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Here’s to the New Year and Thanks to Old Friends

 

Shindig!, Electronic Sound, John Coulthart, Starburst, Fortean Times and Bob Fischer of The Haunted Generation have been longstanding supporters of A Year In The Country and have included reviews etc of AYITC releases for a fair few years now. Along which lines, in this post are a few examples of their recent and recent(ish) coverage of two of the AYITC books.

First off is a double header from Shindig!, which includes reviews by Sarah Gregory of the A Year In The Country: Lost Transmissions and A Year In The Country: Threshold Tales books:

“For any self-respecting hauntologist, A Year In The Country is a treasure trove of wyrd delights… Blissfull, we’re immediately in familiar territory, delving deep into the world of the occult and near-dystopia interweaved with the aural and visual cues that underlie this leftfield esoterica…” (Sarah Gregory writing about A Year In The Country: Lost Transmissions in issue 143 of Shindig!)

“Prince continues his hauntological ‘deep dive’ into the ‘otherly pastoral’, investigating the uncanny links between nature, the land and the urban world… [and in this new book he describes] his personal journey across the ‘psychic borderlands’ of film – cinematic episodes in which boundaries between past and future are blurred.” (Sarah Gregory writing about A Year In The Country: Threshold Tales in issue 147 of Shindig!)

Shindig! magazine’s site is here.

Next up is a piece in the ongoingly wallet endangering front section of Electronic Sound, which covers and rounds up  culturally mouth watering book, synth, tech, music etc releases:

“It won’t be too long before writer Stephen Prince opens his own University of Hauntology, probably located down some muddy English bridleway… this new book takes in the ‘haunted soundscapes of electronica’ and promises ‘dystopic visions, alternate realities, paranormal quests and exploratory electronic’… As ever, it’s a must-read…”

Electronic Sound’s site is here.

And talking of wallet (and time) endangering things… Lost Transmissions and Threshold Tales were also included in two of the “Weekend links” posts at artist and designer John Coulthart’s feuilleton website where he “catalogues” his “interests, obsessions and passing enthusiasms”.

Visit those here and here.

Next up is Bob Fischer’s “The Haunted Generation” column for Fortean Times where he regularly “rounds up the latest news from the parallel world of popular hauntology”:

“For almost a decade Stephen has been exploring all manner of rural strangeness through his constantly evolving project, A Year In The Country. He has a virtually unparalleled enthusiasm for TV, film and music from the more overgrown corners of the pastoral realm, and this passion is evident in both Lost Transmissions and Threshold Tales.” (Bob Fischer in his The Haunted Generation column from Fortean Times issue 439.)

Bob Fischer is a notable standard bearer for all things hauntological and “wyrd” via his Fortean Times column, his The Haunted Generation site, live events and more. For even more wallet and time endangering things(!), his site can be visited here and Fortean Times’ site can be visited here.

And then nestled amongst the digital pages of the “world’s longest running magazine of fantastic film and television” is Alan Boon’s review for Starburst of A Year In The Country: Lost Transmissions:

“[A Year In The Country’s books have delivered] a series of exploration into the haunted worlds of film, television, music and literature that have become set texts for the folk horror and hauntology connoisseur.”

Read the full review at Starburst’s site here.

Well, after writing this post and revisting those magazines and sites it seems like much of my day may well be taken care of exploring a Japanese VHS video cafe, Belbury Poly’s parallel world time machine-esque soundtrack creations and the like (!)

Thanks and as always a tip of the hat to all concerned: Jon ‘Mojo’ Mills, Andy Morten and Sarah Gregory at Shindig!; Isaak Lewis-Smith, Push and all at Electronic Sound; John Coulthart; Bob Fischer and all at Fortean Times; and Ed Fortune, Alan Boon and Jordan Royce at Starburst.

Cheers!

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2022: Valerie – The Corn Mother 52/52

The Corn Mother novella weekly serialisation artwork

So, I looked up online for any details of a film called The Corn Mother, to see if there’d been any sales of related memorabilia and the like. There was nothing on any of the auction house’s sites in previous sales or on that main public auction site that I use from time to time.

In fact I could only find a handful of mentions of a film with that name; they were all about this album soundtrack for it, which talked about it being an “imaginary film”, which I’d say isn’t quite true, as, if it were, well, what’s cluttering up my stockroom?

Actually, that’s not quite right. There was one other mention. On some film fans forum. Somebody called Andrew589 asking for any information about The Corn Mother film.

I might send him a message tomorrow when the shop quietens down a bit.

 

Scene fades to black. Credits roll.

 

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2022: Valerie – The Corn Mother 51/52

The Corn Mother novella weekly serialisation artwork

Jack came back from a house clearance today. Mostly old junk and things destined for the skip. A few nice old cameras. I told him how they get used as ornaments nowadays and some people have even started using them again, so they’re worth putting out in the shop. He just looked at me gone out, said something about couldn’t they just use their phone and did Boots even develop films anymore.

