Category Archives: LBoM: Editorials

We all Go A Little Mad Sometimes: Psycho At 60

One of my all time favorite films turns sixty years old today. Psycho is a masterwork of cinematic genius, and I aim to celebrate it’s birthday with a handful of articles. One will look at the Psycho franchise as a whole, one will examine the film’s trailer and this one, will take a look at some of the behind the scenes stories of this classic Hitchcock flick.

Back in 1959, writer Robert Bloch penned one of the greatest thrillers ever written, Psycho. Okay, so the book wasn’t a huge hit at first, but it soon became one after some fella called Alfred made a movie based on the book, and that film went on to be one of the most loved pictures ever. A masterclass of suspense and ground breaking film-making.  But before I do look at how the film was made, I just want to take a quick glance at Robert Bloch’s novel.

The Book

As I write this, I’ve recently finished re-reading Psycho and it’s sequel (more on those in my other article). The book isn’t a long one, you could easily make your way through it in one sitting. Plus if you know the film, there’s hardly any surprises outside of some slightly different narrative ideas and a character name change. The ending is the same and the plots of both book and film are virtually identical.

Psycho Book

A quick synopsis for and those not in the know. Psycho tells the story of motel owner, Norman Bates and his taut, strained relationship with his overbearing and controlling mother, Norma. When young and beautiful woman, Mary Crane stops off for the night in Bates Motel, Norman becomes fascinated by the female… to the ire of Norma. While Mary hides a few secrets of her own, they’re nothing compared to Norman’s. Mary’s stay at Bates Motel kick-starts a series of events that slowly reveals Norman and Norma’s checkered history as Norman’s darkest secrets are brought to light.

I really do enjoy reading Psycho. As I said, it’s a quick read and a very enjoyable one too. But there is a misconception I quickly want to cover. It has been said that Psycho is based on the real life crimes of the infamous Ed Gein. It’s one if those long running tales attached to both the book and film… but it’s not strictly true. See, Robert Bloch didn’t even know of the whole Ed Gein case while he was writing his book. You have to remember that were talking about the mid-late 50s and communication back then wasn’t like today. There certainly wasn’t the internet to spread news in an instant, there was radio and TV of course, but even then, news reports were nothing like today and didn’t really make it out of their own towns, cites and countries, unless it was a major worldwide event. Unless something had happened in the town you were living in, then you didn’t really hear about it until much later, if at all. Bloch lived around forty miles away from where Gein had committed his crimes and was eventually arrested in 1957, by which time, Bloch had already pretty much finished writing his book. It wasn’t until he had finally finished writing Psycho when he heard about the Gein case for the first time.

So where does this rumor that Psycho was based on Ed Gein come from? Well from Robert Bloch himself, though not intentionally. See, after Bloch had finished his book and learned about Gein, he then threw in a very quick reference to the whole affair at the end of Psycho.

GEIN SNIPPET

That’s it, that’s the only mention or reference to Ed Gein in the entire book. So people assumed the whole book was based on the Gein case, when the truth is that Psycho had already been written by the time Robert Bloch heard about Gein’s crimes.

And now that’s out of the way, I can now yak on about how one of my favourite films, Psycho was made. Before I do crack on, I’m going to offer one of my usual SPOILER warnings right here. Yes, I know the film is sixty years old now and pretty much anyone who has seen a movie ever knows the ending to Psycho. But I’m a firm believer that a SPOILER is still a SPOILER no matter how old or famous.

The Movie

So anyway, Robert Bloch’s novel wasn’t a huge success at all, not at first anyway. It sold okay and was seen as a quick, disposable, pulp fiction read that people would forget about not long after reading it… and it was just that for the most part. However, Peggy Robertson, assistant to famed and respected TV & film director, Alfred Hitchcock, read a positive review of the book and suggested that Hitch should read Psycho himself, he did and loved it, so much so that he secured the film rights to the book soon after. I mean, the book was first published in April of 1959 and Hitchcock began shooting the film in November of the same year. That’s how fast the turn-around was on this thing. Hitchcock even asked Robertson to buy up all or as many copies of the book as she could find so people wouldn’t have the ending of his film spoiled for them.

Taking his pitch for the movie to Paramount Pictures, Hitchcock was soon shot down. He’d had a bit of a bad run the last couple of years and despite his past successes, Paramount didn’t have faith that Hitchcock could produce a hit film, he’d recently lost the studio a fair bit of cash over two aborted films, Flamingo Feather and No Bail for the Judge. Plus there was the fact that he was sixty years old in 1959 when he wanted to make the film. It’s kind if hard to think about it now, but when he was trying to make Psycho, Hitchcock was thought of as a has-been, past his prime as many industry insiders believed. Yet, Alfred Hitchcock was so sure he could make a great film from this pulp fiction novel that he offered Paramount a deal they really couldn’t refuse. He waived his usual $250,000 director’s fee, which was a huge sum back in 1959, around $2.2 million by 2020. Not only that, he said he would fund the film shoot himself and asked that Paramount only distribute the picture when finished. From a money point of view, Paramount had nothing to lose.

Hitch Pic

Obviously, not being paid $250,000 to direct and having to fund the production himself left Hitchcock with a major issue, money. Making films wasn’t cheap, there’s the pay for all the cast and crew, writers, equipment, music, catering, locations, sets to build and everything else. The budget for Psycho was said to be around $807,000 ($7.1 million in 2020), which was a huge chunk of cash in 1959, especially when Hitch himself wasn’t even being paid. Hitchcock put up his house as collateral to help raise money for the flick. He was putting a hell of a lot on the line, his career as a director was already a bit shaky and now his very home was at risk too. If Psycho as a film flopped, his career was certainly over and Alfred Hitchcock, along with his wife, Alma, would be homeless. It was a completely mad deal to make, but we all go a little mad sometimes.

To keep costs low, Hitchcock used his cheaper TV crew instead of a film crew and chose to shoot the film in black & white, all of which were lower cost options over how other films were being made back then. So he had the production under control, but there was another problem. The sound stages at Paramount Pictures were fully booked with other films being made, he may have had a plan to get the movie made cheaper than usual, but Hitchcock had nowhere to actually film it. That’s when Universal Pictures stepped in and offered their sound stages for the production. Ever wonder why a film distributed by Paramount had an attraction at the rival Universal Studios theme park? Now you know.

So (almost) everything was set. Hitchcock had his crew, he had a studio to film in but he was still missing some pretty big pieces. He didn’t have any actors signed on for the roles and nor did he have a script, just the Robert Bloch book. As the man himself once said…

“To make a great film you need three things. The script, the script and the script.”

– Alfred Hitchcock

First things first, Hitchcock needed a screenplay to show to potential actors to fill the roles. Sticking to his idea of using his TV show crew, Hitchcock gave the job to James P. Cavanagh, who was a writer on the Alfred Hitchcock Presents show. All told, the screenplay was terrible, Hitchcock felt it didn’t read like a movie but more like an episode of his show. It lacked the depth of character he was looking for and had none of the slow burn of tension and suspense he craved. Cavanagh’s screenplay was too short, to shallow, too TV episode-like… well he was a TV show writer after all. Enter Joseph Stefano, a young man with only one movie script under his belt at the time, the perfect writer for Hitchcock. Stefano may have lacked movie screenplay writing experience, but he had a little, plus the fact he was young and inexperienced meant he was cheap. Given the finance situation of the whole film, Hitchcock had to be frugal.

Anthony Perkins

Joseph Stefano’s adaption of Bloch’s novel was exactly what Hitchcock was looking for. Faithful to the source material, but still bringing new ideas to the table. Both Hitchcock and Stefano worked on tidying up the screenplay, adapting it to fit more with Alfred Hitchcock’s vision. First was changing Norman. In the book, Norman is a middle-aged, over-weight drunken pervert that you feel very little sympathy for. Hitchcock already had an actor in mind to play that part, Anthony Perkins, who was far removed from Norman of the book. Young, good looking, charming and erudite, everything Robert Bloch’s Norman Bates wasn’t. So gone were Norman’s more disgusting traits to be replaced with Perkins’ boyish good looks and charm. The opening was to change too. The book begins by introducing the reader to Norman and his mother, Norma from page one. Hitchcock thought it would be better to leave the introduction of Norman until much later in the picture and until after his leading lady had been introduced.

