Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Smashing Time, Revolt Into Style and Swinging Sixties London


Direct from the market - restocking Too Much

The Too Much boutique is owned by Charlotte Brillig, wonderfully played by Anna Quayle, who played characters of a similarly comical loftiness in A Hard Days Night, King of the Castle and Grange Hill (she was Mrs Monroe). She epitomises the aristocratic dabblers of swinging sixties London, dilettantishly dipping their toes in the latest thing. She rather wistfully points out to Brenda that she is ‘only an honourable’, indicating that petty class distinctions persist within the ranks of the aristocracy. She exhibits mild curiosity when Brenda gives her name, musing ‘I don’t think I’ve met anyone called Brenda before’ in a tone which suggests that she’s really saying that she’s never met anyone from up North. Charlotte exudes the breezy intimacy and easy charm of her class, but it is fickle and shallow bonhomie with an underlying assumption that her whims are to be followed without question. As Brenda angrily declares, addressing the gathered Too Much crowd and standing up for herself for once (before immediately capitulating), ‘you people take it for granted that folk’ll do just what you say’. Charlotte’s shop is a place for the in-crowd to gather rather than a business designed to earn her a living. She is rather put out when she discovers that Brenda has been obliging her friends and fashionable acquaintances to actually purchase some of the objects decorating the shop in which they hang out, and points out that she will now have to but them back. As Paul Danquah’s dandy complains with a hurt Jamaican-accented simper, ‘she made us all buy something before we were allowed to park our botties’.

Striking a bargain - Brillig and Gimble
Elements of the aristocracy drifted towards the epicentre of swinging London, sensing where good times were to be had, and also alert to the rise of a new affluent elite. They were full of the inborn certainty that they would be welcomed wherever they chose to flutter and momentarily settle. Dominic Sandbrook, in White Heat: A History of Britain in the Swinging Sixties, mentions ‘old Etonian art dealer Robert Fraser, the old antiques dealer Christopher Gibbs and the Guiness heir Tara Browne’. There were also the Ormsby-Gore children, Alice (who ended up with Eric Clapton), Jane (married at the time to Michael Rainey, owner of the Hung On You boutique), Victoria and Julian, offspring of Lord Harlech (or 5th Baron Harlech). Fraser (or ‘Groovy Bob’) was famously photographed handcuffed to Mick Jagger after they were both arrested for possession of drugs (Jagger amphetamine pills , Fraser heroin) as a result of the infamous police raid of Keith Richards’ Redlands manor house, a picture which pop artist Richard Hamilton later transformed into a series of paintings. Whilst Jagger and Richards (who had also been charged) were released on bail after spending only one night in jail, Fraser ended up in Wormwood Scrubs for four months. Marianne Faithfull, in her autobiography, describes Gibbs, another member of the Stones’ inner circle, as being ‘a Wildean aesthete come to life, plucked straight from the opening lines of The Picture of Dorian Gray’. The same could be said of many of these wealthy young socialites. Tara Browne was another who hooked up with the world of the new pop aristocracy. Faithfull rather cattily remarks that he was ‘pure courtier’ since ‘the Stones were the true aristocracy here and Tara faded in comparison’. So, distinctions were made in the new aristocratic ranks, too, and Browne, for all his limitless wealth, didn’t cut it.

