Author and Scriptwriter

'Among the most important writers of contemporary British horror.' -Ramsey Campbell

Monday, 11 July 2011

A Blast From The Past

Anyone remember a TV series called Death Rattles?

If not, don't worry- you're in good company. Written by controversial playwright and scriptwriter Dennis Shapiro, Death Rattles was a short-lived and decidedly near-the-knuckle horror anthology series from the mid-80s, broadcast in the early days of Channel 4. It caused a fairly big stir at the time- there was pretty graphic nudity, gore, sex and violence and to cap it all it was all shot in the bleak, gritty style you'd more associate with a Ken Loach or Alan Clarke film than with the usually-cheesy effects of genre TV. I heard it actually caused questions to be raised in the House of Commons... but nobody remembers it now (proof that today's headlines are tomorrow's fish-and-chip wrappers- or they were then, anyway.)

I never got to see it at the time, however- it was way past my bedtime for a start (I was barely out of primary school when the bloody thing hit the airwaves.) Years later, though, I got to see some grainy home video recordings a horror-loving mate of mine had picked up at a car-boot sale, and was blown away.

Sadly my friend lost his video copies before we could watch the rest of the series (or I could get a copy for myself) and when I tried to buy it on video or DVD, I found it'd never been released commercially. No chance of it, either, as some dipstick apparently wiped all the master tapes shortly after release.

Fast forward to Fantasycon in Nottingham last year- there were a bunch of us, propping up the bar in the Shitannia Hotel (OK, slouched around one of the tables on chairs and couches, we were beyond standing by then) and up came the subject of classic genre shows. Gary Fry and Stephen Volk were leading the discussion- and then someone mentioned Death Rattles. I'd like to say it was me... so I will. :-)

Turned out a lot of well-known horror writers had never even heard of it, but a good half-dozen of us had. Most had seen the original run, although a couple of us- myself and the expatriate US writer Thana Niveau- had caught it through less orthodox channels. (I was quite chuffed to discover I was the baby of the group.)

With the original series lost forever, Gary Fry came up with the idea of trying to recreate the stories as best we could from memory (the original scripts, even, being unobtainable.) So I got the chance to do justice to The Children Of Moloch, which is still, for me, one of the most disturbing and distressing pieces of television- genre or otherwise- I've ever seen.

Anyway, Gary's Death Rattles anthology is out now, with stories from me, Gary McMahon, Paul Finch, John L Probert, Thana Niveau and Gary Fry himself, plus an introduction from Stephen Volk, and all for a mere £7.99/$14.00 plus P&P. Go on and treat yourself- if you dare (bwahahahahahaha!)


Cate Gardner said...

I don't recall that series at all. Although, in 1984 I was more of an A-Team or The Fall Guy kinda girl. Shush, don't tell anyone.

Simon said...

Your secret is safe with me... and the 25 others who follow this blog. Oops.

If it's any consolation, I was into Battlestar Galactica at the time. The old version...

tetsuo said...

From Canada:

I do not remember this show and am very intrigued. Originally from the Philippines I am a big horror fan both TV and movies(though my tastes have much diversified). Anyways in those days in the 1980s I was watching the following horror anthology shows on Manila TV:

Monsters, Hammer House of Horror, Hammer House of Mystery & Suspense, Twilight Zone(80s), Ray Bradbury Theatre. Tales From the Darkside, Darkroom. HItchhiker

In the 1970s I used to watch:

Night Gallery, Twilight zone(60s rerun), Quinn Martin Tales of the Unexpected.Journey To the Unknown, Ghost Story, Evil Touch

As for Brit TV horror, while I started on Hammer House of Horror I just discovered them in the late 90s and early 2000 with Urban Gothic, Thriller, Dead of Night(1972), Supernatural, M.R. James stuff, Ghost stories for Christmas, superantural, West country tales, Shades of Darkness, Worlds beyond, Chiller, Spinechillers,Beasts, Shadows of Fear etc. etc. etc.

I also have a very extensive collection of Brit and US TV Horror anthologies(dead of night, with some Italian and Japanese stuff thrown in the mix.

Anyways for the topic of British TV horror antholgies I love most of them and consider them storywise superior to the US TV stuff(however some US tv stuff is preety good too).

Anyways here is the UK Horror TV shows that I love and rewatch:

The Supernatural(1977): WOWS great gothic horror anthology should have been continued. I especially liked Dorabella, the night of the marrionettes and the werewolf eps Great acting.

Dead of Night(1972): I am hunting down the lost eps. So far no cigar.Liked the Exorcism ep. Creepy stuff done in the simple low budget way.

Urban Gothic: WOW this is what horror should be in the 21st century. Great way to hook up the stories. I especially liked the vamp ep. very funny but also grisly in the end.

Hammer House of Horror: The first season was great stuff. Old school hammer horror. The second series got coopted with American actors.

Journey into the Unknown: While whimsical, great show. Like it much. The horror is in how well the actors did their job.

Thriller: Betweent the US and UK version. I like both and its a hard choice but the UK Thriller seems better acted and creepy too with the color. Love this, most of it is giallo but hey great stuff.

M.R. James BBC stuff. I love all of them. I'm a big fan of M.R. James. I think the Beeb did him justice.

tetsuo said...

Oh yeah...Crooked House, I almost forgot this. Liked it too. well done.