It’s Downtime … not Downton mum!


downtime original cover art

Downtime: The somewhat infamous 1995 Reeltime production will be re-released on Monday 16th November around twenty years after it was first put out on VHS. This time it’ll be with some entirely ‘new’ content of production extras which warrants this reissue being a two-disc set affair. Now I was amongst the first to get wind of this rumoured release (oh hark at her!) as I was in consideration to knock up a review of some sort for it at the request of the somewhat infamous himself Mr Bell.  When I agreed to this review gig I did so with some mild trepidation, for one thing I have some very vivid memories of the original video cassette release of Downtime which failed so dramatically to entertain me as a teenage Dr Who fan and which proved to be a bit a waste of some hard earned pocket money it has to be said, a lingering resentment I think I share with many fans who shelled out for the film upon its original release. For another thing I’m very much aware just how much stick this Reeltime film gets amongst certain sections of the old Dr Who series fan community so I’m a little weary of unwittingly adding to its reputation as just a bit of a bad ‘cash in’ held by some and then again there are some fans who will defend to the death the legacy of Reeltime and anything Who related… even the turgid and bad stuff, and I’ve no wish to get on their bad sides.

 Anyway, Mr Bell managed to talk me into it, it must be said I didn’t take much persuading after all and he duly sorted out a review copy to be winged over to me in plenty of time to watch it and do any research required. In the meantime I planned on busying myself by watching ‘The Web of Fear’ and reading the online bumf which had been emailed my way.

Incidentally when I told my mum what I was to be reviewing she got surprisingly rather excited about it saying she’ll tell the neighbours… I think to be fair to her though she had thought I said ‘Downton’.

dvd downtime review disc

Eventually the package arrived, I’d like to have been able to review the extras disc as well as the main film to be honest as that seems a bit more exciting than a simple reissue of the original on DVD as well as being able to report on what the cover art is like but I only received a simple burnt copy disc with the title hand written on in marker and a print out so I can’t do that but that’s okay, after all if they sent out the full package to every two bit blog to review (with the good chance many just want a freebie) then it would be a costly enterprise indeed. As for the cover for the moment it looks remarkably similar to the original if memory serves me right. There’s the good old Brig, service revolver in hand looking pensive to each side of him are Sarah-Jane and Victoria Waterfield with a pyramid of silver balls (not too dissimilar to that seen in a Ferrero Rocher advert) balances in the middle of the pic. Above them stands a red eyed yeti cast in black save its claws stands menacingly above and behind that shaggy beast is an ominous row of shadowy figures.

Ohhh! Looks exciting, yea, sure it does. I thought the same bloody thing when aged 15 I spent the little money I had on ordering this esoteric Who related offering from the foul smelling pokey Comic & Cult TV shop in my provincial home town.  Ahem. Well time to look at this with a fresh perspective.

Downtime New Cover Art

The director, the late Christopher Barry who needs little introduction to Dr Who fans as a legendry director of various episodes from the 1960s & 1970s, does his best with the limited capability of the equipment attempting to frame shots in such a way to suggest far more drama than the script and the action can deliver sadly though at times it looks outdated even for 1990s efforts. He’s at his best in the case of Downtime when framing long scenes of dialogue (which luckily for him Platt is only too eager to provide) and using the lighting and shadows to far more reasonable effect than a shoe string budget should allow; such as the first scene set in the Tibetan monastery which is reminiscent of the opening set up scene for The Web of Fear to my uneducated eyes. If the entire project had been filmed in black and white possibly in a retro almost noir style then it would have looked far more impressive even today than in its colour form which looks drab and washed out.

Although, which parts Barry actually directed and which parts were instead done by the ‘other’ director on this project I’m none too sure. You see Reeltime Pictures founder Keith Barnfather, himself a director of much of their output  is here also credited as being a ‘Director’ so that might help explain the jarring odd sensation of the whole not quite coming together in the end edit, two different styles of filmmaking certainly would account for the many misses than hits on display here.

Scriptwriter and Dr Who Stalwart Marc Platt is certainly at his best when writing lines intended to be read by the male characters and some of the best lines are unsurprisingly given to the Brig to come out with. When I first sat through this on grainy VHS back in the day I didn’t even pick up on the line ‘I thought I was in Cromer’ uttered by the Brigadier as he awakes from his deep coma like visit to the astral plane but now hearing it again as if for the first time I get the nice reference to the moment in the Three Doctors where an indignant Lethbridge-Stewart refuses to believe he’s been transported through a portal to a place outside of time and space (which handily for the Beeb looks remarkably like yet another quarry in Wales) and says something along the lines of ‘Looks like Cromer’. What the good people of Cromer must make of its tenuous connection to the longest running science fiction series in the UK or to being likened to a dreary blurry astral plane or even a quarry is anyone’s guess. And Nicholas Courtney is a delight as the aging man of action finding him thrust back into the strange happenings of alien goings on in contemporary Britain.

As for the plot well it involves a rather too literal association for my liking between of web firing Yeti and then still nascent World Wide Web. Seems the Great Intelligence has some scheme to ‘jack in’ (yes, that’s the sort of terribly dated lingo used here) to the internet and using all the cheap electronics that his rather naffly named and not at all menacing sounding New World University has been researching and producing. The faculty of this huge campus seemingly just Victoria, a creepy henchman acting as second in command and the sort of terrible on site DJ who is a mix of Timmy Mallet and the worst sort of forced jollity essence from old radio one. The university is attended by an army of uniformed students all dressed in the same forest green fleeces and yellow baseball caps which do nothing to help the enjoyment of this film. As uniforms go this was bad even by 1990s standards looking more like the sort of thing the Scouts did to try to look ‘cool’ when they updated their look. All the students seem to be permanently plugged into their Walkman’s which of course is another aspect of the Tech-Cults means of control over them with the Great Intelligence using them to transmit his orders.

the WWW I think


A very basic plot summary with spoiler alerts!-

Victoria Waterfield has trekked back to Tibet being led on by a ghostly voice of her father to come and rescue him, instead she finds the possessed form of Professor Travers and a dodgy accented Tibetan Monk in shades. Somewhere between then and the setting of the film she has managed to set up a new University called New World with the ultimate goal of bringing enlightenment to the planet. She’s done this using the crafty investments she’d built up and the hundred years or so of interest they’ve accumulated.  As mentioned before New World excel in radio and computer technology research and have a reputation of being something of a cult along the lines of a parody of Scientology.