Plus there was the fact that Hitchcock also wanted Marion (Mary in the book) Crane’s back story to be expanded too. In the book, Mary’s story only really takes up two of the book’s seventeen chapters. In the film though, Marion is ‘seemingly’ the main focus… for good reason too. Hitchcock knew he had a film with a great twist ending, but he wanted to pull the rug from under the viewer before that ending, as to give them a double surprise. He and Joseph Stefano worked on the idea of making Marion the star of the film, put the focus in her and her backstory, then when the now infamous shower scene happened, the audience would be shocked that they just killed off the leading lady. The focus of the film could then turn fully onto Norman, who up to this point in the film, was pretty much a secondary character. It was one of the biggest shocks in cinema history and to help pull off the shock, Hitchcock needed a big name.

See, Psycho’s cast are or were relatively unknown at the time. Even Norman Bates himself, Anthony Perkins, wasn’t exactly a big movie star then, yeah he’d been in a few films but he was known more for his stage work. But Janet Leigh was huge. By the time filming on Psycho began in November, 1959, Leigh had already appeared in over thirty films. And it wasn’t just the acting that made her famous back then, she was also very well known for her marriage to big screen superstar actor, Tony Curtis too, they were Hollywood royalty. Leigh could’ve easily been counted among other big name female movie stars back then. With her name and face on the movie posters, it was a surefire way to make people believe they were going to see a Janet Leigh film… and how they were shocked at around forty-six minutes into the film when the leading lady decided to take a shower and was brutally killed off with a kitchen knife. It’s one of the greatest surprises in cinematic history.

Janet and Tony

So Hitchcock had his two main characters cast, filling out other roles were Vera Miles as Lila Crane, Marion’s sister. John Gavin as Sam Loomis, Marion’s lover and Martin Balsam as the private investigator, Milton Arbogast. The core cast where now in place as other minor roles were also filled out. But there was one bit of casting that Alfred Hitchcock had a lot of fun with, Norma Bates, Norman’s mother. Now I know what you are thinking as you read this… but yes, Hitchcock wanted to cast someone in the role of mother… kind of. This of course was what Hitch was great at, leading people down the garden path. Hitchcock put word out in the industry that he was on the look out for an older woman to play Norma Bates. He even mentioned two actresses by name for the role, Judith Anderson and Helen Hayes. But it was all a ruse to keep people unaware of the film’s finale. Alfred Hitchcock even had a cast chair made up for Mrs Bates with that name printed on the back too, he then had all the cast have their picture taken in that chair for publicity shots… all the cast except for Anthony Perkins.

Hitch Mrs Bates

So everything was now in place and shooting for Psycho began on the 11th of November, 1959 at Universal Studios, California… well most of it was, a few establishing/location shots aside. The house and motel from the film still stand on the back-lot tour at Universal Studios, California too.

The shoot was a relativity easy one with very few issues. Beginning on the 11th of  November, 1959, and finishing on the 1st of February, 1960, so it was a pretty short shoot really. All through filming, Hitchcock would place various mother corpse props hidden around the set for the cast to find, just to test how scared they were and how loud they screamed.

Perhaps the most famous scene in the film was the pivotal shower one. As simple as it looked, it was one of the hardest in the film to shoot. All in all, that one scene lasts a little over three minutes from start to end, yet it contains a total of seventy-seven different camera angles, over fifty separate cuts and took a whole week to film… for one three minute scene. It’s the fast edits and the multiple camera angles that gives the scene it’s sense of madness and frantic pace as the knife stabs and slashes. Plus the fact Hitch chose to shoot with fifty millimetre lenses on thirty-five millimetre cameras gave the scene and overall film a specific feel, similar to that of human vision. This meant the audience felt closer to the action and characters, especially when someone is being brutally stabbed in the shower, that helped to make the audience feel uneasy.

Shower Scene Stroyboard

There has been some debate over just who was in the shower for the stabbing itself. Janet Leigh had always said she was the girl in the shower for the whole scene, she stated a s much the book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho. But the book The Girl in Alfred Hitchcock’s Shower contradicts this by stating that a body double was used named Marli Renfro, who was actually in the shower for all the body shots that didn’t involve Leigh’s face. This is a claim back up by Hitchcock himself too. But then, Rita Riggs who was in charge of wardrobe on the film has said that it was Leigh in the shower the whole time. There seems to be a lot of confusion over just who was in the shower to be honest… not that it really matters as the scene is perfection on film regardless of whoever was playing the role at the time.

There there is another matter worth looking at. It has been said that in order to get Janet Leigh to scream just right, Hitch insisted on using ice-cold water for the scene. Bearing in mind that the whole shower scene was shot over a week in late December too, it would’ve been chilly (for California anyway) already. But Leigh has shot this down herself. According to her, Hitchcock used hot water to keep her as comfortable as possible and that everyone there for the shoot were extremely professional and helpful to her needs. Do I really need to bring up the fact that Hitchcock used chocolate sauce for the blood in this scene? Surely that’s a tit-bit famous enough already?

Then there is one of the biggest myths of the most famous scene to look at too. According to Saul Bass, who designed the opening credits to Psycho and other Hitchcock films, and also drew up the storyboards for many of Hitch’s movies. According to him, he directed the shower scene and not Hitchcock. It’s one of those movie rumors that’s been going on for years. Yet despite Bass’ claims, he seems to be outnumbered by everyone else on the film.

“Absolutely not! I have emphatically said this in any interview I’ve ever given. I’ve said it to his face in front of other people. I was in that shower for seven days, and believe me, Alfred Hitchcock was right next to his camera for every one of those seventy-odd shots.”

– Janet Leigh

“There is not a shot in that movie that I didn’t roll the camera for. And I can tell you I never rolled the camera for Mr. Bass.”

– Hilton A. Green (assistant director)

Then anyone who knows anything about Hitchcock and his methods, his perfectionism. Anyone would tell you that there would be no way that he would let anyone direct one of his scenes, especially one so important to the plot of the film and it’s impact, it’s reason for existing, it’s surprise factor. Basically, it seems that Saul Bass was talking utter shit.

Then of course, one can’t talk about Psycho’s shower scene and not mention ‘that’ music from legendary composer, Bernard Herrmann. I think perhaps what’s the most interesting thing about the now iconic music is the fact that Hitchcock never wanted it. His original vision for the shower scene was for it to be untouched by any music, he wanted the scene to speak for itself. Just the sound of the running water and Marion’s screams as the knife stabbed away at her flesh… a sound effect done by stabbing melons, a casaba melon if you really want to know. Still, Herrmann wanted to do something for that scene and asked Hitch if he could. They made a deal, if Hitchcock didn’t like the music, then they would discard it with no hard feelings. After a few days, Bernard Herrmann had his music written and record and played if for Hitchcock over footage of the shower scene. Hitch loved it and insisted it be used.

Everything about the shower scene is amazing, the music, the directing, the acting… everything. I’d quite happily argue that it’s the greatest movie scene ever caught on film.

Hitch Shower Scene

Psycho met with quite a fair bit of controversy when it was released in 1960. Things that seem very tame by today’s standards, but back then? There were issues that caused the censors to become inflamed due to the then Motion Picture Production Code, mostly due to it’s use of sexuality and violence. The now seemingly innocent opening scene of Marion and her lover, Sam caused a lot of upset. Firstly, Marion and Sam were not married, and showing them just lying in bed together was a serious taboo in 1960. Plus there was the fact that Marion was shown in her bra too. Quick aside, have you noticed that in the film, before Marion takes the money and runs away, she’s wearing a white bra, but after the theft, she’s seen in a black bra? Subtle. Other issues where the fact the film’s main plot was revealed to be about a man dressing as a woman. The censors even got upset about the fact the word ‘ transvestite’ is used in the finale to describe Norman.

