Christmas is a time for ghost stories. The long, dark, cold nights at this time of year lend themselves well to spooky tales, and today’s film clip is no exception. We’ve looked at the most famous Christmas ghost story of all on several previous occasions, but this is a very different kind of folktale to that of Scrooge and his phantom visitors.
The gothic tale of The Mistletoe Bough dates back to at least the 18th century and was traditionally told at Christmas time. It tells the story of a young couple, recently married, who decide to play a game of hide and seek during their wedding celebrations. During the fun and games, the bride mysteriously disappears. Years later, the husband encounters her ghost, and finds out exactly what happened to her on their wedding night…
The short version of the film above is a recent restoration by the BFI, and features a score by Pete Wiggs of St Etienne. Orginally directed in 1904 by Percy Stow, it is fascinating to see a film made more than a hundred years ago so clearly, and it shows how creative these early film-makers were – particularly with the ghostly special effects – while using very basic technology.
For more seasonal posts on Another Kind Of Mind, see here.
Another quirky vintage Christmas treat from the BFI National Archive. This little film was shown in British cinemas over the festive season of 1946. Watch out for the striking sequence where the toys under the Christmas tree come alive…
Merry Christmas to all of you, and I hope you’ve had a wonderful day – wherever you’ve been and whoever you’ve been with.
For more seasonal posts on Another Kind Of Mind, see here.
Today’s vintage film clip is from British Pathé, and is a fascinating glimpse into the world of football fifty years ago. With England playing Iceland in the Euro ’16 round of sixteen tonight, I thought it might be fun to have a look at some real English footballing success from the past. So we’re heading back five decades to the year England won their one and only World Cup.
We start with a brief look at how the World Cup footballs were skilfully made (mostly by hand, in Yorkshire) and continue with some great colour footage of the final itself, then some newsreel footage of the players being feted afterwards. And, of course, we get a glimpse of the legendary Pickles the dog, who found the World Cup in a hedge after it had been stolen a few months before the competition started.
I grew up on stories of ’66 from football-mad relatives who were actually there – they were at every single England game of that World Cup, including the final. They saw it all from the first match to Bobby Moore lifting the Jules Rimet trophy (and that Geoff Hurst goal? Didn’t go in). In this lifetime, I’d love to see England lift another trophy and match the achievement of that legendary team under Sir Alf Ramsay. I’d love for the magic of ’66 to live again, just a little bit…
Today is the opening day of the football European Championships in France and I’m quite excited. Indeed, I’ve got my fixtures wallchart ready and am planning my match predictions as we speak. One reason I’m quite excited by all this is that my team, the mighty Spurs, have sent a whole eleven (count ’em!) players to Euro ’16 – including five who are in the England squad – which, after the highly dramatic season we just had, is absolutely as it should be!
While I was looking for something football-related to mark the occasion, I came across this fantastic silent newsreel footage of the 1924 Spurs team in training and I just had to post it here (for obvious reasons…). Even from this brief clip, it’s fascinating to see how much is familiar to the 21st century football fan, as well as how much the game has changed since the 1920s – just look at those shorts and that heavy ball in comparison to the hi-tech kit worn and used by modern players, for a start. I honestly can’t see the likes of Wayne Rooney in get up like that…
Watch out for more vintage football-related posts coming soon.
Here’s something short and sweet to begin this new series of vintage film treats from the BFI National Archive. Regular readers will be aware that I have a fondness for river creatures (you can see my most recent encounter with such wildlife here), so when I came across this hundred year old snippet of film I just couldn’t resist.
The antics of this very cheeky little otter were filmed around about a century ago by Charles Urban, an American-born film-maker and producer. Despite being born on the other side of the Atlantic, Urban had an important influence on early British cinema generally – including producing some early examples of wildlife films, a genre which remains highly popular on British TV. We are still fascinated by otters too, although it is not often that we see one in the kind of environment that Urban found here!
Personally, I think Christmas isn’t Christmas without at least one version of A Christmas Carol being on TV over the festive season (my favourite is actually the Muppets’ take on the story: it’s great fun, and remarkably faithful to the original source material, believe it or not) – and, most importantly, I re-read the book every year. However, I’ve also recently become intrigued by the many early film versions of this classic tale, particularly those made during the silent era of British cinema. And it is there that we are heading today, via the BFI National Archive.
Last year, I posted a fascinating film clip of the 1901 version, which is possibly the earliest cinema adaptation of Charles Dickens’s festive fable of redemption known to exist. This Christmas Eve, however, we’re moving forward in time by thirteen years, with a short extract from the 1914 version. Released during the first Christmas season of World War One, which, with hindsight, adds a stark layer of poignancy to the Victorian sentimentality of the story, this film is regarded as being among the best Dickens adaptations of the period.
