Friday, 16 November 2012

Watching horror with a dog

This week I have begun a two-and-a-half week stint looking after my girlfriend's dog. This dog is a dog and therefore he is quite difficult to explain things to, or to reason with. As a result, he has been somewhat clingy. He is currently sitting on my leg. When he isn't he dogs my footsteps. Probably because, as I have mentioned previously, he is a dog.

The problem is, it's making my life rather difficult as a number of my best laid plans have had to be abandoned. All I have to show for the last two days is a blog post about Jack the Ripper films which only 42 people have so far read and a cold. Also, my leg smells a bit like dog. Today, then, I thought I'd make a virtue of this situation and at least get another post out of it. This will represent a 200% increase in my productivity since Wednesday and is a step in the right direction. A dog.

My plan is, I'm going to watch three British horror films from the 1960s and 1970s, which I have never seen before, with the dog and see what happens. I am very aware that it is this kind of hard-hitting journalism that keeps you all coming back.

LEGEND OF THE WEREWOLF (1975)

Much like this dog, this film has a good pedigree: directed by Freddie Francis, starring Peter Cushing and written by Anthony Hinds, it's a Hammer Horror Holy Trinity. The plot summary on Wikipedia, too, is irresistible:
"A boy that has been raised by wolves is displayed as a circus freak. Then he grows up, becomes a zookeeper and falls in love with a prostitute. His jealousy brings out his wolf side, changing him into a werewolf so that he can kill her clients."
But this film is a risk. This dog does not take kindly to other furry things. On Wednesday night he spacked out at the sight of a camel on QI. And that was a camel. It is very possibly a portent of worse things to come, much like letting a man raised by wolves be the keeper at your zoo.

I needn't have worried, though. The dog had no interest in this film whatsoever. He was more taken by the soluble paracetamol that I was taking for a sinus headache, which some genius had made aniseed flavour in order to send dogs wild with jealous yearning. But I quite liked the film. I liked the magnificently smarmy filthy old head zookeeper (played by Ron Moody) and I particularly enjoyed the innovative WEREWOLF VISION. Otherwise known as sticking a red filter over the camera. I enjoyed, too, Peter Cushing's role as the forensic pathologist. In his determination to look past the easy solutions in order to find the truth, his character put me in mind of my beloved Quincy - if you can imagine that instead of fucking a string of airline stewardesses on a boat in Los Angeles, Quincy hung around 19th Century Parisian knocking shops looking for werewolves.

The werewolf: responsible for more Paris deaths than emphysema and syphilis combined

Where it perhaps fell down is that I suspect it aims at making a commentary on the destructiveness of male sexual jealousy. But it's hard to take things much past face value, having already suspended enough disbelief to buy into the main protagonist being a wolf boy found and displayed by circus Gypsies, eventually becoming urbane and socialised enough to get a job at a Paris zoo, albeit Paris' mankiest, most sordid, Albert Steptoe zoo ever. The overall effect, then, is merely a tale of the damaging effect of lycanthropy on the rumpy-pumpy sector of the free market economy, normally an area of sustained growth.

The dog, meanwhile, just wanted to play with his ball. It was a handy reminder to carry a rubber ball with you at all time, with one eye to being able to fend off any werewolf attacks as and when they occur.

FEAR IN THE NIGHT (1972)

At this stage I took the dog for a walk but, not finding any werewolves, it was time for another film. This time, Judy Gleeson plays a woman who gets a job working at a boarding school, only to start to be terrorised by a one-armed man. This film was immediately more up the dog's street and he happily barked along with the opening title sequence, which featured a schoolboy choir singing.

The dog was not particularly interested in this perilous scenario, however. He went to sleep once and then barked at a carpet van.  Maybe it was the effect of the walk. I suggest it's more likely to be the effect of the film, which drags on a bit. When there's a one-armed maniac on the loose, the simple fact of the matter is I want him to be more prevalent in the overall narrative of the film.

Peter Cushing in Fear in the Night: having a variety of problems

Nevertheless, it did have Peter Cushing in it, who couldn't have been unwatchable if he tried. If there were only one reason why I find British horror films of the 1960s and 1970s so compelling (there isn't), it would be because the likelihood of an appearance by Peter Cushing is very high. The dog, seemingly, is less impressed by such things and went off into the kitchen to find something to sniff.

THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR (1968)

Handsome young men everywhere are being sucked dry of their juices by a cryptozoological demon which has overtones of case of The Owlman of Mawnan, only less shit. Peter Cushing is again in attendance, making everyone wonder if perhaps it's more than a coincidence that all this death, terror and mutilation should follow him about. And whilst it may not have captured the imagination of the dog, any film whose opening titles read "Guest star: Roy Hudd" is a force to be reckoned with.

The Blood Beast Terror, hushed up by the mainstream press

The actual explanation for all of these goings on is more straightforward. Etymologist Dr. Mallinger's daughter Claire turns into a blood-sucking weremoth during a full moon and preys on the village males, whilst her father tries to genetically engineer her a mate. As any father would, and does. It's something of a far-fetched premise and I suspect a lot of it was designed merely with one eye on creating set pieces filled with gore and monsters. Although this may be a cynical view. This film could have more to say than The Battleship Potemkin. Which would make this film better than The Battleship Potemkin because The Battleship Potemkin has ZERO weremoths. Most things do. Weremoths don't actually exist. If they did, lightbulb sales would plummet as fast as blackout curtain sales would soar. Weremoths. Ultimately, this film isn't better than The Battleship Potemkin, which I think says it all. The dog didn't like it much, either.

So, as with yesterday, what have we learned? Nothing. Except that werewolves are better than weremoths and Joan Collins is a cow.

1 comment:

Al said...

In Cambridgeshire, our new police and crime commissioner was at one time concerned that "video nasties" could have a detrimental effect on dogs.

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