I've been rewatching this over the last couple of days and something struck me. The Master seems quite - well, not relaxed, but accepting that Azal may decide to destroy the planet. Which suggests that he has an escape route in mind - presumably his Tardis. In The Sea Devils, chronologically the next story fo the Doctor and the Master, the Master won't reveal where his Tardis is hidden.

Some years later in Keeper of Traken, the Master's Tardis is disguised as a statue which can walk and fire lethal energy bolts. So, is Bok the Master's Tardis?
When I was a child, my dad used to take me to the pictures. They tended to be things he wanted to see, but since this included the likes of Star Wars, Superman and James Bond, i wasn't complaining.

There was the odd exception. In December 1980, we saw the Disney film of Popeye. Which I've just rewatched. It's quite astonishing how much of it has stuck with me, even 33 years later. The songs - Sweet Sweethaven, Everything is Food - the comedy moments - Popeye bowling down the hill after being punched by Bluto.

For a children's film, it has quite the pedigree - directed by Robert Altman, songs by Harry Nilsson and orchestrated by Van Dyke Parks, script by Jules Feifer. And it all works. The songs are memorable. Williams and Duvall are funny and also rather touching. There's something unexpectedly heartfelt and rather moving about the very gentle romance between the two characters, one alone in the world, the other smothered by relatives, but confessing in one of the songs that she never felt anyone needed her before.

In another touching moment, Popeye affectionately bids goodnight to a photo of his long-lost father, revealed by the camera to be an empty frame with the words "me pappy" scrawled on it. There are some nice callbacks to the cartoons too - Popeye winding up his fist before punching someone and the moments when his pipe sound round in his mouth to register fury, or doubles as a submarine's periscope.

Meanwhile, Shelley Duvall manages to be the living embodiment of a cartoon as Olive, all pipecleaner limbs. Robin Williams is not as visually exact to the cartoon, but still moves like something more animated than human, while his interplay with his adopted son - much of which seems to be improvised - is a joy.

A very welcome rediscovery.
So, I've been given the letter w. Dammit.

Something I hate:

Putting "wankers" seems something of a possibility, but feels like a cheat. Far too easy. Instead, we'll go with water, specifically being in large amounts of it. I have unpleasant associations with this from school, but I know I hated swimming long before then. People I trust have told me that if you just relax, then you can float. And I reply - well, why would you want to? Far easier to stay on dry land where the whole floating thing doesn't come into it.

Something I love.

We'll avoid the first thing that comes to mind, as frankly I doubt it's something anyone wants to hear about. Not sure if this count as a cheat, but there's a film called The Blood Beast Terror, which stars Peter Cushing, in which the titular monster turns out to be a weremoth. I rather like the concept that a woman who turns into a creature fatally disadvantaged by its tendency to fly into lights could ever be terrifying.

Somewhere I have been

Wien - or Vienna, if you want to be Anglocentric. I spent a year teaching English at a boarding school there. Beautiful architecture, good beer, lots of nice places to eat. Plus, I was being paid full-time and only doing 4 hours a week, because most of the teachers thought the job should have gone to someone Viennese.

Somewhere I would like to go

Well, I really want to go back to Vienna. Also, when I was a child, I remember getting really crappy reception on BBC1 in bad weather because the Winter Hill transmitter had been knocked out. I'd like to go there - just because of the name.

Someone I know

I had a French teacher called Mrs Walker. Never got on with her.

Best movie

I did think briefly about Watership Down, but I'm going for Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It's something I saw as a child and then next saw 30 years later - and enjoyed it as much as I remembered. For a character in a children's movie, Gene Wldr is fantastically disquieting.

Anyone want a letter?
My son is writing Bilbo/Smaug slash fiction.

What have I unleashed upon the world?
To quote the Sixth Doctor, "Didn't go very well, did it?" Which is sad, because in many ways, I feel Moffat's intentions were sound here. The idea behind this felt like a reaction against the Tennant Doctor's death. Where 10 runs from his foretold death, 11 waits in one place for his. Where 10 rails against sacrificing himself for Wilf, 11 talks of each life saved as being a victory and asks Clara to let him save her as one last victory. Where 10 is desperate to remain the Doctor, even down to regenerating into himself, 11 welcomes the fact that a new man is coming.

So, given that Moffat's instincts for a Doctorish farewell seem to have been sound, where did it go wrong?

