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The Spinning Image Newsletter #5

Films are great, aren't they?

Oh no, sir, you bain't be wantin' to go up on the moors tonight! Not when the moon is full, sir, no!

Things are getting strange, we're starting to worry - this could be a case for Mulder and Scully. Or a case for the fifth newsletter from The Spinning Image (cue dry ice and spooky synthesiser noodlings).

  • First up - Chat rooms are now up, running and waiting for you to drop by. We've got a few rooms set up, but if you think we need more on different subjects then give me a shout and I'll get it sorted.

  • Comments - you can now add a comment to any review on the site! Read a glowing review about a film you thought was dire? Tell someone! Read a bad review of a minor classic - spread the word! When you add a comment to a review the reviewer is dropped a quick email to inform them that their review has feedback! Now we're truly getting interactive and what better way to put your thoughts on films which you've seen but don't have the time to review in full.

  • As a member you can send your own news items for inclusion in future issues of this newletter. These can be interesting anecdlotes, snippets you've heard or picked up off the net, ideas for future newsletters or anything you think might interest other readers.

I FIND THAT HARD TO BELIEVE

Now, moviemakers get a certain cachet from basing their paranormal efforts on true life phenomena. UFOs, ghosts, visions, unidentified creatures, strange powers - it's enough to make Arthur C. Clarke himself pause for thought. Well, I say true, it's all in the eye of the beholder, isn't it?

So the latest M. Night Shyamalan oddity, Signs, bases its story on the incidents of crop circles around the world when Mel Gibson finds a collection on his laaaand. Shyamalan opts for an extraterrestrial explanation, rather than having a couple of corduroy-clad real ale drinkers wielding a plank and a length of rope as the culprits.

So let's take a look at the world of the unexplained, as interpreted by the movies. We've invented the snappily-titled Convincing-O-Meter (COM) to gauge the authenticity of the events on display. And so we begin...

First category: UFOS AND SPACE ALIENS

  • COMMUNION
    Whitley Strieber blames space aliens for some weird dreams and gets a probe up his arse for his trouble. Based on the similarly inconclusive, best-selling book.
    COM: 40% - shouldn't have eaten that cheese before bedtime

  • CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND
    Taken from the work of ufologists like Jacques Vallee (who is a fan of the film) and J. Allen Hynek (pictured with pipe), this sci-fi epic nicely sums up the 70's obsession with UFOs.
    COM: 65% - we are not alone

  • HANGAR 18
    Decidedly low budget version of the old pseudo-Roswell crashed flying saucer story, brought to you by the people who made documentaries on ancient aliens and fortune telling.
    COM: 30% - about as believable as the 1990s alien autopsy footage

  • FIRE IN THE SKY
    Celebrated UFO abductee Travis Walton saw his story brought to life here, except his story was like something out of an old copy of Weird Tales, so the film makers made up their own version of events instead.
    COM: 35% - he's a lumberjack and he's not OK
  • THE X FILES
    The paranoia of 1990s ufology is summed up in this TV spin off. The truth is out there, but it's not really in here - Mulder and Scully couldn't prove that the sky is blue on this evidence.
    COM: 50% - bees, millions of bees, aargh

Second category: GHOSTS AND APPARITIONS

  • THE AMITYVILLE HORROR
    Infamously all-made-up case of the 1970s was invented to make easy money for its authors. A window closing on your fingers was more proof of bad joinery than the supernatural.
    COM: 15% - get out

  • THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES
    High strangeness case of the 1960s was documented by investigator John Keel, here played by Richard Gere. Disappointingly, all traces of Men in Black putting jelly into their pockets is left out in favour of more abstract fare.
    COM: 50% - he was right about the bridge, anyway

  • THE EXORCIST
    Based on a real life case of possession, writer William Peter Blatty turned it into a mixture of sensational events and heavy musings on religion and the nature of faith.
    COM: 55% - whatever's got into you?

