Friday, 31 October 2014

There's a bit of an Halloween offer going on at The Movie & Music Network.......

The good people at The Movie & Music Network have a rather dandy Happy Halloween offer on at the moment in regard to their online streaming library of goodies.

For the next 72 hours, if anybody uses the promo code HALLOWEEN-5THDIMENSION when subscribing then you will be getting their network for only $4.99/month, for three months….......

Now I know that my mental calculations can be rather pants at times - but essentially that means you have 3 days!

I am genuinely not just saying this, but the current library on offer is fabulous, if personal illness this week hadn't meant time off my day-time job and consequently, no blogging, I would have been writing about the classic Vincent Price dystopian movie, The Last Man on Earth. I watched this stunning film again only last week, after a break of some years, on The Movie & Music Network - believe me, it is as powerful as ever. That review is coming next week - whether you like it or not!! The point is that it took me an age to work my way through the plethora of great movie title choices before I decided on this take on the 'I am legend' story (and in the process, well and truly kicks the arse of Mr. Will Smith's version).

Quite simply, The Movie & Music Network is a veritable bloggers delight with 6000 titles (500+ horror and SciFi flicks) and 53 channels. If that wasn't enough, there are definite rumbles that the Network's content is tripling in the next few months and is available on Roku, online, iOS, Android, etc.

Lets face it, the deal is SPOOK-TACULAR and TERROR-IFIC right?........Thank you very much. I'm here all week.

So remember - don't forget to use the promo code HALLOWEEN-5THDIMENSION when subscribing then you will be getting their network for only $4.99/month, for three months…....... 



Saturday, 25 October 2014

Fragments of Fear - A Multi Media Horror Series + Interview with Francoise Pascal

FIRSTLY - THE INDIEGOGO CAMPAIGN BIT....

It's been another busy week here in the Fifth dimension secret bunker with a number of blog articles on the go - I know, I'm either a slave to my art or a self-serving superficial attention seeker.....probably both, methinks. There was however, one particular project which came my way this week that certainly peeked my interest (even more than my usual state of peeked interest - which to be honest is usually rather peeked, as it were). 

This increased peek came in two parts; firstly it concerned an Indiegogo crowd funding campaign for a horror related project, Fragments of Fear, which was particularly interesting for a number of reasons (more of that in a moment); secondly, it also gave me the chance to chat with an actress who appears in the said programme, and also just so happens to be one of the main formative influences on my teenage years, if you know what I mean.

To begin with though, I want to talk about Fragments of Fear. I have actually been intendin to run a piece on this project since It first came to my attention some while ago, but you know me, at times I have the attention span of a newt and so am easily distracted by any manner of shiny Sci-Fi & horror related material. As a result Fragments has been on my ever growing 'to do' list.....but now internet land, beware. I'm ready. 

The reason that I'm ready is because it's quite refreshing when something new & slightly different is being attempted when it comes to the horror genre. I don't know about you, but to be honest I'm feeling slightly jaded at times with the plethora of remakes, re-imaginings or whatever name you want to give something that at best lacks any sense of innovative creativity, at worst is a money grabbing franchise creating lazy piece of derivative tripe (yes, Wicker Man & Texas Chainsaw remakes, I'm looking right at you!). So a project that is trying to be fresh, innovative and making use of new writing ideas and talent within the horror genre can only be a good thing. 

My Facebook friend, Richard Gladman - yes, THE Richard Gladman, as in the 
editor of Space Monsters Magazine - quite possibly the finest sci-fi/horror themed magazine on the go in the UK today, is one of the team behind Fragments. They have recently began an Indiegogo campaign to raise the necessary funds required to make this project match their exciting and innovative plans.

You've got something on your face....no to the left...yep that's it
"Well that's ok, Stuey", I hear you say, "but you do actually need tell us what this Fragments of Fear thingamajig is all about". Well I'll leave it up to the producers to give you a brief synopsis of what It's all about.

"Fragments of Fear is a multi-platform project showcasing the best in contemporary horror from new and established writing talent. Over each episode, a series of other worldly narrators lead the viewer through tales of terror, horror and suspense, offering a dark and disturbing take on 'Story Time' meets 'Tales from the Crypt'.

Guest starring Caroline Munro (The Spy Who Loved Me, Golden Voyage of Sinbad, Maniac, Dracula AD 1972, The Last Horror Film), Francoise Pascal (The Iron Rose, Burke & Hare, Incense for the Damned, Mind your Language) Dani Thompson (Serial Kaller, Axe to Grind, Convention of the Dead) and Billy Chainsaw (Cry Wolf, Strippers vs Werewolves, Frightfest TV)  our objective is to create a multi-platform experience  in order to bring contemporary horror writing to a new audience"

I told you that it sounded good eh?

So what we have is not only a television broadcast featuring certain icons of film and TV , in addition each episode will become available for streaming on the Fragments of Fear website, providing a global audience reach.  According to Richard Gladman, Fragments Of Fear intends to help build an online community dedicated to all forms of creativity in the horror genre. This will centre around their website and forums, where like minded people will meet other writers, editors, composers, artists, actors, directors and producers. 