Well, a plot would have been nice. What we have here is - the Doctor defends a planet and his people for 900 years. Then he dies. And that could have been fantastic. A man who has travelled for 900 years, compulsively moving on to somewhere new is compelled to stay in one place. Sadly, it was thrown away. This feels like something cut down into an hour of tv. Given the rumours for the last year or so that there was meant to be more Who than we got, was this intended to be a multi-episode storyline? The Doctor settling into his role as protector, forging links with the townspeople, becoming accepted by them, being the fixed point in their lives as the generations are born, grow and pass on as new ones take their place and as he reflects that once this would have happened to him, once he would have moved on and his place been taken by a new Doctor. No time for any of this, sadly. The townsfolk are barely differentiated from each other - even the Doctor has difficulty telling them apart.

But there are new characters who get some time on screen. Clara's step mum and granny and also Tasha Lem. All of whom seem depressingly familiar.Clara's step mother seems to be straight from the RTD book of Mothers Who Hold Their Children Back. She snipes and grouses and appears to be made from off-cuts of Rose, Martha and Donna's mothers. Clara's gran was perky, fancied the Doctor and had a romantic side and generally obeyed the rules of Old Ladies - Aren't They Wonderful. And then there was Tasha Lem. She's powerful. She flirts with the Doctor. She can fly the Tardis. She has an inner psychopath.

Now, something that makes criticism a little difficult here - given that Moffat has a definite type of female character that he reverts to, what can we read into the fact that she appears to be River with the serial numbers filed off? Is this going to be revealed to be another timey wimey iteration of River? Or are we to presume that River was modelled on Tasha when the Silence created her? After all, she's already been reduced from the strong independent woman from Silence in the Library by the revelations that she does everything to get the Doctor to notice her. So finding that she's actually modelled on another person would seem just part of the same process, really. Or shall we just put it down to bad writing? To be fair, the latter category pretty much encompasses the first two, so I suspect that's the one to go for.

And of course she's also there to show that the Doctor has problems understanding consent. It's disturbing that sexual assault is being used as a means of showing that the Doctor doesn't understand social mores. It happened previously in Crimson Horror and, like this, was played for laughs. What makes it more disturbing is the Doctor leching over Clara at the end of Nightmare in Silver. If it is just being used as a means of showing social ineptness, then that's a miscalculation. If there are suggestions that it reflects something about the Doctor's predelictions, then that heads into increasingly unpleasant territory. I grew up watching this character. I don't like feeling that there are areas where I have to look down on him for his morality. I have to say, it's perhaps not as unpleasant as the 10th Doctor bragging about deflowering the Virgin Queen, but that's not really saying much. I am not against the Doctor having a sexual element to his character, but surely it should be handled better than consent issues and bragging "I've had her."

Regeneration episodes are onto a bit of a loser. Everything in this is leading up to one thing. The Doctor is dead. Long live the Doctor. We'll pass over the fact that the Doctor was there 900 years and never thought to mention that he was running a bit low and could do with a top up. Why not? Moffat did. We'll also pass over the latest firework display and Clara, the current companion, being sidelined in favour of Amy. Because Peter Capaldi appeared. And the prospect of Doctor Who starring the man who played Malcolm Tucker, directed by the man who directed Sightseers and written by the man who wrote Day of the Doctor is pretty damn enticing. Sadly, it'll also be written by the man who wrote Time of the Doctor. Shame, really.
1. What did you do in 2013 that you'd never done before?:
Had relationships with two different people with all of us being happy and no-one getting hurt

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?:
Don't do them.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?:

4. Did anyone close to you die?:

5. What countries did you visit?:

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?:
A lottery win.

7. What date from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?:
18 April. Although, honesty compels me to say I had to check the exact date. It was a nice day though.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?:
See answer for 1.

9. What was your biggest failure?:
Being tolerant. Can't do it as much as would make life easier.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?:
Largely either mental or self inflicted. And food poisoning.

11. What was the best thing you bought?:
Train tickets. And hotel rooms.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?:
Jennie, Holly, Mat, Holly (there's two of them. Yes it can be confusing.), Andrew, Alisdair, for making Jennie happy, my sister for a rather vitally timed phone conversation. Probably mine, some of the time at least.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?:
Mostly people I've never met.

14. Where did most of your money go?:
Rent, Amazon, Northern Rail, various pubs, Waterstones.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?:
Holly, Jennie, Edinburgh, Doctor Who.