  • THE ENTITY
    Another supposed true life case, here Barbara Hershey gets raped by a poltergeist of her own making whenever Status Quo start practicing in the room above.
    COM: 45% - get yer entities out for the lads

Third category: BEASTS AND CREATURES

  • THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK
    The bigfoot story gets the drama documentary treatment. The creature is mostly kept in the shadows, and all the evidence is anecdotal, but that's one helluva spooky swamp.
    COM: 70% - certainly scared me when I was little

  • LOCH NESS
    "No, ye have to believe it to see it!" How convenient.
    COM: 25% - pah, just cashing in on Nessie's good name

  • WHAT A WHOPPER!
    Adam Faith and friends try to, er, cash in on Nessie's good name, but to their surprise the monster does make an appearance at the end. He even gives us a friendly wink. Wink, I said.
    COM: 30% - Nessie pictured may not be the real one

  • THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN
    Mysterious version of the Yeti legend, with Peter Cushing meeting up with a more spiritual incarnation of the creature than you might expect. Personally, I prefer the Yeti from Monsters Inc.
    COM: 55% - will this legend Everest?

  • THE NATURE OF THE BEAST
    Are out-of-place big cats seen in the north of England? Unfortunately this film is more concerned with kitchen sink drama.
    COM: 35% - here, kitty kitty kitty

  • BIGFOOT AND THE HENDERSONS
    Entirely convincing Bigfoot drama based on what would happen if humans and apemen made contact. Harry is played by a real Bigfoot.
    COM: 95% - TV documentary series Harry and the Hendersons followed

Fourth category: VISIONS AND PSYCHIC POWERS

  • NOSTRADAMUS
    Look, you can read just about anything into Nostradamus' vague poetry. This would have us believe he was a visionary of stunning proportions, and Rutger Hauer's hat certainly steals the show.
    COM: 25% - cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances

  • THE SEARCH FOR BRIDEY MURPHY
    Briefly fashionable reincarnation case made into quick cash-in movie, with Teresa Wright getting the old past life regression hypnosis.
    COM: 40% - I bet Shirley MacLaine liked it

  • MINDBENDER
    Uri Geller's life story is brought to the screen by Ken Russell. Has anyone actually seen this?
    COM: 10% - at least David Blaine shows a little more variety with his magic tricks

  • SONG OF BERNADETTE
    A vision of the Virgin Mary by a simple peasant girl leads to a life of piety. There's more about the piety than the vision here, mind you.
    COM: 55% - nice to see you, to see you nice

  • STIGMATA
    And lo! An MTV style drama was made of the religious condition of having wounds in Christlike places. And twas an abomination in the eyes of the Lord, so we shall speak no more of it.
    COM: 15% - bleedin' rubbish

Fifth category: THE BEST OF THE REST

  • MAGNOLIA
    Can't really comment on this one without spoiling the end of the film, but just to mention that they're too big - in real life they're only little.
    COM: 80% - watch the skies

  • ENDANGERED SPECIES
    The unpleasant phenomenon of cattle mutilation is covered here, with the culprits being shown to be the government. Other than that, explanations are pretty fuzzy.
    COM: 60% - a load of bull?

  • THE PHILDELPHIA EXPERIMENT
    Well, the experiment was nothing like what is depicted here, no sailors going mad after walking through walls or anything, so there's nothing to interest us.
    COM: 10% - don't rock the boat

GUILTY PLEASURES

This time, Daniel Auty leads us down the walk of shame with his head held high: here are the films he's slightly embarrassed about enjoying...

  • ORGAZMO
    South Park made them famous, and anyone who's seen Orgazmo will know that Matt Stone and Trey Parker were never going to make their name in the world of live action movie making. It's a porno superhero lark with all the subtlety and wit that such a concept promises... but I love it all the same. Strangely, there's virtually no nudity, but plenty of foul language and assorted deviant behaviour... and ugly guy porno king Ron Jeremy in one of his acclaimed 'straight' roles.