New World Uni Downtime

For some reason these cultish members of the university take to observing and annoying the estranged daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Kate. This is all because she has stashed the much sought after Locus in her son Gordon’s toy chest.. as you do. Unaware this is the real reason for the harassment and in a bit of a pickle she attempts to contact her father. Around the same time she’s doing this the Brig, now in the stages of early dotage and still teaching maths (although its mentioned he’s soon retiring) at the Brendon School is drawn into a deep sleep and wanders the wishy washy looking astral plane being chatted by the oldest looking schoolboy ever called Hinton. Hinton is working to uncover the goings on at New World in the process he gets found out, falls off a balcony and then goes on to befriend possibly the most one dimensional character ever seen, ex RAF tramp about town ‘Old Harrods’ who sounds like he’s from a Victorian melodrama rather than 1990s Britain (another odd flaw of Platt is his inability to write ‘working class’). Meanwhile in a further plot development Sarah-Jane Smith is on her way to the New World University to do a story on their activities at the institute’s request.

Along the way there is some really terrible extra acting (to say nothing of the main cast who at times seem to be flagging) twists and turns of various obviousness and nothing is really unexpected (really, don’t expect many red herrings here) and some really silly looking Yeti who seem to have been made using the same fur Henson employed to create Snuffleupagus from Sesame Street.

I’m afraid though Platt’s script does fall rather flat outside of the whimsical nods to references to old Who and is rather too full of the sort of overly melodramatic, needlessly long speeches which on paper probably read as being quite deep and serious but once uttered aloud in a very hammed up acting style best left to theatre than film by a cast very fond of looking away to the middle distance it becomes oddly amusing and irritating in equal measure. Now I enjoyed this very same sort of deposition when it was used so well in the McCoy 26th season in stories such as the Brigg’s penned ‘Curse of Fenric’ and Platt’s own ‘Ghost Light’. All this brooding, staring into the abyss chit-chat helped draw the viewer ever deeper into the otherworldly madness unfolding (I still think Ghost Light and Fenric are just some of the finest and most gothic pieces of writing to grace the original run of Who ever)

But when used in the modern office and granite grey Brutalist architectural surroundings of the University setting and sitting next to other lines littered with such dated 1990s cod-Cyberpunk twaddle it fails to ignite the same sort of suspense here and rather feels a bit too much like filler designed more simply to pad out the required run time than explain the plot or add character depth – there’s a good reason he’s referred to as a ‘Dr Who author’ rather than script writer. Part of the reason for the lines failures must, I’m afraid, fall upon the cast. Dr Who was often accused during its original run of being a tad hammy at times and being quality of employing some extras with dubious acting abilities but Downtime seems to relish filling the screen with such a cast. Obviously cost was an issue I suppose so maybe a few here n’ there are friends and family roped into the fill the background but it doesn’t explain nor excuse the over acting in which the main cast indulge in. On watching it again I’m struck by how much it reminds of a children’s TV series which was aired around the same time this was released on video called Dark Season, written by a certain Russell T Davies and being set in a school in which other worldly strange goings on are happening might explain the familiarity to this being as it is set in a University environment.. Also oddly enough reminds me of the Demon Headmaster when I come to think about it.

typical extra acting skills on downtime everyone look directly above all except one that is you do your own thing mate

Still though, ignore the acting as best you can and what have you got left? Does the story work? Is it all bad? Well like most of Doctor Who through the 1980s the answer to those questions is ‘no’ and thankfully ‘no’. Downtime tends to be one of those Reeltime productions which comes in for a bit of a hammering from fans for all manner of reasons but its intention was a good one, to offer fans a chance to experience more stories made by fans and set in the Dr Who universe (Or Whoniverse as I call it – chuckle) and lets not forget that this is the story which despite being outside of the BBC’s control still introduced an entirely new character of Kate Lethbridge-Stewart into the canonicity of the current series.

Okay so it was totally unofficial and the budget is obviously a restriction on the quality of the production, the sound is one such issue which is marred by those restrictions with some dialogue threatening to be drowned by traffic and even a water fountain and hell we were never to going to get hordes of uniformed Yetis stomping around London’s streets, but given what else was actually being made and aired on British TV in the mid-1990s was it really as bad as it might seem now through eyes spoilt by 21st century advances in ever more impressive computer graphics and the affordability of those effects for use in even low budget indie movies? Reeltime employed graphics which for the 1990s weren’t really all that bad so it seems an easy shot to start pulling this film up for failures to convince me that that massive grey pyramid is really there or that green lightning bolts are being shot out of it. Frankly I’m more concerned by the dodgy accent used by the ‘Tibetan’ monk at the start of the thing and let’s face it if we’re going to start ripping into this for being dated in its special effects then we’ll have to do start doing that for every official Dr Who episode which the Beeb made between 1963 and ’89…

I haven’t the bloody time frankly, do you?

With the benefit of hindsight it’s easier for me to appreciate the work done with the limited budget, resources and none main cast acting skills that Reeltime had to be work with. We might forget that even the proper Dr Who episodes made just six years prior to this enterprise had its fair share of dubious dabbling in computer graphics used in special effects and the Beeb had more experience, a slightly higher budget and people who were experts to fall back upon so in the scope of mid-1990s, mid-range special effects Reeltime doesn’t do too badly really, obviously bad graphics overlaid onto a scene in post edit are much easier to pick out in a crisp (and supposedly cleaned up) picture of the DVD release with an eye which has become used to such ticks and has been rather spoilt by ever greater leaps of fantasy offered by slicker and more affordable CGI which means even an indie company like The Asylum can produce some pretty nifty graphics at times. Graphics which back in the 1990s would have been just utterly amazing if they could have had them. Sadly they didn’t and what they did have now looks so outdated and naff to be very off putting, it doesn’t even have the appeal of being bad in a fun retro manner like most other Who special effects and I wonder if they might have been better off just redoing all that side of things for the rerelease on DVD and generally improving such shots when they could. I doubt many viewers would have minded, I think most of the people who will be buying this DVD issue will already have the VHS copy so they could easily compare the two.

grand designs Downtime style grease lightning downtime

I have to admit though that back in 1995 when I got it on video I ended up simply fast forwarding after trying my best to plough through the relentless plot and achingly slow pace of it all to get to the much promised UNIT battle scene… well, it hardly seemed worth the time. Of course as I mentioned before the budget constraints once again had a part to play in the outcome of the very short battle scene but it really can’t excuse the terrible ‘play dead’ acting on display here as the UNIT squaddies chests move with each breath plus it’s no wonder they all got killed as few of their rifles even fire and its clearly just a rifle soundtrack played onto the action and the actors gamely making it seem as if they’re firing by jerking the guns about a bit.

