Monday, 28 August 2017

Happy Birthday Sheridan Le Fanu!


Today is the birthday of Sheridan Le Fanu (28 August 1814 – 7 February 1873), an Irish writer of gothic tales, who MR James himself considered to be the master of the ghost story. As well as penning classic gothic novels such as Uncle Silas and The Wyvern Mystery, Le Fanu also wrote the ground-breaking novella Carmilla (1871) which was a huge influence on Dracula, and was adapted by Hammer as The Vampire Lovers (1970) starring Ingrid Pitt (which in turn would spawned the lesbian vampire subgenre).


In his short chiller Green Tea, he introduced us to Dr. Martin Hesselius, widely regarded as the first occult detective. The good doctor would reappear to explore other cases of the weird and the uncanny in the collection In A Glass Darkly (1872).


Many of his spookier stories were written for Christmas editions of Victorian magazines, making him also an influence on Dickens and the tradition of Yuletide ghosts stories, (with a TV version Schalcken the Painter being considered an unofficial member of the BBC Ghost Story for Christmas pantheon).


Now I was set to mark the anniversary of his birth with a reading of one of his fine ghost stories, however it got put back in the schedule by the sad death of George A Romero, and now will be bumped back a further week due to the loss of Tobe Hooper... However rest assured dear readers and listeners, that very soon you will make the acquaintance of Dickon the Devil...


Saturday, 26 August 2017

HYPNOGORIA 68 - Day of the Triffids Part III


In this third but not final part of our (un)natural history of the triffids, we take a look at how Wyndham's horrible herbiage has fared on the small screen, reviewing the classic BBC six part series produced in 1981 and the 2009 mini series. 


DIRECT DOWNLOAD - HYPNOGORIA 68 - Day of the Triffids Part III 

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Wednesday, 23 August 2017

THE 'ORRIBLE 'OUSE OF TERRIBLE OLD TAT #22 - Monkey Business


Welcome once again ghouls and gals to the 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat! Over the last few visits to this mouldering monument to cheap crap, we've been exploring the world of branded lollies, looking at icy snacks sticks created in the image of some popular property. Now in the early years of the Ice Lolly Wars, such creations were tie-ins to children's heroes on the small screen. But as the end of the '70s approached, bigger properties beckoned!

Now last time we saw how Lyons Maid had revived the branded lolly in the late '70s, and their big rivals Walls were quick to strike back. This other titan of the chilly cabinets countered Lyons Maid's hit Mr Men lollies by snapping up the rights to some other cartoon stars Tom and Jerry giving them a stake in the little kids market. Around the same time, they also launched a lolly called Warlord, which shared a name with a hit boys' weekly comic - Warlord natch - which would enjoy a fifteen year run from 28th September 1974 to 27th September 1989. However I'm not entirely sure if this was a deliberate tie-in officially sanctioned by Warlord's publishers DC Thomson, or just a bit of stealth piggybacking by Walls. However also for the older kids market, they were wheeling out some very big guns indeed.


For at the end of 1976, one of cinema's biggest stars returned to the screen - literally one of the biggest - the legendary King Kong. Now these days the Dino de Laurentiis Kong remake doesn't enjoy an exactly glittering reputation, and the huge hype around the movie has been almost completely forgotten. According to the popular wisdom, it was Star Wars that launched the trend of having hordes of tie-in merch. However as is often the case the so-called popular wisdom is completely wrong. For there were Kong toys, posters, books, lunchboxes and numerous collectible items - a set of Kong Jim Beam glasses anyone? Now in the UK, part of this monkey business was Walls launching a King Kong lolly.

Naturally this was a banana flavour affair with a less easy to rationalise toffee centre and chocolate coating. Having enjoyed these as a nipper, I can confirm they were nicer than they sound. In fact, the lolly proved to be so tasty, it stuck around for a few years after the fuss over the movie died away. However somewhat ironically, the first wave of Kong lollies came with a promotional item that would later be employed for Star Wars - namely buy a lolly and get a cardboard Kong mask! Now this wasn't a send off so many wrappers job, rather when you bought your lolly, you had to ask the shopkeeper for your free mask. Now I don't have any definite proof for this, but if my memory serves (and indeed it does dear reader), you didn't get a mask every time, and that was because they didn't actually provide a mask per lolly in the boxes from Walls.


