Death log 2016 – part 1


© American International Pictures


You may have noticed that one or two people died in 2016.  Here are some folk who passed away this year who’ll be particularly missed at Blood and Porridge.


January 10th saw the departure of musical legend and stylistic chameleon David Bowie, who was commemorated in no fewer than three postings on this blog:


Die Hard (1988)
Directed by John McTiernan
Shown: Alan Rickman

© Silver Pictures / 20th Century Fox


The British actor Alan Rickman died four days later.  Rickman’s career, and especially his talent for playing delightfully fiendish villains in movies like Die Hard (1988) and Robin Hood Prince of Thieves (1991), was also celebrated at Blood and Porridge:


January 9th saw the passing of American actor Angus Scrimm, who’ll be fondly remembered by horror-film fans for playing the Tall Man in Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm movies.  And Scottish writer Robert Banks Stewart died on January 15th.  Banks Stewart was well-known for creating the TV detective shows Shoestring (1979-80) and Bergerac (1981-91) and he also scripted two of the scariest stories of Tom Baker-era Doctor Who, 1975’s Terror of the Zygons and 1976’s The Seeds of Doom.  The alien monsters in the former adventure, the repulsively slimy and sucker-covered Zygons, proved so popular that forty years later they’re still menacing Peter Capaldi in the revived Doctor Who.




Another British actor to depart in January 2016 was actor Frank Finlay, who passed away on the 30th.  Finlay played Porthos in the classic trilogy of Musketeers films directed by Richard Lester in 1973, 1974 and 1989; Van Helsing in the BBC’s stately adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula in 1977; and Dr Fallada in a less reputable vampire epic, Tobe Hooper’s hilarious Lifeforce (1985).  He also had the curious distinction of playing Inspector Lestrade in two different films where Sherlock Holmes investigates the Jack the Ripper killings, 1965’s A Study in Terror and 1979’s Murder by Decree.  The final day of January saw the death of Irish broadcaster Terry Wogan, whose twinkly-eyed, possibly toupee-bearing visage seemed to symbolise the BBC during the 1980s as much as Ronald McDonald did McDonald’s or Colonel Sanders did the KFC.  Equipped with a soft brogue, gentle wit and inability to take himself or anyone else too seriously, the ubiquitous Wogan could host any ropey old chat-show or game-show and make it entertaining.


Italian author Umberto Eco died on February 19th.  I always thought his acclaimed novel The Name of the Rose (1980) was overrated, but at least the film version six years later gave Sean Connery one of his last good film roles.  On February 22nd, the British cinematographer Douglas Slocombe passed away at the venerable age of 103.  Slocombe’s half-century career included such highlights as Dead of Night (1945), Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), The Servant (1963), The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967), The Lion in Winter (1968), The Italian Job (1969), The Great Gatsby (1974) and the first three Indiana Jones movies (1981, 84 and 89).  Another great behind-the-scenes man of British cinema, production designer Ken Adam, died on March 10th.  Not only was Adam responsible for the spectacular and now iconic sets of seven James Bond movies between Dr No (1961) and Moonraker (1979), but he designed the War Room in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove (1964), reckoned by Steven Spielberg to be the greatest movie-set ever.


© Hawk Films / Columbia Pictures


Another Kubrick veteran, the actress Adrienne Corri who appeared in 1971’s A Clockwork Orange, died on March 13th.  Among her other credits was a role in the bloody but fairy tale-like Hammer horror movie Vampire Circus (1972).  Two days later saw the death of Sylvia Anderson, the one-time Mrs Gerry Anderson, co-producer of such classic kid’s puppet TV shows as Stingray (1964-65), Thunderbirds (1965-66), Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (1967-68) and Joe 90 (1968-69) and such adult sci-fi TV shows as UFO (1970)  and Space 1999 (1975-77).  In Thunderbirds, she also provided the voice for the gorgeous and glamorous, though frankly plastic, Lady Penelope.  Author Barry Hines died on March 18th.  His most famous work was A Kestrel for a Knave (1968), which a year after its publication was filmed as Kes by mighty British director Ken Loach.


