Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Beast with Five Fingers

June Diamond writes:
Monday’s event at the Cottage Road Cinema appealed in so many ways. I’m a sucker for old horror films , and we also had local history and significance.

Janet Douglas began by telling us a vivid tale of the early life of the author of the original short story on which the film was based. In We Were Seven, William Fryer Harvey describes how he grew up at Spring Bank House in Headingley, in a Quaker household full of books and stories. His grandparents kept to the old ways and the family eschewed violence in every form, down to not burning a guy at Bonfire Night. It is no surprise that he read Edgar Allan Poe under the dining room table.

It also made sense to learn that he became a doctor, conducting a particularly gruelling amputation to free a trapped sailor during the First World War. This dreadful  episode wrecked his own health, but was retained in his imagination.

Janet’s lively and evocative introduction led brilliantly to the film. They really don’t make them like that any more, from the excellence of Peter Lorre, to the pace and atmosphere that contributed so well to the grisly story.  A terrific evening.

RW adds: We are approaching the hundredth birthday of the Cottage Road Cinema, the oldest operating cinema in Leeds, which opened as The Headingley Picture House on 29 July 1912. The first Leeds cinema was The Assembly Rooms in Briggate (opened 1907) which is now a refurbished space used by Opera North.

1 comment:

  1. It seems that Leeds, in the last few days, has been subjected to much 'horror and spine tingling and peeping behind fingers' It would be interesting to hear about the early life of the author of 'The Beast with Five Fingers'- could the writing of this tale be some kind of rebellion against his very strict upbringing?
    I read that in the making of the film Peter Lorre did not always take himself very seriously and one scene took many takes as he subjected his fellow actors to much hilarity as 'carrots were stuck in his ear' just as they were about to say an important line. Perhaps the film may not be too frightening by today's standards but it is a chilly tale. I am not sure how far Headingley is from Kirkstall Abbey but Saturday night's live production- shown on BBC3- of 'Frankenstein's Wedding' was certainly scary. I thoroughly enjoyed watching it and the audience participation made it all the better.The Gothic horror story, written by Mary Shelley at the beginning of the 19th century, benefitted from the eerie atmosphere of the abbey and David Harewood's performance as the terrifying creation was brilliant.
    It may be that if I am thinking of travelling to Leeds, in the near future, I should consider running the risk of being shunned by fellow train passengers as the smell of garlic from my person emanates around the carriage! Now where's that rabbit's foot I found.......