Sunday, 23 July 2017

Watching Withnail At Uncle Monty's (Slight Return)

I've just got back from Sleddale Hall, aka Crow Crag, where a fine time was had by all last night watching a certain film.

It absolutely pissed it down yesterday morning, it's absolutely pissing it down as I type this, and the previous three nights of Withnailfest this year were all very damp but last night, and this morning, we had glorious weather, with only the merest hint of a shower.

Hats off once again to the fabulous team at Picnic Cinema, who outdid themselves for this extra-special 30th anniversary year, and of course to Uncle Tim, the owner of Sleddale Hall, for letting us all sit in his courtyard and shout rude words until gone midnight.

I didn't take any photos this year (if you're interested, have a look at my exhaustive, and exhausting, photo-feature from 2014) but here's one of me with Uncle Monty. I look pretty happy, as indeed I was, thanks to the lack of rain, and a few ales.

Balls to Monty.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

How To Open A Secondhand Bookshop By Mistake FOUR YEARS ON

Spot the bookseller.

Tomorrow, July 21st, is Withnail Books' fourth birthday. How did that happen?! On the one hand, it feels like no time; on the other, I can't really remember doing anything else. Those interested in the genesis of the Little Shop can read previous posts here and here.

What a lucky chap I am. I would just like to raise a glass of sherry ("Sherry? Sherry.") to all my customers. Chin chin!

All that remains is to give you another Withnail Books Bonkers But 100% True Customer Quote:

"Yeah, that was the day I didn't get to do a hot air ballon trip with Jon Pertwee."






Sunday, 16 July 2017

The Two Faces of 007 (or, When Licensors Have a Quiet Word...)

Apropos of nothing much (other than a framed copy of the first version now being in stock in the Little Shop), here's a tale of the perils of dealing with Danjaq/Eon, the owners of the James Bond cinematic franchise.

Back in the 1970s, the ubiquitous Geoff Love (& his Orchestra) recorded an album of Bond theme cover versions. The LP cover was a rather bonkers piece of 'greatest hits' art, with several scenes, and actors, recognisable from various Bond films. The then-current Bond Roger Moore is front and centre of course, plus there's Ursula Andress (painted from a still from Hammer's She rather than from Dr. No, if I'm not mistaken), Sean Connery and even Telly Savalas. There's also the Aston Martin DB5, which is red, for some reason.





As this was not an 'official' release (just 'cover' versions remember, not original soundtrack recordings), the record label presumably did not get their artwork approved by the various necessary parties. Stern words were then no doubt exchanged, leading to this rather hilarious revised cover for later printings of the LP...





The DB5 is still red though... and they don't seem to have bothered repainting dear old Telly. Speaking of whom, any mention of Telly Savalas immediately necessitates linkage to this:



Monday, 12 June 2017

Johnny Depp Introduces a Withnail Screening!

Johnny Depp and Bruce Robinson on the set of The Rum Diary.

News just in (or just noticed by me at least) that Johnny Depp will be introducing — live and in person — a screening of Withnail and I on 22nd June as part of Julien Temple's Cineramageddon at the (already long sold out) Glastonbury Festival.

According to Screendaily the film "will be projected onto the biggest cinema screen in the UK with the nocturnal audience seated in seventy mutated vintage British and American cars, repurposed funfair rides and a Lear jet."

Nice.

Depp will also be introducing screenings of a couple of his favourites from his own career: The Libertine and Dead Man.

Of Withnail, he says, "no film has ever made me laugh more, or filled me with so much joy… and dread, than Withnail & I! For me, this is perfect cinema. As perfect as Chinatown, as The Godfather, as Time of the Gypsies. Genius.”

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Isabel Alexander's Rhondda

Flicking through a fascinating volume called Future Books: Overture (of which more in a future post, probably), I came across these wonderful illustrations to accompany an article on mining. They were drawn by Isabel Alexander, an artist who made several extended visits to the Rhondda in South Wales during the Second World War. A quick google reveals that Alexander is only now, 20 years after her death, getting her due, with a major retrospective at Harrogate's Mercer Gallery running until June 4th. More of her mining illustrations appeared in the 1945 'Penguin Special' Miners Day, by B.L. Coombes.













