Cult Sights & Sounds, Bristol, Spain & South America



Roadrunner: Radio On, Road Movies & the A4

Well, it was a long time in the writing, but my fourth book, Roadrunner, is finally out. Superficially, it’s just a slender little tome celebrating Radio On (the greatest Bristol film ever) but of course it’s about so much more than that, as the sub-title indicates (yes ,it’s also about road movies in general, and roads, especially the A4 from London to Bristol, and all the things that have ever happened on it.)

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Another scene in a different prison

Ah, prisons. There are so many great prison movies (think Papillon, think Bronson, think Chopper, Poison, A Prophet, Scum, Starred Up…. think Brawl in Cell Block 99!). One of these days the long-promised paean to Buzz Kulik and his peerless Riot (Gene Hackman, Jim Brown) will see the light of day, along with the comparable Gene-ius of Scarecrow (co-starring Al Pacino).

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Once More Unto the Valley, with Pink Floyd

At the tail end of the 60s/dawn of the 70s, Swiss-Iranian director Barbet Schroeder made two films, both of which were sound-tracked by a post-Syd Barrett Pink Floyd at the peak of their powers. One of those films (More) is a stone-cold hippies-go-mad-in-Ibiza classic, while the other (La Vallee, aka Obscured by Clouds) is a less than perfect hippies-go-mad-in-Papua-New-Guinea flick and is frankly a bit meh, but probably worthy of revisiting, or even visiting (the film, that is – not Papua New Guinea, which is a very dangerous place). Both are easily obtainable on UK Blu-Ray, so don’t be put off by the unsubtitled trailers below.

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That Cape Fear Girl: Illeana Douglas

In case you don’t know who Illeana Douglas is, she will be the first to admit, albeit  reluctantly, that she is best known as That Cape Fear Girl, the one who gets her cheek bitten off by Robert De Niro in the 1991 Scorsese pic. I know this – that Douglas accepts the tag of Cape Fear Girl, not that she gets her cheek bitten off – because I’ve just finished reading her memoir, I Blame Dennis Hopper, and a jolly good read it is too. What’s it like, people ask her, having your cheek bitten off by Robert De Niro, “like I’m going to offer up some amazing insight, something profound (he covers himself in soot ashes then incants the words of Stanislavski) or mystical (he only works at sunrise, with his body facing east).”

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Underground/Overground (Wombling on the Westway)

urban landscaspe

I have a new project, a book (an entire book!) about Radio On, a film only I and a couple of other people actually like, and about the A4, which is a road. Yes, a book about an obscure(ish) film, and the road from London to Bristol (or Bristol to London) on which much of the film’s inaction takes place. But actually (inactually) much of the early scenes in Radio On were filmed on or under the Westway, the A40, which doesn’t go to Bristol, but does enable me to talk about David Bowie, J.G. Ballard and Hawkwind.

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A Plane, a Train and an Automobile

So, it’s about time for another blog, or post, or whatever the hell they’re called. In the absence of anything else to write about – like a pandemic, or a new American president, say – I’m stuck with nothing better than a rather feeble stab at referencing a film I’ve never seen and write about my favourite transport-related films, or three of them at least….

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Dad’s Army: English Heretics

Image by rottonara (Pixabay)

Reading Andy Sharp’s brilliant, bonkers The English Heretic Collection, I discovered – among the more predictable meditations on J.G Ballard, Witchfinder General and the numerous secret army bases dotted around England – this pearl of wisdom regarding the opening credits of everyone’s favourite Home Guard sitcom:

“They are on manoeuvre towards their ultimate fate. Corporal Jones, stumbling, looking over his shoulder for some imaginary Hun; neurasthenic from his experiences in the trenches. Jones’ much-loved catchphrase Don’t Panic! isn’t comedy gold, but a projection of the PTSD that riddles the minefield of his memories. He’s clearly triggered by the slightest emergency.” 

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Look at the Fool: Jake Thackray, the Frank Zappa of Folk

Jake Thackray divides opinion. There are those who, with some justification, regard him as a male chauvinist (partly true) and as a poor, Anglophone substitute for Georges Brassens, the great French chanteur (undoubtedly true, but also irrelevant if you don’t speak French and you want to get the jokes).  But the jokes aren’t even funny, Jake’s detractors cry. And he’s a male chauvinist. But the rest of us – at least, that portion of the public who are aware of his former existence  – see in Jake Thackray the classic tortured genius wrapped in comedian’s clothing, the Frank Zappa of folk, the Fool who dares to tell it like it is (men are dirty bastards; women talk too much; don’t be a sheep and follow the herd). Of course, a lot of people think there’s no place for humour in music and pour scorn on those – like Zappa – who wear their brilliance lightly. So let’s look at the fool, warts and all. But first a Tim Buckley song:

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On Brandon Hill: Popular Culture in Bristol since WW2

Yes! It’s finally hit the shelves of Smashwords as a FREE (free!) e-book! On Brandon Hill is the FIRST EVER comprehensive history of post-war Bristolian culture, spanning the years 1945 to 2020 (or thereabouts) and covering all the major art forms for which the city is famous – music, TV, animation, street art – as well as its less celebrated contributions to film, theatre, literature, fine art etc. Continue reading “On Brandon Hill: Popular Culture in Bristol since WW2”

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