Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Lament for a Video Shop: Video Llŷn

If you are what we term ‘a regular’ on here then you will already be fully aware of my YouTube channel, if not well, I urge you to subscribe, especially if you look back on the glory days of movie rentals as fondly as I do! In each video I create a painting that serves as a loving tribute to those VHS releases that we watched back in the 80’s and 90’s-so go check it out! (done it? Good) Despite the YouTube channel being my main focus, rest assured I haven’t abandoned the blog, no, far from it and I hope to make the ‘Lament a Video Shop’ posts a regular feature running ‘parallel’ with my videos in fact. So, if you would like to suggest a Video Shop that should feature in a future post, drop me a line or e-mail arfon@arfon.net
Right, last time we remembered Select Video, one of the numerous video shops that I frequented between 1991 and 1994, this time I thought we would turn the spotlight on another, Video Llŷn in Pwllheli North Wales, who opened in the early 1980’s but have a distinction that very few rental shops have these days... they are still open in the 21st century!

Video Llŷn (as in the Llŷn Peninsula, Gwynedd- North Wales)‘s story started with one Mr. Ian Jones who while working for a plastics firm noticed a demand for VHS clamshell cases. Surmising that VHS were going to be the next big thing he formed Video Llŷn on Sand Street in the market town of Pwllheli in November of 1983 and the move instantly proved to be popular one, so popular in fact that a second shop was opened twenty miles away on the High Street in Caernarfon in 1984 and a third, thirteen miles on New Street, Porthmadog in 1985. As Gwynedd and Anglesey is predominately rural,Video Llŷn also had five VW and Talbot Express vans that traveled all around, providing those unable to get to the shops the opportunity to get the latest video titles- even providing videos to the Valley Royal Air Force station on Anglesey. But the shops were the place to go to safeguard getting those latest releases. They even provided the video players themselves and offered a repair service (they even branched out to home computers, partnering with CPL Computers, the first Welsh language software company responsible for launching the first ever Welsh Language computer game in 1984). 

4 of the 5 Vans that provided videos to most of Gwynedd and Anglesey

Its dedication to its Welsh roots helped Video Llŷn to form a partnership with Welsh record label, SAIN who reached out to the shop when the Welsh language channel S4C granted the copyright and distribution rights to some of their welsh language programming, Sain needed an outlet- a way to reach the Welsh speaking public and Video Llŷn was it. The likes of Superted, Wil Cwac Cwac and Sam Tân (Fireman Sam) would no longer be limited to S4C scheduling but be available on tape to the children of Wales (The very first Welsh language tape was Superted and cost £50!) Video Llŷn worked closely with SAIN with the marketing side of things and even organised events promoting the latest releases at local schools and in store promotional days such as the time Wil Cwac Cwac came to visit the Pwllheli shop on the 25th of May 1985 to meet local children and give out free posters and stickers and encourage them to buy his latest video. 
There was one promotional ‘guest’ that visited the shop in 1990 however, that wasn’t so welcome, a Chinese Rat Snake! Debbie Evans, manageress of the Caernarfon shop received a special delivery in the shop one day and realised that the parcel in which she thought contained a rubber snake in fact turned out to be a live Chinese Rat Snake, sent as a publicity stunt by CIC Video, the distribution arm of Paramount Pictures whom had sent out 200 snakes (without prior warning) as publicity stunt to promote the release of Wes Craven’s Serpent and the Rainbow movie. The stunt managed to make the national newspapers and the News at Ten, raising issues about animal welfare and not the movie itself. What became of the Video Llŷn snake? Seems after appearing on the S4C news and front page of the Caernarfon & Denbigh news paper it disappeared whiles being transported from Caernarfon to Pwllheli... 

