Cinemaniacs’ presentation of The Fly

In the spotlight: Talking about The Fly at Cinemaniacs in Melbourne, Australia

Dir. David Cronenberg, USA/UK/Canada, 1986

In September 2015, Lee Gambin and the wonderful team at Cinemaniacs in Melbourne, Australia, asked me if I would be interested in introducing their screening of David Cronenberg’s The Fly. I was – but little did I know my commitment to presenting this screening would kick off a new project for me: a book solely dedicated to The Fly. As of typing this post, I can confirm this thing is happening, thanks to Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, John Atkinson and Auteur’s imprint, Devil’s Advocates.

Coincidentally, The Fly was the first film I wrote about (out of the 75-plus films) in my Monster Movies book. I kid you not. It’s my destiny.

In celebration of another book deal, I’ve decided to post a transcript of my presentation on The Fly at Cinemaniacs, which is by no means indicative of the content of my book but may reignite in you an interest in this film – which is turning 30 years old on 15th August 2016 – if you have not been familiarised with The Fly before. All I can say is: be afraid, be very afraid.

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The Cruelest Cut: Castrating The Devils

71WbyLzBdRL._SL1094_Dir. Ken Russell, UK, 1971

The Devils… what a movie. In 2015, I was privileged to be asked by Darryl Mayeski at Screem Magazine in the USA to write a piece about Ken Russell’s massacred masterpiece. Apparently, no other writers wanted to tackle the task. I was the chump who put up my hand, although I can’t say I regret it. Read on…

The Cruelest Cut: Castrating The Devils

First published in Screem Magazine, USA, 2015

“It’s a lost film now. You’ll never see it the way I wanted you to. Never.”
Ken Russell, Total Sci-Fi interview, 2010

Ken Russell’s The Devils (1971) was a film brought to its knees. More than 40 years have passed since its original release and it remains hobbled in a severely crippled form. Its director has passed away, as has its male star and some of its main adversaries yet still, no one appears willing to resurrect The Devils. It is the leper of modern cinema.

Given the elusive opportunity, this article would have been a review of a new DVD release but, sadly, The Devils is yet to see an official uncut version anywhere in the world, let alone on Blu-ray. For many years, the only version of The Devils available on home entertainment format was the most compromised release of the film – the original US one – and, in fact, that is still the version most widely available internationally.

In 2012, the British Film Institute (BFI) distributed a remastered The Devils onto the UK market – the longest release to date – although an excellent documentary extra on disc 2, Hell on Earth, reveals a significant amount of lost footage unearthed in 2004 is still missing from this cut. UK journalist Mark Kermode underwent a worldwide investigation to hunt down this footage believed, even by Ken Russell, to have been destroyed.

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Confessions of a Klutz

Emma's school report

I’ve already talked about my unlikely liaison with The Footy Almanac. It seemed only fitting that I came clean with the Almanac community itself and reveal my true self.

Below is a story I wrote recently for The Footy Almanac as supporting material for their crowdfunding campaign (crowdfunding ends on 3rd April 2015). The purpose of it was to communicate the point of difference of The Footy Almanac from many other sports sites of a (supposedly) similar kind. Hopefully, I got my message across.

If anything, the commentary from the Almanackers themselves at the end of the original article illustrates the unique nature of the Almanac. May this community live long and prosper.

Confessions of a Klutz

Hello. My name is Emma. And I am a klutz.

Why I am here on the Almanac – a sports philistine among aficionados, a klutz among athletes – is one of life’s great mysteries. But I am here, nonetheless.

I didn’t complete any 12 steps to sports appreciation, I just started reading the website (introduced to it by my husband, Stone Cold Steve Baker) and I was hooked. The Almanac immediately got under my skin in a ringing endorsement of original storytelling triumphing over subject. Tell a story and tell it with heart. It’s that simple.

Somehow, I’ve found myself spinning around behind the scenes helping the Almanac crew keep this thing ticking along on a daily basis. I feel so passionately about this community that I even convinced John Harms to enter into a crowdfunding campaign to help fund the site’s digital upgrade (prove to him that it was the right thing to do).

