The View from Atherton Court, Part II

More Movies; Improved Meat Pies

I’ve been in quarantine now for around 4 weeks, I think. And you know what? It’s going well, on the whole. Not only am I not sick (which is something to be celebrated right there), but I am finding plenty to do to keep myself busy. I’ve read a lot of books, of course. I’ve fiddled around with a new Simon Wake story, though that is going slowly. I feel, writing-wise, like I have a hangover, after a year and a bit of working on the same piece every day (a Simon Wake novel, which I am now in the process of showing to agents). Anyway, fiction is happening, but slowly.

But! The two topics I really yearn to tell you about are the same two topics that I yearned to tell you about last week, vis., meat pies and movies. We have had a meat-pie breakthrough. Also, we’ve seen lots more movies. The meat pie first.


The Best Meat Pie Yet

It was a pork pie—ground sausage, cooked up in a skillet with mushrooms and onions and a little Applewood rub. But here is the magical part: we cooked up three apples until they were mushy and used that instead of gravy. This resulted in a pie beyond pie. A pie of almost supernatural deliciousness.

Anyway, so that’s the pie news. Now for movies.


Okay, so some of these movies are ones I saw last week, or the week before that, or the week before that, and just forgot to mention. But some are genuine this-week movies. All of them are available online, at least for me. And for this post, I’m only going to talk about the movies I’ve seen that I’ve liked, on the assumption that other people might be looking around for new things to watch just as avidly as I am at the moment.

Spider Baby, or, The Maddest Story Ever Told (1967)

Alec and I stumbled on this one by accident. We’d just seen William Castle’s House on Haunted Hill (1959), but that is only about an hour long, and we wanted to watch something else. In House on Haunted Hill, our attention had been caught by actress Carol Ohmart, so we looked her up on IMDB (our new best friend) and saw this movie among her credits. The title appealed to us, it was listed as horror/comedy, and it had not only Carol Ohmart in it but also Lon Chaney Jr. and Sid Haig. We therefore watched it at once.

And… it is great. Really, truly great. Lon Chaney Jr. plays a caretaker. His charges are the last surviving remnants of a family with a genetic abnormality that causes them to get steadily more uncontrollably violent as they get older. Sid Haig is the oldest of the three siblings we meet, and he’s just about ready to join his growling elders (who dwell, under heavy restraints, in the basement). There are two younger girls in the family, and they are also succumbing to the family madness.

And then a relation (Carol Ohmart) shows up. She wants to put the family in an institution, and take over all the family assets. This leads to lots of trouble. I’m not going to say more about the plot. The story is fascinating, and the end is, I think, genuinely moving.

There is an interesting tension, here—is the proper place for these people an institution of some sort? And I mean, logically, especially considering how dangerous they are, the answer there is yes. But the movie makes you feel very indignant about the suggestion. You are on the side of this murderous bunch. They seem so cheerful about it all. It seems so innocent. In fact, you feel that they are innocent. But it isn’t like you hate their victims or feel as if they deserve it. It isn’t that kind of movie. The victims are innocent, too. And the ending feels right… it is really the only emotionally correct way out of this situation.

This is listed as horror/comedy on IMDB, and I see what they mean. Is this exactly a comedy? I am not sure. It is very funny in places, and also sometimes it is very shocking, in a way that also produces laughter, of the nervous, startled sort. Is it exactly horror? Not sure there either. It is certainly horrifying. But it isn’t a movie that is very easy to classify, and I, at least, had the feeling as I watched it that I was seeing something original.

Alec says: “Spider Baby is like Shirley Jackson having an acid trip.”

Strange Brew (1983)

The plot is easily described, because, I mean, it’s Hamlet. It is Hamlet, from the perspective of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, played out in a modern brewery, and with a scheme for world-domination and some other stuff thrown in for good measure. It is a delightful comedy, and Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas are great as the lead losers who end up saving the day. It is also nice to see Max Von Sydow in the role of a villainous brewer.

