Wednesday, 31 December 2014

THE PETER CUSHING BOOK AND MAGAZINE INTERVIEW PART ONE : FULLY ILLUSTRAITED


The following interview was published in 'Book and Magazine Collector' magazine issue number 31, in October 1986. It makes reference to a production that Cushing was about to make called 'The Abott's Cry' for Tyburn films. This production sadly never came to fruition. The interview is presented her in two parts. The original published feature had very few images, I have added several throughout the piece to illustrate some of the detail within the text. Part two of will follow this weekend.... 

Peter Cushing needs no introduction as one of Britain's most popular and best loved actors. This summer marks his Golden Jubilee in the profession. Since appearing in many classic BBC-TV play and serials (including 'Pride and Prejudice' and the unforgettable '1984) in the early fifties, he has starred in over eighty films, but is probably best known for his role as Sherlock Holmes. His long awaited autobiography was published by Weidenfeld in March.


He is now making a new Sherlock Holmes film, 'The Abbot's Cry', to be shown on tv next year. All his life he has loved reading and collecting, and here he recalls some of his favourite books and magazines.


Q: What were your earliest literary interests?

A: They probably started with the 'comic strip' adventures of 'Rob the Rover' in a weekly children's magazine called 'Puck', which cost twopence, I think. From these I graduated to the works of that prodigious writer of schoolboy fiction, Charles Hamilton, who wrote under several pseudonyms: Owen Conquest for the 'Rockwood' stories about Jimmy Silver and Co', Frank Richards for 'Grayfriars' - 'Harry Wharton and Co' plus 'The Fat Owl of the Remove, Billy Bunter', and Martin Clifford for 'St. Jim's' with Tom Merry and Co', the latter being my favourite amongst these immortals.


I read these until I was about 23, when a friend decided I should take up more adult stuff, and started my love of reading in further fields with J. B. Priestley's 'The Good Companions'. Before this, I was absorbed bt Robert Ballantyne's 'The Coral Island', and stories about Robin Hood and his Merry Men, Dick Turpin the highwayman, and Just William by Richard Compton - I would read these stories aloud to my mother whislt she was knitting - and of course, all the delightful works of Beatrix Potter. Pirates also features largely in my appetite for adventure, and I loved Robert Louis Stevenson's 'Treasure Island' and Daniel Defoe's 'Robinson Crusoe'. I also read avidly the adventures of Pip, Squeak and Wilfred in the Daily Mirror Newspaper.


Q: When did you start collecting?

A: When I was a child. I still have many of those books in my collection - and have added to them over the years. (recently, thanks largely to a certain Richard Dalby, Esquire!) But I never collected anything with the idea in mind that one day they could be valuable: I wanted them for their intrinsic value, and so they remain, whether they cost a penny or a pound. They have become like old friends, never to be disturbed.

Q: Do you have a special feeling towards the early authors and illustrators of children's books?

A: Oh, yes indeed! I've always loved illustrations - still do. There are too many to mention; but, at random, Kate Greenaway springs to mind; Beatrix Potter, Ceil Aldin and H. M Brock. Drawings mean as much to me as the written word, and I find the combination irresistible. Also, the ingenuity and incredible 'engineering' with paper and card used in the reproductions of antique 'pop-up' books is to me sheer magic and enchantment. Likewise those which operate like a fan, one beautiful little 'vignette' replacing another as you pull the arrowed tab. Such skill giving such great pleasure.


Q: Is your undoubted love of England reflected in your book collecting?

A: Yes indeed. The books put out - especially the first editions - by A. and C. Black (Colour Books) are tremendous favourites of mine. They speak, in words and pictures, of a time and of places I knew between the two Great Wars, before much of the rural beauty was lost forever. Nostalgia is very potent - and those beautifully published volumes are a constant joy. Batsford produced some exquisite books full of coloured photographs of the countryside of Great Britain, and many reside on my shelves. More recently, the collected and bound 'Country Talk' books of the late J.H.B. Peel are close to my heart. Like wise the 'In Search of...' series by H.V.Morton, and his other works.


Q: Which are your favourite artists and book illustrators who specialised in portraying the beauties of the British landscape?

