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Sunday, 31 August 2014

Extinction (2014) Review & interview with actor/writer/producer Ben Loyd-Holmes

I know what you're going to say, dear reader. "You cant fool me, matey-boy, I've got your number. You come on this Internet thing and spout your nonsense mutterings and ramblings in the quite frankly ridiculous hope that someone out here in the world might find what you say vaguely interesting"

Of course I could find little fault in that part of your argument, however I know that there's more that you want to get off your chest.....there always is.

"And don't think that you can pull the wool over my eyes, sonny Jim. We all know that you've been banging on about this Extinction movie for well over a year now with all that malarkey with it first being known as The Expedition and then being changed all of a sudden for some reason. It was probably due to some so-called movie bigwig chappie sticking his nose in thinking that people might get confused with a film that sounded like a Bear Grylls episode - and nobody wants to watch that!"

Once again, there's little for me to dispute there, though your rantingvitriol  well argued discourse doesn't end there.......

"Then there's all that blathering on which you've been responsible for since this film's origins as a Indiegogo crowd funding project, then through filming/production, post- production and interviewing of that director laddie, Adam J. Spinks (and what the hell does the bloody J stand for, eh?). If that wasn't enough, you've been chinwagging with luvvies from the movie such as that Ben Loyd-Holmes ( I really don't trust him, even if he did appear in the best Bond film, like ever - he has shifty eyes). You can't tell me that you're going to be exactly impartial and objective..... really?"

At that point you would then probably go off into a rant explanation into the numerous grammar and spelling mistakes that usually accompany my scribblings - bustards.......

Now, I suppose the last two points (certainly the final one) could have an element of justification. However, I can assure you that my unbiased objectivity is one of two things in life that I pride myself on, I intend to be genuinely honest in my appraisal. If I don't like it then I will well and truly say so, of that you can be sure. 

BTW, the second thing that I pride myself on is my seriously wonderful ability to recite word-for-word the dialogue of the whole of The Wicker man (1973) whenever I watch it. For some reason that 'talent' doesn't seem to instill much in the way of appreciation from friends & family who have long since given up ever watching it in my presence, citing something along the lines of "bloody annoying git".

So yes, I will be perfectly honest in that I did want this film to be good, I really did - but it certainly won't stop me from saying it's bad if I think it is. In actuality, before I even watched it, I knew that this film happens to have a couple of elements that immediately cast doubt in whether I would even half like or not. For a start, it is from the often maligned 'found footage' sub-genre, which for many of us was a much loved type of movie, particularly within horror, for about 2 or three days a few years ago. Secondly, this film contains monsters (in this case, Dinosaurs), whose authenticity and quality can often be the difference between a good movie and a great movie - or worse, the difference between a good movie and a god-awful one.

As usual, I stray too much,  so to the real point of this article, a review of the film and then an interview with writer, actor and producer Ben Loyd-Holmes.

"So for once in your life, stop blathering, blithering and waffling about and actually give us the brief synopsis of Extinction?" I hear you ask. Well, ask no more.

"Deep in the Amazon jungle a research team lead by a respected Professor strive to protect vulnerable and endangered species, but when their guides abandon them they soon realize they are in the hunting ground of prehistoric apex predators."

Fab - an everyday story about a team of experts who journey into the uncharted parts where they inadvertently make the discovery of a lifetime. Unfortunately, as tends to happen in movies, this discovery of a lifetime has a tonne of razor sharp teeth and isn’t too keen on them being there!

I said a few sentences ago that after watching the evolution(sic) of this film over the last year or so that I really wanted this film to be good - so much so that I actually decided to request a second opinion. In fact I went even further than that and got a third opinion as I roped both my wife (well, not literally) and my son into watching it with me. To be honest, she wasn't too keen at first, as you may remember me mentioning in a previous post that she doesn't have much love for horror movies and views my obsession with them with ill-concealed mirth. However, I quickly explained that this WASN'T a horror movie - it was a Dinosaur movie! For some reason she still wasn't that impressed, nevertheless, she agreed to watch it. The fact that I might of mentioned that it would probably contain scenes of men running wandering sweatily around the jungle in shorts could may had some help in persuading her.

So the three of us proceeded to sit down and watch this movie about a group of boffins that travel to the Amazon to study endangered animals in the remote jungle, but then find themselves as the true endangered creatures as they realise they are in the hunting ground of prehistoric predators. I will clearly say it now before I go any further - the three of us agreed that Extinction is quite simply a hugely enjoyable cinematic treat. It is a delight.

Having read the 'blogging movie reviews for dummies' book from cover to cover it seems that I actually have to write a little bit more than that previous sentence. Luckily, I have nothing better to do with my Saturday (well that is, until later tonight when Doctor Who is on).