In the mid 90’s I became a student, an art one at that and commuted 30 miles each day to Bangor college and so this meant I was always in Pwllheli waiting for buses- as they could be few and far between this often presented me with the opportunity to not only visit the arcade but also the video shop to pick a movie for that evening, safe in the knowledge that I would be back early next morning to return it. Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Piranha 2 the Spawning and Jack Frost are just three of the many, many movies I rented from the shop. I was so fond of it in fact that I even incorporated into my college work sketching customers and staff and recreating the shop as a miniature!  As the 2000’s rolled in it seemed that DVD’s were the next big thing, but Video Llŷn was cautious of the new format having previously witnessed the battle between Beta and VHS during the 80’s (the shops had been running formats since 1983 before gradually phasing them out completely in 86) and so they tentatively started to introduce DVD’s to their line-ups in 2001 running both formats side by side before making the complete transition to DVD in 2006. 
 A steady decline in rental sales had been noted as early as the early 1990’s attributed to both the increasing popularity of Sky TV and video piracy and so the Caernarfon shop was sold as a going concern in 2002. The previously mentioned barriers didn’t help the Porthmadog shop either but when Dwyfor council imposed double yellow lines outside the shop they sealed its fate and it too was closed 2005. But the Pwllheli shop however continued to hold its own, despite having to relocate to Cardiff Road when their landlords, Agricultural Merchants Eifionydd Farmers merged with Wynnstay sold the land (it’s a Wilko store now) Video Llŷn is very much alive and open for business. 
Over the past few months I have had the great pleasure of archiving Video Llŷn, and we have been posting photos from days gone by on the shop’s Facebook page. So if you are local and want a nostalgia fix or you just like looking back at the glory days of video rentals join the Video Llŷn Facebook page and make use of the numerous galleries created for your viewing pleasure! 
Local and tired of the rubbish that television has on offer? Perhaps you are visiting the area for your holiday and need some movies? Be sure to visit the shop, and show your support! 
Tell them Arfon sent you!

TODAY: Video Llŷn located on Cardiff Road Pwllhlei

Video Llŷn, High Street Caernarfon (1984- 2002)

Video Llŷn, New Street Porthmadog (1985- 2005)

My sincere thanks to Ian Jones for granting me access to the archives, putting up with all my questions and for all the movies!

© Arfon Jones 2020. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Sunday, 26 January 2020

Omnibot’s Robot Root-Out: Big D ‘Babe Boards’

“...Deep under Arfon’s studio lies an extensive collection of random artefacts thirty years in the making. His robotic assistant Omnibot has been assigned the mammoth task of excavating the collection. What will Omnibot uncover today...!”

A New Year and Omnibot’s found a new haul! We thought the first Robot Root Out of 2020 was to be about Snoots, a series of 80 cards produced by Continental Candy in 1989-I loved these! Each Snoot card featured a different character design and was divided into three categories Snoots Nose Kids, Snoots Nosimals and Snoots Nosy Bodies. A short bio of each character depicted was written on the back of the card but the main ‘feature’ of these things is that each one has a small nose shaped hole in the middle of the card for children to push their own noses through and complete the image! Great fun! However I have been unable to find locate further information about them, who devised them? The artist responsible for the designs and so on SO we have decided to shelve them until such details become available (if you can help shed some further light on them e-mail me at arfon@arfon.net) so instead we are devoted this post to another card related collection that I have.
But first (as is often the case with these things) a back story... Growing up, I was part of what could be considered a large family, with numerous grandparents, aunts and uncles spread all over the county and so weddings, wedding anniversaries, christenings and birthday seemed a fairly regular outing  and these would (more often)  take place at various strategically placed /convenient hotels,  restaurants  and family friendly pubs. These family occasions could be tedious if there wasn’t a play area (back in those days a swing or climbing frame) our parents would give us what change they had to either go play an arcade machine or buy a Coke or packet of crisps, whatever it took to keep us quiet. The later, seemed the most regular however and the late adolescent me had a particular penchant for Smiths Bacon Flavored Fries (still do) as it seemed I could only get them at these establishments I would always scan the wall behind the barkeep to see if they stocked them (still do) but this particular occasion they only sold nuts... and that was when pre-teen Arfon discovered Big D peanuts, or more specifically the way Big D peanuts promoted their products. The Big D peanut girl!

