Under London’s Night Streets


On Sunday 4th September from 3pm, The Genesis Cinema in Whitechapel is showing a double bill of Jack the Ripper films, (£9.50 / £7 concessions) close to where the savage and still-unsolved killings of London sex workers occurred in grim reality. ‘Murder By Decree‘, in which Christopher Plummer’s Sherlock Holmes cracks the case with shocking consequences for the British Establishment; and the Hammer classic ‘Hands of the Ripper‘ in which Eric Porter’s Freudian psychoanalyst attempts to cure the daughter of the serial killer, even as she replicates her dad’s murderous spree in a somnambulistic state.


There’ll be a Q&A with fantasy author, poet, critic and Resonance FM broadcaster Roz Kaveney, whose ‘Reading the Vampire Slayer’ is a formative text on Buffy, who’s joined by Kim Newman: film critic, historian of cult film and TV, and author of books including ‘Anno Dracula’, imagining a London inhabited by the openly vampiric, and who in Whitechapel are hunted at night by ‘Silver Knife’.


Roz and Kim are back at Genesis Cinema on 11th September from 7pm to discuss 1970’s ‘Nightbirds’ and the East London films on the Scala map. (£9.50 / £7 concessions). Dink (Berwick Kaler) and Dee (Julie Shaw) fall into bed (and sort of in love too), living perpetually near to homelessness on Whitechapel’s streets. One of the many overlooked films rediscovered and championed as part of the British Film Institute’s Flipside series, ‘Nightbirds’ depicts an East London of peeling paint, still falling apart after the Blitz, seen from rooftops and doorways.


When the Phoneix Cinema in Finchley shows Neil Jordan’s ‘Interview with the Vampire’ on Friday 16th September at 9pm (£11), based on Anne Rice’s cult novel and starring Tom Cruise, you can watch the sequence filmed inside the Phoenix Cinema inside the cinema itself! Bonus points if you’re also a real vampire.


On Thurs 15th September, 7:30pm to 11pm Roz Kaveney and friends are back, this time at South London’s beautiful Cinema Museum, Oval. Join us for a recorded live DVD commentary – for airing on Resonance FM the following evening – of ‘The Magic Christian’ (£5 / £4 concessions), a film depicting the other side of the swinging Sixties, not the love and peace version but the one where everyone wanted to get filthy rich and screw the other fellow, damnit.

The film was partly scripted by Terry ‘Easy Rider’ Southern from his comic novel, with Pythons Graham Chapman and John Cleese also having a hand in the screenplay (Cleese makes a cameo as a snidely smooth auctioneer).


In the cleared site that became the National Theatre afterwards (hence, on the Scala map, its at Southwark, not that far from Oval) Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr in lab coats and gas masks stand by a large barrel filled with piss, blood and animal shit, to which they have added thousands of bank notes. Announcing “Free money!”, they entice City workers from Waterloo Bridge to leap into the septic tank in order to recover the cash. The commuters sink below the surface of the effluent to ‘Something in the Air” by Thunderclap Newman. The Sixties was the era of the British satire boom, after all.


To round our wanderings off, we return to the source of London’s cinema: starting at the Cinema Museum, Oval from 9:45pm on Saturday 24th September we’ll retrace the steps of local boy Charles Chaplin, ending up at his boyhood home in Kennington. Chaplin grew up in poverty. At seven, he was placed in a workhouse, the Cuckoo Schools, which is now Hanwell Community Centre, Westcott Crescent, Hanwell. One of Chaplin’s childhood homes is at 39 Methley Street. The Order of Water Rats put a commemorative plaque there. He went on to become the first international film star. When Chaplin was expelled from the United States in 1952 for his supposed Communist beliefs, his tramp character kicking an immigration officer up the arse in ‘The Immigrant‘ was cited as evidence of his anti-Americanism. We’ll project it near his plaque, with some appropriate live music. Join us to discover where Chaplin came from and where London’s going almost a century later. We’ll also be recording people’s thoughts about the film and about South London for broadcast on Resonance FM’s ‘Music for Films’. The film and the walk are both free. Charlie Chaplin moved freely, and so should we.

Speaking of money, all the profits from these two events will be split between the Cinema Museum and Resonance FM.

Scene from Chaplin's "The Immigrant." Watching Flicker Alley's new Blu-ray/DVD set "Chaplin's Mutual Comedies" is best described as a revelation because one can witness a master filmmaking coming of age in the dozen shorts he made between 1916-17. Credit: Flicker Alley

Imagining London as a film programme made up of the kinds of weird films they used to show at the Scala, but all visualised on the London Tube map, is a never ending game, an endless process of remembering and rethinking the city. We invite everyone to join us in these derives, in thought or in person, and beyond this year.

We’d love it if film clubs want to show some of the films on the map near to their respective Underground stations, and to this end we’ll be teaming up with CinemaForAll – the nationwide society of film societies – especially on Sunday 25th September, Home Cinema Day. Resonance FM (probably just me, actually, but as bloke-from-Resonance FM, I) will be happy to come along and interview film fans, film nuts and assorted obsessives in clubs and societies, and in their natural settings, leading the cheer for London on film.

Tim Concannon