Extinction is essentially a  film of two wonderfully different acts. Act 1 is a gentle-paced introduction to the characters that make up the ill-fated research team and follows their initial journey into the rain forest. There seems like a genuine attempt from the film makers to give the audience time to get to know the people, and by doing so we automatically learn to care for them and their predicament. This is a factor that many contemporary films tend to sadly forget, unless you have some sort of emotional connection with a character then all the special movie tricks in the world will simply become boring very quickly. This, for the modern I-want-it-now touch button generation may be something of a risk, after all, patience in some elements of modern society seems often to be something of a premium.

The real action of act 2 takes place only after a good first half of the film's running time, which in truth turns out to be one of the film's major strengths. Instead of rushing headlong into carnage we are given the chance, via the documentary style filming, to eavesdrop into the group dynamic. For example, the relationship between the 'filmakers' Michelle and Jason (played by Sarah Mac & Dan Caren) is a fine combination of mutual annoyance, sarcasm and bewilderment whilst Jason on his own frequently occurs the wrath of his fellow travellers due his inability to keep any form of internal monologue - the looks he gets from Robert (Neil Newbon) as a result of his 'quips' are simply priceless.


This leads us nicely onto the the cast performances, which is one of the many factors that often negatively impact on lower-budget adventure films. Extinction contains an ensemble of fine performances throughout, in fact I'm in the unusual situation of being unable to find a weak link in the cast as there is often at least one lurking somewhere. I've already mentioned the amusing interplay between the talented (and very delicious) Sarah Mac and her cameraman who suffers from terminal verbal diarrhoea. Another notable performance comes from Simon Burbage as Tim, who acts as the requisite 'we're all doomed' character that a film like this just shouldn't ever be without. Ben Loyd-Holmes is suitably convincing with his role as Professor and subsequent man of action who also deals in a successful business of memorable one-liners. 

I do also have to mention Neil Newborn, who plays the role of the role of the Professor's partner - for some reason that I can't put my finger on my wife was particularly smitten with his performance. Now while he did play the part of the enigmatic Rob, very well I did notice that there was an audible sigh from Mrs Blogger whenever he happened to appear on screen. Very strange.

A film of this type can live or die by the quality of its monsters. I've lost count of the number of times a reasonable low-budget movie in terms of acting and plot has been severely let down by badly applied CGI and even worse practical model effects. I must admit that this was the one area I was concerned about before watching the movie and genuinely doubted that the film makers would be able to pull this off. However, pull this off they do because the Dinosaurs look authentic, fantastic and bloody damn scary! The makers rather cannily hold off for some time in providing us with a crystal clear view of the Dinosaurs, instead the initial views are mere fleeting glimpses from the cover of the jungle. However, when we do finally see them in all their CGI or practical model glory they work very well indeed.

Which brings us onto the elephant in the room - our old friends, Found and Footage. If there was ever a genre of film making that created a Marmite love or hate it reaction, this is it. In truth, apart from Cloverfield, Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity I can't come up with many others that I could spend time watching . I've never been a true fan of the style itself,  but more so the jumpy all over the place jolting camera effects designed to give it all a feeling of 'reality' when all it actually ever does is make one feel well and truly want to be physically sick. 

Thankfully, Extinction doesn't fall into the traps that have befallen many before by trying far too hard real-life authentic in the camera effect. In truth, whereas the concept is that what we are seeing is obviously found footage, the movie is actually filmed more in a Docu-footage style which gives it a sense of professionalism - after all, the research expedition is supposed to be being filmed by a professional cameraman and so the that's the way it comes across to the viewer. This in turn compliments both sections of the film where we bear witness to some stunning scenery and camerawork (I won't tell you where it was filmed, that would spoil things) in the first half before some genuinely exciting adrenaline filled chase sequences and an expertly filmed pulsating final third of the movie.

The responsibility for the confidant and assured pacing of the movie would be with the director, Adam Spinks. When I interviewed him in July of this year about Extinction it was clear that not only did he and the rest of the team want to make a ripping adventure yarn but that they wanted the project to reflect a genuine love for the natural world and for the spirit of discovery.  Adam is a bit of a closet cryptozoologist (aren't we all) and to him the idea that a remnant species of dinosaur could live in the Amazon was just so exciting that he couldn’t say no to making the film. I know that producing this movie was one big learning curve for him and the crew and he was clearly very proud of what the team achieved in the making of the movie. And he has every right to be.

But don't just take my word in regarding this movie as nothing short of immensely enjoyable. From what I can gather many of the notoriously hard to please visitors to FrightFest a week or two ago liked it too when Extinction had its world premiere. If comments & reviews on social networking sites are anything to go by (well it must be true if it's on Twitter) then the positive vibes from most of those who saw it probably carry far more weight than I could ever do.

