Sunday, 28 September 2014

Tetrolugosi - Their debut album.

It's been a busy old week here at the 5D headquarters in terms of promotion requests received either by email or via the contact page at the website (which can be found HERE). As I'm eternally grateful for such requests I always make sure that I check them out as soon as possible - both the good and the bad. Amongst the said requests for interviews, online screener reviews and a new horror novel that came my way this week was an email from Italy.

The message in question was from Sara Paradisi who informed she was a member of the Italian band Tetrolugosi and that they had recently recorded their debut album - also entitled Tetrolugosi (2014). The message ended with her asking whether I'd like to hear the album and give my opinion. 

Why the heck not, I thought. Why the heck not?

According to the 'Properly good reviewing for a SciFi, Fantasy and horror blog handbook' (2nd edition)' the first thing that any self respecting reviewer must do is research the product he or she intends to write about. Blimey, there's a first time for everything I suppose. So after some incredibly intensive research (which took at least 2 minutes) I eventually managed to find out the following information;
"Tetrolugosi are Sara Paradisi (keyboards, voices, organs, theremin) and Camillo Perazzoli (keyboards, voice, organs, bass guitar). They come from Ripatransone, central Italy, where they formed in 2013. They recorded their first album “Tetrolugosi” (2014) in their home studio. They like to play theremin and vintage organs producing creepy old sounds. Their lyrics are surreal and often grotesque. Enigmatic characters (sumo wrestlers, Japanese insects, robogeishas, sleeping lawyers, golden bugs) populate their world. Reverberating deep lead vocals coming from dark territories blend with angelic otherworldly voices. Tetrolugosi music is obscure. Besides, the owls are not what they seem."

You could be correct in theorising purely from that description that Tetrolugosi isn't going to be in the realms of mainstream boy band friendly pop (thank god) and after listening to the album I can safely say that the theory would be correct. Quite simply, I haven't listened to anything like this record for some time. It's also safe to say that I enjoyed the listening experience immensely.

The Italian Duo of Paradisi and Perazzili have managed to put together a collection of songs that defies categorisation and theme. There elements of horror-synth, Gothic Rock, Punk, Progressive Rock and a veritable plethora of other styles that interweave to provide a fusion of romanticism, melancholy, longing, horror and insanity.

It can often be the case that such a blend of style and influence can result in a mixed and distinctly unrewarding experience - yet here it works. From the Kraftwerk inspired synth track 'Tonight the dead can dance', the Carpenter-esqu background fronted by Camillo Perazzoli's wonderfully distinctive vocals of 'The Milky Way' to perhaps my favourite track on the whole album - 'Till we are buried' which is quite simply a magnificent and haunting ballad that features features Sara Paradisi providing some haunting melancholic backing vocals.

It's not just the contrasting and various melodic influences that results from a combination of instruments such as keyboards, bass guitar and a Theremin - a blooming Theramin. Like FAR OUT BABY! - 

But we also have a contrasting array of lyrical content.....

For example we have the brief and basic two lines of 'There is a sleeping lawyer';

"There is a sleeping lawyer inside the church, 
There is a sleeping lawyer inside the crypt"


The wonderfully weird 'Tastaferro';

  " There are a lot of bees on the flowers, kind bees
i wave to the bees as they follow me"

Then there are the beautiful lyrics of the aforementioned 'Til we are buried';

 "I'm gonna take you to the snow covered pine trees
we'll show the pine trees that we we are ready
let's ourselves in the white
the white that covers everything
we'll become one with the snow covered world
 we'll become one with the snow covered world"


Lyrics that are at times bizarre, beautiful, hypnotic a romantically melancholic - who could ask for more?

Listening to Tetrolugosi is at times unsettling, interesting, familiar and unfamiliar - sometimes separately, occasionally all at once. It is also a stunning collection of music that will at times make you smile, wince, think and drift away upon a cloud of Gothic splendour. Lovely stuff.

If you don't believe me then have a listen the hauntingly beautiful Til we are buried. - It can be found by clicking on the link below.
 

