The Fantastic Films Weekend
is an annual, three-day festival of horror, fantasy and SciFi films at the National Media Museum in Bradford.
I'd arrived already arrived on Thursday evening, had a good night's sleep and was ready for the onslaught of films I was going to watch. Friday
The first film was Bloodbath at the House of Death
. Only knowing that Vincent Price was in it and having cultural reference fail regarding Kenny Everett, I had no idea what to expect, not an early slasher horror, but a horror comedy, a farce even (the fact that John Fortune was in it should have been a giveaway). As soon as I had realised what was going on and switched my mindset, it was incredibly good fun. Extremely cheesy and bad but in a good way. I can only recommend trying to find this on DVD.
Then, the seminal Horror Express
. Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and later in a surprise role as a Kosak captain, Telly Savalas fight an ancient evil unleashed on the Transibirian Express. This film is shown at the fest each year so most attendees know it inside out and anticipate and play along with certain lines and scenes. On your own with the DVD on your TV this might be a bad film but among a group of likeminded people on the big screen, this is glorious.
Afterwards, a Horizon special in TV Heaven (the section of the museum devoted to television) on SciFi which had interviews with the likes of Arthur C Clarke and Asimov talking about their visions. Now, 60 years on, very fascinating indeed in terms of their predictions and what has and hasn't become reality. This documentary also contains the only surviving clips of Peter Sasdy's adaption of the Asimov story The Caves of Steel
. Sasdy was at the screening and it was the first time he'd actually seen any of it as he hadn't received a copy of the finished product and the BBC wiped the material (along with many other early productions).
My first film in the evening was Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires
, the extremely cheesy Hammer/Kung Fu crossover with Peter Cushing as Van Helsing for the last time. This bizarre crossover of Hammer horror and Kung Fu action worked for some reason (Dracula travels to China to revive the titular Chinese vampires) or possibly because the combination was so weird. There was spontaneous applause from the audience after the first mass fight scene, for example. If I had to state one negative it would be that the final confrontation was rather rushed and anti-climactic.
Then, a quick jog to the Cubby (the other screen at the museum) for the screentalk with Peter Sasdy
, veteran director of both classic TV and Hammer films. I enjoyed this immensely, not just because of the insight he gave into his work and the amusing anecdotes but also his genuine honesty and modesty. What a wonderful person. He answered questions from the audience willingly and extensively and afterwards very happily signed autgraphs and chatted to the attendees.
Then, the midnight screamer
, the director's cut of The Exorcist
in a beautiful print. The Pictureville screen was very well filled indeed and not just by festival attendees (all screenings are open to the public with the festival passes granting a free ticket to any film) but others who came for the chance to see this classic on the big screen. This cut isn't my favourite as it's a bit too long in places but it was still excellent and so much better on the big screen than on TV.Saturday
First up, the original Clash of the Titans
, with wonderful stop motion creatures by Ray Harryhausen. I'd seen it quite a few times on telly but never on the big screen so that was a treat I didn't want to miss.
Next, the TV version of Hound of the Baskervilles with Peter Cushing as Holmes. It was alirght, had a few good moments but was stretched too long (originally aired as two 50 minute episodes).
The first set of shorts with the subtitle Suffer The Little Children
was next on my list. These were hit and miss, the first one, The Happy Children
, an almost Lovecraftian account of a seaside town (filmed in Whitby) which wasn't bad at all, Darkness Within
was pointless torture porn, Endless
was a weird slow-motion thing with some interesting SFX, Intercambio
was pseudo-artsy rubbish about cannibalism in war times but then, CLICK
with a group of kids exploring an abandoned warehouse and playing with a lightswitch. This was superb, very simply made but very effective and the young actors were excellent. The last one, The Elemental
about something horrible occupying the staircase of an old apartment building was also good, with some tense moments and a good, moody atmosphere. Two photos, Mark Goodall, director of The Happy Children, and William Prince, director of CLICK:
The evening began with Twins of Evil
, classic Hammer fare (the third in the von Karnstein trilogy of four and in my opinion the best) with Peter Cushing (oh look, there he was again) as a Puritan witch hunter, an evil vampire lord in a castle and the two titular twins who were mostly clad in flimsy nightgowns. Very entertaining and especially the candle fondling had everyone in stitches.
To conclude the evening, I shunned Rutger Hauer's Hobo with a Shotgun
in favour of the Vincent Price double bill. First, a TV interview (by David Del Valle
) called The Sinister Image
which was both insightful and entertaining and then An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe
, four of Poe's stories, recited by Price, sitting in a set. Very good indeed.Sunday
First film was Let's Scare Jessica to Death
, a bit of a slow burner with a mostly hysterical main character but it had some OK passages. The magenta print probably didn't help.
Next up was C.H.U.D.
, a fun radioactive monster film with an underhanded political message but mostly fun, well paced and really enjoyable. Cheesy fun, perfect for an early Sunday afternoon, one of the highlights of the day for me.
Then, the "British Horror Revival" collection of shorts. These were divided among two filmmakers, Ashley Thorpe
(who randomly happens to sit at our table right now) and Rob Nevitt
The former showed three films (or, 2 and a half, as the second died during the screening), Hammer influenced mixed media animations. Really interesting stuff.
Nevitt's work was more conventional film work, with one being shot on one Super 8 cartridge without any post editing of a brutal picnic and the last one, Mortified
being a kid's party gone horribly wrong.
The final Hammer film today was Countess Dracula
in which the seminal (and luscious) Ingrid Pitt played Elizabeth Bathory. It was the first time I'd seen it and I really liked it. It wasn't as cheesy as the others but genuinely moving in places and well done, too.
After a quick dinner I headed into the Cubby for the last time for Herbert West: Re-Animator
which turned out to be the most complete and uncut version I've seen (a print sourced from a private collection in the US). It made for a highly entertaining and thrilling conclusion to another awesome Fantastic Films Weekend, prompting spontaneous applause both during and after the film.
Before he introduced the film, the festival director Tony Earnshaw stated that due to current economic climate the future of the festival might be in danger. However, this year's was the most successful and well attended so this gives hope for the future and with increased coverage by the media, blogs and social media, we will hopefully see another one. If you would like to spread the word, contact details are on the website. Here's Tony: