NEWS – Where are all the updates?

Firstly, a really big thank you to all of you that have visited my blog.

Question marks

I have been somewhat overwhelmed by the number of views the blog has received since I first started it back in March. I am now just short of 2,000 views from 718 people based in 44 countries, which is a fantastic response. I never thought I would have had as many people looking at, occasionally commenting on, my blog so early on into its life cycle. It is very humbling and I want you all to know that I am extremely grateful for your interest.

However, one thought that may have entered some of your minds lately is ‘Where are all the updates?’ Well, apologies for the scarcity of recent posts.. ..but I have been busy in the background..

..I really want to make Retrollection the place where people will prefer to visit for reviews, retrospectives and all round retro goodness. However, as you are no doubt aware, there are lots of alternatives.. ..so to make this happen I have decided that I really need to additionally share my content via YouTube and Twitter. As such I have recently been spending time setting up content for distribution via those avenues, hence the lack of blog posts. Fear not, Retrollection.net will keep going, but will be complimented by You Tube video content and Twitter feeds.

So in summary, please do keep coming back to Retrollection.net for more exciting updates and why not also check out my Twitter and You Tube pages.

With very best wishes,

Dr Woody


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NEWS – Welcome to the future!

 

Well today was the day that Marty and Doc arrived in Hill Valley in the hit film ‘Back to the Future Part II‘.. ..a fantastic film full of interesting predictions.

Whilst we may not be flying around in our cars, many other predictions have indeed become reality.. ..giant TV screens, 3D film, info glasses, self-tying shoe lases (just!) and hover boards (almost!).

What I can’t believe is that is it is now 30 years since we were introduced to Marty, Doc and the gang.. ..seems like time really does fly!


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REVIEW – Android TV and Retro Gaming

There has been a lot in the media news recently about Android TV, which is the big new feature in the 2015 line-up of new TVs from Sony and Philips. But what does it have to offer the retro gamer?

Bravia Android TV

A Sony X90C displaying the Android TV interface

Android TV is an attempt to make ‘Smart TV‘s even smarter, by integrating the Android OS that many of us use on our mobile devices into our TV’s. This has loads of promise, but we shall have to wait and see how useful it is in real day practice.. ..Google‘s previous attempt (Google TV) did not take off.

We needed to replace our main TV at the ‘Woody’ household this summer and as such I have now had a chance to look at this new exciting OS from Google.

In general I am fairly impressed with what Android TV can do.. ..however, I am not totally convinced you need all of this on a TV and there are currently several performance issues.. ..lag and freezes are fairly common place (fortunately, subsequent updates have largely cured these issues). But seeing that all of this Android goodness comes with the TV anyway, there is very little to actually complain about.. ..it certainly enriches the interaction you have with your TV.

Being an avid retro gamer, only one question mattered to me after ‘setting up’ the new TV (a Sony KD-55X9005C).. .. “if you can run emulators on your Android phone, can you run them on an Android TV“?

Well, in short, yes you can!

As you can see in the above image a lot of the most popular emulators are available for download from the Google Play store for Android TV and with a little bit of tinkering they work great!


Here’s how to get your favourite emulator configured for use on Android TV.. ..firstly you need to connect a USB device to your TV, which contains your ROM images (which for legal reasons, you obviously own, :-)) already installed. I used a small 500 Gb NTFS formatted HDD and plugged it into one of the USB ports.. ..it was recognised immediately!

After installing an suitable emulator from the Google Play store the next task was locating the ROM images stored on my HDD.. ..this was a little difficult as the directory structure is somewhat different to Android on a mobile device. Anyhow, after a little investigation the path you need to find is – rootfilesystem/mnt /sda1 – where ‘sda1’ represents the HDD.

Then came the problem of navigating the directories with the TVs remote control.. ..finding how to go back up a directory level was initially perplexing.. ..’up’ and ‘down’ are self-explanatory as is ‘enter’, but going back requires you to press ‘left’ on the remote,not ‘back’. After this it was easy to set up each emulator, just as you would on your Android smart phone.


How well does Android TV run the emulators?

Well I had my doubts, as it occasionally appears that the processor in the TV has difficulty just running the OS, but I needn’t have worried all the emulators run perfectly. I think the OS is just a bit buggy and feels unfinished at the moment.. ..looking forward to some updates!

Retrollection recommendation?

The fact that you can run emulators via your  Android TV is absolutely fantastic and all of the ones I have tested so far work at full speed!

