The Constant Creed

In the distance, the two churches stand tall in the cold, winter sky. Here, another faith plays out. Faith with a silent expectancy:that spring will return with her colourful flourish. There is a certitude of faith in the order of things. To this we pledge our souls.

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On Snow And Virginity

I sat in a cafe this morning, drinking coffee and reading Death Of A Salesman, while throwing an occasional glance towards the snow falling outside the window. It was the first real snow of the winter, well, for the past two years, and seemed to have been met with both welcome and disdain. It is beautiful to look at, but it doesn’t take much of it to disrupt our plans.

We have an Angolan student staying with us, and this for him was his very first experience of this type of weather. Our recent dearth of the stuff allowed me to view it like he did, for it is just, I think, over familiarity that allows us to become blasé about the world around us.

The kids had been excited on the school run. I would say that they had been both racing ahead, and delaying their arrival at school, if that wasn’t such a contradiction. My seven year old daughter exclaimed dramatically “I hope I don’t die, I will never see snow again!”

Turning from a main thoroughfare onto a small cul-de-sac, both children stopped as they appeared dumbstruck at the sight of the fresh snow lay out before them, all encompassing snow that held no tracks or footprints.

“Can we go over it ?” my five year old son asked, as though sensing immaturely something sacred about its form.

I laughed, “Of course you can! Off you go over the virgin snow.” 

The boy ran ahead, but his older sister paused, asking characteristically: “What does virgin mean?”

I started to think about context. Something unspoilt, untarnished. Something pure, without taint or blemish. Of course this line of thought led to what was meant by virgin. Again, someone unspoilt, untainted, pure. But this only holds if we view sex as something dirty, sinful. Something spoiling. Which of course it isn’t (again, allowing for context). It is attitudes and perspectives that are spoiling, not the natural act itself.

Of course I said none of this. “It’s just snow that nobody has trodden on yet. Get going!”

She raced off, following her brother, both of them in their joy taking the snow’s virginity.

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Hammer Chooseday #2:Fear In The Night

Fear In The Night (1972) 5/5

The much better film of a double feature release (the other being the dreadful Straight On Till Morning), Judy Geeson plays a woman recovering from a nervous breakdown, who is attacked by an intruder with a prosthetic arm. Soon after this she moves, along with her new husband, a teacher, to the country, where he has a new job at a boys’ school. At least she will be safe in the country, won’t she?

Of course not, this is a Hammer film.

A further attack happens in her new home, but, due to her previous mental health problems, her husband Robert (Ralph Bates) doesn’t believe her. She meets the headmaster of the school, the unsettling Michael, played by the ever great Peter Cushing. We soon learn that Michael has a prosthetic arm. Now I’m no Sherlock, but this could just be a clue, couldn’t it, as the number of people that you meet with a false arm you can count on, well, one hand?

Peter Cushing should have gone to Specsavers.

Peter Cushing should have gone to Specsavers.

One night, alone and tormented, Peggy shoots Michael and flees. The next morning, when Bob returns, she neglects to tell him what has happened. Finding blood, used cartridges, and a damaged door, (but no body), Bob try’s to put the pieces of the jigsaw together, and hunts for Michael’s body.

Eventually, we learn that the villains of the piece are actually Bob, in cahoots with his lover Molly, (played by Joan Collins), who just happens to be Michael’s wife. Keeping up? They have set up Peggy to kill Michael for them.

Call me unreasonable, but the fact that Molly has made a clay model of Peggy, and likes to thrust sharp implements into the eye, should have set alarm bells off.

Call me unreasonable, but the fact that Molly has made a clay model of Peggy, and likes to thrust sharp implements into the eye, should have set alarm bells off. Nice cardigans though.

In the end the unstable Michael, who we learn is the headmaster of a school that, like Molly’s model, has no pupils, comes to Peggy’s rescue and we are left with the image of Bob hanging from a tree.

The things you have to do for art.

The things you have to do for art.

An entertaining thriller with good performances all round.

Whatever you do, don't let Peggy have a go of the Karaoke.

Whatever you do, don’t let Peggy have a go of the Karaoke.

That's right, keep her away from the mic.

That’s right, keep her away from the mic.

Too late:"You know you make me wanna shout..." (Clears the room. No wonder the school had no pupils.)

Too late:”You know you make me wanna shout…” (Clears the room. No wonder the school had no pupils.)

Old Burial Ground

The sky laden and ashen,

the earth as hard as iron,

these dead lie all forgotten

in their incumbent sleep.

 

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Their markers angled, fallen,

harsh wind cold, calling.

A funereal morning, stolen,

from the oblivious dead.