It is as much a social experiment in creativity and networking as it is an open source storytelling community. All the original assets for the show will be made available to their community, and the most outstanding work created will be fully championed by the Fragments team.

The ever gorgeous Caroline Munro
It is the producers hope that by providing a home for, and support from fans of story telling and horror, that they will enable amateurs and professionals alike to experiment, create and enjoy unique content that can evolve into something extraordinary. 

Through contributing to the campaign its hoped that people can help make real a genuinely innovative and exciting project. Filming has been taking place for some time on the first season season one, with over half of the stories filmed already. The team is now intent on completing the filming of the remaining episodes and investing in the all-important post production process.  The funding acquired through the Indiegogo campaign is also essential to creating the interactive website and ensuring that the project reaches its full potential.

There are a bundle of incentives and rewards for helping & contributing to this venture. To find out more then visit the Indiegogo crowd funding page for Fragments of Fear which can be found at RIGHT HERE

The Fragments of Fear Facebook page can go found RIGHT HERE 

If you you want to follow them on Twitter, well you can vie their handle at @FragmentsFear


SECONDLY - THE INTERVIEW WITH THE ACTRESS BIT........

I'll be honest, this whole Fragments project would have peeked my interest purely on its own merits. However, what well and truly sealed the deal was the knowledge that two of the guest stars of Fragments of Fear were a couple of women that achieved nothing short of cult status (and lived within the fantasies of untold men) as actresses since the 1970's. Of course I'm talking about the very lovely Caroline Munro & Francoise Pascal.

One of the highlights since beginning this blogging lark has been the chance to communicate directly with amy of the creative individuals involved. This week I was incredibly excited to be able to chat with a woman who played something of a central role in this teenage bloggers existence. - I'll leave it at that.....hopefully she doesn't find that thought too overwhelmingly creepy.

Francoise Pascal
So for those of you poor folk (especially the guys) who missed out on Francoise Pascal the first time around, here is a very brief synopsis of her career (borrowed in part, ok, in whole) from the piece on the Fragments of fear Indiegogo page) - and believe me, this following excerpt doesn't even come close to encapsulating this remarkable woman's life and career.

"The career of one of the most beguiling leading ladies has been an adventurous one that has taken her from being in the centre of Swinging London in the mid sixties, to cult status as a model and actress in the seventies. 
As well as starring in the hit UK sitcom Mind Your Language, Francoise co-starred with Peter Sellers in There’s a Girl in My Soup, appeared in classic horror films The Iron Rose, Burke & Hare and Incense For the Damned and spent two years in Hollywood on the daytime soap The Young & The Restless. She recently published her autobiography, As I Am, and is currently filming a BBC sitcom pilot."


Q) If it's ok with you, I 'd to talk just a little about a couple of things that you've done that readers of the Fifth Dimension might be interested in. To begin with just how did a young girl from the Island of Mauritius find her way into the entertainment industry of the swinging 60's?

A) Good question! Since I was a child I dreamed of being an actress and since childhood I played at make believe in front of a mirror. When I came to the UK I was 12 years old, there the opportunities presented itself and I knew that one day my dream will come true and it did. What I would do with that dream was up to me and no one else.

Q) The classic Incense for the Damned (1970) starring Peter Cushing had a notoriously troubled production before its release. Is it true you had a small part in a certain scene from it?

A) Yes. The film was very boring and the producers and Director had decided to spruce it up a bit. So they asked if I could help the film, I did not refuse. The most seen scene in a film was my scene and the film had no meaning really. The funniest moment is when I am stabbed at the end of the scene and then they cut to Cyprus with a girl dead on the rocks, she totally looked different from me. I could not stop laughing at the stupidity of the Director and producers, who think that people would not notice. They did and never underestimate the public.


Q) The movie, Burke & Hare (1971) is regarded amongst some as something now as a horror classic. What was the experience of filming in it?

A) It was when I was doing Incense for the Damned that Guido Cohen Twickenham Film Studio Executive saw me and said that he found his Marie in Burke & Hare. I loved filming the film but I was not very good in the film as it was my first real movie as the star of the film along with Derren Nesbitt, Yootha Joyce etc and the great characters in the film that had years and years of acting under their belts. I was so green. The one scene that I did where there was a fire in the brothel. I actually went through one in real life in 1971. So yes to me it was a frightening scene, as for being a horror, I think it was a funny historical film, I don't think Vernon Sewell, the Director  wanted to make a horror film as such, yes there were moments when you jump out of your chair but I did have a chuckle through the film though!


I think that the world you're looking for is 'yum'
Q) A particular favourite of your films for me is The Iron Rose (1973) - What are your memories of making that film and working with director Jean Rollin?

A) Ah now you are talking. A film that I am extremely proud of. I was not Rollin's original choice, I think he wanted Brigitte Lahaie to do it, matter of fact she had a small walk on part in the film.  This was to be the master piece of Rollin, he sank all his money in that film, I was not paid a lot as I accepted a pay cut but the script was good and besides it was MY film and I was determine to do the best of my acting ability.  I did and I loved working with Rollin. He did something to me that no other Director did, he WORKED with me not against my ideas and my imagination. He was always ready to listen to my ideas. I liked that in a Director.  Rollin was a visionary and his vision of La Rose de Fer was from a short story that he wrote years before and wanted to make it as a film. The story was called La Nuit du Cimetiere (The night of the Cemetery) roughly translated.  The actor who played opposite me did not like Rollin, hence I carried the film on my shoulders so I had to make good. I am particularly proud of the review I had. For example:
Nothing to see here....move along please.