Marion and Sam

Perhaps one of the silliest arguments Hitchcock had over censorship was the fact he dared to show a toilet in the movie… and have it be flushed too. Seriously, Psycho was the first American film to show a flushing toilet. Hitch got around being able to show the toilet being flushed by ensuring it was part of the plot. He had Marion tear up her calculations she made to return the money, and dispose of them in the toilet to then flush it. This meant he couldn’t cut the scene as no one would know what Marion was up to or why she decided to return the money and come clean. Then there was also an issue with the shower scene. When Hitch showed the film to the censorship board, several of them said they saw Janet Leigh’s naked breast in at least one shot. If showing a flushing toilet was an issue, you can bet anything that showing nudity was also one. Still, Hitchcock insisted there was no such shot in the film, his argument fell on deaf ears and he was ordered to cut the offending breast from the scene. So he did… kind of. Hitch went away with his film, just held onto it for a few days and cut absolutely nothing from it. He then took the exact same cut of the film back to the very same censorship board and resubmitted it for approval. The same people re-watched it and this time, none of them saw the offending breast. Despite the fact Hitch cut nothing from the film, he just let the board think he did. Just for the record, no Janet Leigh’s naked breast is not in Psycho, nor was it ever. It’s just that the censorship board saw it in their mind’s eye. The film was passed for general release with no more problems.

I do want to look into perhaps one of my favorite things about the release of Psycho, it’s strict ‘no late admission’ policy. Back then, the way films were shown at the cinema was very different from today. Now, you wouldn’t think about just buying a ticket and walking into a film at any point. These days you buy your ticket and sit down before the film starts to watch the picture from begining to end. Well that’s not how things worked back then. Cinemas would show a film all day long, this was also before multiple screens too, so one cinema would show one film and another would show a different film. So anyway, the cinema would screen a film, which would be book-ended with a newsreel, a small feature, a short serial or even a cartoon. Then the film and it’s bookend would be shown all through the day on a continual loop, no real start or end. You could buy a ticket and just walk in whenever you wanted. Twenty minutes in, the middle of a film, the start, the end, wherever. You could buy a ticket and just sit in the cinema all day watching and re-watching the same show over and over if you liked. Have you ever heard of the phrase “this is where we came in”? Well it originates with cinema back then. Someone would walk in to watch a film, say at the mid point, watch until the end and then just sit there and watch the start of the film they had missed by walking in at the mid point. Say “this is where we came in” and then leave, now having seen all the film… all be it out of sequence.

Well anyway, Hitchcock  instilled a firm rule of not allowing anyone in to the cinema once Psycho had begun. He did this to not spoil the film’s twist ending, as if you walked in to watch Psycho ten minutes from the end, you’d have no idea what was going on. But there was also the fact he didn’t want to ruin his ace up his sleeve. Janet Leigh being killed off. Remember, Leigh was the big draw, the reason people would’ve gone to see the film in the first place. So if anyone who wanted to watch the latest Janet Leigh film walked in after the shower scene, they’d have no idea that Hitchcock just killed off his leading lady and would’ve ruined one of the biggest shocks in cinema history. So no one was allowed in after the film had begun, breaking cinema tradition back then.

Hitch ensured cinema managers stuck to this rule of not letting anyone in after Psycho had started personally by attending every single screening and telling people they were not allowed in. Okay, so he may not have traveled the world attending every single screening, be he had cardboard cutouts of himself made with his personal statement made very clear on them. All done in that Hitchcock dry humor.

Psycho No Admittence 2

“We won’t allow you to cheat yourself! You must see Psycho from beginning to end to enjoy it fully. Therefore, do not expect to be admitted into the theatre after the start of each performance of the picture.  We say no one – and we mean no one – not even the manager’s brother, the President of the United States, or the Queen of England (God bless her)!”

– Alfred Hitchcock 

There were a few variants of this idea but they all pretty much said the same thing. No one was to be admitted entrance to see Psycho one it had begun. There were the previously mentioned cardboard cutouts of Hitch himself. There were also posters and other standees all saying pretty much the same thing. I suppose you could say that Alfred Hitchcock created the idea of watching a film from the start that we all take for granted these days.

Originally, cinema managers hated the idea as they felt they would lose money if people couldn’t come and go as they pleased, but they soon changed their tune when Psycho opened and queues built up around the block for hours of people eager to see the picture.

Psycho No Admittence

Given the fact that it was Alfred Hitchcock that funded the film himself, this gave him a certain freedom when it came to promotion. No studio could interfere with his plans, because it was his money, his movie. Aside from the ‘no admittance’ thing, Hitch had a lot of fun with the promotion of Psycho. First, he forbid either Janet Leigh or Anthony Perkins to do any interviews for TV, radio, papers, etc, as to not give away the twists. No one could talk about the film in interviews except for Hitch himself. He also didn’t allow critics to see advance/private screenings of the film for reviews and made them go to normal viewings with the public… which the critics hated doing… which was probably why the initial critic reviews for the film were not good. Plus, Hitch created what is quite simply, the greatest movie teaser trailer ever. I’ll have more to say about this trailer later as a nice little bonus article.

The film was a huge hit, despite early reviews claiming it was not very good and lacked that Hitchcock quality. But the general public loved it. The success of the film helped push sales of the book and in turn, the book helped to get people into the cinema to see the film. Psycho even got a re-release into cinemas in 1965.. and 69… and more recently in 2015. Psycho has, of course, gone on to be cinematic gold. One of the all time greatest ever films. It’s a film that can be analysed for so many reasons. From it’s masterful film-making ideas and concepts, to it’s deeper themes, motifs and psychoanalytic interpretations. Psycho is a masterpiece and despite all that Alfred Hitchcock had going against him at the time, he made his finest work ever and silenced his critics.

Perfection in cinematic form and a film that I don’t think that will ever be bettered, because while there are some amazing visionary and creative directors working today, none of them are Alfred Hitchcock.

Hitch Shaddow

“I know we’re only human, we do go in for these various emotions, call them negative emotions, but when all these are removed and you can look forward and the road is clear ahead, and now you’re going to create something. I think that’s as happy as I’ll ever want to be.”

– Alfred Hitchcock

After Life 1 & 2

So how’s this whole lock-down/staying at home working out for everyone? I genuinely hope this virus hasn’t effected you too much. We are in the midst of uncertain times and plenty of us are sitting around without much to do. TV has been a last bastion of sanity for many folk recently.

Last year, Ricky Gervais let loose his latest TV show, After Life and it met with huge praise. Now, I have a very love/hate relationship with Ricky Gervais. Sometimes I think he’s the funniest man on the planet. I adore his bluntness, his honesty and he can be extremely observant. But then he can also comes across as very hypocritical and sycophantic at times too.

Truth be told, I’ve never much liked his work as an actor. His multi-award winning TV shows have never really done anything for me. The Office, Extras, Derek, etc have always gotten a big no from me. Can’t say I’ve ever seen a film with Ricky in that I’ve honestly enjoyed either. But when he’s being himself, when he’s just being Ricky Gervais, he can be one of the most heart-warning and entertaining people on the planet. His live Twitter broadcasts which he’s been doing since the lock-down have been really entertaining… just because Ricky is being Ricky. He talks shit, but it’s really interesting shit.

Anyway, I’m kind of drifting off on a tangent here. The point of this article is because series 2 of Ricky Gervais’ After Life aired on Netflix recently. I watched the first series out of sheer boredom last year and I thought… well I’ll get into that later. I wanted to watch series 2 and offer my opinion right here. But then the idea to re-watch series 1 and then series 2 back to back came to mind. So I thought I’d do a full rundown of each episode and give my view on the series as a whole.

Thankfully, one of Ricky’s talents is to know not to run something into the ground. His shows have always been short, a couple of series with only 6 episodes each (specials aside). I honestly don’t have the patience to sit through your average US TV show, 20+ episodes per season with dozens of seasons. I just lose interest due to the fact they needlessly drag things out. After Life follows that Ricky Gervais formula. 6 episodes and 2 series (so far). Which means I only have 12 episodes to sit through, and then they’re only 30 minute episodes too. Short but sweet that doesn’t outstay it’s welcome.

So here I go, all 12 After Life episodes watched and me offering my opinion on each series overall. I’ll be re-watching series 1, but this is the first time I’ll be watching series 2. But before that, a quick synopsis of what After Life is all about for those not in the know.