16. What song will always remind you of 2013?:
Ask me in a few years. I might have an answer.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you
i. happier or sadder? Happier, for the most part.
ii. thinner or fatter? Either I'm fatter or someone's been taking all my clothes in.
iii. richer or poorer? About the same.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?:
Shagging. (8 months into one new relationship. 3 and a half years into another new relationship. Yes, I am lucky) Reading.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?:
Procrastinating. Thinking about things I wasn't doing.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?:
Hopng Matt Smith's last story isn't as much of a drag as David Tennant's

21. Did you fall in love in 2013?:

22. How many one night stands?:
Last one of them was 1997.

23. What was your favourite TV programme?:

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?:
No-one I've met.

25. What was the best book you read?:
Went through the first 3 volumes of Tardis Eruditorum. They were fun.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?:
Not sure I've had one of them.

27. What did you want and get?:
More time with Holly.

28. What did you want and not get?
A lottery win.

29. What was your favourite film this year?:
Iron Man 3, for a variety of reasons. This may yet be surpassed by the second Hobbit film. Also, there was a very pleasant Sunday afternoon watching Squirm with Jennie. And it's a game rather than a film, but Skyrim is bloody fantastic.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?:
42. Did various things for it - dinner with my parents, dinner with Jennie, a night in a hotel in Manchester with Holly.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?:
A lottery win. Yes, I am that shallow.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?:
Varies between "Is this clean? It'll do" and "I need a fob watch for my new suit"

33. What kept you sane?:
Jennie, Holly, Mat, Holly, beer, shagging, Doctor Who, work, reading, Skyrim.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?:
Um. Peter Capaldi?

35. What political issue stirred you the most?:
Anything with the word "immigration" in it.

36. Who did you miss?:
Friends who I've not seen for years.

37. Who was the best new person you met?:
Couldn't tell you.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.:
If she says she'll always come back to you, try having a little faith.

39. Who did you spend the most time on the phone with?:
Jennie, Holly, parents.

40. Quote a song that sums up your year:
Not sure.

41. What was your favorite moment of the year?:
Holly's reaction to me saying I wanted to kiss her. Rediscovering something I'd not done fo a few years and thought I'd lost. Large amount of Day of the Doctor (Mad Tom and scary eyebrows)

42. What was your least favorite moment of the year?:
Not something I've any intention of talking about here.

43. Where were you when 2013 started?:
On the sofa, resenting the fact that Jools Holland exists.

44. Who were you with?:
Jennie, Mat

45. Where will you be when 2013 ends?:
Probably much the same.

46. Who will you be with when 2013 ends?:
Also the same.

47. What was your favourite month of 2013?
4 days in Edinburgh make July a strong contender. Also November for Doctor Who stuff and other things.

48. Did you drink a lot of alcohol in 2013?:
Not a vast amount, but I enjoyed what I drank.

49. Did you do a lot of drugs in 2013?:

50. What are your plans for 2014?
In an ideal world, win the lottery, find out whether several people ae interested in relationships/one night stands/whatever, buy somewhere nice to live and be happy.

In reality, try to be in a similar position in a year's time, give or take a few wrinkles.
So thanks to miss_s_b, I need to post 5 little-known facts about me. Cue much sound of barrel-scraping.

1. When I was 6, I used to climb down the outside of the banisters rather than use the stairs. My brother - then 3 - decided to imitate me, fell of and fractured his skull. My response when he came back from hospital was to check whether this had healed by hitting him over the head with a tin of Bird's Custard Powder. My mother still hasn't forgiven me for this.

2. I have a new crush. The person in question is unlikely in the extreme to ever reciprocate, but it's still nice.

3. I had a nightmare a few nights ago which involved someone I cared about being executed unless I was able to perform various dances to a high enough standard. Suffice it to say that it didn't end well.

4. I hate watching anything with people being wrongly accused of something. Either it's so badly done that it's impossible to empathise with them or it's sufficiently well done and I don't want to empathise with them because it's too upsetting.

5. I used to find crumpets vaguely disturbing. I don't know why either.
So, since we have a sudden craze of people posting photos in sports kit;...

See below the cut for a 42 year old man in swimming shorts, who really ought to put his shirt on again and who according to BMI is clinically obese. Trigger warning for that and also for discussion of fat shaming and poor self-image.

pics under here )

Now, the post on Lib Dem Voice that started all this included comments about how we should not celebrate the fact that 25% of UK women are obese; that size 16 women should not be accepted or embraced; that we should not applaud the fact that the average woman is overweight or say that being overweight is ok. Such comments as are specifically aimed at a gender are aimed at women, despite several men having discussed in the comments secion how they are overweight.