But I feel I need to come clean in order to move freely in Almanac circles, lest I be labelled a ‘rat’ and outed by way of my sheer sporting ignorance. You could say I’ve made a sport out of not knowing sport. And I’ve been a champion at it.

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How Do You Know You Are In A Melbourne Café?

Food Almanac image of Inkerman Hotel 'pub grub' courtesy of Steve Baker.
Foody Almanac image of ‘pub grub’ provided courtesy of my partner-in-crime, Steve Baker.

As mentioned in my previous post, I’m proud to be a fully functioning member of The Footy Almanac community – great site, great philosophy, great people. Part of this functionality has involved helping the Almanac with new initiatives, one of those being Foody Almanac, which is a microsite within the macro one focusing on, you guessed it, food.

I decided to help kick off the content to encourage others to follow and below you’ll find the piece I penned. People from Melbourne will probably be more amused than others. Or possibly enraged.

Another thing that’s happening at The Footy Almanac is a crowdfunding campaign taking place until 3rd April 2015 (timed to coincide with the commencement of the AFL season). This website is on the verge of something very, very good so I urge you, if you have the funds and you appreciate genuine storytelling, fling some dollars this way.

How Do You Know You Are In A Melbourne Café?

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s a thing – the Melbourne café. What was considered creative a few years back is now a stereotype. What! No beard? Then that dude/actor/writer/artist making your coffee is not worthy of the title barista!*

If you’re from out of town and recognise any of the following, you’re likely to have taken a wrong left-turn somewhere along the Hume and found yourself in Melbourne:

Asking for hot coffee is grounds for eviction
Hot coffee means burnt coffee to those in the know. Ask for hot coffee and expect a firm shake of the head and condescending ‘tut-tut’. Want to really take the piss? Then say you’d like a cappuccino or, even better, cup-of-cino. Some Melbourne cafés will actually tell you the exact temperature they make their coffees. If you’ve got a thermometer handy, you might be able to determine if it’s the right temperature for you.

Go KeepCup for elephant stamps
So you’ve raised the ire of your barista by asking for a hot coffee? Some will argue there’s no coming back from this but, if you produce a KeepCup ( for your takeaway, you might just save face. Haven’t got a KeepCup on you? Just buy another one (they’re likely to have them on sale) and tell the staff you can never have enough KeepCups. Next thing you’ll notice, your ‘latte art’ is sporting a heart or smiley face.

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Once Was Flinders Park

Mats Wilander
Mats Wilander gives himself a pep talk at the 1990 Australian Open. Author’s own photo.

Hell hath frozen over, the fat lady is singing and pigs are flying… I’ve popped my sports writing cherry. Funny how a literary life can take you on all manner of twists and turns, and I’m thrilled that mine has led to The Footy Almanac.

The Footy Almanac is an Australian reader and writer community, with passionate sports pieces at its core (specifically AFL), although it tends to spill out into broader cultural writing about food, wine, music, etc. Often the readers become writers and the writers become readers – such is the transmutable nature of the site and a willingness to include prose from anyone who feels so inclined.

My agency, Bakewood, has been given the responsibility of administering The Footy Almanac site on a daily basis so, me being a team player, I thought I should dip my toe in the water and give sports writing a crack. I did and here it is: My reminiscences on attending the Australian Open Tennis Championships back in the early ’90s. Read it here or read it on The Footy Almanac site complete with reader comments.

Once Was Flinders Park

My love affair with the Australian Open began in 1988 when I, aged 16, lost my mind (and lungs) screaming for Mats Wilander as he triumphed over Pat Cash to win an epic Australian Open Grand Final (6–3, 6–7(3–7), 3–6, 6–1, 8–6). It took place around my grandmother’s kitchen table and, while not my most patriotic moment, remains the single most impressionable sporting experience of my life. It was the kind of grand final we all hope for, in any sport, but are very rarely afforded.

