Screamtime at the BFI…

I hadn’t seen Stanley Long perform in public since the BFI screened Primitive London a couple of years ago, so last night it was off to the South Bank to catch the veteran exploitation producer and director in action…  Rumour had it that Stanley was in bad shape after various surgical procedures, but he didn’t look much different from last time I saw him. He did his usual stock-in-trade bad jokes to laughs and heavy applause: “My writer Michael Armstrong has put on a lot of weight since he wrote these scripts for me, but I’m not going to embarrass him.” And when the Q & A was curtailed due to the event running late, Stanley suggested we could find the answers to all our questions in his newly published autobiography which is “on sale in the BFI bookshop”! So yes, it was a vintage Long performance.
The three films shown last night at the BFI belong to the quota quickie tradition, shorts made cheaply but for a considerable profit because they enabled UK cinemas to project the proportion of British films they were legally required to screen; and in the case of Long’s horror movies they were also eligible for public subsidy in the form of the Eady Fund. That’s The Way To Do It (1982) is about a put-upon children’s entertainer who batters his nearest and dearest to death, but blames the murders on his Mr Punch puppet. Lots of seafront shots in this one; it looked like Brighton to me but was apparently Eastbourne. Dreamhouse (1981) concerns a newly married woman apparently undergoing a nervous breakdown; it eventually transpires she’s got second-sight and was seeing a series of bloody murders that would take place in the very near future. It could probably happen to anyone who unexpectedly found themselves living in a large house in Ruislip, north-west London. Finally Do You Believe In Fairies? (1982) features murderous garden gnomes that come to life, plus a couple of zombies that rise from a suburban flower bed. This one even has David Van Day of the unbelievably naff pop groups Guys n’ Dolls and Dollar in it; in his introduction Stanley Long was unable to resist a joke about Van Day’s stint on a hot dog stall when his show biz career hit the skids!
The films were extraordinarily tacky and tended towards a British music hall/luvvie vibe. That said, the dreadful early eighties fashions kept me transfixed, as did the Stanley Long women –  what he seems to look for in younger actresses is a broad pelvis. Weird! Long films are complete rot, but nonetheless they are highly entertaining bollocks. And since I’m old enough to remember the mainly documentary shorts shown before American features in British cinemas, I can also assure you that Stanley Long’s three thirty plus minute horror outings tower above the average example of the quota quickie.
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – – you know it makes (no) sense!


Comment by K Mail on 2009-02-21 13:03:22 +0000

Stanley Long is a groove sensation. I’ve just got the DVD of his until now banned 1961 documentary “West End Jungle”… and if you ask me it was well worth waiting 48 years to be able to see it, it would be worth holding your breath that long to see it! Not that I had to wait quite that long to see it, I wasn’t born in 1961!

Comment by Kate Muir on 2009-02-21 13:31:57 +0000

Wow I’m really stoned… really tripping… out of… I’ve gone and… I shouldn’t have gotten this high… I didn’t take enough acid to get this high… even my playthings walked to Saturn… bend pencil erasers… delicious… apples explode into butterflies… I gotta get outta here… one two three four… I can hardly see… tombs interlocking… too much acid… too many colours blown up in my face…

Comment by The Nicolas Bourriaud Bot on 2009-02-21 13:56:34 +0000

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Comment by Moonshine International on 2009-02-21 14:21:05 +0000

Get it on, smoke a bong, watch a film by Stanely Long, then play ping pong! Yeah you need the right club environment to do all that and I got it!

Comment by I Was Stewart Home’s Double on 2009-02-21 15:16:28 +0000

Of course Mister Trippy wasn’t really at the Stanley Long screening, he sends me along to do that sort of thing, I stand in as a double when he’s too busy…..

Comment by The Duke on 2009-02-21 18:38:48 +0000

I’ve come for my boy!

Comment by Marie Antoinette on 2009-02-21 19:08:39 +0000

Qu’ils mangent de la brioche.

Comment by John Wayne Statue on 2009-02-21 21:23:58 +0000

Get off your horse and drink your milk!

Comment by John Wayne Statue’s Doppelganger on 2009-02-21 21:25:10 +0000

Get off your butt and join the Marines!

Comment by The Flasher on 2009-02-22 11:23:15 +0000

I prefer Stanley Long’s sexploitation movies to his horror efforts, and isn’t that what he is best known for anyway?

Comment by The Inauthentic Clive James on 2009-02-22 15:06:16 +0000

Stanley Long is England’s second Alfred Hitchcock!