A: Yet again, they are legion, and especially those who specialised in any particular subject - for example, Archibald Thornburn's exquisite bird studies; the 'Victorianess' of Sutton Palmer and A.R. Quinton; the quite superb genius of Edward Seago inoil or watercolour; Ceicil Aldin and his dogs; Lionel Edwards and his horse scenes; Arthur Wardle's animal studies; Doris Zinkeisen's beautiful costume designs; the illustrations of Rex Whistler - to me, the Rupert Brooke of drawing - with their gentle humour and exquisite line; ad infinitum!


Q: I believe you knew Edward Seago quite well?

A: Yes, I had admired his work for many - many years before I corresponded with him. Eventually, in the early 1950's, we met him. My beloved wife and I were on holiday in Cromer, and on the spur of the moment, I rang and asked if we could visit him as we were so near to where he lived in Norfolk. His very early work I christened his 'chocolate box' period, but I could see beneath this genius which was one day to emerge.


When I got to know him well, I told him this, and he agreed entirely, having used the same expression himself regarding those early stages. We spent many holidays with him in his delightful Dutch House at Ludham. We painted together, and he very generously said of my efforts that he admired the freedom of handling water colours which many more experienced artists might envy. Praise indeed! He left a heritage which is yet to be given the recognition it deserves in the world of the greatest painters of all time. I am not alone in that opinion.


Q: Have your screen roles of Baron Frankenstein and Professor Van Helsing inspired you to collect gothic or horror literature, especially the classics?


A: No. I loved making the films, and I'm glad that they have given such lasting pleasure to so many generations - and perhaps some yet to come! - but the subject matter does not appeal to me personally in any way.

Q: Then how about Sherlock Holmes, with whom you have been so much associated in recent years? Do you collect the first editions, magazines and Holmesian memorabilia?


A: Oh, they are very much my cup of tea. I read those marvelous 'Sherlock Holmes' stories for the first time in my teens. I haven't exactly made a special collection of the famous sleuth, but I do have a lot of books - including the original 'Strand' magazines (bound) in which the stories first appeared, with  the inimitable illustrator Sidney Paget's atmospheric drawings - and innumerable publications written by the experts and aficionados about Holmes and Dr Watson. Apart from the great enjoyment these give, they were also most useful for getting the details correct whenever I've played Sherlock Holmes.

Donkey's years ago, I picked up, in an old bookshop, a first edition of 'The Hound of the Baskervilles'  (1902), for a few bob - in very good condition, except for slight staining at the top of the back cover!

Part Two To Follow  THIS weekend!


A HAPPY NEW YEAR FOR 2015 TO ALL OUR FRIENDS AND FOLLOWERS! 

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

A KNIGHTHOOD FOR JOHN HURT


Many CONGRATULATIONS to actor JOHN HURT on the news of his being award a Knighthood today in the Queen's New Year Honours List. The 74-year-old was appointed for his services to drama after a career lasting more than five decades. Among some of finest film work like The Elephant Man, Alien, The Naked Civil Servant, Hellboy, V for Vendetta and Doctor Who...there is 'The Ghoul' with Peter Cushing in 1975 as the disturbing and creepy, Tom Rawlings. Congratulations Sir John Hurt!

Monday, 29 December 2014

'COME MY PRECIOUS! THE MASTER IS WAITING!' FREDA JACKSON REMEMBERED


REMEMBERING: Freda Jackson, Born Today 29th December 1907. Was there ever a more frightening actresses in a Peter Cushing Hammer film? Here we see her as the 'hair-raising' Greta in 'The Brides of Dracula' (1960) starring Peter Cushing, Yvonne Monlaur and David Peel. Happy Birthday, Freda!

Saturday, 27 December 2014

WELCOME TO THE ASYLUM : ROY WARD BAKER ON THE AMICUS FILMS CHILLER


Producer, Milton Subotsky in his quiet and unobtrusive way, had made about 30 pictures since he came to England from New York. A dedicated Anglophile, he took British citizenship. He made a number of films of the magazine type, taking four or five short stories and stringing them together, usually enclosed in a suitable envelope. He persuaded strings of star names to appear in them and they were successful. ASYLUM was another one in that style. He had selected five short stories written by Robert Bloch. He sent his plan to bloch, together with a suggested envelope. Not surprisngly, Bloch wrote a cracking good script.


