Friday, 30 August 2013

Spotlight On The Blogs: Pickled Cinema

This is the first in a monthly series which takes a look at other blogs of interest.
Nigel Maskell - also responsible for the excellent Italian Film Review - recently started Pickled Cinema, which features post apocalyptic sci-fi mutants, wayward youth, women in prison, black gloved killers, kung fu vampires, disco godfathers and much more. Here, Nigel's considered opinions on all manner of filmic delights are laid out in a no-nonsense, eminently readable manner, punctuated by some great stills.It's a beautifully varied menu, and I'm delighted Nigel has elected to treat us to yet another blog that will be of great interest to those who seek out psychotronic movies.Reviews so far include Lady Terminator, Riot On 42nd Street and Hobgoblins.

You can find Nigel's blog by clicking HERE and it's also in my blog list on the right, together with Italian Film Review.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Blu-Ray Review: Beware Of Mr Baker

Think of all the best drummers you've ever heard in any musical genre, and the name of Ginger Baker would be very high on the list. Jay Bulger's remarkable Beware Of Mr Baker gives us a revealing documentary that really does lift the lid on the life and times of a musical genius.

Born on the 19th August 1939, Baker's formative years were scarred when his father died when Ginger was just 5. Years later, one of Ginger's classmates suggested he start to play the drums and a career full of highs and lows had begun. It's often recorded that seeing a particular film or listening to a certain recording was enough to launch a career and for Baker, it turned out to be a Charlie Parker LP that compelled him to set out on a long musical road containing twists, turns and dead ends.Bulger's documentary charts the choppy waters of Baker's life and career, using interviews, concert footage and home movies to provide riveting viewing for 90 odd (sometimes very odd) minutes. Here, the likes of Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Charlie Watts, Carmine Appice, Carlos Santana, Neil Peart and John Lydon are just a few of the artists to record their respect and appreciation of his talents, and there are also reflections on his darker side from friends, colleagues and family.

On the surface, Bulger's interviews with Ginger reveal a cantankerous old git, prone to acts of violence and who prefers animals to people ('They never let you down'), but when he was playing, Ginger really was at peace with the world. Thanks to some remarkable concert footage of Cream, Blind Faith, Ginger Baker's Airforce and Baker Gurvitz Army, we can not only hear but see what a great talent he possesses, and eventually we can understand why his projects began like a firework and fizzled out to ashes of some great performances. So, what made Baker such a wonderful drummer? Natural time ('You either had it or you didn't'); the jazz music that was his roots and a genre he would return to again and again and influential drummers that inspired him to cultivate a style that enabled him to land all 4 beats in a different place. Ginger also holds forth on his deep love and admiration for African music - including his time spent there - and has some rather controversial comments concerning Keith Moon and John Bonham. In 50 years from now, Ginger Baker will still be remembered for being a major part of some terrific music, and maybe the dark side of his nature will still be discussed, too. When his son declares that Ginger should have been alone and never had a family, one begins to understand the upset he caused, but there is a tender side to the man: witness the scene where Ginger cries as he declares he's met the four main influences on his career, and considers them to be friends. It's a moving moment and ultimately confirms that for Ginger, it was only ever about the drums.
Curzon Film Worlds Blu-ray features the interviews in HD, with concert footage taken from a variety of sources. The HD quality is fine, and the soundtrack is Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 surround. Unfortunately, there are no extras on the disc, but this a pleasing presentation for fans of the man and his music.

RIP Julie Harris: The Haunting

I was greatly saddened to read of the death of Julie Harris. Julie appeared in over 30 films, and was well known on Broadway where she jointly holds the record for the most Tony award wins. As well as starring with James Dean in East of Eden, Julie will perhaps be best remembered for her role in Robert Wise's The Haunting. By way of a tribute, here is a review I wrote several years ago. RIP Julie.

Borley Rectory, Epworth Parsonage, Glamis Castle……. names that will be familiar to students of British haunted houses. Film buffs could also volunteer Ettingham Park as an addition to a lengthy list. This imposing structure – now a hotel – features in Robert Wise’s take on Shirley Jackson’s famous novel, The Haunting Of Hill House.

Richard Johnson fills the role of Dr. Markway; a psychic investigator who views Hill House as “The key to another world”, and assembles a team of assistants who may stimulate the house. Eleanor Lance (Julie Harris), Theo (Claire Bloom) and Luke (Russ Tamblyn) accomplish that little task in spades although their collective experience is hardly steeped in the supernatural: Theo has powers of ESP, Eleanor may have experienced (or caused) poltergeist phenomena as a young girl and Luke is a ‘doubting Thomas’ who only accepts the spirits found in bars and clubs.

The history of their temporary (?) new home is a ghost-hunters delight: a 90 year-old New England abode, built by a man named Hugh Craine and host to scandal, murder and insanity. Before long, the history of this undesirable residence appears to cast its shadow over the land of the living: thunderous bangings, unearthly cries and whispers, footsteps in empty corridors, doors that bend inwards and a desperate message scrawled in chalk on the wall (“Help Eleanor come home”). There’s enough material here for a score of psychic conferences…… or is there?

Eleanor’s precarious state of mind (fuelled by guilt over her mother’s recent death) and Theo’s jealousy regarding the attraction between Markway and her own intended provide a cocktail of emotions which trigger telekinesis and group hallucinations. Imaginations run riot here, generating enough electricity to power a small town, never mind a creaky old house where the deaths of previous occupants lie heavy in the air, and on the mind.

The cast all run with Nelson Giddings’ screenplay, confirming that Robert Wise chose well: Bloom is terrific as “one of nature’s mistakes”, shamelessly pursuing Eleanor while injecting just the right levels of icy calm and near-hysteria while Lance slides further and further towards self-destruction. Johnson and Tamblyn – initially poles apart in attitudes and beliefs – gain in stature with each viewing; Tamblyn may seem to be overshadowed by the stately Johnson but he does get one of the best lines in the film (and earns it) and there’s a marvellous moment when he quite literally ‘bottles it’ towards the end of the film. Watch out too for Lois Maxwell as Markway’s wife, who could be excused for wondering just what James Bond would have made of it all.

Maybe he would simply have run out screaming, because the house had enough tricks up its sleeve to scare even the hardiest of souls. Was it really haunted?
Probably not, though I feel things had certainly changed by the end when Eleanor Lance deliberately drove her car into a tree, and passed from this life to the next. I can just picture her walking the corridors of Hill House, only to find it completely devoid of spirits.

Alone again, naturally.

Warner Brothers’ Region 2 DVD offers a 2.40:1 widescreen rendering, and is currently the best way to experience this film outside of any isolated theatrical screenings. Picture quality, in lieu of a complete restoration, is fairly sharp and the widescreen format really does open things up, giving us a far greater appreciation of the set design and cinemaphotography. Ardent fans will be delighted by the inclusion of an audio commentary track, featuring Wise, Giddings, Johnson, Tamblyn and, briefly, Bloom and Harris. Recorded separately, these six key figures provide plenty of anecdotes and observations: Harris revealing he worked on The Haunting by day and appeared in The Devils stageplay in the evenings, and generally meditating on his approach to acting (and how he turned his back on the chance to play James Bond before Connery got the role, while Tamblyn explains why he initially turned down the role of Luke and relates a ghostly experience that occurred one evening on the set.

Giddings and Wise also make for good company, agreeing their film has not dated, clearly proud that audiences are still keeping Hill House alive.

Perfect viewing for a cold winter’s evening. Just make sure your doors stay sensibly shut.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Jess Franco's Eugenie De Sade

"Pleasure is always at someone else's expense."

he late, great Soledad Miranda is joined by Franco regular Paul Muller for what is often cited as the most faithful celluloid adaptation of a Marquis De Sade tale. Based on the novella "Eugenie De Franval", Franco's take involves a most unsavoury relationship between Eugenie and her stepfather, Albert Radeck. In De Sade's story, their status was actually father and daughter, with a real sea change occuring on Eugenie's 14th birthday when Albert made her his mistress. Although Franco changed much of the original narrative - therefore falling well short of any claim pertaining to that 'most faithful' tag - his version is most certainly alive with the spirit of De Sade

The film begins as Atilla Tanner (Franco) sits at the bedside of Eugenie, who promises to relate her story on condition that Tanner kills her on completion. Tanner, an author who aims to write a biography on the Franval's, agrees and sits back to hear every sordid detail of their life and crimes.

Although Eugenie De Sade runs for less than 90 minutes, Franco crams an awful lot into his film; particularly during a remarkable first act, sowing the seeds of disgust as Albert introduces Eugenie to the delights of pornography, making it clear there are to be no boundaries. As the pair grow ever closer, Albert announces a business trip to Paris, where the couple will commit the 'perfect crime'.

