Documentaries Interviews TV

Interview: Simon Tatum on The Last Freak Show

The Last Freak Show is a short documentary directed by Simon Tatum that airs on More4 this Tuesday.

It follows a musician named Jeffrey Marshall who was born without arms or legs, his feet growing almost directly from his hips.

Curious as to whether people come to his gigs for the music or to stare at a limbless man playing the bass guitar with his feet, he decided to explore his identity as a disabled performer by exhibiting himself in ‘The World of Wonders‘ – the last remaining ‘freak show’ in America.

It is run by Ward Hall, a veteran who was on the road with the likes of Schlitzie the Pinhead (made famous by Tod Browningโ€™s 1932 film Freaks), Sealo the Seal Boy, Grace McDaniels: The Mule-Faced Woman, Percilla the Monkey Girl and countless others.

Today, along with his business partner Chris Christ and 77 year-old dwarf Pete ‘Poobah’ Turhurne, he runs the only surviving 10-in-1 freakshow in America, the World of Wonders.

I recently spoke with Simon about the film and you can listen to the interview here:


You can download this interview as a podcast via iTunes by clicking here

The Last Freak Show is on More4 this Tuesday at 8.30pm

> Download this interview as an MP3 file
> Check out Tuesday’s schedule for More4
> Discuss documentaries, shows and films at the More4 Forum
> The FourDocs section at Channel 4 and the other films showing in the First Cut strand
> The film recently screened at the Chashama Film Festival in the US
> See Jeffery Marshall play with his band Supercool and check them out at MySpace
> New York Times article from 2006 on Ward Hall and The World of Wonders show
> Find out more about the 1932 film ‘Freaks’ at Wikipedia

Interesting TV

Stanley Kubrick season on More4

A Stanley Kubrick season starts this month on UK TV channel More4, with a series of his films screening between the 15th and 25th of July.

Channel 4 Creative Services have created this excellent TV spot to promote the season, which is a one shot recreation of The Shining set, shot from Kubrick’s point of view:

(If the video doesn’t work try this direct link over at The Guardian)

The season kicks off with a documentary called Citizen Kubrick, which screens on Saturday 15th at 10pm.

It is presented by Jon Ronson, who was invited to the director’s estate in 2001 to explore the many boxes the Kubrick had collected during his life at Childwickbury Manor in Hertfordshire.

The resulting documentary is the story of Kubrick and the archive, now housed at University of the Arts London.

The season continues over the next two weeks with the following films:

  • Day of the Fight (1951): An early documentary short about a day in the life of a middleweight Irish boxer named Walter Cartier and his fight with black middleweight Bobby James. (Saturday 15th July, 11.05pm)
  • Barry Lyndon (1975): Kubrick’s adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel The Luck of Barry Lyndon went under-appreciated at the time but remains one of his most enduring and visually stunning films. The tale of an 18th Century Irish adventurer (Ryan O’Neal) is now regarded as one of his most important works and is notable for the remarkable cinematography from John Alcott. It is also Martin Scorcese’s favourite Kubrick film. (Screens on Sunday 16th July, time TBC.)
  • Paths of Glory (1957): One of Kubrick’s early classics – a searing anti-war film about innocent French soldiers sentenced to death after taking the blame for the mistakes of their superiors. Kirk Douglas gives an excellent central performance as Colonel Dax, an officer trying to prevent the soldiers’ execution. Watch out too for a cameo near the end from the actress who whould become his wife Christiane Kubrick, then credited as ‘Christiane Harlan’. (Screens 17 July, 11:55am).
  • Flying Padre (1951): Another documentary short about two days in the life of a priest in New Mexico called Father Fred Stadtmuller whose spreads the word of God with the aid of a mono-plane. (Screens on Friday 18th July, 12.55pm in the afternoon)
  • Lolita (1962): Kubrick moved to England in the early 1960s to film this adaptation of Vladimir Nabakov’s novel and stayed here for the rest of his life. James Mason stars as Humbert Humbert, a middle aged professor obsessed with a precocious young girl. Although aspects of the novel had to be toned down for censorship reasons, it is still a work of considerable interest. (Screens Friday 18th July at 9pm).
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968): Kubrick’s adaptation of Arthur C Clarke‘s short story The Sentinel reimagined science fiction on film and inspired a generation of writers and directors. The story charts how a mysterious alien intelligence influences mankind from it’s earliest origins to a futuristic space mission involving two astronauts and an advanced computer named HAL 9000. The visual effects (overseen by Kubrick and engineered by Douglas Trumbull) are still dazzling and the use of classical music (especiallyย Richard Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra) is now inextricably linked with the film and it’s imagery. (Screens Saturday 19th July, 1.30pm)
  • Killer’s Kiss (1955): Kubrick’s second film is a short (only 67 mins), low budget film noir about a has-been boxer (Jamie Smith) who falls for a woman with a violent boyfriend. (Screens Monday 21st July, 11.30pm)
  • The Killing (1956): Notable for being Kubrick’s first feature with a professional cast and crew, this is a tautly plotted heist drama adapted from Lionel White‘s novel Clean Break by Kubrick and co-screenwriter Jim Thompson. Sterling Hayden (who would return in a key supporting role in Dr Strangelove) takes the lead. (Screens Wednesday 23rd July, 12.05am).
  • The Shining (1980): A remarkable and enduring adaptation Stephen King‘s novel about the winter caretaker (Jack Nicholson) of a remote hotel who slowly goes insane, endangering his wife (Shelley Duvall) and young son (Danny Lloyd). Although King was upset with Kubrick’s take on the material, there is much here to feast on, especially the meticulous production design, inventive sound editing and innovative visuals. It was the first time Kubrick used the Steadicam, which was invented by Garrett Brown – the cinematographer who achieved many of the remarkable tracking shots in the film. (Screens Friday 25th July, 9pm).

It is a great chance to catch up on the work of one of the most important directors in the history of cinema.

> Find out more about The Stanley Kubrick Season at More4
> Read more about how the More4 promo was created at Media Guardian
> Stanley Kubrick at the IMDb
> Official Kubrick site at Warner Bros
> Stanley Kubrick Archive at University of the Arts London Archives and Special Collections Centre
> Essay on Kubrick at Senses of Cinema by Keith Ullich
> An extensive set of links to interviews with Kubrick at Archivio Kubrick
> A Guardian feature and webchat with Jon Ronson about the Kubrick archive in 2004
> An exhibiton of Stanley Kubrick’s work in Germany
> An archive of the debate in the New York Times over A Clockwork Orange
> Stephen King discusses his first phone call with Stanley Kubrick
> Steven Spielberg talks about his admiration for Kubrick