Zeppelin vs. Pterodactyls

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An unmade high-concept from Hammer Films’ early Seventies dalliance with pulp adventure, if you must know. Via Boing Boing via Jess Nevins via Airminded where we learn:

The story was along the lines of THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT, with a German Zeppelin being blown off-course during a bombing raid on London and winding up at a “lost continent”-type place.

Rather like the Civil War balloon that’s blown off-course in Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island then, which ends up on Captain Nemo’s volcanic island of giant birds and insects. Of course, the mere fact that a film was never made is no obstacle for YouTube’s army of diligent mash-up artists and you can see Zeppelin v. Pterodactyls re-imagined as a 1936 Republic Serial here. (And on a pedantic professional note, an older font should have been used for the titles since Hermann Zapf didn’t design Palatino until the 1940s.)

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It was another horror company, Amicus Productions, that produced The Land that Time Forgot (1975) (and its ER Burroughs-derived sequels, At the Earth’s Core [1976] and People that Time Forgot [1977]) so this Hammer concept may have been an attempt to follow Amicus’s lead and exploit the momentary flush of enthusiasm for ERB and co. Or perhaps they thought that Zeppelin movies were the next big thing after Michael York’s First World War adventure, Zeppelin, in 1971. No one in Hollywood these days would dare finance a film with a title like this. The same dumbing-down imperative that gave us Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone (because Americans can’t be trusted to know what the Philosopher’s Stone is) would no doubt want “pterodactyls” replaced by “dinosaurs” or the wording of the whole thing reduced to ZvP.

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U-boat vs. dinosaurs! Illustration by Frank R Paul for a 1927 reprint of The Land that Time Forgot.

The Land that Time Forgot was scripted by Michael Moorcock and New Worlds‘ (and Savoy Books) illustrator James Cawthorn. The pair did a decent job with the story although the film as a whole is let-down by silly monster effects, the pterodactyl (or is it a pteranodon?) in this instance being a lifeless thing swinging from a crane. Moorcock and Cawthorn worked together on Tarzan Adventures which Moorcock was editing as a teenager so they appreciated the material at least. This wasn’t the only connection New Worlds had with pulp cinema, more surprisingly JG Ballard had provided a story for Hammer in 1970 with When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth. Hammer missed an opportunity in not hiring Moorcock for something seeing as he’d just written one of the first retro-dirigible (and pre-Steampunk) novels, The Warlord of the Air, in 1971. UK film producers had some of the best writers in the world under their noses yet could only offer them trash to work on. No wonder the British film industry went down the tubes in the Seventies after the American funding dried up.

My favourite pulp adaptation from Hammer is The Lost Continent based on Uncharted Seas by Dennis Wheatley. A typical Hammer product in the way the story is frequently preposterous yet the whole thing is made with the utmost seriousness. Amazon summarises the plot, such as it is:

This film starts out like The Love Boat on acid, as a cast of unpleasant characters, all with horrible secrets, take a chartered cargo ship to escape their troubles. Unfortunately, the leaky ship is carrying an explosive that can be set off by sea water and it sinks, stranding many characters in a Sargasso Sea populated by man-eating seaweed, giant monster crabs and turtles, and some Spanish conquistadors who think the Inquisition is still on.

Eric Porter is the ship’s captain, a very good actor who was superbly sinister and convincing as Professor Moriarty in Granada TV’s Sherlock Holmes adaptations. The Lost Continent was Wheatley’s shameless plundering of William Hope Hodgson’s Sargasso Sea tales, the book being originally written in 1938 when Hodgson was less well-known than he is today. Until the Pirates of the Caribbean films this was about the closest thing on screen to Hodgson’s world of drifting weed, lost galleons and man-eating monsters, so there you have its cult value. Just be ready with the fast forward button if you try and watch it.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Moorcock on Ballard
Coming soon: Sea Monsters and Cannibals!
Revenant volumes: Bob Haberfield, New Worlds and others
Druillet meets Hodgson
Davy Jones
The Absolute Elsewhere

The Adventures of Little Lou

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People ask me now and then what I prefer working on the most, and the answer is always the same—book design. The Adventures of Little Lou, a short novel by Lucy Swan for Savoy Books turned up today from the printers and it’s a good example of why I find this kind of work so enjoyable. For a start, the printers, Anthony Rowe Ltd, always do an excellent job. One of the things which makes CD design aggravating at times is the lack of care from pressing plants when it comes to print quality. But most of all there’s the pleasure of being able to make a book a beautiful object in its own right.