Sunday, 14 May 2017

Ever Heard of Beatrix Potter's Adult Fairy Tale, Sister Anne?

... Nope, me neither.

Beatrix Potter's final book, Sister Anne, has been all but forgotten. Narration by talking mice aside, there are no cute animals: it's actually a re-telling of the Bluebeard story (about a serial wife-murderer...). The book was published in the USA (and the USA only) in 1932. I don't think it's ever been reprinted. One of the reasons why it's been overlooked is because the illustrations are not Potter's: providing them was too much for the ageing Beatrix, so the task fell to Katharine Sturges.

A copy of the first (and presumably only) edition arrived on my desk this week. It's actually the first 'state' of the first edition, with the frontispiece illustration mistakenly tipped in opposite page 7, instead of the title page, where later copies had it.

Apparently Potter herself didn't rate Sister Anne, and her biographer Margaret Lane didn't mince her words either, calling it a "pretentious failure." It's a pretty looking volume though, and very rare...

Here, for possibly the first time on the internet, is a look at all Sturges's illustrations for Sister Anne.






















Thursday, 4 May 2017

Withnail Awakens...

Here's a Star Wars Force Awakens-style trailer for a certain film, which made me spit tea all over my keyboard when I first watched it. May the Fourth Be With You!



Monday, 10 April 2017

Happy 30th Birthday, Withnail and I

Ralph Steadman's illustration for the original theatrical poster.

It was 30 years ago today that Withnail and I was first screened. Back on April 10th 1987 the response was, frankly, not particularly overwhelming... the film took years to build into the terrible cult that it is today. It had built up a head of steam by its 10th anniversary, when it had one of its many re-releases...

The 10th anniversary theatrical re-release poster. Sorry Ralph, they went for a photo. Sponsored by Oddbins!

... and while back then, the film was being aimed squarely at the Loaded generation, twenty years on, it can still be convincingly argued that it is a 'film for today', as this thoughtful piece at The New Statesman shows.

There's another 30th anniversary piece at The Daily Beast, here, a listicle at the Torygraph here, and truly excellent, in-depth then-and-now look at the film's locations from Adam Scovell at the BFI, here. (Update: they were a few days late to the party, but the BBC weighed in with a lovely piece, including a new interview with Richard E Grant, which you can read here.)

As a final piece of birthday reading, here's Ralph (Danny the Dealer) Brown's blog post about seeing the film for the first time. (Brown's blog, taking songs as a way into stories from his life, is well worth a read, by the way.)

Happy birthday, Withnail. Chin chin!

Sunday, 19 March 2017

A Book That's Not in Kansas Any More

As is the way with books like this (i.e. very, very rare ones), this particular volume sold in the time between me photographing it and managing to get this blog entry online, but it's still well worth recording here.

It's not dated inside, but this film tie-in edition of The Wizard of Oz presumably came out in the UK around the time the movie was originally released in 1939 (certainly you wouldn't expect such a lavish edition to have been published much later than that, due to wartime restrictions).

Unlike the American movie tie-in edition, this UK edition published by Hutchinson features 8 colour(ed) stills from the film, alongside the original illustrations by William Wallace Denslow.

This copy is missing its exceedingly rare dust wrapper, and the spine is damaged, but then I was only asking a fraction of the price a near-pristine one will cost you... (over a grand last time I looked on eBay).

All together now... "I'll get you, my pretty!"















Sunday, 19 February 2017

The Unseen Photographs of Joseph James, Farmer of Caldbeck



Every now and again, a box of ephemera comes across my desk containing something really special. This week, I was sifting through a bunch of papers, and hit a particularly rich seam of farming photographs from the 1920s and 30s. They came from the house of Joseph James, who farmed at Nether Row Hall, Caldbeck until he retired in 1941 (and I know that date because the pile also contains the auction catalogue from his retirement sale of stock).

There are just 30 or so photos, but they are just so vivid and full of history, it almost hurts to look at them. What's more, some of them come with their negatives... 

Here's a selection of them: please forgive the quick and dirty photos-of-photos, which doesn't do them justice. The first couple are printed as postcards (though were never, as far as I can find out, commercially available), the rest are smaller snaps.










These photos (and the rest of the batch) are FOR SALE as a lot: £40. Contact me if you're interested.