Regular readers of this blog may recall that I am a movie nerd. I have successfully managed to inspire my sons into being movie nerds too, especially the middle two kids. I have not indoctrinated them, of course, but my enthusiasm for film has transferred to them and now we can all enjoy watching movies together, analysing them, comparing them, and obviously being entertained by them. As a fan of Alfred Hitchcock, I have given my kids a gentle introduction to his movies. We started with ‘The Trouble with Harry’, then moved on to ‘Rear Window’, and then ‘The Birds’. When I told them that we would be staying in the area where ‘Shadow of a Doubt’ (which they have not seen) and ‘The Birds’ were filmed, they were eager to go and visit the locations. I was happy to oblige. Mr Pict had accompanied me on the same mission 17 years before so was also happy to indulge us this time.
We decided to focus on Bodega and Bodega Bay since the kids had actually seen ‘The Birds’ and would recognise the locations. When we reached Bodega, we drove up to the church and parked up. The kids and I got out and wandered the few yards to the Potter House. This is a private residence so, rest assured, we were careful not to be intrusive or to cause a commotion. The house was built in 1873 and originally served as a schoolhouse and it served as the school building in the Hitchcock movie, the set of an important scene in the film and, therefore, featuring prominently. Of course, we could not resist acting out the film but we wanted to be respectful of the local residents so we acted it out as if it had been a silent movie. My kids are such ham actors. St Theresa’s church can be glimpsed during that scene so we took some photos and reenacted some silent action scenes there too.
The movie creates the impression that the schoolhouse and church are right on the coast but, in fact, Bodega is a short drive inland from the bay. We, therefore, jumped back in the car and headed to Bodega Bay. The main focus of our visit to the town was the Tides Restaurant. It plays a prominent role in the movie and is still identifiable as the key location, despite being remodelled a fair bit since the 1960s. When I was last there, it felt very much like Bodega Bay barely tolerated the Hitchcock connection. Apart from one leaflet, there was nothing that declared the place to have been related to the movie. This time, however, it appeared that the town had embraced the movie as a tourist opportunity. Inside the Tides there were ample references to the film, from stuffed ravens to a mock up of a building with smashed windows. More opportunities for ham acting, in other words. The kids bought some ice lollies and we stepped out onto the back deck to look at the bay. We could see the spit of land opposite where the Brenner house stood (it was torn down immediately after filming), the road where Tippi Hedren drove out to that house, and the jetty where she rented a boat to cross the bay.
Once everyone had finished their iced treats, we jumped back in the car and headed along the coastal road to Salmon Creek Beach. It was early evening by this juncture and the air was distinctly chilly. There was no way the kids were even going to go for a paddle, let alone a swim. However, we found a new way to keep them entertained. The beach was covered with little huts that had been built out of driftwood. They were really great, really competently built structures. I don’t know who had erected them and for what purpose but I do know they would fare a lot better than I would if marooned on a desert island. That inspired my kids to gather up driftwood and build their own structure. We ran out of time before they got anywhere near completed but it kept them entertained for over an hour. They also found a washed up, decaying cow carcass. I am sure most people’s kids would recoil at such a discovery but my kids reacted like they had found buried treasure and studied the corpse, fascinated. It’s possible I have exposed them to too much Hitchcock after all.
I finally reached the final page of my Inktober sketchbook! Finally my extension of Inktober could come to an end. So many of my illustrations have been inspired by horror movies that I thought it would be fitting to close with another reference to a horror movie. I decided to depict Rosemary’s Baby or how I want to imagine that little devil baby looks. I think the resulting illustration is of a baby a wee bit monstrous but fairly adorable.