Having first been introduced to the UK in 1967, Big D (Dallas) would have been just another peanut company supplying their products to the pubs of Great Britain had it not been for the ingenious idea of introducing the ‘babe board’ in 1975 a cardboard display that contained 24 packets of 50g packs of nuts which could be hung on the wall behind the bar, but (and this is the clever bit) each time a pack would be bought more of the Big D girl’s photo on the card itself would be revealed- a very clever idea!  Never depicting actual nudity, former computer operator, South End girl turned model Beverley Pilkington was the first Big D girl having previously appeared on Page 3 and numerous Top of the Pops album covers (more on them some day) “Big D Bev" was the.... face of the brand also featured on the company’s promotional items including playing cards and calendars such as the 1979 one ‘Sporting Nuts’ which had her posing with various sports stars of the time. But it was the ‘Beverly Cards’ themselves that proved to be the real hit with the public, making a star out of Beverly and assuring great success for the company until the campaign was eventually dropped during the seemingly more politically aware times of the late 80’s.  
 The company claimed in 2003 that they had been losing £500,000 a year since the campaign had been dropped and when they reintroduced it with Page 3/ ‘lads mag’ model Ruth Higham in 2003 they saw sales rise by 35% securing the future of the company, which employed “about 140 workers” as you can imagine the re introduction of the Babe Board was met with criticism in which Rob Wooley, of Trigon Foods defended, claiming it was not offensive, declaring "There's a bit of cleavage but no nudity - it's just a bit of cheeky fun." It seemed that many a model aspired for the title of Big D peanut girl as reported in a Wigan Today in an article published in 2010 reporting on one such hopeful, Louise Royal, one of the five finalists whom had beaten “hundreds of wannabes across the country” in a contest in 'lads mag' Zoo hoping to replace the then board babe and Daily Star Sunday babe Malene Espensen and secure a four year contract with Big D.   “Middlesex marvelPage 3 Rosie Jones was crowned Big D Babe having  successfully completed a series of ‘Babe Hunt’ challenges including “proving she could pour the perfect pint” now the face of the brand also posing for Big D’s calendars with her third “and steamiest! “ calendar released in 2013 donating 10% of profits from all sales to Balls to Cancer – a male cancer awareness and research charity.
Now fully embraced by 'lad culture' and following on from their 2012 ‘finger footie’ campaign the babe board campaign was given a 21st century spin in 2013 allowing pub goers (via a “branded beer map”) the chance to play interactive pub games online and upload a photo of themselves with Rosie (whom had been voted fourth in FHM’s twenty sexiest women that year) to their social media pages. But like all good things, this was short lived, as the D peanut girl went the same way of the Page 3 and Lads Mags becoming extinct in 2016 with the company distancing itself from the 'girly' image and using simple colored backing cards indicating the flavor of the nuts be it Salted, Dry Roasted, Crunchy BBQ , Crunchy Chili, Honey Roast, Birds Eye Chili, Mixed Nuts & Raisins or Natural nut products and mixes... Was it inevitable? I guess it was. Is it shame?  I think so, as I regard it to be a very clever sales gimmick. But whatever your thoughts you will find these original cards in our eBay shop - money raised from our eBay auctions help fund all my creative endeavors and the YouTube channel.  Any questions you might have get in touch, Omnibot is only too happy to oblige!

I will add Big D haven’t purged their Facebook page as they have with their official website, so if you dig deep enough you will find an unlimited source of images devoted to their campaigns since its reintroduction and a occasional fond look back over the Big D Bev days.

© Arfon Jones 2020. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Happy Horror-day! Terror Train (1980)

Here we are, rapidly approaching the end of the year and the end of the challenge with our final movie, Terror Train from 1980. Three years after traumatizing a fellow student with a prank involving a corpse a college fraternity organise a New Year's Eve costume party aboard a train and as people start to go missing they wonder could their class prank victim be back for revenge aboard the Terror Train? Yes, it’s another movie about a group of students doomed to die, yes it was filmed in Canada and yes it’s based around a holiday- loosely... I say loosely because although it informs us that it is New Year’s Eve as a basis for the victims to be together, Terror Train could have taken place any time of the year as it doesn’t fixate on the countdown to twelve o’clock as New Year’s Evil did. But this is not a criticism mind, as the film directed by Roger Spottiswoode (in his directorial debut) is rather good and serves as a slasher with a dash of ‘who done it’ and ‘how did he do that?’ using the claustrophobic and restricted space of a moving train very effectively. Executive producer and friend of Halloween's John Carpenter and Debra Hill, Daniel Grodnik’s idea to make "Halloween on a train" stars Jamie Lee Curtis as Alana Maxwell, staring alongside Hart Bochner along with Sandee Currie, Anthony Sherwood, David Copperfield and Ben Johnson as Carne, the train conductor. An independently produced film, Terror Train made a return of $8 million on an estimated budget of $5 million during its theatrical run, and is worth checking out. 
The more of these movies you watch the more patterns that start to emerge but anyone else notice how this film, which takes place on New Year’s Eve, released in 1980 features a killer dressed as Groucho Marx while New Year’s Evil also from 1980 which also takes place on New Year’s Eve features a killer dressed as Stan Laurel?

There we go, the Happy Horror Day challenge is over, 17 movies over a 12 month period with one reoccurring theme the ‘holidays’ admitably one’s Birthday isn’t a holiday but “meh” I wouldn’t usually celebrate Memorial Day, Independence Day or Thanksgiving either... Come to think about it, nobody really ‘celebrates’ April Fool’s Day or Friday the 13th  (twice!) either... But anyway it allowed me to opportunity to enjoy (in some cases) this sub-genre of horror movies. Thank you for following my challenge, I hope it inspired you to do the same in 2020. Either way, I enclose a list of the movies that featured in the Happy Horror-day challenge and wish you a very Happy New Year!

