Just five short years ago, in a world before Donald Trump became President and then wasn’t, a world before Brexit, before facemasks, lockdowns and toilet roll shortages, I started a blog dedicated to the BBC2 Saturday night horror double bills which had played such a central and influential part in my 1970s childhood. More specifically, I focused on the films in the 1977 season, given the umbrella title of ‘Dracula, Frankenstein – and Friends!’
As I wrote, back in those carefree innocent days, it gradually became clear to me that I wasn’t really writing about the films themselves so much as what they had meant to the morbid twelve-year-old I had been in the summer of 77, and also the many – and different – things those strange and wonderful old movies continued to mean to me in middle age. I began to understand that I had taken on a much bigger, more demanding and personal task than I had realised. Just as they had back in 1977, the films still seemed to be helping me uncover and recognise a lot of half-hidden truths about myself and some of the ways in which I view the world around me. The unanticipated length, and sometimes the difficulty, of the posts led me to believe I was actually writing a book rather than a blog. So that’s what I did instead.
Well, after a couple of years of redrafting and editing, the book is published and available on Amazon at a very reasonable price. Self-published, I should probably add in the interests of full disclosure, since bizarrely I found it hard to convince any agents or publishers of the vast commercial potential of a book of philosophical reflections about a bunch of old horror films transmitted forty years ago. The blind fools! I’ll show them I tell you! Grisham, Rowling and the rest, Dracula, Frankenstein and Friends is coming for you!
And that was that, I thought. I’d said pretty much all I had to say on the subject of classic horror between those covers, and could turn to something new. And I began working on a novel, and a couple of other projects I’d been thinking about for a while. And yet, and yet…
Not for the first time, those odd old movies began, quite unexpectedly, to pull at me again. It struck me, sitting here at the beginning of August, that we’re genuinely back into what I still think of as horror double bill season. Was it Tennyson who said in the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love? I appear to be living proof that in Summer an old man’s fancy darkly turns to thoughts of Bela Lugosi.
So here I am, back and blogging. What is nagging at me especially strongly is just how many other great films I’ve missed out by choosing to focus so exclusively on the one double bill season which meant most to me personally. So this time round, it won’t be so neat or so formal. Most of the content will still be horror-related (because I’m me), but sometimes I may choose to write a bit more freely about other things I love, or whatever strikes me particularly strongly at any given moment. For some kind of overall structure though – because I need a frame to hang my otherwise random ramblings on – I’ll be undertaking a rewatch of all the horror double bill seasons (except for Dracula, Frankenstein – and Friends! that is. Been there, done that, written the book…) and seeing how I respond to them. A full list is available here if you like to know what’s coming:
Maybe you’ll find we have a memory in common. Maybe you’ll passionately disagree with some of my opinions. The Houses of Dracula and Frankenstein are large and interesting places, after all, with room for many mansions. Feel free to comment. And watch this space.
I bid you welcome.
2 thoughts on “I Bid You Welcome”
Michael, I just wanted to drop you a line to say how much I enjoyed your book, Dracula, Frankenstein and Friends. Your experiences pretty much mirrored mine (although my school days were far more enjoyable than yours) and reading the book brought back warm memories.
The BBC double bills were so important to Monster kids of the 70s.
In 1977 I was ten-years-old and enjoying a caravan park holiday in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, when The Mummy/Wolf Man were transmitted.
I yawned through the Mummy which felt unbearably slow (a reappraisal this weekend convinced me I was wrong about this interesting film) and waited patiently for Lon Chaney Jnr to start stalking Universal’s largest sound stage.
Unfortunately, being sat in an unfamiliar environment alone in the dark got the better of my nerve and I scampered off to bed after the first transformation scene, too scared to watch the rest of the movie.
The following Monday we visited a shop on the site which had a dump bin full of Monster Mags (Dez Skinn’s giant poster magazine) for a mere 5p each. Even my meagre holiday money stretched to an almost full set. An almost full set, that is, until my mum found them…
But back to your book, it’s a terrific read, packed with insight and personal reminiscences that bring that glorious summer back to life for anyone who sat up expectantly waiting for those delightful double bills 44 years ago.
Thank you for your efforts… how long do I have to wait before you deliver a 1978 sequel?
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Hi Nigel. Thank you so much. I can’t tell you how much it means to hear that you enjoyed it – particularly since I’m such an enormous fan of your own work on Classic Monsters of the Movies and the Ultimate Guides series (I’m assuming you are that Nige Burton, and not by some wild co-incidence another Monster kid with the same name!). Obviously your own writing is much more properly researched and genuinely scholarly than my half forgotten reminiscences, but to hear that you’ve found something of value in the book is incredibly rewarding for me. I certainly ended up putting a lot of myself into the book – probably more than I’d even intended – and so getting a positive response like this from someone whose work I really respect and enjoy is a real pleasure. As for the 1978 sequel, I think its unlikely. I tend to work so slowly that I’d probably be dead before getting far past Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Man who Could Cheat Death! Besides which, my life isn’t interesting enough to have many other personal stories worth sharing! I’ve used my full quota of interestingness on this book. Anyway, thank you again for the kind comments – amazing to hear you were only twenty miles down the road in Yarmouth for that double bill. It’s a small world. And I too have fond memories of the Dez Skinn Monster Mags – though I was always banned from sticking the gory centrefolds up on my bedroom walls!
Once again, thank you.