Now as you can see from the pictures, I am overweight - quite considerably so. I take very little exercise and while I don't smoke and drink very little, I eat pretty poorly - so far today, fried eggs and bacon, with Sunday roast dinner to come. Given that my office is 100 yards from a KFC, the only reason why I don't have lunch in there daily is lack of funds. And yet, I'm unlikely to get comments aimed at me telling me that I'm a fat bastard with no self control who should be ashamed.

I loathe the way I look. The last house I lived in had one mirror - and that was solely because it was an intrinsic part of the wardrobe and couldn't be removed. Believe me, I tried. At work, I try to use the goods elevator, because the mirrors in it are covered, so I can't see myself.

This is despite receiving relatively little criticism from society about my weight. I was going at this point to give a list of examples of weight-based criticism aimed at women through a variety of media - tv adverts, newspaper articles, discussion pieces etc etc etc. But frankly I can't be bothered, It's out there. If you've not noticed, then it's a waste of my time telling you about it.

So, take my word for it. And also take my word for the fact that, bad as my self-image is, it would be immeasurably worse if I had all this shit aimed at me.
So, it's about 20 past 8 and I'm waiting for confirmation of what's been recovered.

Someone's put this video together. It's rather nice.

Something that I saw on Twitter earlier today - summaries of film plots thrown into reverse. Feel free to identify which films these are.

1 The world is created. It turns out that you can fight in the War Room.

2 One day they'll have Paris.

3 Much ado about porn leads to Humphrey Bogart getting hot and sweaty.

4 Cross dressing motel owner  pulls woman's car out of swamp.

5 Man with laryngitis, rubber suit and rodent issues is reunited with parents

6 Civil servant's boss is unimpressed by his family home and has him shot.

7 A stay in a luxury hotel helps Jack recover from frostbite.

8 Van Helsing puts up some curtains so Dracula brings his friend back to life.
So, what's worse than a typewriter?
So this came from replies to a post from miss_s_b from some time ago on how to make blokey films sound girly and vice versa. Cos I actually like some of the ones I put and want them on my blog. Feel free to suggest others.

The Shining - New home has effect on relationship

Dawn of the Dead - Man takes his girlfriend to the shopping mall.

Nightmare on Elm Street
- Young woman meets the man of her dreams.

Silence of the Lambs - One woman finds herslf captivated by a man she meets one evening, while another has a relationship with an older man.

Psycho - Young man takes girl home to Mother.

Gladiator - Husband's commute from work is held up.

Original Star Wars trilogy - In a universe gone mad, one boy sets out to find his family.(Helps if you read it in ubiquitous Trailer Man voice)

Once Upon a Time In the West - Farmer hopes family will accept his new wife

Superman II
- Career woman realises the ideal man is working alongside her. But can she compete with his family? (Or if you want it to seem a lot less wholesome; Career woman uncovers colleague's double life, so he takes her to the isolated house where he keeps his dead mother.)

The Terminator - She was working as a waitress in a burger bar. He was looking for that one special woman. Their eyes met across a crowded nightclub and nothing would ever be the same again.

Haywire: She's worked alongside him all these years, but after a night out with a difference, she's seeing her boss in quite a different light. Has she left it too late or can Mallory get her man?

Henry V: Business trip to France leads to love.

Fight Club: Young man struggles to find himself with help of girlfriend. Will he ever learn to see himself as she does?

These ones aren't really relevant, but I thought they were funny:

The Expendables
: Man runs job creation scheme for the elderly

Silent Running
: Man tends garden in best of all possible worlds

Whistle and I'll Come to You: Oral fixation leads to problems in the bedroom.

Skyfall: Civil servant helps boss with retirement plans

Iron Man 3: Man's clothes making habit causes relationship problems
Title: Business as Usual
Author: magister
Rating: PG for mild innuendo. Frankly it's all in your mind.
Characters: 3, Master, UNIT.
Warnings: None

The Doctor rubbed the back of his neck thoughtfully. This was a habit he had picked up in moments of stress. He sometimes thought that it dated from a time in his previous regeneration when he’d had to wear a depolariser on the back of his neck to ward off Cyber-control. It had itched. Really annoyingly. There were times when he wondered whether his previous self had known whether the effect would linger this long. He wouldn’t put it past the scruffy little devil to have done this on purpose.

Regeneration theory said that this was arrant nonsense. The physical traits of one body could not linger into a new one. The cell structures were completely reconfigured. There was no possible way that something that had happened to a previous body could affect a later one. It was like believing that if a Venusian shanghorn ate your old pair of shoes, then your next pair would show its teeth marks.