(The video can also be seen on my website at http://stuartandrew86.wix.com/fifth-dimension.)


The Facebook page for Tetrolugosi can be found at https://www.facebook.com/tetrolugosi?fref=ts

The Tetrolugosi youtube page can be found at https://www.youtube.com/user/tetrolugosichannel

Saturday, 27 September 2014

They Eat Culture presents Future Preston tours - part of the BFI's Sci-Fi: Days of Fear & Wonder season.

This week I received what I believe without doubt is the longest email ever having been written in the history of emails being, er well, written. I'll give it its due though, it did suggest that in terms of saving the rain forest etc that it might be wise not to print it off. To be honest, I don't think that I have had THAT much paper, like ever.

Now normally my lack of attention span would mean that on receiving said 'email giganticus' I would possibly (probably) send it straight to the great trash box. After all, I find that the subject of unusually long email messages tend to be either some very nice person in Ghana wanting to share his millions with me or a years supply of Viagra for my own personal needs - either way they seem to require my various PIN numbers and bank account numbers. Yeah, like I'd ever fall for that scam........"cough"

Anyhoo - this email was very different. The reason why it was so big was evident by the truly exciting plans that it included. It concerned the BFI'S Sci-Fi: Days of fear and wonder season - and if you have no idea what exactly that is then you may have been living in a cave for the past few months. It also means that you haven't been reading any of my previous blog posts on the releases contained within the event - and that doesn't make me much of a happy bunny. No not at all. So before you go any further I suggest that you click on the previous BFI entries on this blog and do the required reading. There will be a test of your knowledge in due course.
The email was sent by Rob Talbot, a representative of a Preston based cultural production company, the wonderfully named They Eat Culture (TEC). Rob was very effusive in his praise of my blog from the start - and as I've mentioned previously on a number of occasions, simply aim some flattery in my general direction and it will get you anywhere. So of course he caught my attention immediately.
They Eat Culture is a direct creative intervention into the cultural life of Preston and Lancashire. They programme, commission, & produce quality arts & cultural work, and run culturally engaging, in-deep projects co-designed with communities. It also transpires that they are responsible for delivering Future Preston Tours - the Preston content for the BFI's Sci-Fi: Days of Fear & Wonder season but also what also caught my attention was the genuinely exciting news of what TEC is intending to do. The plans includes a series of immersive and non-traditional screenings of four science fiction movie classics ( in the truest sense of the word) E.T: The Extra Terrestrial, Dredd, Logan's Run and Tron at secret locations around the city, along with a range of other genre-related events, framed as tours run by a retro-futuristic travel agency ('Future Preston Tours').
For a start I love their film selections - 3 of them in particular are personal perennial favourites of mine. Let's think about the four selections for a moment. I won't say outright which is the one film from the selection that I've never quite fully warmed to, but let's just say for now that I won't be phoning home about it............ However I'm fully aware that many disagree with my opinion, so don't ever listen to me. As for the others, how I love them. 
"Is that a video game in your pocket or are you just
pleased to see me?......."
I first saw Tron on its original release in 1982 and if I remember correctly, I was one of the few to fall in love with it from the start. Lets face it, the film wasn't exactly welcomed with overflowing critical and commercial success when it first hit the cinema - which at the time perplexed me, I seem to remember watching it in a half full cinema in that first week of release. After all, its stunning originality in terms of look and technological innovation should have meant instant adoration. Instead it was often ridiculed in its early life - and unfairly so. It took Tron, like others at the time such as Blade Runner, a number of years to reach the status that it attains now and as a consequence is quite rightly regarded as one on the major science fiction works of it's time. And do you know what? I saw Tron again on DVD just a few months ago, it still looks rather stunning.
"Finding the toilets was always tricky in 1970's disco's."
Logan's Run is another example of a slow burner of a film in terms of acquiring the cult status it holds today. The fact that I've been a little smitten with Jenny Agutter for most of my life may hold some reason for my love of this piece of work. However, there are other reasons why this film is high on my, and many others, all time list. The story itself is pure Scifi joy of a future mankind confined to a domed city governed by a computer, where the pursuit and enjoyment of pleasure is the only societal value. If that wasn't enough, each citizen has to undergo the public ritual of ‘Carrousel’ at the age of 30, where they are vaporised with the false promise of ‘renewal’. Yes there are themes of Government control and Conformity which are as relevant as much today (perhaps more so) as they were in back 1976 when the film first appeared. But fundamentally, it is a good, rollicking chase movie that's simply a whole heap of fun.

