Archive for film

Something to crow about?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2020 by echostains

Crow by Arthur Rackham

The other day, feeling a bit miserable looking at the battering rain and dark skies, I began to add some gothic pins to my Pinterest. I came across some crow related items and thought that it would make a good blog theme.

I was struck by the number of Crow pictures I came across.

A murder of crows

A ‘murder of crows’ is a medieval collective term for these birds. Poor people believed that the birds were sent by the devil and were really witches in disguise.

What is it about crows that makes them look so sinister? Traditionally the colour black is associated with mystery, though technically black is not an actual colour, as it completely absorbs colours. That is indeed a mystery in itself, though only one of them.

Black – the ‘colour’ of mystery

The Norse God Odin is sometimes depicted with a another black bird – a raven as his companion. As well as being a carrion loving bird (therefore associated with life and death), the black bird’s croaking voice has become associated with the ability to prophetcise the future and reveal that which is hidden.

Odin and Raven

But back to crows, who are part of the same Corvidae family of ravens. The black bird like mask worn by the Plague Doctor in the 1600s, brought a sense of not relief but more of fear and loathing whenever he was sighted.

Although sinister, the mask actually had a practical purpose. An eye was made of glass for the doctor to see out of and the hollow beak was filled with medicinal herbs, as well as providing two holes in the ‘nostrils’ for breathing .

From a crow being a bird, to a man dressing up as a crow, the association with death, medicine and the future is becoming more black than orange, especially with our political climate and global issues.

Enter The Crowman. The Crowman was also a travelling medicine man who offered ‘little brighteners’ for the ailing from his medicine bag as he went along his way. He may have disappeared but his ‘little brightener has remained in the form of Gin😄

The crowman as featured in the TV series ‘Worzel Gummidge’ was a sinister figure who created scarecrow Worzel. The Crowman makes Worzel many different inter changeable heads to suit different occasions and situations.

Worzel’s ‘Handsome’ head

Amongst these heads, Worzel had a ‘thinking’ head , a handsome head to court the ladies, a Riddle me Ree head and a posh head.

Worzel and Crowman

In Rock band Jethro Tull’s ‘Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow’ the association between death, cold and Christmas warns the listener to be charitable to others who have little and remember the true spirit of the Christmas message:

Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow. (1982)

Through long December nights we talk in words of rain or snow,
while you, through chattering teeth, reply and curse us as you go.
Why not spare a thought this day for those who have no flame
to warm their bones at Christmas time?
Say Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow.

Now as the last broad oak leaf falls, we beg: consider this:
there’s some who have no coin to save for turkey, wine or gifts.
No children’s laughter round the fire, no family left to know.
So lend a warm and a helping hand:
say Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow.
As holly pricks and ivy clings, your fate is none too clear.
The Lord may find you wanting, let your good fortune disappear.
All homely comforts blown away and all that’s left to show
is to share your joy at Christmas time
with Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow.

Through long December nights we talk in words of rain or snow,
while you, through chattering teeth, reply and curse us as you go.
Why not spare a thought this day for those who have no flame
to warm their bones at Christmas time?
Say Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow.

By Ian Anderson
Thanks also to;

Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow lyric Here

Arthur Rackham ‘Crow’ Here

History of the Plague Doctor

Crowman legend

Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow video Here

Surreal Thing Happy Birthday Dali!

Posted in ART, ART HISTORY, ARTISTS BIRTHDAYS with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 11, 2020 by echostains

Dali is a superb draughtsman.  Some years ago I visited the Dali Universe, County Hall, London. salvador-dali-quotes-famous-best-sayings oneThis 3,000 square metre space housed sculptures, (1935 -1984), lithographs, drawings and wonderful  furniture inspired by Dali: gold and glass objects and  even copies of the famous lobster telephone and the Mae West lips sofa!

There were no major paintings on display, apart from the oil he did for Hitchcock’s ‘1945 film ‘Spellbound‘.  I took great delight in looking through Dali’s drawings which are simply exquisite and show not only his draughtsmanship skills, but how exacting and precise his execution of drawing was. His imagination may have been wild, but his skills struck me as very honed and precise, not something I associate with Surrealism.  Surreal, I know!


Dali and his wild cat Babou


Too much has been written about this famous Spanish artist: some by myself (please see my earlier birthday posts here and for further Dali eccentricities here ).

Dali loved wild animals.  His favorite pet was a wildcat, an Ocelot, called Babou whom he would take to restaurants, tethering the animal to a table and causing alarm to fellow diners.