Father's Day (2011)

Uncle Sam (1996)

Halloween (1978)

Terror Train (1980)

© Arfon Jones 2019. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Tenth Anniversary/ 2019 New Years blog post, thingy

Continuing on with the tenth anniversary theme, on Thursday, 17 December 2009 I uploaded a post entitled The 2009 end of year full circle review to this blog, a way to reflect on the past year. It became a ‘sorta’ ‘kinda’ annual tradition for me for the first few years before becoming a staple of the end of the year from 2014 onwards, it would seem I wrestled with a title each year before settling on New Years blog post, thingy in 2015 so here is my tenth anniversary, 2019 New Years blog post, thingy... 
2019, I celebrated 10 years of being a Blogger but also 17 years of being a father, 6 years of being a husband, 7 months of being a Grandfather and generally just being around and surviving for 40 years!  Turning  40 was a strange notion as  it reminded me of the first time I watched the first episode of The Good Life ( one of my all time favorite sitcoms) about the life of Tom Good (played by Richard Briers) a plastics designer who takes up self sufficiency following a midlife crisis when he turns 40- when I first watched it, the very notion of myself someday turning 40 someday never crossed my mind, but here we are and so with that it seemed rather apt that this year we visited...  55 Kewferry Rd Northwood, Middlesex.  
55 Kewferry Rd Northwood, Middlesex 
Otherwise known as the Good’s house!  It was at this house that Tom Good, questioning his place in the world, follows his desire to escape modern commercial living along with his faithful wife Barbara (played by Felicity Kendal) as they both embark on a new life of self-sufficiency in their home in Surbiton. Although set in Surbiton when it came to filming, they opted to film at this house in Northwood. Written by Bob Larbey and John Esmonde  the show ran on the BBC from 1975 to 1978 and it had been and gone by the time I had come into the world but I soon discovered it during one of its many repeat showings and as I said it has remained one of my favorites ever since. It looks a little different but there was no mistaking it, and it was a delight seeing the garden as a lawn and not a vegetable patch and looking over the fence and seeing the house next door in which their friends/neighbors Jerry and Margot Leadbetter played by Paul Eddington and Penelope Keith) supposedly lived and standing on the same curb that Geraldine the goat chased off the vegetable thief back in 1974! 

I didn’t have a midlife crisis at 40, but I did attempt to cross a fair few things off my bucket list, I finally had the opportunity to try classic American breakfast cereals Count Chocula, Franken Berry, and Boo Berry! Only available seasonally in the US my very good friend Brian sent them over to me in time for Halloween and if you follow this link you can see me trying them out for the first time! Another thing that was was long overdue was meeting writer, director, producer founder and face of Troma Entertainment, Lloyd Kaufman whom I had wanted to meet for many years and remained an inspiration to me since my art college days and I finally did that at this year’s Starburst Film Festival at MediaCityUK- and as mentioned in a previous post, he did not disappoint and I know that my 16 year old self would have been overjoyed! Interestingly two other bucket list things I wanted to do had a recurring theme... Robocop- One of my all time favorite movies.  After years of being told I should be a contestant on a game show I finally took the plunge and crossed it off my bucket list entering as a contestant on a new Welsh language game show, Rhannu shown on channel S4C (although the show was recorded in December 2018 it actually aired in 2019) and it was an experience I rather enjoyed, despite not winning anything. During a round devoted to Superhero Movies I was asked, “Which city was Robocop set?” little did I know that having given the correct answer and winning the round I would be crossing off another item and meeting Robocop himself, Peter Weller a few months later! 
Meeting Peter Weller at For the Love of Sci-Fi
A return trip to Manchester for this year’s For the Love of Sci-Fi I relived all the memories accumulated since fist watching this movie aged 10, watching it countless times and quoting lined from the film more so! And I know that my ten year old self would have been delighted if he knew that his 40 year old self would be getting a fist bump from Alex J. Murphy while standing in front of a full scale replica of EDD 209!  Another item crossed off the list that might surprise some of you was being an Ice Cream Man! My love of retro is no secret but perhaps my fondness for vintage ice cream vans is not so widely known, particularly the ones I remember as a child. Living further out in the country, ice cream vans never visited us but we would often hear their chimes taunting us in the distance as they visited other streets in the village but occasionally I would be visiting my grandmother who lived further in the village and we would catch the ice cream van but it was a rare treat that never left me. So when Bourne Leisure put out the call for someone to provided an “outstanding Ice Cream experience, ensuring service, quality and Consistency, within a clean and safe environment catering for allin their vintage van, seemingly identical to the ones I remember  at their Haven holiday park in Pwllheli, North Wales I thought I would give it a go! 
"flake and sprinkles?"
So if you were at Haven, Pwllheli this year and came over to Bertie’s for an Ice Cream it was more than likely me that served you your ice cream cones and lollies! I was only there for a few months before the moved the van to another venue but it was great fun! Another bucket list item was visiting Chessington World of Adventures’ Vampire ride. Perhaps better suited for a Monster Memories post I mentioned a few years back how much I adore the Haunted House at AltonTowers, and how I visited it in its opening year of 1992. We all remember that infamously (long) queue line that snaked around Gloomy Wood and the humorous gravestones littered around the path but I also remember one particular sign that had a bat on it daring me to ride another horror themed ride called  ‘The Vampire’ at Chessington World of Adventures... I didn’t know that much about the ride, but I was curious to know more!  This ride designed by theme park legend and the man responsible for the Haunted House, John Wardley  first opened on the 11th of April, 1990 two years before the Haunted House and it was the UK’s first ever hanging roller coaster. The trains designed to look like bats hung from a track that stretched 800 meters and was capable of reaching speeds of 45 MPH offering riders the opportunity to swoop over the rooftops of Transylvania! But alas I had never got around to going on the Vampire (later shortened to just ‘Vampire’ in 2002) and although many changes had been made to the ride over the past 29 years I was so pleased to finally cross it off the list! In fact I rode it a fair few times to make up for lost time, and enjoyed it each time- so much so I’d say it’s now my favorite roller coaster!