 

 

 

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Our tread is slow and reverent.

our sacred breath efferent.

In new light we leave our essence,

on trails long grown old.

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©AJM

 

Hammer Chooseday #1:Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde

Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde (1971) 5/5

Dr. Jekyll’s experiments transform him into a beautiful, female, alter ego, and both he and she go to any lengths to get the female hormones needed to continue the work. The film incorporates historical figures into the story: when bodysnatchers Burke and Hare can no longer provide the bodies, Jekyll becomes the Ripper of Whitechapel.

 

Just the kind of coat the Ripper needs to blend incongruously into his surroundings.

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A battle for dominance between both personalities leads to a struggle for the life of Jekyll’s unsuspecting love interest, played by Susan Brodrick, in a real pea souper of a fog.

 

Mirror, mirror, on the wall. Who is the fairest of them all? What do you mean you quit?

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Just Jekyll’s luck-not only did he manage to transform himself into a woman, but he managed to transform himself into a woman with PMT.

imageA striking resemblance between the two, great, leads-Ralph Bates and Martine Beswick, helps to cement a credible portrayal of Stevenson’s story.

 

If only Jekyll grew a beard, Hyde would be in trouble. And so would Lewis Fiander, playing her love interest. If he only knew. Death by stubble burn.

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At the end of the film, in an attempt to escape capture by the police, the doctor hangs from a rooftop as Jekyll, screams as Hyde, (this is getting confusing), and plunges to his/her death. We see his/her face disfigured by the fall and also, perhaps, the interrupted gender struggle.

 

Even John Lennon could not resist her charms. Perhaps she was the inspiration behind his Beatles song-You’ve Got To Hyde Your Love Away? Sorry, I’ll get my cloak.

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A good film with some great imagery, I can recall watching this many years ago one night at my grandparents’ house. Although I am sure I watched it in black and white-must have been the good old days before they had a colour television.

 

‘The sexual transformation of a man into a woman will actually take place before your very eyes!’ Thank God my Gran had cataracts.

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A good good film which I enjoyed. Now, what’s next?

Introducing Hammer Chooseday Tuesday. On Monday.

So you guys probably all know by now that I’m an old horror fan, and when I was a kid I loved in particular the old films made by Hammer, or Hammer Horror, as we used to refer to the production company back then. Recently I have begun to either watch for the first time, or rewatch again, their back catalogue of movies. The problem is keeping tabs on what I’ve seen and what I haven’t seen.

Hammer studios was operating, in many genres, between 1935 and 1979. From 2008, the company started releasing horror films again. It is quite an umbrella that covers their work.

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There is no point me asking my wife about the various films, as she refuses point blank to watch them with me. I tried to get her to watch their very first Dracula film, made in 1958.

She lasted fifteen minutes.

She told me how bad it was. It was like a dagger, or rather a stake, through the heart. I couldn’t believe it, saying to her:

“What do you mean? It’s a classic! What about the part when Christopher Lee’s Dracula closes the door behind himself, and Van Helsing’s fear is palpable as he realises that he is trapped inside the tomb with no less than The Lord of the Undead?” 

“I would rather watch dog shit cooling”

You can see who the real poet in our marriage is, can’t you? The Laureate later elucidated:

“Once you put it on, I knew it wasn’t for me. It was like being out on a blind date, and you are sat at the table thinking ‘I shouldn’t be here’. Do you know what I mean?” 

Oh yes Jen, I know exactly what you mean.

So, not being able to rely on my other half, I thought I would use City Jackdaw to keep a record of what I’ve seen and what I haven’t seen. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get carried away and fill my blog with Hammer posts. God forbid I get all nerdy on you. Not in public anyway. I will just just post a film a week, and I’ve picked Tuesday as Hammer Chooseday is the best I could come up with. I thought of Hammer Film Friday, but that would clash with my occasional Claws For The Weekend posts. And Winding The Wife Up Wednesdays was a non-starter.

You can tell I’ve really thought this through, can’t you?

So every Tuesday, starting tomorrow, I will pick one of Hammer’s horror, science fiction, or thriller films to watch and document. (I have decided to ignore their comedies, as my life span is just not long enough.) It wont be a review, only a brief summing up, as I’m no Barry Norman. Maybe some nice shiny pictures too. Perhaps a poster cover art sort of thing, too, for those of you who like that.

So, if it’s not your cup of tea please bear with me. I will serve you something else up the other six days of the week. Something for you to look forward to while you watch that, you know, dog shit.

Cooling.

This photograph reminded me of the Mrs, radiating excitement as the credits start to roll. Pass me an apple, darling.

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