UNIT downtime

Also the Yeti frankly just look daft, not at all as terrifying as their cover art counterpart suggest they might be … okay, they might just be dafter than they had ever looked in the Abominable Snowman in which they seem quite cuddly and no where near as disconcerting as they appear in The Web of Fear prior to this enterprise. They still move with all the grace of a hopping Womble and seem as threatening as one as well but they do ultimately get the job done. Just a shame the first time we see one it’s all rather comic. Speaking of comedy it’s all rendered a bit more so by one poor soldier building up his role into a speaking part by shouting ‘Ouch!” as he falls to the Yeti’s vicious claw swipe, a swipe which has the same library ‘whoosh!’ sound each time it claws down on its prey.

Wombling free Yetis advance Downtime


Final verdict:

If I was grading this in Daleks I’d have to give it an honest opinion of three and an a half Daleks (wait, is a half Dalek just Davros?) out of a possible ten.

Essentially a worthy attempt to keep the memory alive and some aging actors in work, whilst it might not be the Brigadier at his best at least he’s the central hero this time round and doesn’t have to fake his own death like in Battlefield or come across all bolshie and borderline thick headed as in the UNIT stories of old. Nicholas Courtney is on good form slipping easily back into the character like an old pair of slippers and having most of the best lines in the process. He plays the role with a knowing wink and tongue firmly in his cheek as a bit of fun. Elisabeth Sladen is again just wonderful as Sara-Jane, the companion I had the biggest crush for by the way, making the best of the daft plot and dodgy acting going on around her and being graced with a few good scenes herself. Sadly Deborah Watling doesn’t really do it for me here, she’s far too fond of attempting to pull focus by hamming it up which given the company she’s keeping is some feat. Again though it has to be said it is rather nice to see her reprise a classic role. Jack Watling is great as Travers and is finally old enough to play him without much make up, despite having been in the clutches of the Great Intelligence for years this Travers is a far less grumpy soul than previously, slightly beaten and worn down by the torment and stress of being possessed by the GI and Watling does well at playing it.

So a bloody good effort truth be told but one which is hindered by budget restraints and which has aged terribly, for some reason the mid-1990s seems characterless unlike the 1960s, 70s or even the 1980s era. It will never be counted amongst the classics but still a good insight into how Marc Platt might have progressed if the series hadn’t been axed when it had cutting the supposed 27th season’s Cartmel Masterplan dead in its tracks. He’s certainly delivering much of what we had come to expect from the 7th Dr’s swansong with drawn out dark ramblings and melodrama to the fore. Of course I personally prefer his stuff when its scripted for the Big Finish audio adventures, he’s far more of a spoken word writer best suited to radio than an action scene one. The little action we get in Downtime often fails to convincingly move the story on and I think some of it was added if only to break up the plodding dialogues and increasingly convoluted plot which much like the Web sprawls out in many tangents. At a run time of 70 minutes it might just be a little too long for the subject matter to justify but then again any shorter and it wouldn’t seem worth it. Probably something for the die hard ‘old’ fans than something to treat a new series fan to this Xmas.

Imitation Is The Sincerest Form Of Flattery.

Or: Thoughts on the Blogger’s rite of passage that is being plagiarised.

plagiarism associated words

Now Mr Bell has been onto me to post more blog entries, to keep them more within  the vein of ‘articles’ rather than ridiculous short stories for my own amusement. I can see his point, with each new chapter of the saga that is pulp novella ‘P.I. Johnny LaCrosse’ I draw befuddled looks from readers and the ‘hit’ rate of the blog slows to a crawl. The problem is I was bereft of inspiration, suffering a form of lowbrow level writers block I couldn’t find a single subject nor story that sparked my creative juices, such as they are, and inspire me to sit in front of the dim glow of the laptop monitor bashing away at keys which are far too small and closely spaced together for a fat handed tool such as myself to use comfortably. So with nothing sparking I thought it might be worth revisiting some successful posts of mine which verged into the journalistic to possibly get the ‘eureka’ moment I required. Seeing as how the single most successful blog entry thus far has been my write up on the rather obscure episode of late 1990s independent UK film making which was the ‘Legionnaires’ debacle and that I had just received another nice comment from someone else who had been “conned” at the time by the many ads in the sci-fi mags I thought dissecting this blog entry might give some idea as to how to proceed to write another hit!

‘Good idea’ Mr Bell said in a Facebook missive. ‘At the moment that blog entry is the first one to be displayed on the Google search list for the film so a lot of people see it and it ticks all the boxes of what you should be doing’… or words to that effect. He might have just pointed out I was at the top of the list and that it was an okay article. Anyway, now I had to check to see if this was indeed the case, I’ve no idea why but I liked the idea of being at the top of any list! Duly looking up ‘Legionnaires UK Sci-Fi film’ into the Google search engine did indeed return a list of old archived commentary and other stories about the film and yes! Mine for what it was worth in the real world was number one in that list. I quickly scrolled down the remainder of that admittedly pretty short list to see if anything new had cropped up or if even a riposte from someone involved in the project had been set up, you never know, and as I scrolled I was surprised to see my blog again listed … except that it wasn’t quite my blog… something was off, it was the oddly the same yet at the same time different. It was some mangled bizzaro world version of my work clearly based on my article given the glaring similarities and even the same use of examples and comparisons (The Dr Who one springs to mind) that I used to set the scene of the era of the story and flesh out the bones of the article but the most obvious admission of plagiarism had to be that the cheeky sod even used my article’s title as his witty signing off comment!

