


Wednesday, 6 February 2008

MY LIFE AS A COLLECTOR

I often log onto DVD forums and always check out the threads where members list their purchases and/or pre-orders for the current month. I also never cease to be amazed by the sheer volume of titles purchased by some individuals, who proudly list 20 or more titles that have been recently added to their collections. While I've never been able to bulk order more than 4 titles at one time, I can easily understand such actions given the wealth of choice available. You see, I've been a film collector for many years, starting in the days of Betamax with my opening purchases being THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE on the Stablecane label and The Clash film RUDE BOY. When Betamax met its maker, I hopped aboard the VHS truck and continued to feed my habit with a steady diet of rental fare and, when I could afford it, sell-through tapes of films I desperately wanted to own. Unfortunately, some of the films I sought were banned in the UK, thanks to the 1984 Video Recordings Act which decreed that all video releases after 1st September 1985 had to be submitted to our old friends the BBFC, while videos released after that date had to be re-submitted, resulting in the likes of THE EXORCIST and STRAW DOGS disappearing from stores. Towards the end of the 80s, I took inspiration from John Gullidge's SAMHAIN fanzine and dipped a toe into the waters of UK fanzine publishing. The UK small press scene could be compared to the Punk explosion a decade earlier, with hundreds of people working on mostly b/w photcopied publications which allowed everyone to get involved. One of the attractions of being part of this movement came in the form of entry to a shadowy world of underground video trading. Now, people had access to dozens of banned titles and newer films which would never get past the BBFC. Individual film lists were circulated, and the purchase of a second video recorder gave people the opportunity to copy and swap in demand titles. Grainy 2nd or 3rd gen copies were how I first got to see VENUS IN FURS, NEW YORK RIPPER, TENEBRAE, NEKROMANTIK and many other pieces of forbidden fruit. Of course, the authorities sought to crack down on these nefarious activities, and dawn raids by trading standards officers and the old bill took place on a regular basis, with bleary-eyed collectors receiving unwanted 5.00am knocks on the door. Heady, enjoyable days but the next big thing was just around the corner. Soon, the hard-core film buff was able to buy Laserdisc's, with multi-region players giving us the chance to savour a treasure trove of world cinema delights. DIVA, THE RED SHOES, BRAZIL, THE DEVIL'S DAUGHTER and PHENOMENA were just a few of the titles to find their way into my collection before DVD took over, with price and content ensnaring those who never bothered with Lasers and seducing those of us who did. Now, we can choose between thousands of titles, both modern and retrospective with newer, better technology now thrown into the mix. It's certainly an expensive time for those who signed up for the brave new world of hi def DVD, with the purchase of either a HD or Blu-Ray player and a Plasma or LCD tv required to enjoy the current ultimate in home cinema viewing. Get set up with all this new kit and then sit back, safe in the knowledge that you have the dog's bollocks in home viewing for the time being, at least.



If some crystal balls are to be believed, the DVD market is heading for an almighty downturn. In just a few years from now, our home viewing could well be at least heading towards a big shift in downloading movies, with our round shiny friends gone with the wind of change. Of course, tv will also play an enormous part in determining the future: subscribe to cable or satellite and get hi def movies to go. Straight onto your DVD or digibox hard drives. Sure, it will mean big bucks for the equipment and subscriptions, and require faster connection speeds for your PC, but what's the problem? Forget all about the ever increasing utility bills, and tax because we're all in it together! Right? Well, you can take your movies-on-demand, your downloads and costly subscription fees and stack 'em on a handcart to hell! I love my DVD collection. The feeling I get when I pre-order a new release. The feeling I get when I rip open the packaging (patience is a virtue with this one), perusing front and back covers to get an eyefull of the contents within, often remembering those days when we were as pleased as punch to get our hands on a washed-out copy of our favourite genre flick (often with Greek subtitles taking up one third of the screen). Today, we're spoiled and have the cheek to moan when we discover the disc only has one commentary and a 35 minute making-of!



