The Ingrid Pitt column: watching Hammer’s new film

Ingrid goes to Devon, writes a treatment for a film that Arnold Schwarzenegger could have been in, and attends the premiere of Hammer's brand new film. All in one column!

I decided to take a trip down to Bideford in Devon for the weekend. Always had a weak spot for the little seaport which used to be one of the most important in England.

My initial interest was sparked by being asked to write a treatment for a film entitled Westward Ho! based on the 19th century novel by Charles Kingsley. It starts off in Devon, takes a trip to the Caribbean and is back in Bideford for the Spanish Armada. All in the name of love. The leading character, Amyas Leigh, like most of the hot blooded males of Bideford, is in love with the gorgeous Rose Salterne. A pact is made among the Brotherhood of the Rose not to plight their troth, or anything else, until they are all together again. While Amyas is away derring-do-ing around South America a caddish Spaniard, Don Guzman de Soto, steals Rose away and flees. When Amyas hears about it he swears he will not rest until he had delivered Rose and killed the treacherous Senor.

I thought I had done a decent job on the treatment but it disappeared into the wild blue yonder. I was told that Arnold Schwarzenegger was the actor they had in mind for Amyas. Arnie playing a pure bred Devonshire lad was something I was looking forward to. Arnie didn’t make it but an animated version of Westward Ho! was made in 1999. It has nothing to do with the John Wayne western made in 1935 with no exclamation mark at the end of the title.

When I was writing the treatment I took a trip to Bideford for some local colour. There’s plenty of that. The town itself still has many medieval buildings and the Bideford Long Bridge goes back to an era that time forgot. I was lucky enough to meet some locals who had a fantastic 15th century farmhouse. We became friends and every so often they invite me for the weekend. Which was great until I received an invitation from Hammer to attend the premiere of Beyond The Rave in London on Monday. At 4 pm!

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I was scheduled to leave Bideford in the morning and hoped the weather would stay reasonable. Which, to be fair, it did. But it still took me over six hours to negotiate the traffic jams and go slows. As I put the car in the garage the limo turned into the drive. I broke a few records and changed and was in the car in ten minutes. I cursed all the way up to London. I shouldn’t have agreed to go. Destination was  the Rex Cinema at the end of Rupert Street. Easy to miss. I was led down several flights of stairs to the dungeon. An apt place to show the first Hammer Horror in 30 years.

There was the usual nodding and smiling until it was announce that we could drift into the auditorium. There was a bit of speech making by the new Hammer owner Simon Oakes, the producer, Ben Green, director Matthias Hoene and the PR woman from MySpace whose name I unfortunately didn’t get.

Simon explained that the Hammer idea for this film was to put it out in 20 segments on MySpace from April 16th.  Ben explained that this was to capitalise on the millions of ‘friends ‘ on MySpace  and that the episodes joined up into a complete 90 minute film at the end and would be available on DVD. 

The lady from MySpace said that this was a truly revolutionary way of presenting a film which would be available simultaneously to over 100,000,000 people and it was envisioned as the way ahead for movies in general. Then Matthias said his piece on the difficulties in making a film in 20 five minute episodes and keeping the audience on side.

Frankly, by this time I wasn’t a lot interested. How could you possibly keep bums on sofas when you were showing a feature film in 20 separate units? I don’t think I was the only one who had doubts. Questions from the audience showed a high degree of scepticism.

Then the lights dimmed and the magic of the cinema took over as the episodes came on. In spite of my initial animosity I was soon dragged in. I say dragged because this Beyond The Rave is certainly a sensational film. But not like anything Hammer has ever tried before. Which was something I was dreading. The cinema, in particular horror, has moved on since Jimmy Carreras shuffled up and received the Queen’s Award for Industry in 1968.

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This is a platter for today’s gourmets. It might be a bit savage and gory for me but I predict the cognoscente will love it. I came away from the theatre thinking I had seen something truly remarkable.

For the first time for a long time I was able to congratulate the folk involved for making a highly entertaining and remarkable film. Even if my part could be missed by an ill timed sneeze. The warning on the label is – not for the faint hearted or for those with nappy rash…  

Ingrid writes every week at Den Of Geek. Her last column can be found here