‘Good Lord!’ I thought ‘I’ve been ‘effing plagiarised! The ‘effing shameless shitehouse!’ Now fuelled with righteous anger, nay a rage, I did a little looking into this Plagiarist’s blog and his other posts and after a few minutes and despite what his blog header proclaimed in glowing quotes from established admirers and even magazines I could see why he’d have to resort to such blog piracy. Still angry I contacted Mr Bell who was still waffling away on Facebook to see what the next course of action should be ‘Post a comment’ he suggested so I did and this is it-

“Hi I like this article. In fact I like it so much I pretty much wrote most it on my blog back in early 2014. All you’ve done is some pretty obvious and weak rewording of my own work and research leaving out any chunks of it which tell how I came to the story and where I got my research from (which can be found in full at) You’ve even used/stolen my headline as your ending comment ‘A Film That Never Was’ so it’s pretty blatant. I appreciate you found it of interest but maybe lay off the mild plagiarism in the future or at least, as the ‘copyright usage’ on my blog asks, credit my article?”

This comment was followed by a barrage (well, three at the last count) similar posts all pointing out the obvious plagiarism and linking my article in the process. Now for anyone who has been to University or completed a course at FE College you will have had it drummed into you just how serious plagiarism actually is, attempting to pass off the work and research that others have worked hard to complete is the lowest a supposed writer of any sorts can get, it can get you kicked out of Uni/College and in some cases in the world of ‘proper’ journalism even land you in court for your efforts. Now of course I wasn’t going to take it that far! I mean court over a blog article I’d taken many weeks to bash out and was now mangled in some odd ‘patchwork’ cracked mirror image of what it really is? Pffft! Please, I’m not that daft but I was still concerned with everyone reading this shysters ‘article’ should know where he lifted it from (pretty much wholesale in parts).

The outcome of my and other posted comments on this plagiarist’s blog (I keep calling him that because that’s what he is, he has plagiarised my work and although other more earthy Anglo-Saxon words come to mind I think the more technical term for an ideas thief is fair comment enough) was that after not even half an hour of the last one being posted the offending article was swiftly removed leaving a 404 error, there was no attempt at by the plagiarist to credit my blog nor the original source material from which he derived his nor did I get an apology but by removing his article without even a whimper of protest or apology goes some way toward an admission of guilt in my book. I mean if you’re going to plagiarise someone’s blog article then it’s probably best not to pick a subject so obscure it only throws up a few hits in an online search as chances are the writer of the original WILL find out. A bit of a dumbass move frankly.

I thought it would be interesting for me to compare a few choice cuts which I’ve selected from my original work and the plagiarised knock off, indeed I started to draw up a comparison list to make my point and prove it wasn’t just me imagining it but there was too much to work with frankly so it might be easier if I simply post the offending article in full at the bottom of this page and let you do the comparisons and I think you’ll agree it’s not only clear to see but also a bit of an amateur hack job. I wouldn’t have minded so much if the guy had even used spellchecker before posting his attempt or even had managed to get some of the key facts, that I checked and double checked, correct on his but he even manages to mangle a few of those.

the vile plagiarist in action

Now with a subject such as Legionnaires for which source material is pretty scrappy to say the least of course there will be some similarities at times with any article which mentions it. Many of the archived online sources I read repeated what the previous one had said and the original magazine articles I used were thin on facts or woefully inaccurate due to what they knew at the time of writing them. I used as much info as I could find even tracking people down who had been involved in this film project to get a fuller picture of what happened. Armed with the ‘facts’ and the opinions of others I then set about writing the story around them helping to give form to the bare bones and help make it a more interesting read than a simple list of facts and figures and angry ranting from investors. There’s an obvious and marked difference in quoting source material or using facts gleamed from such sources to create an original work with enough individuality of the author’s voice to show through and simply borrowing wholesale from someone else’s work simply jumbling things around a bit and substituting a few key words here and there for appearance’s sake. The latter it’s safe to say is bad practice and discourteous to other writers and bloggers no matter how big you think your own blog is and frankly is intellectual thievery.  I’ve no wish to sound precious but it isn’t nice seeing a pale imitation or copy of something you’ve taken a while to write and got some decent feedback and kudos for in the process, I can only think they wanted to gleam some of those same readers for their blog in attempting to tackle the subject.

I’ve stopped short of ‘naming & shaming’ the plagiarist’s blog partly because I think that his removal of the work is good enough although I was tempted given that its good practice to name sources, to do so if I had used examples of his to illustrate the marked similarities between our work. What I can say is that anyone with half a mind to do so and only with the minimal of detective work need only do a google search along the lines of say, ‘Legionnaires British Sci-Fi film’ say for example, to be presented with a list of articles about said film… one of those (which might look familiar) now links to a 404 error. In fact upon looking again I see that he’s obviously attempted a hasty rewrite of the same blog post before giving up entirely so there are two links which go to a ‘404 error’ both from the same Blog.

Now that’s all pretty much said and done I think! Time to move onto the next blog article but I have to say in a way I’m pleased that he read my work and thought it worthy to nick in the first place and I suppose I’m oddly indebted to the plagiarist because at least he’s given me something to write about and that has pleased Mr Bell no end I can tell you!

So there you have it, the tale of a blog which never did the original work yet claimed authorship.

plagiarize bart

And as promised here is the offending article in full complete with spelling errors intact & beneath that a link to my original post-


LEGIONNARES – 1996’s best hope for uk sci-fi?




“Back in the heady days of 1996, a selection of genre publications begain running adverts for a British sci-fi film named “Legionnaires”.


It appeared that the basic idea for the project was that any backer could take part in the film. If you stumped up the £333 asked to get the movie off the groun, you could be a extra, or work on the crew.  SFX produced a poster, and showed of some concept art and the like (which I have not been able to find), and wrote at least two articles, one of which mentioned Jason Connery in a leading role. The ads focus on having you be a part of a science fiction show that is uniquely British in its feel and become part of the process that brings such a picture to the screen. As the ad sums  “Is the future of British sci-fi in your hands?”

But it never came to be. Whilst investors did stump up at least some of the cash, no movement on the film appeared. It’s recorded that approx £80,000 of the money raised simply vanished. Those who paid out were left with nothing, despite claims that everything was insured so that said investors would get their money back if anything went wrong…. Yet, Legionaires PLC Company had also made other claims, such as Jason Connery being attached. It quickly transpired that no “named” actors were attached to the project, and they were using false information to sell the film, to keep up investors and thus, a crew of extras and the like. It also appeare that the investors were being given some leeway over the script, which was rewritten many times over the next four years.  The term “no comment” was given to anyone who looked too closely at the project, and there is a small story of a collection of extras being filmed against a green screen in a undermanned sound stage, which may have led to some trailers what were shown at conventions (incluing the quite famous Wolf 359 con). The films parent company would eventually be hounded of the map by angry investors, and the website “This Is Wiltshire” spoke aboust this until early 2000. “Due to massive demand the company set up to produce Elstree Studios’ first sci-fi film since Star Wars 20 years ago has extended its share offer. Legionnaires plc says it has been receiving 18,000 calls each month since December from people interested in buying shares to help fund the project due for release next spring.”. This film was meant to be released in late 1998, and instead of being the shot in the arm of UK Sci Fi (The Dr Who revial was still many years away), it became a truly negative experience for all involved. From what I can gather, in 2009/2010, people where still attempting to regain money rom the now utterly defunct Legionaires PLC Company. There we have it. The Tale of The Film That Never Was.”