27 years is the longest I've had to wait to go on a roller coaster...
Was ripped off in 2019 by T-Shirt company Crazytee.net
who stole this design from this very site. Asked nicely,
they removed it- then they put it back up again!
Please don't support them this is not an officially licensed item
and I certainly get nothing for it!

Entertainment, fully intended to go to the cinema much more than I did, not through trying and not because there wasn’t anything  I wanted to see. TV, we only stream now (a vast majority of what we watch is on YouTube I predict this to be one of the first topics to be discussed on this Blog in 2020) ‘modern’ telly is not something we partake in much these days, instead catching up on every episode produced of such shows as The Time Tunnel, Robocop: the Series, Unsolved MysteriesKnightrider, Baywatch and its spin off series Baywatch Nights but we did watch  and enjoy Stranger Things 3 and The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, hands down the best show I have seen for some time, so much so that I still feel compelled to sing its praises and urge you all to watch it if you haven't already. Creepshow on Shudder was very good, I had been eagerly awaiting its premiere on the channel and it didn’t disappoint- especially enjoyed “The House of the Head" "The Finger" "The Man in the Suitcase” "The Companion" and Tom Savini’s "By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain" Shudder did however drop the ball a few times when it came to my favorite show on their channel Joe Bob Brigg’s Last Drive In, the show who’s praises I sang last year and still regard to one of the most important shows about horror today was mostly inaccessible to Shudder viewers in the UK, HOWEVER they have started to release the Joe Bob segments minus the copyright infringing movies which is a start- let’s hope they sort it out in 2020!  

