Why I Love Peter Cushing

With his prominent cheekbones, searching big blue eyes and aquiline nose, Peter Cushing is undoubtedly one of the most striking and iconic faces in the history of horror films. He has often been described as “the gentleman of horror”, and as a lifelong Peter Cushing fan, I would certainly echo that description.

My earliest recollections of watching a Peter Cushing movie go back to the late sixties, when I first saw him in the Hammer horror movies. Staying up late to watch them every Monday evening, I was instantly captivated and enthralled by this wonderful, quietly spoken, dapper actor with the prominent face, a man who could play either Baron Frankenstein or Dracula’s arch nemesis, Dr Van Helsing, with equal skill.

It wasn’t just the Hammer movies that I loved Mr Cushing in, for he did make some excellent appearances in the Amicus films too. My favourite Cushing role in these portmanteau films was that of the tragic ex-garbage man Arthur Grimsdyke in Tales From The Crypt (1972), who is driven to committing suicide by the heartless actions of a disapproving neighbour, who hates the way Grimsdyke befriends local children and has dogs in his house, picking dirt out of what is, after all, just a simple case of a lonely, harmless old man playing the kindly uncle to the local kids. This is one of Cushing greatest roles, and I really felt sorry for Mr Grimsdyke when his tormentor finally drives the poor old man to hang himself.

However, this being a Cushing horror movie, and one where the character has been tampering with a Ouija board, it didn’t all end there, for one year later, the rotting corpse of Grimsdyke rises from the grave to exact a grisly revenge on his ruthless neighbour, ripping out his heart and leaving it for his shocked father to find the next morning, wrapped up in a blood-soaked cloth bearing a Valentine’s poem written in blood. Classic Amicus stuff! I still get goosebumps whenever I watch the part where Grimsdyke’s reanimated corpse slowly shambles out of the shadows of the neighbour’s study at the dead of night. Marvellous stuff!

Very rarely did Peter Cushing play a baddie, but when he did, he could really impress, just as unforgettably as he could when he played the kindly gentleman roles. The movie that sees Mr Cushing at his most ruthless and nasty is, for me, the 1969 classic Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed. In fact, of all the Frankenstein films he starred in, this is the one that really portrays the Baron at his darkest, stooping to such shocking acts as rape and murder. He blackmails a young couple to assist him with his ever-fanatical experiments, and when the girl, Anna (played by the lovely Veronica Carlson), inadvertently sets the monster free, he viciously stabs her to death with his scalpel

In regard to Peter Cushing’s TV roles, my all time favourite has to be the one where he played the ex-Nazi-turned-pet shop-owner in the Hammer House of Horror episode The Silent Scream, which was first screened in 1980. I now have this wonderful series in my DVD collection, and I especially never get tired of watching the Cushing episode. The part where he imprisons the husband and wife down in the electrified room still gives me goosebumps whenever I watch it! Another brilliant performance from the great Peter Cushing.

Of course, Peter Cushing did play many other roles outside the horror genre, and has appeared in countless stage productions, portraying such characters as Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. However, it is for his awesome performances as Baron Frankenstein and Abraham Van Helsing, along with all his other horror roles, that I shall mostly remember him. He made those parts his own – just as his great friend Christopher Lee did with Dracula and Boris Karloff did with the Frankenstein Monster – and nobody could fill his shoes in that respect.

When Peter Cushing sadly passed away in 1994, he left a big gap in the horror movie world – and, indeed, in the movie world in general – which, in my opinion, will always be hard to fill. God bless you, Peter Cushing, for giving us so many years of wonderful entertainment. You will never ever be forgotten.

Alan Toner

My Top 10 Boris Karloff Films

Here are my Top 10 Boris Karloff films:

1. Frankenstein (1931)

2. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

3. Son of Frankenstein (1938)

4. The Sorcerers (1967)

5. House of Frankenstein (1944)

6. Targets (1968)

7. The Curse of The Crimson Altar (1968)

8. The Raven (1935)

9. Abbott and Costello Meet Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1953)

10. Black Sabbath (1963)

What are YOUR Boris Karloff Top 10 movies? Please feel free to post them here.

Alan Toner


Stars In Their Eyes Revamp Was Utter Rubbish

I was VERY disappointed – as indeed a lot of other viewers were, to judge by all the furious comments on Twitter – with the revamped Stars In Their Eyes, which returned to our screens tonight, hosted by Harry Hill. I have always loved this show, and initially was really excited when I heard it was being revived. However, when I switched it on, I just could not believe what I was watching.

What the hell have they done to the traditional format we all used to love? Why have they made the show so scripted, and peppered it too much with Harry Hill’s pathetic, totally unfunny humour and crappy sketches? I have to admit, at times I felt like I was watching The Harry Hill Show and not Stars In Their Eyes. In tampering with the show’s traditional format, as was so flawlessly presented by Leslie Crowther, Matthew Kelly and Cat Deeley, the producers have made a complete dog’s breakfast of it. They should have one its ex-presenters, and left the show exactly the way it was.