My Sony Bravia also revealed  some other bonuses.. ..it allows you to use a DualShock 4 controller to control the emulated action and also comes with PlayStation Now built in.. ..what more could a retro gamer want from a TV?


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REVIEW – Doctor Who ‘Death to the Daleks’ (BBC Worldwide, 2012)

OK, here we go with the first of what will, in time, I hope become one of many Doctor Who reviews. When reviewing Doctor Who serials, we will be not only looking at the how the DVD has been put together, but also reviewing the serial more generally. I hope this makes sense.

Death to the Daleks DVDI was a bit undecided as to where to start with the reviews for the good Doctor, as I have so many favourites.. ..indeed, up until Peter Davidson took over the helm, there were only a few serials I really didn’t enjoy. As you will see as my blog continues I am not really a big fan of the newer Doctor Who’s.. ..don’t get me wrong the productions are fantastic and some of the stories look really interesting, but for me there is just something missing. Truth be told, I think when Tom Baker relinquished his lengthy reign as the Doctor I started to ‘tune out’. So most of the Doctor Who reviews on Retrollection.net will be celebrating the first four Doctors tenure.

So, shall we start with ‘Genesis of the Daleks‘, or maybe ‘Pyramids of Mars‘? No.. ..for my first review I have decided to tackle a quirky little story from the Pertwee era, not quite sure why I have started with this one, it is certainly not ‘classic‘ Who.. ..maybe because it has always made me smile. Anyway, here we go.

The story (contains spoilers)

Death to the Daleks‘ was story number 72 in the 11th season of Doctor Who, with the 3rd Doctor being played wonderfully by Jon Pertwee. It was first shown in four weekly parts, from 23 February to 16 March 1974. I think I like this serial because although it is a mainly ‘by the ropes’ number, it is enjoyable and has novel aspects. I also really like the character Bellal!

The main novelty of this particular serial is that the titular Daleks are unable to ‘exterminate’, well at least not initially.

The Tardis is being drained of energy and the Doctor and Sarah have to make a forced landing on Exxilon. As usual they soon get into trouble and are captured by the savage Exxilons, whilst also discovering a gleaming city. After escaping the Exxilons the Doctor is rescued by Human Space Corps. They are on the planet mining ‘Parrinium’ – a mineral only on found on Exxilon – which can cure and give immunity from a deadly space plague (there are some nods towards ‘Dune‘ here). Whilst Sarah is to be executed by the Exxilons for going too near their city, a Dalek space ship arrives (they too have come for the Parrinium).. ..as usual they start to immediately throw their weight around and attempt to kill everything and everyone. But.. ..their weapons don’t work due to the power drain.. ..ha!

At first an uneasy alliance is formed between the Humans and Daleks to mine the Parrinium, but they are ambushed by the Exxilons – a battle ensues, with both a Human and a Dalek being killed. Both groups are captured and taken to the Exxilon caves, where the Doctor interrupts the sacrifice of Sarah Jane and is promptly condemned to death himself. In a novel twist they are saved by a mob of Daleks who have armed themselves with machine gun like firearms and attack the Exxilons. The Doctor and Sarah Jane escape and the remaining Exxilons and Humans are forced to mine the Parrinium for the Daleks, who want it not as a cure, but to keep and thus help spread the plague across the universe.

Whilst in the caves the Doctor and Sarah meet some fugitive Exxilons, who are more intelligent and passive, led by a cute little fella called ‘Bellal’. He explains that the temple like city was built by their ancestors, who had mastered space travel. He also reveals that the city can self-maintain and repair; defending itself if necessary. After the city was completed and gained self-consciousness it turned against the Exxilons and regarded them as a threat, destroying most of them (pretty neat huh, remember this is 10 years before ‘The Terminator‘ came out, using similar ideas). Bellal’s group are determined to complete their ancestors aim of destroying the city they built, in order to ensure the survival of their race. Bellal tells the Doctor about some markings on the side of the city, which the Doctor recognises as similar to ones he once saw on a temple in Peru. The Doctor also realises that the shining beacon on the summit of the city is the source of the power drain and heads off with Bellal to investigate.

Meanwhile, the Daleks have also come to the same conclusions and use Humans to plant timed explosives on the Beacon.. ..but one of them, Galloway, secretly keeps one of the devices to himself. The Doctor and Bellal enter the city, with two Daleks in close pursuit. Both the Doctor and Bellal and the two Daleks have to, as separate groups, pass a series of intelligence tests to progress further into the city. The Doctor surmises that the city is testing those who enter so that only those as intelligent as it will progress; it will then add their knowledge to its own data-banks.

