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SPANK GOLD: London Film Festival 1991

The LFF 1991 poster, designed by none other than Terry Gilliam. Too good to be cropped for landscape mode, I think. You've probably realised by now that the London Film Festivals in 1989 and 1990 don't bear much resemblance to the glossy, star-packed event we had in 2008. As Jon noticed from a casual flick through the programme while I was researching this piece, there was a lot more old-school arthouse filth showing in those days: the American independent sector was still finding its feet, and wasn't the dominant force in film festival programming that it is today. Also, those earlier festivals were physically much smaller affairs, with little room for big commercial premieres: most screenings were held at the National Film Theatre on the South Bank, with just the occasional foray into the West End.

1991 was the year that started to change. With the refashioning of the Odeon West End into a two-screen cinema, the LFF saw its opportunity to grab a prime location for the final week of the Festival. It was a huge success, giving them access to passing trade that they just couldn't get on the South Bank. Over the next couple of years, that one week expanded to two: and soon the Odeon had taken over from the NFT as the home of the LFF, with a subsequent skewing of the programme towards more mainstream fare.

It's an arrangement that's just come to a screeching halt - the 2008 Festival turned out to be the last one to be held at the Odeon. By the time this October comes around, work will have commenced on tearing down that entire block of Leicester Square in order to build another hotel. As yet, there's been no announcement about where the 2009 LFF will hold its West End events: perhaps the Vue, or the Curzon Soho, or somewhere else entirely.

In the meantime, back to 1991. Only twenty films in total, with no weekday matinees at all: pressure of work appears to have been the cause. Funny: in my memory I've assumed that I always took loads of time off for the Festival, but it seems that didn't really start happening for at least another couple of years. Still, let's see how those twenty films panned out.

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Japanese Spider-Man

Spider-Man, Spider-Man
Does whatever a spider can
Can he fly? Can he heck!
If he tried he'd break his fuckin' neck
Hey there, there goes the Spider-Man

Seeing that in print now makes me belatedly realise that I hung out with some horrible kids when I was ten years old. Still, it just goes to show that it was as true back then as it is now: everyone knows the story of the Spider-Man. Teenager Peter Parker, bitten by a radioactive spider, develops super powers as a result and uses them to fight crime under a secret identity.

That's all well and good for most people. But what are you supposed to do if the origin of Spider-Man isn't nearly ridiculous enough for you? Well, happily, Japanese Spider-Man is here for those people, and now it's available absolutely free.

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SPANK GOLD: Edinburgh Festival 1991

After 1991, the Fringe Programme covers started to look a little less - how can I put this politely? - naive. See future posts for details.Well, don't say I didn't warn you: this post marks the point where Spank Gold goes a bit wonky. For the 1989 and 1990 festivals, I had contemporary diaries to work from: from this point onwards, all I have are lists of events in appointment diaries, brief event summaries in festival programmes, and my own fading memories from up to eighteen years ago.

And here's the annoying thing: I'm pretty sure I made some detailed notes on this particular festival back in 1991. After all, I'd documented my first two Edinburgh Festivals in a diary, so it makes sense that I would have done the same for my third. I remember using a spiral-bound reporter's notebook for the week, and even writing an early terrible version of the Benjamin Zephaniah joke that appears below in slightly less terrible form. Did I keep those notes? Did I buggery. So, you'll have to rely on whatever memories are jogged by my appointments diary.

After the 1990 visit with Spank's Pals, this one was back to being a solo flight. I'd realised by this stage that spending two weeks at the Festival was both physically and financially crippling, so this marks the point where I started cutting my time there down to a single week. Can't remember exactly where I was staying: during this period I tended to book into bed and breakfast places via Visit Scotland, leaving it quite late so I could plan my visit around the best days for the Film Festival. Booking Edinburgh accommodation in July means that you tend to end up on the outskirts of not-yet-fashionable Leith and having to commute in by bus or taxi, but it seemed to work out okay. As for the shows, well, see below.

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Screamtime

Robin Bailey demonstrates the way to do itIt was a rite of passage back when I was a lad: with the advent of video, I imagine kids don't even think about it these days. I'm talking, of course, about sneaking into an X film at the pictures before you're 18. It was easy for girls, who could just slap on the makeup to make them look older. Us boys had two options: try to shape your facial bumfluff into something approaching a beard, or take a girl along with you for cover. I played safe and did both, ensuring my entry to the movie I'd chosen for this milestone - John Landis' Kentucky Fried Movie.

If you read the recent Spank Gold piece on the 1990 Edinburgh Festival, then you'll know how that turned out. My first X film ended up being the supporting feature that preceded KFM: a terrible Confessions rip-off entitled Adventures Of A Private Eye, directed by notorious British hack Stanley Long. I never quite forgave him for that.

Until a couple of weeks ago, when I attended an event in his honour at BFI Southbank, which increased my respect for Stanley Long no end. After all, how many directors do you know who could bring along a celebrity entourage that included both Anita Harris and David Van Day?

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Simian Substitute Site for March 2009: Monkey March

Monkey MarchFeeling much better now, thanks. Although the requirement to take it easy for a couple of weeks after I FRACTURED BOTH MY BASTARD ELBOWS has taken its toll on the update frequency of this site. The main casualty has been the writeup of our Christmas visit to Prague, which now hopefully will be with you some time before Easter. It should be worth the wait, I hope.

Other things to look out for this month include the latest instalments of Spank Gold, this time focussing on my festival activity in 1991: plus a few other bits and pieces, I expect. And if you're looking for the results of the CD competition, you can find them right now on the These Beats Are 20 Years Old page.

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