Synopsis

So After Life is a black, bittersweet comedy following Tony Johnson (Ricky Gervais). Set the fictional small town of Tambury, Tony works as a reporter/writer for an independent, free, local newspaper The Tambury Gazette run by his brother-in-law Matt (Tom Basden), the kind of free paper that covers inane local news. Tony recently lost his wife, Lisa (Kerry Godliman) to breast cancer, but she still talks to him via a pre-recorded video guide offering him life advice. Tony is in a pit of depression, he’s had enough, he’s suicidal due to his depression with his only real companion being Brandy, Lisa and Tony’s dog. Tony wants to try to set the world to rights, he says what he thinks with no censor, he has no moral compass anymore since the death of his wife. His ‘superpower’ as he calls it, is his cantankerous funk as he feels he can’t be any lower, so can’t be dragged down anymore, he has nothing to lose. Every time the people around Tony try to lift him, he just undermines them as much as he can. Tony is strangely content in his depression and no longer cares for anyone or anything… except Brandy.

Before I crack on, I’ll just pop up one of my obligatory SPOILER warnings here. If you’ve not seen After Life, then stop reading and go watch it now.

Series 1
Episode 1

Tony beings to adapt to life without Lisa. His sink is full of dirty washing up that’ll never be done. There’s no food in his house, not even for Brandy. On his way to work Tony meets his new postman called Pat (Joe Wilkinson)… yes postman Pat, who seems to have an issue with putting post though people’s letterboxes. Tony get’s called a peado by a 10 year old boy… and has a very cutting response, which really sets the tone of the character he is. Stopping off to see his psychiatrist (Paul Kaye) where Tony outlines his bleak look on life.

After Life Sandy

Sandy (Mandeep Dhillon) is the new reporter hired by the paper and she finds Tony’s downbeat attitude hard to take. Tony crosses paths with a local drug addict Julian (Tim Plester) on his way to visit his father, Ray (David Bradley) who is in a nursing home and suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. Ray is looked after by nurse Emma (Ashley Jensen). Tony and his father’s relationship is strained and Ray keeps asking to see Lisa. Matt takes Tony down the pub with Lenny (Tony Way), photographer at the Tambury Gazette in an attempt to help him out of his rut. Matt sends both Tony and Lenny to cover a big story for the newspaper about a man who has received the exact same birthday card five times (typical local news), the kind of non-stories that make Tony resent his work. As minor as the story is, the recipient of the cards gives Tony something to really think about.

When Tony is accosted by two young muggers on his way home, he soon sets them straight in his own unique, uncaring way… with the help of a tin of dog food. Lisa offers him more life advice through one of her recordings.

Episode 2

Sitting in the bath, Tony holds a razor blade to his wrist… until Brandy walks in looking for food. The only thing really keeping him alive is his love for his dog. Going to visit Lisa’s grave, Tony meets Anne (Penelope Wilton), an older widow who often sits on a bench talking to her dead husband at the graveyard. Visiting his father again, Tony begins to feel sorry for nurse Emma and just how/why she has to look after elderly people who no longer remember their relatives, but he massively misunderstands her motivation.

On his way back into work, Tony crosses paths with drug addict, Julian and arranges to try heroin for the first time later that day. Matt asks Tony to babysit George (Tommy Finnegan), Tony’s 10 year old nephew. After covering a story about a teenager who can play two recorders with his nostrils, Tony tries to work out why people want to be famous and get in the paper. In the newspaper office Tony is hounded by talker of bullshit and head of advertising, Kath (Diane Morgan), Sandy the new reporter and Tony find some common ground and actually get on as she begins to understand his attitude and straight talking, not caring demeanour.

After Life Anne

Matt drops George round at Tony’s place and the two hit it off. Taking George to a cafe for something to eat, Tony gets into an argument over why he can’t order a meal from the kids menu for himself but manages to get one over on the obnoxious waitress. Back at Tony’s place and Matt is late in picking up George… and Tony has Julian coming round with the heroin. After giving Tony a cannabis joint with heroin (as it’s safer than injecting), Tony passes out as Julian helps himself to Tony’s money from his wallet and leaves.

Episode 3

Just about managing to remember that Julian stole from him last night, Tony confronts the druggie on the street and learns he has spent the money on more drugs. Tony meets prostitute… sorry sex worker, Daphne aka ‘Roxy’ (Roisin Conaty) who is a friend of Julian and will do anything for £50. Tony hires her and takes her back to his place, but it’s not sex that he’s after. Tony spends £50 and asks Daphne to clean his house. The pair chat and Daphne opens up and tells Tony all about her life and teaches him a thing or two about sex worker myths.

On another visit to his father, the subject of Lisa is brought up again and nurse Emma suggests that Tony should just humour his father always asking to see the dead Lisa. Emma also gives Tony a few home truths about his attitude towards other people. Tony and Anne meet at the graveyard again and she imparts some worldly advice on losing someone close. Visiting his psychiatrist again, Tony gets some pointless advice… stop feeling sad. Matt arranges a works outing to a new comedy club that night. Meanwhile, Brian (David Earl) is (as Tony calls him) the ‘local nutter’ who wants to be in the newspaper. He brings what he claims is Freddie Mercury’s tooth, which Tony dismisses.

In one of her videos, Lisa tells Tony to take the dog to the beach for a walk. He does and Brandy enjoys herself, running around, playing catch. But Tony has other ideas, just walk into the sea, kill himself that way. As Brandy sits on the beach, Tony tries to kill himself again only for Brandy to begin barking. He can’t so it, he can’t leave his best friend so Tony gets out of the water. At the comedy club, a comedian begins making jokes about someone committing suicide. Noticing Tony isn’t enjoying the jokes, the comic picks him out in an attempt to ridicule him… big mistake. Tony just unloads, calmly, and tells the comic how his wife died of cancer and how he wants to kill himself, putting the comic in his place. Matt begins to really worry about Tony’s frame of mind.

After Life Comedy Club

Julian turns up at Tony’s place with a peace offering… more drugs. Tony thinks they have a lot in common until Julian sets him straight as they share a cannabis/heroin spliff.

Episode 4

Tony’s battle with postman Pat and his issue with not putting post though through the letterbox continues. Tony and Lenny cover more inane local news stories, one at the same hospital where Lisa died. Tony’s degrading of his job continues as he asks just why Sandy wants to be a journalist. Matt reveals that he has set Tony up on a blind date, a date he really doesn’t want to go on because he’d rather be dead with Lisa and resents Matt for trying to interfere with his life.

Tony visits his dad again and apologises to Emma for his attitude and behaviour. The two bond over the rather risque behaviour of Ray recently. Tony confides in Emma that he’s being set up on a blind date and she suggested he should go. At the graveyard, widow Anne offers Tony some dating advice and help as Tony agrees to go on the date. Sandy takes Tony shopping for date clothes and he realises just how out of touch he is. Tony gives Sandy some rare positive advice on her career. Bumping into Daphne on the street, she convinces Tony to give her the keys to his house as his ‘cleaner’ in front of Sandy, where as she most probably wants to use the house for her sex work. When Tony finally returns, worried at exactly what she has done in is home, he finds Daphne has completely cleaned his house and for free too.

Tony goes on the date and his date calls him out on his suicidal tendencies, claiming he’s putting it on. She ridicules Tony for putting his dog first after claiming Brandy is the reason he hasn’t killed himself yet. After ending the terrible date, Tony confronts a pair of muggers on a bike who try to steal a woman’s purse. They drop a claw hammer they were using as a weapon and Tony picks it up. Back at Tony’s place, Julian turns up again with more drugs. The two philosophise as Julian reveals more about his life. Julian tells Tony how he wants to kill himself with drugs after all he has been through if only he could afford it. Tony gives him a large sum of cash and Julian leaves, stopping off at a drug dealer with the intent to end his own life.