Although Franco steered clear of replicating De Sade's father and daughter partnership, he undoubtedly succeeds in creating an unsettling air of familial perversity, with shots of Eugenie's teddy bear reminding us that a hitherto innocent young girl is now approaching the dark side of human nature; an entrance that is marked by Albert's confession that he was forced to kill Eugenie's mother, in order to raise and groom his intended one true love (Albert's wife, and a third party named Valmont, both figure strongly in De Sade's novella).Soon, Eugenie is a willing accomplice in Albert's quest for the ultimate in erotic entertainment, though his demands will eventually lead to the realisation of his worst nightmare.
The subsequent downwards spiral is, perhaps, too brisk to really catch fire - particularly during a most unlikely courtship between Eugenie and one of her intended conquests (musician Paul, played by weakest link Andre Montcall) but Miranda and Muller never miss a beat en route to the tragic conclusion.

As with most Franco films, there are a couple of scenes that really do linger in the memory: the De Franval's first murder is captured on camera as a young model (Alice Arno) takes part in a photo shoot that will culminate in her death. It's here that Eugenie makes her killer's debut, taking the part of make-up artist, producer and executioner. As Albert's camera approaches a frenzied climax, Bruno Nicolai's lyrical score suddenly mutates into disorientating free-form jazz; a head-spinning combination that will surely wipe the smile off the face of any Franco detractor. The second inspired set-piece occurs when the De Franval's develop a taste for hitchhikers; this time, it's Greta Schmidt (playing terminal chatterbox Kitty) who joins the ranks of Franco's 'slaughtered broads', taking centre-stage in a party game that must figure as one of Franco's most erotic creations. The man himself also plays a significant part in front of the camera, emerging as a directorial detective who loathes and admires his quarry.

Eugenie De Sade was the first major starring role for Soledad Miranda who, to avoid shaming her parents, used the pseudonym 'Susan Korday' (aka Korder): this disguise would be used again for Spanish language prints of films where Miranda was required to appear nude, and the name was a combination of novelist Jacqueline Susann and the great Alexander Korda. While it's a real pleasure to witness one of her most affecting performances, it's also a genuinely moving experience as one is rarely more than a minute away from remembering that her time amongst us was all too short.

Thanks to the wonderful medium of DVD, Eugenie De Sade has joined a growing library of choice cuts from the Spanish maestro. The Region 1 release - from Wild East Productions - apparently contains an acceptable transfer of this low budget film, with the added bonus of an "Unfinished Franco" supplement, comprising of 18 minutes of footage from 3 aborted projects shot in b&w between 1978-80 (one segment featuring Susan Hemmingway). While Oracle Entertainment's Region 2 UK release does not include this footage, their presentation of the main feature is nice and sharp, with strong colours. By all accounts, this is a far superior transfer though Franco completists may well look beyond this delicately balanced trade-off and purchase both.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

100 Days. Bollywood Horror

"You definitely must have remembered a scene from a horror film".

During a decidedly non-competitive game of tennis, Devi (Madhuri Dixit) experiences the first in a series of terrifying premonitions: a gun-toting man clad in a black leather trenchcoat; a girl drying her hair who will soon hit the floor after taking a bullet at point blank range. While further visions fail to reveal the killer's face, Devi discovers the victim will be her sister, Rama (Moon Moon Sen), and desperately tries to save her. 5 years later, with Rama missing, presumed dead, Devi marries businessman Ram Kumar (Jackie Shroff). While renovating their newly acquired bungalow, Devi discovers the skeleton of her sister after taking a pickaxe to an interior wall.

If the plot sounds strangely familiar, then you may well be a disciple of the late Lucio Fulci, because this is a 160 minute remake of The Psychic . Overall, Partho Ghosh follows the source material fairly closely, with Devi's visions including a distinctive brand of cigarettes, a magazine photo (this time with a horse on the cover - a nod to the equestrian suspect in the original) and stolen works of art. We also have another limping man to contend with, and a broken mirror: as neither figure in Devi's premonitions, one assumes they serve as further acknowledgement of Fulci's tight-as-a-drum giallo. One valuable plot addition concerns a videotape which contains the identity of the killer, and whose hastily conceived title (100 Days) is a reference to the opening 13 weeks of Devi's marriage. Partho Ghosh unveils a few more surprises before the credits roll - particularly during the suspense-driven final act - though Bollywood newcomers may find the first hour to be heavy going in places, as romantic interludes force the nicely developing plot to frequently grind to a halt.'Go with the flow' has to be the message here, as there are several extremely funny scenes to savour, and some wonderful song and dance numbers which are a riot of gorgeous colours and infuriatingly catchy tunes. Kumar's presence at a wedding offers the film's most humerous moments, when he's accused of theft, thanks to his bungling assistant, while "Ladiki Ladiki" (the first of 5 songs) features pistol-packin' babes dancing down graffiti-infested corridors, while their male partners indulge in shaving foam wars, washed down by a spot of kung fu. While such moments are well worth the admission price, 100 Days does, on occasion, enter the realms of the absurd with a couple of staggeringly inept fight scenes, and a finale that features at least two-twists-too-many.