© ITC Entertainment


The comedy world took a treble hit in spring 2016.  The English comedienne, actress, writer and director Victoria Wood died on March 24th; the Scottish comedian and comic performer Ronnie Corbett on March 31st; and the great American stand-up, actor, writer and producer Gary Shandling on April 20th.  The passing of the impish and fruity-toned Corbett prompted this tribute from Blood and Porridge:




Welsh actor Gareth Thomas, who played intergalactic freedom-fighter Roj Blake in the BBC’s downbeat 1970s space opera Blake’s Seven, died on April 13th.  Surely the most traumatic TV moment ever came at the end of Blake’s Seven’s final episode, which sees Blake bloodily gunned down by his second-in-command Kerr Avon (Paul Darrow) who wrongly suspects him of treachery.  (“Have you betrayed us?  Have you betrayed… me?!”)  A week later, on April 20th, film director Guy Hamilton passed away.  Hamilton was another James Bond alumni with four 007 movies under his belt, most notably 1964’s Goldfinger.  And April 21st was a day when another great musical talent was snuffed out: Prince.  Blood and Porridge paid its respects to the saucy purple one here:


On April 24th we bid adieu to two character actors who’d enlivened many an old British B-movie: Australian Lewis Fiander, who’d had supporting roles in the horror movies Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971) and Dr Phibes Rises Again (1972) and was the leading man in Narciso Ibanez Serrador’s splendidly creepy Spanish film Who Can Kill a Child? (1976); and British-Chinese actor Burt Kwouk, who was best known for playing Inspector Clouseau’s manservant Cato in the Pink Panther movies, though he’d appeared in a lot of movies and TV shows besides.  Kwouk was a big favourite at Blood and Porridge, which published this tribute to him a year ago:


By June, the month when the United Kingdom voted for Brexit, it was clear that 2016 was going to be remembered as a monumentally shite year.  This unhappy fact seemed to be reinforced by the passing of the great Muhammad Ali on June 3rd, which was recorded on this blog here:




June 12th saw the death of one of Scotland’s more outré eccentrics, Tom Leppard, aka the Leopard Man, who was reckoned by the Guinness Book of Records to be the world’s most tattooed man.  A former soldier, Leppard had his body covered in a leopard-skin pattern of spots and spent much of his later life living in a remote bothy on the Isle of Skye.  On June 19th, the American-Russian actor Anton Yelchin died in a tragic freak accident.  Aged just 27 at the time of his death, Yelchin had made a name for himself in impressive movies like Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) and Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room (2015), as well as in the rebooted Star Trek movies where he played Chekov.  And Bud Spencer, the burly Italian Olympian swimmer and comic actor, died on June 27th.  In partnership with Terence Hill, Spencer made 20 movies of rumbustious and destructive slapstick that regularly turned up as supporting features in British cinemas during the 1970s.  Watch Out, We’re Mad (1974) and Crime Busters (1977) are particularly fondly remembered at Blood and Porridge.


Finally, June ended and July began with what Blood and Porridge dubbed ‘the curse of the Radiohead video.’  No sooner had the avant-garde British rock band released a video for their new song Burn the Witch, which combined the look and the Claymation animation style of the classic British TV children’s shows Camberwick Green (1966), Trumpton (1967) and Chigley (1969) with the plot of the classic British folk-horror movie The Wicker Man (1974), than: (1) Gordon Murray, producer and animator of those children’s shows died on June 30th; and (2) The Wicker Man’s director Robin Hardy died on July 1st.  Here’s what Blood and Porridge had to say about Hardy:


© XL


To be continued…  Unfortunately.


You sexy thing




When I saw the headlines a day ago about ‘Prince’ being ‘dead’, my first thought was that the 67-year-old Prince Charles had popped his clogs.  And he’d done so with impeccable timing.  Expiring on April 21st was the perfect way to upstage the celebrations going on in the UK for his mother’s 90th birthday.