As the Doctor tries to sabotage the ‘brain’ of the city it creates antibodies which attack the Doctor and Bellal.. ..once again the Daleks arrive just in time to cause a diversion, allowing the Doctor an his new friend to escape. The Daleks are destroyed in the city by the antibodies as the beacon is also destroyed by the Dalek bomb, ending the power drain.

The Daleks order the Humans to load the Parrinium onto their ship, where they plan to fire a ‘plague’ missile towards Exillon after their departure. They would then have all the Parrinium to themselves and hold the rest of the galaxy to ransom, threatening millions of lives. As they depart Sarah reveals that the Daleks in fact have only sand on their ship, the actual Parrinium has been secretly loaded onto the Human ship destined for Earth. We also discover that Galloway has sneaked onto the Dalek ship with the final bomb, detonating it just before they fire their ‘plague’ missile. Back on Exxilon, the City collapses and the Doctor muses that the Universe is now down to only 699 wonders.

Production

Death To The Daleks’ begins Philip Hinchcliffe’s reign in the spirit that it was to continue.. ..somewhat Gothic and increasingly horrific. The story was written by Dalek-creator Terry Nation, who I think was taking a slight ‘tongue in cheek‘ ‘dig’ at the early 70’s miners strikes, which resulted in many ‘black out‘s. He is also borrowing from other stories such as ‘War of the Worlds‘ and ‘Forbidden Planet‘.

Pertwee is, as usual, excellent as the Doctor and Liz Sladen makes the most of a somewhat subdued role in this story.. ..in my mind she was the best companion to ever grace the series. The story does get a bit ‘plodding’ at times (the Doctor, Bellal and Daleks chase through the city comes to mind – an almost desperate plot device, later shamelessly re-used in ‘The Five Doctors‘); personally I think Nation was somewhat running out of ideas for the Daleks by this point. Apparently he was berated by the Beeb for this but eventually came back to form and went on to write the fantastic ‘Genesis of the Daleks‘ before creating the exquisite ‘Blakes 7‘. The interior of the city scenes also play host to probably the worst ‘cliff hanger‘ in the history of the show.

The other actor who does a sterling job is Arnold Yarrow, as the delightful Bellal.. ..a diminutive character, but with a performance that is far greater than the writing for it.. ..and we don’t even get to see any of the heavily costume clad actor!

The special effects, as usual for classic Doctor Who’s, are a real mixed bag. The Chroma key is mostly excellently done, but some of the models, especially the space craft are laughable. The city, whilst looking OK from a distance, is obviously made of Polystyrene.. ..the melting scene at the end being particularly obvious (the same as the ‘bubble wrap‘ ‘slime’ in ‘The Ark in Space‘). The ‘roots’ of the city (which look great) are also a little too obviously held up with clearly visible wires.. ..but hey, I think this is also somewhat endearing and more pleasing than a lot of the characterless CGI we are bombarded with these days!

DVD extras and quality

DVD extras include an interesting commentary track featuring actor Julian Fox (who played Peter Hamilton), Dalek operator Cy Town, director Michael E Briant, assistant floor manager Richard Leyland, costume designer L Rowland Warne and the guru of the radiophonic workshopDick Mills.

Beneath the City of the Exxilons‘ is an interesting 27 min documentary featuring Arnold Yarrow, Michael E Briant, Julian Fox, Richard Leyland, L Rowland Warne and ‘Who aficionado‘ Nick Briggs.

An interesting ‘Studio Recording‘ feature (showing some comical special effects ‘bloopers‘, see still), ‘Dr. Who and Daleks’ and ‘Dalek Men‘ shorts (neither of the latter two relating to the main story) complete the package. Finally the single disk includes .pdf original TV listings for the serial.

The video transfer is adequate and the picture has been cleaned well, not bad for a Pertwee era serial. The aspect ratio is 4:3 and the soundtrack mono, as might be expected.


Retrollection recommendation?

Would I recommend it for purchase? Yes, but this is by no means a ‘must have classic’, so maybe one for the collectors/fans only.


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REVIEW – ‘The Road’ Cormac McCarthy (Alfred A. Knopf, 2006)

Written by American writer Cormac McCarthy and published in 2006 by Alfred A. Knopf, ‘The Road’ is a post-apocalyptic tale of the journey of a father and his young son. It covers a period of several months as they trek across a landscape laid waste by an unspecified cataclysm that has destroyed the majority of civilization and, in the intervening years, almost all of life on Earth.The Road

The novel was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction the year it was released and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2007.

