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The Crack Magazine


Lighthouse! Cameras! Action!

The Whitley Bay Film Festival is back in August with screenings at surprising locations at the coast, including St. Mary’s Lighthouse, and a special excursion to Newcastle’s Tyne Theatre & Opera House as they celebrate their 150th anniversary.

I must say, it is nice of the Whitley Bay Film Festival to arrange their 2017 production to especially suit myself – because their programme just about nails all of my very favourites – but, hey, if you love film then I’m sure that you will find plenty to keep you entertained during the festival’s run, too.   It all kicks off at the lovely Rendezvous Café on 10 August with a screening of the distinctly less lovely Brighton Rock. A dark and disturbing slice of Brit noir this features a very young, and very un-twinkly, Richard Attenborough who exudes menace and regales his fiancé with lines such as: “What you want me to say is ‘I love you.’ Here’s the truth: I hate you, you little slut.” Still shocking. Still brilliant.  

This year the festival will be decamping to Newcastle for some special events at the Tyne Theatre & Opera House, who are currently celebrating their 150th anniversary. For fifty of those years the venue was known as the Stoll Picture Theatre and this three-day mini-fest will see some classic films screened at this Newcastle institution from 11-13 August. On the Friday brace yourself for one of Vincent Price’s finest with the horror classic Theatre of Blood. Here Price plays an actor who has been wronged by a bunch of snooty critics and so he sets about taking his gruesome revenge, offing each of them with a Shakespearean flourish. It’s all good, lusty fun. On the Saturday night there’s more frightful fare, this time with the daddy of all monster movies, King Kong. This is the 1933 original, and the best, featuring the incredible stop-motion animation of Willis O’Brien and Fay Wray at her most screamy. Saturday will also see a screening of another original, the 1925 version of The Phantom of the Opera which will be accompanied by a live soundtrack by celebrated percussionist Brendon Murphy who will be playing glass instruments and percussion along with The Mediators who will be adding their trademark analogue experimentalism as demonstrated at last year’s sold out screening of Metropolis. On Sunday there’s a distinct local bent to proceedings with local media historian Chris Phipps discussing the rich cinematic history of the region and introducing the first British film noir The Clouded Yellow, which was partly shot in Newcastle. Writer Peter ‘Our Friends in the North’ Flannery will also be on hand for a Q&A and screening of his 2002 film The One & Only.

Then it’s all back to the Rendezvous in Whitley Bay on 15 August for The Sweet Smell of Success. This 1957 film has the blackest of hearts and concerns the nefarious goings-on among unscrupulous press agents and newspaper columnists on Broadway. Directed by Alexander Mackendrick (who had previously done sterling work for the Ealing Studio with The Ladykillers and The Man in the White Suit) it features Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis in career defining roles.

The festival must be the only one in the country to be at the beck and call of the tides, with the organisers giving special attention to the programming of films at St. Mary’s Lighthouse, which will run from 17-19 August. This year’s offerings at this local landmark will take in a modern classic of animation, 2014’s critically lauded Song of the Sea; Ingmar Bergman’s Greatest Film Of All Time contender, The Seventh Seal; and an overview of the work of B-movie producer extraordinaire Val Lewton, which will include a screening of the highly influential 1942 psycho-sexual horror film Cat People.  

A special guest of the festival this year will be the estimable Graham Fellows on 24 August, the actor/musician whose best known creation is John Shuttleworth. He’ll be discussing his work and performing unplugged versions of his own songs as well as Shuttleworth classics such as You’re Like Manchester and The Man Who Lives On The M62, and tracks he has written for his other characters such as rock musicologist Brian Appleton. This will be followed by a screening of Fellows’ spoof documentary Southern Softies (starring Shuttleworth in a sequel to It’s Nice Up North, which was one of the highlights of last year’s festival).

There will be more music with Whitley Rocks on 25 and 26 August, which will be a celebration of 40 years of regional punk rock. Taking place at The Exchange in North Shields this will be a two-day extravaganza taking in film, music, art and design, and include a set from original north-east punks Penetration with support from Jilted John. The series of art exhibitions will include a look at punk design that has been overseen by punk academic and author Dr Russ Bestley. Gaye Black from seminal band The Adverts will also be curating an exhibition of punk art and Penetration’s Pauline Murray will be exhibiting some of her personal items from 1977 onwards. Murray will also join Gaye Black and Dr Russ Bestley for a discussion focussing on the roots of regional punk rock, followed by a screening of Julian Temple’s The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle.  

The German expressionist classic The Cabinet of Dr Caligari will get an outing at Seaton Deleval Hall on 30 August with a live musical score from Mariam Rezai and The Old Police Collective. If you’d prefer something a tad more avant-garde then head to Whitley Bay seafront on the same day for a free open air screening of the ABBA musical Mamma Mia.

STOP PRESS: Since penning the above, the festival has added even more glugs of cinematic champagne into their punch with screening of Wish You Were Here (saucy seaside goings-on loosely based on the early life of notorious madam Cynthia Payne - 1987), The Boat That Rocked (Richard Curtis’ funny take on the pirate radio ships of the 1960s – 2009), Brief Encounter (David Lean’s classic romance starring Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard – 1945) and Monty Python and the Holy Grail (The Knights who say “Ni!”; “It’s only a flesh wound” etc – you know this one – 1975).

Whitley Bay Film Festival, 10 August-3 September. For the full programme visit: whitleybayfilmfestival.co.uk