'Key also is the performance of Francoise Pascal, who has a perfect enigmatic allure - as well as a perfect, highly desirable sexual presence - that believably conveys to us the dichotomy of her emotions. Believable as reluctant to enter the cemetery, we're equally drawn to her decision to make love to the boy not only in the crypt, but later in the open skull-and-bones pit. Why does she do it? Who knows? But Pascal's highly charged sensuality, nicely shaded by a tentative, hesitant fearfulness (epitomized by Rollins' smart move of costuming her in an innocent - and tempting - school girlish pleated tweed skirt) has impact enough to convince us that something, however inexplicable, is driving her on'.

Very proud of this and several more like it.


Q) Nowadays, The Iron Rose is seen as something of a gothic doom-ridden classic, yet it was critically mauled on release. Why do you think that is?

A) It was critically mauled when it was released because Rollin's audience did not expect a love story with a twist. They wanted gory, vampires etc. That is the reason. His critics were disappointed and yet they did not even see the film. They were told by others. Despicable really! I remember going to Paris with my then boyfriend Richard Johnson to the opening of the film. The boos that the film received was very disappointing for Rollin. His public did not want him to change. The poor man lost all his money in this film. I felt so sorry for him!


Q) How does it feel to know you were the object of many a young males fancies who saw you on screen?

A)  You know I cannot really believe it as I loved being famous but I never realised that I was the subject of many a young man. I was amazed when I was told by numerous fans these days that they owed me their teenage years. Unbelievable. What can I say.... I wasn't there but then I was in their sitting rooms every week on a Friday night. 

    
Q) What drew you to the Fragments of Fear project in the first place?

A) I did the Fragments of Fear to help my friend Richard Gladman who again like Rollin has a vision for his work. I love it when I meet visionaries, the Director on Fragments too had great vision how to film it! I enjoyed narrating and acting the words at the same time, it brought me to a different level of acting. Fab day filming Fragments.

Q) I've read you say that you're completely different in it - what do mean by this?

A) I am different because I act as a demented nun and as The Green Fairy. As I said before, it brought me a different level in acting. 


Q) Have you filmed any sections yet and if so, what was it like after not being in front of the camera for a little while?

A) It was just wonderful. I loved it. It felt like I never left it. Such great atmosphere on the set.  Also the crew were inspiring to me, it takes a happy film set to bring an actor to do their best.


Q) What does the future hold for Francoise Pascal?

A) Oh I don't know....I was just thinking before you asked me to do this interview that I don't really think the business want me any longer.  I feel like a use by date and my dates were passed in the 80s. I do have a film to do with Richard Gladman again called GIRLFORCE and a TV series called For the Love of Ella a six part series where I play a different role in every episode. I am looking forward to those works. I am despondent of today's programme on TV there are so many Reality shows and so little dramas and so many of us are out of work because of that. My future is bleak though. Then I look at it as being at an age that people do not really want to see an ageing actress of 65 parading like a 25 years old. I am living my life like my old friend the late Lynda Bellingham says enjoy life in between before you die.


I would sincerely like to thank Francoise for responding to my request for an interview so quickly and then providing her honest, illuminating and entertaining answers. The interview itself barely scratches the surface of this woman's remarkable life and career, so for more information about her life, her films, and books then you can visit her website RIGHT HERE

Now all I need to do is get interviews with the lovely Caroline Munro and Dani Thompson...."cough"......"ahem".....if only I knew someone that could arrange that....."cough"........Richard Gladman.



Thursday, 23 October 2014

The Doomsday Machine (1972): A movie brought to us courtesy of the Music & Music Network

People often talk about where they were when they heard about the death of John F. Kennedy, the news that the twin towers had been hit, or when the first man walked on the moon. Let's face it, it always makes for a good conversation piece. I'm sure that in years to come there will be similar conversations about another historic event, perhaps in hushed revered tones that will never fail to inspire impressionable young people and leave them open-mouthed in joyous awe. Of course I'm talking about people remembering exactly where they were when they read my very first review based upon the brand new partnership and friendship between The Fifth Dimension blog and the Movie and Music Network. 

Now I'm not saying that this first review from the selection of films available on the Movie & Music Network is exactly on a par with a landing on the moon or the assassination of a President in terms of historical landmark events........but by golly in my mind it's pretty close. In the dim and distant depths of what passes for this blogger as reality I genuinely foresee discussions that revere, discuss and analyse this, the first of the reviews, much in a very similar way that The Beatles first album is still talked about some 50 years after the event. In my mind, it's that important. 

If you don't know, Movie & Music Network are an online subscription service, providing their members with access to motion pictures, television, music documentaries, music-related content and other audio visual entertainment ("movies & TV shows”) streaming over the Internet to certain Internet-connected TV's, computers and other devices.