Following fashion - Shooting on the streets
The new pop aristocracy showed a reciprocal fascination for the wealthy and titled, and seemed to aspire to a similar lifestyle. They sought to emulate its fey, childlike obliviousness to the workaday world, its enchanted round of endless play beneath the protecting veil of wealth. Of course, it was also very useful to have antiques dealers and art experts on hand to help decorate newly acquired country houses. Marianne Faithfull credits Anita Pallenberg with bringing together many elements of these two seemingly disparate social groups. ‘The jeunesse doree were in awe of this pop kingdom where young girls threw themselves at the feet of yobbish dandies with guitars’, she wrote. ‘Rock stars who were already parodying the decadent nobility of the past in their foppish clothing and manners were equally impressed by these young hip aristos. A union of the two later seemed inevitable, but no one had the foggiest idea of how to go about it. Except for our Anita’. Some of these aristocrats would find that their wealth did not offer any magical immunity from the darker side of the swinging sixties, the long morning after of the bright pop party. Tara Browne is now best known for inspiring John Lennon’s verse in A Day In The Life about the man who ‘blew his mind out in a car’ after he drove his Lotus at speed through a red light and crashed straight into a parked van. According to Faithfull, he was tripping on acid at the time, and from the song’s lyric, it seems Lennon thought so too. Julian Ormsby-Gore shot himself in 1974 and his sister Alice, who discovered the body, died in a run-down bedsit in Bournemouth after taking a massive overdose of heroin, a habit she had picked up whilst living with Eric Clapton in his country mansion.

George Melly portrays the pop world of swinging 60s London as a skewed Lewis Carroll Wonderland, with its own language and logic, seemingly nonsensical and self-referential but in fact offering an absurdist reflection of the familiar world. In Revolt Into Style, he used a Carroll quote from Alice Through the Looking Glass as a prefatory epigraph: ‘When I make a word mean a lot, I always pay it extra’. He later paraphrased Carroll’s nonsense poem about a quest for something which in the end proves not even to exist, The Hunting of the Snark, in order to portray pop’s period of psychedelic searching: ‘They sought it with day-glo, they sought it with love,/They pursued it with light-shows and bells,/They threatened its life with a nine till five job/They charmed it with smokes and smells’. Melly continued the theme of Carrollian nonsense in Smashing Time, naming the characters whom Yvonne and Brenda (like Alice, thoroughly normal travellers in a strange land) meet after the suggestive neologisms from the first verse of Jabberwocky. ‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves/Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:/All mimsy were the borogroves,/And the mome raths outgrabe’. So, we get Charlotte Brillig, Jeremy Tove, Mrs Gimble, Tom Wabe and Bobby Mome-Rath, not to mention the gurning psych-pop group The Snarks. This band name fits perfectly with the blown up picture of them, sneering and sarky, which papers an entire wall behind pop manager Tove’s desk. There’s also Clive Sword, with his audience-assaulting robots, who is presumably analogous to the Jabberwock-slayer, although whether or not his blade is vorpal is not established. Carroll’s brand of strangely insightful nonsense evidently chimed with the counter-culture across the Atlantic, too, forming the basis for Jefferson Airplane’s hit White Rabbit, and providing a suitably far out name for a lesser known San Francisco band, Frumious Bandersnatch.

