Monday, 26 October 2009

Moon over Oxford Street

So the clocks go back and the nights grow colder over the ancient cobbled lanes of Spitelfields. Its during this time that London draws itself together and its true persona emerges. This time of the year brings back fond childhood memories of watching old films showing London under a dark winter sky on a portable black and white TV set. My home town of Sheffield felt like a million miles away from the streets of London, and on my first visit to 'The Smoke' I half expected to see horse drawn carriages and pick pockets on every corner. I was right about the pick pockets.

This back drop has always been a breeding ground for tales of horror and with Halloween around the corner ( I wrote this bit a few weeks back sorry) we will once again be able to see the city portrayed on the silver screen in a re-make of the 1941 Lon Chaney, Jr classic The wolf man. This time set in Victorian England rather than Wales. London is painstakingly re-made as was in Sweeney Todd and From Hell. I hope this time the lovely street ladies look slightly grubbier, they always seem to get this wrong , its as if our soft dispositions would be offended by a pair of wooden teeth.

The funny thing is that this film is also set in my home town of Sheffield. Well not exactly Sheffield ( where hairy snarling ripped shirt fellows are common sight on a Saturday night ) but Chatsworth house, a stately home set in the peak district outside of Sheffield. A place I hold fondly in my heart, as it was the location of the first film I made as a young man. Well 'film' is not the correct word more like home video. Shot on a High 8 camera and involving a bunch of friends, some in drag. We re-enacted the battle of Agincourt, but instead what was created was more like a small disturbance involving men in dresses . We scared the tourist and was asked to leave the grounds. An award winning film it was not. Be we did have the for-sight to see the benefits of the location long before the likes of Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins did for the wolfman.

I digress.
Of course this is not the first time that London and the wolfman have howled under the same night skies. How can we forget the wonderful “An American Werewolf in London” Directed by John Landis with the brilliant brightly lit transformation sequence and the carnage that occurs in Piccadilly circus. Since watching this film I've never felt quite as safe catching the last train on the Northern line to High Barnet, but now rather than fearing the hound of hell I fear the blight of Amy Winehouse should she be prowling the platform at Camden Town post last orders.

London has always been a hunting ground for many a man-beasts. Take the wonderfully named 'Spring heeled jack' said to have existed during the
Victorian era and able to jump extraordinarily high. The first accounts of Spring Heeled Jack were made in London in 1837 and the last reported sighting is said to have been made in Liverpool in 1904, that was one hell of a leap.

Spring Heeled Jack was described by people claiming to have seen him as having a terrifying and frightful appearance, with diabolical physiognomy, clawed hands, and eyes that "resembled red balls of fire". One report claimed that, beneath a black cloak, he wore a helmet and a tight-fitting white garment like an "oilskin". Many stories also mention a "Devil-like" aspect. Spring Heeled Jack was said to be tall and thin, with the appearance of a gentlemen, and capable of making great leaps. Several reports mention that he could breathe out blue and white flames and that he wore sharp metallic claws at his fingertips. At least two people claimed that he was able to speak comprehensible English. In October 1837, a girl by the name of Mary Stevens was walking to Lavender Hill, where she was working as a servant, after visiting her parents in Battersea. On her way through Clapham Common, according to her later statements, a strange figure leapt at her from a dark alley. After immobilising her with a tight grip of his arms, he began to kiss her face, while ripping her clothes and touching her flesh with his claws, which were, according to her deposition, "cold and clammy as those of a corpse". In panic, the girl screamed, making the attacker quickly flee from the scene. The commotion brought several residents who immediately launched a search for the aggressor, who could not be found. The swine.

I should like to shed more light on Mr Spring Heeled Jack in a future blog as he has always been a favorite London villain of mine. In the mean time I leave you with the trailer for the forth-coming move 'The wolfman'

Rap up worm ,Toodle-pip

Lord Monty