Comment by The Fake Stanley Long on 2009-02-22 15:32:05 +0000

Us south London boys gotta stick together! Oops is that an Aussie accent? Sounds like south London to me!

Comment by The Other Marcus Grey on 2009-02-22 17:13:35 +0000

Wanna smash the state? Then check on the Adventures of a Plumber’s Mate!

Comment by Mary Tree Sex on 2009-02-22 18:40:59 +0000

I love the puppets in “That’s The Way To Do It”, coz if I was with Mr Punch and there weren’t any trees to shag, then that wooden puppet wouldn’t be such a bad substitute. I just love that wooden stick with which he batters people to death!

Comment by dom on 2009-03-01 15:32:20 +0000

I watched the first story, “that’s the way to do it”, last night & was impressed to say the least. obviously i was not expecting a great deal, so i was delighted to find that the tale contained at least 3 moments of genuine shock. In fact, I don’t think I’m exaggerating by saying that this segment ( I’ve not watched the other 2 stories ) ranks alongside Polanski’s “Repulsion” for jump out of your skin moments…it is a genuine find.

Comment by dom on 2009-03-02 18:41:55 +0000

I’ve now watched the second & was amazed to find that it was as good. Few directors know how to make a frightening film. Judging by these two films, Stanley Long is one of the best horror film makers we never had.
The third story is pretty weak, but there is the odd effective moment. It looks like the idea for it was cribbed from the first story in “The Monster Club”. The medium character in the second story is lifted straight from the “elemental” story in “From Beyond The Grave”.
Polanski’s “Repulsion” remains the benchmark by which all other frightening films must be judged. Armstrong understood this, his short film “The Image” is a homage to Repulsion & the second story in “Screamtime” is too.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-03-02 19:02:09 +0000

I didn’t find them frightening, but then that’s not what I look for in a film anyway…. My taste for horror emerges in part from a taste for trash… And I like a good laugh too… But these Stanley Long horror flicks kept me entertained for sure… although I wouldn’t put them right up there with some of his earlier work like “Primitive London”, which is an utterly fabulous mockumentary! But even if it is for different reasons, I think one thing we can agree on is that Stanley Long rocks!

Comment by dom on 2009-03-13 00:45:42 +0000

the thing is, because the 3 films were cobbled together & a terrible wraparound story added & because as a film it has little status other than as a forgotten early 80s British horror film, it doesn’t receive the merit it should because it hasn’t found an audience. despite its shortcomings, I found the first 2 films very impressive. michael armstrong is another director who, despite making very few films, showed great promise…though you won’t hear him being talked about like his colleague Michael Reeves is.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-03-13 12:37:07 +0000

I was watching “The Wife Swappers” and “Naughty” again recently, and I just love Long’s mockumentary work… He just had an amazing ability to catch interesting stuff on camera. Amazing shots of London in its grubby seventies glory, but then there’s all the counterculture faces with Al Goldstein of “Screw” at the “Wet Dream” festival, amazing stuff! I was getting right into that vibe, and had “Love Box” on last night, it’s the Long team rather than just Long and amazing attention paid to some of the shots. Great opening to “Love Box” with the magazine editor driving from the airport, then the first psychedelic love scene is just amazing, worth watching the whole film just for that – but then the theme song is so fabulous too! So it is of course great news that the BFI are putting out “Primitive London” and “London In The Raw” now that Strike Force have already done “West End Jungle”.

Comment by Ray ‘The Cat’ Jones on 2009-03-13 16:12:29 +0000

Give me a Hitchcock thriller over all this arty nonsense. I havent time inbetween successful gold bullion robberies to be trying to figure out what the hell I’m watching, as with that copy of ‘Can Dialectics Break Bricks?’ you sent me when I was in the big house. Luvaduck!

Comment by dom on 2009-03-20 23:46:20 +0000

You don’t often hear the films of Stanley Long described as “arty nonsense”.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-03-21 19:45:19 +0000

I think someone’s having a bubble bath! I notice Stanley quotes a bad review he received from Chris Petit in his autobiography… But actually now the BFI are doing both Petiti’s “Radio On” and old Long films like “London In The Raw” and “Primitive London” on DVD… And when is some clever record company gonna click onto the idea of doing a CD (maybe double CD) of Long soundtracks? Bread and Groupie Girl have plenty of good tunes, not to mention the theme songs from the Aventure series – mind you the one Adrienne Posta sings would work well on a best of compilation of her tunes, she’s brilliant on non-Long stuff like Johnny Reggae too!

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