Link to my original: http:

My Own Private Horror Film.

oh the horror font

Lately I’ve been having a spate of really odd nightmarish dreams, for the last three nights I’ve been awoken from my gentle hibernating bear like slumber in a fear induced cold sweat hurriedly flinging off the damp bedclothes and reaching for the side light in a frantic blind panic!

The first in the series of these privately screened horror flicks saw me having to resort to repeatedly stabbing some insane smiling serial killer in the face with a pair of tailor’s scissors as this psychotic bad guy attempted to wrestle the controls for the helicopter I was piloting away from my grasp and plunge us all into the ground! No matter how many times I plunged the blades into his fleshy face (which made horrible stomach churning squishy-thudding noises) he kept smiling his inane smile! True to the cine serial killer cliché he had gone for the sartorial choice of a blue jumpsuit.

The second saw me being chased through a hokey barren winter forest (as seen in almost every Hammer horror film) by some howling and as yet unseen monstrosity, although I couldn’t see the creature now crashing through the bracken, snapping branches from the trees as it raced after me at a breakneck speed I knew it couldn’t be good! True to nightmare form I fell as my foot caught under a gnarled root and the next thing I knew my face was being chewed off by a werewolf as I pathetically attempted to swat the beast off me in a manner which implied mild annoyance more than outright terror. This seemed to go on forever and ran the risk of becoming almost boring until I woke up.



Now we get to the real deal, an actual “What the f**k?!” being uttered on waking up sort of dream.

Last night’s unique horror saw me being chased from a sunny beach (where I’d been quite happily relaxing in a balmy paradise) by a gigantic Godzilla sized Mecha-Hitler! A huge robotic/Mutant hybrid spliced with Hitler’s DNA raised itself from the deep, roared and proceeded to chase me through some nightmare city, crushing people & cars as it went, as I frantically tried to find somewhere to hide! In all other respects it was a Mecha-Godzilla but it wore a decayed leathery mask of Hitler on its face.

I’ve since braved a search of ‘Mecha-Hitler’ and the images thrown up by this included this one which frankly is spot on what I saw in my feverish dream! Just imagine this visage stretched, tearing slightly, across a robotic skull of a giant mecha-dinosaur and that’s pretty much the whole thing.zombie hitlerNow I don’t watch horror films outside of the camp Hammer/Amicus sort, I have no time for the Slasher genre either finding something odd about them. Yet somewhere I’ve seen enough to inform these nightmares. Ugh.

If anyone is into dream interpretations as a hobby, knock yourselves out. I’m flummoxed frankly. I’m worried about what tonight might bring.

Chapter 27: Bury My Heart At Wigan n’ Leigh.

Counting cash 

RECAP Of EVENTS THUS FAR: Stumblebum P.I Johnny LaCrosse has been cajoled into attending the very party that he was so intent on gate crashing but now as a prisoner of the Fat Man. instead of a hero Inside the bungalow he has discovered a horde of suited and booted international villainy all intent on getting their blood stained mitts on an object of great international importance. Just what is the secret held within this supposedly normal suburban Cul-de-Sac? Did ‘Hot Tits’ ever manage to cadge the last train home? Why does so little of this make any sense at all and does anyone still bother to read it? Are some of the questions we hope to be answered in the next instalment of yellowing paperback page turner titled: ‘CHEAP DAY RETURN!’

A huddle of WASPS at a party

The crowd of posh WASP-y looking bastards now fell deadly silent and as single person turned to face us as the fat man hit a humongous brass dinner gong which was strung between two jewel encrusted and very illegal poached ivory tusks. Sweating from this gigantic exertion he lightly dabbed at his greasy chops with his wet hankie again and then cleared his throat, it sounded like a bullfrog being forced through an empty Pringle’s chip tube with a plunger.

“My most dearest of friends in all the world!” he said with a silken perverted tone, the crowd laughed as did the fat man himself whose gigantic stomach rippled mightily in a positively guttural tsunami wave of chuckles causing Lord know what damage to his internal organs in the process. Everyone was in on the joke but me and the very concept of normality itself. The Fat Man took a sup on his handily placed oxygen canister sighed a hearty sigh to get back on track and then continued-

“I’m so very pleased that you could join me today for what promises to be a really very special auction indeed, in fact one could say historic!” the crowd absolutely purred with a an almost orgasmic sound of pleasure and several of them uncrossed their legs and hurriedly placed sofa cushions on their laps whilst the men in the room just stood.

Wells fat as a very fat thing“I have taken great pains to assemble you here all of you drawn from those countries most allied to our unique way of doing things, the underhand, the unhinged and the frankly devious all have found a place at our table and some have literally killed to be here today. Amongst us you will find the government who would murder an entire city to simply get one individual, the nation that would experiment on its own citizen’s by tampering with the drinking water supplies and now respected world leaders who formally traded in human beings as one would trade any other commodity to prop up their armed struggle against the rightfully elected government of their country… Hey! I’m looking at you Petrov!”

Everyone laughed at what I took to be the in-joke and ‘Petrov’ looked a bit sheepish, blushed and then shrugged his shoulders in an exaggerated “Well you know me!” manner. This floor show was starting to get my goat. The Fat Man listed several more crimes against humanity that several of the guests seemed more than happy to take credit for and a few even bowed and the following faux comic reactions were all the same. Judging from this all the things the Fat Man said all were genuine acts of torture, brutality and outright oppression and here I was without my sawn off 12 gauge, dammit.

“Anyhow, I digress” he continued “We all know what we are, we all know each other’s dirty little secrets and we all know I’m in need of a lot of money before I relinquish the property within my care. And now dear, dear ladies and gentlemen it is time to present my gift to you… at the right price of course!… Guards! Bring her!”