It is no secret that my formative SciFi experience was the introduction of the seminal Comic, 2000AD. Its most famous creation, Judge Dredd has had two major film adaptations. Lets be clear, the one being shown as part Future Preston Tours by They Eat Culture is not, I repeat IS NOT, the 1995 abomination which 'starred' Sylvester Stallone. If you've never seen it and want to know just how catastrophically bad it is, don't watch it. All you need to know is that it also 'stars' Rob Schneider. I rest my case.
"Put your hands up, Stallone....you're nicked for crimes against 200OAD"
No, this film is the magnificent 2012 version which contains an almost pitch-perfect characterisation by New Zealand actor, Karl Urban. Dredd is about as cool as contemporary SciFi can get, it looks great, with the desolation of Mega-City1's inner-city chaos, it has some truly amazing cinematography and also some very, very cool bikes. The only unwelcome surprise about the movie is that as yet a sequel hasn't been decided upon. 

If all that wasn't enough, TEC are not satisfied with providing people with traditional straight forward screenings of these acknowledged Sci-Fi classics, no no no, because the intention is that guests will also experience Science fiction in a completely new and inventive fashion. The months of October and November are set to be an amazing time for Lancashire’s Scifi fans and arts and culture junkies; people need to be prepared to see the Preston in a new light, straight from the future. As yet many of the locations and activities are shrouded in secrecy and mystery. However it is safe to say that this will literally be the first time that I've ever said this, but this venture makes me really wish I was in Preston.

The schedule, as far as I know it for these events are as follows;

"Pull my finger - it makes a funny noise......."
E.T the Extra-Terrestrial (PG)
 
Bring the wonder of ET to life for a new generation and experience this family classic in an exclusive, one-off secret screening. Step inside ET and his world in Preston, join them for a magical moon-lit cycle ride to their secret cinema location with live theatre performances and interactive activities aimed at a family audience.

Date:  18th Oct         Location: Avenham Park & Christ The King Catholic College.


Dredd (18) 
Date:  25th Oct         Location: Classified

Logan’s Run (PG) 

Date:  22nd Nov        Location: Classified (await update)

Tron (PG) 
Date:  29th Nov         Location: Classified

Also included (dates to be announced) 
  • Touring travel agency Future Preston Tours
  • Classic and little-known Sci-Fi, talks and workshops at The Continental 
  • Sci-Fi Trash Cinema, quizzes, and a future rock & roll sci-fi social club at the Ferret
  • A touring videotheque for sci-fi archive

Future Preston Tours commence in October as part of the BFI’s nationwide Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder season.  Tickets will be available from www.skiddle.com £10 adult, £7 children and family of four £28. 

Believe me, this is set to be a very special set of events. It's not often that I unreservedly take my hat off to a proposed venture, but in this case I'll make a genuine exception. This just could be the best of experiences.

For more information, They Eat Culture can be reached via their website at http://theyeatculture.org

Their Facebook page is RIGHT HERE

You can follow They Eat Culture on Twitter via their twitter type name of  @theyeatculture

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Device (2014) - The October people nail it again.

The preamble (meandering section)

When John Portanova contacted me last week to ask whether I would be interested in watching and reviewing the latest film he was involved with, The Device, well I didn't need to be asked twice. This was because of four very important reasons. The first being that the previous offering from The October people, a shadowy sounding named film production company from Seattle that he is part of, was quite simply, a wonderful cinematic experience. In fact, thinking about it, it brings to mind a rather beautifully written review that was produced at the time.....