Yes, like most collectors, I have a case of Digital Video DISEASE, though there are times when I question my acquisitions. How many more times will I pick my way through the 4 disc SUPERMAN special edition? Will I ever watch BEAST FROM HAUNTED CAVE again? I really don't know the answers, any more than I know why I purchased some of the titles in my collection. Impulse buys, online sales and the chance to finally get to see films I'd read about and longed to view. Those would account for a fair percentage of my collection, but I must have been seriously out of it when I sprung for THE GHOSTS OF HANLEY HOUSE or whatever the hell it's called! I guess it's all part of being a collector, though this wallet-sapping bug also serves another purpose because, when I look at certain titles in my 4 DVD racks, I'm reminded of certain periods in my life. One glance at THE CHANGELING DVD and I'm transported back to a cold winter's evening in 1980. Once again, I'm outside a cinema in London's Tottenham Court Road where a film poster dragged me into the cinema to see exactly what would happen when the wheelchair appeared. Then my David Lynch section catches my eye and I'm back in London, queueing to see the opening weekend screenings of BLUE VELVET and WILD AT HEART. Go down a little further, and LIFT TO THE SCAFFOLD transports me back to a warm summer's evening in London where I first saw this film at The National Film Theatre. Afterwards, I walked down into a vibrant Leicester Square, my head full of images from the screening, and saw people standing and listening to a band that had set up in the square. I could have been in any European city that night, and in a strange sort of way it really seemed at one with my cinema experience.



These days, some of my most prized possessions have been occasionally sold on Ebay to help with the bills, but I'm stilll a collector, albeit in a more modest way. Now, I've just got time to surf over to DVD Pacific for a quick look around but I'll be back later this week with a piece on my favourite music venue, the world famous Marquee Club in London.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

TOP NOTCH FERRARA

When it comes to Abel Ferrara, I'm hard pushed to select any individual title as being his best work to date, but THE ADDICTION has to be very close to representing this director at the peak of his powers. While I'd love to see a fully loaded special edition of this film hit DVD, this looks unlikely at best. Let's just keep our fingers crossed and hope.
My first encounter of this film came in 1995 at the Fantasm Film Festival at London's National Film Theatre. The organisers had arranged for a 'mystery film' to be screened and were understandably tight-lipped as to its identity. I asked fest organiser Alan Jones if he could give us a guess with regard to the title, and he just told me it was a relatively short film and very sleazy. When I offered the name of Ferrara's latest, he muttered something and walked off. Alan always worked so hard with Fantasm, and the festival gave many of us hours of pleasure, with the hosts only too keen to chat to the audience. THE ADDICTION screening remains one of my favourites, and it's a film I never tire of seeing.

THE ADDICTION
Lili Taylor, Christopher Walken, Annabella Sciorra, Edie Falco, Paul Calderon, Kathryn Erbe

"To find rest takes a real genius"