Episode 5

Walking past the school, Tony learns that his nephew, George is being bulled. Tony threatens to kill the 10 year old bully with the hammer he took from the muggers. At the nursing home, Tony tells Emma his his date was a disaster and the two agree it’s best to be single. Matt tells Tony that Julian has been found dead from a heroin overdose and Tony confesses that he was the one who gave Julian the money. Tony makes a second visit to the nursing home, not so much to visit his father, but more so to talk to Emma… but he has nothing much to say.

Tony and and Lenny cover a story about a woman who makes rice pudding with her own breast milk and bread with her virginal yeast. Top-notch journalism. Tony sends postman Pat a postcard to be delivered to his (Tony’s) place to prove that Pat keeps reading Tony’s post. After another fruitless visit to his psychiatrist, Tony puts an annoying street clipboard warrior in his place. The local nutter, Brian finally convinces Tony put him in the paper. Taking Tony, Lenny and Sandy to his house, Brian shows off his rather worrying hoarding. Tony says there is no story to publish, not even for a free, local non-story newspaper and leaves but Sandy stays wanting to find a story as Brian ‘entertains’ Lenny and Sandy with an off-beat puppet show.

Matt calls Tony into the newspaper office as he received a call from the school about a man threatening to kill a 10 yer old boy. The two have a heated debate over why Tony acts like this and Matt says that if Tony continues his destructive behaviour, he can no longer see his nephew. Tony meets Anne at the graveyard again looking for advice about how to deal with the pain he is in and she seems to get through to him… a bit. Back at the newspaper, it seems Sandy did find a story to write about Brian. She shows her story to Tony who thinks it’s brilliant, worth publishing. He even suggests it could be front page material.

Tony meets up with Daphne and offers her a shoulder after the death of Julian.

Episode 6

Matt asks Tony to cover a story about a baby who looks like Hitler. Finding a fatal flaw in the story Tony picks it apart. As stupid as the story is, Tony finds some humour in it and begins to lighten up. The newspaper talking bullshit machine, Kath begins to question Tony on his lack of religious belief. She tries to put up a good argument but Tony manages to easily answer all her queries. Tony goes to the crematorium to see off Julian but misses the service. Daphne is there and Tony says how he is going to ask Emma out on a date as Tony slowly begins to see a way out of his depression.

At the nursing home, Ray’s Alzheimer’s disease is getting worse, thinking Tony is someone called Charlie for sometime… he eventually remembers Tony as his son… kind of. Tony finally calls his psychiatrist out on his bullshit and gets shot of him as he was doing nothing to help with Tony’s life anyway. Tony learns that Matt’s marriage is on the rocks and talks to him offering some help. Realising how much of an awkward pain he has been to everyone, Tony begins to apologise and tries to right the wrongs he has been responsible for since Lisa’s death.

Tony goes back to the nursing home and asks Emma out on a date. She doesn’t say yes, but she doesn’t say no either and Tony leaves her to think about it. Tony and Anne meet at the graveyard again and she revels how happy she is despite being a widow. Anne comes out with more worldly advice that really gives Tony a lot to contemplate as he realises that life is actually worth living.

After Life Emma

Emma agrees to the date and the two walk off into the sun as Tony finally finds happiness after Lisa.

Overall

I could do this the short way. After Life is one of the most amazing pieces of modern TV.

The longer version is more worthy though. I laughed, I cried. After Life features some of the best writing I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing in a TV show… ever. Now, this show will not be for everyone. There is that Ricky Gervais humour, that use of swearing… lots of harsh swearing, he can be a bit preachy too and that style of humour is not for everyone. But under the crassness of some of the jokes is a real, emotive story about a man struggling with the loss of a loved one.

The dialogue between the characters feels very real and often heartbreaking, even when it’s being funny and lighthearted. The way Ricky as penned these scripts and story is amazing, truly masterful work. The characters are all memorable, from the main cast to the secondary and peripheral ones. The tricky subject of depression is handled very well and the pit Tony finds himself in is completely believable, even when he’s being his arsehole best, he’s still utterly charming. You will go from hating this guy to loving him and back again. The acting throughout is top-drawer stuff, even Brandy (Anti) the dog puts in a great performance.

The subject matter may not appeal most people, especially if you are currently going through a loss yourself. Yet some may even find it a rather cathartic release. After Life takes a very prickly subject matter and yet presents it in such an engrossing and endearing way.

“But get this through your head. I’d rather be nowhere with her than somewhere without her, all right?”

–  Tony Johnson

So here we are with series 2. Now, I just re-watched the first series and loved it just as much as the first time, but I do have some trepidation going into this second series. See, I feel the first one ended perfectly, Tony made amends for all his wrongs, he apologised to those he upset and (possibly) found happiness with Emma. Roll credits, a perfect ending. As I write this bit right here, I’ve not yet seen any of series 2 (except a trailer) and I’m just kind of concerned it’s going to be a bit superfluous.

Tony’s journey in series 1 was (for want of a better word) perfect. A miserable story told beautifully that ended just as it should have. In my mind, there is no need for another series. One and done. So I’m not really sure if I’m looking forward to seeing this second series to be honest. I’m sure it wont be terrible or anything, I just feel it’s going to have to undo several things resolved in the first series for Tony’s story to continue, a bit of retcon if you will.

After Life Poster 2

Well, here I go. All 6 episodes of Series 2 of After Life… I’ll offer my thoughts at the end.

Series 2
Episode 1

So Tony and Emma didn’t really work out, they’re friends and nothing more because he’s still not over losing Lisa and their dog, Brandy is the only thing keeping him sane. Everyone is still pretty much where they were before, no one has moved on any… except for nut case Brian who now deliverers the newspaper. Tony and and Lenny cover a story about the oldest woman in Tambury and what a mouth she has on her too. Tony is still in his depressive funk and decides he needs to be more Zen. While Matt’s marriage is all but over and he is living in the newspaper office.

After Life Old Lady

Tony visits his dad and the Alzheimer’s is getting worse as Ray doesn’t recognise Tony as his son (again). Anne is still at the graveyard as her and Tony exchange wisdom, Tony confesses he’s still no better then he was but no longer thinks about suicide anymore and really wants to try to move on and improve as a person. Matt begins to see Tony’s old (and useless) psychiatrist in order to help him with his marriage problems. 

Postman Pat stops off at Tony’s place to ‘use’ his bathroom, which tests Tony’s patience. Tony and Matt attend a Zen meditation session and the instructor’s personal habits bring out the worst in Tony as he loses his cool, which puts Matt on edge. Tony begins to drink more than usual as he gets emotional over an old video of Lisa.

Episode 2

Tony does his best to stick to his goal of improving but it gets harder each day. At the newspaper office, Matt quizzes Tony on his drinking, a talk Tony doesn’t take much notice of and quickly deflects. Kath starts badgering Tony on her beliefs again and of course, Tony makes short work of her inane rantings. At the graveyard, Tony tells Anne how everything went wrong at the Zen session and how he decided to get drunk afterwards.

James (Ethan Lawrence), the son of Lenny’s girlfriend is taken on at The Tambury Gazette on work experience. James suggests that the newspaper could cover the local amateur dramatics, The Tambury Players, an idea Sandy thinks is a great one. Tony, Lenny and Sandy all turn up to find a story where Tony meets a face from his past. With help of the organiser of the amateur dramatics, Sandy decides to write a gossip column in the paper and also cover their up and coming cabaret show. Matt goes to see his psychiatrist again for more completely pointless help.

At the nursing home, Emma is getting very friendly with the son of one of her patients, Simon (Bill Ward). something Tony begins to notice. Tony admits he’s trying to move on, trying to improve to Emma, but he’s just not ready to move on from Lisa yet. Back at Tony’s place, he and Daphne share a meal. Tony realises just how useless he is without Lisa after cooking a terrible meal. As a favour to Pat, Tony puts in a word for him with Daphne in an attempt to get them together.

Episode 3

Tony tells Pat all about Daphne, including the fact she’s a sex worker. That tit-bit of info just makes Pat more interested and a date between the two is arranged. Tony’s nephew, George begins to worry that his parents are going to divorce and Tony sets his mind at ease. It’s Sandy’s 30th birthday and she’s feeling down about getting older, Tony does his best to cheer her up, but the topic of discussion soon turns to Lisa.