Carrollian name-calling - Bobby Mome-Rath
The names are entirely apposite for the characters who bear them, and the poem’s accompanying adjectives also serve as apt descriptions. Jeremy Tove is a slick record producer, played with unctuous charm by Jeremy Lloyd. Humpty Dumpty, in Alice Through the Looking Glass, explains that the word ‘tove’ describes ‘something like badgers – they’re something like lizards – and they’re something like corkscrews’. A creature which is hard to define or pin down, then – different things to different people. As for ‘slithy’, Humpty says that it means ‘lithe and slimy…you see it’s like a portmanteau – there are two meanings packed up into one word’. A suitable description for the tall, wiry, duplicitous and dangerously smooth Tove. Brillig means ‘four o’clock in the afternoon – the time when you begin broiling things for dinner’. Carroll had earlier interpreted it in one of his privately produced periodicals, Misch-Masch, in which Jabberwocky’s first stanza appeared in 1855, 16 years before it finally found full form in Through The Looking Glass. He simply defined it as meaning ‘the close of the afternoon’. The time when Charlotte’s day would start in earnest, when she might finish breakfast or wander into work, should the mood take her. To gimble is ‘to make holes like a gimlet’, conjuring images of Mrs G painstakingly repairing her moth-eaten clothes. Alice herself provides an initial interpretation of wabe, it being ‘the grass plot round a sun-dial’, so called ‘because it goes a long way before it, and a long way behind it…and a long way beyond it on each side’. Carroll earlier gave a variant definition, claiming it derived from the verb to swab or soak, and simply meant ‘the side of a hill (from its being soaked by the rain). Neither says much about the character of the archetypal swinging sixties photographer Tom Wabe, unless it is to suggest that he self-consciously looks back to his roots and exaggeratedly soaks his persona in working-class cockney mannerisms in order to conform to the current vogue. Wabe is a good no-nonsense name for a character from such a background, whether real or invented; short and abrupt and nothing fancy. Mome-Rath, on the other hand, is an excellent, slightly ridiculous double-barrelled monicker for Ian Carmichael’s aristocratic playboy, a Bertie Wooster gone to seed. Humpty has trouble with his definitions here. He knows that ‘a rath is a sort of green pig: but mome I’m not certain about. I think it’s short for “from home” – meaning that they’d lost their way, you know’. Carroll, in his earlier set of interpretations, defined it as meaning grave, as in solemn, and classified the rath as ‘a species of land turtle. Head erect: mouth like a shark: forelegs curved out so that the animal walked on its knees: smooth green body: lived on swallows and oysters’. On balance, Humpty’s version seems more appropriate to Carmichael’s character.

Trog in Camden
Melly’s influence and tastes can be detected in several other aspects of the film. The cartoon title cards, depicting caricatured scenes from the movie, are drawn by Trog, otherwise known as Wally Fawkes. Like Melly, Fawkes had been active on the trad jazz circuit, playing with his band Wally Fawkes and the Troglodytes, from whence his nom de plume derived. Trog drew a cartoon strip called Flook, which ran in the Daily Mail between 1949 and 1984. The title character, initially the imaginary friend of a boy called Rufus, was a small bear-like creature with an odd tubular nose. He was an innocent outsider who wandered through the contemporary world viewing events from a perspective of puzzled bewilderment. The scripts were written at various times by Barry Took, Humphrey Lyttleton, Barry Norman and Melly himself. Under Melly’s pen, the stories took a mildly satirical turn, whilst still retaining a childlike air. Melly also took the opportunity to introduce elements of the dada and surrealism which he loved. As you can discover here (in the comments section), this included Flook encountering the concept of pataphysics, a term invented by dada precursor Alfred Jarry in 1893 and incorporated into his absurdist play The Exploits and Opinions of Dr Faustroll, Pataphysician. Pataphysics, as he defined it, was ‘the science of imaginary solutions, which symbolically attributes the properties of objects, described by their virtuality, to their lineaments’. A theory of advanced nonsense, in other words, returning us to the circular logic of Carroll.

Mad inventor - Bruce Lacey
It was likely Melly who also encouraged the inclusion of ‘Professor’ Bruce Lacey, here playing a character by the name of Clive Sword, and his remarkable menagerie of aggressive automata. Lacey had already made appearances in short films by two of the leading pop directors of the period: in Ken Russell’s The Preservation Man (1962), and alongside The Goons in Richard Lester’s The Running, Jumping and Standing Still Film (1960). He was also hymned by Fairport Convention in their rather plodding blues by numbers Mr Lacey from the What We Did On Our Holidays LP, in which song Sandy Denny and Ian Matthews plead with him to ‘let me work your loving machine’, the subsequent mechanical whirring sounds presumably indicating that he has assented. Lacey was part of a theatrical trio called The Alberts, alongside brothers Dougie and Tony Grey, who Melly heralds as one of the few true proponents of pop theatre. He describes their show An Evening of British Rubbish, in which, ‘surrounded by an insane clutter dominated by a penny farthing bicycle’ (shades of The Prisoner) ‘they held a remarkable balance between chaos and order’. Melly singles out Lacey as the central figure who maintains this balance, suggesting that ‘he is barely in control of his hatred for whatever seems to him to be unloving or morally dead. He expresses this hatred through a series of explosive and dangerous machines built largely from the detritus of earlier stages of technology’. Lacey hugely enjoys playing the mad scientist in Smashing Time, gesticulating wildly from behind his elevated ecclesiastical lectern in what looks like it might be The Roundhouse in Camden. His machines are let loose amongst the champagne-sipping art-opening crowd, and cause merry havoc. They are the products of a surreal collision between a giant meccano set and several dismembered shop dummies and anatomical models, with springs, tape reels, roadwork lights, exposed circuitry, spray paint guns, and inflating and deflating balloons grafted on to give each its own particular personality and function. These intimidating automata are collectively referred to in the titles as ‘Jabberwock machine sculpture’; back to Carroll again, with the ambulatory mechanisms echoing the dreaded monster’s hybrid, cabinet of curiosity form.