Documentary footage from the My Lai massacre. Disturbing images from The Holocaust. Quotations from the works of Sartre, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Heidegger and Baudelaire.... welcome to Nicholas St. John's darkest New York story, where philosophy student Kathleen Conklin (Lili Taylor) swaps one addiction for another following a ferocious attack by predatory vampire Casanova (Annabella Sciorra - "Wanna know what's gonna happen to you? Wait and see"). As Kathleen's mind and body go through a slow, torturous change, course tutor (Paul Calderon) and fellow student Jean (Edie Falco) grow increasingly concerned by her behaviour, and eventually find themselves inhabiting the same twilight world. Kathleen's agony - both mental and physical - intensifies when she encounters another vampire, Peina (Christopher Walken), who claims he's been 'fasting' for 40 years and that he can teach her abstinence: a case of will controlling habit, or throwaway lines from another false witness? If Kathleen feels her thirst for knowledge (libraries with "rows of crumbling tombstones") is akin to slow suffocation, Peina's offer to teach her discipline is worse. He's in the same mould as her tutor, so the rejection of both evils is her only option.
"There's a difference between jumping and being pushed."THE ADDICTION is about choices. Kathleen makes her decision and continues a downwards spiral, playing hostess at her graduation party which turns into a bloody massacre. Here, Kathleen's victims lay waste to their enemies from the charnel house of learning; a frenzied assault that takes it's toll on Conklin who ends up in a hospital bed, suffering from a heavy blood overdose.And so we move towards the haunting finale, which can be interpreted in any one of three different ways; just one aspect of a film that marks the most challenging and fruitful collaboration between Abel Ferara and scriptwriter Nicholas St. John. Written after the tragic death of St. John's son, THE ADDICTION examines the very nature of evil, with a literate screenplay raising many profound questions and, refreshingly, attempting to come up with the answers. Ferrara and St. John have never been afraid of getting their hands dirty, and long-time supporters of this duo will find THE ADDICTION inhabits the same seedy locale as BAD LEIUTENANT and MS 45, sharing themes of addiction and redemption with the former, and echoing several scenes from the latter: witness Casanova snatching Kathleen off the street and dragging her down a dark alley, while Kathleen's 'Victim's Ball' is next door neighbour to Thana's MS 45 massacre. The names of Zoe Lund (RIP) and Harvey Keitel are synonymous with the aforementioned films, but The Addiction is also blessed with several outstanding performances that improve with age: Lili Taylor taking us into a world of of pain, changing from a young, free-thinking woman into a feral child of darkness who must find the strength to move back into the light; Christopher Walken playing Christopher Walken, which means the character of the (possibly) charlatan Peina is an all-too brief pleasure to behold, and solid support from Paul Calderon and Edie Falco. Even Kathryn Erbe's few allotted minutes have considerable impact as Kathleen turns an all night study session into a virtual replay of her own ordeal ("My indifference is not the concern here. It's your astonishment that needs study.") Annabella Sciorra? Definitely the cream of the crop, taking all the best lines and making every word count, while exhibiting a strong sexual presence with a deliciously violent scent of the supernatural. Those reared on traditional vampire law will find St. John's script merely pays lip service to established conventions; covered mirrors, aversion to light and extended bursts of blood-sucking are all represented but the real deal here concerns the eternal questions surrounding mankind: we do evil because we are evil. The last 30 years have produced a host of great vampire movies: Romero's MARTIN, Larraz's VAMPYRES, Kumel's DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS, Kath Bigelow's wonderful NEAR DARK, Neil Jordan's INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE ( a worthier version of Rice's novel than we could dare to hope for) and Jean Rollin's poetic Vampire Chronicles. THE ADDICTION deserves inclusion in this list of greats, and may turn out to be Abel Ferara's masterpiece.

A WARNING TO THE CURIOUS

In 1971, the BBC had begun screening 'A Ghost Story For Christmas', with M.R. James' THE STALLS OF BARCHESTER CATHEDRAL setting the ball rolling nicely. Directed by Lawrence Gordon Clark, BARCHESTER made for a pleasing start to a series that would run for 8 years, and contained adaptations of other James classics including LOST HEARTS and THE ASH TREE. In 1972, Clarke returned with his take on A WARNING TO THE CURIOUS, which proved to be a more satisfying production than his earlier effort. Here, Peter Vaughan takes the role of Paxton; an antiquarian who arrives at a small Norfolk coastal town with one clear aim in mind. His mission concerns an ancient Norfolk legend which tells of the three royal crowns of Anglia which were buried in three different locations.. The story goes that so long as at least one of the crowns remains buried, no foreign army would ever invade. Now, only one crown remains and Paxton aims to discover it's whereabouts and retrieve it, hoping to at last make a name for himself in the world of archaelogical discoveries.
Befriended by doctor staying at the same hotel (played by Clive Swift), Paxton embarks on a perilous expedition, while ghosts from the past haunt his every step.

While Vaughan and Swift both turn in sympathetic performances, the real stars of this production are the photography and the air of unease created by Clark. The beautiful north Norfolk locale would otherwise provide an idyllic setting, but here, the normally serene beachs are transformed into a washed-out, eerie landscape where you can fully believe it possible for the dead to walk. Clark's direction is wonderfully ecnonomical and imaginitive here, punctuating a fear-filled 50 minutes with interior and exterior scenes of menace as ghostly figures appear and reappear with disconcerting regularity, while Paxton glances fearfully over his shoulder wondering whether this journey of discovery may turn out to be his last.