Synopsis (contains spoilers)

Although an excellent story and brilliantly written, make no mistake, this is probably the most depressing and in some parts distressing book you may ever read (I will expand on why this in the recommendation summary).. ..so please take heed.. ..this is not a novel to read if your not prepared or in the right frame of mind!

The book is written in a very unique manner, as are most of McCarthy’s novels.. ..mainly written in the third person, with frequent references to “the father”, “the man”, “the son” or “the boy”.

A father and his son are travelling across a baron, post-apocalyptic landscape, some time after a disastrous, unspecified, event has lead to the total collapse of civilization as we know it. The landscape is ash laden and there is little vegetative or animal life left remaining.

The boy’s mother, who was pregnant with him at the time of the disaster, has already committed suicide after she gave up hope.. ..despite the fathers pleas for her to reconsider. As McCarthy continues to describe the landscape and the behaviour that some of the survivors of the apocalypse now display, it becomes very clear why the mother made her decision.

Food is now a scarcity and as such many of the survivors have taken to cannibalism – scouring the cities, landscape and general detritus for food.. ..any ‘food’ is now worthy of eating.

The father realises that they will not survive the impending harsh winter where they are and decides that they need to travel south, to warmer climes. They travel along empty roads towards the sea, with an old map to guide them. The few meagre possessions they own they carry in rucksacks and on old shopping trolley. Although the man is clearly dying, he protects his son from the relentless exposure, risk of attack and starvation. The man is fully aware of how ill he is, as he regularly coughs up blood. However, he is determined to reach the sea, where his son will have a better chance of survival. He keeps his frailty a secret from his son.

Despite all of these obstacles the father reassures the boy that the are “the good guys” and they are “carrying the fire”.

Their only means of defence is on old revolver, but they only have two rounds for it. During the story the father uses one of the rounds to kill a man, who stumbles across them and poses a significant threat to their lives. Upon killing the man they have to abandon most of their possessions to quickly flee from his companions. We also learn that the father has taught his son how to train the gun on himself, if necessary, to avoid being taken by cannibalistic survivors.

As they continue their journey they are literally on the verge of death from starvation when they happen across a hidden underground cache. This is presumably an abandoned survival shelter, which has amazingly been left; seemingly undiscovered and still packed with food, clothes and other supplies. Although the boy wants to rest there for longer, they move on after a few days, as the site is too exposed.

Trekking on they evade roving gangs, scrounge for food and witness horrors associated with cannibalism.. ..one of which I will leave you to discover for yourself, as I don’t really want to write about it.. ..another involves them coming across captives, who are being held simply to be harvested for food.. ..as such the man and the boy hastily leave them, where they find them.

Eventually they do indeed reach the sea, but their situation shows no improvement.

They head back inland, but the father is shot with an arrow. He soon dies, maybe due to the wound, but also possibly due to his long-term illness, which continues to worsen, unabated throughout the novel. The father has told his son that he can continue to talk to him after he is gone, through prayer.

The boy stays with his fathers corpse for a couple of days, trying to come to terms with his loss and not really knowing what to do next.

On the third day he encounters a man, whilst he is still grieving over his fathers body, who tells him he has been tracking them for some time now.. ..he also reassures the boy that he is one of the “good guys”. Helping to convince the boy of this is the fact that the man is also accompanied by a woman and two children, as such he joins them and the novel ends.

Development of the novel

McCarthy has revealed that he would have conversations with his brother about  the different outcomes of an apocalyptic event.. ..they agreed that inevitably there would be cannibalism, “when everything’s gone, the only thing left to eat is each other”.

McCarthy was also interviewed by Operah Winfrey and concluded that the inspiration for the story came from a visit to El Paso, Texas in 2003 with his own son. During the interview McCarthy insisted that his son, John Francis, was a co-author to the novel, revealing that some of the conversations between the father and son in the novel were based upon actual conversations between them. He concluded the interview by saying that he had imagined what things might look like in the future and took some initial notes.. ..this idea then rested until he was in Ireland a few years later, where he quickly transcribed the novel.. ..the novel is dedicated to his son.

Retrollection recommendation?

This is a fantastic and universally acclaimed novel, with academic as well a critical praise, as such it goes without saying that you should read it.. ..it is harrowing and not to be taken lightly, but it also offers tenderness and some hope about relationships and humanity in general. I think, for me, what makes it particularly ‘impactful’ is that is seems very real and frighteningly possible.. ..it is a reflective and fascinating insight into the delicate balance that society pivots on. In that way it is possibly one of the greatest warnings of our frailty and dependence upon each other that has ever been written.


