❚ TO BE HONEST the trailer for Top Dog was way too visceral for Shapersofthe80s to view out from behind the sofa. Martin Kemp’s latest film as a director for Richwater films is described by its producer Jonathan Sothcott as “the definitive hooligan movie”. If you insist on watching the “all a bit Lock-Stock” trailer, be warned: gratuitous macho swaggering from the outset, plus bodies being broken! The Strong Men at GQ have this to say about it …
“ The British gangster genre is a tough nut to crack. Channel Four got it right with the excellent Top Boy, but cinema has often fallen short of the mark. For every Layer Cake and Wild Bill, there’s a thousand more films that just aren’t tough enough to survive in the world of dodgy East-End pubs and expertly tailored football hooliganism. Thank goodness, then for the release of Top Dog, a new British thriller adapted from the novel of the same name by Green Street’s Dougie Brimson. Starring Leo Gregory (a veteran of the genre after roles in Green Street and EastEnders) as a football firm leader who takes on more than he can handle when he tries to reclaim his family’s pub from a group of no-nonsense gangsters. While it may do little to change Britain’s reputation as a nation of football hooligans, for those looking for something to fill the void left by Gary Oldman’s 1989 original of The Firm and 2005’s Green Street, Top Dog is a tense, Elijah Wood-free alternative. ”
Top Dog is released in cinemas May 23 and on Blu Ray and DVD May 26.
Martin Kemp turns manic murderer? No, just directing his star Anna Brecon on the set for Stalker
❚ WONDERING WHAT HAD HAPPENED TO Martin Kemp’s debut as a horror movie director? Keen readers of Shapersofthe80s will recall a video interview last summer in which Spandau Ballet bassist Kemp discussed his movie mogul plans for the production company Black & Blue Films. Now Variety reports that the Hammer-style psycho-drama Stalker will be the first release this autumn on B&B’s own DVD label. [Update August 25: Stalker gets two cinema premieres, Oct 7 in Manchester, Oct 15 in London, and goes on general release October 10.]
Kemp’s partner, 30-year-old producer Jonathan Sothcott who was previously head of programming for The Horror Channel, said: “I have always intended to grow Black & Blue into a mini studio.” His indie outfit recently announced a nine-film co-production deal with Soho based post-production company The Mews, and it will include the upcoming horror spoof Strippers Vs Werewolves as well as Stalker. The DVD arm is being launched in the UK with indie distributor 4Digital Media.
Stalker is about a best-selling author, played by TV actress Anna Brecon, who moves into an old dark house to get her creative juices flowing. “People start dying,” says Sothcott and Kemp adds: “All in one house. That’s a good premise for low-budget film.”
Sothcott told Dread Central: “We had an amazing cast — a bona fide Hollywood star in the brilliant Jane March, a versatile leading lady in Anna Brecon, and a really offbeat turn from Billy Murray as a slippery journalist. And Martin directed them all with real skill, drawing out subtle performances of the type you don’t often get in this genre.”
Poster for Stalker: due for October cinema release in the UK. (Publicity photo by Harleymoon Kemp)
Kemp and Sothcott: director and producer with Hammer Horror in mind
❚ ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER DOLLAR.Who’s this relaxed and expansive dude sitting in smart restaurant with his business partner talking about their upcoming horror movie? Yes, in the week that his band of 80s popsters Spandau Ballet wind up their year-long reunion tour with a posh send-off concert at Newmarket racecourse, bass player Martin Kemp presses the button marked Publicity for his next project.
Kemp at 15: scene-stealing in The Glittering Prizes
At the ripe old age of 48 he’s now a writer and director of films, which might seem a logical next step after a lifetime of watching how it’s done. His long list of acting credits stretches back to that first child-star cameo in the coolest TV serial of 1976, The Glittering Prizes, which made an international star of Tom Conti, after which Kemp made his mark as those folk villains Reggie Kray in The Krays and Steve Owen in EastEnders.