The Region 2 DVD, available on the splendid BFI label, was a most welcome addition to store shelves, though I'm sure that many punters would have appreciated a double-bill with the inclusion of another tale from this BBC series. The DVD also includes a 43 minute reading of James' story by Michael Hordern, who delivers a beautiful rendering of this classic tale. I've always believed that the stories of M.R. James work best in printed form, but these BBC ghost stories demonstrate that it was eminently possible to create spooky TV adaptations that would hit the spot for an audience used to looking long and hard for good old fashioned ghostly tales.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

JOHN MCGEOCH: A WIZARD, A TRUE STAR





My memories of ace guitarist John McGeoch go back a long way. January 1978 to be exact, when a band called Magazine released a stunning debut single, SHOT BY BOTH SIDES. McGeoch was born 28th May 1955 in Renfrewshire. He purchased his first guitar at the age of 12, en route to a career that saw him labeled as 'The Punk Jimmy Page'. He moved to London in 1971 with his family, though his stay was relatively short. In 1976, his love of art took him to Manchester where he studied at the local university. One year later, McGeoch met Howard Devoto who was on the lookout for a guitarist. Devoto had just left The Buzzcocks, and wanted to form a band who would be different to the current crop of young pretenders .With fellow members Barry Adamson, Bob Dickinson and Martin Jackson, Devoto got what he was looking for in Magazine and the aforementioned debut single delivered a stunning declaration of intent. That same year, the bands debut album, REAL LIFE came out, with tracks such as MOTORCADE, THE LIGHT POURS OUT OF ME and TOUCH AND GO merging McGeoch's wonderfully inventive guitar sound with Devoto's disintinctive vocal style. McGeoch was still in the middle of his studies when the album came out and with a tour beckoning, he decided to put his uni work on hold and throw himself into the music. In 1979, Magazine released their second album, SECONDHAND DAYLIGHT, exhibiting a slightly mellower sound but still delivering the sort of killer tracks that would retain their loyal following. From Devoto's evil vocals on PERMAFROST through to the majestic FEED THE ENEMY and BACK TO NATURE, this follow-up album really did give us everything, with McGeoch's contribution even more assured and exciting. 1980 saw McGeoch play on the bands 3rd album, THE CORRECT USE OF SOAP, with songs like SWEETHEART CONTRACT and THE LIGHT POURS OUT OF ME further cementing the bands reputation. Shortly after this albums release, McGeoch left the band and joined Steve Strange's VISAGE. McGeoch had worked with Strange and other bands such as The Skids as a 'gun for hire' during his time with Devoto but began to long for things he could never get in Magazine.

In 1979, John McKay, together with drummer Kenny Morris, had walked out on SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES, and Sioux started to look for a replacement. Bassist Steve Severin had considered Geordie from Killing Joke or Bruce Gilbert from Wire, before enlisting the services of The Cure's Robert Smith on a temporary basis. Before long, McGeoch was invited to rehearsals and laid down a wonderful guitar track on the HAPPY HOUSE single before making his live Banshees debut in March 1980. John had seen the welcome sign and knew this would be his new home for a while. As a long-standing fan of the Banshee's debut album THE SCREAM, I have to say that McGeoch's time with the group saw them release their most creative work. KALEIDOSCOPE (1980) JUJU (1981) and A KISS IN THE DREAMHOUSE (1982) still hold up today as, I believe, their very best work and McGeoch's sterling endeavours also enabled them to really catch fire live. Siouxsie had long yearned for a guitarist with a truly cinematic style and in McGeoch, she had her man, referring to him as her own John Barry. Indeed, his unique style really established the Banshees as a top singles band and for a while, they matched THE JAM as one of the greatest purveyors of the 45 our country has known. HAPPY HOUSE, CHRISTINE, the anthemic ISRAEL and SPELLBOUND all helped to stamp the Banshees with the mark of true greatness. Sadly, McGeoch had health issues which led to him collapsing at a concert in Madrid and he left the band for a two year stint with Richard Jobson's THE ARMOURY SHOW. In 1986, McGeoch joined PUBLIC IMAGE LTD, attracting Lydon's keen eye for top musicians. PIL had always contained men at the top of their trade (Wobble, Levene and Baker) and this was a natural progression, particularly as McGeoch had turned down a similar offer from Lydon a few years earlier. John Played on 3 albums in his time with PIL, and stayed until the bands demise in 1992. After that, he drifted, switching from training as a nurse to composing music for TV shows.