I don’t think I’ll be watching this rubbish anymore. It was a total travesty of what was once a great programme to watch on a Saturday night. Now, sadly, it has been totally ruined.

Shame on you producers. You know the old saying: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Alan Toner

Free Download Of My New Short Story, Footsteps

Happy New Year to you all. And to celebrate the start of 2015, here’s a little treat I have for you.

I am offering as a free download my new short story, FOOTSTEPS. You can download this story now from my website at: http://www.wirralwriter.co.uk/FOOTSTEPS.pdf

If any of you download my story, I would really love to hear what you thought of it. And please don’t be afraid to be honest, as I always welcome constructive feedback.

Hope 2015 proves to be a great year for you all.


Annabelle Movie

Annabelle, the prequel and spin-off of the supernatural horror shocker The Conjuring, will see worldwide cinema release on October 3rd 2014.

John Gordon thinks he has found the perfect gift for both his pregnant wife Mia and their unborn child. That gift goes by the name of Annabelle, a beautiful and rare vintage doll adorned in a virginal white wedding dress. Unfortunately, the family’s love affair with the doll is soon shattered, as one terrifying night their home is invaded by members of an evil satanic cult, who violently attack John and Mia.

And mutilated bodies and demonic terror are not the only things that the cult leave behind, for they have conjured up an entity which is so powerful and malevolent that nothing they did will even compare to the sinister catalyst to sheer unbridled evil that is now Annabelle.

Like The Conjuring, Annabelle is expected to do very well at the box office, and is expected to gross around $30 – $35 million.

A bit of trivia for you: did you know that the real Annabelle doll is a large “Raggedy Ann” doll? The paranormal investigators the Warrens had a special case built for Annabelle inside their Occult Museum, where she is still on display.

Review of Dario Argento’s Dracula

Being a big fan of the Hammer Dracula films starring Christopher Lee (who, in my opinion, was the best Dracula ever), I always tend to view modern reboots of Stoker’s famous vampire lord with a certain degree of cynicism. For me, all the Dracula films since Christopher Lee’s have failed to recapture the magic and sheer entertainment value of the Hammer vampire, concentrating far too much on making the Count a sad, misunderstood, teen-appealing pinup boy rather than the traditionally terrifying, bloodsucking monster that we all come to expect. However, in regard to the latest take on the Dracula story – this time from Italian horror director Dario Argento – I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised, for it wasn’t a bad little movie at all. And I liked it that much that I am even keeping it my DVD collection, something I rarely do, especially in regard to modern vampire flicks.

Without giving too much away, I will say that Dario Argento’s spin on the Dracula saga is, for the most part, quite stunning and unique, for it includes certain elements (e.g. the way Dracula changes form and becomes not only the customary wolf but other animals too) which I have never seen before in a Dracula movie. There are also some quite sexy scenes in this movie too, which will raise quite a few eyebrows among those who are used to the tamer kind of vampire movie.

The photography, the costumes, the use of colors and the gothic set designs all combine beautifully to evoke great memories of the vampire movies of old. The fact that Argento made the storyline a little different to that of the Stoker novel did not at all detract from my general enjoyment of the movie, for it was quite interesting to see where the plot was going next, and after a couple of shocks I hadn’t seen coming (especially the one involving the village axeman), I even thought that maybe this story would not have the happy ending we have seen time and time again in a Dracula movie, with the vampire hunters staking Dracula in his coffin as the young hero rescues his captured fiancee from the Count’s clutches in the nick of time. It was such a dark, vicious, edgy movie that I even feared that Van Helsing himself might come to a grisly end at the hands of this monstrous, seemingly omnipotent vampire lord. Rutger Hauer – whom I loved in The Hitcher and who has played a vampire himself (in Dracula III Ascenscion and in the remake of Salem’s Lot) – is fantastic in the role of Van Helsing, and I was really on the edge of my seat at the climax of the movie when he confronts Dracula and tries to save Mina, whom Dracula has hypnotised into believing that she is his for the taking.

The awesome special effects in this movie – especially where the staked vampires dissolve into dust – were the icing on the cake, and whilst the actor who played Dracula (Thomas Kretschmann) did not really have the creepy, menacing look that Christopher Lee had, he certainly made up for this when he launched into his ferocious attacks and his stunning transformations, in which he dispatched his victims in the most bloody way imaginable.

All in all, Dario Argento’s Dracula is quite an impressive movie, and whilst I would not go as far as to say that it equals the brilliance of the Hammer Dracula films, it certainly is one I would highly recommend to any vampire fan to check out.

You can buy Dario Argento’s Dracula by clicking on the image link above this article.

Cilla TV Series

I have been watching the first part of the TV series on the early career of Cilla Black, and I have to say that from what I have seen so far, this biopic certainly does an impressive job in evoking the atmosphere of  early sixties Liverpool, and how Cilla carved a special place for herself in Merseybeat history.

