Ginger Nuts of Horror
When I saw the first entry in Jim McLeod’s new blog ‘The Film That Made Me’ I became aroused (in a cinematic sense of course) and asked him if I could also contribute, as I’ve been a lover of film since I was a small thing with an excitable imagination and a strange desire to dress up. He said that yes, I most definitely could. I was very flattered and rubbed my hands with glee. Then I started to reel (!) under the enormity of the task of choosing just my one and only, all-time, most magnificent, most affecting movie ever. Nevertheless I resolved to give it a go. Entering into the subtly lit and erotically scented ambience of my inner sanctum, I excitedly began perusing my wall of DVDs. All of a sudden I was horrified by the huge and almost mythical venture that I had foolishly chosen to undertake. I have approximately 500 movies in various formats on my shelves and now it seemed as if every one of them had, in an unguarded instant, gained a voice and physical form and was nudging the others out of the way with unnecessary force and shouldering themselves into my forebrain. Crying: “Me Sir, Oh please Sir! Choose ME Sir! I’ll do anything!” This was too much to bear. HOW COULD I CHOOSE BUT ONE?
Sobbing, I forced the door shut upon the pitiful clamour of their voices and with a heavy heart and dragging feet I slowly climbed the crumbling marble stairs to the secure communication centre in the east turret of my London home. I sat in slumped despondency about my indecision until all of a sudden it came to me in a cinematic flash. I decided that the only way out of this ghastly dilemma was to introduce a Brian Eno-esque element of randomness into the decision making process. Kind of like the premise of The Dice Man but with me as the protagonist in a non-drastically life-changing way. So in Photoshop I designed a series of 27 (it had to be that number because 9 is the number of change) playing card sized images each bearing the title of and an image from one of my all time favourite films. These I then printed out and cut to the appropriate proportions and arranged them into a mini deck of cards. I left them in a pile to simmer until I was ready so I passed the time by bidding a fond farewell to the duo of happy Thai dancing girls until our next liaison, opened another bottle of Absinthe, chopped out a few ordered rows of pure Vitamin B6 powder and played a stimulating game of backgammon with my two cats. Then, just as I was about to trump those cocksure feline minxes once more, I instinctively knew that the time had come to stop procrastinating and to deal out the cards in a Tarot like spread. Lo and behold the answer was thus shown to me! Yes, chance had given to me the title of the film that made me. And here it is.
“The only performance that makes it, that really makes it, that makes it all the way is the one that achieves madness. Right? Am I right? Are you with me?”
No other movie since my halcyon days of viewing cinematic tales of Greek and Roman myths and magic in the early 1960s has haunted and captivated me as much and as consistently as this one. In fact it became an obsession for me throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched it. Even now I still find elements in its scenes, dialogue and construction that I swear I had not noticed before. The film was made in 1968 but Warner Brothers sat on it for two years, panic stricken by the decadent and violent tale with which they were presented. Finally, after some severe butchery in edit suites the film was deemed safe enough to be released in 1970 to, in the main, baffled indifference from the general, cinema going public. But to the large numbers of ‘Heads’ out there who caught the movie in art house theatres in Europe and the US, it most definitely hit the spot in its depiction of psychotropic hedonism and sexual liberation coupled with a brilliant soundtrack.
For reasons that I still don’t quite understand I didn’t catch up with the movie until it re-appeared in 1977, although I was certainly aware of its notorious reputation. Most of my own early ‘70s were spent in a drug induced, somewhat metaphysical state of being courtesy of consistent usage of hashish, mescaline and LSD. Couple that with a copious intake of new literature, new music and a devouring of mysticism, the occult and philosophy and you’ve got a butterfly with hair down to his chest emerging from his middle class cocoon. So, at that time new cinema wasn’t a prime focus of exploration for me. But by ’77 I was finally living in London and training to be a mime artist and one memorable afternoon I saw an ad for the newly re-released Performance in Time Out, which told me:
“This film is about madness. And sanity. Fantasy. And reality. Death. And life. Vice. And versa.”
Oh, what is there possibly NOT to like! I rushed to see the film that very afternoon at the Essential Cinema in Wardour Street and shortly thereafter at the Paris Pullman in Fulham. My mind was seriously blown from the opening scene onwards. That fast edited sequence of the black Rolls Royce cruising through the countryside, cut with Chas (James Fox) having an S&M fuck with a girl to Randy Newman’s lyrically obscure track Gone Dead Train driven by Ry Cooder’s mesmeric slide guitar hooked me right in deep. Very deep! Then at about 48 seconds in, the music fades out and is replaced with an eerie sound like synthesized breathing, coupled with an underlying drone as the fucking on the screen becomes more violently passionate. The editing gets faster as the coupling intensifies towards climax and then in comes the angelic voice of Merry Clayton to usher in a brief post-coital moment. All this in only 2’23”! And so began the cinematic journey of a lifetime, right before my dilated and delighted eyes. I had never, ever seen anything like it and I doubt many others had too.
