|Wild Bears within twenty miles of Central Park, New York City? That had nothing to do with the script for one of the most strange and dynamic Horror films made. Ingrid stars along side the determinedly over the top Tom Savini. Described by one critic as Ingrid’s best film.|
There is always somebody ready to put the boot in. You think you have a grip on a fundamental factor of life as we know it and then somebody comes up with something off the wall and you have to go into revise mode. My epiphany came on a visit to the Emerald Isle, Dublin to be precise. Well Malahide really, about 15 miles up the coast on what I think is the shore of Dublin Bay. I was invited there to have a look at the Bram Stoker Museum by its founder and curator, Dennis McIntyre. He was marvellous. Enthusiastic and happy to show an alien around his stomping ground. Even put me up in the Grand Hotel . Still a little ‘thirties’ in spite of an attempt to bring it into the 21st century. Built right on the edge of the bay the view from my window would have been breath taking – if the rain and mist had lifted long enough for me to see it. Dennis took me everywhere. The pub where Bram used to sit and write. Unfortunately, because of structural alterations the actual table he used to sit at had disappeared into a wall but it was easy to get the picture. The other customers were wonderful. At the drop of a tammashanty (is that Irish) they started to sing The Bar Maids Daughter from The Wicker Man. I didn’t spoil it by telling them that it was Britt Ekland’s song. They were having such a great time I thought it would be a trifle churlish. Later we went and stood in front of the house where Bram was born. I wanted to see the Blue Plaque announcing the event but the present owners didn’t fancy having bus loads of tourist trampling the daffodils and had put the kybosh on that.
The Museum itself is a gem. Relatively small at the moment Dennis has big ideas for its future. As you might expect in a museum devoted to Bram Stoker, most of the floor space was Dracula themed also there were references to his other works such as Lair of the White Worm. Beware of the entrance when you visit. It is truly a surreal experience. You have to walk across a bridge. The bridge itself is perfectly safe and functional. What ties a knot in your hanky are the thousands of dots of light revolving around the walkway. Going in I was following Dennis and I guess his bulk shielded me from the full disorientating effect. Going back I led the way and suddenly I was staggering around and gripping the hand rail for support.
All this was just the nuts and raisins of my visit to Dublin. What threw me a bit was the claim Dennis made casually that Dracula, the book, wasn’t really about a bloodthirsty Transylvanian Prince but a misrepresented Irish bloke called Drochfhola. Which means bad blood. Whooa! I cried. What about Jonathan Harker and his journey across Transylvania, dinner at the Golden Krone in Bistritz, the Borgo Pass, Whitby and all the other goodies strewn across his path before and after his visit to Castle Dracula? “Late editions” quoth Dennis without blinking. Evidently Bram’s publisher, weaned on the more adventurous voyaging of Byron’s Lord Ruthven, plagiarised by his doctor Polidori, suggested that he should sex the story up a bit. Give it a more international, not to say supernatural, setting. Publisher, Mr. Constable,suggested Transylvania, The Land Beyond the Forest. So Dracula assumed a dodgy accent and a bizarre dress sense. And Whitby? In the original version that was the port of Baldock Baile an Duil , Town of the Dark Stranger, in Ireland. Dennis is all set to prove his theories. Nest year he hopes to be able to invite some International Vampire egg heads from various Universities to meet in Dublin next year and discuss his claims with his own local experts. I’m sold on his claim but then I’m a nut for a good conspiracy theory. Can Chris Lee do an Irish accent?
A week after the Bram Stoker Experience I was a dozen or so miles outside New York working on a film called Sea of Dust. (That’s the first time I’ve been able to remember the name off the top of my head). I’ve always thought of New York in terms of Sachs and Bloomingdales and the Tavern on the Green in Central Park. The suburbs were concrete jungles like Hoboken and Meadowlands. I was at a location near a place called Rockaway in New Jersey, The Garden State,. All beautiful trees and prancing fauna. Sitting outside my Winnebago waiting to do my bit I saw what I thought was a dog appear out of the bushes. Then another. They began to play around and I suddenly realised I was sitting within about twenty five feet of a couple of Wild Brown bears. Discretion is definitely the better part of being chomped on by playful bears in a New Jersey forest so I retired elegantly into the trailer and watched bravely from the window. Wonderful.