The heavy Victorian velvet emerald curtains behind us were pulled open with a deft motion and instead of the wizard of Oz standing there instead stood two turtle neck jumper wearing goons who shuffled in escorting a walking burlap sack… wait a moment, I recognised the sack’s satin clad veiny legs as soon as I saw em! It was Hot Tits herself! So she hadn’t taken my hint when I shoved the half day return ticket in betwixt her heaving mountains back in the office… the dumb broad and now the Fat Man was auctioning her to this cheap house of horrors! Sweet Christ on a unicycle I had to save her, right after I found out why the hell anyone else would want her that is.

“What’s with the dame?” I sidled up to the Fat Man and casually asked taking the effort to look nonchalant. He took an incredulous look at me and laughed so hard the plaster walls shook and his gut rolled up and down again creasing his shirt in the process.

“Mr LaCrosse? Really? You didn’t know that she is the prize? That deep within her…”

He paused to think of the correct words

“Er? Lovely head lays the answer to the most top secret and deadliest of weapons system ever devised; she knows everything down to the smallest nut to the largest programming codex! She is in short worth more than a thousand armies and more than a thousand lives. If Helen of Troy launched a thousand ships then she, this top heavy mammary laden tart could launch a million precision targeted hyper destructive rockets with just a single word and yet you cast her off as though she were a simpleton and a nuisance!”

“Well it was more down to her being as rough as a hound dog but I see your point. How in Sam Hell’s name could she know all that crap anyway? She’s a simple broad from Inchanook Pittsburgh she ain’t no God damn rocket scientists, well, not with those tits she sure as hell ain’t!”

“No Mr Lacrosse but her God damned father was! He wasn’t the slack jawed ironmonger from upstate New Mexico that she had claimed when asked, he was in fact Professor Harold Pryce-Lancet, the greatest rocket scientist never to have worn a Nazi armband during the Second War. He designed the Type Double D rocket systems shortly after the Korean War”

I winced upon hearing Korea mentioned and the shrapnel stung a bit too.

Early Rockets


“Knowing that he could never possibly allow this device to ever be built for the very existence of such a weapon would render armies obsolete and nations open to blackmail overnight but yet still worried that he might forget such an amazing once in a lifetime discovery he promptly proceeded to brainwash his own idiot bimbo daughter with every plan and blueprint he was working on using a system based around reward and lots of cake. For he knew she would never draw suspicion for exactly the reasons you just stated. I mean really! LaCrosse, you really are a dolt, are you telling me that you never enquired at all about her life? Her past? You dated this woman on and off for eleven years and her entire life is a great unknown to you is it? Are you really so self-centred and disinterested in others that you failed to get past her looks?”

Now I didn’t have a fucking clue what he was on about and he seemed to sense that. Sighing he ordered the burlap sack removed from hot tit’s face and a reinforced steel chair to be brought in for that ample ass of hers to roll over. She was bound and gagged in a manner that I had grown accustomed to seeing her in on those cold winter nights stuck in the apartment but in this room full of people it just felt kinda creepy now. The guards lowered her onto the seat and one put his back out in the process. Her good eye looked longingly at me whilst her other one eyed up the crotch of the nearest guard making us all feel a tad uncomfortable.

“Should I remover her ball gag?” Asked Guard number one who wore a name badge with ‘1’ on it.

“Not unless you want your ears to bleed.” I warned.

The Fat Man nodded at me in agreement and signalled to the goon to leave her as she was with a casual dismissive wave of his chubby sausage-like fingered hand. Hot Tits cast me a forlorn look with her eye that I thought almost showed a human understanding of the whole dire situation.

HatchetIf we got out of this alive I made a secret vow to buy her that takeaway Parmo she had asked for as a treat.

Now I just had to figure out how the hell I was going to do just that.

Orson Steiger: The Man Behind Johnny LaCrosse.

typewriter pulp

The Orson Steiger Story: The Man, His Legend and His Times

The character of hard boiled fiction Private Eye called Johnny Lacrosse was the brainchild of little known and often ill-tempered, racist, sexist, draft dodging and foul mouthed alcoholic author Orson Steiger. Steiger’s reputation as it stands now due to mainly modern mores rather than any critical assessment of the Pulp Fiction Genre makes him out to be less like a big fish in a small pond and more like a minnow in a lake. I hope the brief summary of the writer’s life below will do much to challenge such narrow minded preconceptions and that his name will now be associated with the written word rather than the misery he wrought on so many people (strangers and loved ones) in his turbulent private life.

If it helps then please imagine that you are watching a Ken Burns documentary and that the voice of Morgan Freeman is gently reading aloud the following chapters.

Chapter 1: The Start Of It All: Early Beginnings.

Orson was born in Texas around 1925 in Spatula County to a well-established family of German-Swiss descent, or as he went to great pains to and liked to claim instead, to a family of pure breed ‘native’ White Americans which had been in the Americas before the United States even existed. After a few drinks he would often even make outlandish claims that they had actually sailed over with the first Viking explorers or even descended from a white tribe of Welsh speaking Indians.

It is now almost certain though given what scant records do survive that his family line descended no later than a German speaking family who had immigrated to the USA in the 1870s and taken up trade at various times as wooden spoon makers, night soil men, village retards and general tinkers and scroungers. Whilst on his mother’s side the family appears to have come from a very mixed background of Poles, Irish, Moors, Eskimos and Spaniards and this seemed to be even more of a constant source of irritation to Orson than his German sounding surname. He was known to fly into a foul rage should it ever be mentioned within the family home.

Orson took up writing when he was in his late teens after a freak accident involving a wasp nest, a bicycle pump and his private parts which left him bedridden, sore, bandaged and bored for many months. He only started to write to keep the utter tedium at bay (and his hands busy on other things) and soon he discovered that he had a rare talent for it, for him it seemed just so easy and as he put it many years later in the 1960s during a phone interview from prison for Playboy-

“I soon realised that I could spin a f*****g yarn and if I threw enough sex into it then people soon forgot how f*****g bad the overall plot was and continued to read at least until the next dirty part which I could drag out into entire F*****g chapters.”