This movie is comedy, pure and simple. Or anyway, it isn’t horror-comedy. It is, I think, very funny. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it.

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Weirdly, I’d never seen this movie before. It was fun, though parts of it felt a bit on the nose at the moment. I mean, it is about a (zombie) plague. When the newscaster tells people to isolate ill loved ones and stay home… all I’m saying is, it sounded familiar.

Now, I often shy away from zombie movies, but this one is an honorable exception. I’m sort of assuming, though, that you, dear reader, know about Shaun of the Dead, so I am not going to go into details.

I think one thing, of many, that I liked about this movie is that it resists explaining the cause of the zombie plague. One explanation (I forget what) is mentioned on the news as “disproved,” but that is all we get.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

A classic. As with Shaun of the Dead, I hesitate to tell you too much about this one, because I sort of assume that you’ve probably seen it, or at least know about it. Anyway, it is an amazing movie, and thoroughly delivers on both horror and comedy.

This is an old favorite of ours, but we did re-watch it recently, so it isn’t cheating to include it on this list. Because I am sure that it matters deeply to you whether I break my own vague rules or not.

This movie has the look of a silent, in some ways. I mean, the costuming is lush, and the settings are elaborate, and everything is both stylish and stylized. The movie is, in fact, gorgeous. Even when it is also gross.

Alec has pointed out to me that The Abominable Dr. Phibes is kind of like Se7en, if Se7en were fun, highly-colored, and starred a blank-faced Vincent Price with a synthesized voice as the serial killer. And—yeah, that’s fair enough. But we must emphasize that word fun. The Abominable Dr. Phibes is a movie about an implacable serial killer, yes. But it is bursting with fun, that elusive quality.

Pumpkinhead (1988)

Okay, so this one isn’t even kind of a horror-comedy. More of a horror-tragedy. Still, it is a solid horror movie of the supernatural slasher type, and one where my sympathy was with almost everyone in the film.

By the way, this summary may get spoil-y. I find it very hard to judge that sort of thing. Okay. I’ve gone and checked the IMDB summary, and I don’t think I give away too much more than that does. Still… spoiler alert, I guess?

Basically, what happens is that a bunch of heedless young people (the victim pool) come to a rural area for a vacation or something, and they accidentally kill the young son of a local shop-owner. The shop-owner, angry and grief-maddened, goes to the local witch and demands vengeance. She summons Pumpkinhead, who goes after the heedless young people, hunting them down one by one. Pretty basic.

Except! There is a bit more to this movie than that, because the local shop-owner is almost immediately sorry for what he’s done, and tries to stop it. Also! Some of the young people are totally likeable and innocent of the boy’s death, and the one who isn’t innocent, and who is a complete jerk, gets all redeem-y before he dies. Also, the local shop-owner has an intimate and terrifying connection with the demon Pumpkinhead, which adds much to the horror and emotional impact of the film.

This is a wrenching and miserable movie, but I don’t mean that in a bad way.

Bad Channels (1992)

I enjoyed this one thoroughly, though I seem, judging from the comments on IMDB, to be in rather sparse company. The movie stars Paul Hipp as Dan O’Dare, a radio DJ who is trying to re-boot his scandal-rocked career with an elaborate radio stunt. There is a plucky reporter who is highly skeptical of his shenanigans, and tries to expose him. And then there is the alien invasion. It is possibly the strangest alien invasion ever. The alien in question (there is one alien, with a robot companion) wants to abduct pretty women (the goal, admittedly, of many movie aliens), shrink them, and keep them in jars. The method of abduction is… almost inexplicable. This movie is full of rock and roll (some of it performed by Blue Oyster Cult), and is positively bursting with oddity.