After Life Lisa

Emma and Simon seem to be getting on better at the nursing home, as Tony learns… perhaps a little jealousy is creeping in? Emma confesses she likes Simon, but she doesn’t feel the same way about him as she does about Tony. Just a shame he’s too scared to commit. Back at the psychiatrist’s, Matt is told he needs to get back out there and find a woman. Meanwhile, Tony and Lenny talk to a woman for the paper who claims she can talk to cats. As crazy as the woman seems, she has a few nuggets of wisdom for Tony that gets him thinking.

The owner of The Tambury Gazette, Paul (Peter Egan) tells Matt that the newspaper is losing money and he wants to close it down and sell the building. Everyone will be out of a job if The Tambury Gazette ends publication and Sandy takes the news badly. Tony promises to save the paper and keep everyone (especially Sandy) in a job. Matt thinks Sandy’s gossip column could save the paper… with a bit of embellishment. Matt asks Tony to join him for a drink and back him up on his desire to find another woman. Down the pub, they bump into the psychiatrist and his rather obnoxious friends and the night doesn’t go very well… especially when Emma turns up with Simon.

Pat and Daphne meet up for their date. The two really hit it off and a second date is arranged. Tony consoles himself on his bad night in a bottle of wine and more videos of Lisa back at his place with Brandy for company.

Episode 4

Pat and Daphne arrive at Tony’s place for breakfast… uninvited of course. Back at the psychiatrist, Matt gets more useless help as his life unravels as the shrink is more interested in talking about his sex life than Matt’s failing marriage. Tony and Lenny interview a woman addicted to cosmetic surgery for the newspaper with disturbing and funny results. Back at the office, Kath asks Matt out on a ‘date’ to the cabaret being held by the amateur dramatics society, which he pencils in just to get rid of her and then tries to use Tony’s suicidal tendencies as an excuse not to go.

Tony spends some quality time with his father at the nursing home before talking to Emma about her and Simon in the pub last night. She really likes Tony, but says that she can’t put her life on hold because he still can’t move on from Lisa. Matt’s wife turns up at the office and he asks her to go with him to the cabaret to get out of going with Kath and maybe to help patch up their relationship? Noticing she is fed up, Tony asks Kath out for a coffee to try and cheer her up. Taking a detour to the shops, Tony buys a bottle of wine and after drinking half a bottle on the streets, he heads to the graveyard again to talk to Anne who tells him he shouldn’t drink alone. Tony breaks down taking about Lisa, saying how he feels like nothing without her. He strives to be ‘normal’ but just can’t do it.

Tony bumps into Paul, the owner of The Tambury Gazette and asks him to not close down the paper and sell the building. But the money he will make from selling the building is too great to turn down. Tony manages to convince him to hang on for a year and give the newspaper another chance, if things don’t improve, he’ll sell it then. Sandy is covering the cabaret for the newspaper when Tony tells her that the paper and building aren’t being sold… for at least a year anyway.

Episode 5

Tony has a particularly worrying visit with his dad, asking Emma if he’s okay as he looks a bit worse for wear. She tells him that he’s fine and that he has his good and bad days, this is a bad day. Tony asks Emma if she wants to go to the amateur cabaret with him, but she’s working so can’t go. At the graveyard, Tony and Anne share a few laughs. After asking Anne if she’s lonely, Tony invites her to the cabaret, Paul also agrees to tag along.

After Life Ray

It’s the night of the big (and very poor) armature dramatics cabaret and everyone is there… except Emma who is back at the nursing home looking after Ray. Tony tries to, very slyly, set up Anne with Paul, which doesn’t quite work out. Brian is on stage trying his best and his version of ‘comedy’, which goes down as badly as you’d expect. The whole show is a complete disaster. Emma sends Tony a message for him to call her, he leaves the show and phones her… she tells him that his father has died. A very clearly upset Tony begins to reminisce over his childhood to Emma back at the nursing home. Tony finally admits he feelings toward her.

Back at his place, Brandy does her best to cheer Tony up.

Episode 6

At the psychiatrists, Matt says how his marriage could be on the mend and it turns out that maybe the psychiatrist needs a shrink himself. Sandy sets about writing her story in the paper covering the cabaret last night. Tony delivers the news to Matt his dad died. Now his father has gone, Tony has even less to live for, he asks for space from his friends and co-workers, not sympathy.  With Ray now dead, Tony has no reason to come to the nursing home and see Emma anymore, but Tony tries to rationalise their (lack of a) relationship.

Daphne pops round to see Tony and worries about his state of mind after finding a bottle of sleeping pills, concerned he’s back on the suicide idea. At the newspaper’s office, Kath didn’t get the memo that Tony doesn’t want sympathy. Tony and Lenny cover a story about a 50 year old man who identifies as an 8 year old girl.

After Life Tony

At Ray’s funeral, Tony delivers a rather moving eulogy and thanks Emma for looking after his father. Tony is home alone, just him, Brandy and another bottle of wine. After watching some old family videos of Ray and Lisa, Tony gets very emotional and rediscovers those sleeping pills…  And… that’s where I’m leaving this one. Despite my earlier SPOILER warning, I just don’t want to spoil how this all ends… But I will say it’s a hell of a heavy and emotional ending.

Overall

So I may as well get right to this. I can’t honestly say I enjoyed this series as much as the first. I’ve been pin-balling around in my mind why that is… and I think I have it. But before I explain that…

Series 2 has been just as funny/offensive and just as emotional as the previous one. I decided to not cover the end of the last episode in my round up simply because I feel you need to experience it for yourself. After everything Tony has been through, you need to not have the end ruined. The last few minutes of the episode are extremely satisfying and my watching all the episodes back to back made it even more impactful.

Also watching the episodes in one long run also made me realise how much Ricky took from his old XFM/podcast broadcasts that he used to do with Stephen Merchant and Karl Dilkington. Honestly, direct lines of dialogue, conversations and even character traits have been lifted from their conversations. It’s pretty clear that Tony is based on (an exaggerated) Ricky himself. Matt is definitely has some Stephen Merchant about him and the annoying Kath with her inane questions and beliefs is Karl Pilkington to a T. The idea of postman Pat reading Tony’s mail comes from a chat the trio had 20 years ago. Anne telling Tony the fable of the frog and the scorpion also came from those podcasts… look, I could go on and on, but if you go back and listen to their old chats, you’ll find loads of stuff from them that have been incorporated into After Life.

Series 2 really has some great moments… which is partly why I don’t think it’s as good as the first. This one is some great moments, where as series 1 was just simply 6 great episodes. Yup, series 2 is still a brilliant bit of TV, but it certainly lacks what the first series had in places.

One of my concerns about this series was the fact Tony realised he was a prick and needed to move on from Lisa, not forget about her, just move on. The fact he apologised to those he had wronged at the end of series 1 and the fact he and Emma went out on a date was something I thought Ricky may have to retcon to continue the story. Thankfully Ricky Gervais doesn’t hit the reset button… but he does give it a bit of a tickle. I don’t know, but the slight U-turn of the character at the start of this series and the fact he then has to try to better himself… again just took me out of the story a bit.

But onto the main reason I didn’t like this one as much as the first. The whole series felt like an afterthought, maybe it was? It felt like Ricky hadn’t planned on a second series so by making Tony find redemption and a slice of happiness at the end of the first series, he had painted himself into a corner, hence the tickling of the reset button. A lot of the main plot points of series 2 felt, from an organic storytelling perspective, as if they should’ve really happened in the middle of series 1. I just think most of the story in this series would’ve made more sense in series 1 as apposed to being here.

Yes I enjoyed this series, but just not as much as the first. The humour is there, the characters are there and the writing is just as good, if not, in places better…. but for me, it just didn’t feel right as a whole series. Not as much as the first one did anyway. I’d have been more than happy if there hadn’t been a second one (as good as it is). For me, Tony’s realisation at the end of series 1 of how he’s been acting, his apologising to everyone, the little things he did to make people smile and then with he and Emma walking off together was just prefect. It didn’t spell everything out, but it gave us the viewers just enough information to paint our own future for the character and I really liked that.