The network has thousands of movies but of course it's the Sci-Fi, Pop Culture, Horror, and Retro film channels that specifically caught this bloggers greedy eyes! Be warned - some of the material is genuinely cutting-edge and in some cases, controversial stuff! - Of course, for many of us, that doesn't really constitute a warning, much rather a great big incentive! 

What is also important to note, is that whilst the selected reviews from the Movie and Music Network will now be something of a regular event, it doesn't mean to say that I'm going to be a cheer leading flag-waving all things are wonderful with each movie type of reviewer. No, they will be honest reviews, scouts honour and all that.

After all, anybody that has read any of my previous blog articles (sadly for you guys, there are hundreds of them) will know that 'impartiality' is my middle name. Well actually, It's Andrew, but you know what I mean .....besides which, the image of me waving any sort of flag whilst wearing a cheerleader uniform is probably far too much to bear for any right minded person. Though if anyone was to name a fair price for that then just let me know....

I must admit that my first choice from the veritable plethora of titles available on the network was somewhat random in nature. In essence, I wanted to choose something that I had never seen before and without any preconceptions. The result was literally to select the appropriate channel on the network (the Sci-Fi Station seemed the obvious first choice) and simply point arbitrarily at the screen. The result was a film called The Doomsday Machine (1972) - and blimey, what a first choice it turned out to be.

When the opening scene of a movie features someone throwing a cat over a wall in order to distract a guard dog - well, lets just say that the signs for what is in store for the rest of the movie are pretty much lit up in bright neon. Essentially, this is a crazy mixed up psychedelic patchwork of visuals, disjointed plot and occasionally incoherent dialogue, all of which that has to be seen to be believed. In other words, I enjoyed every (well nearly, every) minute of this totally bonkers movie experience.

However, before I go any further, here's a taster of the plot for The Doomsday Machine.

"In an effort to further explore the galaxy, the United States is hours away from launching a manned mission to Venus. But when a Chinese plot to destroy the Earth is uncovered, the U.S. teams up with the Soviet Union to replace members of its all-male crew with women. Now, it’s up to the crew of Project Astra to keep the human race alive and thriving."

This is a movie that has something of a multiple split personality, it has a very authentic 1950's B-movie Sci-fi feel flowing through the narrative, a lovely vibrant kaleidoscopic 1960's visual look to it and finally something of a 1970's style voice-over and credit sequence. It is all in all, an enjoyable but at the same time a rather confusing and fragmented experience - and there's a very good reason for that.....

Now listen closely as I will explain this only once: The production of The Doomsday Machine had in fact first began some years earlier in 1967 with its original titles alternating between Doomsday +7 and Armageddon 1975 and was directed by Herbert J. Leder (who also directed the fabulous It! just the year before in 1966). The production featured a cast of several well known character actors of the period (keep your eyes peeled for a pre-M*A*SH BJ Mike Farrell as a smiling newspaper reporter. 
"i can't see a bloody thing in this silver foil, er, I mean, Spacesuit"
Unfortunately for our friend, Herbert J, the film was left unfinished, whether that whether is was due to funding issues or some other production problem, nobody really knows - or seemed to care. At least that was the case until the rights to the film were bought some years later in 1972  - however there was the small fact that the original cast members and extensive film sets were no longer available. 

Are you still with me?......Good.

So, we find ourselves in 1972 where the rights had been 'snapped up' by producer producer Harry Hope and he, together with director Lee Sholem, were given the unenviable task of finishing the film in as little time as possible. This, it seems, wouldn't be too much of a problem for Mr Sholem, for his nickname in Hollywood of "Roll 'Em" Sholem" identified him as someone whose idea of filming tended to treat style as distinctly second best to speed and efficiency. The fact that he directed more than 1300 shows without ever going over schedule I think says everything. If all that wasn't enough then it also seems that 'both productions' also used a miss-mash of stock NASA and left-over studio footage to fill in some of the gaps. Uneven? Well only a lot!

And yet, And yet.....it still makes for a largely enjoyable cinematic experience. Yes there will be some that say that the final segment, which is quite obviously the lazy and somewhat botched attempt to add an ending (yes 'Roll 'Em', I'm looking at you, matey) dilutes what up to that point had been a confident exercise in character development (albeit, b-movie character development). And yes, some of those people will also point out to a plethora of inconsistencies and illogical sequences throughout the film. However for me, these problems don't retract from the experience of watching a movie like The Doomsday machine, on the contrary, they add to the experience.

"Now now, Puss - you won't come to any harm...honest"
For a start there's that scene with a cat - holy moly, it's pure cinematic gold and worth the whole film in it's own right. I would cheerfully sell a close relative or two to have had the chance to be a fly on the wall of the discussion between the writer and director when deciding the best way for a secret agent to distract a sentry and his guard dog.

"What about a piece of meat thrown over the wall, boss?"...
"Nope, it's been done...and its boring"
"What about a piece of fish, boss?"
"No! - too smelly!"
"Er, Chicken?...."
"Enough with the food!!!"
"I know, I know - The undercover spy throws a live cat over the wall and then we cut to the sound of dog chasing cat, then the noise of dog catching cat.....and while all this is happening, the spy gets over the wall!....For some reason, that's never been done before!"
"Brilliant!!! - Lets film it now.....somebody find me a cat!!"

