Don’t Underestimate Your Audience: Barry Forshaw on watching what he says at his British Gothic Cinema literary lunch in Scarborough

When I’ve talked in the past about crime fiction or films to university students, I’ve learned that it’s sometimes a mistake to expect that they will have heard of names which are bread-and-butter to me, so I now tell them who some famous names were. But that cautious filling-in could lead me into a risky area: talking down to my audience. And it’s something I’ve learned to avoid. Case in point? The literary lunch I did at Scarborough a couple of years ago, built around my books British Crime Film and The Rough Guide to Crime Fiction. As the wine flowed, I quickly realised that the diners present – a very lively crowd – knew exactly who and what I was talking about most of the time, which in fact made the whole thing much more fun — like a conversation over dinner with friends, in fact. But can I assume a similar knowledge of the field at this year’s lunch in April, which centres on my new book British Gothic Cinema? Whatever most people think of horror films, they’ve usually seen one or two — and are certainly familiar with the great (and menacing) stars of the genre, from Boris Karloff to Christopher Lee, and from Vincent Price to Peter Cushing. So I’m hoping that I can keep these giants at the centre of my chat (while not forgetting current things in the field of blood-chilling). But should I try to avoid too much gruesome content as people are tucking into their beef Wellington? Whether or not I avoid grisly detail, I might use a tactic that’s standard for me in the crime field: personal anecdotes from actors and directors I’ve met; I have not quite so many personal stories in the horror genre (certainly fewer than in the crime field), but I’ve still acquired a few choice ones. Continue reading

British Gothic Cinema Literary Lunch

Barry Forshaw will be speaking at the British Gothic Cinema Literary Lunch on Saturday 26 April at 12noon in The Crescent Hotel, The Crescent, Scarborough.  He will also be participating host of the panel Favourite Books By The Beach alongside Paul Pickering and Lucy Worsley on Sunday 27 April at 3pm in Scarborough Library Concert Hall.  And he is hosting Celebrity Sunday Papers on Sunday 27 April at 10am.

Barry Forshaw writes for various newspapers, edits Crime Time, and broadcasts for ITV and BBC TV documentaries. He has been Vice Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association.  His other books include British Crime FilmDeath in a Cold ClimateA Guide to Scandinavian Crime FictionBritish Crime Writing: An Encyclopedia; The Rough Guide to Crime Fiction; Guns for Hire: The Modern Adventure Thriller; books on Italian cinema and the first biography of Stieg Larsson.


Jacques Tati, Salamander, Wake in Fright and a Siegel Classic


SALAMANDER Frank van Mechelen, director/Arrow Films  Such is the English taste for European crime drama in the wake of the all-conquering Scandinavian wave that there was a ready audience for this Belgian thriller when it was shown in 2014. The solidly-made series utilises the familiar ingredients of a bloody-minded copper at odds with his superiors and corruption spreading to the highest echelons of society. In a private Brussels bank, 66 safe-deposit boxes are raided. The owner of the bank wants to keep the thefts under wraps but police inspector Paul Gerardi catches wind of the affair. With his incorruptible, old-school morals and devil-may-care attitude, Gerardi throws himself into the investigation, and when some of the key players are murdered, commit suicide or vanish, soon realises just how big the case is. Gerardi discovers that the victims are members of a secret organisation called Salamander, made up of the country’s industrial, financial, judicial and political elite, and the safe-deposit boxes contained their most intimate secrets – secrets that could bring down the nation. As he becomes the target of both the criminals and the authorities, Gerardi must quickly find out what their agenda is. And who is behind the thefts… Strong stuff. But there are caveats, however; it’s not quite clear how we are supposed to regard this supposedly intelligent protagonist who again and again uncaringly puts his family in danger by his ignore-all-warnings attitude — and (after the Nordic thrillers) there is a paucity of strongly written female characters (although the duplicitous wife of a bent politician makes an impact). But despite its conventional structure, the show undoubtedly possesses qualities which command the attention throughout.


WAKE IN FRIGHT Ted Kotcheff, director/EUREKA BLU-RAY  Rescued from destruction, Ted Kotcheff’s lost film is a considerable find. A middle-class schoolteacher, stuck in a government-enforced teaching post in an arid backwater, stops off in the mining town of Bundanyabba on his way home for the Christmas holidays. Discovering a local gambling craze that may grant him the financial independence to move back to Sydney for good, the opportunity proves irresistible. But the bad decisions are just beginning and a reliance on local standards of hospitality in “the Yabba” may take him on a path darker than ever expected. One of director Ted Kotcheff’s most impressive achievements, Wake in Fright simmers with a phantasmagoric nightmare quality and is immeasurably enriched by impeccable performances from Donald Pleasance as an intellectual doctor living in squalor (one of the best of his later films), Gary Bond, Sylvia Kay, and Chips Rafferty in his final role. An uncompromising picture of brutal, sexist Australian masculinity. But the director’s defence (in the extras) that he was not attempting to paint a totally negative picture seems distinctly disingenuous.


THIS IS SPINAL TAP Rob Reiner, director/Studio Canal BLU-RAY  Does anything need to be said about the film that has forever changed the way we regard the hilarious pretensions of rock stars? This is Spinal Tap is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a special Blu-ray Steelbook release on 3rd March. Directed by Rob Reiner, written by and starring Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer & Rob Reiner, it doesn’t matter how often you see it, it’s as sharp and funny as ever.


THE KILLERS Don Siegel, director/Arrow Films Blu-Ray  Arrow Films’ Arrow Academy label has released Don Siegel’s remake of The Killers, on Blu-ray, looking like it was filmed yesterday. One of the first post-noir movies, The Killers is probably best known as the film which was originally intended to be the first TV movie, but pulled by broadcasters due to what was seen as overtly graphic violence, The Killers, most importantly, is the film which established Lee Marvin’s existential cool as cinematically iconic, though his character is pretty loathsome. This disc  features an archive interview with director Don Siegel, new and exclusive interviews with Dwayne Epstein, author of ‘Lee Marvin: Point Blank’ and extracts from Siegel’s autobiography.


THE ESSENTIAL JACQUES TATI BLU-RAY COLLECTION: TRAFFIC/PARADE/PLAYTIME/MON ONCLE/LES VACANCES DE M. HULOT/JOUR DE FÊTE, etc., Jacques Tati, director/StudioCanal Blu-Ray  An invaluable set. Jacques Tati (best known for his character Monsieur Hulot) is one of France’s most significant filmmakers of the past century, despite his chosen field of comedy. In celebration of his extraordinary career and innovative cinema, Studio Canal’s Essential Jacques Tati Blu-ray Collection. box set brings together all six of his feature films as well as seven additional short films.


BLOODY HOMECOMING Brian C Weed, director/ RLJ Entertainment  A late entry in the Halloween/Friday the 13th clone stakes, teen slasher Bloody Homecoming utilises all the familiar knife-wielding accoutrements of the genre. But the unfortunately-named director Brian C Weed is no John Carpenter.