And how do I know this? Well, it is because I did actually get my mitts on a Kong mask back in the day, and here's what happened. When I bought it, initially the fella manning the chiller cabinet announced there were no masks left. Now I don't remember doing this, but clearly I must have looked hugely disappointed, and so, after a pause, he said "Hang on, I'll open the new box...". And indeed he wandered into the back of the shop, and soon came back out again bearing a big fresh box of Kong lollies. He quickly slit it open, and in the top of the box was a stack of Kong masks - but a very thin stack indeed, quite clearly not nearly enough masks to equally the stacks of lollies. Even at that young age, I guessed that deliberately not having a mask per lolly was a cunning ploy to get repeat sales. Of course, back then, being a kid who now had a Kong mask, I didn't really give a toss.

Being cardboard, needless to say the mask didn't last long. Which is a shame, as given the collectibility of 1976 Kong merch and the fact that there does even seem to be a photo of those Walls masks online anywhere, if I did still have it I could have sold it and retired on the proceeds... Ah well...



Saturday, 19 August 2017

HYPNOGORIA 67 - Day of the Triffids Part II


Continuing our exploration of the (un)natural history of the triffids, in this episode Mr Jim Moon looks at the various radio version produced down the years by the BBC, and then joins Howard Keel to take on John Wyndham's horticultural horrors on the big screen in the 1962 movie version.

DIRECT DOWNLOAD - HYPNOGORIA 67 - Day of the Triffids Part II 
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Wednesday, 16 August 2017

THE 'ORRIBLE 'OUSE OF TERRIBLE OLD TAT #21 - We Can Refreeze Him...


Welcome once again dear fiends to the 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat! Well, it's still summer, or so I am told - to be honest, it's hard to tell with all the rain! However I'll take it on good faith and use it as the flimsiest of excuses to once more bang on about some novelty ice lolly tat! Now where were we in this unofficial history of frozen gimmicks and frosted crap?

Ah yes I remember! We were looking at the practice of not just tieing-in brands to your wares but actually inventing lollies to bear the brand, and last time we were charting the rise and fall of a host of '60s lollies produced in a strange chiller cabinet symbiosis with Gerry Anderson puppets shows. To briefly get you up to speed, in the early 1960s when the ice lolly industry was in its infancy it seemed like a smart gimmick to create frozen snacks that were not just running tie-in promotions but were in themselves a tie-in to a popular brand. However the frost giants Walls and Lyons Maid soon realised that while this sold many a lolly in the short term, what was popular in the playground tended to have a shelf life of only a few years. Hence rather than having to create and market new lines of branded lollies every couple of years to keep on getting a significant slice of the pocket money market, it was better to create lollies not yoked to the shows and characters du jour. Hence the early '70s saw the rise of competing flavours with snappy names and strong images of their own.

However, as is often the case, these kind of  things tend to go in cycles, and by the end of the '70s, branded lollies came once more into vogue. And in the icy palaces of Lyons Maid, it started in a small humble way with a range of fruit flavoured lollies, aimed at the under tens, and branded as frosty incarnations of popular cartoon characters. In 1971, Roger Hargreaves published six little story books with simple but eye-catching illustrations, and thus the Mr Men were born. The books were a huge hit and in 1974, they were were adapted and animated as a TV series narrated by the great Arthur Lowe, propelling the book series to new heights of popularity.


Hence in March 1976, Lyons Maid launched the Mr Men ice lollies. Priced a 4p, these little lollies came in a rather vague sounding "mixed fruits flavour". But they were never designed to sell on their taste, rather the opening gambit was that one of six different Mr Men would be revealed when you opened the wrapper.  OK  not earth-shatteringly exciting but clearly they went down a treat with the playground crowd as the range would endure for several years. And while they retained the less than appealing 'mixed fruit flavour', later incarnations would have different Mr Men on the wrappers and boasted novelty sticks with jokes and wrappers with little activities such as quiz questions on them.

Evidently emboldened by the sales of the Mr Men lollies, Lyons Maid were quick to release two more branded lollies later in 1976. Having got the younger end of the market sewn up by Mr Tickles and his pals, the Sinister Three Dancing Children who ran Lyons Maid launched two more lollies aimed at capturing old kids' pocket money. First was a lolly cashing in on the huge success of The Six Million Dollar Man, and hence in the summer of '76 you could enjoy the Bionic Lolly! This was a lemonade and spearmint flavour affair that mercifully didn't cost six million dollars, and could be yours for a mere 8p. ,


I'm not sure whether it was down to Col. Steve Austin's star burning too bright and too fast, but there doesn't seem to have been much fuss or gimmickry wheeled out the Bionic Lolly. And I always thought that the portrait on the wrapper looked more like the late great Martin Landau than Lee Majors. And that might have had something to do with the fact that around the same time Lyons Maid launched the Space 1999 lolly.