Regeneration theory could go hang. His neck itched. Even Doctor Sullivan’s all-curing Savlon didn’t work. He rubbed at it again, wincing as a stray hair caught in one of his rings.

He glared at the trimly bearded man standing across the sacrificial stone from him, resplendent in his ceremonial garb. “Well, of course it had to be you. Bwana is the Swahili for Master, after all. A little obvious, wasn’t it, even for you?”

The Master smiled and toyed with the sacrificial knife. “I do so like to be a reassuring presence for you, Doctor. I would hate to think of you getting bored.”

There was a slight cough from the scantily-clad figure on the sacrificial stone. The Doctor looked down. “Ah, Lethbridge-Stewart, my dear chap. I’d quite forgotten you.”

The Brigadier stood up, cautiously, holding the sacrificial loin-cloth of flowers in place. “Thank you, Doctor.” He looked round and saw his cap, discarded on the floor, picked it up and snapped it into place on his head. “Sergeant Benton! Trouser detail at the double!” There was a faint reply from outside as the barely clad officer strode from the room, his swagger stick under his arm.

“So, Doctor, just the two of us, then”, the Master purred. The Doctor blinked in surprise as the Master’s tissue compression eliminator appeared from his robes. “One final meeting between the Doctor and his Master. And know as you die that once you are gone, nothing shall save the Earth from my – “ His words were cut off by the sound of a pistol shot, knocking the weapon from his hand. He looked round to see one of his apparently unconscious acolytes was on his feet and brandishing a revolver. He removed the ceremonial mask and cloak, revealing a dark haired man in a blue greatcoat.

“Sorry to interrupt you guys, but I’m afraid I can’t allow that. Captain Jack Harkness of Torchwood at your service. Really can’t have you shooting the Doctor – I’ve got stuff I need to do with him. Not yet – he’s got to mature for a few regenerations yet. “ He raised a hand to ward off the Doctor’s outraged reply. “Yeah, I know, Laws of time, you’re not supposed to know this. Blah, blah, blah. The ceremonial wine that you drank contained Retcon. Little something of my creation. You’ll wake up in a few hours and remember something entirely different. Let’s face it. It’s not the first time we’ve done this.” He eyed the Master appraisingly. “Every time we do this you’re always wearing some damn gown or some such. Hides your best feature.” He slipped a hand down the back of the Master’s cloak. “There we go. Buns of steel – you should really show them off you – “

The Doctor’s response was instantaneous. One long leg shot out, neatly kicking the gun from this transatlantic bounder’s hand. Two steely fingers jabbed at a nerve cluster. The gun and the unconscious body hit the floor at the same time.

The Master raised an eyebrow. “My dear Doctor, what an unexpected pleasure. One moment, if you would.” He picked up his gun and took careful aim at Harkness, who glowed briefly and shrank. “You know, for a man who abhors violence…”

“Yes,”, the Doctor admitted, “I did rather enjoy that.” He rubbed the side of his nose. Another bad habit, he knew. Drew attention to the size of the damn thing. “So,” he said. “It seems we are to lose our memories shortly. “

The Master nodded. “Any suggestions as to what we could do? I’m sure you could come up with something sickeningly good.”

The Doctor smiled. “Why don’t you get out of that ridiculous outfit?”

Somewhere on the floor, Captain Jack Harkness watched as the two Time Lords left the room. Things had gone much the same as usual, although, he was worried that at some point the Retcon was going to stop taking effect. He climbed to his feet. The Torchwood mobile – a rather gaudily painted Austin Allegro with an electric blue spoiler and lemon yellow go faster stripes - was parked outside. Given that he was now six inches high, the journey home was going to be challenging, but not impossible. It wasn’t like it was the first time this had happened, after all.
I've had an all but sleepless night, which would probably have been better for me had it been totally sleepless. So I think I'm past the initial rush, following the discovery that Moffat had cast the person who I'd been hoping for since 1996, after seeing him in Neverwhere and The Crow Road. I suspect his performance in the latter as a charismatic, articulate dreamer with a conscience, a wanderlust and a sense of curiosity might give more indication of how he'll play the Doctor than his most famous role. Although a Doctor able to channel Malcolm Tucker's terrifying rage is an intriguing prospect.

In the meantime, here's an apparently official video of the 13 Doctors.