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REVIEW – ‘The Hellbound Heart’, Clive Barker (Dark Harvest, 1986)

Hellboound Heart bookI wanted to make a start with my book reviews for Retrollection.net, so that there was a good all round summary of the type of things we were going to talk about in the blog (so forgive me, momentarily, if the current contents of the categories seems a bit thinly spread.. ..I will be adding more and more to the blog as we continue). It also gives me the perfect opportunity to discuss not only one of my favourite novels but also one of my favourite authors.

The Hellbound Heart’ was first published by Dark Harvest in 1986 in the third volume of their ‘Night Visions’ anthology.

It is a short horror novella (almost, but not quite, gothic), only 128 pages long; notorious for its content  and for being the basis of the 1987 movie ‘Hellraiser’ and subsequent franchises.

Written by Clive Barker the novella ostensibly tells the story of the relationships between Frank Cotton, his brother Rory, his sister-in-law Julia and Rory’s besotted friend Kirsty; whilst revealing the chaos that Frank brings upon them all.

It is arguably as much about relationships, lust and love as it about horror.. ..but most people just remember, or comment on, the horror. The novel also has elements of concerns about fears associated with the body; there are clear links made between this to both lust and love.. .. as such various commentators have assumed that the novella makes more than just a passing reference to the AIDS epidemic. Barker has never really commented on these interpretations, neither agreeing with them nor necessarily denying them either.

The novella is the main introduction of the Cenobites, although they are also mentioned (in passing – as the ‘the surgeons’) in ‘Weaveworld’ (which I am currently re-reading and will no doubt be talking about at some point); the main plot device being a magical puzzle box called the Lemarchard Configuration.

It was re-released as a stand-alone title in 1988 by HarperCollins, after the success of the ‘Hellraiser’ movie (which shares much in common with the novella), along with an audio book featuring Barker’s voice published by Simon & Schuster Audioworks.

The novella retains the visceral gory style Clive introduced in his excellent ‘Books of Blood’ collections.

Synopsis (contains spoilers)

We are quickly introduced to Frank Cotton who is a hedonist, having spent most of his adult life in a relentless, highly selfish, pursuit of sexual gratification and sensual overload. Frank has covered the globe in his quest and has taken part in all manner of crimes and sexual experiences; all of which have left him with severe nihilistic tendencies. Frank is looking for the most extreme experiences to push him to sensual overload, as his more normal encounters (mostly sexual) no longer give him sufficient pleasure. Frank hears rumours of a puzzle box called the ‘Lament’ or ‘Lemarchard Configuration’.. .. which, if solved, opens a schism to the regions of further experience under the disciplines of the ‘Order of the Gash’.. ..hierophants who will allow him to experience the ultimate in carnal pleasure.

Frank locates the current owner of the box, a somewhat mysterious character named Kircher, in Düsseldorf. He acquires the box by performing small favours for Kircher and subsequently returns to England with the box to his deceased Grandmother’s house.

Following Kircher’s instructions Frank constructs a small shrine to the theologians in a large upstairs room; consisting of placatory offerings including bonbons, severed Doves heads, needles and his own urine. Initially the puzzle box seems to defy logic with almost imperceptible facets. However, a chance juxtaposition of his digits allows him to start solving the puzzle box. As he proceeds the box plays a “sublime rondo” and he notes that the light bulb in the room dims and brightens in synchrony to the sound of a distant bell; there is also an accompanying smell of vanilla, as the walls of the room seem to deconstruct.

Eventually, Frank is left in a darkened room, lit only by the phosphorescence of four Cenobites, who have now come through the schism opened by his solving of the box.

To Franks utter dismay the Cenobites are not the ‘Venusian’ gods he imagined but terribly scarified beings; some of which appear utterly sexless. They acknowledge that they are not what Frank was expecting but still offer him the ultimate in sensual pleasure, warning him that if he accepts there is no going back. Frank accepts their offer and is overcome with the acute sensory perception they lay on him. But he also quickly realises that it is not sexual arousal on offer but extreme pain.. ..the Cenobites ‘spiritual’ devotion is to sadomasochism.. ..they no longer differentiate between pleasure or pain. After his sensual overload a fifth Cenobite, the ‘engineer’, duly ensnares him and takes his soul back to their realm to suffer for an eternity; his deteriorating physical presence being left trapped in the wall of the room.