One thing that caught my eye was these boxes with film reels in them. You know those old fashioned looking silver canisters that take you back to another era. The kind of things cinemas used. A fair few of those. I asked Jack about them but he said the woman whose house they were from didn’t seem to know all that much about them.

Most of the canisters were unmarked but one had, I think, The Corn Mother written on it. It was faded and scuffed, so it was hard to be sure. I don’t know if this kind of thing goes for much or if you’re even allowed to sell them if they were used in cinemas. I’ll have to look it up online.

 

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2022: Jack – The Corn Mother 50/52

 Act 4/4

The Corn Mother novella weekly serialisation artwork

This lady asked me to come and clear out her husband’s stuff. I wasn’t sure if he’d passed away or they’d split up and he’d left it all behind, and I didn’t want to ask and upset her. You just have to get on with the job in that situation.

There were plenty of old cameras and lenses, some darkroom equipment. I’m not sure if anybody really wants that stuff anymore. Maybe a few collectors online buy that kind of thing. Valerie would know more about that.

Down in the cellar there was more of the same and a few boxes with film reels in them. I asked her about those. She didn’t seem to know a lot about them, said he used to bring home all kinds of stuff from work, hated seeing things thrown away.

It’s not really my line. Old furniture and nick-nacks, that’s what I tend to look out for. What I know about.

 

(This is part of ayear long serialisation of The Corn Mother novella written by Stephen Prince. More details on The Corn Mother book and albums here.)

 

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2021: Andrew – The Corn Mother 49/52

The Corn Mother novella weekly serialisation artwork

I know it was made. I’ve read about it. It’s been written about a fair old bit. I’ve had conversations about it. Asked at conventions if anybody had a copy and they didn’t say “Never heard of it”, they’d just say something like they were looking for it as well.

But last week when I looked it up online I couldn’t find any mention apart from that album I bought and some references to corn mother folklore. There’s not another single word anywhere about it.

I thought maybe it was just a blip online. Some search engine algorithm had gone out of sync, servers gone down or something. A whole pile of coincidences that had happened at once.

I’ve searched again every day since. It’s still not there. There’s nothing at archive.org that stores a lot of old web pages either. I asked and emailed people I know about it and I just got a similar blank response as that actor gave me at the film convention last year.

But I’ve got the notes I made all those years ago for the fanzine up in the loft somewhere, my printouts of internet pages, the magazines where it’s mentioned. They’re all here. All of them.

 

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2020: Andrew – The Corn Mother 48/52

The Corn Mother novella weekly serialisation artwork

I went to a film convention recently. You know how people who starred in cult films and television dramas over the last few decades can have a further stage in their careers, after the acting jobs have dried up, by appearing and doing paid for signings at conventions? Well, somebody who was in The Corn Mother was at one of them.

(Actually, even still quite active and famous actors have been appearing at them for a while now, what with science fiction, fantasy and superhero genres having become such big business.)

As far as I know it had never happened before that somebody from The Corn Mother had made an appearance at a convention. A bit unusual that, as you would’ve thought somebody would have done, even if it was just one of the people with a cameo part.

Although it was quite a trek to get there I still went. I was going to ask them about the film. Face to face.

They were doing a signing and I paid my money and queued up. When my turn came they asked me who I’d like the signature made out to. It was now or never.

I asked them if they had any particular memories of The Corn Mother. They just looked blank. Not annoyed. Not like they didn’t want to talk about it. Just blank. They asked me if I was sure I’d got the name of the film right, as they couldn’t remember that one.

I said yes I was sure but I got the same blank response and so I mumbled something and stepped away. I know they’ve been in a lot of stuff, worked on over a hundreds films and television programmes, and it’s heading towards 30 years ago that it was made, and they had a relatively small part in it, so maybe they’d just forgotten about it.

 

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2020: Andrew – The Corn Mother 47/52

The Corn Mother novella weekly serialisation artwork

I looked today and The Corn Mother isn’t on that online folk horror film list any more. Maybe they decided to take it off until somebody’s actually seen it.

It’s peculiar though, as I’ve also noticed the chatter about the film online is quietening down. It’s falling off forum discussion groups. I’m not sure why. Perhaps these things just go in cycles.

 

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2019: Andrew – The Corn Mother 46/52

The Corn Mother novella weekly serialisation artwork

Like happens with a lot of cultural movements, folk horror as a genre seems to have reached some kind of possibly saturated peak. I keep seeing it mentioned in mainstream national papers, book festival programmes, new films being called folk horror and so on.

