Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Quatermass and the Daemons

Bit of a Nigel Kneale fix over the weekend.  Finished reading The Twilight Language of Nigel Kneale with contributions from amongst others Sukhdev Sandhu, Roger Luckhurst, Mark Fisher and China Mieville- recommended.  Dr David Pike who wrote an interesting book with a very similar title to mine observes:

Since the nineteenth century, representations of underground space have tended to split into two forms; an organic, mythic and mostly negative underworld associated with hell and the devil and an inorganic, technologically-based and mostly positive underground purged of associations with the other form.  Kneale's are not the only representations to explore the interactions of the two undergrounds, but they are some of the most conscious and thoroughgoing of them, especially during the post-war years when what I call the 'bunker fantasy' - belief in the capacity of a buried concrete pillbox to preserve and improve modern society - was the dominant spatial ideology.'

On this topic see also Paul Virilio's Bunker Archaeology.

Also watched the Dr Who series The Daemons which I hadn't seen for over 40 years and hasn't been available on DVD until fairly recently.  First broadcast in 1971 it had a great impact on my young mind, especially the scary demon that's evoked in the church crypt (not the silly Bez-like gargoyle).  It didn't disappoint, but I could now see the very obvious debt it owed to my favourite film Quatermass and the Pit.  Such as?...oh, how about: an alien spaceship that's lain buried for thousands of years until it's uncovered by a team of archaeologists and starts to cause havoc locally; the aliens have visited Earth every now and then to influence world events (Renaissance, Industrial Revolution etc); their appearance inspired images of the Devil throughout history; they can be repelled by iron etc.

Roger Delgado's Master plays a Crowleyesque role as a bogus priest : 'Do my will shall be the whole of the Law' he utters on a couple of occasions and attempts to placate the demon by preparing hippy chick assistant Jo Grant for the sacrificial altar in the rather unsatisfying conclusion.  Filmed in the Wiltshire village of Aldbourne (called 'Devil's End, another QATP reference) the pub is renamed the Cloven Hoof and all kinds of diabolical destinations are indicated on local road signs.  All this and some malevolent Morris Dancers.  Well worth watching.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

All the Devils are Here

Today reread All the Devils are Here by David Seabrook, first read on publication 2002.  It's a kind of sleazier, more prurient version of Sebald's The Rings of Saturn with north-east Kent substituting for Suffolk.  Very well written and entertaining, covering many areas of interest including Margate: TS Eliot; Rochester & Chatham: Charles Dickens, Richard Dadd; Ramsgate & Broadstairs: John Buchan, various British fascists; Deal: Charles Hawtrey, Freddie Mills, Richard Arne and a number of gay men who retired there (mainly because of the close proximity of the Royal Marines School of Music).  I did think of moving to Deal about ten years ago (not for that reason!) but the trains to London were ridiculously slow (improved now by a Javelin service).  Count Stenbock even manages to put in a brief appearance and whatever could a 'map of Ireland' be sexual slang for?  The answer may lie here.

An obsessive interest in the Freddie Mills murder resulted in Seabrook's next book Jack of Jumps about the bizarre unsolved 'Jack the Stripper' murders in the 1960s, which I haven't read but which received criticism for its unsympathetic portrayal of the female victims; Cathy Unsworth wrote a much more sympathetic novel about the case: Bad Penny Blues - because, she told me, she didn't like Seabrook's book.  In All the Devils are Here Seabrook is an unreliable narrator, whose sexuality is unclear - he seems to have been a rather strange and lonely character.   In 2009 this expert on the works of Marcel Proust was found dead in his flat in Canterbury aged 48, probably of a heart attack, although there were rumours (very unlikely) that he was murdered.