Festival of Fantastic Films 1998

Jonathan Cowie at the 9th Festival of Fantastic Films, Manchester.


The 1998 Festival of Fantastic Films was yet another definite success for the committee: although the event was a little lighter in numbers (perhaps 10% down) due -- in this reviewer's opinion -- to lack of proper promotion in the face of all the other competition in the years SF calendar.

Local news first. The Anglo-Romanian S & SF Exchange's Cristian Lazarescu's short film, Pu236, did well in the amateur film competition. It was one of the ten short-listed and was screened at the event. Furthermore, though not winning, it turned out to be one of the two films to be commended! Congratulations Cristian. Personally I think it is a pleasant little short. Its only let down, as far as I am concerned, is that since it is about two immune survivors to a global disasters it does not have an external deserted-city shot. But as Mike (Simo) Simpson commented, if you were the sole global survivors, would you want to live in Bucharest?

Hotel forecast. Hot humid conditions in the main halls and bar due to a broken air conditioner prevailed. This means that either the hotel fixes it (the likelihood of which is diminished by Sachas changing the manager each year) or we move to a new venue.

Film highlights. The new movie Razorblade Smile provided an interesting twist on the traditional vampire lore, and despite its independent, low-budget status showing through did managed to hold and entertain its audience. Not at all excessive on violence and acted with a dash of wit. Well worth watching. However why oh why did the sound system for Razorblade Smile need to be on full? Answer 'cos the director said so. Please fest, have confidence in your own projectionist and tell directors to stick to directing! Actor director Steve Barkett's film Aftermath was disappointing though the ruined cityscape mattes were excellent; that and Forrest Ackerman as the museum curator, made the film worth watching (just). Steve also gave a reasonable interview and very much entered into the sprit of the event. On the other hand the special screening of an episode of the new Gerry Anderson Lavender Castle programme (a series of 26, 10 minute episodes starts January 1999) was especially well received. It is an unique blend of stop-motion and computer graphics. Brilliant stuff. Another great view was the film version of the Stephen Gallagher Oktober mini TV series concerning a drug that reveals humanity's collective consciousness. Stephen introduced the film. Superman and the Unknown People was an historic hoot. On the other hand the premiere of Alien Blood was reportedly disappointing (I was in the bar), and excessive on violence.

Programme participant highlights: Gerry Anderson revealed that the uniqueness behind his series is that they are all entirely from his own imagination. He does not read SF as he finds reading more than 30 pages of a novel difficult -- so if no inspiration, no lessons learnt from the genre either. However the animators from Cosgrove Hall who made Lavender Castle were fascinating. Models were on show and clips revealing the computer techniques were shown. This is probably the first TV series shot direct to hard disc. The series is a science fantasy with creatures based on the artist Rodney Mathews' work. Meanwhile stunt man veteran Eddie Powell revealed that he, if fact, was the uncredited actor playing the alien in Alien. This man has been in virtually everything made in the UK from Quatermass and the Pit, through Dalek Invasion Earth to the Lost Continent and Alien. Now retired, an Eastercon could do far worse than have him as a special guest. He interviews well, is veritable mine of information, and charming with it.

Random fandom. Jesse Wells turned up on the last day jet lagged from Bermuda. It looks like he will be getting a TV series for kids in the States. He is currently working for Disney but is also involved with a bit part in the forth-coming Carrie 2. Simo finds his job writing copy for a clothesware company a cinch and is freelancing on the SF front. Steve Green reminisced over the demise of the news/review zine Critical Wave. Apparently the finances historically if played differently could have meant that the zine would have survived. (The benefit of hindsight is truly wondrous.) The NW Kent SF Soc-designed Festival survey got a vote of thanks from the committee (well done everyone). There was interest expressed in the proposed Romanian SF and eclipse visit for October next year from three or four people (a couple of whom said that we should consider themselves firmly booked for the trip.

Next year is the Fest's 10th anniversary. Book now grimbles.

Registrations to: The Society of Fantastic Films, 95 Meadowgate Road, Salford, Lancashire, M6 8EN. (45 up to December 1998.)

The Festival's website is at www.fantastic-films.com

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