I tell you, that opening scene alone is cinematic gold dust.

There will be some people out there in Internet land who will say that watching this film is a complete wast of time due to its miss-mash style. Nonsense I say! - this is film is complete fun! It's never going to be a 2001: A Space Odyssey, lets not kid ourselves about that, but its no Plan 9 from Outer Space, either.
"Trust me, I know Vulcan mind-melds"

For the first three quarters of the film, we are presented with a genuinely enjoyable 1950's science fiction feel to proceedings in terms of the story's theme, production and dialogue. You only have to think of classics such as 'The Day the Earth stood still' and "When Worlds collide' to find yourself savouring the earnest flavours of that decades concept of what made good Sci-fi. 

You can add to that some distinctly 1960's ideas of good guys and bad guys as the previous incumbents of cinematic villains, those naughty Russian Commies, had now been supplanted by more contemporary pantomime villains, those naughty Chinese Commies - boo hiss!!! All you then have to do is throw in a nice dystopic angle where the future of mankind now rests with a couple of beefcake astronauts and some quite frankly drop dead sexy female astronauts and you have a sure fire recipe for success. Now if only the male astronauts would lose a little of that 1950's & 1960's misogynistic attitude towards women, I mean, it's not as if one of NASA's finest might try to rape one of the female crew.....what?.....oh heck.

"Captain, I'm not sure if Green is my colour...."
Visually too the film looks wonderful with its infusion of vibrant psychedelic colours for the interior scenes within the rocket. In truth, while watching this the other afternoon with a rather fine glass of red wine I almost found myself drifting along in the rich vibrant colours of oranges, greens and red. It WAS just wine, I assure you.

Talking about alcohol, The Doomsday Machine could also come with it's very own drinking game - not that I'm advocating alcohol consumption of course, perish the thought.  But for some reason, be it the chaos of the production, money or just plain ineptness, the spaceship Astra seems to constantly change in appearance. I counted at least four occasions when it changes completely into another ship - and quite honestly there could be more. So I propose that when you watch it, do so with a group of friends, and each time you notice that the spaceship has changed you should then down a shot. What could possibly go wrong?  It's all very strange - perhaps the use of other ships from previous productions was used on order to save money. Believe me, playing 'spot the different ship' is utterly enjoyable - try it, you'll love it....with or without the shots to down along with it.

The cast react after reading the rest of the script
Yes the film could be described as akin to a confusing mess at times, the final act where it is more than obvious where the 1972 filming began lets the film down in a major way - in fact I have never seen a more inept cut and paste job in a film. This in turn leads to a somewhat unsatisfying ending for some people, and where presumably "Roll 'Em" Sholem" simply ran out of ideas or money....or talent. I however found the ending to be curiously appealing in it's own enigmatic and ambiguous way - in fact I would go as far as saying that I liked it.

I mean this quite sincerely, The Doomsday Machine really has everything, Russian accents that suddenly disappear, Sexism in space, colourful computers, flimsy spacesuits, morphing spaceships and some seriously earnest dialogue .....oh, and don't forget the cat! - believe me, it's a joy of an intergalactic ride!!


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But hey - don't just take my word for it! (lets be honest, whoever does?!). Because thanks to the most wonderful people at the Movie & Music Network, you can watch The Doomsday Machine for FREE!

You don't need to subscribe to view it - but you never know, after seeing the rest go the Library then it may well be a good idea to do so!

Click RIGHT HERE to watch the movie and let me know what you think!

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If I was you I would subscribe to the Movie and Music Network - Right now!







Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Saltire - a new graphic novel series.

Apparently I'm a Hunter of The Field... I'll have you know that
those charges concerning the sheep were never proved in a court of law
Being Scottish (Well, at least half of me is) and living up here in the beautiful North East of the country is never short of interesting. For example, we recently had something of a vote for independence up here........sadly for some reason it didn't go the way I would have liked as it seems that just over half the population of the country don't seem to mind being the on Westminster Government leash. Go figure. Anyhoo, you'll be glad to know that will be the limit of my political mutterings in this blog, after all there are far more important things happening in the world of Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror - and don't you know it, but a good deal of good things are currently taking place god's own country of Scotland.

For some months now I've been meaning to run a blog article on a very exciting development in the world of the graphic novel. To be more specific, the appearance of what is arguably the first Scottish Superhero in Graphic novel form, Saltire!

When I first heard about Saltire some time ago it came as something as a surprise to me to realise that there actually had never been a superhero publication - call them comics of graphic novels (I don't mind and certainly won't get all precious about the distinction between the names) that contained Scottish set stories of mythology. For a country that is literally steeped in a rich dynamic tapestry of history and illustrious characters it simply beggars belief that no authentic Scottish superhero had been created before now. However, in some ways that might not necessarily be a bad thing, because much as I love Marvel et al, the idea of an an idealised, syrupy tartan-strewn Hollywood view of Scotland and its history might not have been the moat genuinely authentic of creations........on a not entirely separate note, anyone who ever mentions a certain 'Braveheart' in my presence will be ritually hung, drawn and quartered for crimes against historical accuracy and Scottish accents.