I cannot believe how long I am stretching this whole Inktober business out for but I am still determined to fill the remaining pages of the sketchbook and to do so before the end of the year. My latest drawing is hilariously awful. ‘King Kong’ was one of those monster movies that made a huge impact on me as a child because – as with ‘Frankenstein’ – I felt sorry for the monster character. I also loved the stop-motion of the giant gorilla in the same way that I loved all those Greek mythology movies. So the other night I thought I would sit down while watching something on TV and draw King Kong. The result was wretched. I really struggle to draw primates for some unknown reason. Despite my best efforts, I am very hit or miss. Last year, I painted Queen Kong into my altered book of monsters and I think I did a pretty good job with the ape face. I absolutely should have pulled that book out to use as a reference when drawing King Kong because the face is dreadful. It looks nothing like a gorilla. And, of course, I was drawing in ink so had no means to erase or otherwise obliterate all that had gone wrong. It does at least qualify as being monstrous so there is that.
My Inktober sketchbook seems to be filling up with my favourite movie monsters. I guess I am combining two of my passions: art and cinema. ‘Beetlejuice’ is another favourite of mine. I love the style of it and how anarchic it is, the way it plays with the idea of haunting, and the vividly kooky vision of the afterlife. I decided to draw the scene where Beetlejuice is forcing Lydia into marriage. I think the characters are recognisable even though neither drawing looks remotely like the actors. I fiddled and fidgeted and fussed over Beetlejuice’s mouth but I just could not get the shape right for it to look like that tight but toothsome thing that Michael Keaton does with his mouth. I added a sand snake not just to somewhat frame the characters and fill a blank space but also because I wanted to get some of Tim Burton’s black and white stripes into the illustration given that I had decided to draw Beetlejuice in his wedding garb rather than his striped suit.
Are you a fan of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’? I am not the biggest fan of the original Roger Corman movie but I love the musical version. I would be thrilled to see it on stage some time. Aside from the wonderful musical numbers by Ashman and Menken, the man-eating plant from outer space, Audrey II, is an inspired and fantastic movie monster. Audrey II, therefore, had to appear in my Inktober sketchbook and proved to be an ideal drawing on a day when I had zilch free time. A quick, simple line drawing was just the ticket.
It is creeping closer to the time of year when we can start watching all of our favourite Christmas movies again. I am very much looking forward to evenings tucked up on the sofa with my kids greeting these movies like old friends. ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, ‘Muppet Christmas Carol’, ‘Elf’ and so many more movies will start to get us in the festive mood. One of my favourite Christmas movies, with a slightly different vibe is ‘Gremlins’. The mogwai and gremlin characters in that movie are a joy and I love all the B movie elements it parodies and celebrates. I was tempted to draw a sweet and pure little mogwai in my sketchbook but concluded it was more apt to stick with my monster theme and draw a gremlin, namely the leader of the gremlins, Stripe. Since I forego using reference photos, I realised too late that I had drawn Stripe standing rather too erect. In actuality, Stripe does not have the best posture and has more of a slump or hunched pose. Never mind. Let’s imagine that this is what a gremlin would look like after a visit to a chiropractor and some yoga.
I am a big Alfred Hitchcock fan, have been since childhood. I think I started with the ‘…Presents’ TV show and then got into the movies but it may have been the other way around. I was so wee that I can’t actually remember. ‘Vertigo’ is my favourite movie after ‘Jaws’. I also love ‘Shadow of a Doubt’ and ‘Rear Window’. When I first visited Northern California, back in 2000, I made sure I visited several filming locations of Hitchcock movies. These included Bodega Bay where I ran around like a nitwit pretending I was being attacked by birds, as I am sure when visitors do. ‘The Birds’ is one of those movies I enjoy precisely because it defies resolution in the same way that I enjoy ‘The Shining‘. I won’t discuss it more so as to not risk spoiling it for any reader who has not seen it but I like that it is ambiguous and mysterious. I think it contributes to its unsettling atmosphere. My mother, on the other hand, absolutely hates ‘The Birds’ for the same reason. All of which preamble is to explain why I chose to draw an iconic scene from ‘The Birds’ – based on the movie poster indeed – as the next illustration in my Inktober sketchbook. You will note that I still pretty much suck at drawing birds. These are definitely cousins to my Raven.