The surreal image below shows Dali emerging from the Paris underground taking two Anteaters for a walk (1969).  Andre Breton, (Founder of the Surrealist movement) who was known  as ‘le tamanoir’ – ‘the anteater’)  used this image as bookplates for several books and Dali was to depict the style of the anteater in his famous 1929 painting ‘The Great Masturbator’

Dali taking a Parisian walk with his pets Dali taking a Parisian walk with his pets


One of Dali’s famous stunts was staged at London’s International Surrealist Exhibition, 1936 when he gave a lecture whilst wearing a deep-sea diving suit. He very nearly suffocated.  His wild exaggerated gestures were mistaken for his usual amusing form of eccentricity.  Luckily for him a poet, David Gascoyne rescued Dali – with a spanner!

The Great Masturbator 1929


A mysterious fire broke out in the artist’s bedroom in 1984, fortunately Dali was rescued by a friend, Robert Descharnes.  Dali was returned his beloved  Figueres , Spain (his birthplace), where his friends and  artists looked after him. In November 1988 he went to hospital with heart failure.  On 23rd January 1989, the artist died of heart failure at the age of 84.  He is buried in the crypt in his Teatro Museo in Figueres, much loved and much admired by most artists and non artists alike.


Images, with thanks are from here and here     the Ocelot image here, others from here    and here   

For historical characters with unusual pets here

Here’s some stuff you might not know about Dali here


Putting the Nuts in May

Posted in LIVING IN THE PAST: NOSTALGIA, WATCHED with tags , , , on May 2, 2010 by echostains

Nuts in May

It’s May Day when I’m writing this, but the 2nd of May when you shall see it.  Now what can I post for May Day?  I thought.  Something to do with the Queen of the May?  Something about the distress signal Mayday?  Then I thought of the 1976 film  ‘Nuts in May’, where two ‘hippies’  go camping with hilarious results.  The film was written by Mike Leigh and starred Roger Sloman as the self rightous Keith and Alison Steadman as very serious Candice Marie. 

Keith puts this lawbreaker in his place

One of my favorite bits in the play is where Candice Marie is singing with her guitar about the perils of eating meat.  There’s one line in there ‘Liver makes me shiver’ which really makes me laugh out loud!  Unfortunately, I can’t find a clip of that song, so the ‘zoo’ song will have to suffice.  There’s some marvellous lines in ‘Nuts in May’ – one of them about smoking ‘If I could take your lung out Ray – and put it on the table and cut it in half….. then you would see the damage… (words to that effect).  I had almost forgotten about the purple hot water bottle  shaped like a kitten, that Candice Marie calls Prudence…   Alice Steadman is famous for a lot of roles, especially Abigail’s party (also penned by Mike Leigh) and as Mrs Bennet in the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice.

A plot summary of the film is here

film clip by ruffledme

A very good review of this film and analogy is written here –  on this blog, and has some good images

Watched – Bunny Lake is Missing’

Posted in LIVING IN THE PAST: NOSTALGIA, WATCHED with tags , , on April 29, 2010 by echostains

Bunny Lake is Missing

I’ve had this DVD for some time, and watched it once a long time ago.  Last night I decided to re watch it.  It’s a very strange atmospheric film.  It stars Laurence Olivier, Keir Dullea, Carol Lynley, Martitia Hunt (the original Miss Haversham in David Lean’s ‘Oliver Twist’)  Anna Massey and Noel Coward among others.  This 1965 film has been billed as a psychological drama, a mystery thriller and was written by John Mortimer, Penelope Mortimer, based on a novel by Marryam Modell.  It was directed by Otto Preminger.

Carol Lynley (Ann) in Bunny Lake is Missing

  It tells the tale of Ann an  American single mother and her daughter Bunny.  They have just moved to London and after enrolling Bunny in school, Anna leaves the girl under the Cook’s care because she has to meet the removal men.  Later when she goes to pick the child up – there seems to be no record of her ever existing.

Laurence Olivier as the Inspector

 The story gets more and more baffling.  Ann’s Brother Steven, (Keir Dullea) a journalist, lends a hand, filling the police inspector (Laurence Olivier) in with details.  An old woman in the attic of the school who plays with the taped voices of children, a dollmaker with a house of dolls and the odd fact that Bunny is also the name of Ann’s imaginary childhood friend are just some of the baffling ingredients of this film.

Anne and Noel Coward

Poor Ann – no one believes that she ever had a daughter.  No one seems to have ever seen her (including the viewer, I may add)  apart from her brother Steven.  Another odd character in this film is the weird landlord, sleazy, nosy and creepy and played by Noel Coward – a strange fellow, but the least of Ann’s worries. 