  • WEEKEND AT BERNIES
    The following is absolutely true: Weekend At Bernies is the funniest film I have ever seen. I've only seen it once, at a cinema in Glasgow at the age of 15, and I swear that I have never laughed so hard at a film before or since, especially the scene where Bernie - the corpse - is tied to a speedboat and falls off the back, trailing behind the vessel like a decomposing water skier. I have no wish ever to watch the film again, as I have just a sneaking suspision it may not prove quite so hilarious 13 years on.

  • NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VEGAS VACATION
    Actually, I've only seen the last 20 minutes of this one, and 18 of that was enough to not make me want to check out the first hour, but there's a great scene where Chevy Chase, having blown all his money in Vegas, visits the city's skankiest casino in a desperate attempt to win something back, and loses out on such games a 'guess what number the croupier is thinking of'.

  • STREET TRASH
    On one hand not really a guilty pleasure at all, Street Trash is genuinely a masterpiece of late 80s gore sleaze - but loving any film that finds necrophilia, castration, alcoholism and gang rape funny does still makes me feel slightly guilty all the same....

  • GLITTER
    I never thought I'd find merit in any Mariah Carey entertainment product, but this fantastic effort made me rethink my opinion of the poor woman. She's a talented songstress from the wrong side of town, Britain's Max Beesley is the big time record promoter who takes her under his wing. Featuring dialogue that makes George Lucas seem like David Mamet and plot developments a seven year old would find insulting, this is the greatest bad movie of recent years. Even more bewildering is the fact that the director - Vondie Curtis Hall - made the superb Gridlock'd a few years earlier... I dread to think of the tragic twists his life must have taken in the intervening time to lead him to Glitter.

Thanks for that. If you have any guilty pleasures you'd like to admit to, then send them along to the Spinning Image website...

LINKS FROM THE OTHER SIDE

How about a celebrity ghost tour of Hollywood? http://www.fabuloustravel.com/ww/haunthollywood/haunthollywood.html Promises that you can see the ghosts of Clifton Webb and Orson Welles if you're lucky (Orson shouldn't be too difficult to miss).

http://www.psychics.co.uk/celebrities/homepage.html Read the true life supernatural encounters of the stars here: giants of the entertainment world like John Lennon, Marlon Brando, Jack Lemmon, Jayne Mansfield, er, Tommy Steele, um, and Donald Sinden. Unfortunately the ghost stories of Dot Cotten and Bob Hoskins are "members only" for some reason. Maybe they're really racy. Maybe not.

http://littlerock.about.com/library/weekly/aa070200h.htm Tells you a little about the true story behind The Legend of Boggy Creek. Very little. But it is local.

http://www.smokeyandthefoukemonster.com/ Tells you a little more, but is mostly a plug for a book about the "Fouke Monster" as they call it. (As in "What the Fouke?" presumably).

IRREVERSIBLE DECISIONS

[from Daniel Auty] Gaspar No, director of this year's big Cannes controversy Irreversible is in a combative mood concerning the forthcoming UK release of the film (which stars Vincent Cassell and Monica Bellucci and features a nine minute rape scene). He says: "If Britain cuts it, the film won't be released here. I can't understand how a country like England would ask for cuts when Cannes, the most bourgeois film festival in the world, showed it. You can't cut the film because of its long takes. It would become obvious to an audience that there had been cuts. US movies are much more damaging than this one, in their promotion of violence, power and weapons. Rape happens in life. Why can't it be shown on screen so people can have a clearer vision of it? On a moral level you can't object."

STRANGER THAN FICTION

The Spinning Image archives feature films based on real life happenings that may be easier to swallow than some of the fright fests covered above. Here's a few...

The biopics:

From the entertainment world we have 24 Hour Party People, The Buddy Holly Story, Man on the Moon and Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story.

From the world of crime we have The Krays, Walking Tall and Chopper.

Actual events are represented by Bully and Enemy at the Gates, and Medium Cool features a genuine riot.

As for 1941, True Stories and The Mothman Prophecies, well, some of it is true... probably.

ARTICLES

As a member you can send your own articles for inclusion on the site. These can be on any cult movie related subject - although you might like to email me before embarking on a massive project which is then deemed unsuitable. On the whole though, if you think it might interest other readers it's good enough for us.