One of the things that I really like about this movie is the fact that Dan O’Dare is rather in the position of the boy who cried wolf. The alien has taken over his radio station, and Dan can still broadcast, but he can’t get anyone to believe that this isn’t another stunt. He’s looking at the alien, and at the jars, steadily filling with shrunken and indignant women, but he can’t call for help—too many fans are calling in to congratulate him on the alien gag—and he can’t convince his rapidly-swelling audience that any of it is real.

This is a Full Moon picture, so, I mean… yeah, it might be a bit cheap.

Atherton Signs Off

In my opinion, all of the above movies are worthy of note. Have you, dear reader, seen any of them? What did you think? Are there any movies on my list that sound interesting to you? Do you, in fact, plan to watch any of them? What movies should Alec and I watch next? I think that at this point you probably have at least an idea of the sort of thing we go in for. 

Also, have you ever made a meat pie? What did you put in it? Have you ever had a meat pie with apples in it? Was it good?

Have a great week!


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  1. Ehi, you seems to have organised your time fantastically.
    I’m going quite well with the lockdown too. I’ve heard people who are already going mad at been home all the time.

    That pie sounds delicious! I’ll have to try it myself!

    • I am glad your lockdown is going well. And yeah, it is hard on lots of people, being at home all the time. It is interesting, to me, how wonderful normal life seems right now. I thought of going thrift shopping the other day, and I found myself getting really excited about the fact that I’ll be able to do it again someday. Like, really excited.
      As for the pie: yeah, it really was amazing.

    • Glad you’re making good use of this bizarre Corona quarantine lockdown. So many people in my local area are going completely stir crazy. I mean 🦇 bat-shit crazy.
      I’ve had some success with my writing and by that I mean that I’m actually, truly enjoying it more than I have in a long time and that means more to me than any other milestone or deadline, etc. I thought it would be more difficult finding time to write with “EVERYONE” at home and all of us getting on each other’s nerves, but it’s because of the “a little too much closeness and togetherness,” that I’m getting more accomplished. All my kids are home from college and my high school senior is out of school and they need time away from me and seem to scramble and disappear to their rooms, the backyard or some outdoor chore so fortunately I’ve discover chunks of alone time for writing. I get more done when I can write straight through for several uninterrupted hours (I take short breaks , but alone) and I’m finally getting this time and without the guilt that used to accompany it.
      Writing is fresh and new again. I’m loving it and my creative juices are flowing.
      I’m also working out at home — a lot , something I never had time for before and taking my dogs on lengthy walks — which I’ve discovered is the best brainstorming tool ever.

      As for the movies, I’m not a huge horror fan, but I’ve watched a variety of genres lately and Strange Brew just happens to be on our list. Each family member picks a movie or two per night. So I’ll be watching it this week. Thanks for the other suggestions
      Melissa Sugar
      Twitter @Msugar13
      Instagram @_msugargold

      • I am glad to hear that your writing is going well! It is funny, how things often work out to be the opposite of what we expect. And yeah, those several hours are vital. But, you know, I generally have to trick myself into it. I say to myself, okay, I’ll go write, but I’ll only do it for maybe a half-hour. With that firmly understood, I am often able to spend many hours writing. But when I say to myself, I must write for at least two hours today, that often does not work out nearly so well.

        I am glad to hear that you are going to watch Strange Brew. Tell me what you think! I enjoyed it thoroughly.

        Your comment has also made me realize that I should possibly mention which movies are and are not suitable for family viewing in future posts. Then again, that’s pretty subjective, and I presume people will look at the IMDB page before putting it on… hmm… dunno. Anyway, Strange Brew is a perfect family movie, in my opinion. Hope you like it!

  2. I haven’t seen any of those movies! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  3. 1. Good luck on the fiction – keep on plugging away! I’ve been pretty stalled out on writing since my bestiary, so I share your feeling of writing underwater, if that makes sense. On the other hand, I have been pretty productive with art, so that’s okay.
    2. That pie sounds awesome, and it was a genius idea to add apple. I have only one family meat pie recipe of my dad’s, which is good, but yours sounds better! (His version has a curryish vibe, and not much gravy at all.)
    3. I have not seen any of those movies, and I can’t do horror. I try very vigilantly not to let horror into my head, because once it gets in there I can never get it back out! But I am enjoying your descriptions nevertheless.