Saltire - Invasion was the first in a potential series of books that began what promised to be a grandiloquent odyssey through the history, mythology and country of Scotland. The Superhero in question is quite simply a big, blue and ginger creation intent on protecting his country from invasion and destruction - a bit like myself really..... well except for the big, blue and ginger bit.

The story is quite frankly a real seat-of-your-pants ride along a semi-alternate history of Scotland together with a particularly interesting variation of the account of the venerable Roman Ninth legion's infamous exploits and eventual entrance into historical folklore.

It doesn't require a huge leap of imagination to know that our redoubtable new superhero acts as the focal point to gather together his fellow guardians to defend his  homeland and defeat the Roman invaders. The problem is that the Roman invaders have been all dastardly-like and brought their very own guardians with them too. Sneaky bastards.

It all goes to provide a rich mythical tapestry for an alternative 2nd century Caledonia complete with violence, magic and a myriad of gateways to various otherworldly dominions. Thankfully too, we also have dragons,because, well, I love Dragons. We then travel to the following instalment, Inception, in which we see out new eponymous hero standing against all foe as the immutable defender and protector of his people. It's all excellent stuff.

However, don't just take my word for it, because the first book in the series has been nominated for awards including; “Best British Comic” at the prestigious True Believers Comic Awards. Not only that but sales have been doing very nice thank you at the multitude of good comic book stores where it is available.

I was lucky enough to read the latest in the Saltire series, Annihilation which found its way into stores a month or so back in September. Once again, it doesn't disappoint with a continuation of a parallel mythical history of Scotland, this time with the setting taking place  a number of centuries after the preceding books events. This time the story takes on a darker, bleaker tone in parts whilst still managing to become ever more sweeping in terms of its narrative scope. It is ambitious stuff indeed, but once again the delightful artwork and clever narration carries one along in a veritable whirlwind of exciting myth and legend. I promise you that by Annihilation you will be completely immersed in Saltire's world of Scottish mythology. Who knows how long it will be until Saltire conquers the new world, a world where an untold collection of superhero guardians are awaiting?

The author of Saltire is John Ferguson, the fabulous art is created by Gary Welsh and Tone Julskjaer and the whole thing is published by Diamondsteel Comics. Saltire: Invasion and Annihilation are epic in terms of both scale and and the high quality production. The marrying of myth, fantasy and reality fit together wonderfully well, not only managing to avoid an overdose of tartan cliche, but also to produce a story of total entertainment. Highly recommended.  

John Ferguson moves so quickly to keep up with demand
that it becomes a blur.....
A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to fire a few questions at Saltire's creator, John Ferguson, in order to find out a few more things about Scotland's first superhero.

First of all John, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to answer a few of my piercing and challenging questions for my blog website.
Q) Personally, I think a super-hero for a country that is genuinely steeped in history and vibrancy is long overdue. What was the general reaction though when you first came up with the idea?

A) The reception was interesting, most people surprised it hadn’t been done before. So it was pretty positive with a lot of intrigue in how it would be put together, would it be kitschy or a bit of tartan cringe? A Scottish superhero couldn’t be all spandex and Americana, it had to be absorbed in the history and mythology of the country. We’ve had quite a bit of main stream press and built up a real fan following within Scotland.


Q) Why a Graphic novel,  as opposed to another format?

A) I’m a big fan of spectacular visuals, and the graphic novel is an excellent medium for that without being so expensive that it becomes prohibitive. You can go epic without having to compromise.


Q) Tell us about the team behind DiamondSteel Comics.

A) We use the best up and coming talent in Scotland and work closely with the Comic Studies course at Dundee University to source the people we think can take the project forward with a fresh and dynamic visual style. We like to keep things home grown to give the Saltire universe a very authentic feel. Duncan Of Jordanstone College of Art is second to none in producing comic book artists and keeps Dundee as the home of comics after all these years.

Q) For those who have yet to read about the guy who is big, blue and ginger - can you tell people what the basis of Saltire is?

A) Saltire is an immortal being created in prehistory to protect the clans and way of life in the country of Scotland. He lives within a pseudo-history of the nation and deals with a mix of climactic historical and many mythical elements of the country’s past.


Q) I really enjoyed the mix of fantasy and history in the first two issues. Is the aim to bring in contemporary themes for future issues - such as a certain referendum that happened recently?

A) Saltire will appear in futuristic tales but nothing contemporary. The independence issue is certainly not going anywhere and we don’t want the narrative to become bogged down in heavy political rhetoric. Scotland’s history and folklore is vast so we have enough to keep readers entertained for a very long time. As creative people we certainly don’t dodge the issue and if you happen to find a few parallels within the narrative then, as they say, it’s just another case of history repeating.


Q) What can you tell us about the character of Saltire specifically, in terms of superhero vulnerability, arch enemies and possible love interests?

A) During Saltire’s creation he absorbs the vulnerability of the island clan, a difficulty with alcohol that is enhanced beyond human norms. He has a few recurring bad guys in the mix, super villains if you will, that appear at various points in Scotland’s history, but nothing cliched. And he does have a love interest but being immortal makes it pretty difficult to keep a relationship going.