Automaton attack
Melly’s experiences of the capital's homosexual underworld (and it had to be underground, since sex between men was illegal until the passing of the Sexual Offences Act on 27th July 1967) also informs the film’s portrayal of pop London as a gay environment. The blurring of sexual identity, reflected in the relaxation of strictly defined codes for men and women in dress and appearance (short and long hair, for example), was a feature of the swinging 60s scene, although again, this didn’t initially extend beyond a fairly narrow and geographically constricted coterie. Melly describes how ‘the classless (or to be more accurate class-aphrodisiac) acceptance of pre-war homosexual circles, their belief in the self-sufficiency of the chic, the amusing, the new; the love of glitter and danger; the belief in hard work at the service of sensation; these are now acceptable within a heterosexual context’. Funnily enough, Melly ascribes the promotion of such an acceptance to the new breed of fashion photographer, the best known of whom (David Bailey, Terence Donovan and Brian Duffy) were resolutely and red-bloodedly heterosexual. The period was also characterised by the wholesale adoption of a camp sensibility. Susan Sontag, in her essay Notes on Camp, links this sensibility back to Oscar Wilde and the nineteenth century dandy. Noting that camp is characterized by detachment, irony and the aestheticisation of exaggerated artifice and stylisation, she proposes that ‘as the dandy is the nineteenth century’s surrogate for the aristocrat in matters of culture, so Camp is the modern dandyism. Camp is the answer to the problem: how to be a dandy in the age of mass culture’.

Crushed velvet camp - Murray Melvin
Of course, once camp becomes all-pervasive, it looses its value as a means of defining your difference. The dandy’s exhibitionism goes unnoticed if everyone is dressed in an equally flamboyant manner. Melly notes that ‘camp is an “in” idea, the property of a minority. Once public property, once everybody is in on the joke it stops being funny. In the middle-60s we all became fetishists at any rate vicariously. We all knew Robin and Batman were pouves. Kinky was a word everybody applied to everything except perhaps brussell sprouts. In the end it palled’. Marianne Faithfull also comments on the gay aspect of the 60s, noting that the ‘blurring of sexual lines was part of the creative mix of the era, but it also had its dark side. The homoerotic subculture had a virulent strain of misogyny to it as a nasty by-product’. The gay characters in Smashing Time, including the waiters at Sweeney Todd’s pie shop and Murray Melvin and Paul Danquah (resplendent in purple crushed velvet and pastel patterned cream suit respectively, and both re-united with Tushingham from A Taste of Honey) all tend towards the campy bitch stereotype, creating a personal bubble of immunity through cruel wit. They are prone to dialogue along the lines of ‘Is it the change of life dear? Most people think you’re just a wicked old queen, but I say no, there must be some kinder explanation’. This fits in rather well with the view of the swinging 60s elite as being cruelly exclusive and prone to treat those outside the magic inner circle with airy contempt or, at best, weary tolerance. Only the elderly antiques dealer, cradling his gilded cherub against his quilt-edged smoking jacket, shows Yvonne and Brenda any kind of respect. An old school dandy of a more chivalrous stripe.

