Friday, 12 June 2015

Growing up in the 1960s

Christopher Lee, RIP, but you can never be too certain.

As I continued to grow up in the 1960s, Christopher Lee featured heavily in my life. I was addicted to Hammer Horror films and rushed to the cinema whenever a new one came out.

I was about six foot three inches tall aged 14, so I never had any trouble getting into X-rated films. In between Hammer films, I read every single Pan Horror book that was ever printed, so my fantasy life fluctuated between Dracula and Sherlock Holmes. In a way, it still does. I was excited when Hammer once combined the two in one flick, but it was a dreadful disappointment.

Some years later, I was living in a sea-front house in Whitstable, when I took a dawn walk on the beach one Summer's morning. It was deserted apart from one other lone figure walking toward me on the strand, and as he approached I saw that it was Peter Cushing - the definitive Van Helsing to Lee's definitive Dracula. As we passed, he said, "Good morning'" and I said "Good morning" back, killing two birds with one stone - Van Helsing and Dr. Frankenstein. 

Aged 14 I started to develop an interest in stone, and thinking that I had enrolled in a palaeontology course, enrolled in a geology one instead. My teacher didn't tell me the difference between the two.

This was a night-school course in Camberley, Surrey, a half-hour train ride (as the crow flies) from where I was brought up. There was one stop on this ride at a little halt called Ash Vale, and because it was early Winter, the tiny station - on the handful of times I was forced to alight there before abandoning the course - was shrouded in both mist and darkness.

There was one, flickering gas-light at this station which gave out a ghastly green pallor accompanied by a sort of distant whimpering sound, as if crying for help. I was always the only person to get off and the only one on the deserted station - there were not even any British Rail employees at night.

As I waited for my connecting train for about half an hour, I would pretend that I was in the opening scene of 'Dr Terror's House of Horrors' - it could well have been used as the set.

It was at Ash Vale, waiting for the train to come out of the darkness, that I learned what it was like to abandon all hope.

19 comments:

  1. Pleased to see your use of the word 'alight'.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I LOVED Hammer Horror films and my friends and I were always at the ' pictures ' mainly to see ' Dracula ' and Frankenstein ' with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.Also Vincent Price in 'The Pit and the Pendulum ', Then there was ' The Devil Rides Out ' ' Rasputin The Mad Monk ' and, I'm sure that you remember Ingrid Pitt !! When I was at work, she was a patient of ours !!
    I remember ' Plague of the Zombies ', 'The Reptile ' and, my favourite ' The Mask ' which was the first 3D one and you were told when to put the glasses on !!
    Happy days !! XXXX

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When I was at school there were two cinemas in the town; the posh one and the flea pit. The flea pit showed all the Hammer films, and was where we invariably ended up.

      Delete
    2. We had about 4 cinemas in our town Cro and there was a flea pit …. I think all towns had the obligtory flea pit !! Ours was called the Florida !! XXXX

      Delete
    3. Our flea pit was The Cameo all the Hammer Horrors were shown there.

      Delete
    4. You've all relied to each other, so I am going to have to lump you all in together - not change there then.

      The campest horror film of all time was The Masque of the Red Death, starring Vincent Price.

      Plague of the Zombies was set in Cornish tin mines - I remember it well.

      The Pit and the Pendulum was by another author I was addicted to, Edgar Allen Poe.

      The Devil Rides Out was a Dennis Wheatley confection, and Wheatley was a nasty, racist bastard who I even recognised as such in my early teens - 6 foot, evil, negro servants with whips, etc.
      Wheatley was a neo-fascist. I worked that out when I read his books.

      Delete
  3. I did try to get in to see 'Whatever Happened to Baby Jane' and was turned away at the door - embarrassing, yes - particularly as I was on a date and he looked even younger than me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It wasn't even a horror film - although it was behind the scenes, apparently.

      Delete
  4. Great post to mark Christopher Lee's death.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm still waiting to see The Wicker Man. I seem to have missed out on so many famous films.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is utter crap, Sue. Don't bother.

      Delete
  6. I have never seen a Christopher Lee film dare I say Tom. Seeing him as Dracula on the news last night was scary enough - wonder what any kids watching thought of him!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are over 80, and you have never seen a film with Christopher Lee? Are you sure you aren't thinking of Bruce Lee?

      Delete
  7. New Years Honours - I should have said SIR christopher Lee, RIP.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I too loved horror films growing up, though they were mild compared to todays crap. My kids watch things like Sharknado. All blood and gore.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I seem to remember that the Hammer films got through quite a few pints of stage blood, but it was gratuitous. They didn't pay for it.

      Delete