Keir Dullea (Steven)


 Music by 60s band The Zombies provide the background music. This film has now reached cult status even though it had bad reviews at the time of release.  It was re released on DVD  2005.  A very unusual 1960s film, eerie and haunting.

About the director and this film here

Keir image from here

Watched: Of Mice and Men (but no rabbits)

Posted in period drama, WATCHED with tags , , , , , on February 21, 2010 by echostains

Of Mice and Men

Probably because I had been recently writing about  regionalism (Wood, Stueart Curry and Hart-Benton) and about the Great Depression, I watched a DVD   I hadn’t watched in quite a while the other night.  ‘Of Mice and Men’ is a novel by John Steinbeck, set in the Great Depression.  It tells the sad story of two wanderers Lennie Small and George Milton who are travelling around California looking for work.

George Milton played by Gary Sinise

“Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place. . . . With us it ain’t like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us. We don’t have to sit in no bar room blowin’ in our jack jus’ because we got no place else to go. If them other guys gets in jail they can rot for all anybody gives a damn. But not us.”
– John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men, Ch. 1

Steinbeck wrote the book in 1937.   The DVD I watched was first shown on film in 1992 and starred John Malkovich as Lennie Small and  Gary Sinise as George Milton.  In the film it is known that these two are cousins, but I thought they were brothers in the book.  It’s so long ago since I read it, that I can’t remember.  When the two finally obtain work (after being manhunted out of their last job due to an unfortunate incident involving Lennie and a girl) all seems rosy.  George has to look after the huge Lennie who has the  mental abilities of a child and he is tough, but compassionate  and played very well by Gary Sinise – the part of Lennie is a hard act to follow, but Sinise is admirable.

Lennie played by John Malkovich

Lennie played by Malkovich magnificently, just wants to touch things – rabbits especially.  he just want to stroke them and cuddle them.  But he doesn’t know his own strength and always ends up killing the poor animals that come his way.  George tries to protect him, especially from the ranch owners son – who keeps picking on him.

Curley (the rancher’s son) has a wife – known only as Curley’s wife.  She is young and bored and desperate for attention, and Curley is jealous of anyone she speaks to.

A lot of the plot features Lennie and Georges dream.  When they have enough money, they plan to settle down on their very own ranch.  The main attraction for Lennie of owning a ranch of their own is all the rabbits they will have.  This dream keeps Lennie going and he is always requesting this same story from George.  Another ranch hand hears about it and he also wants to throw his money and his lot in with the men.

One of the saddest scenes in the film is when the old ranch hand’s dog gets shot.  One of the other men convinces him that the dog is too old and decrepid and needs putting down.  This ultimately is what happens in the end with poor Lennie.  Up to his neck  in trouble once again (this time murder), George shoots him in the back of the head rather than let the lynch mob deal with  him.

I really must read this book again – and soon!  the other book I have read by Steinbeck is ‘Cannery Row’ . The Great Depression seems such an interesting time, though it brought sorrow and hardship.  Steinbeck lived through a lot of it and this shows in some of his novels – which do have that ring of truth.

Watched: Tom Brown’s Schooldays

Posted in LIVING IN THE PAST: NOSTALGIA, period drama, WATCHED with tags , , , , , on September 21, 2009 by echostains

Schooldays are the happiest days of your life..aren't they?

Just finished watching the film ‘Tom Brown’s Schooldays’.  I’ve watched this loads of times, but it’s one of those films that can still hold my interest.  Set in Rugby public school, the film charts the highs and lows of Tom Brown’s schooldays. When I first read the book (by Thomas Hughes, written in 1857)  I longed to be a boy and go to public school.   I liked the idea of continuing tradition.  What more could a boy want? you got to sleep in an ancient building, walk  hallowed halls and get a jolly good education too!  Of course, some of the rituals the boys carried out didn’t appeal, nor  the time honoured tradition of thrashings and fagging.  But I supposed it was all part and parcel of public school life.  I must say though, that Brown’s arch enemy, a bully called Flashman comes across in the film as about 10 years older than Brown.  This makes his brutality and manner seem all the more threatening.  Indeed, this is a man beating and tormenting young boys – what a bully!  I cheered when he got expelled!

Bunty first printed in 1958

Bunty first printed in 1958

I blame books like this (and reading ‘The Four Mary’s’ in the Bunty comic for girls) for some of my yearnings for a life that could never be.  I would have LOVED to go to Boarding school and only come home for the holidays (or the ‘hols’) as they were referred to lol!  I rather liked the idea of a set routine, a continuity: a knowledge of what was to come – there’s security in that.  But back to the REAL world……….

Read about ‘The Four Mary’s’ HERE

More golden oldies

A kind of Loving