At a later, initially undisclosed time, Frank’s brother Rory moves into their grandmothers house on 55 Lodovico St. with his wife Julia. Rory is unaware that Frank seduced Julia just before their wedding (revealed to be four years and five months earlier) and that she is besotted with Frank, obsessing and lusting over him since first they met. After Frank and Julia engaged in a violent illicit coupling, he quickly moves on to a place where he has not yet created havoc; Julia, mourning, then only marries Rory for financial support.

Whilst they are moving into the house Rory cut’s his hand and some of his blood spills on the upstairs room floor. This connection acts to re-establish the schism and Frank is able to gradually escape his tormentors.

Frank has been reduced to little more than a desiccated corpse by the Cenobites. But Julia finds him trapped in the damp upstairs room wall and after her initial shock and disbelief that it really is Frank, agrees to help him recover. In doing so she hopes that they can then rekindle their affair and she can finally be free of the loveless relationship she has with Rory.

Frank needs sustenance to reform his body so that he can be complete again.. ..blood will heal him and he needs it quickly before the Cenobites realise he has escaped them. As such, whilst Rory is at work, Julia heads out to bars and picks up men to take back for Frank to feed on. As the murders progress Frank’s own body slowly begins to regenerate.

However, Julia is not the only woman in Rory’s life.. ..he has a friend Kirsty who is secretly in love with him and knows that he is being used by Julia, who does not love him. Kirsty is deeply suspicious of Julia, particularly as Rory describes her recent changes in mood and attitude. As such, she suspects that Julia is having affairs and follows her.. ..to catch her ‘in the act’ and maybe win Rory for herself.

In doing so she unfortunately encounters a bandaged, but obviously skinless, Frank at the house, who attempts to kill her. In the maelstrom that follows she manages to steal the Lament Configuration and flees. She is later found collapsed from exhaustion and fright and subsequently taken to hospital.

Whilst convalescing she starts to play with the box out of sheer boredom, believing it to be an ordinary puzzle. As Frank did before her, she somehow manages to solve the box and inadvertently summons a theologian of the gash.

The Cenobite makes Kirsty fully aware of whats on offer, but Kirsty is afraid and certainly doesn’t want anything to do with it. She also realises that Frank has also opened the box, accounting for his current scarified appearance. She mentions this to the Cenobite and suggests that they could spare her if she takes them to Frank instead, as he has managed to escaped to their realm. The Cenobite agrees, but warns her that if she cheats it will “tear your [sic] soul apart“.

When she gets back to the house she initially mistakes Frank for Rory as Frank has murdered Rory and is now wearing his skin. It isn’t long before she realises her mistake and another fight ensues where Frank inadvertently kills Julia.

Now that the Cenobites know that Kirsty has correctly informed them about Frank they re-open the schism and ensnare him with hooks, dragging him back to their realm.

Upon leaving the house Kirsty comes across a dying Julia who pleads for help before also being taken into the theologians realm by the engineer. The engineer entrusts Kirsty with the box; she is to keep it until it is claimed by another degenerate. The novella ends with Kirsty looking at the highly lacquered faces of the box and seeing reflections of Frank and Julia, but not Rory.. ..she is left to wonder if there are other puzzle boxes which open the gates of paradise and hopes that Rory is in such a realm.

Retrollection recommendation?

I don’t think you need me to tell you how much I like this novella.. ..Barker’s writing is eloquent, well paced and utterly descriptive.. ..in fact there is a distinct crispness to his writing. Stephen King once said “I have seen the future of horror, his name is Clive Barker”, coming from King this is a compliment that cannot be lightly ignored. ‘The Hellbound Heart’ was really something quite different when it came out, taking horror in a visceral new direction. If you like horror (which I take it you do.. ..you have read this far down the review), you need to read this book!


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REVIEW – From Beyond The Grave (Amicus Productions, 1974)

From Beyond The Grave’ was released in 1974 by Amicus Productions. It is a British horror film anthology directed by Kevin Connor and produced by Milton Subotsky. The film is primarily based on stories by R. Chetwynd-Hayes. It was originally titled ‘The Undead’ and depending upon where you are in the world, you may recognise it  as ‘The Creatures’, ‘Tales from Beyond The Grave’, and ‘Tales From The Beyond’.

Amicus was well known for its portmanteau horror film anthologies which typically featured four or five short horror stories, linked by an overarching plot, usually featuring a narrator or commentator. Over the years they have developed a bit of a cult following. ‘From Beyond the Grave’ was the last of their anthologies, being preceded by ‘Dr. Terror’s House Of Horrors’ (1965), ‘Torture Garden’ (1967), ‘The House That Dripped Blood’ (1970), ‘Asylum’ (1972), ‘Tales From The Crypt’ (1972) and ‘The Vault Of Horror’ (1973).. ..all of which we will be looking at in due course.