I was privileged to see McGeoch play live on many occasions, with Magazine, Siouxsie And The Banshees and PIL. My first glimpse of his talents came at a gig at Derby's Ajanta Theatre in 1978 which provided me with the chance to see an emerging band who would eventually become one of my favourites. One year later, I was there at Birmingham's Odeon Theatre to see Devoto and his band support SIMPLE MINDS. I'd never been a fan of the latter, but the chance to see MAGAZINE promoting their SECONDHAND DAYLIGHT album was too good to miss. To be honest, I sat through most of SIMPLE MIND's set in a daze, constantly going over MAGAZINE's performance where McGeoch just kept laying down his own brand of magic, while Devoto plucked his words out of the air clearly relishing every chord. In many ways, my most memorable times with this hugely talented guitarist came during his stint with the Banshees. I'd seen them with Kenny Morris and Robert Smith (the latter being a supremely gifted player), but with McGeoch on board, their live shows were this side of heaven. My final live encounter with this legend came at Nottingham Rock City, where PUBLIC IMAGE LTD played a gig with the house lights on for the duration (only the second concert I've ever seen this happen at). It was so good to finally see Lydon onstage and the presence of McGeoch ( a huge admirer of Lydon) was immense. The band ended with a glorious encore of ANARCHY IN THE UK and that was the last time I saw this great artist.

John McGeoch died in his sleep on 4th March 2004. He was my favourite guitarist, and undoubtedly one of the best in recent times. I think that everyone leaves something behind when they depart this world for the next. Something unique that enables those left behind to remember them by. John McGeoch left us with some truly wonderful music that will still be here when the rest of us are long gone. Thanks for the memories, John.

Friday, 1 February 2008

SHAMELESS SCREEN ENTERTAINMENT

One of the UKs newest DVD labels can already boast an excellent catalogue of fare which will greatly appeal to fans of Euro Horror and cult cinema. Since their launch in October last year, Shameless Screen Entertainment have released TORSO, KILLER NUN, VENUS IN FURS (Massimo Dallamano) FLAVIA THE HERETIC and a trio of Fulci flicks: THE BLACK CAT, NEW YORK RIPPER and MANHATTAN BABY. 25th February will see the release of NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS which (as with FLAVIA, TORSO and KILLER NUN) will be uncut. I'll be taking a keen interest in this exciting new label, and will pass on any news here, together with some reviews.
Those familiar with NEW YORK RIPPER and the BBFC will not be too surprised to discover this film has been cut by 34 seconds, though its power remains practically undiminished. SSE have treated us to a very nice transfer of this film which has attracted savage criticism down the years. NYR is Fulci's bleakest and bloodiest film, painting a wholly unattractive picture of sexual excess in 'The Big Apple', coupled with some truly horrific scenes of murder and torture. There's a tight thriller to be found within this tale of human horror, with some decent performances from Jack Hedley and Paulo Malco, and one scene in particular will certainly whiten those knuckles as a woman in peril must engineer her release from her sleeping partner who may turn out to be the killer. Not, then, a film for the faint-hearted, but a must-see for dedicated fans of Italian horror.
It's been a most excellent start for this enterprising new label and I for one hope they unearth other Fulci titles (THE DEVIL'S HONEY and BEATRICE CENCI to name just two), together with other 'lost' gems. Why not hop over to their site and check out the latest word? http://shameless-films.com/

NEW POLL FOR ARGENTO BUFFS

This month sees the release of Dario Argento's LA TERZA MADRE (THE THIRD MOTHER) on Italian DVD. I've tried to avoid all publicity, as I prefer to finally get to view this film with the bare minimum of knowledge regarding its plot and also any feedback from Argento's army of fans and critics. While I found THE STENDHAL SYNDROME to be quite brilliant in places, I'd have to go back to OPERA for what I believe to be his last great film. I'd love to think that LA TERZA MADRE will be a fitting end to his 'Three Mothers' trilogy, and look forward to viewing it. In the meantime, I'll be interested to see the results of this poll so please take time to vote if you're a fan.