Archive for January, 2009

Eight Legged Freaks: Hiding Under the Toilet Seat of Film Appreciation

Posted in Ramblings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2009 by Andrew T. Smith

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Eight Legged Freaks one of those films I have been meaning to get around to for a long time. I remember seeing the trailer for the film at the start of an unrelated VHS back in the days when I still regularly bothered with tape. The image that really stuck in my mind then was of a giant spider raising itself up and extending hairy arms behind an old man sitting in a lazy-boy style arm chair who is completely unaware of the danger he is in. At once it seemed scary and funny.

Having finally gotten around to seeing the film I can tell you that the full feature carries on much in this silly yet scary vein and is quite satisfying as a result.  Nuclear waste, random killings, doomed pets, a wicked sense of humour and giant spiders of all shapes and sizes abound. From the offset the film’s influences are obvious, Them!, Tarantula, The Incredible Shrinking Man and even The Birds are referenced visually and in the storytelling via character archetypes like the take charge sheriff, the corrupt official and the hormonal teen. The film isn’t simply a modern copy of these popular monster movies though; the characters feel refreshingly different and our expectations are exceeded on several occasions. Take for example the aforementioned horny teenagers. At one point the sheriff’s daughter tells her would be lover that things are moving too fast and enough is enough. When he takes no heed and continues to try and claim his prize she shocks him with a tazer gun sending him fleeing from the car causing him to pee his pants. Often this might be enough of a comeuppance for a threatening paper thin character but in Eight Legged Freaks writer-director Ellory Elkayem consistently refuses to allow his characters to remain one dimensional. Instead we launch from this scene immediately into a chase scene involving this same young man and through some solid suspense film making we find ourselves caring for his fate and cheering him on to escape the clutches of some deadly hopping spiders! 

Films of the 1950s and 60s are not the only point of  reference for Eight Legged Freaks. I was surprised and pleased to note the influence of the work of director Joe Dante – one of my favorite filmmakers – and not only through featuring creepy crawlies run amok ala Gremlins.  It may be unconscious on Elkayem’s part but the character of Mike Parker – the sheriff’s son and child prodigy – seems particularly Dante-esque recalling similar children in Gremlins, Explorers and Small Soldiers. It seems a shame that the above trailer, however effective it was on me, seems to target an adult cult horror audience and doesn’t take into account that Eight Legged Freaks could easily have appealed to youngsters on the cusp of adolescence and perhaps it would have performed better at the box office as a result

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The only disappointing aspect of the film I found was a lack of subtext. It is a roller-coaster ride with some good laughs along the way but I was left wondering what it was about.  There are slight hints towards government secrecy, a relevant theme considering Freaks was released during the first term of the W. Bush presidency, but little is made of it. In Dante’s case the films were almost always political in some way; Small Soldiers for example takes shots at the cynical nature of the modern toy industry and the self importance of the US military and doesn’t let the fact it is a blockbuster flick about murderous robots stop the filmmakers making a point. I would have liked a little more of this subversive undercurrent to Eight Legged Freaks.

When all is said and done  Eight Legged Freaks is that it is fun and I don’t know how it took me so long to get around to. More like this please Hollywood.

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I Licke Rolf Harris (PART FOUR)

Posted in Ramblings on January 21, 2009 by Andrew T. Smith

Here are further installments of my 1995 school diaries. Back by ambivalent demand.

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In answer to my teacher’s biro written question, “It was alright.” My first brush with fame. As far as I can remember the local news were doing a story on lollipop lady Peggy who eventually received an MBE for being lovely. By strange coincidence my friend Wilkin cropped up on the telly on Monday night grinning at Heston Bloomingpants in the middle of a Little Chef. Sadly I don’t have a copy of this as I’m sure you would all dearly love to see my back on youtube. I also – rather fortunatley – don’t have a copy of the installment of North East Tonight where I can be found banging the drums for our school’s weather dance.

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EDIT: I’ve just realised I’ve done a bit of a repeat on that first entry. Have this instead:

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If anyone can tell me what the hell Puff and Toot was I would be very grateful!

Quick Update

Posted in Re-Marx on January 20, 2009 by Andrew T. Smith

Sorry for the lack of updates over the past couple of weeks. As regular readers will know I have a book due to come out later this year and that isn’t going to happen if I don’t finish writing it! More wonderfulness to come I promise.

I Licke Rolf Harris (PART THREE)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on January 14, 2009 by Andrew T. Smith

Two more fun-filled, adventure-packed diary entries for all you sadomasochists who like to read them.