That video raises a couple of points. We have John Hurt in between McGann and Eccleston, confirming that he's the 9th incarnation and perhaps the man who died ending the Time War. I say perhaps - there is the possibility that he's maybe the man who, like the Master, ran from the Time War - that the peace and sanity he spoke of were his own. I hope not though - to have the Doctor condemn someone for his refusal to go to war would be disappointing.

The other point raised - this actually makes Capaldi the 13th Doctor - and by series lore therefore the last. What does it do to a Time Lord to believe that he's finally at the end of the road - that his next death will be his last? Does it make him fearful, unwilling to take risks? Or determined to make the most of the time he has left - whether it be to put right the things he has not or simply to enjoy himself and to see the places he has never been to?

And yes, there's going to be a million and one Malcolm Tucker/Doctor Who mash-ups. But this made me laugh.

Quoted from Metro today in an article on James Cracknell:

"He sustained a serious brain injury while cycling in 2010. He now hopes to become a Conservative MEP."
So, I woke up about an hour ago from a dream involving it being the day after Christmas and having to fill out multiple choice screens on suspects in Agatha Christie novels.

Oddly enough, given that yesterday was one of those rare days that went as well as I could ever have hoped for; that I fell asleep with Miss Marple on the tv and the nature of much of my job, this actually makes complete sense.
Well, I saw this today and was very disappointed with it. It feels like it has been scripted by someone who once attended a Screenwriters 101 course and decided that the original story of the making of the film wouldn't hold an audience's interest. The story needs conflict, division and triumph over adversity, it seems.

Hence, we have Alma being tempted into a possible affair and Hitchcock being left bereft without her. He starts to hallucinate conversations with Ed Gein and helping him to commit his crimes. Eventually he's driven to collapse after almost stabbing Janet Leigh when he loses control filming the shower scene, but fortunately Alma takes over directing the film.

It's partially rescued by the cast - Helen Mirren is good value for money and as watchable as ever. Scarlet Johansson does well as Janet Leigh, while James Darcey is uncanny, but underused, as Anthony Perkins. Hopkins, though, is at the centre of the movie and, I'd say, loses out by comparison with Toby Jones. The only points where he feels like anything other than Anthony Hopkins in a fat suit come with the addresses to camera at the start and close of the film and the scene at the premiere of Psycho where he stands in the cinema foyer and conducts the sound of the audience's screams.

Despite a few nice performances and moments, I think travesty is the word here.
This is currently a topic on the British Horror Films forum.

Name your ten ideal horror films - one for each of these criteria - for a weekend's viewing.

1 Silent classic
Nosferatu. No contest.

2 Universal classic
Bride of Frankenstein. Spoilt for choice here - Bride wins by a close head from Frankenstein, The Wolf Man and The Old Dark House.

3 Val Lewton classic
The Body Snatcher. Runners up - I Walked with a Zombie and Cat People.

4 Hammer classic
The Devil Rides Out. Today. Another day it might be Plague of the Zombies. Or Dracula 1972.

5 Corman/Price/Poe classic
The Masque of the Red Death. Easy choice.

6 Amicus classic
The House that Dripped Magenta. By a short head from From Beyond the Grave.

7 Mega Budget classic
The Shining.

8 Non-English language classic
I tre volti della paura. aka Black Sabbath. Close run thing from Suspiria and the Herzog film of Nosferatu.

9 British classic
Frightmare. Beating An American Werewolf in London.

10 TV movie classic
A Warning to the Curious
The Wicker Man 2006.

Traumatised traffic cop with allergy to bee stings visits island famous for its honey, answering a call for help from his ex. Hilarity ensues.

Neil LaBute’s remake of The Wicker Man shows the extent to which so many films are dumbed down these days. In the original, Sergeant Howie arrives on the island and over the course of his stay works out – via oblique hints from the inhabitants – what is going on, being unknowingly led into the trap waiting for him. The audience is trusted to have the brains to follow him and to keep up with the revelations as they come. Here, Malus arrives on the island and is repeatedly told by his ex what is going on, that this is a strange society, that they are dangerous, etc, etc, etc. In short, we are not trusted to be able to follow the plot without getting regular summaries of the story so far. Oh, plus we get regular flashbacks to a car crash every ten minutes, just in case we forgot about it.