The Invoking is a "wonderfully subtle, intelligent, beautiful and at times chilling tale that may indeed seem familiar at first glance. It is though, far more than that and it works wonderfully well. It's not just a good film, it is simply excellent." .............. wow, just wow. Fine writing indeed.

The fact that it is actually my very own quote from my very own blog review is purely a matter of coincidence - I remain as ever, ahem, objective to the end. 

Which brings me onto the second reason why I was keen to watch the follow up film from The October People. Namely the fact that John kindly (or cleverly) also said that the reason he wanted me to see this film was because he had enjoyed my review of The Invoking so much. In other words, he probably was of the opinion that it was close to being the finest film review that he had ever seen........ Well OK, maybe he didn't go that far, but in my mind that's what I heard. And as anyone who knows me well enough would agree, butter me up with enough words of praise then I'm anybody's. I may be shallow but at least I'm consistent.

The third and (you'll no doubt be glad to know) penultimate reason for accepting Johns effusive request was down to the subject matter of The Device, namely a good old alien abduction story - and again, to anybody who would admit to knowing me well, would agree that the X-Files obsessive in me loves nothing more than a nice alien abduction and with it, human probing story - as it were.

So once again I found myself in the situation of having a super-secret online link sent to me for a super-secret online location where I would be able to watch a super-secret sneak preview of the movie in question. This would be the fourth and final reason for my acceptance, because for a blogger there is nothing more exciting (well, legally speaking) than to be able to gain access to a brand new feature way before the general public are able to. If nothing else, It helps feed my rampant shallowness and feeling of general superiority.

The actual review thingy bit.....

The synopsis of a The Device is;
Nice view....and, ahem, the scenery is nice too.
"Abby and Rebecca Powell haven’t seen each other since a traumatic event in their youth ripped them apart. Reunited for the first time in over a decade, the sisters take a trip to spread their mother’s ashes at a secluded lake. As the sisters reconnect and try to heal old wounds, something waits in the nearby woods. A strange object, made not by the hands of man, beckons them to it. As they begin to try to unlock its secrets, Abby is plagued by nightmares of an alien presence that seem all too real. Little do the sisters realise that this object is actually a device, one with a purpose too horrible to comprehend. As the events of the past and the present begin to merge, new discoveries will threaten to tear apart their newly reformed family, and the inhuman creators of the device will attempt to finish a terrible experiment begun years before."

To begin with, without consulting my overworked legal team I couldn't possibly comment on the rumour that one of the main reasons that I enjoyed this film so much was because I am just a little smitten with Kate Alden (Rebecca).

I haven't read any other reviews of The Device as yet, in fact I probably never will as I regard other write-ups as either being so badly written that make them unbearably embarrassing to read, or that they are far better than my efforts at scribbling - either way, the result doesn't exactly make me happy. However, if  I was to read some, I would bet most of the money I have in the world (don't get excited, it's not a lot) that reference would be made to the makers of this movie not only having been heavily influenced by the X-Files but also consciously channelled some of the distinct pacing and atmosphere of the classic television series. That's not to say that this film lacks any sense of originality and thrills, because it doesn't. In actual fact is a deliciously atmospheric and, in parts, genuinely chilling.

David thrills the crew with his 'now you see it, now you don't' magic trick
The most effective of any episode of the X-Files for me were the ones where the special effects and technology played second fiddle to fine tuned direction, dialogue, emotional involvment and most importantly, the plot concept. Good science fiction is all about the idea, and even the most basic of which in terms of budget, if well executed, can produce the most satisfying of cinematic results.

The Device is the embodiment of doing a huge amount with a relatively constrained budget, a concept that took place with Director Jeremy Bergs previous offering, the wonderful The Invoking. It therefore no surprise at all that The Device and The Invoking share similar styles and pacing - a slow burning atmospheric start with plenty of well acted characterisation that in turn develops a genuine empathy towards the key figures until we find ourselves in the midst of a creepy and thrilling climax.

