A Homage to the “tit and fang” film

Christopher Lee as Dracula

Philip Larkin (the dead poet of They fuck you up, your mum and dad” fame that is, not the Philip Larkin who occasionally contributes to this blog) during his time as librarian at Hull University in the 1970s was said to have  complained to a friend about the lack of late night horror films on regional TV at the time, claiming ‘We’re absolutely starved of tit and fang up here.”  It is of course conceivable that the other Philip Larkin holds similar views.  But I couldn’t possibly comment on that.

Larkin was referring to that unique, but long gone staple of the British B-movie industry, the Hammer horror.  A classic combination of gothic horror – plundered from the literary works of Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Dennis Wheatley and Sheridan le Fanu among others and endlessly recycled – and soft porn.  Cheaply made and featuring a regular cast of actors, such as Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Barbara Shelley, the Hammer films would be considered quite tame by modern standards, not to mention tacky with their extensive use of unrealistic rubber bats and plastic fangs from Woolworths, but nevertheless are still highly entertaining to watch today.

Phil Barker in his review of Sinclair McKay’s history of the Hammer films, A Thing of Unspeakable Horror, published in the Observer sums up the genre perfectly:

“Hammer gave us a world all their own, a place with Home Counties woodland masquerading as Transylvania (it was Black Park near Slough), heavily cleavaged vampire women, lashings of fake blood with a strange milkshake texture, and the occasional bad sets, particularly in the later films, as if Dracula lived in a branch of the Angus Steak House. It’s immediately recognisable, this land where ‘the inns are full and boisterous only until someone mentions a certain word’, and McKay does a tasty job of evoking it. We all remember the red lining of Dracula’s cape, but what a pleasure to be reminded of Peter Cushing’s eyeball, suddenly seen huge through a magnifying glass as he examines the brain.

I realise The Dreaming Arm is in serious danger of becoming a branch of the Kate Bush fan club at this stage, but to celebrate Hallowe’en, here’s her very own tribute to the Hammer films – Hammer Horror .  In contrast to the very heavygoing “This Woman’s Work” of the last post, “Hammer Horror” is a light-hearted and tongue-in-cheek number, in which Kate takes a leaf out of Alice Cooper’s book.  Dracula will be turning in his grave.  And then he’ll get out of it and find some healthy young virgins to suck the blood of. 

Kate Bush: Hammer Horror


A Fang-tastic time in Transylvania…

Autumnal woodland in the Carpathian Mountains

Autumnal woodland in the Carpathian Mountains...but all those long bus journeys were a bloody pain in the neck. Cue eerie, deathly silence punctuated by the swoosh of tumble weeds in the whistling wind and the distant clanging of a funeral bell…then the shouts of "get off!" just before the bottles start to fly...I’ll get my coat.

When in Rome…except this is Romania.  A statue of Romulus and Remus with friendly wolf in Sighiosoara, one of many such monuments dotted across the country, where Romanians pay tribute to their Latin heritage.wolf1
Vlad "The Impaler" Tepes, the sadistic Transylvanian aristocrat who was the inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula


Right: Statue of Vlad “The Impaler” Tepes, the sadistic Wallachian aristocrat who provided the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.


Below: Romanian fishmongers are brutally honest about the quality of their merchandise.  Yes, “crap” really is the Romanian for carp

Below: Amazing transformations will take place when you swim in this pool…


Below: Communist era apartment blocks in Clujcluj1

Below: the medieval old town square in Brasov, a legacy of the Saxon occupation of Transylvania – or Siebenburgen (Seven Towns) to give it its German name


Below: Memorial to the struggle against communism (1944-89)in Brasovmemorial

cluj21 Above: Orthodox cathedral, Cluj

Below: the cross at Bran Castle

crossbranBelow: The legacy of Ceaucescu – one of many abandoned factories scattered throughout the Romanian countrysidefactory

catAbove: Since finding a cat that looks like Hitler in Sarajevo in 2006, it’s been my ambition to trawl Eastern Europe for other felines resembling European dictators.  Admittedly the above specimen from the Carpathian mountains looks nothing like Ceacescu, Stalin or Tito, but I like the picture nevertheless

Going East/Vampires and stuff

I won’t be blogging for another week or so, as I’m off to Romania on a jolly romp to see what’s going on down Transylvania way.  Not that I blog that much anyway, so you probably won’t notice the difference. 

Anyway, the garlic, crucifixes and wooden stakes are all packed and ready to go.

Been practising the language a bit.  Not that difficult really – you can almost get by speaking Italian with a slavic accent.

O sticlă de vin roşu de casă va rog.


La revedere for the moment!