While one can only speculate as to what Fulci would have made of this, those gorgeous Indian babes would surely have brought a twinkle to his eye and, one suspects, Lucio would at least applaud the concept of combining romance, thriller, horror and musical into one colourful package.

A Region 0 DVD is currently available on the Eros International label. Although there is some print damage, the transfer is mostly stunning with cool aqua blues and warm undistorted reds making this a feast for the eyes; indeed, it's hard to imagine it looking much better. Although 100 Days was shot in Cinemascope 2.35:1, the 1.85:1 ratio used here is more than acceptable, and Raam Laxman's score - supremely spooky in places - is well served by a clear, up-front audio mix.
As usual, the English subtitles suffer from translation, often providing hilarious reading ("By slipping, I've reached till here") and you'd better brush up on your speed-reading as dialogue has often moved on before you can blink.

Not, then, an unqualified success but 100 Days is entertaining for the most part, and a decent introduction to Bollywood delights

Review: Evidently... John Cooper Clarke

"I'm not the one who will have his life turned into legend. It won't be me.
It will be John Cooper Clarke."
Tony Wilson.

Ah, The Punk Rock Poet. I remember his gigs like I remember yesterday.
Suited-up, black tie, shiny boots and a hairdo that you could swear birds were nesting in.
Mostly performing solo, sometimes with a band, and always unleashing glorious volleys of poetry concerning Kung Fu,
rancid streets, raincoat-clad flashers and unhinged towns where "The fucking girls and fucking guys have fucking murder in their fucking eyes."

Never have the means streets of England been laid open with such insight and such venom, and this BBC4 documentary -
directed and shot by John Ross - bestows reverential treatment on this one-of-a-kind performer.

Evidently... covers John's schooldays - "They taught you how to read and that's the main thing" - which kick-started
his love of poetry, and moves onto his early gigs and his heroin addiction which lead to a frenzy of live activity to fund his habit.
Those lost years of the 1980s' saw John emerge as a survivor, while adding to the legion of admirers he accrued during those early days of Punk.

We hear about his favourite band (The Ramones); the days he spent sharing an apartment with Nico and John Cale, and
those wonderful gigs.John recalls the apprehension he felt before playing the infamous Glasgow Apollo (his set lasted
just 4 minutes), but states that Punk audiences were usually far easier to perform to than the hostile nightclub circuit.

Then of course, we get classics such as Beasley Street, Kung Fu Interntional and Evidently Chickentown; the latter
made even more famous in the penultimate episode of The Sopranos.
The documentary is a beautiful shot, often moving account of the life and times of JCC; never more so than the footage of John inside the modern-day Red Lion pub in Salford, where he surveys the scene as a 1977 recording plays spookily in the background. Then and now.

One of the most pleasing aspects of this production is the number of musicians and artists who pay tribute to the man:
Steve Coogan, Dave Formula, Jarvis Cocker, Kate Nash (her fave JCC track is 'Twat'!), Don Letts, Pete Shelley and
Peter Hook are just a few of those who speak with love and affection for this National Treasure.
So what is it about JCC that has captured our hearts. That he was something different. That he showed us the value of words and their possibilities. That he made us laugh and made us think about our lives, the streets where we live and the people we have met and are yet to meet.

Happily, John has been off the smack for many years, and is continuing to delight us. I have a feeling he will outlive the bloody lot of us.
For his gift of not only bringing poetry to Punk but also for giving it back to the working class, deserves a knighthood

Long may he reign!