The relationship between the two female leads, Angela DiMarco (Abby) and Kate-gorgeous-Alden (Rebecca) is the emotional cornerstone which provides the true soul of the film - and both are utter convincing as the two sisters whose connection was torn apart in the aftermath of the violent end to Rebecca's relationship with her then boyfriend.

" I don't know how it happened Sis, but I 
seem to have glued my hand to my shoulder".
Yes, Kate Alden is suitably fabulous as the sister tortured by memories of a hidden past, as well as being rather excellent to look at, though more importantly (in terms of potential thoughts she may have in regard to instigating a restraining order) the acting talent is most definately there for all to see. In all seriousness, she is fabulous in the role. Angela DiMarco too is excellent in her part of the other sister tormented by particular memories and experiences of her own. However, I will refrain from commenting on her looks as her real life partner, David S. Hogan also plays her onscreen husband - and if he plays bat-shit crazy off-screen as well as he does in the movie then I may well be a marked man. On a serious note, he plays his part solidly and very well - the scene where he is receiving 'messages' from certain other worldly figures is for me possibly one of the best in in the film. Nicely played Sir, indeed.

As far as I'm concerned, any self respecting Sci-Fi or horror film would not be complete without a nod or two to some familiar genre conventions. For example, we have the classic case of hearing some strange noise in the night, then walking down into the cellar/basement whilst politely asking "Is anybody there?". Then there is the true to form finding of some strange unknown artifact in the woods and then taking it home to examine/forget about in a drawer/sell for lots of money. In The Device, I am glad to say we have both with one or two nicely played moments of 'Who's down there?", which I always love - particularly when I think that in real life the more likely scenario (in my case at least) would be far more accurately an 'I don't give a toss who's down there  - I'm scarpering as far as I can and getting the hell out of here". In other words, I would no doubt leave some other member of the family to face the music and ask the stupid question. After all, I still have so much to live for, right?

In this film it is the second of those big SciFi movie plot no-no's, the finding of the strange unknown object and then keeping it, that provides the cornerstone of the plot. I'm sorry, but I'm pretty sure that if i was to chance upon what looked like some sort of crash site in the middle of nowhere and then found a totally other-worldly looking object my first thought would be to contact the authorities (after taking a few pics on my iPhone, naturally). Does this happen in the movies? - never! Do movie land people not know that you never ever trust strange objects you find - whether they be metallic spherical figures or board games called Jumangi!!

Angela loses again in the 'make a rabbit shape silhouette' competition
Thankfully - because that would probably make for a very boring and short film I suppose, in The Device they choose the irrational option - hurrah!. So as soon as Abby is persuaded  by her husband Calvin (David S. Hogan) that wealth and more could be theirs if they sell this strange spherical object then we know that there may very well be trouble ahead..... and oh baby, there is.

As I mentioned earlier, the makers of The Device won't be able to escape the inevitable comparisons to the X-Files - however, that is something I sincerely intend to be a compliment. As in the very best episodes of that seminal TV series, the emphasis was often on exploring the psychological and emotional effects of Alien abduction of the characters.  Often, productions that feature the theme of extra-terrestrial 'snatch & cavity searches' far too often spend an excessive amount of time and money on the abduction part only. And while that part of the process can indeed have it's chilling charms, for me the more interesting aspects of the act would always be the consequences it would have on both those involved and their loved ones - Put it this way, If I was to tell my wife that I was frequently being abducted and violated by aliens she might not take it too well, actually, she would probably be on the phone to my doctor, her doctor and her lawyer faster than you could say Holy Flying Saucers, Batman!

"Excuse me, has anybody seen my probing tool?"
So in the same way that The Invoking provided an intelligent take on satanic possession and cabin-in-the-woods murder, The Device does the same thing in regard to alien abduction, and (whether real or not) the scars, both physically and emotionally, that the experience would inevitably leave upon an individual.

