Welcome!... Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself

Giles Clark (centre)
Hi, and welcome to my blog, but first let me introduce myself.

My name is Giles Clark and I love movies – good or bad – the weird and the wonderful – I love them all.

I have loved movies from an early age and the turning point came in the mid 70’s when I was about 10 years old when I was given Denis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Movies. The pictures in this book just blew my young mind away and I longed to see those movies with escaped gorillas, giant moths, walking skeletons and caged beasts.

Another turning point came around the same time when BBC 2 showed a season of double-bill horror movies late every Saturday night. The first half of the double-bill would contain one of the old Universal Pictures horror movies, such as Bride of Frankenstein (1935) or Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (1943). These would then be followed by a more recent Hammer or Amicus movie such as Blood from the Mummy's Tomb (1971) or The Devil Rides Out (1968). Lying in bed, I would watch these on my small portable black and white TV.

In 1976, one of my good friends, Phil, who was three years older than me, was given a Standard 8 movie camera and we soon got to work making our own movies. One of our biggest influences was the horror trilogies produced by Amicus films. Inspired by such films as Tales from the Crypt (1972) and The Vault of Horror (1973), we would make are own horrors. These were always introduced by a horror host and contained lots of black comedy.

I received my own Super 8 camera for my 12th birthday in 1978 and proceeded to try and make the sickest film possible based on the Public Information Films regularly shown on British TV. These were short films broadcast to deter kids from playing with fireworks or on railway lines and always ended with a horrible result.

About the same time, Phil was lucky because he was given a large 16mm film collection from a defunct film library which comprised of a really odd mixture of films. There were 1950’s B/W documentaries on Africa where we would watch natives display diseased feet or watch how families can enjoy the delights of Table Mountain in Capetown. These were usually introduced by a colonial stiff-upper lipped pipe smoking gentleman in a studio set with a pine desk and maps of the African continent on the wall. Other movies included industrial promotional shorts such as How Jam is Made, produced by Robinsons or How to Make A Good of Tea produced by PG tips and performed by chimps dressed as people.

A Pictorial History of Horror Movies
Our favorite movies from his collection were the Dutch “Dollywood" animated puppet shorts created by Joop Geesink, such as Kermesse Fantastique (1948) and Story with a Beard (1946 or 1947 probably).

Story with a Beard was based on The Barber of Seville, but in this version he was saved by the Philips Philishave. There was also a rather beatnik inspired cartoon called the Traveling Tune.

Phil’s father was always very industrious and he converted the family garage into a cinema and this is where we would hangout watching this odd film collection and planning are own movies.

In the late 70’s, Phil left school and was given a job at a 16mm film distributors called Harris Films in Surbiton, on the outskirts of London. This is where Pandora’s box really opened for us. Every weekend Phil would borrow a film from their large collection and bring it home for us to watch in his cinema. Here we watched Freaks (1932), The Groove Tube (1974), The Warriors (1979), Assault on Precinct 13 (1979), WR: Mysteries of the Organism (1971), The Trip (1967), Mario Bava’s Hercules in the Haunted World (1961), Taxi Driver (1976) and John Water’s movies to name but a few, but most importantly for me was Barbarella (1968). After watching Barbarella, I had a huge crush on Jane Fonda. My first big crush being Britt Ekland after being taken to the cinema by my grandmother in 1974 to watch James Bond’s The Man with the Golden Gun.

With my own movie making, I began to concentrate my efforts on animation which was by then heavily influenced by the more off-beat movies we were watching.

My next big movie turning point came in 1980 with the excellent Thames Television documentary series Hollywood. This series looked back to the days of silent movies and this captivated me because here was Hollywood coping with the same problems as we had with our own films and that was no sound.

Our 1979 film, The Demon Mummy
I was also intrigued by these huge productions made back then when hundreds of extras would be washed through biblical sets by torrents of water or stunt men risked life and limb for just a few dollars and no safety nets.

In 1983, I also went to work at Harris Films, which by then had changed its name to Glenbuck Films. The library by then was huge, but for the three years I worked there I actually saw the least number of films at any time. I thought that by working there, it would be my first step into the movie business, but sadly this came to an end when the company was taken over and the library was moved elsewhere (it has since been amalgamated into the British Film Institute).

My career went off in a different direction and Phil had moved away but my interest in movies increased again with the help of Michael J. Weldon's excellent Psychotronic Magazine (how I miss that magazine!). Again, I was itching to see these movies, but it seemed so difficult because they were on expensive videos only available overseas and many were difficult to bring into the UK because of the strict customs regulations.

Another massive influence was Jonathan Ross’ TV series, The Incredibly Strange Film Show which looked at the careers of John Waters, Russ Meyer, Hershell Gordon Lewis, Doris Wishman, Ed Wood Jr, and Mexican Wrestling movies, amongst others.

I was able to find one place to satisfy my interests and that was at the Scala Cinema in Kings Cross, London. I would regularly go up there and watch an evening Russ Meyer’s or some drive-in trash, mixed with French erotic comedies. Incidentally, Glenbuck Films had supplied many of their films for screening.

The Scala was great and has gained a kind of legendary status among British film fans. The weekend all-nighters were brilliant and totally anarchic, but sadly the cinema was forced to closed down by Stanley Kubrick because they had been showing A Clockwork Orange (1971), which Kubrick had vowed would never be shown in the UK.

Caroline Munro
In the 1990’s with a booming trade in bootleg videos, I was finally able to watch so many of the films I’d craved for. This and the plethora of movie fan-made magazines available on the market helped me to discover new cinematic gems.

Another turning point also came in the mid 90’s with the Eurofest movie festivals held in London, where I got to meet the likes of Brigitte Lahaie, Jess Franco, Lina Romay, Caroline Munro and Jean Rollins, plus many more and watched many of their movies.

It was in the late 90’s that a fellow film fanatic friend told me I should start writing reviews for all the movies I am watching, but it is only now after all these years that I’ve decided to put fingers to keyboard.

I only wish I’d done it much earlier because there have been so many crazy movies which I doubt I’ll ever return to, but there’s no point in having regrets, so instead I’m starting from now.

This blog is primarily about movies, but I will on occasions also look at gems from the small screen too.

I hope to post regularly, although there will be times when my job’s workload might interfere, so I’ll see what happens.

So without further ado here goes…

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