For those who don’t know the plot of the movie, here is a very simplified version: Young London enforcer Chas Devlin, in the employ of ‘Businessman’ Harry Flowers, is forced to kill a fellow gangster in self defence and goes on the run. Not only from his employers but also from the Police. By chance he overhears a conversation in a café at Paddington station that informs him that there’s an empty room to rent in a house in Powis Square, Notting Hill Gate. Under the newly invented persona of Johnny Dean, a juggler, Chas inveigles his way into the household, which is run by the decadent, retired rock star Turner and his two concubines. That’s where the journey to transmogrification begins. From the moment Chas enters the house the movie becomes a visual representation of the peeling away of the layers of a person’s identity through psychedelic drugs and emotional and mental games. That’s just the mere surface!
I knew a bit about The Krays and The Richardsons and the seedy underbelly of London gangster life from a safe distance via the TV and the press but the first half of Performance put me right in the middle of it. The way the characters spoke their almost Dickensian dialogue, the physical language of their bodies and the extreme violence meted out to the stupid ones who thought they could get away with it appalled and fascinated me in equal measure. This was seemingly real and did not resemble any previous attempts at capturing that milieu on film. Brighton Rock, although still quite edgy and nasty in its own way as a depiction of small time criminal activity in post war Brighton seemed somehow quaint and unreal compared to this onslaught. This was visceral film making that cut right through anything that had been seen before. Certainly there would be no contemporary ‘London Cockney Geezer Gangster’ flicks like The Long Good Friday, Lock Stock, Snatch, Layer Cake, Gangster No 1, Love, Honour and Obey, Face et al without the first half of this extraordinary film.
Here are some of my favourite lines from the ‘Chaps’:
“He’s a nutcase like all artists, but I can rely on him.”
“United we stand, divided we’re lumbered.”
“Who do you think you are? The Lone Ranger?”
“Putting a little stick about. Putting the frighteners on flash little twerps.”
“And I’m alive and well. You push the buttons on that, thing.”
“That boy’s in bovver. Up ‘ere.”
“ I am a bullet.”
It’s time for a change. Halfway through the movie, the shift happens. A seismic sideways lurch into a hallucinatory and insular world of magical realism takes place, seemingly devised and directed by Jorge Luis Borges, Aleister Crowley, William Burroughs and Kenneth Anger. In reality it was the brainchild of the wayward aesthete and artist Donald Cammell who wrote and co-directed this wondrously decadent script. Now there’s no turning back, either for Chas and Turner or indeed us, the viewers.
Those of us who have indulged in an hallucinatory or psychedelic experience will recognize the moment when Chas (now no longer Johnny Dean and well along the journey into night and hopefully rebirth courtesy of magic mushrooms) with eyes like black holes, looks at the incandescent flame of a candle and says with a new found sense of wonder and a softness in his voice:
“ Yeah…I’ve never seen that sort before. It must be scorching hot”.
Talking of scorching hot, let’s introduce the heavenly and dangerous Anita Pallenberg right now. She plays Pherber, one of Turner’s two companions. She’s blonde, thin but with a sensuous body and she epitomizes every Dolly Bird from the mid ‘60s who strode the King’s Road and hung out at the Ad Lib and the Speakeasy wearing clothes from ‘Granny Takes A Trip’ or ‘The Sweet Shop’. In real life (if there was such a thing back then) she was the paramour of Brian Jones and Keith Richards and allegedly, during filming, that of Mick Jagger too. She was the most divine creature that I’d ever laid eyes upon and her cinematic, stoned and soft focus beauty torments me to this very day. Jagger as Turner is absolutely perfectly cast. Channelling the essences of band mates Brian and Keith he creates a real character unlike that of any other Rock Star previously depicted on film.
Chas: “Why don’t you play us a tune pal?”
Turner: “I don’t like music.”
Chas: “Comical little geezer. You’ll look funny when you’re 50!”
I am not going to give you ‘Spoilers’ about where this film leads us in the endgame. I could write forever about this extraordinary piece of work but now I have to somehow stop. To sum up, all I can say is that this movie not only changed my life, it also transformed the face of cinema and music videos to come and it will, in many ways, alter the perception of all those who watch it. Donald Cammell (RIP) and Nicolas Roeg – my sincere thanks to you both! Nothing is true, everything is permitted.
