Ulli Lommel – A Fond Farewell

I lost one of my best and closest friends today when Ulli Lommel passed away.

The news reached me less than an hour before I started class (I was teaching all day), so I had to suppress the impact of everything until I finished up, almost 7 hours later. Then it hit me. Hard.

As many probably do when someone passes, I thought of the final few times we spoke, which was last week, before he fell Ill. With some kind of macabre prescience, our last few messages now seem like a very succinct farewell. I told him that I would always be there; to listen, to help, just to be present. He told me those words brought a tearful smile to his face. I also mentioned the joy that I took when I thought of our adventures together. And there were many adventures.

Ulli and I met when I was recommended to him as a competent writer who could help with a screenplay that needed developed quickly. Several years later, there have been many scripts, pitches, TV show bibles and collaborations created with one another, and we travelled the world working on them. I’ve seen and experienced things on those travels, the likes of which may never happen to me again. But all of it paled in comparison to our friendship, which meant everything to me.

I know a lot of people, but have a small number of close friends. Ulli Lommel was part of that family. Like family, we drove each other crazy at times, but it never took more than a few minutes to resolve itself. We trusted each other, and took great joy in each other’s company. I’ll never forget his stories and charm (and that’s not just because I helped write the English version of his autobiography), and I can’t even begin to fathom the hole which has been left in my life by his passing.

Ulli was so present in my life that if I write ‘Hello’ or ‘Hi’ on my phone, ‘Ulli’ is the word that autocorrect suggests. ‘Was so present’….everything has become past tense now. That’s one of the hardest adjustments.

Ulli always said he wanted to live in Ireland. He got to visit once, earlier this year, and I’m happy that he was able to experience it.

Two nights ago, I dreamed of Ulli. We were travelling on a train and he had a bunch of old photographs in his lap, some of which were no bigger than a stamp. Something about that dream stayed with me for the remainder of the day. Now I know that it was him saying goodbye.

Tonight, as I stepped out into the frosty night, there was a low lying mist and a beaming full moon. Perfect Boogeyman weather.

I raised a glass to the sky and said my own goodbyes.

But I’ll say them again. Goodbye Ulli and thank you for everything you have taught, fought and done for me. I love you and I will miss you.

Yours, Colin.

46

Straw Dogs Through Generations – The Territorial Imperative

 

Straw Dogs’ legacy is one which will live on as long as cinema itself, as uncomfortable and difficult as that may be. 

“Heaven and earth are ruthless, and treat the myriad creatures as straw dogs; the sage is ruthless, and treats the people as straw dogs.

Lao Tzu’s Tao Teh Ching. Book One, Poem V (Penguin Ed. Trans. D.C. Lau)

The desolate remoteness of the Cornish countryside, in the Southern English locale known as ‘The West Country’, formed the backdrop for veteran US director Sam Peckinpah’s sixth feature; a rural western which would cause enough furore and controversy to ignite passionate debate over four decades after its initial release in 1971. Straw Dogs is a provocative and challenging film which poses many difficult questions pertaining to the nature of violence and sexuality. A source of conflict and debate amongst critics and academics alike, there is a wealth of philosophy and introspective analysis taking place amidst the societal and personal breakdowns which occur during the two hours of relentless tension.

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Leonard Cohen Dublin

Leonard Cohen – In Memoriam

Leonard Cohen left this world on Monday November 7th, 2016 at the age of 82. He was subsequently laid to rest in a quiet and private ceremony in Montreal before the public were made aware of his passing.

We all knew that this day would come, but I doubt any of us were truly prepared for it.

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A Boy and His Dog

L.Q. Jones’ 1975 adaptation of Harlan Ellison’s award winning novella, A Boy and His Dog, is an oft-overlooked cinematic peculiarity which exists within a multi-layered world of conflict. Set in the fallout of World War IV, which we are told lasted only five days, it takes an acerbic and cynical look at the constructs of society, and the parallels that exist between civility and base desire. The film has been both lauded and maligned, both for its witty and astute vision, as well as its perceived misogynistic and, ultimately, misanthropic stance. The issue of misogyny formed a long-running disagreement between Jones and Ellison; creating yet another conflict that arose from the ashes of this post-apocalyptic nightmare.

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The Devil Didn’t Do It. The Devil Is Us.

You’re getting rid of ALL of this crap,” screamed Betty Ann Sullivan as she tore a Slayer poster off her son’s bedroom wall. She’d had enough. The clothes, the music, the bullshit attitude. Having just turned fourteen, Tommy was too young for all of this. Why couldn’t he just be……why couldn’t he just be normal?

Long hair. Make-up. Demons. Dragons. Pentagrams and an oblique array of things that a suburban mother couldn’t understand were the cause of yet another fight. Embarrassment. Exasperation. Miscommunication. Fear. All catalysts.

The insults got stronger. The sense of hopelessness growing with each challenging day.