I say 'most' of those who saw it' because my main worry for Extinction is that there will be some who may may find it difficult to get past the two issues of its found footage style and the fact that the action takes its own time to take place. Indeed, I have seen one review that seemed to find it impossible to focus on anything else but that and by doing so spectacularly missed the point and the genuine qualities of the film. I won't name the review, partly because I completely disagree with many of it's comments, but also because it is quite simply badly written and conceived. The general subtext of the piece seemed to focus on the validity from a horror point of view of the movies' inclusion at FrightFest, rather than the qualities of the film itself. I would suggest that the particular horror snob of a writer learns some of his horror history and watch something like The Wicker Man (1973) to understand that chills don't have to always be of the machete in your face kind that he seems to think they should be.

I would urge you to watch Extinction when it goes on general release and put aside any negative feelings you have for found footage, if I can do that then anyone can. Lets be clear, this is not a horror film per se, but a richly layered exciting adventure that in its final act will leave you gasping for breath. It's a genuine treat.

Oh and BTW, my wife loved the film (thanks Neil) and my son thought it was, in his words, "a real step up from some of that indie film stuff that you normally watch, dad". To the layman, those words may not seem like the height of movie adulation, but for he of few words it was praise indeed.

Interview with actor, producer, writer Ben Loyd-Holmes


I was very lucky to grab a little bit of time to chat with Ben and ask him a few piercing questions, because as you can see from the excerpt below from his IMDB page, he is rather a multi-talented, multi-faceted and very busy guy. Some may argue that they could find his CV rather annoying and subsequently feel a little insecure, however I couldn't possibly comment.

Ben Loyd-Holmes was born on April 28, 1981 in London, England. He is an actor and producer, known for Skyfall (2012), Band of Brothers (2001) and Breaking Down (2014).

He made an appearance at the HUB fan convention and since then has gained a base of loyal fans, calling themselves his 'Official Fangirls' and setting up facebook groups and fan pages / fan sites.

He is also a keen sportsman of a high level. He is a fully qualified Rock Climbing instructor, Martial Arts instructor, Scuba Divemaster, horseman, Swimmer, Boxer, Fencer, to name but a few. Though he doesn't teach he often competes. He has fought under BMAI, WAKO and PKA is part of the MLT/BMC, PADI and many others. He was taught to ride horses by Janet Rogers at Film Horses in Windsor.

Ben has been nominated at the Film Guild Awards for Best Actor for his role as 'Ethan' in feature film 'The Hike' (2011), an award winning producer (AHM - 2012 - Best Feature Film - the Film Guild, British Horror Festival). If that wasn’t enough he also won the award for Producing Best Feature Film for the feature film Art House Massacre in 2012.

Talented and successful. I think I hate him….


Firstly, many thanks Ben, for taking time away from schmoozing at film premieres to answer a few questions!

BLH - Pleasure

Q) I’ve followed the progress of this film ever since the Crowd Funding campaign was launched what seems like eons ago. What was the experience like for you personally?

"I have it on good authority that no Dinosaurs
were hurt in the making of this film"
BLH - crowd funding is brutal. It's amazing. It's a lot of things. We didn't raise enough to make the film, but we did make enough NOISE to get the film funded traditional ways and find lots of people to support it. The money we raised went directly into the development and funding of the film. Our problem in funding it that way was that I was unwilling to tell everyone it was dinosaurs, what it was at all. I wanted it to be a surprise, wanted the idea to be safe... and wanted to have the positive energy without the doubt of 'how will they do that'.. Well we did.

Q) For those who don’t know anything about Extinction, briefly explain the plot (but no spoilers!)
J

BLH - Well... it's a Dinosaur movie! That's pretty cool I think most people will agree. The film is based on a team of researchers that go to the amazon to study endangered animals in the remote amazon jungle, only to themselves to become the endangered ones then they realise they are in the hunting ground of prehistoric predators... We've shot in an ultra realistic documentary style... but hopefully people will know .. its not actually a documentary and the dinosaurs weren't harmed in the making of the film!

Q) What were the challenge and overall experience during filming?

BLH - making and working with practical dinosaurs is a tough thing. On top of that, there's the locations and there's the drive to do something more interesting and different to everything else that is out there. It's not easy. That is the real challenge though. All that. Because without those elements there is not film. Working with the cast and the crew in all that, it's exciting but it's hard.


"Don't worry lads, I think we've lost em....er, lads?"
Q) I recently interviewed the film’s director, Adam Spinks, who was effusive in his praise for the cast. What was he like to work with? A real tyrant I Imagine?

BLH- Adam is not a tyrant... far from it! He loves film making and has a lot of fun doing it, so much fun sometimes we had to remind him there was a shot to be filmed! Unfortunately I often had to be the tyrant. Every production needs one to keep the mob in order... It takes a Wolf to rule the Dogs as someone rather well known once said to me. We encouraged a lot of fun and we had a lot of laughs but sometimes you face an issue and it takes a bit of that to get it on track.

Q) Obviously, Big Al and some friends may make an appearance so is there a fair degree of CGI involved?