Friday, 9 August 2013

Blu-ray Review: Opening Night

And for every wrinkle, there's a pain
and for every pain, there's a year
and for every year, there's a person

One of the most important home video releases of the year comes to Blu-ray, courtesy of the BFI.
John Cassavete's OPENING NIGHT was released in 1977 and remains a truly inspirational work, and not just for movie buffs.
Indeed, this film should be compulsory viewing for any aspiring director, actor/actress, writer and cameraman.
OPENING NIGHT is built around a play - 'The Second Woman' - which is finishing its out-of-town run before transferring
to New York.
The play concerns a woman who wants to fall in love, but is painfully discovering her time has passed. Myrtle Gordon
(Gena Rowlands) is surrounded by a dream team of a crew: playwright Sarah Goode (Joan Blondell); director Manny Victor (Ben Gazzara); producer David Samuels ( Pual Stewart) and actor Maurice Aarons who are aware they have a star in their midst whose performance will make or break the play.
Myrtle, however, is struggling to accept she is no longer the young girl of 17 who could "do everything", and for her, the play's central theme of growing old gracefully is a little too close to home.
Soon, Myrtle begins to change lines of dialogue and walk offstage in the middle of scenes. This leads to a series of confrontations that reside uneasily alongside the death of a young girl who was knocked down outside the theatre seeking an audience with Gordon.
This is a tragedy that has a profound effect, with Myrtle witnessing an apparition that may either be a ghost or her own younger self, refusing to be ousted by the 'second woman'.
Whichever theory you go with, it's an utterly compelling premise, carried along by Rowlands who can say more with a single look, a gesture, than many artists with two hour's worth of dialogue. This really is a magnificent performance, but it certainly doesn't dwarf the rest of the cast.

Gazzara as the long-suffering director; Blondell and Stewart who run the whole gamut of emotions as their ship slowly sinks and Cassavetes himself, who teams up with Rowland to delive some wonderul improvisation when the play opens in New York, while sharing a love/hate relationship with his leading lady.

As with many great films, it's the small things that leave almost as much of a mark as the major sequences:
Goode asking Myrtle her age - a series of requests that go unanswered as Myrtle cannot bring herself to utter two simple numbers and her arrival at a wake, where one of the grieving relatives declares, "You don't have children. If you had, you wouldn't have come here". It's a devastating encounter, that amplifies the passing of time during Myrtle's unfulfilled life, but still she presses on, determined to find a different way to play the role and find something human in the production

Dollars and reputations may well be on the line, but for Myrtle, the most important thing is to learn to grow old gracefully and brushing aside fears of being typecast as an older woman if the play is a success.
OPENING NIGHT certainly repays multiple viewings, and this BFI disc is the ideal vehicle for such a journey.
The transfer appears in the orignal aspect ration of 1.85:1. The film was transferred in high-definition on a Spirit Datacine from a 35mm colour reversal internegtive. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris and scratches were removes using the MTI Digital Restoration System. The mono 2.0 audio sountrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35mm magnetic audio track, and audio restoration tools were used to reduce pops, hiss and crackles. The result is a presentaion that exhibits rich, well saturated colours and sharp detail.

On the extras front, we are treated to a commentary track with Bo Harwood ( music score composer)and Mike Ferris
(cameraman), moderated by Tom Charity. The track is a mixture of anecdotal and scene specific - the latter largely taking over for the last half hour - and it's a genuine pleasure to hear two of Cassavetes' 'family' talk about working with the man. Both have excellent recall and hold forth on a multitude of subjects, including how John always got his own way; the challenges of recording sound onstage and offstage simultaneously; the lighting for that wonderful mirror scene and the possibility that Bette Davis may have ended up playing the Sarah Goode role. While it's speculated that Davis would possibly have been harder on Rowland's character that Joan Blondell was, rest assured JC would have had the last word.

This BFI release also has 'Memories Of John' (DVD disc) and 'Falk On Cassavetes' (DVD disc) and an illustrated booklet featuring interviews wit and essays from Tom Charity, Al Ruban and Peter Bogdanovich (who, along with Peter Falk, has a cameo at the end).

Some 35 years and change later, OPENING NIGHT remains an astonishing work, and it's a joy to see it in the best possible light. The Blu-ray is locked to Region B.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Curse Of The Crying Woman

This quick-off-the-mark Mexican homage to Mario Bava's Black Sunday wastes no time in creating a haunted world that, on its own terms, comes close to giving the Italians a run for their money.

As a coach bearing three travellers continues its journey through an eerie wood, a sightless woman, flanked by three hounds, silently bids her henchman to stop the coach and murder its occupants. Hell of an opening, and, for the viewer, things get even better when Emily (Rosita Arenas) arrives at her Aunt Thelma's spooky hacienda, a matter of hours before her 23rd birthday.

