|The Isle of the Dead – St Mary’s Lighthouse|
My second visit to the Whitley Bay Film Festival took me across the St Mary’s Lighthouse causeway to the ‘Isle of the Dead.’ St Mary’s Island is a very popular destination for local visitors all the year round for rock pooling and seal watching, especially in the summertime. The ambiance was the kind of perfect summer evening we don’t get here on the North East coast very often and the sunny approach to the lighthouse cottage seemed harmless enough..
|To the lighthouse..|
Showing films at the lighthouse is a very cool thing to do, and in the past The Fog was screened here. This time the screening was a celebration of the work of Val Lewton and featured the 1942 film Cat People starring Simone Simon and Kent Smith.
Media historian Chris Phipps gave a comprehensive introduction to the film explaining how horror films acted as a kind of release valve during times of conflict, like the second world war. The films had to be low budget as the film studios were in financial difficulties and so much of the ‘horror’ was created just by suggestion, as special effects were in short supply.
Simone Simon, as the very cute cat person who will not sleep with her husband for fear of unleashing her inner evil, gets away with a big fur coat and some extra long eyelashes. The chiseled Kent Smith is unbelievably patient with his rather strange wife and a starring role also goes to a rather beautiful caged black panther which Irena eventually lets out of its cage, but then is promptly run over.
RKO pictures produced a series of Lewton’s classic money making movies including his version of Jane Eyre ‘I Walked with a Zombie’!
|Have you ordered mushy peas?|
An added fun element to this showing in such a quirky venue was that we could order fish and chips from another Whitley Bay icon, Pantrinis! Part way through the move the fish and chips arrived and there was some commotion as festival staff tried to match the orders to their owners while Irena the Serbian cat woman swished about in black and white looking alternatively tortured and fey on screen.
|Fish, chips and film!|
We were prepared however, with our own forks, salt and tomato sauce which were promptly produced. It was quite fun eating during the movie although I don’t think food tastes as good when you can’t see it, which is kind of weird.
|Are we at the Isle of the Dead yet?|
The film remains surprisingly compelling, simple but still stylish, and as we walked back along the causeway now slowly descending into darkness I had really enjoyed my evening on the Isle of the Dead.
There is still lots to see at the festival, pop up secret cinemas and events in collaboration with the Tyne Theatre in Newcastle, check out their website for more info Whitley Bay Film Festival