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Shadow’s Wing: Legacy of The Crow

People once believed that when someone dies, a crow carries their soul to the land of the dead.  But sometimes, something so bad happens that a terrible sadness is carried with it and the soul can’t rest. Then sometimes, just sometimes, the crow can bring that soul back to put the wrong things right.”

Introduction

Horrific and destructive events take place on October 30th; Devil’s Night. Fires burn across a decaying city as a crow surveys the landscape from atop a spire. This is the modern Hell. A world of decay and corruption; one bereft of love and compassion, where blood is spilled without heed on a regular basis.

On Friday May 13th 1994, The Crow, Alex Proyas’ feature debut, based on the comic books of Detroit native James O’Barr, was released in cinemas across the United States. The first R-Rated adaptation of its kind, it created a template for the Gothic antihero which fit perfectly into the nihilistic pop culture of the era. Brandon Lee, for many, became the epitome of tragic beauty with his portrayal of Eric Draven, a budding musician who is slain the night before his wedding. Shelly Webster, his bride to be is brutally assaulted, raped and left for dead, only to pass shortly afterwards. The solace that a young companion, Sarah, found in the couple has been destroyed forever, casting her back into the uncaring world her mother inhabits; one of drugs, miscreants and squalor.

Before long, Draven rises from the grave and, guided by a crow, seeks out the perpetrators of his demise; systematically exacting revenge in a methodical and bloody manner. A range of unforgettable villains stand in the way of his redemption, as Lee transforms himself into The Crow; an angel, a ghost, a warrior.

This is the story of one of the most resonant and influential comic book movies of all time, told by those who were there, in an exclusive celebration of the twenty-first anniversary of the film that spawned a legacy.

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The Gentleman of the Golden Age – The Escapades of R Bolla aka Robert Kerman

Walking the dirty streets of Times Square in the mid-1970s was a world away from the glitzy Disneyland it has become today. Hookers, pimps, peep shows and dirty bookstores were the predominant form of business in the area. 42nd St was an endless gauntlet of theatres, each with marquees displaying a mixture of sensationalist and lascivious titles; this was the era of Grindhouse.

In the wake of Deep Throat (1972), the porn industry became fashionable, as upmarket couples slummed it in the filthy fleapits, dressed to the nines as they occupied the same seats that the raincoat brigade had shuffled in for years previously. The money began to roll in, and soon enough everyone wanted a cut. The number of films in production skyrocketed and the scene in New York became an entity unto itself. This is a story of one man who was there for the whole thing.

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Ed Wood: Passion and Prophecy

How two Hollywood screenwriters and a maverick director recreated the biopic.

Basking in the monochrome glory that is Ed Wood twenty one years after its initial release is somewhat of an otherworldly activity. To reflect upon the feature after all this time allows us to really see how influential, vital and groundbreaking a film it has become. Not only was it a turning point for director Tim Burton, along with writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (who conceived and developed the project), but it set a benchmark for ‘90s cinema, ushering in a new kind of character study; one which the writers have termed the ‘Anti-Great Man Film’.

To celebrate the anniversary of Ed Wood, I spoke with Alexander and Karaszewski to discover how it all came to be, how it affected their subsequent work, and why in the world they chose to focus on a relatively unknown B-Movie director who had been termed ‘The Worst Filmmaker Of All Time’.

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A Demon and a Gentleman: Dr Walpurgis and BBCs The Vault of Horror

‘Those busybodies from the National Viewers and Listeners Association have long ago given up waiting for any blasphemous bestiality. They’ve gone to bed with their cocoa.’ – Dr Walpurgis

Halloween night 1992 and the venerable British Broadcasting Corporation opened up its two main terrestrial channels and went all out in a manner of which had never been seen before. BBC1 presented the (staged) documentary Ghostwatch, which later caused a significant furore due to a massive amount of complains and a suicide case, for which the show was blamed in triggering. BBC2, its sister channel, held an extravagant and hitherto unparalleled horror all-nighter entitled The Vault of Horror.

The scheduling for the night delved into the world of contemporary genre in a manner of which mainstream television in the UK had never done before. The Horror Bites segments included interviews and mini documentaries about famous horror authors, the world of special effects, EC Comics, horror icons; such as Pinhead, Freddy and Jason, indie genre studios, sex and horror, Dario Argento and even a section focusing on Fangoria magazine, and the legacy which it had created. As the screen cast its luminescent hue across the living rooms of the unsuspecting British public, an early insight was given into the complexity, range and passion which existed within the industry at that time; all of which was presented by the most debonair, and striking demon ever to grace the airwaves. Interviews with Tom Savini, Anthony Timpone, Mary Lambert, Wes Craven, Sean Cunningham, Charles Band, Lloyd Kauffman, Richard Stanley and Jack Kamen were certainly not what people were used to seeing on British TV in the early ‘90s. It was, however, the continuity announcer who bound them all together, which struck a chord; paving the way for three subsequent seasons, which allowed Dr. Walpurgis (V for Vendetta / Harry Potter actor Guy Henry)  to become the UK’s only true horror host.

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