Edward Woodward’s character does everything that he does, placing himself in danger to find a girl he does not know, because, while he may be a humourless prig, he cares about his job and tries to do it to the best of his ability. Cage’s character does this because – well take your pick. He watched a little girl die in a car crash. His girlfriend asked him to. He finds Rowan is his daughter. Oh, plus we get regular flashbacks to the car crash every ten minutes, just in case we forgot about it. Actually on the subject of fatherhood – did anyone find this a surprise? Bar the character, of course. From the point that he received the letter and – hmm, let’s see now, so they were in love a carefully unspecified number of years ago and she’s got a young daughter. Gosh – do you think she could be his? Well that’d sure be an interesting twist to the story wouldn’t it? Actually, no. It wouldn’t. It does make you wonder what the filmmakers’ view of the audience is, doesn’t it? Presumably that they won’t accept someone risking his life to save a child unless he’s her father and in love with the mother and emotionally disturbed because of The One He Couldn’t Save. Nice. Clearly then, the character’s no longer a virgin, unlike Sgt Howie in the original. In fact we already knew this prior to release. LaBute had told us that there was no way he could make it credible that Nic Cage was a virgin. Sorry mate – you’re the director and the writer. It’s your job to make it credible. Although if you’re that biased in favour of leather-skinned, horse-faced Elvis impersonators… Oh, plus we get regular flashbacks to the car crash every ten minutes, just in case we forgot about it.

And while we’re on changes to the character of the policeman, whose idea was his tendency to Bruce Lee moments? To wit the scene where a woman literally half his size tries to scratch his face and he responds with a couple of flying kicks that knock her into the wall. So – was this scene actually sponsored by the American Friends of Chuck Norris Association? Who exactly thought it was a good idea for the hero to repeatedly kick a woman half his size in the head with a rousing cry of “Goddamn it!” And the entertaining thing about all this is LaBute’s comment that he found Woodward’s character in 1973 hard to like. Erm – sorry – wasn’t that at least partly the point? He’s unlikable but at least partly admirable – he cares about his job and remains firm in his beliefs in the face of provocation, temptation and death. And Edward Malus is likeable because - ? Any suggestions?

Plus of course a major theme of the original has vanished – the clash of religions. Back to the dumbing down theme. In 1973, we had a lengthy and thought-provoking discussion between Howie and Summerisle on rival religions and the history of the islands. In 2006, while Summersisle discusses suppression of femininity, the best Malus can manage is to rave about “all you wackos” and to ask why there are so many beekeepers on the island. Here’s a hint – it’s so they can look after the bees – you know, the bees that make the world-famous honey that was the reason you found out about the island. Oh, it’s all too painful. Oh, plus we get regular flashbacks to the car crash every ten minutes, just in case we forgot about it.

And so instead of the clash of religions, we get the clash of the sexes. All the men on the island are subjugated. Nic Cage kicks a woman in the head. He’s burnt to death by his own daughter – it’s a criticism of the family structure, dontcha know. Instead of “Summer is icumin in”, they all chant “The drone must die”. Yes, yes, they’re like bees. We get it. Which leads on to another point – LaBute has been quoted as saying that anyone who likes the original soundtrack, he’s not sure if he wants people like that to enjoy his film, because they clearly have very poor taste. I’m sorry – who thought it was a good idea to get this man as director? Oh, plus we get regular flashbacks to the car crash every ten minutes, just in case we forgot about it. And by now, those flashbacks are really getting annoying.

Plus there are points that just seem to make no sense at all. We’ve already dealt with the Real Kung-fu Action Nic Cage Action Figure, so we won’t go over that ground again. On the other hand, there’s the attempt to emulate the double-bluff dream sequence in American Werewolf – less said about that the better. Also, if he’s so important to them for the sacrifice – why does someone try to drown him in the crypt? Come to that, why does he fall through the floor in the barn? Was it just thought that nothing had happened for a while and they should liven it up? And one more comparison with the original. Edward Woodward in the wicker man gets to quote scripture, sing “The Lord’s My Shepherd” and pray for his soul. It's a horrific moment and also a deeply moving one - we're watching a man take comfort in his beliefs in the face of his agonising death. Nic Cage gets to shout “Don’t do that, honey!” sounding like he’s telling his daughter not to eat jam straight from the jar… Also, Nic Cage is playing a man lethally allergic to bee stings. So he rides his bike into a field full of beehives and crashes into one, because it hasn’t occurred to him to look where he’s going. Y’know – so he doesn’t crash into a bee hive and get stung to death.