Aged 21 Orson married his childhood sweetheart Deborah Gunther-O’Shea and to please her as well as her dangerously unstable and inbred family he converted to their peculiar own strain of Mormonism which seems only to have existed within the Gunther-O’Shea clan. They bought a small dirt farm close to where they had both grown up and as Orson worked the land for little reward Deborah ate the meagre profits and got fat. Desperate for some cash to support himself and the bizarre extended ‘family’ in which he now belonged Orson took up his pen once again and began to write. With no real schooling to speak of or any true knowledge of the world outside of his rural shit kicker home town of Graceburg, Texas (population 35 excluding livestock) he somehow managed to write a gritty urban detective story set for some reason within Blackpool, England which was so exceptionally detailed that it even fooled the editors of the various magazines he sent the work into who all later admitted that they just assumed he was actually a gnarled world weary established writer in his fifties using a pseudonym for obscure tax reasons or as some great hoax.

dirt farm dustbowl


The first Johnny Lacrosse story proper was the short ‘From Here to Infirmary’ first published in the pulp fiction and light porno semi-weekly pin up magazine ‘Slinky’ in 1949 (issue 24 in a total print run of 25). After that Orson’s writing career stalled somewhat as he fled the States after a serious falling out with his unorthodox Mormon wife and her other five husbands. Vast amounts of speculation still lingers on as to the exact nature of the falling out or what caused the lifelong rift between Deborah his morbidly obese first love and her other husbands with whom Orson had apparently gotten on rather well with often bunking down top to toe in the same bed as them whenever the weather got too chilly. All that is known for certain is that after he had moved out two of the husbands were dead, killed when a dozing Deborah rolled over in the night and crushed them and the other three left her to join the circus. Deborah lived on and despite her obesity and various serious health issues she would even outlive Orson, some claim simply kept alive only by the hatred and sheer spite that she felt toward him.

slinky Mag

Orson though now briefly moved to Peru where he struggled to set himself up first as a paid by the minute gigolo and then as a Guinea Pig farmer. Upon finding it impossible to herd the small furry critters from end of his vast estate to the next by horseback. He later wrote-

“If I’d known now that these little bastards just scattered and ran around f**king squeaking in a terrified huddle everywhere all the time then I’d have eaten more of them frankly.”

Upon his return to America in 1951 Orson was very publically arrested at the airport and put on trial for an inflammatory text he had written for a Peruvian national paper which praised the then American President’s wife as a ‘Fine piece of ass’. The trial went nowhere when it became apparent that simply just saying the President’s wife was a ‘fine piece of ass’ wasn’t exactly illegal or even treasonable and by now if anyone even dared question the validity of that statement the First Lady got rather annoyed. At any rate President Truman also seemed to agree that indeed she was a ‘fine piece of ass’ and the matter was quietly dropped by the Whitehouse. Orson quickly fell back into his writing flushed with the amount of controversy and publicity his comments had afforded him as the offers of work came rolling in from publishing companies he moved to California.


Chapter 3: Pulp: ‘This Is Hardcore’- the L.A. Years.

His next writing success was an article for ‘Macho’ an LA based men’s magazine. This publication was primarily targeted at wealthy well groomed bachelors about town and other likeminded single men. The paper would often feature articles on everything from sports, showering Vs Strip Wash methods, fast cars, hunting in the woods whilst stripped to the waist, the latest body lotions and grooming tips as well as politics and where the best Turkish Baths were located in California. Orson’s article entitled ‘Homos: How To Spot ‘Em & How To Deal With ‘Em the Macho Way!” was a big hit with the subscribers and soon he had been allocated a regular slot to complete every month.

He quickly followed up his first article with equally successful-

‘Pansies: Worse than commies?’

And more soon followed with such titles as:

‘Who Runs The World’s Banking? Yeah, You Guessed It!”

“Canada: America’s Next Logical Colony.”

‘Zoot Suiters & Darkies On The Bus? Not On My Watch America!’

‘Catholics. Why One Will Never Be President.’

The inflammatory- ‘It’s Why We Call It The ‘WHITE’ House Liberal!’

And the far less successful science fiction stories which were written for Macho’s sister publication a short lived fantasy fiction based magazine simply dubbed ‘Discus’. Short stories such as-

‘Naked Hula Paradise’ as well as ‘Bucky Tonto & The Last Galaxy Rodeo’ and finally –

‘One Earth Man And A Million Moon Women’.

Which would later be made into a low budget sex comedy film starring a befuddled but financially desperate Lou Costello and the entirety of the Playboy Bunny Girls.

lou costello


Although his most famous article of the entire Macho Magazine period was undoubtedly-

“Pfft! Women. I Mean Just C’mon Guys, Just Why?”

            By 1952 though the ‘Macho’ had almost shut down all its various publications and soon the magazine itself completely folded due to ever changing tastes as well as the blow caused by loss of its main movers and shakers and almost all of the ‘live in’ editorial staff in a single dawn raid on an LA based 24 hour  steam baths by the LAPD vice squad.

So once again Orson was forced to quickly move on, packing up his ever trusty portable typewriter and several hip flasks he next relocated to New York where he fell into a routine of occasionally writing, drinking every day in the Chelsea Hotel bar rubbing shoulders with and more importantly for Orson, shouting abuse and exposing himself at New York’s self-appointed elite art crowd and visiting foreign bohemian types.

Discus Magazine mock up


Chapter 4: New York, Fleeting Fame and Fortunes.

            By 1954 he was once again writing short and serialised fiction for various low brow pulp and “saucy” publications such as ‘Otter’, ‘Brick’, Horn‘Pelt’ and ‘Idle Hands’ but the main title he supplied with his prodigious talents during this period was one called ‘Smooth-E!’ for which some of his best work was published. Titles written then included-

‘She Said Turn Left Now Idiot!’, ‘No Way For A Real Man To Die’, ‘Blood On A Dirty Glass’, ‘Hot Nights and Colder Sweats’, ‘That Damned Cherokee Lady’, ’Hot-Rod Hell Queen’, ‘The Thighs The Limit’, ‘Half Moon Highway Hula’, ‘The Sixth Column: Pansies!’ and of course many of the best loved stories in the Johnny LaCrosse series like ‘The Case Of The Jade Frog’, ‘Yellow Peril In Downtown Chinatown’, ‘Plot X-Ray’, ‘Cold Steel On Warm Bosoms’, ’Slum City Sluts’ as well as ‘If The Hat Fits Then Steal It Baby!’.

