SUPAKINO & Black Decagon share some of their favourite Stone Circle sightings in film & TV to get you in a Midsummer mood (& invite you to gather at their late night Summer Solstice Double Bill at Rio Cinema 22 JUN 23:00+).
By Ranjit S. Ruprai
The little room by the old projection booth of the Rio Cinema is often where I end up hanging around when getting my shows ready. It was there, surrounded by old posters, programmes and dusty boxes full of trailer reels, that Tim Stevens of the Rio asked me if I would do something for Summer Solstice.
I immediately thought of a night of Stone Circle weirdness with fellow folk horror fans Black Decagon and we quickly assembled our next midnight show of strange curios. Here are some of our favourite Stone Circle sightings in film and TV to get you in a Midsummer mood.
Tom Oldham (Black Decagon) – Artefacts about artefacts
THE MODERN ANTIQUARIAN (2000)
A video document of Julian Cope’s pre-millennial odyssey as he visits many of the Neolithic and earth mystery sites across the UK providing the viewer with an exhilarating education. Essential viewing for the curious and lithaphiles alike. Everybody should want to be Julian Cope when they grow up.
A JOURNEY TO AVEBURY (1971) with COIL soundtrack
The same year that Derek Jarman designed sets for Ken Russell’s THE DEVILS, he also made this transportive short. Sepia tinted vivid colours swirl and bring into focus the otherworldly quality of the nature and famous standing stones of Avebury. The COIL soundtrack to this version completes the alchemy, leaving the viewer bewitched by a separate yet familiar world.
DISCOVERING BRITAIN WITH JOHN BETJEMAN (1955)
Betjeman applies his tender and evocative prose to Avebury in this Shell Petrol sponsored short, one of a series featuring Betjeman exploring Britain via its new fuel-consuming A Roads. Betjeman’s clipped RP belies an enthusiasm for the stones of Avebury that is infectious even today. A charming artefact from a bygone era about artefacts from another bygone era.
Nathaniel Metcalfe (Black Decagon) – The lighter side of stone circles
In a scene both hilarious and horrifying, set at the stone circle Long Meg and Her Daughters near Penrith in Cumbria, Steve Oram’s character Chris commits a brutal act of murder which more than borders on the sacrificial. The concept of a witches coven turned to stone is the basis of STIGMA and PSYCHOMANIA, as well as the folklore surrounding Long Meg and Her Daughters.
NATIONAL LAMPOON’S EUROPEAN VACATION (1985)
Right or (probably) wrong, outside of the more obvious examples of stone circles in film, this film’s Stonehenge scene was always one near the front of my brain. It’s either a smart metaphor about the US’s relationship with history, the UK, or both, or a silly sight gag featuring polystyrene rocks? You decide.
THIS IS SPINAL TAP (1984)
Let’s face it, the Stonehenge sequence in this film is actually the most iconic use of stone circles in all cinema and to ignore it would be not only a glaring omission but a crime against our audience.
Ranjit S. Ruprai (SUPAKINO) – Stone-cold classics
NIGHT OF THE DEMON (1957)
This film opens with appropriately moody shots of Stonehenge with an ominous voiceover informing us of evil supernatural creatures, a world of darkness, ancient powers, witchcraft and the demons of hell. A classic by the master Jacques Tourneur.
CHILDREN OF THE STONES (1977)
Black Decagon and I really really really wanted to screen all 7 episodes of this children’s TV show but we’ll have to wait until the rights issues have been sorted out. This intelligent HTV show set amongst the stones of Avebury builds suspense episode by episode to the eerie music of Sidney Sager. Finally, its time-looping plot culminates at Summer Solstice as the wonderfully sinister Iain Cuthbertson enacts his inter-galactic grand plan.
Ultravox – ONE SMALL DAY (1984)
I had to include at least one music video and the scene of The Beatles performing The Night Before in HELP! (1965) doesn’t really count as although it was shot on Salisbury Plain you don’t see Stonehenge, just a bunch of tanks at Larkhill. So here’s a still from British new wave band Ultravox’s ONE SMALL DAY, in which the band wrap up warm and bop around the standing stones of Callanish I & III of the Outer Hebrides with their synths and guitars – where did they plug them in?
MIDNIGHT EXCESS: After the longest day of the year, join SUPAKINO and Black Decagon at Rio Cinema (22 JUN 23:00+) for a night among the misty stone circles of British folk horror with a double-bill of BBC Ghost Story STIGMA (1977) & cult classic PSYCHOMANIA (1973).
BLACK DECAGON FILM CLUB
Tom Oldham and Nathaniel Metcalfe started BLACK DECAGON in 2015 with a screening of Fellini’s JULIET OF THE SPIRITS introduced by its production designer Emanuele Taglietti. They followed it up with the regular FOLK HORROR CINEMA CLUB, an exploration of sub-genre, accompanied by special guests such as Ben Wheatley, Anna Savory, Robin Ince, Jonathan Rigby, James Acaster, Jonny Trunk, Piers Haggard & more.
Ranjit S. Ruprai is an independent programmer and supporter of indie cinemas, film festivals and film clubs in London. Since 2017, he has been curating friendly film screenings around fun and unusual themes including Turbans Seen On Screen at The Institute Of Light and Bombay Mix double- bills at Rio Cinema. These are often accompanied by live music, short films, cast/crew and renowned guest speakers.
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