As much as I did enjoy series 2, for what it was, it still felt superfluous. Not bad, not at all… just kind of unnecessary. I loved series 1 and I loved re-watching it for this article and I can see myself watching it again in the future. But I just don’t get that with series 2, I’m really not sure I’ll re-watch this one. I may re-watch the odd episode for the moments I really enjoyed, but not the series as a whole. As much as I enjoyed it, I’m happier with Tony walking off with Emma at the end of series 1 and me painting my own future for him than the one Ricky has painted for me here.

After Life Tony And Brandy

But all that aside and looking at the whole damn thing. After Life is an amazing piece of TV. The writing is sharp and bitter, it’s funny and heart breaking. Ricky Gervais as a writer and director has done his very best work here… and I don’t think he will ever better it. As an actor, he had me laughing at Tony’s attitude toward others, his manner of speaking, his directness was like Victor Meldrew times infinity. The emotions Tony feels through the series, I felt them too. I felt happy for him, sorry for him and I cried with him too. After Life is Ricky Gervais’ Sistine Chapel, yeah it has a few cracks, but it’s still an astonishingly beautiful piece of art that everyone should see. It’s (almost) perfection in 12, half hour episodes.

As I said in the intro to this article, I’ve never really liked Ricky as an actor… but this? This is a whole different level and I’m happy to eat my own words. Quite honestly, Ricky Gervais deserves every bit of praise, every award After Life is sure to win.

After Life Tony And Lisa

You’re in lock-down, you’ve not got much else to do. So binge watch After Life.

“I used to drink when I was happy. That was all right, but now I drink when I’m sad. That’s not so good cos it happens more often.”

–  Tony Johnson

T-800 V T-800 – Fan Made Film

I love the classic sci-fi/thriller/action/horror film The Terminator. Released in 1984, the flick is still as amazing to watch today as it was 36 years ago. The sequels… I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with them. Yes even the mighty and massively popular Terminator 2: Judgment Day is a movie I’m not as keen on as others. It’s a great popcorn action flick… but it’s an awful sequel. Still, there has always been a question about the two films I’ve always wanted answered. Who would win in a straight up fight between the bad T-800 from The Terminator and the good T-800 from T2? Thankfully, that question has been somewhat answered by Mikhail Kramer on his YouTube channel, KRAMER’S MEDIA.

Mikhail has a bit of a penchant for creating fan made movies using Grand Theft Auto V‘s director mode and I love it when fans do things like this. Looking through the films he has made via GTA V is impressive. Mikhail has created short movies and trailers for The Matrix and I Am Legend plus others. He’s even had a go at making a Robocop 4. Using a cocktail of various mods, video/audio from the films he’s influenced by and of course GTA V itself, Mikhail has a few videos on his channel well worth watching. But it’s his latest video, Terminator 1984 Vs Terminator 2 that I want to give mention to here on my blog.

Arnie

There are a few issues with the film. Of course there are restrictions. I mean, Mikhail is directing these short movies with very limited resources. Then he also has his hands tied by the limitations of just what GTA V‘s director mode can actually do, it’s not a dedicated film creation piece of software, it’s just a fun addition to a game. Then there are slight graphical issues that are out of his hands due to how GTA V is programmed. I have a few personal niggles with some of the action in the film too, mainly the fist fights between the two T-800s. They just go on a bit too long and feature some questionable physics… you’ll see what I mean.

But minor niggles aside, this short flick shows some great cinematic moments and direction. The truck/semi chase is a particular highlight, using very film-like camera angles. Coming in at a little over 30 minutes, Mikhail’s Terminator 1984 Vs Terminator 2 is a very well made and observed little film. The fact it was made with a piece of software that’s not a dedicated film editor is even more impressive.

You can watch Mikhail’s video right here…

 

 

Honestly, that’s pretty damn good eh? Full of Easter eggs and references to the first two  flicks. Certainly a lot more entertaining than Terminator: Dark Fate and that shit cost $196 million to make. Also, don’t forget to check out Mikhail Kramer’s YouTube channel for more great GTA V made fan films.

Covid-19 (Or Why I Detest The Human Race)

So I’m breaking protocol a little here. Usually, I use this blog to express my views and share memories of movies and games. But now and then, I do like to offer my view on things going on in the news… and right now there’s no bigger story then the Coronavirus and how people are reacting to it.

Now, Coronavirus is not exactly new. It was first discovered in the 1960s, but the thing about viruses is that they mutate and evolve. This particular strand of Coronavirus, Covid-19 is new and it is killing people. As of writing, there have been 244,364 confirmed cases worldwide with 10,007 deaths. And again, these are only the reported cases, I’m sure there are others that have not yet been confirmed. With a population of around 7,577,130,400 on this planet, one could say that 10,007 deaths isn’t a great deal. Some people are even saying this is just a bit of flu. Which for me, is a massive understatement. Yeah perhaps the flu kills more people worldwide… but there are various forms of flu and it has been around a lot longer than Covid-19. So if you are going to be as idiotic to compare the two, of course the flu will seem worse. But let me ask you this, when was the last time entire countries went into lock-down because of a bit of flu? Multiple countries, mainly in Europe are shutting down to try and prevent the spread of this virus. Others are beginning to put strict restrictions in place as I write this, with the possibility of also going into lock-down too (I expect us to go the same route within the week)… over a bit of flu? Then there are major companies such as Disney, who have shutdown their theme parks and they never shutdown their parks. McDonald’s have closed down their restaurants for inside eating are are only operating on drive-tru and takeaways, other big name establishments are going the same route. Films and TV studios are shutting down production on big, million dollar films and shows. Massive sporting events have been cancelled or postponed… but it’s just a bit of flu right?

It’s pretty clear that Covid-19 is a lot more serious than a bit of flu and I’m genuinely worried at the amount of people not taking this as seriously as it needs to be taken. There really seems to be two trains of thought over this whole thing. It’s not that serious (it is) or it’s the end of the world and time to panic. Now, neither attitude is helping the situation, we need people to be aware, but still remain calm. But the panic is the reason I’m writing this now as it just goes to show how disgusting we are as a human race. Particularly when it comes to shopping.

Look, these are scary and uncertain times, but running around the shops, ransacking the shelves of any and everything is fucking stupid. Those greedy, selfish imbeciles who queue up for hours before shops open, standing in line to grab anything they can. There are people out there that need shopping more than others, the elderly, disabled, etc. And sadly these folk have no chance of getting what they need when you have wankers filling up multiple trolleys with dozens of packs of toilet roll (why?), emptying the shelves of milk, pasta, tinned food. Then what about baby and toddler items, baby wipes, nappies, baby milk and food, etc? I have a 2.5 year old and a 3 month old. Now the 3 month old is easy enough to keep fed with breast feeding (not me, my girlfriend), but how am I supposed to explain to my 2.5 year old daughter that she can’t eat because some selfish pricks are stockpiling food, not giving others a chance? The baby wipes and nappies thing is a concern, but at least we still have hot water to clean them if needed or we could get some reusable nappies if things get desperate… but I can’t do that with the lack of baby food and milk. Yet the selfish out there continue to fill up their baskets and trolleys with as much as they can.

We have a 24 hour supermarket near by and I decided to go out on a late night shopping trip to help avoid the crowds. I was greeted by mostly empty shelves and fridges. Enjoy my slideshow…

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No vegetables, the meat section was completely empty, pet food gone, baby items are like gold dust, etc. I was walking around with no more than 5 items in my trolley and looking at all these ransacked shelves. There was this old woman trying to get some shopping done with a younger female, I guess her daughter. There was nothing for her. As I walked past, I offered up what little I had in my trolley as the scene broke my heart, I just thought if that were my Nan struggling to find food, I’d want someone to help. Yet despite my good nature, the young lady with her (I guess) mother turned down my offer. But what little I had, I was willing to give up just to help this old lady.

I’m currently off work with depression, but that shopping trip was one of the most depressing things I’ve experienced.

I managed to get a few items to hold us over, but this panic buying needs to stop. If everyone just shopped normally, stopped stockpiling, stopped panic buying then there would be more than enough for everyone. There isn’t a shortage of goods, just a shortage of intelligence. Just shop as normal, maybe do two shops a week instead of one if you’re really that concerned. But going out in droves and ransacking the shops is not helping this situation at all.