Suddenly truly wealthy for the first time in his entire life Orson fell in with a younger crowd of painfully hip Beatniks who had taken to following him around the streets totally enamoured with the man’s vast vocabulary of swear words, his earthy pallor, the ability he had to hand roll his own cigarettes, his saggy jumper and unkempt beard which by now had almost reached past his knees. Looking like a tanked up Old Testament prophet he led his shambolic, awe struck band through some of the worst slum bars, ghetto gambling houses, Honky-Tonks and flea infested whore palaces in New York. He remembered little of this time but did seem to think that these impressionable young finger snapping wealthy hobo looking skinny kids had set him up almost as a father figure or in his own words –

“A Goddamn Christ like figure sent from the almighty his-self to lead the shower to the promised-land, dig?”

In fact all he led them to was tragically a series of early graves brought on by successive desperate binge drinking sessions fuelled by their trust funds and the cheap buzz afforded to him by flat warm coke with nutmeg mixed into it. In turn and before they inevitably died off his Beatnik minions had turned Orson onto Cool Jazz, reefer, casual sex, the joys of extreme Frisbee at night and randomly saying ‘Dig’ and ‘Man’ to pointlessly finish his sentences. His most notable achievement of this short time in the Big Apple was as the self-proclaimed inventor of the ‘Beer Bong’ which had quickly taken off with the male student Jock fraternity with whom he would often play touch football in just his jockey shorts in central park whilst loaded up on flat cola/nutmeg and JD.

dirty beatniks

Sadly for Orson and maybe even more sadly for the world of literature and for all fans of a good read in general his art suffered greatly from such excesses and by 1957 he was down on his luck having by now simply forgotten where he lived and resorting to eating garbage from trash cans, drinking his own pee from a hubcap and writing his short stories when the muse took him on the backs of sleeping homeless people. A passing encounter with the renowned newspaper tycoon and magazine publisher J. C. Longfellow III outside a penny arcade ended in a terrible scuffle with Orson making off with the great man’s shoes and so seemingly now eliminating any possibility of Longfellow ever offering him work in New York. Orson was last seen in New York City turning tricks for loose change outside of a gang run bookies off Broadway before he simply vanished from the public gaze for the next nine years.

Orson photo fit pic


Chapter 5: California Dreaming ‘All The Leaves Are Brown’.

He reappears back in California in 1966 although now located deep in the northern half of that state and secured behind a high, razor wired compound wall only answering to the Yogi name of ‘His Most High-Man’ and where he was running a sort of personality focused new ager cult based around his own particularly unique teachings that mankind had all descended from potted plant life. His male adherents wore red flowerpots strapped to their heads at all time and very little else (a photo of his Cult later inspiring the look for Art Punks DEVO).

His odd religious mythos expanded greatly overtime to eventually include the Bigfoot as a Messiah destined to lead the world back to a righteous path of living in the woods and eating straying backpackers, a meteorite which would land in the sea and boil up all the earth’s water forcing everyone to drink their own urine, panhandling for gin money and the uttermost ideal above all others was that of free love amongst all his female followers just as long as he could sit in and read their auras during the act to better gauge their emotional wellbeing for the good of the entire Commune.

hippie cult

All too soon though this dreamlike idyll ended when law enforcement agencies raided the ranch on which the Cult had settled and sent many of the young followers to institutions for a regime of deprogramming and Orson (after a brief fight in which he had climbed up a tree and claimed he was ascending to heaven) to a brief stay in high security state prison. Prison was the saving of Orson as now free from all nutmeg based stimuli his mind cleared for the first time in years and as he succinctly put it-

“I now looked in the mirror and it was like I was seeing myself for the first time, I just thought ‘What the f**k man! Where did that beard come from and who tattooed my forehead?!”

The kindly prison chaplain, himself a former reader of ‘Macho’ from back in the day, managed to find Orson an old typewriter. It had the ‘R’, ‘X’ and ‘P’ keys missing, only red ink ribbons and a jammed space bar but that didn’t bother Orson in the slightest and soon he was reeling off pages and pages of new un-spaced tracts and short stories and essays which he sent around every publishing house, magazine and newspaper in the country.

None were interested.

Orson duly took his own life by hanging himself from the bare light bulb in his cell with the spare typewriter ink ribbon in 1970. He left a hastily scribbled note in pencil which simply read ‘I blame the damn pansies!’. A week later a letter arrived addressed to him and it was opened by the Chaplain, to his horror he read that it was an offer of work from the aged and by now quite barmy J. C Longfellow III who claimed to fondly remember Orson as ‘that bearded shoe thieving son of a gun scamp off the Bowery!’. Deborah his long estranged wife upon hearing of the demise of her tearaway husband simply said “Finally!” laughed for fifteen minutes exactly before dropping dead on the spot and causing a minor tremor felt through the entire county.

Orson’s remains were quietly cremated a month after his death without any fuss and his ashes simply binned when nobody claimed them, he has no final resting place but there was once a plan to have a plaque of fame attached outside the alleyway where he once lived and turned tricks for pennies. Years later an illegitimate son would emerge from Peru to claim his percentage of the publishing rights as the only living relative but he soon left disappointed by the actual amount owed which hardly covered the price of his airfare and saddened by his father’s legacy of stirring up race hate which often included Peruvians amongst his favourite targets. He refused to settle his late father’s bar tabs or to take his belongings (which had been in state storage for years) with him so the typewriter which Orson had used to write his final works ended up in a flea market before being bought by a shadowy private collector known only as ‘The Colonel’.

broken typewriter


If one could say anything of Orson it was that he left few friends in the world and even fewer completed works which would still be printable never mind even readable in today’s multi-cultural environment overly concerned as it is with ‘Political Correctness’ and women’s rights. No doubt Orson would have simply pulled out his trusty sock gun and fired a few wild rounds off at such detractors whilst sipping from his flask, laughing manically and dismissing their horrified protests as the voice of the ‘Damn F*****g Liberal Pansy’ he so despised. His surviving works have been bound together in various collections most notably the book series ‘Dire: How Not To Write Fiction. A Guide’ and ‘Hateful: Clichés, Bigotry, Stereotypes and Racism in Pulp fiction’s Heyday’ both published by Taschen which includes all his articles for Macho and many of his lesser science fiction and short stories but none of his Johnny LaCrosse series. The only book which attempted to collect some of these works was published by Hawk books in the late 1970s entitled ‘LaCrosse. A Very Hard Man’ which contained only three stories and several summaries of others and is now long out of print and impossible to find on the second hand market.

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