So once again I'm full of admiration for the likes of Jeremy Berg, John Portanova and the rest of the production team for their willingness to take a chance in disregarding the expectations of sections of a genre film audience that have been raised on a contemporary diet of blood, guts and CGI infused SciFi  mayhem. And while there is undounbtably a place for big budget SFX, I applaud the fact that instead of trying to hide their low budget productions they instead use the lack of finance instead to focus on what often really matters within these genre's. In essence, to provide not just intelligent and sophisticated science fiction or horror plots, but also to add enough genuine chills and thrills along the way. Some of us (obviously not me though) have brains and occasionally like to think about what we are watching. This is a film well worth watching.

So the next time you find a strange metallic object (spherical or not) in some deserted woods, hear strange unworldly noises in your basement, see a tall gangly stranger surrounded by a bright light in your bedroom while your partner starts to go as crazy as a box of Frogs - well I suggest that you get out of Dodge straight away.

The Device will be released in the US on DVD & VOD by Image Entertainment on December 16th, just a couple of months away. However in the meantime it will be taking to the festival circuit very soon. As yet, the most important release - the UK one - is yet to be confirmed, but at this stage it looks like some point in 2015. 

The film will be having its world premiere on September 27th at the 2014 Local Sightings Film Festival in Seattle,WA (http://localsightings.nwfilmforum.org/)

It will then screen at the 2014 Tacoma Film Festival on October 14th (http://www.tacomafilmfestival.com/)

More information can be found on the film's IMDB page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3593120/ 

You can find The Device on Twitter via the following link twitter.com/thedevicefilm

The Device can be found on Facebook at  https://www.facebook.com/thedevicefilm?fref=ts

Sunday, 14 September 2014

BFI SCI-FI: Days of Fear and Wonder: The Children’s Film Foundation Collection – Outer Space




Release date: 22 September 2014

Titles
Supersonic Saucer (1956);
Kadoyng (1972);
The Glitterball (1977).

Product details:
RRP: £19.99 / cat. no. BFIV972 / Cert U
UK / 1956 + 1972 + 1977 / black and white, and colour / 48 mins + 58 mins + 54 mins / DVD9 / Dolby Digital mono 2.0 audio (224 kbps) / Original aspect ratios 1.33:1 + 1.66:1 (16x9 anamorphic) + 1.85:1 (16x9 anamorphic

Special features:
Brand new High Definition transfers of all the films
Illustrated booklet with extensive credits and new essays by The Glitterballdirector Harley Cokeliss, Alex Davidson, Robert Shail and Vic Pratt






Another self indulgent pre-amble

Bear with me while I remove the grit from my eye
 - I'm not crying when I see this........honest
For me and my friends it became a Saturday morning ritual which became one of the true cornerstones of our weekend existence between the the ages of 9 and 11 years old. Looking back on it now with my middle-aged eyes, it brings to mind a heady haze of laughter, friendship, chocolate, pop and ice-cream - all of which was nicely wrapped up in a cosy blanket of cinematic treasures provided by a bastion of British entertainment. Good times.

For those of you that may not know (and boy do I pity you having missed out), The Children's Film Foundation (CFF) produced home-grown entertainment for young cinema goers in Britain for well over 30 illustrious years. It was originally set up in 1951 as a non-profit initiative by the owner of the Rank and Odeon cinema chains to give youngsters the chance to get into the film-going habit, and not only that, they would get the opportunity to see the types of entertainment that THEY wanted to see. So saw the birth of the Saturday morning picture club.

In truth it is difficult to over-estimate the importance and contribution the the CFF made to the entertainment landscape of Britain for over three decades. This wasn't some two-bit tin pot attempt to throw some cheap rubbish at the kids of this country in the hope of keeping us occupied for a few hours on a Saturday Morning (though if you ask my mum, she would say that my and my brothers weekly cinema trips were her much needed time of rest and sanctuary within the chaos of the Anderson boys' weekend). No, there was indeed a genuine warmth and rapport between the CFF and it's audience that was both unique and pleasurable. The Foundation knew what it was doing, and boy it did it well.
The old ABC cinema of my youth - 
apparently now a bloody nightclub....a nightclub!