BLH - We have a good amount of CG but also a lot of practical. We didn't want dodgy CG, so we spent a lot of time and effort creating both CG and practical affects that looked great and could stand alone, didn't rely on each other. Then combined them to make them next level. We are really pleased with what we've achieved.

Q) What would you say to convince those of us who may not be the greatest fans of the found footage genre?

"Dear diary, we're buggered"
BLH - I'd say don't worry, I'm not either. This isn't a STANDARD Found Footage Film. I think like any other style of camera work, it can be awesome, but it can be terrible. The only problem with Found Footage, is that a lot of people think it's an easy and cheap way to make a film. They think that, but they are wrong. And what happens is a lot of crappy found footage films came out. The reality is that it's hard to do Found Footage well, if someone cocks up a line at the end of a take, there's no cutting round it, it's gotta be done again. Every take. It means the entire thing is much harder to do well. We also do not have shaky camera work, no motion sickness, our camera man, in the film, is an actual cameraman, so their camera work is much better than if it's an amateur or a random.

Q) Why was the title changed from The Expedition to Extinction at such a late stage?

BLH - Extinction was a name we came up with at the start, but it's one we didn't go with because we didn't want to give the Dino side of it away. We went with Expedition because we didn't want anyone to know the Dinosaurs were the creatures that were hiding in there and it also reflects the film well... now we are at the release stage, we want to label the film and brand the film in a way that really reflects what it is and what it's about. We love the 'new' name and can wait for everyone to see it.

Dolores Reynals messes up the 'Extinction cast in height order' pic
Q) Extinction recently premiered at Fright Fest with you and the rest of the crew appearing too. What was that experience like?

BLH - It was great to see the film at Fright Fest, because the organisers have such a great taste in movies and the standard is high. Our film isn't really a horror, it's got some scares, but it's not a 'horror' so we were pleased when they wanted to include it, because in their words 'it's incredibly entertaining'. Sitting at the Vue Leicester Square with an audience paying to see your movie is a wonderful feeling. Listening to them laugh at the jokes and gasp at the scares. It's wonderful. That's who you make films for. The general audience. To sit and enjoy it.

Q) What are the plans for the films general release?

BLH - Our distribution partners are working on the release dates soon, but there's a really big release coming for it which is great. Really pleased to see how well it's been taken and great to know so many people will get the chance to see it.
  
Q) Finally, what does the future hold for Mr Loyd-Holmes?

BLH - I've got a couple more films on the go already... and a few other things... It's a really busy time. I'm really happy to be where I am at right now. It's take a lot of work but, it's good to have got here. I'm doing a few talks for o2 and other organisations in how to succeed in this business and other similar subjects related to Film, Acting and Entrepreneurship , which is fun and always interesting. So yea lots going on!

Once again, thanks for taking part in the interview, Ben.

BLH  - Thank you !





The Imdb page for Extinction can be found at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3033080/fullcredits?ref_=tt_ov_st_sm

The Facebook page for the renamed Extinction can be located at https://www.facebook.com/ExtinctionTheMovie

The Facebook page for the previous name of the movie, The Expedition can be located HERE

You find out about and follow Extinction on Twitter @EXTINCTIONfilm

Ben Loyd-Holmes has a rather fab website at http://benloydholmes.com/

Thursday, 21 August 2014

BFI SCI-FI: Days of Fear and Wonder - The Boy from Space (1971/1980) DVD release PLUS an interview with actress, Sylvestra Le Touzel

Released on DVD by the BFI on 25 August 2014
In 1980 I was 14 years old and a confirmed SciFi and Fantasy nerd. It was a rather singular existence back then, being a time well before it became cool to be a geek or a nerd as it is today, indeed for many nowadays, being known as a geek is something of a badge of honour. I'm not too sure when geeks & nerds became the new cool, maybe over time it has been a combination of many factors; Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, The Big Bang Theory may have had something to do with it perhaps, I don't know. 

What I do know is that if a 14 year old was to state today that he was rushing home from school to watch a classic science fiction television series for kids there may well be some degree of ridicule from some. However, that afternoon back in 1980 saw me well and truly chased home by a group of my peers, whose idea of ridiculing a nerd took the form of shouts of "How are you feeling the force now, sci-fi boy??!!"  - these were accompanied by a few choice bricks. They were highly amused.

This short, rather bitter recollection isn't meant to garner sympathy at my teenage existence - on the contrary, I was very happy in being a 'sci-fi boy' - after all, I had a myriad of worlds to keep me happy. All they had were their bricks, albeit big and painful bricks. No, the point of the story is that the programme in question that I was trying to get home to was one that had gained something of revered tones of admiration in the few magazines and periodicals that fed our science fiction habits back in those pre-internet (i.e horrible) days. It was the first time in nearly 10 years that it was reappearing on our TV screens, and it turned out that it was a bloody good job that I made sure I braved the taunts and the bricks to gets to see it, because as it turned out, it was not to be made available for another 34 years.

