Category: Events

Waxing lyrical about Kong: Skull Island at Madame Tussauds, London

Kong head at Madame Tussauds, LondonMadame Tussauds opened its Kong: Skull Island exhibit in March 2017, to coincide with the film’s release, and I’d been wanting to pay it a visit ever since. However, the time never seemed right. Weekends and school holidays were a no-no, as I don’t like crowds. But even on normal weekdays it seemed that the place was rather popular, with TripAdvisor reviewers noting lengthy queues.

With the film starting to feel like yesterday’s news – in the minds of the public, anyway – I was getting worried that Madame T might decide to melt Kong down. So I couldn’t put this off any longer: I had to launch an expedition to Skull Island right away – well, as soon as Tesco sent me the entry vouchers. Hiddleston, Goodman, Larson and Jackson might have reached the titular island via a fleet of heat-packing Hueys, but I’m taking the more sedate route offered by Clubcard points.

Dimensions in rhyme: Russell T Davies and James Goss promote their book of ‘Time Lord verse’

Me with Russell T Davies at Foyles, Charing Cross Road, 13 September 2017Here’s me at Foyles on London’s Charing Cross Road last night with one of my favourite human beings, the always-delightful Russell T Davies.

Russell was in town, along with the also-very-lovely James Goss, to talk about Now We Are Six Hundred: A Collection Of Time Lord Verse, which James wrote and Russell illustrated, and which looks like a lot of fun.

The evening began with some readings and an amusing hour-long talk, which was broadcast live on the official Doctor Who Facebook page, and at the time of writing is still there, should you fancy a look. This was followed by a signing, photos and posh chocolates – James’s posh chocolates, which he kindly donated to the patiently waiting queue, to aid their sustenance.

Top secret clown business: Meeting Sid Haig at HorrorConUK, 13 May 2017

Me with Sid Haig at HorrorConUK, 13 May 2017Last Saturday I trundled up to Sheffield to attend the third annual HorrorConUK, a convention for lovers of all things bowel-loosening, held at the Magna Science Adventure Centre. One of the guests was Sid Haig – aka Captain Spaulding, the serial-killing clown from House Of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects – and as a big admirer of the latter film especially, I thought I’d go and say hello, as well as nab a signed 8×10 for my slowly growing collection of cast signatures.

Normally when I attend this event, I journey up from London on the Friday and stay overnight in a hotel. But this time I decided to travel there and back the same day, catching a 5.45am train, on the back of a 2am alarm call. In theory, this meant I could go to bed early and get a few hours’ shut-eye. In practice, it meant I got no sleep at all. By the time I got home at 10.45pm, I’d been awake for nearly 40 hours – and for medical reasons I hadn’t consumed any caffeine, either. So look out for me in the 2018 Guinness Book Of Records.

The Gates of ‘Hello’! Meeting Fabio Frizzi and Catriona MacColl

Me with Fabio Frizzi and Catriona MaColl at Union Chapel, 29 October 2016Here’s one for fans of ’70s and ’80s Italian exploitation films. From left to right we have composer Fabio Frizzi, some interloping no-mark and actress Catriona MacColl.

Last night Fabio and his six-piece band played a wonderful gig at Union Chapel in Islington, performing suites of music from throughout Fabio’s career as a composer for film and television.

It was his third London show since 2013, and he’d reworked his set since his last visit to the UK two years ago, though of course all of his ‘hits’ from Lucio Fulci’s gothic horrors – the likes of Zombie Flesh Eaters, The Beyond and City Of The Living Dead (or The Gates Of Hell, as it was titled in the US) – were present and correct.

He scores! Meeting film composer John Scott

With John Scott at the Camden Film Fair, 3 September 2016“Rest the toe by not walking or standing for too long, and not putting weight on the toe. You can begin normal activity once the swelling has gone down.”

That was the advice I got from the NHS website after I whacked my little toe on the corner of my built-in wardrobe on Friday afternoon. Over the years, I’d stubbed the same toe many times before, often in the same manner, and I’d never suffered any ill effects beyond an initial yelp and a brief sick feeling. But this time was different. This time, the appendage still hurt to walk on hours later, and when I removed my sock I saw that the toe was badly bruised and had swelled up. Was it broken? Possibly, reckoned the NHS guide to toe injuries. Either way, it looked like it had been stamped on by a giant gorilla and I should definitely rest up, at least until the swelling went down.

Unfortunately, this was not an option, as the following morning I had somewhere I wanted – nay, needed – to be. John Scott, composer of film scores, was attending the Camden Film Fair, and I wasn’t about to let the occasion pass just because I’d been playing football with the wall. So I carefully donned a pair of green Converse and hobbled my way to NW1, clutching two copies of the King Kong Lives soundtrack: an original vinyl issue from 1987 and the CD reissue on the Intrada label from 2012. If John would sign these precious artefacts for me, well, it’d be worth crippling myself.