Kindly camp - the old school
The other period stereotype which the film includes is that of the working-class fashion photographer made good. Melly welcomes the advent of the 60s concept of ‘the photographer as pop hero’ and of the photograph as the ideal pop medium. ‘Every idea about pop favours this myth’, he writes. ‘the balance between technical expertise and intellectual indifference, the camera’s amorality, the availability and disposability of the photograph, all those qualities which Richard Hamilton defined as the essence of pop: “popular, transient, exependable, low cost, mass-produced,young, witty, sexy, gimmicky, glamorous, and last, but not least, Big Business’. Here, comparisons with the Austin Power films become inevitable, and Mike Myers was clearly heavily influenced by Smashing Time, not least in his casting of Michael York. York here plays Tom Wabe, modelled on a blend of David Bailey, Terence Donovan and Brian Duffy. From the moment he opens his mouth and says ‘ere, I’m mad about yer boat’, you realise that this is unlikely to be a performance which is very true to life. York sounds like he’s just swallowed his gum, and his attempts at a working class accent make you reassess your judgement of Dick Van Dyke’s much maligned attempts at Cockney cheer. Maybe they weren’t so bad after all. Inexplicably, no-one seems to have pointed this out to York, who carried this strangely strangulated interpretation of an East End accent over into his portrayal of a pop star (opposite Rita Tushingham again) in The Guru a year later. Smashing Time’s producer Carlo Ponti had already made one film centring around a working class photographer, Blow Up, with David Hemming’s as the Bailey-esque character. Hemmings displayed some of the commanding arrogance of the aggressively self-promoting photographers of the time, and at least he offered a few cheap coin tricks to charm the young girls who came to him in search of instant stardom. York’s Tom Wabe just comes across as a gormless berk. Why Brenda should fall for him, after initially seeking him out to give him an earful about exposing her friend Yvonne to public ridicule, is a complete mystery. But one shout of ‘ere Bren, fancy a bit o’ nosh’ and she’s gone.

Protest perfume - Direct Action
Wabe is hired to do some shots of Yvonne for the colour supplements, which were a new and exciting thing at the time, a repository of the material and lifestyle desires at the heart of the swinging sixties. My parents used to have a couple of specially produced binders containing Telegraph colour supplements – these were the sort of things it was considered worth keeping in those days. One of those supplements included a photo shoot from the time of Smashing Time’s release in which Rita and Lynn dress up in a variety of costumes and fool about for the camera. You can find these pictures over here if you scroll down a bit. There is a funny sequence in which the frivolity and pretensions of the swinging sixties photographers are lampooned, with Rita posing for a number of foolish fashion shoots. She appears on a billboard as a chic astronaut, and we see her being photographed in a meat packing plant holding a bone, and in a red evening gown in a hospital operating room. These would seem to be parodying Terence Donovan’s fondness for shooting models in front of factories and similarly unglamorous locales. We also see one of her TV ads, in which shots of street violence, with police wading in with riot gear seem to be injecting a shot of reality into the self-obsessed bubble of this fantasy world (footage from the Sunset Strip riots, perhaps – the lack of black faces would certainly seem to rule out the Watts riots). In fact, it is just the introduction to an advertisement for a new perfume, Direct Action, which Rita holds up for the camera, looking very earnest, studenty and bohemian. The advertising industry’s manipulation of the impulse to consume can be extended to embrace even such an apparently dedicatedly anti-materialistic act as the street protest. Tom also conducts an impromptu shoot with Brenda in the interstices of the canal and railway at the back of Kings Cross station, near where he lives, in impeccably bohemian style, on a very neat and well-appointed barge. This involves Rita in various scenarios: negotiating a storm on a boat, tied to the tracks in silent movie style (and what’s that passing by on its way into Kings Cross? Great Scott, it’s a Deltic!) and taking tea by a workman’s tent. It’s a sequence which embodies the 60s photographer’s very personal relationship with their favoured model.