It is pointless to try and accurately convey the excitement that I and many of my friends experienced each weekday until that long awaited Saturday morning came, and along with it, its many delicious delights. Each and every member of the audience would queue (not always that patiently though) and armed with enough sweets, chocolate and drinks to feed a small African nation, before plowing into the Halifax ABC cinema (now sadly gone I'm afraid) and bring good natured havoc and stress to the poor workers there who most probably dreaded the onset of this day just as much as we looked forward to it.

Each new feature during the morning would be greeted with raucous cheers from the audience now out of it's collective head on sugar products - ahh, good times, good times.

Perhaps the Foundation's greatest achievement (apart from keeping raucous under-12's off the streets for a while) was it's major contribution in not just nurturing young and upcoming talent, but also using the talents of many well-established stalwarts of the British film industry. This latest release from the BFI exemplifies those two points, being full to brimming in familiar faced character actors and stalwarts such as Harley Cokeliss directing The Glitterball. If you don't know who he is, then I suggest you read his IMDB page, but be warned, you may be a while.

The actual important section

The three features included one this marvellous DVD perfectly encapsulate the ethos of the CFF throughout its existence - to produce a variety of genre films all containing common ingredients such as mystery, adventure, science fiction and horror. 

This particular blast from the past contains three of the CFF’s finest science fiction adventures: Supersonic Saucer (1956), Kadoyng (1972) and the much lauded classic, The Glitterball (1977). The first two titles were before my time as a 'Saturday morning clubber', however the final one is a film that resonates for me from that period and one that I was more than looking forward to seeing again.

Before I talk about the films on this DVD themselves, lets be perfectly clear about one thing straight away. When it comes to special effects and SciFi imagery, none of the CFF offerings are going to have ever won an abundance of plaudits. British film and television through the 1950's and 1960's were never renowned for having money thrown into their science fiction products. You only have to watch any episode of Doctor Who from that period to see for yourself the small budgets that the BBC were prepared to spend at that time. The CFF were a notable exception to this rule because the budgets weren't small, they were minuscule. This cost effective necessity may have meant an almost complete tone down of FX, however perversely, it also meant that as a consequence the result for CFF SciFi was more emphasis than ever on concept, ideas and yes, entertainment.

This resembles absolutely no scene in E.T : The Extra Terrestrial
 - nope, definitely not. At all. Mr Spielberg, sir.
The first of the offering comes from the 1950's with Supersonic Saucer. It tells the gentle story of Meba, a tiny baby flying saucer from the planet Venus and complete with extra-terrestrial abilities, who arrives on an exploratory mission to Earth.

The story not only boasts a rich SciFi heritage from writer and producer Frank Wells, whose father happened to be none other than perhaps the greatest Science Fiction writer of them all, H.G. Wells, but it also strikes a marked resemblance here and there to a certain E.T : The Extra-Terrestrial. However, I'm sure that my overworked legal team have far more adept knowledge of Internet defamatory laws than I, so at this point I shall say that Mr Spielberg's film parallels were entirely coincidental.......especially the theme of children befriending an alien and as a consequence taking on a hoard of nasty grown ups until he can go home. Honest your honour, I suggest no more than that.

Supersonic Saucer was a genuinely surprising delight, full of exquisite touches of excitement and humour throughout as the ever-so-innocent Meba and the children take on a very 1950's bunch of villains in order to stop them robbing their school.

A year's supply of 1972 kitchen foil was used up in this one scene
In the the second feature we find ourselves in the early 1970's where the children are still very pleasantly polite and distinctly middle class in the wonderfully peculiar Kadoyng. I say that the story is somewhat 'peculiar' it because on the surface the it's a charming and very sweet story of a pleasantly likeable Alien who finds himself alone on Earth (again).  Shortly after arriving from his home planet of Stoikal, he is found by two brothers and their sister and subsequently helps them in their attempt to stop their quiet English village being demolished in order to build a motorway. We've all been there.

