The great retro web site Starlet Showcase is a tribute to the cinema's loveliest sirens. In one section, there are some nice shots of Claudine Auger as she appeared in the 1965 James Bond epic Thunderball, memorably playing the role of Domino. Love that see through outfit she posed in for publicity photos for the film. A pity the costume designer couldn't work out a logical way for her to wear it onscreen. Click here to visit the site
That's Cinema Retro London correspondent Adrian Smith (center) with the crazy lads who comprise The League of Gentlemen.
Ten years ago a
show appeared on British TV that was so strange, so grotesque, so dark, yet so
utterly hilarious that it quickly developed a cult following and a number of
popular catchphrases. It ran to three series and eventually a feature film.
This was the League of Gentlemen, a weird combination of sketch show and sitcom
which clearly took inspiration from old horror movies, detective dramas, sexploitation
comedies, to name but a few. I took the opportunity to pin down the gents in
order to unravel just what their influences were. The conversation immediately
turns to Take an Easy Ride, described
by Mark as almost being a snuff film. This leads to my first question:
snuff films been an influence on you?
Just that one!
Is it available
No, its illegal. You risk prosecution! (Although a quick search later uncovers
copies available on Ebay and YouTube)
It purports to be an information film. It’s really a rape exploitation film. It
starts like ‘Charley Says’ then it
just gets ridiculous! It’s horrible.
You realise you are getting old when you talk about these things. I was doing
some work with We Are Klang (UK comedy outfit) and they started talking about ‘Two girls, 1 cup’ and I genuinely hadn’t
heard of it! Imagine that!
Neither have I! A
couple of years ago most of you did a commentary for Blood on Satan’s Claw. How did they know you were fans?
I think we’d mentioned it in one of our commentaries.
We tried to get the claw in a toybox for Daisy Haggard (in their new TV show Psychoville). Her Dad Piers Haggard directed
Someone sent me a copy of The Frozen Dead.
It only worked once, it was such a bad copy. You know that one with the frozen
Nazis? It virtually doesn’t exist. It was a huge thing. In the horror film
books of the seventies there were these huge colour plates from this film no
one ever saw. It was terrible.
Someone gave me on video a copy of It!,
which was also in those books.
With the golem??
That’s just come
out on DVD now with The Shuttered Room.
I don’t know if you’ve seen that, but it’s terrible. It’s got Oliver Reed in
I always think of Beast in the Cellar.
It’s a similar
thing except it’s in an attic.
Dame Aileen Atkins told me she was in an Exorcist
rip-off I said “I Don’t Want to be Born?”
She said “You’ve seen it’? “ Of course I have!” Joan Collins raped by a dwarf?
Brilliant! She couldn’t believe I’d seen it.
Aileen Atkins. That’s how she got the part in Cranford.
That’s how she got a Dame-hood.
I love that film,
especially where the baby pushes the nanny into the lake.
It’s a horrible thing, that creature.
You had the devil’s child in Crooked
House (recent portmanteau horror film screened on UK TV over Christmas,
written by and starring Mark Gatiss) didn’t you?
Yes, The Devil’s Hand.
You often included
references in your shows to old films, such as the episode Royston Vasey and the Monster from Hell (a reference to Hammer
horror Frankenstein and the Monster From
Hell). Was it to see if people would notice, or to make each other laugh?
We just needed to think of a title.
Do you remember? We actually watched that Frankenstein film, and from that we
thought we should do something with torches. So we said ‘let’s burn the shop
down’. So that storyline came from the film directly.
It’s a good title though isn’t it?
Oh it’s brilliant. It
shouldn’t work but it does! You’ve also worked with people like Freddie Jones
(in the Christmas Special) who of course once played Frankenstein’s monster.
We remembered him more from Children of
And Elephant Man.
We’ve always had that kind of affinity with those films, and getting to work
with various people over the years is sort of like repaying a debt.
David Warner for example. On the film (The
League of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse), I couldn’t believe every day there was
David Warner from every film I loved growing up.
One of the strange lessons of that is that he has no affinity with fantasy. You
would think that as a viewer he must love those films. But he just did those
films because that’s what people asked him to do. He’s become a complete genre
There was such a
dearth of filmmaking in the seventies that a lot of actors had to do whatever
they could to get by.
Except the films were better then!
I was talking to someone the other day, who said that one day he’s going to
corner George Baker and talk about a scene in a grim sexploitation film where
he goes through his collection of vibrators. A long way from Wexford! It’s like when you see people
like John Pertwee turning up in Val Guest rude sex comedies.
Like Au Pair Girls.
Those semi-porn films always had amazing casts.
Speaking of which I
noticed you’ve got Christopher Biggins in Psychoville?
We do, yes.
One of my favourite
films of his was Eskimo Nell.
I’ve not seen that one.
That’s one of those mucky films.
It’s a classic!
It’s a really clever film. It’s not just about sex, honest! It’s about a guy
trying to make a film, and it ends up being a porn film by mistake.
Biggins is in it, he’s brilliant!
Was he cast in Psychoville because of I:Claudius?
Porridge? Or chiefly Watch This Space?
We tried to fill it with references to Watch
When is Psychoville
going to be on?
We don’t know. It’s still being edited.
You’re pleased with
We’re just coming to the end of editing episode 5 which is looking very good.
Do you think people
will see it as a sequel to The League of Gentlemen?
I think it’s inevitable. We had a marketing meeting today. They wanted to say
‘From the team who brought you The League
of Gentlemen and we said ‘well not quite’.
Half! But aren’t
people always going to put you all together?
We’re very proud of it!
We owe everything to it. It would be churlish not to.
Inevitably people are going to want to have a peg to hang us on.
Presumably you took
you name from the film ‘The League of Gentlemen’?
A favourite or just
a good name?
I think I’d seen it quite recently and it was just a good name.
It is a great film. Very seedy.
Can I ask you about
Sherlock? (It has recently been announced that Mark Gatiss is currently working
on a new series of Sherlock Holmes TV dramas for the BBC.)
Is this going to be
in competition with Guy Ritchie?
It’s a coincidence. It always happens. There are always three Robin Hood films
coming out at the same time. The character is still here because he’s been the
most filmed character in all of fiction. There’ll be several more by next year!
There’s no fight involved. Unless Harry Hill does it! This Holmes will be in
the style of the 1940s Sherlock films where he fights the Nazis. We’ve tried to
bring Holmes into the present day.