You don't need to be Einstein to have figured out that the TV series in question was The Boy From Space

However, this is where the story becomes slightly complicated, because this isn't simply a recollection, it is in fact a recollection within a recollection. The other reason that I was desperate to see the programme back in 1980 was because I had at that time vague and unsettling memories of watching it on its very first broadcast back in 1971. My next door neighbour in those days, Mark, was something of a hero of mine, after all I was 5 he was 8 and at that age he seemed like the height of sophistication with his encyclopedic knowledge of dirty jokes. He was also a science fiction nut and if that wasn't impressive enough, his family had a brand spanking new colour TV. Star Trek and Dr Who were our staple diets of SciFi and Saturday nights were our nights of television heaven. 

I'll be honest, my memory of specifically watching the first 1971 broadcast of The Boy From Space with Mark is pretty sketchy, except for two factors; firstly, one of the lead actors was a rather pretty girl that I remember being  just a little smitten with; secondly, one of the adult characters gave me something of the hee bee gee bees, he was known as 'The tall thin man' and he seriously frightened this 6 year old out of his skin for a few nights afterwards. 

So when it was announced that the series is at last being released on DVD by the BFI on 25 August 2014 as part of the 'BFI SCI-FI: Days of Fear and Wonder', well I has a bit happy to say the least.

So for those of you who may not know the synopsis of the story, a brief overview is on its way......

"When brother and sister Dan and Helen see a mysterious object falling from the sky one night, they set out to look for traces of a meteorite in the nearby sandpit. 

There, they are confronted by a strange thin man, and discover a white-haired boy called Peep-peep who speaks a bizarre alien language."

Now, to the allegedly 'sophisticated' CGI enriched science fiction audiences of 2014, The Boy From Space may have something of a museum-like look to it in terms of effects and budget, but back in those pre-Star Wars days in the 1970's television wasn't exactly awash with sophisticated science fiction TV. However I would advise anybody planning to watch this who are not of a certain vintage, to put aside any understandable feelings regarding the somewhat 'innocent' look of the piece, and enjoy it for what it is - an important and incredibly enjoyable example of British science fiction Television.

For what cannot be denied is that we are witness to a story that both engrossed and scared the young target audience in equal measure. Yes it may well be a simple story; alien is stranded on earth, local children find him and try to persuade the grown-ups to help the alien boy whilst in danger from a bad, bad spaceman (in a trenchcoat) - we've all been there.... 


However, this would be an over simplication because it would disregard the fact that behind the production there was a veritable cream of British writing and acting talent, with for example, the story's writer being Richard Carpenter, creator of the cult 1970's series Catweazle as well as the the 1980's Robin of Sherwood series (and still the best ever version of the story - so stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Kevin Costner).

It has to be said that The Boy From Space also boasted a genuinely gifted and atmospheric musical soundtrack by Paddy Kingsland that wouldn't have been out of place in any piece of adult orientated science fiction with its note perfect complimenting of the scenes - particularly the more chilling ones.

The cast, particularly the two young leads of Sylvestra Le Touzel and Stephen Garlick were keen, enthusiastic and above all convincing in their portrayals. Though it is the character of the Tall Thin Man that impacted on those who watched it at the time and which still resonates with those of us that look back on that first viewing experience. The character, played by the wonderful British character actor, John Woodnutt, has regularly been voted into the top lists of scariest television or film characters. Whether the stories of children running in fear from the classrooms when this was shown as part of the Look and read children's education series are to be believed or not, is academic. The sight of this trench-coated villain scared me then - and when I watched it again the other night, this time through the eyes of a little (much) older individual, I could still sense an element of the chill and menace that I and countless others felt on the first occasion, of this genius of a portrayal.

I would really love to know what the younger audience of 2014 think of this series, and if they can move past the blond haired Aliens in silver suits. Maybe It would help if they knew context of the time that it appeared on television, to much acclaim, on that second occasion back in 1980..... Science fiction was a cultural behemoth with the 'Star Wars affect' still only three years old, we simply couldn't get enough of it, no matter how 'flimsy' the effects. However, the The Boy From Space is an example of a time when the audience were treated arguably with a little more respect than they are now in terms of actually accepting that viewers might have a modicum of intelligence. Not only that, it was accepted that we would be allowed to be frightened and entertained in equal measure without the fear of being wrapped in a cultural ball of wool to try and protect our sensibilities.


What cannot be denied is that this series is an exceptionally well put together, exciting and yes frightening slice of British science Fiction. Highly recommended.


Originally broadcast in 1971, as part of the BBC’s educational Look and Read strand, The Boy from Space was shown again in 1980 in a revised version featuring new presenters Wordy and Cosmo, as well as updates – including a new foreword and a voice-over – to the main drama.

Look and Read was a programme for primary schools, aimed at improving children's literacy skills. The programme presents fictional stories in a serial format, the first of which was broadcast in 1967 and the most recent in 2004, making it the longest running nationally broadcast programme for schools in the UK.