Alas, the dead person in question turned out to be Prince Rogers Nelson, i.e., the singer and musician Prince; who for a time used the moniker ‘the artist formerly known as Prince’ and who was sometimes represented by this squiggly symbol, half-tomahawk and half-bugle:




People around the world have reacted to news of his death with shock, but personally I’m not surprised that Prince has passed away.  The wee man just didn’t seem to sleep, which can’t have been good for him.  Rather, he spent 24 hours a day living life to its creative full.  And then some.


By this year he’d composed and recorded enough songs to fill nearly 40 albums, and I’m sure he’s left vaults crammed with enough unreleased material to keep a posthumous Prince-albums industry going for decades to come.  And he played most of the music on his songs – it’s said he had mastery of 27 musical instruments.  And he produced records.  And when he wasn’t toiling in the studio, he was on the road, doing 28 tours in 37 years, playing gigs that lasted for hours at huge venues like London’s O2 Arena and huge events like the American Superbowl (where his 2007 half-time gig was hailed as the best ever) but also in tiny late-night clubs and bars.  And he was writing his memoirs, and doing the odd bit of acting and directing, and chapping on doors on behalf of his local branch of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and funding public libraries in black neighbourhoods, and partying, and, ahem, possibly indulging in some heavy duty love-action with the ladies – such as Vanity, Sheila E, Kim Basinger, Madonna and Sherilyn Fenn from Twin Peaks.


Yes, in human years, he was only 57 when he died.  But in Prince years, he must have been well into his nineties.


(c) Paisley Park Records / Warner Brothers


It seems unlikely that someone with my musical tastes and outlook on life could get into Prince’s funky, soul-infused brand of psychedelic pop music in the 1980s, but that was the pint-sized Minneapolitan’s charm – he could appeal even to people like me, whose idea of bliss was to sit in a darkened room with a crate of Newcastle Brown Ale listening to Happy When It Rains by the Jesus and Mary Chain.


And I did get into him for a time.  He was responsible for great albums like Purple Rain (1984), Around the World in a Day (1985) and Parade (1986) and great songs like Let’s Go Crazy, Pop Life, Raspberry Beret and Kiss.  In 1987, he reached his high-water mark with the release of the double album Sign o’ the Times, whose title song is one of his best – it remains splendid despite the fact that Simple Minds did a cover version of it.  The album also featured the salacious If I was your Girlfriend, the belting Housequake and the rocking U Got the Look, which is splendid too despite the fact that Sheena Easton sings on it.  Thinking about it now, Prince did well in the late 1980s to survive this conspiracy by duff musical acts from Glasgow to ruin his reputation.


It couldn’t last, of course.  Lovesexy (1988) and Graffiti Bridge (1990) suggested that things were getting wobbly, though I really like Thieves in the Temple and Melody Cool from that latter album.  And in between the two, in 1989, he released the Batman soundtrack album, which was, frankly, pants.  No wonder that in Shaun of the Dead (2004), while they’re rifling through his vinyl record collection in search of some anti-zombie ammunition, Simon Pegg gives Nick Frost permission to chuck a copy of Batman at an advancing ghoul.


(c) Working Title / Universal Pictures


Thereafter, Prince never stopped churning the records out and I kept buying them: Diamonds and Pearls (1991), The Black Album (1994), The Gold Experience (1995), etc.  It seemed I couldn’t avoid buying them, as there were so many of the bloody things and they turned up everywhere, including at the second-hand music shops and record fairs where I did so much of my musical shopping.  Their quality was variable, but there was always something on them that I liked – for example, Pussy Control on The Gold Experience, a song so lewd I suspect even AC/DC would have turned it down on grounds of taste.


When someone dies, we’re usually urged not to dwell on the sad fact of the person’s death but to celebrate their life instead.  And that’s actually easy to do with Prince, because he lived such a hectic, endlessly-creative and no-second-wasted life.


He talked the talk and he walked the walk.  Which is important when your songs are mainly about bonking.