Trainspotting - blimey, it's a Deltic!
The song which accompanies this scene, Sunshine Day, is a nice bit of psych-pop, but the music in the film as a whole is very disappointing. It harks back to music hall singalong and stage musical numbers rather than the reflecting the pop music which defined the era. The songs are seldom more than inconsequential ditties which appear to have been made up more or less on the spot to accompany the action. Sample lyrics include lines such as ‘it’s nice to know you’re really trendy/make and mendy’. Hardly Cole Porter, or more to the point, Lennon and McCartney. A pop group of the time do feature in the cast, but their music is not used. This is a shame, because Tomorrow (for it is they) could have offered some perfect songs. Their self-titled 1968 LP contains some fine psychedelic pop, all phasing and reversed guitars, alongside plenty of Syd Barrett style whimsy. Auntie Mary’s Dress Shop would have been particularly appropriate. Where Barrett had his Bike, Tomorrow have My White Bicycle, Corporal Clegg is promoted to Colonel Brown (I know, Corporal Clegg is written by Roger Waters, but he’s trying his best to imitate Barrett), and The Gnome splits off into Three Jolly Little Dwarfs. All of which would have conjured the tenor of the times to a tee. You can see three of the members of Tomorrow, John Pearce, Keith West and future Yes guitarist Steve Howe, in several scenes, and in the Sweeney Todd restaurant, they are joined by the young (and uncredited) David Essex, who looks very dapper and youthful in a 30s two-tone gangster suit.

Hippie pie fusillade - Tomorrow with Howe plus Essex
Tomorrow participate in a giant pie fight in the pie shop, in which 3,480 pies were apparently thrown. It is a lengthy and tedious scene which shows no feeling for the pacing and choreography required for effective slapstick. This unfortunately sets the tone for much of the humour in the film, which betrays its pop nature by resorting to low farce at every turn, usually accompanied by ‘silent movie’ comedy music. A pie fight, a gunfight with sauce bottles, a prolonged series of contrived interventions to thwart Ian Carmichael’s caddishly lustful intentions; it’s all terribly old-fashioned and embarrassingly lame. Lynn Redgrave and Rita Tushingham seem to have been left pretty much to their own devices in many of these scenes, with the result that there is much rather aimless and exaggerated comic mugging. I am naturally predisposed to like Rita Tushingham in whatever she does, but it has to be said, these scenes are far from her finest hour.

Shambolic session - creating the perfect pop product
Yvonne finally achieves her dreams of pop stardom, having bought her way into the system with the proceeds of a chance windfall. The scene in which she is primed for stardom by Jeremy Lloyd’s music business insider Jeremy Tove is an enjoyably cynical dissection of the pop process, the manufacturing of trends. Tove tells Yvonne that they have to buy into the charts, sweeten the disc jockeys, manufacture the image and then sell that image. He then tells her to broaden her northern accent and pretend that she worked in a mill. It’s all rather akin to the stages which Malcolm McLaren outlines in The Great Rock Swindle, which is structured as a lesson in how to manufacture a band and sell it. The session in which Yvonne records her banal, self-aggrandising song is an amusing parody of the productions of the time. As she screeches the lines ‘I can’t sing but I’m young/Can’t do a thing but I’m young’, she’s is accompanied by a rather overbearing harp, bass oboes blatting flatulently, a trio of old ladies wearily repeating a baaa ba ba ba backing vocal, a sitar striking a flurry of notes which have nothing to do with the tune proceeding alongside it, and a trio of sullen guitarists who arrythmically chop away at one chord, producing a hollow and unpleasantly rasping sound. Tove calls the session to a halt, presses the playback button, and the song is instantly transformed into a polished and sparky performance. Instant pop product.