The various collections are included in this package in all their restored glory. However, it is possible that, like me, you might find the Look and learn excerpts slightly grating. After all, I realise I suffer from terminal immaturity and may never well ever fully grow up, but I did find myself fast forwarding through the 'spelling' bits. Remember, the excerpts were designed for primary school children, remember. Luckily, the kids can watch the Wordy and Cosmo versions while there is a fabulous feature-length presentation (70 mins)of the adventure which has been edited specially for this release - and boy does it work.


 
Interview with actress, Sylvestra Le Touzel
http://www.maxineevansphotography.co.uk
During the preparation for this article (don't be so surprised, there is a little prep that goes into theses things!) I was lucky enough to arrange, via the lovely people at the BFI, to chat with actress Sylvestra Le Touzel, who played Helen in The Boy From Space. So, 'borrowing' ever so slightly from her IMDB page - Sylvestra was born in West London. She showed an interest in acting at an early age, enrolling at a Stage School. Subsequent numerous television roles followed, - noticeably in regard to this blog, in Dr Who and The Boy From Space. 

Later credits include  Fanny Price in a 1983 adaptation of Mansfield Park, though, in cult television terms, this was eclipsed by a commercial, still long remembered, for Heineken lager where, in a parody of My Fair Lady  she portrayed an upper-class girl being tutored for a cockney role, success only coming when she drank a can of Heineken. In 2008 she appeared on the West End stage with Kenneth Brannagh well received revival of the play 'Ivanov'. There is much, much more than I could list here in regards to her career, so check out her full credit listing.

Sylvestra remains a familiar face on British stage and screen
Hi Sylvestra & many thanks for taking the time to answer a few of my questions.

Q) Firstly, before we come onto The Boy from Space, I'd like to ask you about a certain TV series that is significantly in the news at the moment. You appeared in Dr Who in the late 1960's. God so many questions about that! :-)
1) Did you meet the Doctor?

Yes I did meet the Doctor, in 1968.  He was only on his second incarnation then of course.  I have watched his career with interest but our paths have never crossed again. I was one of a group of children conjured from his past, who had bullied him at school, the only people he was frightened of.  

2) Did you see that Tardis?

I did. I had watched and been terrified at home. Television was black and white then.  I'd expected the Tardis to be nearly black. (I remember Police boxes being very dark). I was traumatised to find it was bright blue. I suppose it had to be that colour to show up in black and white.

3)What was the overall experience like? 

It is a complicated memory, a clash of several realities. I am writing about it in a memoir.  

(The Doctor Who story that Sylvestra appeared in was The Mind Robber. The Doctor himself was played by Patrick Troughton)


Q) So firstly, in regard to The Boy from Space, did you ever think that, ahem "whispers" 43 years later, that you would be talking about it?

Um. No.
Although it did feel like the centre of my universe at the time. The adult me is amazed, the child me assumed that everything I touched would be museum quality.

Q) Have you seen it since filming it?

In the mid nineteen eighties it was shown again.  We recorded an introduction where Dan and Helen were grown up and looking back on their childhood adventure - the BBC needed to explain why all the cars were out of date.  That was a mere thirty years ago.  I've not seen it since then. 


Q) How did the part of Helen come about?

I remember auditioning in a BBC car park in Ealing - Maddalena, the director, chasing me between the parked cars, I think I got the part because I could look petrified.  I was petrified.

Q) How enjoyable (or not) was the involvement in filming the series?


It was tremendously enjoyable. Stephen and I were both 12 years old. It requires concentration to film a series over several weeks. We got a tad giggly around the observatory one time, over confident, and Maddalena had to get stern. We blamed Loftus Burton [who played Tom] but it wasn't his fault, it was me, I never could keep a straight face.

I can't remember now what was so funny. Just kids being stupid I expect. Colin [Mayes, who played Peep-peep] was older.  He was always professional.


Q) A lot of the filming seemed to take place in a Dr Who style quarry. How did that go?

It was a quarry near Basingstoke. It was very exciting, a real secret landscape. I remember on our way home we'd see people wearing big hats in cars coming home from Ascot and I'd think 'I know where you've been but I bet you can't guess where I've been'.

Q) Were you at all aware of the reputation the series had garnered amongst young scifi fans at the time, and over the subsequent years?

I had no idea.
Except that when we were rehearsing the film that was eventually titled Happy-Go-Lucky, Mike Leigh told me his son Leo used to watch the programme and was impressed that he was working with me. I thought he was pulling my leg.  If Mike starts claiming The Boy From Space is a major influence, don't believe it.

Q) Perhaps the most enduring aspect for many viewers (including myself!) was the frankly chilling 'Tall Thin Man'' played by John Woodnutt - Were you aware that the character is credited with frightening a generation of children!

No I wasn't aware of that. How amazing for John, especially when you consider not only was it pre-CGI, it was pre-Lycra, those catsuits weren't easy to wear. He was a Guardian reader I seem to remember, and now you come to mention it, the first person I'd ever seen putting in contact lenses.  