Now I’m sure some, a very small % of these people are trying to shop not only for themselves but others, elderly relatives and so on. But the majority of them are clearly just being selfish scum. There are even people bulk buying goods to then sell them at a hugely increased price on the internet or in their own shops. That’s fucking low, profiting from such a worldwide problem. I’ve even read stories and seen videos of shop workers being verbally and psychically abused just for doing their jobs, being blamed for the stock shortages. If only there was a pandemic that could wipe out these selfish, uneducated pricks.

But do you know what annoying me even more than any of that? Covid-19 spreads from person to person very easily and the chances of it spreading and even mutating further is multiplied when people are in groups. So let me just get this right, being in groups massively increases the chances of contracting Covid-19 and helping it to spread. So let me ask you this, given we know that being in groups is a bad idea… why are people lining up in large groups at supermarkets, all grabbing things off shelves and increasing the chances of spreading Covid-19? Just stop and think for a second. People are fighting each other for produce in an attempt to fend of Covid-19 and by doing so, they are increasing the chances of spreading Covid-19. They’re fucking idiots.

And to anyone out there ransacking the shop shelves for themselves or to make money by selling items on and to those smaller shops upping their prices (there’s one near me selling hand sanitiser for £7.50 a bottle when it’s worth closer to £2), to all you people. You are fucking low-life scum. You’re taking food from people who need it most, from the elderly, from babies. I’ll survive on a cheese sandwich, but when your taking food and items I need to care for my children… fuck you. I hope this coronavirus hits you hard. I hope the police issue huge fines to those who are price gouging and force you to give your stock away to charities. I hope your business closes down so you are left desperate like how you’re leaving so many others.

Even during World War II, people didn’t behave like this, there was solidarity, there was appreciation for each other, there was respect. And that was with constant air-raids and Nazi invasions. I thought that we as a people, as a species were better than this… clearly not. I’ve seen what humanity can be like the last few days and it’s disgusting.

My elderly mother had to go out this morning and get us in some basics for our babies, because supermarkets are opening earlier for pensioners. There’s something very wrong about that, especially given the fact it’s the elderly who are in high risk of contracting Covid-19. I should be looking after my mother, not the other way around. But sadly, due to the selfish people out there stockpiling and profiting from this virus, needs must.

Stop the panic buying and stockpiling and just shop normally, panic doesn’t help anyone and is just going to increase the spreading of Covid-19. Stay indoors as much as you can, only leave if it’s essential. In order to beat this virus, we need calm and thoughtfulness, consideration for others. We don’t need panic and people fighting over some toilet roll.

The Film That (Probably) Killed John Wayne And Several Others

Hey folks. So first off and for my regular readers. I know I didn’t publish much on this blog last year. I was busy concentrating on other writing projects and that’s pretty much how things will be this year too. I made some great connections in 2019 and got my foot in a few doors, wrote a lot, published 2 books and almost finished a 3rd too, which I’ll be publishing in the next couple of months. Then I also have a few other big writing projects simmering away for 2020. So I won’t have the time to dedicate to this blog as I have in the past, but I’ll still be publishing a few articles through the year as and when I can.

And for my first article of 2020, I take a look at the film that most probably caused the death of one of Hollywood’s greatest acting legends, as well as other connected deaths and some interesting tit-bits about the film as a whole…

The Man

Marion Mitchell Morrison, a.k.a John Wayne, a.k.a The Duke. One of the all time Hollywood greats, a true tough guy known for playing heroic cowboys, cops, soldiers and much more. A multi-award winning/nominated actor, including winning the Oscar for Best Actor in 1963 for the film True Grit. A man with a worldwide fanbase that included my granddad. As a child growing up, I remember whenever we’d go round to visit my grandparents, granddad would always have his films on and 9 times out of 10, it would be a John Wayne flick.

John Wayne 2

It was the 11th of June, 1979 when John Wayne died of stomach cancer… but the fact he died of cancer is not that unusual. He was a heavy smoker and had a 6 pack a day habit. It’s the fact that more than 90 other people who all worked on the same film as John had developed some form of cancer and by 1980, 46 of those had died from the disease. That film was 1956’s The Conqueror.

The Film

I guess that today, some would call the film “racist” or “culturally inappropriate” due to the fact that white American actor John Wayne plays the Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan, complete with some questionable make-up to make him darker and appear more Mongolian. But even if we ignore the slight racism by today’s standards… it’s just not a very good film at all. It was critically panned when released and has gone down in cinematic history as one of those “so bad it’s good” flicks.

The Conqueror poster

Directed by Dick Powell, produced by Howard Hughes (yes THE Howard Hughes) and starring John Wayne along with Susan Hayward, Agnes Moorehead and Pedro Armendáriz. The Conqueror is a hot mess of a film. From terrible miscasting to a nonsensical and boring plot, with some of the worst dialogue you’ll hear in a movie…

“I feel this Tartar woman is for me.”

– John Wayne

The Conqueror tells the story of Genghis Khan (John Wayne) falling in love with, Bortai (Susan Hayward). When Genghis Khan kidnaps Bortai, he kick-starts a war. Long story short, there’s some fighting, betrayal and Bortai ends up falling for the Mongol chief and they live happily ever after. As stupid as the plot is… it is loosely based on fact… very, very loosely.

As I said before, The Conqueror is a terrible film and is considered one of the worst films ever made and definitely one of John Wayne’s poorest flicks. It’s terribleness and being slated by critics at the time led to the closure of legendary production studio RKO Radio Pictures due to losing so much money. And if killing off a world renowned film studio was not enough, it could be argued it also killed off a lot of it’s cast and crew too.

The Cancer Controversy

And so we get to the meat of this article, just how can a film give more than 90 people cancer? Well it all boils down to where they chose to shoot the film… in the vicinity of a nuclear weapon testing site. Pretty much all exterior shots were filmed at St. George, Utah which was several miles downwind of the United States government’s Nevada National Security Site. The same location with a good chunk of nuclear fallout from testing during Operation Upshot–Knothole in 1953. And if that was not bad enough, then Howard Hughes paid to have 60 tons of the dirt from the site shipped back to Hollywood so any filming done at the studio there would match up with the location.

Operation Upshot–Knothole

The deaths include, but not limited to the film’s director, Dick Powell, who died of cancer in 1963. Co-star Pedro Armendáriz took his own life in 1963 after he was diagnosed with cancer in 1960 and learned it became terminal later. Other actors like Agnes Moorehead died of uterine cancer in 1974. Leading lady, Susan Hayward was diagnosed with brain cancer in 1974 and died after suffering a seizure in 1975. Then of course, there was John Wayne himself who died of stomach cancer in 1979.

And that was just the main cast and crew as many others also died from various forms of cancer by 1980 that worked on the film. Then there were cancer scares of people not even in the film at all. Both of John Wanye’s sons, Michael and Patrick visited the location where the film was being  shot and both of them developed cancer related conditions. Michael with skin cancer and Patrick had a tumour removed from his breast. Even Susan Hayward’s son, Tim had to have a benign tumour removed from his mouth. Plus other visitors had to be treated for cancer related illnesses.

Howard Huges

Then we get to eccentric business magnate Howard Hughes who was the main producer on the film. Well if you know anything about Howard, then you know he went a bit off the rails in his latter years… and that’s putting it mildly. He went completely bat-shit crazy. Becoming a recluse, living in a Las Vegas hotel for years and storing his urine in bottles were some of his more tame endeavours. While hiding away from public life, he bought the rights to The Conqueror outright and every single print of the film for around $12 million. He reportedly would watch the film on a loop day and night during his final years before dying of kidney failure in 1976.

Around 220 people worked on the film, an estimated 91 of them developed some form of cancer and a total of 46 of them died due to the disease. And those numbers don’t include visitors to the set or the Native American Paiute extras who also worked on the film but were not credited. So the cancer deaths could very well be higher.

I once read a review of a film where the critic made the jokey comment that the film was so bad that it gave them cancer. Well in the case of The Conqueror that claim could very well be true.

John Wayne 3

“Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.”

– John Wayne