I’m raking in the coals of memory again.
An aunt had given us books as presents for Christmas. I got Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
They were all abridged versions, and must have been from one of those cheap imprints where the classics cost a pound each. The covers were off-white and upon opening, already had that musty, ancient book smell – they must have sat upon a shelf in a warehouse for some time.
But the enchantment contained therein was rich and potent. I had classics in my hand and I would read them all. I would smell them and read them, and stare for what seemed like hours at the cover images before I even dared to open them and suckle at the dark nipple of gothic romance.
And, despite what christians will tell you, Dickens’ Christmas classic is the ‘Greatest Story Ever Told’ – a tale of self-discovery and redemption that never gets old, and which is constantly re-told and re-invented. Stephen King’s utterance on books being a kind of ‘portable magic’ never rang so true as in my days and weeks with those volumes.
While visiting my parents, I found two of the books amongst dozens, possibly hundreds from my childhood on some shelves in the basement. They were part of the ‘Minster Classics’ range, and my missing version of Frankenstein is still available online second-hand (just ordered myself a copy!).
Another realisation (for classic horror movie fans only), is that the cover image the Minster edition of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde seems to be a combination of Fredric March’s Dr. Jekyll from 1932, and John Barrymore’s Mr. Hyde from 1920 – currently available to watch for free.
So, George A. Romero and Martin Landau both gone within a day or so of each other: the former played a big part in my teenage years as a horror movie fan, with Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, and Creepshow among others. All were VHS staples in my house, and all were probably well worn out by the time I got to replace them on DVD.
The latter was a hero earlier in my childhood as Commander Koenig in my favourite childhood sci-fi TV show (apart from Doctor Who), Space 1999.
Landau of course, won an Oscar for his betrayal of another of my heroes, Bela Lugosi, in Ed Wood.
Zombies and sci-fi – there goes my youth!
I saw the new Star Wars movie last week; it was a good fun waste of a couple of hours. But now I think it’s time for the whole media circus to move on (at least until the next movie!)
We’ve had the hype machine running full tilt for the last couple of months, we’ve been bombarded with the ads and some of the worst product tie-ins ever. And, now the film is in cinemas, we’re seeing the internet undertaking a collective postmortem: discussing the perceived plot holes, spotting the Easter eggs and the cameo appearances, and hand-wringing over the sexual politics and gender representation. It just seems endless – to the point where we’re not enjoying the franchise as a piece of science fiction escapism any more.
Now, I’m a big time sci-fi fan, but the image above is from my Flipboard ‘Science Fiction’ feed, which has now turned almost exclusively into a ‘Star Wars’ feed.
And I’m sick of it.
Can we please all just take a deep breath and remember that it’s just a movie. And, despite the spectacle, it’s made lots of people undeservedly rich at a time when lots of ‘real’ people struggle to get by.
And yes, I do see the irony in writing about it…
Not the phenomenon in the UK that it is in the US, we still get to watch SNL online over here. And, though it’s not the show it once was, it still occasionally hits the mark. Their recent Star Wars toy commercial had me wincing in recognition at myself a few years ago. I’d been collecting Star Wars action figures and had loads still in their packaging that no one was allowed to touch.
One day I woke up to myself when my young son asked to play with some of them and I realised that I was being completely unreasonable. I put the whole collection into a bag and gave them to him – told him to open them all up and play with them. The excitement in his face was far more of a reward than sitting on a collection that could never be touched.
I still have a few miniatures and figurines around the house, but that’s as far as it goes. Toys should be for kids, not for middle-aged men (and it is mostly men!) to hoard away in the hope of a good investment.
Just read that Wes Craven has died: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-34104752
I loved all of his work, but was especially a fan of the original Elm Street movies.
It’s getting one anyway – and it looks like good fun!