Q) What was is like to film the scenes with the Thin Man?

Actually it was very scary.  He was a serious actor.  He knew he mustn't get too friendly with us.  Maybe the shortsightedness added to his mystery.

Q) Why do you think a production like The Boy from Space is so revered?

Is it the innocence? For a film to work and to endure, regardless of how quaint some of the notions may seem over time, it must begin with everyone believing utterly in the world.  

Maddalena must have understood that, hence the terrifying Ealing car park audition.  I remember there was integrity and commitment from everyone.  It felt very grown up to be involved.


Q) You may have noticed that I've managed to get through this interview without mentioning a certain commercial for lager type beverage?! :-)

Yes. Well done.  The water in Majorca tastes a lot better these days I am told.




Finally, I'd like to say thanks again, Sylvestra! 

Thank you.  It means a great deal to me.



The Boy from Space with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, live, at BFI Southbank in December

On Saturday 6 December, to celebrate this DVD release, BFI Southbank will present  the specially-created 70 minute version of the series, directed by Maddalena Fagandini, followed by a panel discussion with key figures in the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, who provided the original music for this and so many other series. Following this our regular Sonic Cinema strand will provide a chance to hear the group play a specially selected set of Sci-Fi music from Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Quatermass to Doctor Who.

Never available in any video format, the classic BBC series The Boy from Space (1971/1980) is at last being released on DVD by the BFI on 25 August 2014 as part of BFI SCI-FI: Days of Fear and Wonder, a celebration of Sci-Fi film and television. This well-remembered Look and Read series is presented with a host of extras, including the complete audio from the 1972 BBC Records LP and alternative presentations of the filmed drama sequences which allow for this thrilling adventure to be experienced in new and exciting ways.

DVD Special features


·         * The complete 1980 series (10 x 20 mins): all ten episodes of the BBC’s classic Look and Read series, featuring Dan, Helen and Peep-peep’s story, as well as helpful reading tips from Wordy and Cosmo

·         * Feature-length presentation (70 mins): exclusive version of Dan, Helen and Peep-peep’s adventures, edited specially for this release

·         * BBC Records LP – audio version (55 mins): original spoken word recordings from the 1972 vinyl release, narrated by Charles Collingwood (the voice of Brian Aldridge in Radio 4’s The Archers)

·         * BBC Records LP – film version (55 mins): an exclusive presentation, combining the audio from the 1972 LP with film and video footage from the 1980 TV broadcast

·         * Wordy’s Think-ups: 19 original animations from the series

·         * Downloadable PDFs of the original 1971 and 1979 pupil’s pamphlets

·         * Illustrated booklet with essays by British TV experts Ben Clarke and Christopher Perry, and recollections by composer Paddy Kingsland

Product details

RRP: £22.99 / cat. no. BFIV2001 / Cert PG
UK / 1971/80 / colour / English language, with optional hard-of-hearing subtitles /


200 mins / Original aspect ratio 1.33:1 / 2 × DVD9 / PAL / Dolby Digital audio (192 kbps)





Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Werewolves in Siberia - Showing their softer SciFi music side....for now

When Chis Cavorreto and his alter ego band, Werewolves of Siberia released their second album, Beyond The City Of The Dead, earlier in 2014, it was received by a good number of people to the same positive vibes and appreciation which the bands first album, The Rising, had garnered. 

Beyond The City Of The dead contained 10 smouldering horror saturated themed pieces of music that took Cavoretto's journey of intent to produce good atmospheric electronic/horror-synth that would not only appeal to a new generation of horror aficionados but would also enthuse a generation of people such as myself. In other words, people who had progressed through the so-called golden age of 1970's horror which seem to be filled with a seemingly endless array of wonderfully evocative soundtracks. The album encompassed a variety of horror sub genres, moving the music on a little from the Zombie-themed first release, but still remained loyal to a familiar horror soundtrack atmosphere.

The current horror music landscape, I would argue, is as healthy and strong as it's ever been and awash with a plethora of Artists who are taking advantage of the current grand of 'Geeks being the new cool' -  horror and Scifi has never been more fashionable. I'm not saying the genres are IN fashion, and I'm certainly not saying that the productions currently being made are superior to those that have gone before, but nevertheless, it is all slightly more accepted than it once was to say "I love SciFi and horror"....At least a little.

For me the thing that sets apart Werewolves in Siberia from other artists in the field is Cavoretto's ability to add a whole heap of other ingredients to his musical mix and not just aim to produce another Carpenter-lite tribute synth album. By including elements such as rock guitar and drums and a dash of hip-hop, Beyond The City Of The dead and its collection of 10 songs, provided a very nice skew on the retro horror music soundtracks that many of us love.