Boasting bold lime, vanilla and strawberry flavours, plus a soft centre, this was clearly a better class of icy snack from the off, and what's more, it was a penny cheaper than its Bionic rival. Furthermore the Space 1999 lolly came with free picture cards to collect! And there was even an exciting TV ad with bespoke cartoon action to plug the next arrival too! 


Clearly old Gerry Anderson had a far better grasp of the tie-in lolly business than Oscar Goldman. He might not have had a TV in his briefcase, but Gerry knew what shifted lollies! And while the cards might have featured some dubious artwork, kids loved 'em. However all of this was just the beginning, for the following year in 1977, something would come out that was to change the face of merchandising forever, something from a galaxy far far away...





Saturday, 12 August 2017

HYPNOGORIA 66 - Day of the Triffids Part I


This week, we are popping out into the gardens of the Great Library of Dreams, to see how our prize triffids are coming along. And along the way we discuss the origins of these infamous plants and the themes of John Wyndham's classic SF novel.

DIRECT DOWNLOAD - HYPNOGORIA 66 - Day of the Triffids Part I
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Sunday, 6 August 2017

MICROGORIA 45 - Landau, Lugosi and Wood


In an(other) unplanned impromptu episode Mr Jim Moon pays tribute the late Martin Landau, discussing Space 1999 and his Oscar winning performance as Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton's Ed Wood (1994). And then we take a quick look at Ed Wood's Bride of the Monster to round things off.  

You can watch Bride of the Monster here 

DIRECT DOWNLOAD -  MICROGORIA 45 - Landau, Lugosi and Wood

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Wednesday, 2 August 2017

THE 'ORRIBLE 'OUSE OF TERRIBLE OLD TAT #20 -


Well dear fiends, welcome back to the 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible of Tat! Now then yesterday was the ancient festival of Lammas, a time of celebrating the harvest, the life of the fields, and kinds of other pagan and folksy rites and rituals. And hence it's the perfect time of the year to remember that time when cornflakes went all Wicker Man on us. Yes, that packet you can see above is an actual real thing, although you would be forgiven for mistaking it for an obscure prog rock LP cover.  But yes, it was a genuine cornflakes box that was once stacked high on the shelves of the British supermarket, Sainsbury's in the mid 70s! 

So how did this most evocative cereal box come into being? Well, back in the early days of Sainsbury's, in the '60s went supermarkets were a new thing, it was decided that it was somewhat wasteful to spend tons of money on advertising and promotions, with the company's ethos being very much that good food should sell itself. And hence for their own brand range of products, they did employ a fancy marketing agency and instead, designed all their own labels in-house. The Our Label range as it was known was supervised and designed by a clever chap called Peter Dixon, who would stay with the supermarket until 1989. The design ethic was simple, but eye-catching colous, as we can see here in this wrapper - 



How despite being minimal, the Our Label did carve out a distinctive look of its own, often with a futuristic minimalist aesthetic. And their packaging canon is now highly hailed as a treasure trove of iconic designs. For example, this design for dried veg would not be out of place on a '60s Penguin paperback or as the cover of a LP of moog music. 


And indeed, the first incarnations of the Sainsbury's cornflakes boxes followed this almost op art approach, giving us cereal packaging that is either a design classic or a load of balls depending on your view. 


Howee it would seem that as the Swinging Sixties metamorphosed into the As Yet Possessing No Agreed Upon Alliterative Adjective Seventies, the Our Label evolved as well. While their designs retained the same broad no-nonsense but eye-catching approach, a more pictorial approach saw the coming of the much celebrated John Barleycorn inspired design for the above cornflakes box. As far as I can tell it was a complete coincidence, but the box does rather recall the promotional imagery for the great grandfather of folk horror The Wicker Man (1973)... 


Likewise, there is more than a passing resemblance with the cover of a celebrated psych-folk LP of the times, Bright Phoebus (1972) by Lal & Mike Waterson too. Perhaps Thunderclap Newton was right, and there was just something in the air...


Anyhow despite all the oft-cracked jokes about breakfast cereals with free human sacrifices, and shouldn't that be Summerisle's Cornflakes, surprising the pagan iconography of this particular box isn't most scary design in the Our Label archive. For while their cornflakes box may owe something to  The Wicker Man, these pet food labels appear to have been inspired by Zoltan Hound of Dracula