Reviews header Selected from Shivers #88

The Latest in Horror Entertainment
In this issue: ten pages of reviews, covering:

Video / DVD Reviews •
Stephen Foster on the latest DVDs including De Niro and Rourke in Angel Heart, Ultraviolet and the BBC's The Tripods, plus a telefantasy round-up

Book Reviews •
Jonathan Rigby's Christopher Lee
book, plus Graham Masterson's The Doorkeepers and Jonathan Aycliffe's The Talisman

TV Reviews •
Ian Atkins on a brace of further episodes from the new seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel

Film Reviews •
Alec Worley on Hannibal , plus Simon Scott on the 1994 re-release The Navidson Record

DVD Review
Ultraviolet

Director: Joe Ahearne • Starring:
Jack Davenport, Susannah Harker, Idris Elba
Region 2 (PAL) DVD
Ratio: 1.66:1 (Non-Anamorphic), Audio: Dolby Stereo 2.0 (192kbps)
Distributor: Contender
Order it from Blackstar today!

Ultraviolet on DVD

Reviewed by Stephen Foster
selected and edited from Shivers #88

One of a rash of recent modern-day twists on the vampire myths (Blade, The Kindred, etc), the 1998 Channel 4 series Ultraviolet avoids using the V-word, and presents an engaging and intelligent ‘what if’ scenario about how a race of blood-suckers might be living among us, and what official measures might be taken to counter them.

The six-part series has been released as a beautifully packaged two-disc set, from Contender, the company behind the popular Farscape releases. Although the episodes themselves look clean and sharp the sound is typically rather mundane. Sadly there’s little by way of extras, just a couple of trailers, a gallery of about a dozen posed photos and biographical notes for the main cast.

Book Review
Christopher Lee: The Authorised Screen History

by Jonathan Rigby
Published by Reynolds and Hearn, 256pp, £15.99

Christopher Lee: The Authorised Screen History
Reviewed by David Miller:
selected and edited from Shivers #88

Jonathan Rigby is an actor and director and has been writing for Shivers since issue #18. His first book, English Gothic, published last year, was hailed as the definitive work on British Horror cinema.

After last year’s magnificent English Gothic I was fizzing with anticipation for Jonathan Rigby’s book on Christopher Lee. I knew of Rigby’s deep affection for the actor and his work, and the gracious help that Lee himself had provided – making this a truly ‘authorised’ edition. But there was still one hell of a career to cover. How could you possibly do it justice in 250 pages?

The results surpassed my expectations. Faced with an almost impossible task, Rigby has done an almost impossibly good job. Filming dates have been unearthed with archaeological zeal, pressbooks and interviews mined for nuggets of information. Lee’s revealing letters to his fan club tell an ongoing story from the actor’s perspective – invaluable when dealing with the more obscure European subjects. (Please note: Lesser biographers think that all you need to do is cobble together bits of other people’s work and lard the whole with photographs. These people are charlatans and will amount to nothing.)

The principal difficulty in dealing with such a huge amount of factual information is making the whole thing readable. No worries here, though. Rigby’s impeccably elegant turn of phrase, which makes English Gothic such a lasting treasure, is applied here to enliven even the most meagre films in the canon. You only have to look at saucy chapter titles like ‘From Scaremonger to Scaramanga’ to realize that this is no po-faced catalogue, and there’s even a suspicion that Rigby found more fun in being rude about turkeys like 1978’s star-stuffed Alistair Maclean adventure Bear Island (‘a leaden exercise’) than in dealing with the more worthy performances.

The book is meticulously indexed, source notes are clearly displayed, and it looks gorgeous. Designer Peri Godbold, who worked on English Gothic has once again done a superb job, but who could not fail to be enchanted by such a collection of new Christopher Lee photos, many loaned from Lee’s own scrapbooks? The cover is particularly striking, showing Lee at his most handsome and magisterial as the Duc de Richleau in 1967’s The Devil Rides Out. Perhaps (only) a dozen or so photos herein have been reproduced before, and they must be included for their iconic value.

Hack writers still make the lazy equation ‘Christopher Lee equals Dracula’, even after 30 years – which annoys the hell out of me, so God knows how Lee must feel. For those nonentities there is more than enough here to show that the Prince of Darkness was simply one among the great panoply of Lee villains. And here we see them – St Evrémonde in A Tale of Two Cities, 1957, Fu Manchu, Scaramanga, and still they come – in his newest films, shot last year, Lee plays the wicked wizard Saruman and the mysterious Count Dooku, in The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars Part II respectively. George Lucas, who provides the foreword (a rare personal touch from this most aloof of producers) says that Lee ‘defined macabre for generations of horror enthusiasts, but his talent reaches far beyond that genre’. Well said, George.

Lee is a complex figure, and the acid test is whether his personality is conveyed by the book. Rigby has done this faultlessly. Lee the man comes across on every page – an actor of great discipline, stamina and integrity, fiercely proud of his craft, honest, powerful, funny – but occasionally just a little insecure.

Christopher Lee: The Authorised Screen History brims with charm and humour and a schorlarly attention to detail. With an insight into an actor’s life that only an actor can bring, it is a book by which other biographies should be judged.

Reviews © Visual Imagination Ltd 2001.
Images © Universal, Eureka, Hodder Headline Books. Not for reproduction