REST IN PEACE

Director-producer-writer Doris Wishman passed away in August aged 82. Viewed by many as one of the worst directors of all time, her idiosyncratic films include Nude on the Moon, Bad Girls Go To Hell, The Amazing Transplant, Let Me Die A Woman and the two "Chesty Morgan" films: Double Agent 73 and Deadly Weapons. Her official site: http://www.doriswishman.com/

Dean Reisner died in August aged 84. He was a child actor who became a screenwriter with Dirty Harry, Coogan's Bluff, Play Misty for Me and Charley Varrick among his credits. He also directed the bizarre Bill and Coo, which stars birds dressed up as humans, and in later years he became a script doctor.

Veteran director J. Lee Thompson died aged 88 at the start of September. Among his many films, including a number of Charles Bronson movies, are Yield to the Night, Ice Cold in Alex, Northwest Frontier, the original Cape Fear, Tiger Bay, The Guns of Navarone, Eye of the Devil, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and Happy Birthday to Me.

Actress Katrin Cartlidge was best known for appearing in Mike Leigh films such as Topsy Turvy, Career Girls and cult favourite Naked. She also acted in Breaking the Waves, Oscar-winning No Man's Land and From Hell. She died aged 41 in September after complications from pneumonia and blood poisoning.

Michael Elphick died aged 55 in September; he appeared in a number of films like O Lucky Man!, Quadrophenia, The Elephant Man, Lars Von Trier's debut Forbrydelsens Element, The Supergrass, Withnail and I, The Krays and he had a starring role in I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle. On TV he was best known as Boon.

Stage and screen actress Kim Hunter appeared in many cult films, among them The Seventh Victim, A Matter of Life and Death, A Streetcar Named Desire, Lilith, Planet of the Apes and its first two sequels, The Swimmer and Two Evil Eyes. She died aged 79 in September.

TV and film actor James Gregory died aged 90 in September. His film credits include Al Capone, Two Weeks in Another Town, The Manchurian Candidate, the Dean Martin Matt Helm series, and Beneath the Planet of the Apes. He also appeared in the Barney Miller TV show and the first ever Twilight Zone episode.

Bruce Paltrow was a producer and director who will be best remembered for the TV series St Elsewhere, but he also directed A Little Sex and Duets. He was the husband of Blythe Danner and the father of Gwyneth Paltrow, and died aged 58 in October.

Pioneer of Belgian cinema Andre Delvaux died in October aged 76. He started in television before moving on to write and direct such films as The Man Who Had His Hair Cut Short, Appointment in Bray and The Abyss.

Veteran actress Phyllis Calvert had a long career on film, TV and the stage. Some of her films included Let George Do It, Kipps, The Man in Grey, Mandy, Indiscreet, Twisted Nerve and Oh! What a Lovely War. She died aged 87 in October.

Actress Teresa Graves was best known for starring in Get Christie Love on TV, but she also appeared in two Fred Williamson movies, That Man Bolt and Black Eye, took the lead in Vampira and was a regular on Laugh-In. She died in a house fire aged 53 in October.

Writer, producer and director Sid Pink died in October aged 86. Some of the films he was involved with included The Angry Red Planet, Reptilicus and Journey to the Seventh Planet. He was also an associate of Arch Oboler on two of his early films, The Twonky and Bwana Devil.

NEW REVIEWS

New reviews on the site include:

The Ghost
The Window
Strange Brew
Piranha
I Vampiri
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978 remake)
Red Sonja
Duel
Harold and Maude
Invaders from Mars

AND THE BAND PLAYED BELIEVE IT IF YOU LIKE

And so we end our journey into the unknown - or is the journey, for all of us, just beginning? Who knows what lies between the dimensions of reality... and unreality? If you know, don't hesitate to contact us with your comments at the Spinning Image site.

For now, goodbye - until the next time! Muahahahahaaa!

 

 

 

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Last Updated: 1 November, 2004