Curiously though, The Corn Mother and the whole mystery around it doesn’t seem to have caught the attention of mainstream pundits. You’d think it would be tailor made for at least one “lost film” article.

Maybe there have been some written but I’ve just missed them.

And although I’m more resigned to never finding it, there are some things that still keep me holding out hope that one day the film will turn up.

Like the long thought lost original psychedelic ending to Saul Bass’ far from conventional take on the science fiction genrePhase IV being found. That was made in 1974 but the original ending wasn’t discovered until 2012.

Initially after it was found it only got, I think, a brief showing at one cinema in the States but it’s been released to stream at home now.

So you never know.

 

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2018: Andrew – The Corn Mother 45/52

The Corn Mother novella weekly serialisation artwork

I was doing one of my periodic searches for The Corn Mother online the other day. I don’t do that so much anymore. Maybe my passion for the whole search has died down. Maybe I’m just getting older and I’m starting to finally accept that I’m never going to see it.

In the search results there pops up this album called The Corn Mother. It’s described as being “Reflections on an imaginary film” and the explanatory text that accompanies it is pretty much a potted history of the film’s plot, it’s production, non-release and all the rumours about people having seen it.

It’s not accurate in all the details but not far off.

Strange that they’ve called it an imaginary film. Yes, it’s near- mythical but it’s not an imaginary film.

The album is said to be “an exploration of the whispers that tumble forth from the corn mother’s kingdom, whisperings that have seemed to gain a life of their own”.

I’ve ordered a copy. I’m looking forward to hearing it, seeing if it captures the spirit of the film that’s been playing in my head for all these years.

 

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2018: Andrew – The Corn Mother 44/52

The Corn Mother novella weekly serialisation artwork

When I first started thinking about finding The Corn Mother in the eighties, like most people, I only had chance to see a film during the few weeks it was showing at the cinema. Maybe after saving up a bit of pocket money I might be able to rent it when it was finally released on video or if it went straight to rental. Generally I couldn’t buy it, as back then official copies of films mostly cost silly money as they were often only made for the rental market.

If you were lucky a few years later it might be shown on TV. Seeing it then meant noticing it in the TV listings and, if it was on later at night, setting up the video recorder’s timer and hoping it worked okay. There are a fair few films that I saw most of and then I’d set the timer wrong and it wouldn’t record the last five minutes or so.

All that’s changed nowadays. You can see almost everything with just a few clicks of your remote. Either by starting a subscription for a streaming service or paying for individual films online. And that’s before I get to all the DVD and Blu-ray releases. Both official ones and those available on sites that sell copies of films and TV programmes that have never been officially released, often not great quality and sometimes originally taped from a TV broadcast. Plus there are all the unofficial uploads of films on public video streaming sites.

But of course The Corn Mother’s never appeared on any of them.

It’s a strange thing but it could be said that the idea of films being lost is an obsolete idea but it’s not really true. There are some films that are thought to have been genuinely lost and also there are a lot more that you know exist but for rights reasons etc, they’re very hard to see. Like Hippie Hippie Shake based on the memoirs of Richard Neville, the editor of underground sixties satirical magazine Oz. There seem to have been a few preview screenings of that and then it was just caught in some release limbo.

 

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2017: Andrew – The Corn Mother 43/52

The Corn Mother novella weekly serialisation artwork

I’m not so young anymore. Not yet old but definitely not young anymore. And this quest has taken up much of my life.

Well, that makes it sound like the central part of my life, which it isn’t. I’ve had a conventional education and jobs (searching for obscure cult films doesn’t put a lot of food on the table or coal in the fireplace, so needs must), a family, a broken heart, a broken marriage and all the rest.

But it’s always stayed with me, this quest for this mythical film.

It has become a form of modern-day mythology for me. I suppose when you live in a more secular society you might still want to have your own versions of myths and fairy tales, the unknown, the other. This is my version of that.

The internet has fed the flames of that myth, with its never- ending spaces for discussion, sharing, commenting and voracious need for content. Stories with no end, like the “Will it, won’t it be found?” of The Corn Mother are ideally suited to its open-ended nature.

I suppose you’re thinking “But surely somebody would have spoken up by now? If the film existed and if maybe a few preview copies were made then surely something would have resurfaced?”

You’d think so wouldn’t you?

The modern world leaves few spaces in which culture can be truly lost but this seems to be one time it is. From what the rumour mill says, all copies of the film, both dailies and the edited finished reels, were destroyed back in the eighties. Some say it was an oversight and that they were just thrown away during a storage clearout, others suggest they may have been deliberately destroyed and there is much debate about if that’s the case, then who arranged it?

All I know at the moment is that it seems as lost as The Werewolf, which was a 1913 silent short said to be the first werewolf movie, all prints of which are thought to have been destroyed in 1924 during a fire at Universal Studios. I’d probably have more chance finding that.