Come 1989, and my parents deemed me mature enough to circumvent the television and attend the Australian Open with my friends over a series of days. We forked out $10 each for daily ground passes and were let loose at the then Flinders Park in its sophomore year. This was the start of our tennis time – although many others were lamenting the move from Kooyong, the championships’ spiritual Melbourne home – and we were buoyed with the enthusiasm of children being let out for the first time without chaperones.

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Sesame Street’s Pinball Number Count

12Excuse me for my recent silence. Any creative writing has fallen to the wayside while I’ve concentrated on building a business, Bakewood, over the past year. Now that the calendar has ticked over into 2015, I’ve felt a strong urge to write for pleasure again.

Let’s start here with a little memoir I penned for the site Stereo Stories. Note: Stereo Stories is an open forum site so, if you have a stereo story yourself, feel free to submit it to the editor, Vin Maskell. Just remember to keep your piece focussed on a ‘a song, a place, a time’ and Bob’s your uncle.

Sesame Street’s Pinball Number Count

The electronic babysitter had fulltime employment at our place. Married in 1971 at the age of 17 – with the shotgun firing behind her – my mother was the one who needed the babysitting. She’d gone from a household of six to the solitary confines of a flat, so the box acted as a constantly yammering family of a different kind, even if she wasn’t paying attention to it most of the time.

As the progeny of this pop-cultural upbringing, I followed my mother’s lead and took up a cross-legged position approximately three feet away from the television most afternoons. The routine went something like this: Playschool (for the sake of it), Doctor Who (for the love it) and then, scheduled in-between those two programmes, Sesame Street.

I adored Sesame Street. Rather than gravitate to the familiar, I was romanced by its differentness to my suburban Australian reality – the urban decay of its ‘70s New York City setting; the ethnicity of the regulars with their Hispanic names, flares and large ‘fros; and the cast of misfits including a misanthrope, Oscar the Grouch, who lived in a rubbish bin (or ‘trash can’ as Sesame Street taught me, not to forget the pronunciation of the letter ‘zee’ that earned me a slap on the wrist from my primary school teacher – “But Miss, if I say ‘zed’ then it doesn’t rhyme with the rest of the ABC song!”).

And then there was the music.

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Kid Creole and the Coconuts

A Message to 10 Year-Old Me

No one wears banana like Kid Creole

April 1982. It’s your 10th birthday, Emma…

You would have just been given a special gift from Mum & Dad: A red, plastic cassette carry-case and a triple-pack of TDK SA-90 cassettes designed for “super high resolution”?

Having been handed the power of ‘the blank tape’, your youthful sights now turn to the towering collection of vinyl that adorns your uncle’s bedroom. This is your first step into ‘music sharing’ via the humble means of tethering a ‘ghetto blaster’ to your uncle’s stereo system and manually synchronising the [rec] button with the needle on the record. This is really exciting stuff. But, rather than be overwhelmed by the LP metropolis that rises before you, you know exactly what you want: Kid Creole and the Coconuts.

Kid Creole and the Coconuts? Most people say that name with a questioning inflection at the end. While boasting endurance beyond many bands, Kid Creole and his aforementioned Coconuts remain as obscure as some band you don’t know. They created a style of ‘fusion’ music when the term largely referred to jazz, which – rightly or wrongly – cried ‘pretention’ to many people. Contrarily, Kid Creole’s Pan-American musical melting pot came in a remarkably toe-tapping mould that straddled the lines of pop, continental, European, Creole, Latin, calypso, tropical and even ‘30s/’40s big band swing.

Ten year-old you just hears it as something that makes you feel good. It makes you want to dance like a maniac and sing those infinitely catchy ditties at the top of your lungs. Kid Creole frees you from that suburban prison existence that you so desperately want to escape, and allows you to disappear into a cosmopolitan world that goes far beyond the music. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Fast-forward 32 years, and just try to fathom the excitement you will feel upon hearing Kid Creole and the Coconuts are touring Australia for the very first time. It might be a little difficult to think of yourself three times older than your age (let alone the ‘Kid’ still strutting in his zoot suits and ogling at his scantily-clad Coconuts) but, instead, 10 year-old Emma miraculously reappears. Continue reading “Kid Creole and the Coconuts”