It seems barely worth commenting on the names (losing the will to live here…), but aside from the obvious references – the cop is called Edward, the child is called Woodward – there is also the point that the cop’s surname is Malus – Latin for apple, the original export of Summerisle. On the other hand, it could just be because it’s pronounced as Male-us. Nic Cage's character represents all men? Not me, he doesn't.
Robin Hardy's 1973 film The Wicker Man is one of my favourite films and so it might see unfair to draw comparisons with it. On the other hand, The Wicker Tree is written and directed by Hardy and described on the back of the blu ray as a re-imagining of the original film, so I'd say it's asking for it.

The film comes across as cooked up from off-cuts from the earlier, vastly superior work - whether in plot terms (devout Christian meets nasty fate at hands of pagans), cast (Christopher Lee is wheeled out for a 90 second flashback in front of a bucolic background of a staggering lack of realism and yet conveys more presence, humour and character in those 90 seconds than are to be found in the remaining 90 minutes of the film) or even costume, given that Graham McTavish appears to be wearing one of Sir Lee's cast off jackets.

The changes made from the original are hackneyed and uninteresting. Edward Woodward's detailed and interesting "Christian copper" is replaced by a pair of off-the-peg evangelical Texan cutouts. She's Beth, an ex-Britney Spears-type singer who regrets her past and he's a cowboy who - actually, all you can say about him is he's a cowboy. A fact rammed home by the number of people who refer to him as "the cowboy" and the fact that he wears a Stetson in bed. He is a man so stupid that even when the entire village advanced menacingly on him while stripping naked and singing about the blood of the lamb, he's still struggling with the idea that he might be in trouble. It comes across as entirely credible that he only starts to suspect once sundry extras start to chow down on his sweetbreads.

Meanwhile, Christopher Lee's politely obstructive Lord of the Manor is replaced by Jacqueline Leonard and Graham McTavish as a couple who might as well wear placards reading "We're sinister, okay?". During an early concert by the two missionaries, McTavish and Leonard stand at the back of the church making ominous comments about "They're perfect" and generally coming across as a pair of second-tier Bond villains planning an evening's wife-swapping before getting back to the day job.

And then there's the comedy Scots butler, first seen bellowing in the broadest accent possible about being "up to my oxters in shite". Add in Lolly, solely characterised as "woman who likes sex" and the village policeman, solely characterised as "man who likes sex and is policeman in a village" and it appears Robin Hardy was not at home to detailed characterisation when writing this. It all rather rams home what we owe to Anthony Shaffer for his script for the original film.

Briefly the film does try to address contemporary matters, as it becomes clear that McTavish is head of the local nuclear power company - a fact made clear when he gives a press conference attended by three extras clutching notebooks in the vain hope of looking like journalists. All of which is followed by infodump heaven in a conversation which can be summed up with:

"As you know, we're all infertile because of the nuclear accident we had ten years ago."

"Yes, we are."

Anyway, as the film progresses with double entendres-a-gogo and reaches a no doubt intended to be thrilling climax with a scantily clad heroine running down the street, pursued by the butler, who's doing a funny walk because she's damaged his knackers, while up at the castle, everyone's stripping off for an orgy, it becomes clear that Hardy's decided the ideal style for a remake is '70's British sex comedy. Confessions in the Missionary Position, perhaps. Or Adventures of a Scots Laird. It's not often that I compare something to the oeuvre of Robin Askwith and find it lacking, but it happened today.

So, with the Unknown Cowboy not only dead, but also lunch, Beth is brought news of his death. "Steve's dead?" she quavers, with the air of someone wondering "How can they tell?", while surprising all of us with the fact that he had a name. She then escapes via a convenient small child who claims to know a secret way out. To say that anyone who remembers the climax of The Wicker Man will have a sense of deja vu here is a slight understatement. Sure enough, the conveniently placed child turns out to be part of the brilliant master plan. To be precise, he's there in case Beth doesn't drink the poisoned milk because the castle cat gets to it first and then breaks the glass in its death throes; after which, she uses the broken glass to slash the butler's knackers and finally lobs the Lord of the Manor onto a sacrifical bonfire, sets light to it and burns him alive. You might think that it'd be less complicated to put the milk in a plastic cup or perhaps have a bucket of water next to the bonfire in case of accidents. On the other hand, it's almost worth it for the scene where the Lady of the Manor comes to breakfast brandishing an awesomely fake cat corpse by its tail and then casually rams it into a waste paper basket, from which its tail protrudes for the rest of the scene.

The fact that this is a highlight of the film speaks for itself, rather.

FOr any gluttons for punishment, here's a link to my review of the 2006 Wicker Man remake. http://magister.dreamwidth.org/16319.html