RIP Professor David J Bellamy OBE, Hon FLS

2019 claimed friends such as Lord Toby Jug, friends whom were also large chunks of my childhood such as Professor DavidBellamy. We also lost chunks of childhood that I felt I knew only for one factor I never had the pleasure of meeting them in person such as Dick Miller who had a habit of appearing in practically every movie I ever watched growing up Gremlins, Gremlins 2, The Howling, The 'Burbs, Piranha, The Terminator, Chopping Mall, Demon Night...  and then there was Big Bird, Carroll Spinney  the puppeteer who played both  Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street until he left the show in his 80s.  Watching the documentary I Am Big Bird on the day his death was announced genuinely brought a tear to my eye.  Doctor Who lost a key figure this year Terrance Dicks who had been script editor on more than 150 episodes and was responsible for most of the show’s novelization novels for Target Books, I couldn’t help but recall that at a Doctor Who convention (Liverpool, circa 2003) not paying attention to my surroundings I abruptly turned around and smashed into a round chap whom I (thankfully) caught before he fell over. Embarrassed, we both made our apologies and moved on in opposite directions. As I walked away I thought, “Was that Terrance Dicks?” When I met him later on that day I said “I thought that was you”, “yes that was me” he said. And that was the time I literally bumped into Terrance Dicks.  So many names though, Luke Perry, Tardar Sauce (Grumpy Cat), Magenta Devine, Peter Mayhew, Bill Heine, Judith Kerr, Doris Day, John McCririck, Denise Nickerson, Leah Bracknell, Windsor Davies, Carol Channing, Andre Previn, Peter Tork, Clive Swift, Brian Walden, William Simons, Rutger Hauer, Albert Finney, Keith Flint, Freddie Starr, Peter Sissons, Gary Rhodes, Clive James, Freddie Jones, Rip Torn, Peter Fonda, Stephen Moore and Sid Haig whom I had seen, said hello to at Horror Con 2017.  Everyone was celebrating his portrayal of Captain Spaulding in House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects but to be honest I hadn’t seen them, I knew him from Galaxy of Terror but more so from one of my all time favourite A-Team episodes ‘Black Day at Bad Rock’ in which he played Sonny Jenko a mean motorcyclist gang leader.  As I left the convention, I saw him clearing his table and very nearly leaned in to tell him how much I loved his other work but didn’t, something I regret. I made sure to watch House of 1000 Corpses shortly after and loved it, because of him and hoped for another opportunity to meet him and tell him that. It was not to be, once again serving a reminder that life is short and opportunities should be seized whenever possible!   

With The Unofficial Dr Who Annual 1987
Many, many projects! Having started 2019 with two paintings featuring  in the Liverpool Horror Club’s  Women in Horror Month Exhibition I then released the Glow in the Dark Monster Sticker Club (we will be launching a new series in 2020- a little different but I hope you will like it) on my Patreon page. I worked on private commissions and three projects for Hellbound Media (which will also be available in 2020) there was the Unofficial Dr Who Annual 1987 (look out for the Master Annual due in 2020!) but without a doubt the project that taken up most of my time has been my ongoing series on YouTube. Since taking the plunge and creating videos in August I have completed 8 paintings devoted to horror/sci-fi movies from the 1980’s and 90’s influenced by the glory days of VHS video rentals. The first video was originally conceived as a way to convey just how much work goes into a painting but ironically with setting up cameras and lights, teaching myself how to edit video and sound, teaching myself how to use Photoshop to create title cards, rendering videos and uploading them to YouTube and promoting them the workload has quadruped! And simply painting something seems easy and a lot time consuming BUT I am really enjoying the process and received positive feedback from many people (some of which involved with the movies that featured!) and it’s been a very gratifying process that I hope to continue on into the New Year, I hope you will join me and click “like” subscribe and ring that all important notification bell as it’s very important for ensuring any YouTube channel’s future.  I really want this to work, share my work with the horror community and thank everyone that has supported it thus far, hope you will stay for the ride!

Well, that took a lot longer than I thought it would- hope it was of interest (the memory isn’t as good as it once was- apologies if I missed something out!) my sincere thanks to all that have regularly/ occasionally contributed to this Blog, your comments are always gratefully received. I shan’t lie, I have high expectations for 2020 it has long been the coolest sounding year to me and really hope it delivers all the promise I expected!  
Happy New Year to you all!

© Arfon Jones 2019. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Happy Horror-day! Black Christmas (1974)

Christmas day, Merry Christmas to you all! I rather like Black Christmas, and I must confess that I watch it each year alongside Gremlins, It’s a Wonderful Life and Muppets Christmas Carol but I usually watch it during the run up to Christmas not on the day!  One of (how many has it been now?) Canadian, holiday themed slasher films to feature in this challenge the film was produced and directed by Bob Clark, and written by A. Roy Moore having been inspired by the "The babysitter and the man upstairs" urban legend. Originally called Stop Me the title was one of many changes made including changing the setting to that of a university , the completed story tells of a group of sorority sisters that receive threatening (and genuinely disturbing) phone calls while being stalked and (spoilers, murdered) by a unseen deranged killer during the Christmas season. Shot in Toronto in 1974 on an estimated budget of $620,000, the film was distributed by Warner Bros and stared Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, Andrea Martin, Marian Waldman, Lynne Griffin and John Saxon and was released in the United States on December 20th as Silent Night, Evil Night before it was once again changed to the one we know it as today. NOT the first slasher by any means but the film does at least deserve the honor of being the holiday themed horror that influenced John Carpenter to make Halloween effectively kicking off the sub-genera. One factor that makes this one different from all the others is that it’s impossible to spoil in a review, as the killer’s identity is never given away (is my telling you that a spoiler?) either way, be sure to see it- but I guess you will be done with Christmas by the time you read this, so instead watch it next year!  