    • 1) Thanks so much! And yes: writing underwater expresses it perfectly. It happens very slowly, and everything is harder. The pen seems heavier, even (I write my first drafts of fiction longhand, though I generally don’t do that for posts and things). It is good that you are being productive with art. I like your style.
      2) The pie was awesome! Tell me of this curry pie. It sounds intriguing. I’ve made curries, but not often. Can one, I wonder, properly say “I’ve made curries”? Or is it more correct to say “curried lamb” or whatever? The times I’ve made it, the fact of the curry did seem rather to overpower the other aspects of the dish.
      3) you have mentioned that you can’t do horror before, and it made me curious about what your specific limits are. I myself can take any sort of movie as long as it isn’t too deeply felt. I can handle any amount of gore, for example; what I can’t handle is little Johnny, say, finding the dead body of his mom. That’s why I feared and hated Disney movies as a kid. They were always pulling that Bambi’s-mother stuff.

      • 2. After a quick look through my recipe book, I don’t know where my dad’s recipe has got to, but it used onions and ground beef, and I think egg to hold it together, and was flavored with yellow curry powder. Since it wasn’t juicy, the top was either open or a lattice. We eat lots of curries, but usually carry-out Thai or Indian, because it’s too much work to make a really good one and I’m a lazy cook. Oh my goodness, how I love Thai curries!
        3. Horror. The big thing is that I can’t stand anything torturey. If it involves a person wanting another person to suffer as much as possible, it will make me lie awake for many nights freaking out that people can do that to each other. It’s not so much being afraid as being distressed about man’s inhumanity to man. Also, supernatural stuff can give me the heebie-jeebies, which is the more classic fear, and in my tender youth I sustained massive psychological damage from the banshee in “Darby O’Gill and the Little People” and the Wasp Woman in the movie of that name. I agree that straight-up shallow gore doesn’t really freak me out so much, but on the other hand I still don’t enjoy it and usually cover my face. So what’s the point in “watching” a movie when my eyes will be covered through the whole thing anyway?
        4. I did forget to mention that I may see about watching “Strange Brew,” if I can talk the rest of the family into it. If so, I will report back.

        • I am intrigued about the pie! Perhaps we’ll try to do a curry pie one day. Yum.

          I see what you mean about torture-y stuff. And, as I pointed out, I have my own distress-related issues with horror (or, really, with movies in general; I actually fear the drama genre the most, because I am super-uncomfortable with things that tug on my heartstrings. They are my darn heartstrings, and if I wanted them touched, I would say so, is how I feel about the matter).

          I have seen a review of Wasp Woman. It looks… interesting? It’s directed by Roger Corman, I think, which… I mean, I like some of his movies, but I am probably not going to see Wasp Woman. And I think I’ve seen about a minute of “Darby O’Gill and the Little People” (it was playing on a TV in a thrift shop window display).

          As a kid, I ran out of the theater screaming during The Little Mermaid. Ursula’s Poor Unfortunate Souls song… I just could not take it. She scared me a lot.

          Yay! Yay! Watch Strange Brew! I can’t actually guarantee that you’ll like it, but, I mean, I bet you will!!! It is (I think) really funny! And yes! Please tell me what you thought of it!

          • P.S. I should probably have led with the fact that is so basic that I sort of overlooked it, which is that I don’t enjoy being scared. Many people seem to like it for reasons that are unclear to me (the adrenaline, perhaps?), but I find being afraid to be deeply unpleasant. *shrug*
            I love “Poor Unfortunate Souls”, but didn’t see it as a kid, which makes all the difference.
            As for the Wasp Woman, the real problem there was that I covered my eyes at the scary spots, as is my wont, and asked my friend to tell me when it was safe to look. My “friend” told me to look at the exact point when the Wasp Woman’s face leered jump-scarily across the entire screen.