Sheridan Smith plays the Liverpool singer who shot to fame during the days of The Beatles’ early gigs at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. Her husband, Bobby Willis, is played by Aneurin Barnard, and the man responsible for bringing Cilla to worldwide attention, Brian Epstein, is played by Ed Stoppard. Her romance with Bobby is well told, as are all the other aspects of her life, from her relationship with her parents to her contact with The Beatles. I especially enjoyed the part where she is prompted to get up and sing in The Cavern, backed by a generous introduction by the Fab Four. This scene really conveys to you what it must have been like to have been there at that time, as Liverpool was fast becoming the centre of world attention as a result of the Merseybeat explosion.

Coming from Merseyside myself and, as such, having always been interested in anything relating to The Beatles and sixties pop, I am really enjoying this series. However, there IS one thing that puzzled me: how come they left out when Cilla had a job in the cloak room of The Cavern as a ticket collector? Although they did show her in her typing role, they omitted scenes of her taking the tickets. Maybe somebody could enlighten me on this.

The second part of Cilla will be screened this Monday, with the final episode to be shown the Monday after that. So a lorra lorra stuff still to come yet as the early life of Cilla Black is vividly rolled out for the TV viewers’ enjoyment.

by Alan Toner



The Black-Eyed Children Phenomenon

Over the years, there have been many reports of the so-called “Black-Eyed Children Phenomenon”. This strange phenomenon basically involves sightings of young kids whose eyes are completely black and soulless, as if they are not normal children, and are possibly possessed, a bit like the kind of demons you often see in paranormal TV shows like Supernatural.

These children often appear on people’s doorstep without warning. They have a disturbing propensity towards asking in monotonous voices to be let in, or giggling in a high-pitched tone, as if they know something funny that would probably make your blood run cold..They have even been called “demons” or “children of Satan”. Described as “the most terrifying entities ever”, the black-eyed children have, amazingly, gone viral across America, and have provoked much argument and discussion as to their true reality.

Encounters with these weird youngsters have grown from a creepy tale bandied about on internet message boards to popular story lines for horror movies, This huge growth in popularity has even made people wonder if the black-eyed children have overtaken Bigfoot as a popular urban legend. While that remains to be seen, people’s personal experiences with the Black Eyed Kids continue to be reported

Oh, and one little tip should you ever (God forbid) have the misfortune to encounter any of these black-eyed kids: recite the Lord’s Prayer and demand that they depart in the name of Jesus Christ. Apparently, if any of the reports are to be believed, this soon makes these entities go away, never to darken your doorstep ever again.

If any of you have had experiences of these black-eyed children, or know of anybody who has, I would be very interested in receiving your stories.


I Hate Found Footage Movies

Don’t you just HATE found footage movies? Well, I certainly do.

Ever since The Blair Witch Project initiated the genre of found footage, we have had to suffer more and more of these boring, ridiculous movies. Just what people like about found footage films is totally beyond me. I mean, many of them are done so badly they could be any family’s footage of their holiday vacation. And in regard to using the found footage technique in horror films, well, many border on the simply ridiculous. I mean, just as if you would still be standing there calmly filming with your camera when a ghost or demon is running riot in your home, murdering your relatives and friends one by one. Pathetic.

The growth of the found-footage genre has, unfortunately, made it far too easy to just churn out any old rubbish, with a view to watching the money roll in, regardless of how poor the production is and how ridiculous the storyline. And the sad thing is, there doesn’t seem to be any signs that the found footage movie may be one the wane.

Another thing that annoys me is when you buy a DVD and it is not stated clearly on the cover that this is a found footage movie. Many’s the time I have fallen into this trap, wasting good money on a load of disappointing garbage. These DVD companies should state clearly on the sleeve that the movie is a found footage one, as withholding this information is foxing too many unsuspecting people who hate found footage movies into buying the film.

What do YOU all think of found footage movies? Do you hate them as much as I do? I would really love to hear your views, so please feel free to post them here.

Alan Toner

The Pan Book of Horror Stories Remembered

As a teenager growing up in the 1970′s, my favourite horror anthologies were The Pan Book of Horror Stories. I read them avidly, and always looked forward to the next volume coming out. These books really did have some great stories in every edition, and their lurid, colourful covers certainly did much to emphasise their appeal! Totally timeless and still much-missed today by the horror fiction fan.

Most out-of-print copies of The Pan Book of Horror Stories can still be found on sites like Amazon and Ebay. I have managed to obtain a few copies from Amazon, and although they are a little well read and spine-creased, the feeling of nostalgia that came flooding back when I started reading them was just fantastic. There are some real little gems in these books, and these stories completely knock the socks off a lot of the so-called “horror” stories of today.  These volumes should be essential reading for anybody who loves writing horror and needs some good examples of how to create a good, gripping, scary tale.

Like all fans of these books, I would love to see The Pan Book of Horror Stories revived some day. It is a great pity the series was ever discontinued in the first place. When they dropped The Pan Book of Horror Stories, they sadly left a big, gaping gap in the horror anthology genre which, as far as I am concerned, has never really been adequately filled.