But back to the picture. The story is told in retrospect.It’s a sort of horror/scifi scenario. End of the world as we know it. Perhaps you know Prester John from John Buchan’s book Prester John. If I remember rightly that was set in Africa. The Prester John character has his roots in antiquity. Then he was a evangelising Christian who had a land that would upstage Paradise, set somewhere on the silk trade route. Countless adventurers set off to find the angelical man. Most never returned and those that did had to admit failure in their venture. So the historians deftly relocated him to Africa where adventurers then went in hope and returned disappointed. In Sea of Dust Prester John has undergone a character transplant. He is still doing his bit for the Kingdom of God but over the years he has become disillusioned about his fellow man. Now he realises that man, in all his infamy, can only be saved through pain. And, boy, does he intend to give it to them. He turns up in the early twentieth century intent on bringing the world to its knees. Troy Holland who plays Stefan Christoph, the lead character, and a fledgling doctor to boot,turns up at the country mansion of Lord Dunsten. Elizabeth, his Lordship’s daughter played by Sarah Dauber, has consented to marry him but now appears to be having second thoughts. He greeted with a frosty reception by the butler, Chalmers, (Peter Barker), who tells him to sling his hook. Anna, that’s me, a sort of ancient retainer with the family’s interests at heart, intercedes and Stefan is allowed in. Anna gives him the woe woe all is woe bit and begs him to take Elizabeth away from it all. That suits Stefan fine. Unfortunately his Lordship will have none of it and even Elizabeth seems less than enthusiastic about the idea.That’s pretty straight forward.
Then it begins to get a bit weird. Well a lot weird really. As the characters begin to fall under the spell of Prester John, portrayed with true malevolence by make-up man, director and actor extraordinaire, Tom Savini, THINGS start to happen. (Tom, you may remember, had that rather imaginatively mounted pistol in Dusk ‘til Dawn). Stefan meets up with local good time girl, Clara) who is worried about her father, the local woodcutter. He has been acting rather strangely. Just when Stefan thinks he has honed in on a buxom friend in need she has a go at him. She gets killed. As least she is supposed to be dead but then she turns up on the beach. With the local Doctor I try to keep everything on an even keel but what I don’t realise is that I am gradually falling under Prester John’s influence. When I do realise it I fight hard to let the others know what is happening but nobody, naturally, wants to know. Later when I am thought to have been done to death, the Doctor, played by Edward X Young (don’t know what the X stands for unless it was where I was to bury the point of the crucifix in him) does an on the spot post mortem and finds out I am hollow inside. But that doesn’t save him. Stefan meanwhile is off on a beach somewhere having psychedelic moments. I’m not sure where that is located as the house where all the evil deeds are being done is in Heidelberg, which as far as I can recollect hasn’t got a beach. It appears that Stefan is some sort of conduit so Prester John has to win his whole hearted support if he is to succeed. There are many ‘He who hesitates is lost’ moment and at times it looks as if Stefan will succumb to Prester John’s blandishments about sharing eternity with just him, Jesus and God on a white cloud before Stefan manages to up-stage him, ,grab the girl Clara and get back to Heidelberg. I’m not sure exactly what the fate of his true love, Elizabeth, was. My final scene was supposed to be when Doctor Maitland find I’m hollow inside. He was supposed to get his off-camera but the director/screenwriter, Scott Bunt, decided the sight of hollow old sticking it to the Doctor up with with the crucifix was too good to miss so we did it for (cinematic) real. And for a bloody encore I disemboweled my self with the same Holy weapon.
It was a great little company with a lot of talented newcomers waiting for a break. The wardrobe mistress concocted a range of dresses which fitted perfectly, from measurements I sent before I went there. Then there was Ken, a hunky great black colossus with rippling muscles and honey-pot eyes. He was claimed as the best sound man in the business. Don’t know about that but I do know he was able to scoop me out of the river in a sodden, multi-skirted dress using only one arm. I wanted to take him home but there were immigration difficulties. Brian, the camera man could light a set, place a camera and be ready to shoot the next scene while everyone else was still congratulating themselves for getting the dialogue more or less right and not doing a pratfall at a vital moment. I think it is going to be a winner. Expect it on a screen near you around the beginning of 2006.
While on the subject of film releases, Minotaur, the film I worked on in Luxembourg last February, should be doing the rounds soon. Publicity has already begun to leak out so I expect to see it in the Autumn. I’ve tried to get some pix from location, especially me with the wolves, but they say they won’t be available for a couple of weeks yet. Too late for this addition but right for the next. What you can catch, on Channel 4 at Halloween, is a two hour special for horror fans. Horror icons from around the world have been gathered together and interviewed. Interviews with a twist end in many cases.
Believe me, you don’t want to miss it.