For many people, Christmas is about family and friends and home and comfort. But it’s not always like that for some, and a surprising number of folk also have to work over the festive season. This is by no means a modern 21st century phenomenon, as this unusual and rather cheering 1922 Topical Budget newsreel clip from the BFI National Archive shows.
Stuck out in the North Sea for Christmas, the crew of the Lynn Well lightship are still determined to celebrate, and are delighted when a chaplain from the Seamens’ Mission arrives with the makings of a festive feast. We see the men preparing their well-earned Christmas dinner, observing a religious service, and then having some fun with music and dancing on deck. But the lightship’s lamp must still be trimmed to keep shipping in the area safe, just as it would be on any other day of the year…
Lightships (more commonly known now as lightvessels – a term which will be familiar to anyone who, like me, is a devotee of the Shipping Forecast on BBC Radio 4) are basically floating lighthouses which, in some cases, also function as weather stations. Modern lightships in British waters have all been unmanned and automated since 1989.
You can also find more BFI festive goodies (and numerous other seasonal posts) on Another Kind Of Mind here.
I don’t know what I want to say to people. I get ideas and I want to put them on film because they thrill me. You may say that people look for meaning in everything, but they don’t. They’ve got life going on around them, but they don’t look for meaning there. They look for meaning when they go to a movie. I don’t know why people expect art to make sense when they accept the fact that life doesn’t make sense – David Lynch
With the prospect of a new set of Twin Peaks episodes in the next couple of years and all the surrealistic magic and mystery that will inevitably entail (I, for one, cannot wait), David Lynch has been in and out of the news in 2015 at quite a rate of knots. However, the quote above is from an interview Lynch gave to the Los Angeles Times in 1989, round about the period when he was making Wild At Heart. And it contains an almost illogical logic that arguably still applies twenty-six years later.
A well-known proponent of making art that may or may not make sense (depending on how you look at it), Lynch is quite right in his comments in my view. Why should we expect a film or a novel to have a coherent structure, a beginning, middle and end that hang together in a sensible way when life is not like that at all? Obviously, life has a definite beginning and a definite end, but what goes on in between is mostly unpredictable and usually unstructured – and down to us to make sense of, or not, as the case may be.
We know life has no real structure, which is, I think, at least partly why we so often expect art to, particularly when we’re dealing with a novel or a film or a TV series. It’s comforting to think that the lives of fictional characters are in some way predictable, even if our own lives aren’t. But one of the main purposes of art is to be provocative, to unsettle, to produce an element of disquiet, and – most importantly – to make the audience think. And those are all things I would immediately associate with Lynch’s work. It’s that artistic unpredictability that forces us to think, forces us to confront the fact that we have to make sense of our lives where we can find it – and reminds us that, in this existence, almost anything can happen.
And it usually does.
I knew you wouldn’t let me down! Just as it was with the music books, I’ve been sent so many suggestions of must-watch music documentaries that I’ve had to compile a separate list. And there’s some fantastic stuff here – almost every musical genre you can think of is represented on your list; pretty much something for everyone, whatever your tastes run to.
Again, we’d be here all night if I were to list everyone who contributed to the list (there were a lot of you…). You all know who you are – a big thank you to everybody involved, on and offline! If, after perusing these selections, you still think there’s something missing, have a look at my original list of documentaries first. If it’s not there, then please feel free to leave a comment or tweet me, and I’ll add it to this list.
As before, the list is arranged in alphabetical order by title, followed by the director’s name (if known – I have been unable to track down the director details for some of the BBC productions), the year of the film’s release, and any other necessary information. Some of these are straight-up documentaries, others are tour or concert-type films with a documentary aspect. One or two have a fictional and/or comedy element – this list does indeed go up to eleven… Most (but not all) of these films are available on DVD or can be downloaded/streamed online, and quite a few of them are also on YouTube.
I’ve recently been watching Beware of Mr Baker, Jay Bulger’s fascinating warts-and-all documentary about the legendary drummer Ginger Baker, and it got me thinking again about an idea I had when we last updated the music books lists* – how about a similar list of recommended music documentaries? Contemplating the music films I’ve seen over the years and rummaging through my own DVD collection, I found more than enough to start a decent list of the films I’d recommend, which you’ll find below. However, I bet you’ve got loads of other suggestions for me and I’d love to hear them! You know what to do – tweet me or comment here, and we’ll see if we can compile the ultimate music documentary list…
The list is arranged in alphabetical order by title, followed by the director’s name and the year of the film’s release. Some of these are straight-up documentaries, others are tour or concert-type films with a documentary element. I’ve included one radio documentary, but I suspect there are plenty more of those too. Most of these films are available on DVD, and quite a few of them are also on YouTube. If you want any more information on any of the films on the list or why I chose them, just ask!