TIM DRY is an eclectic, contradictory, inconsistent artist with a very low boredom threshold. But in spite of these disabilities he has managed over the last thirty years to carve out careers as an actor, award-winning photographer, pop musician, famous mime artist and now writer. His saving graces are charm, a questioning mind and a legendary sense of humour.
He moved up to London in the summer of 1976 to study Mime and Physical Theatre with Desmond Jones and Lindsay Kemp (tutor to David Bowie and Kate Bush). Throughout 1978 and 1979, Tim and fellow artiste Barbie Wilde toured their own Mime show in leading 'Is That The West End I See In The Distance?' venues and festivals throughout the UK.
In 1980 Tim and Barbie joined a rock/mime/burlesque/music troupe named SHOCK. They travelled the world, made some records, got a lot of press and found themselves in the vanguard of the New Romantic cult of the early '80's, alongside Boy George, Duran Duran, Adam Ant and Spandau Ballet.
Tim then created a robotic mime and music duo called TIK & TOK with Sean Crawford (also a member of Shock). They toured with Gary Numan on his UK "Warriors" tour in '83, worked with Vangelis, supported Duran Duran for two night at Birmingham Odeon in 1982, were themselves supported by a fledgling Depeche Mode, got a lot more press coverage and released 5 singles and a well received album "Intolerance" in the UK, Germany and Japan. They appeared on innumerable TV shows (including The Royal Variety Show 1983) and had featured roles in Episode VI of the STAR WARS saga 'Return Of The Jedi', and the cult horror/ /sci fi flick entitled 'XTRO'.
After Tik & Tok disconnected from each other in 1984, Tim moved into mainstream acting. He has been featured in over 90 TV Commercials in the UK and Europe, as well roles in film, TV and Theatre. An odd twist of fate led to him co-presenting a food and drink series for Channel 4 named 'Feast' in 1997, proving that there really is such a thing as a "free lunch".
Tim is also an award-winning photographic artist, whose subjects have included Mick Jagger, Steven Berkoff, composer Georg Kajanus, author Rupert Thomson, The Mediaeval Baebes, writer Barbie Wilde and Joan Collins.
Tim continued to write and record music, and worked extensively with composer Georg Kajanus (ex-Sailor) under the name NOIR from '94 to '97. 'Strange Desire', the only Noir album, was officially re-released by Angel Air Records in Sept.2007.In 2008/9 he made new music with guitarist Mo Blackford under the name TIMANDMO. Details of all Tim Dry's musical adventures are on the music page.
In 2005 Tim wrote his autobiography entitled 'FALLING UPWARDS'.
Tim, alongside his ex Tik & Tok partner Sean, is currently appearing at 'STAR WARS' autograph conventions worldwide.
In 2007, Tik & Tok came back together for a golden moment to create a new album 'DREAM ORPHANS'. Still available from the official T&T site.
In December 2007, Tim exhibited six pieces of original photographic art at the prestigous Gallery 286 in West London. And sold 3 of them! And has subsequently shown at each Christmas Show at 286 since then, as well as at The Arts Club in 2009.
In 2010 Tim played the lead role in the short comedy/ horror movie 'SON Of Nosferatu'.
April 2012 saw the release of Tim's second collection of memoirs. This is called 'Continuum - The Star Wars Phenomenon As Experienced From The Inside'. It is available as an ebook on Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble Nook, Sony Reader and others. Full details can be found here.
2013 will launch Tim as a writer of speculative, dark fiction. First off is a short story in Dean M Drinkel's 'Demonology' anthology, second and third up are stories in 'The Bestiarum Vocabulum' and 'Phobophobias' anthologies also edited by Dean M Drinkel. Followed by Tim's long-awaited novella 'Ricochet'.
Tim was, for a while, co-hosting a fortnightly film club called The Inner Sanctum Film Club with fellow ex-Shocker Robert Pereno. Showing vintage movies filmed in London in the luxurious surroundings of the cinema in the Sanctum Soho Hotel in London.
A re-edited and revamped version of 'FALLING UPWARDS' was published by Bear Claw Books later in 2013. It contains a comprehensive update from 2005 to 2013 and some previously unseen pictures. Tim has also recently contributed articles to Forbes magazine.
To follow Tim click on the links below
For more great interviews and reviews click on the links below
HORROR AUTHOR INTERVIEWS
HORROR NOVEL REVIEWS
File under film review