All the characters in these stories were lunatics except one and it was vital that their obsessions and fantasies should be absolutely genuine, NOT people putting on an act. Milton assembled a marvelous cast which was simply a list of first class actors who all responded beautifully. I was in my element and thankful to have such a group around me.


Before we began shooting the was one sad incident. I had asked Arthur Grant to photograph the film. He had read the script and was as enthusiatic as i was, but only ten days before the start he came to me, full of apologies. He was ill, and he felt it would be irresponsible to continue. He saud he knew that he couldn't do the job. I didn't ask any questions. I never knew was he was suffering, but only a few momnths later, he died. A sad loss to us all. He was  so good natured, unpretentious and good at his job. He was an ace at photographing dramatic night sequences: his motto was 'Never mind how dark it's supposed to be - the audience has still got to see what's going on!' And yet it still looked like night.


Dennis Coop was dubious about taking over at short notice but I managed to persuade him. He was a real top rater. He had high standards and you wouldn't find him photographing any old rubbish. We worked well together and I was glad to have him on my next two pictures. After that he became one of the principal members of the team that made Superman fly and you couldn't see the wires because there weren't any!



ASYLUM is one of my favorite films. The shoot was a smooth as silk. Tony Waye being the first assistant: he later spent a lot of time as a line producer on the James Bond films. There ios no pint in describing the stories or in picking out individual performances, they were all excellent, although I must just mention Herbert Lom's piece, which was utterly convincing. It was all shot in one day too, not that that's important. And the joint efforts of Charlotte Rampling and Britt Ekland were really smart. I like the picture because it all fits together so neatly, with terrific pace, too.


Milton Subosky was one of the nicest people i ever worked with. Shy, honest, modest - not the popular image of a film producer. I should have underlined the word 'popular'. Of course all producers are shy, honest, etc! Milton was no good at the publicising himself, never put himself about. He was an innovator. He filmed Harold Pinter's 'The birthday Party' directed by William Friedkin. He was the first to revive the Sword and Sorcery style - and first into insects, with a plague of bees! After Dead of Night, which had no follow ups because it was so good, he revived the magazine format with macabre stories. His productions were in the same field as Hammer but were always somehow different. An admirable man. He loved the stories and he loved film, to him, it wasn't just a business....


Roy Ward Baker: The Directors Cut.
published 2000
Images and Layout
Marcus Brooks


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Sunday, 21 December 2014

ACTRESS BILLIE WHITELAW DIES


Very sad to hear that actress Billie Whitelaw has died tonight.

Photograph: Billie Whitelaw as Mary Patterson in 'Flesh and the Fiends' starring Peter Cushing in 1960. Whitelaw also appeared with Peter Cushing in 'A Tale of Two Cities' as Madame Therese Defarge in 1980.


Saturday, 20 December 2014

DIRECTOR: ROY WARD BAKER BIRTHDAY: REMEMBERED


Remembering Today.. the birthday of director Roy Ward Baker, whose work with Peter Cushing includes 'Asylum', 'And Now, The Screaming Starts!'. 'The Vampire Lovers' with Amicus films. 'The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires for Hammer films and 'The Masks of Death' with Peter Cushing for Tyburn films. Starting as a tea boy at the Gainsborough Studios in London in 1934, raising to the role of assistant director with Alfred Hitchcock on 'The Lady Vanishes' by 1939, then onto a career as director in Hollywood, working with Marilyn Munroe...Ward Baker had a very full career that covered just about every genre! Today we remember his birthday and the contribution to not only Peter Cushing's career, but the the world of cinema... Part Two of our Roy Ward Baker and Peter Cushing series will appear on the website THIS weekend.

Monday, 8 December 2014

JENNIE LINDEN : A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!


A Happy Birthday to JENNIE LINDEN who celebrates her birthday today December 8th.... and who fought the good fight against the Daleks with Peter Cushing as Dr Who in 'Dr Who and the Daleks' in 1965

Saturday, 6 December 2014

LIMITED EDITION PETER CUSHING DR WHO BLU RAY STEELBOOK


NEWS: Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150AD Limited Edition Steelbook.

One for your Christmas Stocking maybe?
A very cool edition for anyone's Dr Who / Dalek / Peter Cushing library!


Zavvi have announced an exclusive steelbook for the Peter Cushing movie Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. on Blu-Ray. The steelbook will be a limited edition of 2000 and will be released on 15th May 2015. It is available to pre-order from today from Zavvi.