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This is the second time I have mentioned going to the pictures in my school diary and I really don’t seem phased by the process. This probably means that the earlier mentioned Pagemaster wasn’t my first trip to the cinema after-all; not that it matters! I clearly remember being turned away from the old Newcastle Odeon. Partly, I think, because that building looked to strange to me. As a child of the multiplex generation I wasn’t used to such an old fashioned place, with carpeted stairways and front of house ticket kiosks. Looking back on it now the place seems rather wonderful, once a single screened Paramount Picture Palace but long since converted into several smaller viewing areas the place  full of charm. It’s a shame it has been left to rot over the last ten years or so.

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I Licke Rolf Harris (PART TWO)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on January 6, 2009 by Andrew T. Smith

Here are the next two entries in my short lived, school enforced diary. Click to enlarge.

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I’d love to know who made up the red group; for all the information offered in the above text it could have even been my team. I don’t know if those are supposed to be freckles or acne scars on Louis’ face, either way it’s a pretty unflattering portrait, even by my sausage fingered eight year old standards. Note also that I made sure to indicate that I was the tallest, which I wasn’t – ever.

I may as well give up blogging; This next entry is now officially the best thing I ever wrote or will ever write.

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I licke Rolf Harris (PART ONE)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on January 4, 2009 by Andrew T. Smith

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Fellow blogger Bob Fischer has embarked on an epic quest this year; to post each and every one of his detailed diary entries from 1984. The fact that he managed to stick to writing for a whole year amazes me as the only two childhood diaries of my own that I can recall were updated on a weekly basis at best and at worst abandoned after about five installments.

Always one to jump on the bandwagon I thought I would route out these hidden relics of my shady past and since I have very little “street-cred” to lose I present them here for your approval.

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The school obviously forced my hand with this, demonstrated by the cheerful feedback. I was far too passive a child to begin chronicling my own, fairly uneventful, childhood. I was much more interested in writing stories and making up games for real life to get involved. Never the less I remember the event described here quite clearly. I was a slow learner when it came to riding a bike and by the age of almost 8 I still hadn’t managed it. My Mam’s screams of agony (At least that’s how I remember it. Noone likes to hurt Mams do they? Doctor Shipman aside.) put paid to my cycling ambitions for another couple of months.

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It seems strange that I’d chronicle my trip to Gateshead’s premiere children’s party venue and only use a pencil drawing to reference the brutal act of rape committed  upon a 7 year old by a grinning vinyl punch bag. I think it’s safe to assume I probably injured my toe in an accident not 100 miles from the mythical Kid’s Kingdom.

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 I can’t think of anything to add to this one. Damn fine storytelling.

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Here is another entry I remember really clearly. Although it seems to be a bit late in the day to qualify this is the first time I recall going to the pictures – and what better way to launch into the world of cinema than a film starring those three giants of the acting profession; Christopher Lloyd, Leonard Nimoy and…Macaulay Culkin. The man with the tall hat in the picture above is not an example of comedic license; I vaguely recall that happening.

Well, five entries should be more than enough for the moment. A diary is meant to be serialized after-all. More soon!

Resolute Interviews

Posted in Marx, Ramblings with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2009 by Andrew T. Smith

Happy New Year to all you lovely readers!

My new years resolution is simply to make this a productive year. I have a book to finish, a new project to get writing and a multitude of ideas brewing in the old noggin to get cracking with. As far as this blog is concerned I’d like to continue updating regularly and perhaps engaging a little more with the folk who visit; leave a comment and say hello!

One of my major plans for Illegible Me is to hopefully spice things up a little with a series of interviews. I’ve written a list of people who I would love to meet/speak to/interview this year and if things work out nicely the resulting fruits may be worth posting here. This is the list: 

Harold Snoad – writer/producer

Micheal Knowles – writer/actor

Dick Miller – cult character actor

Kevin McCarthey – another cult character actor

Nigel Plaskit – puppeteer

Anyone who saw Laurel and Hardy live on stage

Anyone who appeared in a silent film

Mike Quinn – puppeteer/animator/filmmaker

Rosemary Anne Sisson – writer

The Chuckle Brothers – children’s comedians

Matthew Corbett – children’s entertainer

Ian Lavender – actor 

Bill Pertwee – actor 

Peter Sallis – actor

Peter Serafinowicz – comedian

George Clayton Johnson – science fiction author

Bill Marx – Musician/Son of Harpo

Kevin Brownlow – film historian/documentarian

Delores Fuller – actress/song writer

Richard Cadell – children’s entertainer/magician

Tony Robinson – presenter/comedian/historian

Some of these people I have connections to. Others I have little or no idea how to reach but we shall see how things work out. I know how tempting it can be to try and locate oneself on google so please – if by some fluke of browsing you are reading this and have found your own name on the list – then get in touch!