As one of the most renowned films from Churubusca Azteca Studios, The Curse Of The Crying Woman certainly lives up to its reputation, with Rita Macedo taking centre stage as the black magic woman who plans to use her niece to help resurrect one Marianne Lane - 'The Wailing Witch.'
Macebo and Arenas are both excellent here, pushing their compelling battle of wills to the limit, while Salazar (Emily's husband) and Moctezuma (Thelma's hired hand, rescued from the gallows) make for good opposing characters; the real deal, however, comes with some exceptionally unnerving special effects: haunted mirrors, decaying not-quite-dead bodies, Macedo's gobsmacking entrance through a window and a wonderful series of shots featuring satanic rituals, shot with negative film stock - think Benjamin Christenson meets Italian Gothic. Just a few of the highlights from a film which may have come under the scrutiny of a pre-Baron Blood Mario Bava and, possibly, Dario Argento: check out Inferno again and note not only the finale, but also certain dialogue similarities.

Unfortunately, the DVD from Casanegra is now out of print, but well worth the effort to track down.
The film has been remastered from newly restored vault elements, and contains a commentary track from Mexican Cinema expert Michael Liuzza. There's also a full colour booklet,with some terrific poster art and writing on the legend
of La Llorona.

The Bloody Vampire

Wanted: female servant for general duties in the residence of Count Seigfried Von Frankenhausen. Disappearance of previous employee necessitates immediate start. Pay to be negotiated. Living quarters provided.

In this particular case, 'living quarters' means a casket in Von Frankenhausen's underground cave, joining a macabre collection of females who were abducted by the Count (Agosti). While Frankenhausen keeps his new bride (Moss) firmly under lock and key, oblivious to his nocturnal hobby, his sworn enemy, Count Cagliostro (Raxel) agrees that daughter Anna (Palacios) should embark on a fact-finding mission as an undercover maid. Soon, Anna comes up against Frau Hildegarde (Bauman), the Count's loyal confidante, and can only rely on a dazed and confused manservant and a doubting Doctor, who possess all the intellect and logic of your average police inspector.

With a running time of 100 minutes, The Bloody Vampire threatens to outstay it's welcome on several occasions, with long, overly talkative passages containing little to hold the attention. A crying shame really, as the opening minutes promise so much, with a coach and horses silently gliding through woods, driven by a cloaked skeleton and only stopping to regard the body of a man hanging from a tree. The coach's arrival at the Frankenhausen abode - where Frau Hildegarde greets the occupants, surrounded by swirling mist - is, like the previous scene, reminiscent of Murnau's Nosferatu but that's where the comparison ends, leaving Agosti's Count to instigate sudden bursts of other-worldly menace, aided by some decent set designs which come alive as lightning flashes and shadows leap off walls.

Overall, there's just about enough here to repay the viewing time invested, and those with a benevolent sense of humour will love the straight-faced in-fighting between the Count, his wife and their servants; a Mexican version of 'Upstairs, Downstairs' with some rather sadistic torture scenes thrown in for good measure.

Oh yes, and you'll love the wonderful half-bat, half-rabbit creature near the end.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Sheila Whitaker. A Sad Loss

I was greatly saddened to learn that Sheila Whitaker passed away on Monday.
Sheila was head of programming at the National Film Theatre in London from 1984 to 1990, and director of the London Film Festival from 1987 to 1996.She also head of the National Film Archive collection of stills, posters and original designs
As a regular attendee at the festival, I had the pleasure of seeing Sheila introduce many screenings, and one memory sticks out in particular.

In 1996, David Cronenberg's Crash was due to be premiered at the London Film Festival. Unfortunately, a concerted press campaign had begun a day prior to the screening,calling for the film to be banned. Thankfully, the screening did take place, and Sheila introduced Crash, along with David Cronenberg, explaining she had encountered extreme pressure to pull the film but she fought for the right for us to make up our own minds on its merits.
Listening to her introductions and seeing her hold Q&A sessions with the cast and crew of many films, it was clear that Sheila absolutely loved her work.

In 2004, Sheila moved on to become Director Of International Programming at the Dubai International Film Festival for 9 years, and was looking forward to the 10th.
She served on international festival juries, who all benefited from her wealth of knowledge and experience and also found time to write for The Guardian, Observer and The Times. Sheila also edited and co-edited several publications - one devoted to women's writing and was awarded was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters (D.Litt) by the University of Newcastle and an Honorary Doctorate of Law by the University of Warwick.

The film world is a poorer place for her passing. My sincere condolences to family and friends.