  4. Applause for your quarantine pastimes. Life here is very much like my normal life. Except for the mask, the lack of hugs, and difficulty procuring toilet paper.

    It sounds as though you essentially used applesauce as your gravy. Brilliant — applesauce goes with everything, especially pork.

    Not generally a meat pie eater, I did enjoy an authentic steak and kidney pie at a pub/restaurant in London that contained a certain ale in its thick, dark brown gravy. I am not an ale drinker as a rule, but I accompanied that generously stuffed steak and kidney pie with a pint of the same brand of ale. It was an excellent meal.

    I’ve seen only a couple of the movies you shared, but Shaun of the Dead is one of my favorites. It bills itself as “A smash hit romantic comedy. With zombies.”{

    • Hello Sue! 🙂 Yeah, I hear you on all of those points.

      We did essentially use applesauce as gravy. And it was really good. I agree, by the way, that apples and pork are really tasty together. When we have pork chops, we generally have spiced (with a little cinnamon) cooked apples as our side dish. Yum.

      Was it Guinness? I’ve seen lots of recipes for meat pies and other things that call for Guinness. We’ve even tried a couple, but I think the results of our home attempts were slightly disappointing. But, then, that was probably on us. I’m not, personally, the best at recipe-following.

      I am glad you like Shaun of the Dead! It was super-fun. And I agree with its self-description.

      Do you want to see any other movies on my list?

      Have you any movie recommendations for me?

      • It wasn’t Guinness. I think the name started with B or possibly D. It must have been British.

        I think you should watch Phantom of the Paradise with Paul Williams. And Wait Until Dark with Audrey Hepburn and Alan Arkin. The first is from 1974 and claims to be “The most highly acclaimed horror phantasy of our time.” It’s classically Paul Williams weird and absolutely delicious. The Hepburn film is pretty tame by today’s standard for suspense, but it has A moment that we all thought made it worthwhile back then.

        • Yay! I’ve seen Wait Until Dark! And even though I saw it in the by-now-pretty-distant-past (high school), I think I know the part you mean. By the A moment, do you possibly mean something to do with a refrigerator? I won’t say more. Anyway, yes. That is an awesome movie.

          • It involves the refrigerator in an incidental way, and the drapery across the living room window lit from the street side. And an unexpected… something.

            I saw a day or two after its theatrical debut, so no spoilers had yet been revealed. The entire audience screamed after THE moment, and then there was dead silence… until a guy sitting down front said very loudly, “Well, give me back my arm, will you?” We all broke the silence with laughter. Probably not the reaction the production company hoped for.

  5. Glad to hear you haven’t been hit by the virus. The quarantine hasn’t been too much of a change really for me because I work from home as a matter of course anyway. I do a lot less running around now, for errands and such, which isn’t a bad thing. It gives me a little more time to get other stuff done.
    The meat pie sounds delicious! And some of those movies sound REALLY creepy.
    I see you’re not doing A to Z this year. I’ve been out of blogging for a while now so I’m trying to get back into it. I’ve got to check out your A to Z from last year. There’s a blogger – The Dream Girl Writes – who’s doing a murder mystery like you did a few years back. It’s got me hooked. if you haven’t seen it and are interested.
    Good luck with your novel!

    • Hey Lori! I will have to check out this murder mystery thing! Thanks for telling me about it! And I, too, am glad I haven’t been hit by the virus. And the quarantine hasn’t been a huge change for me either, but it has definitely been a change.

      And yeah, that meat pie really was delicious. We’ve had several others since, but so far, nothing has been quite as amazing.

      I see you’re doing A to Z this year, but at a more leisurely pace. Neat idea! I would, personally, never ride in a hot air balloon, because I’d be constantly freaked out about how high up I was. A shame, because I bet it would also be really pretty and interesting, seeing the world from that distance.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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