BUNCH OF FIVES: DAVID TATTERSALL | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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The Wave Pictures frontman’s new album under the David Tattersall Group moniker delves into themes of loneliness and loss, dreams and memory, channelled through nylon-string guitar improvisations with a rich vein of friendship and camaraderie at its heart. Catch the band performing at The Cumberland Arms in Newcastle on Friday 17th November.

Here, and in honour of the album’s release in October, David offers up a top five of his favourite Italian horror films…

Halloween is on the way and this is one of my favourite times of the year. I love London when Autumn turns to Winter and there’s a misty magic witchy feeling in the air and I can write lots and lots of songs again, which is hard for me to do in the summer. Also, I can watch lots and lots of horror movies because it’s horror movie season! I grew up on John Carpenter’s Halloween, The Fog and The Thing, Brian De Palma’s Sisters and Carrie, and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. So it was quite exciting to me when a friend put me on to Italian horror a few years back. It is a whole little world of pure cinematic magic that I didn’t know about. I was already a big fan of Spaghetti Westerns, so I was primed and ready for the goofy surrealism of the Italian horror cinema from the glory days of the 70s; a lot of these people came out of the Spaghetti Western thing, and there’s a dream logic at play in all these films too. Super cool and kinda weird cinema. I also dig that mix of lo-fi and artistic genius, that B Movie quality that all these films have. To me it’s like 60s garage rock – I see the genius of the directors more clearly not less because of the small budgets and the often shoddy performances of the actors. Everything that’s really great in the arts has a vulnerability to it as well as a strength; if it’s good then you can see the hands that made it.

A BAY OF BLOOD – dir Mario Bava (1971)

I was a bit shocked when I saw this to be honest. First I was told that Halloween (1978) was the first slasher movie, then I found out about Canadian slasher Black Christmas (1974) – and both of those are totally brilliant also of course, but there’s ALWAYS something earlier. A Bay of Blood from 1971 does all the things that came to define horror cinema, only ten years ahead of its time. They steal sequences from this shot-for-shot in the first Friday the 13th in 1980. None of which would be any good if it wasn’t for the fact that Bava was a total genius and this is a brilliant watch, in spite of the dubious acting at times (you have to make your peace with that). The Italians, starting with Sergio Leone in the Spaghetti Western genre, were the best film-makers around for years and years, and often they did it on a shoestring. Punk rock movie making in other words! Apparently when Christopher Lee saw this for the first time he walked out of the cinema – but he’s got no right to complain has he? He’s bloody terrifying in a hundred films. Admittedly, A Bay of Blood isn’t even all that scary watching it now. But the artistry and the genius of the director still shine to such a high degree that it’s fun to watch, which is all you want. Bava was a big influence on Tim Burton, apparently, but don’t hold that against him.

TORSO – dir Sergio Martino (1973)

 Well this is still absolutely terrifying, especially when we get trapped in a small room at the top of some stairs. And there’s a bit with a key that is very disturbing, too. Definitely one of the most scary films I’ve ever seen. And super stylish and cool also. Highly recommended. Everything you can expect from the Italians is present: supercool creepy music with a slight proggy feeling, dream logic, bad acting, exceptional genius camera moves that go right through the centre of your brain. It’s kinda weird if you think about it that people still bang on about Hitchcock so much. Fair play to the fat man from Leytonstone, he was a total genius of course and invented many tricks of the trade, but none of his films are actually as scary and fun to watch now as Torso is. In fact, I presume that most of the people who claim to like Hitchcock so much like him precisely because his films don’t affect them in any kind of a visceral way. But who’s banging on about the superduper Sergio Martino? Well, I suppose technically I am doing that right now, except I have no idea who Sergio Martino was and I can’t be bothered to look it up either. Cool film, though, so it’s pretty obvious that he was a genius director.

SUSPIRIA – dir Dario Argento (1977)

Everybody knows that Dario Argento was the best of the best. He co-wrote Once Upon A Time In The West, which is a contender for the greatest Western ever made, let alone Spaghetti Western, and from there went on to become the single most interesting and distinctive director of horror films to come out of Italy. Early on in Suspiria there’s a sequence where a woman is walking out of an airport into a storm outside that’s one of the best directed and most beautiful sequences in any film I’ve ever seen. The film has all those Jungian fairytale elements that people liked in the 70s and even looks like Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Personally I like it because at points it seems the most like a dream of anything in cinema, except maybe David Lynch’s stuff later. Unfortunately, I went to see this at the BFI cinema recently and the audience laughed at it. What’s with people who go and see a film just to laugh at it? They are simple-minded buffoons! Dario Argento is cool and they are not cool. I suppose it’s the destiny of many great artists that they will be laughed at by simpletons. I’ve even seen people laugh at a John Woo movie! Imagine that!!

THE BEYOND – dir Lucio Fulci (1981) 

If Dario Argento has any serious competition, it’s got to come from Lucio Fulci, whose totally bananas movies are also highly recommended and highly lovable. As much as I enjoyed Zombie, The New York Ripper and City of The Living Dead, the most memorable film of Fulci’s to me is The Beyond. A woman inherits a hotel in rural Louisiana, but unfortunately it turns out that the hotel is a gateway to hell. Tough break. There’s all that supercool stuff again. Dream logic and zombie make-up. A blind ghost gets attacked by her own ghost dog. The past repeats itself. And so much love and creativity goes into these films that it shows in every frame. 

PHENOMENA – dir Dario Argento (1985)

 For me, this is Dario Argento’s very best film, featuring a superb central performance by the young Jennifer Connolly, and a supporting cast that includes one of my favourite actors of all time, Donald Pleasance. Phenomena also stars a friendly and lovable chimpanzee. In fact, this is the best monkey film I can think of. It’s also got an original song for the soundtrack by Motorhead, and I love Motorhead! Everything about this film is super cool. Jennifer can speak to insects, which is good. It’s absolutely terrifying. It’s totally surreal. It’s funny. It’s beautifully made. Highly recommended.

The David Tattersall Group’s self-titled album is released on 6th October via Private Pressing. They play The Cumberland Arms, Newcastle on Friday 17th November.

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