Daleks - Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.
Limited Edition Steelbook
Release date: 15 May 2014

Daleks - Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. directed by Gordon Flemyng, now fully restored and starring Peter Cushing in his return to the big screen as British TV's most iconic sci-fi hero, Doctor Who.

The earth of 2150 AD is a desolate and hostile ruin of a planet, crumbling at the edge of civilisation, slowly disappearing into the darkness of space. For the future of planet earth now belongs The Daleks, a destructive army of alien invaders who have turned the human race into cowering slaves.

Meanwhile deep within the London Underground a group of resistance freedom fighters are planning an attack. But there's only one man who could possibly help them succeed in destroying their extra-terrestrial enemies and take back control of planet earth. A man of mystery, a man of time and space, a man known only as... The Doctor.

Special Features:

Restoring Daleks - Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.
Interview with actor Bernard Cribbins
Interview with author Gareth Owen
Stills Gallery
Trailer
 

Friday, 5 December 2014

THE FINAL BOW: ROY WARD BAKER ON 'THE MASKS OF DEATH' CUSHING'S LAST SHERLOCK


Wonderful! Sherlock Holmes was to manifest himself once more. The producer, Kevin Francis, had conjured him up and this was to be a film by Holmes buffs, for Holmes buffs. Based on a story by John Elder (the pen name of Hammer films Anthony Hinds), the script by NJ Crips was packed with in-jokes. It also had a number of twists on the traditional style: Holmes is no longer infallible and makes several mistakes, which he admits; Irene Adler reappears, in the person of Anne Baxter, but this time she is a goodie.


Over recent years there have been several versions of the Sherlock saga, plus pitches, new stories, etcetera, etcetera, some very faniciful indeed. Peter Cushing, Sir John Mills and I met for a discussion of the relationship between Holmes and watson. Not surprisngly, we were all of one mind: we had re-read the books and out opinions were based on what we had read.


They were both bachelors of a certain social status. They were both looking for a modest and comforatble set of rooms in a respectable area not too far from the centre of london. They each had a small income which wouldn't run to a suitable place, but if they shared the expenses they would be able to rent such a set, together with a housekeeper, They scrupulously respected each other's territory, using the sitting room as a common ground. It was an exclusively male existance and they became fast friends. In the course of adventures they came to depend on each other. Contrary to the speculations of some latter-day commentators, they were never envinced the slightest in homosexuality. The period of 'The Adventures...' runs from 1881 to 1903, the present story 'The Masks of Death' is set in 1913, with Holmes being dragged out of retirement.


Peter Cushing was one of the best of many actors who played Sherlock Holmes. This was his seventeeth and final bow in the part; he knew the man and understood him perfectly. Johnnie Mills had never played Watson and to my mind, his was the best version ever. It is the devil of a character to convey as a real person. He is usually presented to us a thick-headed stooge to the great man, which of course makes one wonder how Holmes puts up with him - that can't be right. Holmes is the eccentric, imaginative figure, while Watson is down to earth, methodical, practical: after all, he is a doctor of medicine. The two men are complete oppersites but in thier different ways they are equals, or at any rate of equal value to each other. They respect each other. I guarentee that this picture is worth a look just to see this performance. I don't mean to belittle any of the othetr actors, who are all fine: Anne Baxter, Anton Diffing, Gordon Jackson and Ray Milland, all on great form.


The crew was largely a collection of old friends. Anthony Mendleson, the brilliant costume designer and three stalwarts from Hammer films: Make up artist Roy Ashton, editor Chris Barnes and guess who as sound editor - the 'other Roy Baker! Ray Sturgess was the camera operator. We had worked together several times before but this time he was presented with some special problems.


The ruling was that we must use camera equipment from the Pinewood camera dept[artment, which hadn't been used for years! Pinewood had been a wall-to-wall studios for ages. Therefore all visiting crews brought their own gear with them. Anyway the Pinewood stuff was cleaned up and tested but it was old fashioned, which didn't make life easy for Ray. It was due to his efforts that everything worked out well. Brendan Stafford was the lighting cameraman who, like Holmes, had to be  dragged protesting out of retirement to do the film. He enjoyed it , I am sure....


Taken from The Director's Cut
By Roy Ward Baker
Reynolds and Hearn 2000

Images and Design: Marcus Brooks
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