Say cheese! London Film & Comic Con ’08

Cyberman outside the TARDIS at the London Film & Comic Con 2008Rising at 6am on Saturday wasn’t an ideal way to start the weekend, but at least it had purpose. This year’s London Film & Comic Con, held at Earls Court Two, had a 9am kick-off, and I didn’t want to be trailing behind the throng when the doors opened. After catching the 7.52am train to West Brompton, I arrived at about 8.10am and joined the queue, which was already snaking around the corner of the venue. It was a grey morning but, thankfully, the rain held off for just long enough.

After last year’s event, which was held in a cramped and gloomy hall in Earls Court One (currently home to the Doctor Who Exhibition), it was a relief to find myself entering a spacious and reasonably well-lit venue Never having arrived so early at one of these events, I wasn’t quite sure what to do first: head to the back of the hall and grab some ‘virtual queue’ tickets for the guest signings, pick up some talk tickets or queue at the organisers’ booth to sort out a wee problem?

After walking around shell-shocked for 10 minutes, my priorities started to align and I decided I’d better get me some signing tickets. It was crazy that I’d not done this straight away but, still, the numbers I had were all in the region of 120 – pretty low, considering I hadn’t sprinted to get them – and I saw everyone I wanted to by 11am.

First up was Tom Savini, a legend in horror circles for his roles in films such as Dawn Of The Dead, From Dusk Till Dawn and, more recently, Planet Terror, as well as his effects and make-up work (his piece de resistance being Day Of The Dead). Of all the guests, Savini was the one I was most looking forward to meeting, and it was very cool to press the flesh with the guy.

However, it was probably a little early in the day – I don’t think he’d really warmed up to the task, and neither had I, I guess – so I didn’t catch much of his personality. I wish I’d been around on Sunday, when he was reportedly showing off his whip-cracking skills, as seen in From Dusk Till Dawn. As it happened, my encounter consisted of a quick ‘good to meet you’, which, though not unusual or unexpected at these events, threw me a bit. Not Tom’s fault – I’d just built my expectations too high.

Karen Allen, on the other hand, took me by surprise by greeting me like a friend – does she remember me from all those times I watched her in Starman, I wonder? It’s been said that every man she met over the weekend fell in love with her smile. It certainly worked for me. Some guests at these events appear to be just doing a job; others seem to really enjoy themselves and go out of their way to be welcoming and interested. Allen struck me as doing the latter and came across as genuinely warm, melting hearts with her charm and enthusiam.

She was the star of the Indiana Jones talk, and earned a round of applause for her ‘people really shouldn’t take this stuff so seriously’ defence of Crystal Skull’s most criticised scenes (‘nuke the fridge’, the ‘Marlon Brando moment’ and Mutt swinging through the trees with monkeys). Spielberg, she said, likes to have fun. I’m not a huge fan of Indy IV (though, for the record, I think the first half hour is magnificent), but that clapping made me proud of the company I was keeping at that moment. During the Doctor Who talk, Peter Davison was asked which guest he’d most like to meet and have his picture taken with. His reply? Karen Allen. He’s clearly a man of taste.

Davison’s signing queue wasn’t quite as busy as his daughter’s, Georgia Moffett (Jenny from the new series), which might account for him doing the talk on his own. No matter, he fielded questions like a pro and showed pleasing candour in his opinions of his co-stars, most of whom he’s still in contact with 25 years later. For me, Davison gave the talk of the day, and he was a pleasant chap to meet too.

Remember that Hare Krishna zombie from Dawn Of The Dead? The one who finds his way upstairs and into our heroes’ hideout to menace Fran while the men are gathering supplies? Well, he was played by a guy called Mike Christopher, whose IMDb credits run to just two roles (the other being a 2008 film called The Coffin, in which he reprises his role from Dawn), making him the very definition of a cult movie star. Having met Romero and Savini, how could I resist nabbing Mr Christopher’s signature on a glossy 8×10? As far as I know, he was the only guest selling his own action figure. And, like Savini, he doesn’t appear to have aged much in 30 years. If that’s what being a zombie does for you, it can’t be all bad, right?

Meeting John Landis at the London Film & Comic Con 2008I’ve saved the best for last, and his name is John Landis. As director and writer of An American Werewolf In London, this guy gave me one of the best cinematic experiences of my life – even if it did happen in my front room. I was in my early teens, the video age had just dawned, and my best friend and I sat enthralled by this intensely scary, darkly funny film, the likes of which we’d never seen before, and the likes of which I’ve rarely seen since. Twenty-seven years after its release, it still plays as a true one-off.

Meeting Landis was a joy for the simple fact that he was the exact same guy I’ve seen so many times in documentaries and DVD extras. He was obviously pleased to be there, and his larger-than-life, wise-cracking personality shone. We bantered about my American Werewolf T-shirt, and after I’d got down on my knees for the photo, he flashed a grin and joked: “You’d be amazed how often that happens around me.” A fun, easy-going fellow, Landis reportedly made a big impression on everyone he met over the weekend. Top chap.

Other highlights of my Saturday trip included:

  • A Goodies talk (alas, minus Graeme Garden, who had transport problems), in which Tim Brooke-Taylor responded to a question about whether any more Goodies DVDs were on the cards with: “I don’t wish to badmouth the BBC, but they are bastards.”
  • A real live Cyberman posing by a pretty-good-looking TARDIS (they should have shut the door, though – it was clearly being used to store cardboard boxes).
  • A splendid life-sized Hulk model which, had I not been alone, would have had me nuzzling at its purple trousers while saying ‘cheese’. On seconds thoughts, perhaps I’d better rephrase that.

Same time next year, then? I reckon so.

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