Mark Gatiss on...

Inside the mind of the Gentleman horror fan and Sherlock supremo
Until recently, Mark Gatiss, the actor, novelist, Doctor Who writer, horror nut and all-round geek figurehead, was best known as one quarter of the brilliantly twisted comedy team, the League of Gentlemen. But 2010 has been a bonanza year for the affable 44-year-old. As co-creator of the BBC summer hit Sherlock, he made his presence felt playing the detective’s shady brother, Mycroft. Now he’s presenting A History of Horror on BBC Four, while on Tuesday there is his delightful adaptation of H.G. Wells’s First Men in the Moon. Gatiss has great fun in the lead role as Professor Cavor, a dotty Edwardian genius who blasts off on a proto-lunar mission sporting tweeds and a magnificent moustache. (It’s his own growth — “I was walking through Camden and a very, very hip fashionista tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Nice work, bro’,” he laughs; see page 40). “I’m so very lucky to get the chance to do the stuff that I’d like to watch myself if I wasn’t making it,” he adds. So yes, we get it — he’s a sucker for horrors, H.G. Wells stories and colourful eccentrics. But which ones? First Men in the Moon is on BBC Four, Tues, 9pm; A History of Horror continues on BBC Four, Mon, 9pm; Sherlock returns next year

Guest list

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Harrison Chase My favourite Doctor Who villain. He’s in a Tom Baker story called The Seeds of Doom; this insane botanist in a wide-lapelled 1970s suit and black gloves — of course. The key to doing a Doctor Who villain is to play it totally straight. Chase has this huge stately home. When he has Tom Baker captured, he’s playing this atonal synth music to his plants to make them grow, and he drawls evilly: “You know Doctor, I could play forever in my green cathedral . . !” Haha! Empress Livia in I, Claudius Played by Siân Phillips and possibly the most evil woman who has lived. She’s so electrifying. I think it’s the best series ever on TV. Professor Moriarty Conan Doyle created the notion of an ultimate villain. Just as Holmes echoes through all subsequent detectives, Moriarty does in terms of an arch-nemesis. It’s interesting how much of Holmes was in the planning of Doctor Who, and when Jon Pertwee took over they decided to give him a Moriarty — that’s how the Master came about. Will he feature in the next three Sherlocks? He has to get out of that swimming pool . . . Jeffrey Archer The most egregious villain we’ve produced in a long time. I think he’s allowed on this list. I can’t bear the idea that he has somehow been transformed into a loveable rogue. I saw him at a party once and was tempted to go over and say: “I loved your prison memoirs. Why don’t you write some more?” Read a longer version at Interview by James Jackson

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it’s really his best performance. Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) It fits into that Wicker Man/Witchfinder General tradition. What makes this film special? Put it this way, there aren’t any other horror films set in the reign of William and Mary where the devil grows back his skin on the flesh of children. It’s one of those films I stumbled across as a kid and it really profoundly affected me because it’s so strange. Martin (1978) George Romero’s vampire film and probably, for me, his masterpiece. Almost the better for being so ambiguous. We never know whether Martin is just a disturbed teenager who thinks he’s a vampire or whether he’s a real vampire.

...his favourite villains

The new film Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (out Friday) “The last time I got this emotionally engaged with a film about a bird of prey I was watching Kes, and things ended badly. Fingers crossed this 3-D fantasy flick about mystical warrior owls isn’t directed by Ken Loach or set in Barnsley.” The Gauguin exhibition at Tate Modern “Say what you like about his post-impressionist primitivism, but anyone who jacked in being a stockbroker to paint pictures of himself as Christ, then ditched his wife and kids and buggered off to Tahiti to chase local girls — and die of syphilis — ticks all the “Great Artist” boxes for me.” Matt Goss’s concert at The Albert Hall “Reinventing your image as a loose-bowtied Ratpack-style crooner is not a shortcut to cultural credibility, unless you really want to style yourself as an out-of-touch, unpleasant drunk who can’t really act. Even if you were once in Bros, you can do better.” Channel 4’s film The Taking of Prince Harry “If a slightly hammy docudrama about Afghan insurgents kidnapping Harry really does represent a ‘major propaganda victory’ for the Taleban, then perhaps Channel 4 can balance things out with a programme about what would happen if Osama bin Laden was caught drunk in Stringfellows.” The rapper Lil Wayne’s new album I am Not a Human Being “Lil Wayne is so streetwise: when you’re doing a nine-month stretch in chokey, making sure the opening track on your latest album is called Gonorrhea is probably a good way to avoid ‘unwanted attention’.” The horror sequel Paranormal Activity 2 (out Friday) “The low-budget-to-blockbuster horror franchise is the easiest way to make money with a camcorder since You’ve Been Framed coincided with the invention of Swingball.” Ben Machell
October 16-22, 2010 Playlist 7

...H.G. Wells
The Time Machine The book is brilliant, but I saw the film first, which I adore. There are passages that are very affecting. When the hero travels into the future, where they don’t have civilisation or books, an Eloi [post-human species] takes him into this hall of learning, and the books all crumble to dust. The hero says, ‘I think that tells me all I need to know’. It’s very sad; it really disturbed me as a kid. The Red Room Wells wrote

some incredible short stories. This is a ghost story about a man who accepts a bet to spend a night in a haunted room. He fills the room with candles and waits — until one goes out. He crosses the room to relight it, and as he does, another goes out, and off they go, one by one. Slowly, he is overwhelmed by terror. The Island of Dr Moreau A wonderful, timely story. Before Wells there was no notion of time travel, no invisible man, genetic engineering or alien invasion. He literally wrote the book.


The Devil Rides Out (1968) Probably my favourite Hammer (above). When I was a kid, I found the Devil terrifying. And this has that brilliant line when Charles Gray nearly hypnotises Paul Eddington’s wife and, as he is thrown out of the house, he says: “I won’t be back . . . But something will!”

Son of Frankenstein (1939) Boris Karloff’s last one as the monster. It’s a great film, as much a swashbuckler as a horror, but never talked about in the same breath as the James Whale one. Lugosi as Ygor is so good —

...neglected horror films

The key to playing a Doctor Who villain is to play it totally straight

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