For this title we used gold blocking on the pages again and endpapers patterned with a red marbling design. The gold and red complements the dust jacket, and the scarlet swirls correspond to a number of motifs in the book, from the delirium of the characters’ drug states to the quantities of blood spilled as the story progresses. Lucy’s book riffs on David Britton’s Lord Horror and Meng and Ecker characters in much the same way that some of the New Worlds‘ writers of the late Sixties riffed on Michael Moorcock‘s Jerry Cornelius character, taking prior creations as a starting point for something new. This won’t appeal to a general readership; it’s vicious, offensive, scatalogical, wonderfully imaginative, downright nasty in places, and frequently very funny. But that’s okay, it’s a Savoy book, not another clunker from Jonathan Cape.

New things for March

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The Mindscape of Alan Moore, Shadowsnake Films (2007).

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The Adventures of Little Lou, Savoy Books (2007).

Two very different works approaching fruition this month. The Alan Moore DVD I’ve been working on since November but the release date is finally approaching so I’ve added the artwork to the relevant pages on this site.

The Adventures of Little Lou is a work of transgressive fiction by Lucy Swan forthcoming from Savoy Books. I’m currently finishing the interior design and the book should be published later this year. This is the front cover layout; more to follow.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Of Moons and Serpents
Watchmen
Alan Moore interview, 1988

Angels 4: Fallen angels

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The Treasures of Satan by Jean Delville (1894).

Some more favourite paintings today. Jean Delville produced a splendidly strange portrayal of Satan as an undersea monarch lording it over a sprawl of intoxicated, naked figures. When Savoy Books decided to put together the definitive version of David Lindsay’s equally strange fantasy novel, A Voyage to Arcturus, I felt this was the only painting adequate to the task of filling out the cover. That was in 2002; a year later Gollancz used the same painting on the cover of their Fantasy Masterworks paperback edition of the book. Lindsay’s book has been plagued by bad cover art for years so we managed to raise the bar for future editions. Delville was one of the great painters of the Symbolist school, all his work is worth looking at.

There are numerous representations of Lucifer but Franz Stuck’s is especially striking and apparently caused viewers to cross themselves before it when it was first exhibited.

Gustave Doré’s tumbling figure is from his illustrated edition of Paradise Lost, a book full of armour-clad, spiky-winged angels. Some of those wings have even found their way into my work via the miracle of Photoshop.

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Lucifer by Franz Stuck (1890).

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Paradise Lost by Gustave Doré (1866).

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The etching and engraving archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
The art of Thomas Häfner, 1928–1985

The Final Academy

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The event booklet, designed by Neville Brody.

William Burroughs’ reading in the city of Manchester took place on the 4th of October, 1982, at Factory Records’ Haçienda club, as part of the Manchester “edition” of The Final Academy, a Burroughs-themed art event put together by Psychic TV (Genesis P Orridge & Peter Christopherson) and others. A recent posting on the Grey Lodge is a torrent of The Final Academy Documents, the shoddily-produced DVD made from the low-grade video recordings that captured the event (originally an Ikon Video production from Factory). The DVD is so badly presented by Cherry Red that no one should feel guilty about downloading this.

I’ve always been grateful that a record was made of this event, however poor, since I was in the audience that evening, very conscious of the fact that this was my one and only opportunity to see Burroughs in the flesh. His appearance was the magical part of a scaled-down version of the larger two-day Final Academy that had taken place earlier that week in London. The rest of the event was either strange or underwhelming, not helped by the chilly and elitist atmosphere of Manchester’s newest and most famous club. In the days before “Madchester” and the rave scene (the period that gets excised from the city’s cultural history), the Haçienda was a cold, grey concrete barn with terrible acoustics and a members-only policy that required the flourishing of a Peter Saville-designed card at the door. The place was usually half-empty and the clientèle tended to be students living nearby.

Continue reading “The Final Academy”