Rock this town: Lee Rocker live at the London Bass Guitar Show, 7 March 2015

Me with Lee Rocker and Buzz Campbell, at the London Bass Guitar Show, 7 March 2015Goddammit, that headline is so obvious I’m almost ashamed. Almost.

Sometimes what’s obvious is what’s right, and what’s undeniably right is that this morning in old London town Mr Lee Rocker more than lives up to his name.

The bassist, who made that name with the Stray Cats in the early ’80s, is here at the London Bass Guitar Show, at the Olympia Conference Centre in Kensington, to perform for around 400 fans and other interested parties. It’s been nearly 10 years since I last saw Lee play live – at Dingwalls in Camden, a gig that had a completely different kind of atmosphere from today’s theatre show. Back then I had to abandon my place near the front when the dancing got a bit boisterous (to say the least). Today, with theatre seating and a sober audience – at least I hope they are: it’s 11.20am when the set kicks off – I enjoy a more civilised experience and get to hang on to my position in the front row.

Hammer at 80: Westminster event announced

'A Hammer Film Production' title card from Dracula (1958)On Saturday 8 November, Westminster Central Hall in London will be hosting an event celebrating Hammer Films.

The British studio, famed for its classic horror output, was founded in 1934, making it 80 years old. To say ‘happy birthday’, a large cast of players from Hammer’s history will be gathering to meet fans, sign autographs and talk about their experiences making cult gems such as Vampire Circus and Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell.

Inside the Konga suit: Unmasking Paul Stockman

Paul Stockman and me, London Film Memorabilia Convention, 19 July 2014My name’s Darren and I’m a giant-ape-oholic. That’s right, I’m addicted to giant-ape-ohol – a cheeky and highly intoxicating substance that’s a key ingredient in more films than you might imagine. My DVD collection houses 28 of them, at last count. And, as you might expect, I’m partial to related collectables too, such as autographs. Which is why, today, I find myself standing in the lobby of Westminster Central Hall, handing over a crisp five-pound note to gain entry to the London Film Memorabilia Convention, where a certain Paul Stockman is a guest.

In 1961, Mr Stockman donned a hairy suit to play the titular character in Konga, one of only two British entries in the giant-ape genre (the other being the comedy Queen Kong from 1976) and a film that I’d regard as a guilty pleasure if I felt any guilt. Of course I can’t defend it as high art – it’s a daft production through and through, with its species-changing ape and not-always-so-special effects – but the presence of Michael Gough, who plays the dastardly Dr Decker, makes it very watchable. I find the film charming and, in the end (the very end), quite affecting. If you’re interested in my full and proper thoughts on the movie, have a read of my review. I’ll still be here when you get back, I promise.

Cutting remarks: Video Nasties – Draconian Days at the Prince Charles Cinema

Poster for Video Nasties - Draconian Days outside the Prince Charles CinemaIt’s Thursday 3 July and I’m at London’s Prince Charles Cinema, just off Leicester Square, to see Video Nasties – Draconian Days, the follow-up to Jake West’s 2010 documentary Video Nasties – Moral Panic, Censorship And Videotape. Billed as a world premiere of the 97-minute cut, the event, which has been organised by FrightFest, has attracted a close-to-sell-out crowd. West is here, along with the producer Marc Morris and some of the film’s participants, to take part in a post-screening Q&A. It’s reportedly the warmest day of the year, and I’m glad of the cinema’s air-con. “If you’re feeling hot and bothered,” says Morris in his brief introduction, “this will make your blood boil”.

Draconian Days picks up the story of UK film censorship in 1984, with the passing of the Video Recordings Act, and takes it through to the late 1990s and James Ferman’s resignation from the BBFC. Ferman, the organisation’s director from 1975, was notoriously – and I guess you could say ironically – bloody-minded in his treatment of certain horror films. He certainly wasn’t going to grant The Exorcist a certificate for home viewing, and he wouldn’t give the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre a theatrical one, either.

Scream-age fang club: Hammer Horror Day 2014

Advert for Hammer Horror Day 2014Update 11 June 2014: Sadly, this event has been cancelled, with a view to staging it next year instead.

Says organiser 10th Planet: “With great regret, due to contractual problems Hammer Horror Day has been postponed until 2015. We are sorry for any inconvenience. All refunds will be given over the next week.”

In the meantime, Hammer fans might want to turn their gaze towards an official event that’s happening in Westminster on Saturday 8 November.

Below is my original article about the event that 10th Planet planned to run.