© Arfon Jones 2019. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

400th Blog Post Tenth Anniversary Special: The Trophy Cabinet

Well, here we are the 400th post AND on its tenth year! Ten years of wittering about things from the past and my humble career. At the time of writing this Blogger informs me that there have been 164,400 views made to this page in the past ten years- working out at around 1,133 Page views a month- so if you are one of those 164,400 thank you for visiting! I would like to especially thank everyone that has taken the time to write a comment (and it wasn’t SPAM) so thank you! So... the 400th- what shall we devote this post to? It’s normally an excuse to discuss events from my past that I almost certainly would have documented had I a Blog at the time, and then I had an idea- My trophy/curio cabinet. I thought I would share a few choice items and their back stories with you (some of which have been covered before but this might be your first time here...) So first up...

Front row left to right

1st prize Urdd art competition 1990

The Urdd is a Welsh youth movement that organises a range of different activities across Wales. Established in 1922 the Urdd was formed to give children and young people the chance to learn and socialise through the medium of Welsh. I was a member for several years and in 1990 I submitted a drawing of Godzilla fighting King Kong to their art competition and won! Sadly the drawing was never returned but I still have the trophy (complete with wonky plaque) which was presented to me on a bus as we returned home from an Urdd outing and was the first trophy that I had ever won for art, happy days.

Cursed Elephant
Objects that my mother forbade me from owning has been a topic of conversation before but I’ve never mentioned this before, a carved wooden elephant. When I was eight my family and I visited some friends spending their summer in a caravan, as we played outside I made an unusual discovery, just behind one of the breeze block supporting the caravan was this small black, wooden elephant. Curious about this small animal I took it inside to show my mother, the owner of the caravan recoiled from it and told us to not bring it inside, telling us that she had been given it as a gift and that it was cursed! Seems she had convinced herself that this object was cursed and thrown it under the caravan to be rid of it. Intrigued I asked if I could have it but my mother, being equally superstitious, if not more so forbade me to have it! The woman’s not so superstitious husband took it out of the caravan, and play resumed. However later on that day as we were leaving the husband, obviously playing a joke on my mother handed me a carrier bag with the elephant inside and told me to take it home with me but not show it to her until we got home. I did, and my horrified mother took the elephant from me and put it in the bin telling me to leave it be, and never touch it again…. Here it is, now on show in my curio cabinet. 

Back row left to right

Pwllheli Agricultural Show Yale & Hemmings Cup and 'Special' Rossett 1990
The town of Pwllheli in North Wales has an agricultural show each year filled with the usual elements one comes to expect at such events, animal competitions, jam competitions, produce stalls and so forth but in 1990 I entered the children’s art competition (which was sponsored by Yale & Hemmings a local Estate agents) submitting drawings for three categories and did rather well achieving both the Yale & Hemmings 1990 cup and a ‘special’ Pwllheli Agricultural Society rosette. 

Highly Commended rosette, The Asylum 2010
Awarded to me at the Asylum event in 2010 when I entered the Patented Cryo-preservation Curiosity Cabinet into their contraptions contest.

Mounted Furby Trophy

For ten years I managed to steer clear of the sold-out Christmas toy scenario reminiscent of Jingle All the Way but one Christmas my preparation plans went somewhat awry and I found myself trying to locate a Furby two weeks before Christmas. It seemed to be that year’s ‘must have’ toy and as I searched the Internet I was struck by how many refered to the process as “hunting”. I would look through eBay sales and most of the sellers taking advantage of the rush would write “happy hunting” underneath their extortionate asking prices. In one instance I visited a toyshop and a staff member wished me “good hunting” as I left! So, I gladly excepted the challenge and went ‘hunting’ for a Furby and managed to successfully “bag” one of the beasts. Although it was in no way as comical as  Jingle All the Way I did however manage to successfully secure one a week before Christmas at a fraction of the cost and frankly I was quite pleased with myself. This feeling was highlighted and underlined by my daughter’s happy face on Christmas morning when she found Furby under the Christmas tree. True the memory of her happy face was reward enough, but I decided to mark that December ‘hunt’ the only way I knew how.

Front row left to right

Galaxy’s Best Father
A Father’s Day award that I humbly accepted, Generally, I’m not overly keen on modern Star Wars merchandise as I feel that there is far too much of it and that we have seen it all before. But I rather like these Funko Wisecracks awards that not only appealed to my fondness of classic W&R Berries Co. figurines but also my sense of irony.