Q) I've read you say that your ultimate ambition is to 'take on' the American market, in effect, to take on Batman et al in the superhero stakes. A flight of fancy or achievable?

A) Probably somewhere in between, but you never know. It’s certainly struck a cord here in Scotland and with the huge interest in all things LOTR, GOT and Outlander you never can tell just how well it will go down in the States if we can get the right distribution and move it into other mediums. Saltire has a legendary feel to it so it perhaps doesn’t need the years of growth that a modern superhero does, we’ll see.


Q) I believe that the issues are being published simultaneously in English and Gaelic. An attempt to save a dying language or further a revitalised language?

A) Yes, with a Scots language edition available this Christmas it’ll be all three languages of the country that Saltire is available in. Gaelic speakers are very passionate about keeping their language alive and we are only too delighted to help. With the success of Asterix and Tin Tin graphic novels in these languages we are hopeful for these titles success. Young Gaelic readers have never had a superhero to get their teeth in to and the response so far has been great.


Q) So any plans for a Dorrick version for us in the North East of Scotland? :-)

A) Not just yet but if the interest is there, you never know.


Q) So what does the future hold for DIAMONDSTEEL COMICS?

A) We’ve got eight books in the Saltire series, and a few short stories to add along the way,that we’ll release through other titles. We really want to break the international market next and beyond that we’d like to publish other non-Saltire work from other creators and writers, although that’s probably a couple of years away. It’s Big Blue all the way in the mean time.


Once again - I'd like to say a big thank John for taking time out of his busy schedule and answering my questions.

For more information on how you can acquire information about Saltire and how to acquire the comic then John and the team can be contacted by the various means below.

The Saltire Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/saltirecomics

The Website can be located at http://www.diamondsteelcomics.com
Or you can email the good people via info@diamondsteelcomics.com







Monday, 20 October 2014

Interview with producer Matt Medisch and actress Kate Alden from The Device (2014) - Part 2

So here we are with my 3rd and final part in a collection of articles related to my recent viewing of the excellent alien abduction story, The Device, made by the Seattle-based film production company, The October People. I must say that so far I've been on something of a roll in regard to the marvellous folks that I've had the pleasure of dealing with in the company; Both John Portanova (writer, producer, director and sweeper of floors) and Jeremy Berg (writer, director and maker of coffee) have been the personification of professionalism itself. Not only that, but I'va had the pleasure to talk with actors who have appeared within the October People's films, such as  Angela Di Marco and David S. Hogan (both of whom I know via twitter and are a gracious and talented couple of performers - as well as being as mad as a box of frogs). If that wasn't enough, my previous article featured actress Kate Alden, who is both talented, very lovely (and I meant that in a very respectful way, your honour) as well as being the champion of all things bubble baths. As I said, so far so good.

So I though I would chance my luck once last time and interview the man, who by all accounts, acts as the focal point for making sure the job gets done - on and off set. I couldn't possibly comment as to whether Matt Medisch is an actual tyrant or not (for obvious libellous reasons) - but he isn't know as Mr Laser-focused for nothing.

Well OK - maybe that's a term I've heard about him only the once so maybe I'm just vastly exaggerating when concerning his overall approach to professionalism. I 'll let you decide for yourself by reading the following interview I managed to get with Matt earlier this week - but first, a little of background information about Mr Laser-focused Medisch, some of which I've slightly paraphrased from his IMDB page and web page.

Matt is a founding member of The October People LLC and is  responsible for heading, legal, financial and acquisitions. He is also responsible for website management marketing elements and support film development, pre-production and budgeting. On set he takes the role of Line Producer, and also oversee all contracted and non contracted support departments. As a producer and writer, he is known for The Invoking (2013), The Device (2014) and Valley of The Sasquatch (2015).

First of all, many thanks Matt for taking the time to answer a few of my questions – it’s much appreciated.

Q) I first became aware of your name from your work as producer and co-writer of the wonderful The Invoking (2013). First of all, how did you get into the business of film producing? 

MM) It came directly from a love of film making.  Me and Jeremy Berg, the film’s director, had been friends and had collaborated on creative projects all the way back to our high school days in Red Bluff, CA.  Jeremy had later moved to Seattle and attended film school.  Starting the process of building his experience with short films, feature work, and a web series with John Portanova who he had met early in his film making career.  We talked off an on over creative projects but one late night on the phone he brought up an idea we had toyed with for years: shooting a feature film at the country home I had grown up at.  I had had a lot of business and management experience over the years as well as a comfort for collaboration and story design with Jeremy.  We decided it was simply time to make a full length feature film and let nothing stop us.  John soon joined us in the development phase and we appeared to have the team that could get this “long shot” done.  That was the beginning of my “film school” and my crash course in producing independent feature films.


Q) Who have been your major influences?

MM) I’m a life long horror fan with a love of rich, thoughtful cinematography and character driven stories.  Kubrick, Carpenter, and Neil Marshall jump to mind.  Carpenter surely helped cement my love of horror and in later years I found great respect in Marshall’s ability to craft horror around believable and well thought out characters.  Lovecraft and Stephen King also inspired me to imagine worlds of horror beyond just the surface and also gave me a respect for the twisted and bizarre.