Future Hammer stars 1: Valerie Leon, Jeremy Lloyd and the 'Snarks'

Tove himself is an example of what Michael Moorcock describes, in his polemical pamplet The Retreat From Liberty, as the ‘hip capitalist’, who ‘tried to look as much like Mick Jagger or Jean Shrimpton as possible’ and who ‘modified his language to suit the mood of the times, smoked dope, filled his Porsche with Liberty’s fabrics and quadraphonic 8-track’. He speaks in a cant almost entirely comprised of carefully learned hip language, an attempt to get with it which displays rather to much effort. Tove is set apart from the others by his tailoring, which gives him a slight distance from the pop world which he seeks to manipulate. Melly talks of the need for a new sort of clothing which would suit those who were not of the new pop aristocracy, but whose position demanded some sort of gesture towards its tastes in order to fit in. John Michael’s shops, he suggests, offered a more toned-down display of flamboyence: ‘A kind of discreet-hip: quiet suits but with brilliant silk linings, pink shirts, but with small button-down collars…the Italian style was grafted on to the central tradition of posh tailoring and at traditional prices too’. Jeremy Lloyd, who played Tove, was no stranger to the swinging sixties scene, and turns up dancing with Ringo Starr in the nightclub sequence of A Hard Day’s Night. After a brief marriage to Joanna Lumley, he would rise to new heights in the 70s and 80s as co-author of the sitcoms Are You Being Served and Allo-Allo. Tove’s secretary, by the way, is played by Valerie Leon, who looks fabulous in a pink and yellow striped dress. Leon would go on to star in the 1971 Hammer film Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb, which is a creditable effort despite the problems with which the production was beset (director Seth Holt died in the latter stages of shooting). She also appears in several Carry On films, and her cool poise as the shop assistant in Carry On Camping makes even Sid James sputter and find himself at a loss for a line of leering innuendo.

Future Hammer stars 2: Veronica Carlson
Everything ends up in that symbol of Wilson’s white heat optimism for a technologised future, the Post Office Tower. Tove arranges for Yvonne, whose popularity is already slipping, to throw a party for ‘the whole of turned on London’. He promises ‘PROs, telly producers, gangsters, pop stars, paperback writers, MBEs – it’ll be the spadest freak out of all time’. There is a media scrum on the stairs outside and we get to see a parade of swinging sixties archetypes. The Hollywood starlet who turns up in an open topped car and immediately sets about striking expert poses for the waiting cameras is played by Veronica Carlson, who would make several Hammer films in the following years, ranging from the excellent (Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed) through the middling (Dracula Has Risen From the Grave) through to the execrable (The Horror of Frankenstein). A later British horror, The Ghoul (1975) was a pale shadow of the films of Hammer’s heyday (it was actually a Tyburn production), although at least it gave her the opportunity to work with Peter Cushing again. We also see a pale and thin girl on a scooter with a short, bleached mod haircut, looking a bit like Warhol ‘star’ Edie Sedgwick, or perhaps Mia Farrow; a John Lennon-a-like in beads, kaftan and rose-tinted grannie specs; an Indian guru carried in on a sofa by his rock star acolytes; a gangster with his henchman; and, curiously, an archbishop. Inevitably, it all ends in mayhem, with Brenda taking pity on Yvonne, who suffers further humiliations, setting the revolving restaurant to overdrive and blowing the grid of the entire city. It’s a silly end to a silly film, but one with so many incidental pleasures that it’s well worth seeking out.

Hampstead mornings - a quiet moment


Jez Winship said...

Oops. As I'm sure you've already recognised, the train referred to above isn't a Deltic at all - it's merely a class 37 diesel loco, as someone who's a much greater authority than I on such matters has made clear. Shows how much I know. This will be the first and last in the potentially fascinating series 'interesting engines in the movies'.

ajsmith said...

Hi there, I recently did an interview with ST intro artist and artist for the Melly written comic Flook, Wally Fawkes, which may be of itnerest to you. http://www.tcj.com/looking-back-at-flook-an-interview-with-wally-fawkes/

Adam Smith

Anonymous said...

It's not a class 37 either. It's a class 44.