Sunday, 26 September 2010

It's Those Scamps From Universal Pictures Again!

Here is this week's entry to the Caption Competition
Voting is taking place as I type, so who knows what the future may hold? Once again I have drawn (ho ho!) on 1930s horror icons as a source for humour. Why is this such a strong influence on me? In the nineteen-sixties, when DC comics like Superman, Batman and Green Lantern were not confined to specialist comics shops (they hadn't been invented yet), a young tyke like myself could sporadically follow the adventures of these super heroes in the local newsagents. Every now and again the backcovers advertised Aurora models of the Wolf-Man, Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster and a rather frightening thing called the Forgotten Prisoner. I saw the latter at just about the time Joan Baez was singing There But For Fortune and therefore made her lyrics particularly graphic. These things were unobtainable to a lad like yours truly - until...
There used to be a hobby shop in Stevenage called the Hobby Shop (we know our onions in Stevenage) and amazingly, one day, there in the window, in the flesh (okay, cardboard box, clever clogs) stood the exotically ubobtainable Aurora models. Did I buy any? No I did not. I wasn't going to have these monsters in my bedroom, half illuminated by my Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound night light. I had nightmares enough already, thank you very much for asking! The cause of these nightmares? There used to be a programme on the telly, on ITV, called, simply enough, Cinema. Clive James was an occasional host, but he shared the duties with another sardonic commentator whose name escapes me (Mike something?). Every now and again Cinema, rather than just reviewing current releases, would run a themed special. One particular week it was Horror. I pleaded and begged my parents to allow me to watch it and they eventually gave way on the understanding that there wouldn't be any nonsense about ghosts and monsters when I went to bed (i.e. I wasn't to wake up screaming in the middle of the night). I watched most of the programme from behind my fingers (wimp!). Two elements stood out very starkly, unless my memory is fooling me. One was a sequence from an Abbot and Costello film where they place a bed up against the door to prevent Frankenstein's monster entering the room. The door opened the other way, thereby negating what was, to my mind, a safe haven (bed), the other was the transposition of the soundtrack from On the Town (Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra) to the visuals on The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. It is very disconcerting for a young boy to witness a huge monster creating death and destruction to the jaunty background singing of New York, New York.
I shamefully admit that I did not keep my side of the bargain with my parents. I think every light in the house had to stay on.
P.S. It was this programme that introduced me to Kurosawa's Throne of Blood. There you are, a bit of bleedin' kullchar for a working-class boy.


  1. It was Mike Scott. I remember him well. He was, in fact, an early director of "Coronation Street". Once, when tackled about the lack of black or Asian characters in the programme, he explained that to have such characters would mean that there would have to be reactionary, racist comments from such characters as the Duckworths. Of course, the viewers wouldn't stand for that. A great man.

    In the modern world it seems that it is important to cover a full range of diverse characters: thieves, murderers, those people our mums warned us about etc. . . .

    . . . speaking of which, did you hear that the Pope on his recent visit to Scotland ordered several cases of Glenfiddich after reading a review? "A cheeky 12 year old that goes down well" .. .

    . . .I'll get my coat.

  2. Mr. Leeke! I imagine Old Nick is pumping up the bellows over the coals for you even as we type.

  3. Anyhow, back to the point . . . I remember standing for hours outside of a newsagent's in Letchworth agonising over which of these wonderful Marvel comics to buy - I still have most of them. The Neal Adam's "X-Men" being my favourites (and later his series of Batman and "Brave and the Bold").

    Neal Adams, Jim Steranko and, later, Barry Windsor-Smith (British - and he worked for Marvel! - check his website out)what wonderful artists. It's how I learnt to draw.

    Well, okay, in the early 70s I COULD draw. Then I discovered guitars. Perhaps I should have carried on drawing and left the guitars alone but life-long influences nonetheless.