The Not-100-Videos-Contest Lego Samurai
Back in 2011 Ashens set the Not-100-Videos competition. Inviting viewers to submit artwork that celebrated his videos and I submitted ‘Stuart Ashen’s Poundland Peril’ which won first prize in the fine art category I won a fake PSP an Ashenthology dvd and (as he put it) “Bully's Special Prize” a Lego Samurai figure. Since winning this contest I have uploaded the image to my deviant art page and have since been asked on several occasions 1) did I actually receive the Lego Samurai? And 2) Have I still got it? I answer 1) Yes I did and 2) Yes I have, and here it is. Looking somewhat out of place among the trophies I decided to make it look more trophy-esque by constructing a trophy like base with Lego.

Back row

1st prize for the year 10 art category Eisteddfod Ysgol Botwnnog 1993
Although this particular prize was awarded for coming first in a school art competition I have long regarded it as a double victory. Let me firstly explain to those of you not familiar with such things, Wales has a national Eisteddfod an annual festival of literature, music and performance that dates back to around the 12th century, a sort of Art Olympics if you will. When I was at school they used to hold their own version of this Welsh institution with the three Houses trying to achieve as many points as possible and becoming the outright winner for that year. Pupils would convene in the assembly hall and watch the various performances, cheering for their respective House and during this particular year I and a few of my friends found ourselves sitting in the front row. After a few hours this had became somewhat tedious when one particular pupil stepped on and was, to be perfectly honest, ATROCIOUS indeed laughingly so, so much so that we couldn’t help but giggle, (childish yes but then we were children) and once his performance was over a teacher (remaining nameless for obvious reasons) whom had observed this ran over to us to put us in our place telling us “how dare you! At least he’s trying! What have you done? You haven’t contributed anything towards the Eisteddfod!” No sooner had she returned to her seat the headmaster took the podium and announced the winner of the year 10 art category... me. As everyone clapped I couldn’t resist glancing over at the teacher and exchanging a smug smile which was met with a scowl. 1-0 to me.


Fred Dibnah Rivet

I never actually knew Fred Dibnah but felt that I did having watched his documentaries over the years and when he died in 2004 I was sorry to hear of his passing, it was the end of an amazing life. When he was alive, Dibnah had hoped that his home would one day become a museum, where his life’s passions could be preserved and that’s just what happened, it is now the Fred Dibnah Heritage Center. Although I am yet to actually visit the famed yard for myself I do own this a genuine boiler rivet from his workshop! Adapting an existing vintage glass display dome with rivets (some with light rusting) and finished off with a miniature locomotive style nameplate created by Andy Dingley of Atelier Fabry-Pérot. A small tribute to the great man in my own studio/base of operations!

Brunel award for Ingenuity, The Asylum 2009
Awarded to me at the Asylum steampunk event in 2009 when I entered the Cellular Condenser Ray- Gun into their contraptions contest. 

Left to right

Voodoo Doll
I am not getting into that.

Cub Scout Artist Proficiency Badge
I was once a part of  Robert Baden-Powell’s legacy and proud of it. To achieve the Art badge a Cub Scout had to choose 3 of the 7 set proficiencies laid out in the Cub Scout Handbook, one of them was to “make a model from clay or plastic material” and I made a Plasticine model of Roger Rabbit.

That was fun, I might do another sometime. Missed anything? Curious about another item- leave a comment at the bottom! Thank you again for reading my posts these past ten years! 

© Arfon Jones 2019. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Friday, 13 December 2019

Happy Horror-day! Friday the 13th Part II (1981)

I have been mulling this over since reviewing the first one back in September, which should I watch? The first one, again or the remake? Then it dawned on me- seeing as this is the second Friday the 13th of the year I suppose it should be the second Friday the 13th movie really... Friday the 13th Part II was produced and directed by Steve Miner (his directorial debut) and was written by Ron Kurz, staring Amy Steel and John Furey. The film also features the return of Adrienne King, Betsy Palmer and Walt Gorney from the first movie, taking place five years later with a new murderer picking off the camp counselors in scenes that had the Motion Picture Association of America repulsed so much that they insisted on numerous cuts being made to allow it an R rating. Although not as big a hit as the original, the sequel made $21.7 million in the U.S. on a $1.2 million budget assuring there would be a Part III the following year. Isn’t it funny this is the second time I have set myself a movie challenge that involves Friday the 13th and watching one isn’t enough!? If you’re not too busy/ tired join me here on the 24th for Black Christmas!    

© Arfon Jones 2019. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.


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