The stories (contains spoilers)

Temptations Limited is an ‘out of the way’ antiques shop run by a rather creepy proprietor whose name remains undisclosed (excellently played by Peter Cushing). The strap-line for the shop, as seen on the door, is “offers you cannot resist”. However, as we shall see, a nasty fate awaits those who steal from or cheat Cushing’s character.


The Gatecrasher – Edward Charlton (played by David Warner) appears to be an up-and-coming young man who enters the shop and is immediately taken with an antique mirror. He purchases the mirror, but at a bargain price.. ..he assures the proprietor that it is not actually an antique, but a reproduction; knowing this to be a lie. He takes it home to his rather swanky flat and places it in prime position over the fire place. Later he holds a party, where he discloses his dishonesty in acquiring the mirror to friends and they collectively discuss its age.. ..it is at this point that someone suggests they hold a séance. Upon doing so he falls into a trance and finds himself in a misty, wooded ‘netherworld’ where he is approached by a sinister stranger (Marcel Steiner), dressed in antique attire. The stranger appears to stab him, and Charlton awakes screaming. Later, whilst alone in his flat the figure appears in the mirror and orders Charlton to kill so that he can “feed”. Charlton then proceeds to bring young girls back to his flat and murders them. At first it seems that he is unaware that he is doing this, but the extent of his butchery is revealed when his downstairs neighbour complains about the stains on his ceiling and the smell. Eventually, Charlton murders enough people for the apparition to be able to manifest itself outside of the mirror.. ..seemingly becoming younger and more healthy with each killing. He explains that Charlton must do one more thing before the stranger can walk freely among the living. Saying he will take Charlton “beyond the ultimate“, he persuades Charlton to kill himself by impaling himself on his knife. We are then left with workmen decorating the flat and removing traces of Charlton’s grisly past, the mirror staying on the wall.. ..it seems to stay there for years after his death, with other owners/tenants coming and going. That is until the latest owner also decides to hold a séance. Once the séance starts, Charlton’s hungry spectre appears in the mirror.

You can’t fail to notice that there are a lot of similarities between this story and ‘The Hellbound Heart’, with the box replacing the mirror. Now don’t get me wrong, Barker’s story is more well-rounded, eloquent and there is sense made of why the Cenobites are taking their captives; similarities which are not revealed in the above story.. ..but Barker must have surely got some inspiration from this story.. ..or is there another earlier story that both are influenced by?


An Act of Kindness – Christopher Lowe (Ian Bannen) is a frustrated middle management drone who is trapped in a loveless marriage to Mabel (Diana Dors). Humiliated and abused by his wife, a laughing stock to his son, he befriends Jim Underwood (Donald Pleasence); an old soldier who he sees regularly on his way to work. Underwood ekes out a living selling matches and shoe laces. To regain some dignity, Lowe makes an effort to impress Underwood; telling him that he is a also decorated soldier. To back up this lie, he enters ‘Temptations’ and tries to persuade the proprietor to sell him a Distinguished Service Order medal. When the proprietor asks Lowe to provide certification to prove he had previously been awarded the medal, he obviously cannot.. ..instead he steals the medal, when the proprietors back is turned. The next day on his way to work he shows Underwood the medal, who is duly impressed, stating that not many gentlemen received such a high commendation. Underwood reflects that Lowe has been very good to him, buying his wares etc. and that he would be honoured if he would come to his house for tea. Once at Underwood’s house he meets, and is obviously taken with, his rather creepy daughter, Emily (played by Angela Pleasence, Donald Pleasence’s actual daughter). Emily waits on Lowe, hand and foot, and over time he is seduced by her and they start an affair.. ..even though she seems constantly distracted and distant. Emily becomes weirder and weirder and eventually produces a miniature doll of Mabel, proceeding to hold a knife to it. She asks Lowe to order her to do his will. Lowe agrees that she should cut the doll, if it pleases her.. ..to which she replies, “no, if it pleases you!”. When she cuts into the doll, a drop of blood dribbles from it. A disturbed Lowe then races home to find Mabel dead.