However you know me, though I love horror (possibly in truth, more than any any sane person should), science fiction is my first truest dearest love. In fact, I couldn't help noticing that the final track on Beyond The City Of The dead ended with a distinct SciFi feel to it with the fabulous 'A Hole in the Space-Time Continuum'. I wanted more of this spacey stuff from The Werewolves.....It turns out that I didnt have too long to wait.

So you can imagine my delight when Chis Cavoretto contacted me a couple of days ago to advise that he had done that very thing and produced a futuristic/sci-fi style mini-album  -  Werewolves in Cyberia (See what he did there with the name?...). That's the good news. The not so good news us that there are just two songs on the said album. Now I know that you're an artist, not a production line Chris, mate - but throw us SciFi junkies a bigger bone would ya! 

Well OK, I think I know the genuine and somewhat understandable reason why the reason for so few songs - I'll come onto that in a minute after I've told you a little about them.

Track 1 Werewolves in Cyberia 

The first of the two tracks, Werewolves in Cyberia,  opens with the sound of a  flowing foreboding synth for the first minute until the drum track kicks in at a distinctly hypnotic pace. It's enough to give the listener a genuine feeling of being drawn headlong through a worm hole (not that I've experienced that, I wish to make that clear) and then dragged at warp speed (that's for you Trekkers out there) through the burning maelstrom of a planet's outer atmosphere. Things are progressing rather nicely at this brooding synth rate until at 4.04 in proceedings an electric guitar suddenly kicks in  - melodic and pure at times, at others with a fuzzy feedback which pierces the collective sound adding a Pink Floyd-esque interplanetary feel to the journey, until a hypnotic synth climax that leaves you floating in space at the end. Simply lovely and my personal favourite of the 2 songs on offer. 

Track 2 -  Cyberwolf

Cyberwolf opens with a distinctively SciFi jingle jangle of futuristic beeps and evocative sweeping keyboard until synth drums immediately transport us along with a break-neck electric accompaniment. This instilled in me images of Phillip K.Dick inspired landscapes, as a Blade Runner future-esque city of neon delight and nightmare unfolded with the unfolding electronic musical feast, transporting us ever faster to the pulsating closing moments. Another lovely piece of space infused musical experience.
So why only two tracks? Well Chris explains it like this. It seems that he wanted to complete the connection between the final track on Beyond the City of the DeadA Hole in the Space-Time Continuum and other songs containing a similar futuristic and space theme. This is a style that he's wanted to do for a while - however, and this is a big however - Chris doesn't want in any way to move away too far and for too long from his horror film and music obsessions and so didn't want to give the impression that Werewolves in Siberia had gone all soft and SciFi boy in direction on a permanent basis. Hence the reason of the album only being 2 songs. He still has his cold black horror heart you know.

Werewolves in Cyberia was initially sent free to the bands mailing list as a 'thank you' for the support that they had given. The songs will now be made generally available to everyone for just $1 digital download on the 19th August at their link at WerewolvesInSiberia.bandcamp.com.

I would advise anyone who likes either horror influenced, or in this case, SciFi infused music to check out not only the link for the two songs when they become available to download, but also the rest of the bands output. For a start you could worse than download and listen the simply stunning version of Phil Collins 'In the Air Tonight'  - I guarantee it will blow your socks off.

Oh and as for not wanting to give the impression that WIS were not permanently going in a future space boy direction - well, I for one have to say that if the two tracks from Werewolves in Cyberia are anything to go far, you would be pleasing at least one middle-aged SciFi fan boy very much. So c'mon, Chris - do as the rest of us, forget your principles and pander to what the public wants! :-)

A little about the man behind the Werewolves:

I wouldn't mind me one of these......cough.......Chris......cough
Chris Cavoretto is the man behind the project. After years of playing mostly metal and hardcore as well as running a small independent label, a break was needed. After a few years’ absence from music, it was time for a new project. With the dabbling in recording came the dabbling in synths. This is where Werewolves in Siberia started. In two weeks time, “The Rising” was recorded.

After the release of “The Rising”, “Halloween” popped up. This was a free EP covering John Carpenter’s Halloween Theme and The Misfits’ Halloween with The Misfits’ London Dungeon as a bonus. A split with fellow horror-synth lover Serengeti Yeti was briefly available featuring two unreleased tracks. In April 2014, Beyond the City of the Dead was released. Since this release, a few soundtracks projects are underway.

About the band......

Werewolves in Siberia sound like new wave, synth rock and horror soundtracks were thrown into a blender to create this electronic/horror-synth masterpiece.

Band interests

horror movies, horror music, horror soundtracks

Artists we also like

Zombi, John Carpenter, John Murphy, Goblin, Tears For Fears, Fabio Frizzi


The Facebook page for Werewolves in Siberia can be found at https://www.facebook.com/WerewolvesInSiberia?fref=ts

The Twitter thing for the Werewolves can be reached at https://twitter.com/werewolves_i_s

To listen and download the Werewolves music visit http://werewolvesinsiberia.bandcamp.com