Now, it could be my 'love all all things horror' head talking, but there is also a more disquieting tone to the story, masked skilfully by the light, playful dialogue. For one thing,  there is the distinctly phallic looking antenna that adorns Kadoyng's head. Then there is the use he makes of the said antenna - now clean out that dirty mind!....no he uses it to telepathically control the mind of some of the humans, no matter who they are. Nobody, especially the childrens rather mis-matched parents (she is younger and distinctly fanciable, he resembles an old boring Oxford professor) seems to bat an eyelid at the sight of this 'grown man' accompanying the children everywhere. Nor the fact that he seems to have some Pied Piper influence over them.

However, that all just be my contemporary view of a lovely paced and humorous piece of work which is full of some nicely played scenes. The one that takes place at the motorway bypass protest in the local village hall where Kadoyng manipulates the thoughts of some of those involved is particularly priceless. 

Yep, the food option really was that bad in the 1970's
As I mentioned earlier, the third and final offering is one that I have fond memories of seeing in person when it first appeared as a feature in 1977. Once again, in the award-winning The Glitterball, we see some young children (this time, two young boys) helping a (yes, another) stranded alien. The alien may indeed resemble a silver painted snooker ball, but this should not hide the fact that although the CFF could never hope to contend with a certain release by a Mr George Lucas that same year, The Glitterball still boasts some more than decent special effects.

I will be honest, this particular feature is one I have now watched three times since receiving the DVD from the BFI earlier this week. Not only is it a skilfully directed and acted piece that also comes with a delightful script, but also it provided me with a wonderfully nostalgic visit to a time where telephones were big, cumbersome and tied to the wall, cars were boring square boxes and the food available in a 1970's British superstore was pretty abysmal. Don't ever let anybody tell you that we were happier then, because we were not - life may have been simpler then but we didnt have the internet...I rest my case. And I know for certain that I'm not alone in my love for The Glitterball, as many others have been touched by it's warm cosy nostalgia of a time and event that never return again. But that nostalgic feeling would never be there if the film itself wasn't a dream of an exceedingly well told and exciting story.

This is quite simply a lovely collection of stories.

A little more about the CFF

For over 30 years the Children's Film Foundation produced quality entertainment for young audiences, employing the cream of British film making talent. Newly transferred from the best available elements held in the BFI National Archive, these much-loved and fondly remembered films finally return to the screen after many years out of distribution in specially curated DVD releases from the BFI.

The golden years of the CFF were during the 1960's and early 1970's had weekly national attendances not far short of the half a million mark - staggering figures. Alas, by the mid-1980's the audiences for these Saturday morning rituals were beginning to dwindle. Age, work and and an obsession with the opposite sex meant that yours truly had long since ceased to join my fellow manic throng at the Halifax ABC. In a wider sense, the output of the CFF was dealt two separate death blows. Firstly, the small tax on cinema tickets that channelled funds into British Film production was cancelled in the early 1980's by Margaret Thatcher and her band of society cut-throats. The cessation of the Eady Levy not only dealt a mortal blow to the CFF but it also meant deep trouble for the wider remnants of the British film industry that were holding on by their crumbling fingernails. 

The second death blow came in the form of television with the onset of children's Saturday morning shows with their selections of toy swapping or custard pie throwing. The organisation tried in vain to change with the times by negotiating production deals with the major TV companies and changing into the Children's Film and Television Foundation (CFTF), but the damage had been done. The production money and the audiences were gone. Film production from the CFF eventually stopped in 1987. 

The company is still in existence, with it now known as The Children's Media Foundation. It is an independent non-profit organisation which campaigns for good quality entertainment for children and young people throughout the UK. Not only that, it actively supports production and is determined to further wider understanding of cultural  media for children.

It would be all-too easy to become too blinded by the nostalgia of my childhood when talking about the special place the CFF and those Saturday morning get-togethers have in my and millions of others who shared that unique experience. What is perhaps more important is the knowledge that this company produced entertainment that never preached or patronised but always achieved the highest quality in all artistic areas.

This collection of stories is a prime example of that need for preservation. That movies of a dark and risky nature, such as the 3 in this series were being made by an organisation in trouble is testament to the ethos of the CFF. 


Outer Space is released on 22 September 2014 as part of the BFI’s Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder, a nationwide celebration of Sci-Fi film and TV.