The Invoking cast once again try to wake Matt
after another night of partying....
Q) One of the notable elements of The Invoking was the subtle & measured build up of tension – almost old-fashioned in approach. How important was it to you to approach the storytelling in this way?

MM) It was fundamental for us all.  We knew to shoot a feature film so quickly and for such a compact budget we could not rely on anything flashy.  We had to attempt to do the story justice with our cast and minimal location and sets.  Jeremy has a love for classic styles of film making that synced well with my likes.  Also what I think all three of us missed in modern horror was the atmosphere that great horror films of the past (The Thing, The Changeling, Rosemary’s Baby, Shining and countless more) seemed to have in spades.  We knew we could not take every viewer with us but we wanted to make sure the film had a pace and atmosphere that would capture the imagination and feel real once you were isolated with the cast.


Q) I’m trying not give too much away for those haven’t seen it – but The Invoking leaves room for a potential sequel. Any such plans?

MM) There have been a few talks in the group about a follow up.  Jeremy has a kernel for an idea that could absolutely work but at this time it’s just that, an idea.  Needless to say, it's very hard to truly “bury” your past, or your crimes.


Q) The newest film from The October People, The Device,  is a wonderfully atmospheric tale of Alien abduction. It shares some of the same qualities of measured build up as The Invoking. Would you regard this as a trademark of your work?

MM) Thank you, and absolutely.  I almost feel like the term gets tossed around far too often, but “character driven” and “slow burn” is something we all respect at TOP and in film making the two truly go hand in hand.  It’s fundamental that the characters matter, you can relate to them, and their choices are defined by who they are.  While all three of us have different things we love in horror, and film making in general, that is one of the fundamentals we all agree on.  Jeremy’s classic style as a director and cinematographer work so well in that way and we are constantly doing our best to let it shine through.


Q) The Device has a nicely distinctive ‘X-Files’ feel to it in parts. Was this intentional?

MM) It was.  We’re all fans and when it comes to “alien” stories we were all raised with shows like Unsolved Mysteries and the X-files to inform our nightmares.  Me and Jeremy used to sit up at night looking though old Time Life books on abductions and the supernatural and scaring each other with ideas of what slender, tentacled creature might be looking in at us from the pitch black windows.  The Device script was penned by Jeremy and John and more than anyone John’s love of what I like to call "believable horror" (Alien abductions, cryptozoology) is always on the surface in his writing.


Q) Did the end product of The Device match your initial thoughts & expectations?

MM) Much like our first film, time and funding were not in abundance and so the film changes from idea, to script to execution.  In this case the editing process created something new and added to what was on the page.  Our fantastic cast also breathed life into the characters in their own ways and that offered unexpected pleasant surprises. 


Q) Once again – sequel?

MM) Films dealing with Alien abductions are something we are very interested in.  I like to think that we tease a bit of our own alien “mythos” in the Device that will later be revealed in greater detail. 

Matt Medisch (right) mocks John Portanova for
forgetting his big camera on the annual October People
Twitching weekend
Q) I’m sure that I read somewhere Jeremy Berg (Director of The Invoking and The Device) described you as “laser-focused” in your approach. What does that mean?! ;-)

MM) Making a feature film at any budget level is a challenge that’s hard to compare.  Especially to take it from the very start to the absolute finish line of distribution.  My strong suit with the team I suppose is that I do help focus the creative energy into an actual business and production strategy that’s effective and gets the job done.  It requires an intensity and focus on the end goal that starts at day one and goes through to the end.  I love making films and working with Jeremy and John so I suppose my intensity to get the job done could be described in that way.  I just try not to burn anyone with that laser along the way.  Lucky for me John, Jeremy, and I seem to work very well together.


Q) I know that you’re currently in post-production of an upcoming movie called ‘Valley of the Sasquatch’. Apart from the obvious, what can you tell us about this film?


MM) The title does say a lot.  As mentioned a bit above, cryptozoology went hand in hand with aliens in inspiring our life long fear and fascination with the unexplained.  John Portanova, being a Northwestern native and diehard fan of everyone’s favorite cryptid, Bigfoot, had been working on his dream “Sasquatch” script for years.  After two films that dealt so much with the unseen and the mental state of the characters we were all excited to work on a “creature feature” that was truly inspired by the great legends and monster movies of the 70s and 80s.  Valley of the Sasquatch was written and directed by Portanova so audiences will get a new and different feel from our previous features, but with the same desire to have characters that matter, as well as a consistent tone and atmosphere.  We are very excited to take audiences and fans of our previous work deep into the dark Northwestern woods with us to find out what horrors truly live just out of sight of everyday life.  Valley of the Sasquatch will start a festival run in 2015.  We keep up to date information on all of our projects on our website www.theoctoberpeople.net


Once again I'd like to than Matt for being gracious enough to take time out of what I know is a busy schedule. If you wish to contact Matt, or any others from the October People production team, then you can do that through the website address that Matt mentioned or via their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TheOctoberPeople?fref=ts.

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