Even while his pop career was being reanimated with Spandau, Kemp had formed a British company called Black and Blue Films in partnership with 30-year-old producer Jonathan Sothcott and actor Billy Murray, a familiar face from TV soaps. In a video interview with Kemp he says his directorial debut is a remake of a notorious 1976 video nasty called Exposé, given the new title of Stalker (click through for trailer). It’s an old dark house psycho-drama, with plenty of blood, if clips from the new version are any indication. “People start dying,” says Sothcott and Kemp adds: “All in one house. That’s a good premise for low-budget film.”
Anna Brecon in Exposé: says it all
That was the cleverest lesson Kemp learned about screenplays, Sothcott maintains: “He wrote it low-budget! So we could shoot it fast and cheap, which so many writers in this country don’t do.”
For Kemp, the hardest challenge as a director was to keep the story rolling. “That’s what I learned on Exposé, pacing the story. That’s where I’ve seen lots of my friends fall down on their first feature, never on the acting or photography – it is telling the story.
“This is my 40th year in entertainment, so it’s nice to mark it with a something new. Every project throws up different problems that you have to solve – directing means you have to solve everybody else’s as well.”
Sothcott lays his own cards on the table: “The model I’m trying to rip off with Black and Blue is Hammer [the much-loved tongue-in-cheek horror studio of the 50s and 60s, which churned out gothic potboilers calculated to make audiences laugh as much as scream]. Next year I hope we’ll be making six crime-horror-comedy movies that will sell all round the world – stuff that isn’t just Brit-centric. Stuff that’s fun.”
Despite the chaotic economic climate, Kemp maintains that their company is thriving. “We’ve had a funny couple of years. All around us are production companies closing down, not able to get money, and we’ve had possibly the best two years ever. We’ve got Just For the Record [see trailer below, a Spinal Tap-type spoof, but of the film industry: “This wouldn’t have happened on Grange Hill”] and we’re in talks about another couple of films. Exposé was so much fun, I can’t wait to do my next.”
Watch out also for Dead Cert, a fast-moving vampire frightener starring cockney Craig Fairbrass: “Kill ’em, that’s the only thing we can do.”
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MORE INTERESTING THAN MOST PEOPLE’S FANTASIES — THE SWINGING EIGHTIES 1978-1984
They didn’t call themselves New Romantics, or the Blitz Kids – but other people did.
“I’d find people at the Blitz who were possible only in my imagination. But they were real” — Stephen Jones, hatmaker, 1983. (Illustration courtesy Iain R Webb, 1983)
“The truth about those Blitz club people was more interesting than most people’s fantasies” — Steve Dagger, pop group manager, 1983
“See David Johnson’s fabulously detailed website Shapers of the 80s to which I am hugely indebted” – Political historian Dominic Sandbrook, in his book Who Dares Wins, 2019
“The (velvet) goldmine that is Shapers of the 80s” – Verdict of Chris O’Leary, respected author and blogger who analyses Bowie song by song at Pushing Ahead of the Dame
“The rather brilliant Shapers of the 80s website” – Dylan Jones in his Sweet Dreams paperback, 2021
A UNIQUE HISTORY
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VINCENT ON AIR 2022
✱ Deejay legend Robbie Vincent returned to JazzFM on Sundays 1-3pm in 2021… Catch Robbie’s JazzFM August Bank Holiday 2020 session thanks to AhhhhhSoul with four hours of “nothing but essential rhythms of soul, jazz and funk”.
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UNTOLD BLITZ STORIES
✱ If you thought there was no more to know about the birth of Blitz culture in 1980 then get your hands on a sensational book by an obsessive music fan called David Barrat. It is gripping, original and epic – a spooky tale of coincidence and parallel lives as mind-tingling as a Sherlock Holmes yarn. Titled both New Romantics Who Never Were and The Untold Story of Spandau Ballet! Sample this initial taster here at Shapers of the 80s
CHEWING THE FAT
✱ Jawing at Soho Radio on the 80s clubland revolution (from 32 mins) and on art (@55 mins) is probably the most influential shaper of the 80s, former Wag-club director Chris Sullivan (pictured) with editor of this website David Johnson
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