Underwood and Emily then appear at Lowe’s home, and walk in to the sound of the ‘Wedding March‘. Later, Emily and Lowe are married; Lowe’s son (played by future writer John O’Farrell) and Jim Underwood attend the wedding. When the time comes to cut the cake, Emily asks all present whether they wish her to. They all agree and Emily brings the knife down, but rather than cut the cake, she cuts into the head of the groom. Blood pours out of it, and Lowe then falls on to the table, dead, blood spilling from his head. Underwood and Emily explain to Lowe’s son that they always answer the prayers of a child “in one way or another“.


The Elemental – Reggie Warren (Ian Carmichael) is an affluent, somewhat pompous, business man who enters ‘Temptations’. Although clearly able to afford it, he puts the price tag of a cheaper snuff box in a more expensive one he wants to buy, whilst out of sight of the Proprietor. Cushing sells him the box at the altered price, bidding him farewell with a cheery “I hope you enjoy snuffing it“. On the train home, an apparently batty old white witch, come clairvoyant, named Madame Orloff (Margaret Leighton) interrupts him whilst he is reading his paper. She persistently advises him that he has an nasty ‘elemental’ on his shoulder. Warren dismisses her, but eventually accepts her business card, mainly to placate her. However, when he gets home his shoulder starts to itch, his dog disappears and his wife Susan (Nyree Dawn Porter) is attacked and choked half to death by an unseen force.. ..he is also surrounded by an unpleasant odour. As such he has cause to call on Madame Orloff’s services; she promptly arrives and seemingly successfully (and somewhat humorously) exorcises the ‘elemental’ from the Warrens’ home.. ..even their dog returns. Later though, the Warrens hear strange noises up stairs, and Reggie heads up to investigate. He is soon knocked out and falls to the foot of the stairs, unconscious. When he comes round, he finds Susan, who has somehow become possessed by the ‘elemental’, manically staring at him.. ..she/it informs him that he “tried to deny her life” and promptly kills him.


The Door – William Seaton (Ian Ogilvy) is a writer who purchases an ancient and very ornate door from the proprietor of ‘Temptations’. He is unable to meet the proprietor’s asking price, but agrees on a reduced price with him. When the proprietor goes out of sight to note down Seaton’s delivery details, he purposely leaves the till open. After Seaton leaves, the proprietor starts counting the money in the till and the scene fades out.

Arriving home Seaton discusses with his wife, Rosemary (Lesley-Anne Down), where they should place the door.. ..she thinks it is too grand to lead simply to stationery cupboard, as he had suggested. In addition, when Rosemary touches the door she seems to be able to see what originally lay behind it. The door begins to exert a strange fascination over Seaton and he finds that when he opens it a mysterious blue room lies beyond. In the room he finds the notes of a Sir Michael Sinclair (Jack Watson), an evil occultist who created the door as a means to trap those who entered through it.. ..so that he could capture their souls and live forever. Seaton escapes, but when he tries to leave his house he finds that the door’s influence has widened.. ..he and Rosemary seem trapped. In a trance, Rosemary is unable to stop herself from opening the door and entering the room, where she is immediately incapacitated by Sinclair. Sinclair carries her through the doorway, mocking Seaton by asking him to follow, as two souls are better than one. Seaton attempts to destroy the door with an axe.. ..as he starts to smash the door, the room and Sinclair start to crumble. Seaton the tries desperately to rescue Rosemary, but is attacked by Sinclair. Seaton tells Rosemary to continue smashing the door with the axe.. ..he then manages to break free. They continue to destroy the door and in turn the blue room.. ..Sinclair is simultaneously reduced to a skeleton and then dust when they break the door from its hinges.

We then return to the shop.. ..the proprietor finishes counting the money Seaton gave him and seems surprised to find that it is all present and correct.


Between each of the stories, a criminal (Ben Howard) is seen to be casing the shop. At the end of the film, he enters  ‘Temptations’ and persuades the proprietor to hand him two loaded antique pistols. He then tries to rob the proprietor, who refuses to hand him any money and walks relentlessly towards him. The thief then shoots the proprietor, but the bullets have no effect on him. Terrified, the thief staggers back, crashing into a skeleton.. ..this causes him to trip and fall into what appears to be a combination of an iron maiden and a coffin.. ..consequently, he is spiked to death. “Nasty“, the Proprietor says. The proprietor then breaks the fourth wall and welcomes the viewer as his next customer, and explains he caters for all tastes, and that each purchase comes with “a big novelty surprise“.


Retrollection recommendation?

I love these old Amicus films and this is one of the best; the cinematography, acting and creepy soundtrack are excellent, as are most of the short stories.. ..definitely worth watching – occasionally it even appears on the Free View channels. If not, it is very easy to find the DVD cheap on the bay.

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