Annotations for “The Clue Club in The Picture Palace Mystery” 8 pages in Cinema Purgatorio #10
Writer: Alan Moore, Artist: Kevin O’Neill
Note: Some of this is obvious, but you never know who’s reading and what their exposure is. If there’s anything we missed or got wrong, let us know in comments.
General: The unnamed protagonist watches a poorly spliced children’s film created by the British Children’s Film Foundation. The film-within-a-comic features a trio of child detectives who attempt to solve the mystery of a haunted movie theater. The theater-within-the-film-within-the-comic appears to have shown many of the same films as the Cinema Purgatorio itself, a level of metafiction not previously displayed in this story.
For readers unfamiliar with the Children’s Film Foundation, this overview at TV Cream is very useful. Many CFF films are on YouTube, including lots of short excerpts at the CFandTF channel.
- In the center are the members of “Clue Club”, Fanny, Dick, and Titty, plus their unnamed dog. CFF films often featured friendly dogs.
- The cover also references several characters from earlier issues. From top right clockwise are: Fatal Officers from CP#1, Flame of Remorse from CP#3, Cowboy from CP#7, and cartoon animals from CP#8.
- The lit-up letters spell “IN A GATOR”
- “Going to hell” continues the afterlife/purgatory language of earlier issues.
- “The Day the Earth Stood Still and Caught Fire” conflates two science fiction movies: the 1951 American The Day the Earth Stood Still and the 1961 British The Day the Earth Caught Fire.
- Possible reference to Halt and Catch Fire?
- Commenter Charles notes that the ticket contains the number 666, which is the number of the beast of the apocalypse – another reference to the cinema as hell/purgatory.
- “The lights are sinking in your stomach” is an interesting conflation of two phrases: “The lights are lowering” indicating that the feature is about to start, and “a sinking feeling in my stomach” indicating a feeling of impending dread. (It may perhaps be significant that “lights” is also an archaic term for lungs.)
- Note the bare woman’s leg thrust over a seat-back. Is someone in the audience having sex?
- The “Gaumont Boys and Girls Club” is mentioned in Moore’s novel Jerusalem (excerpt below) in the book 3 chapter A Cold and Frosty Morning (p.861-2 in the three volume paperback). A vintage badge from it is shown on eBay. Gaumont International Television is a contemporary entertainment company that may or may not be related. The Gaumont Specialised Film Unit presents some CFF titles – watch example.
[…] a member of the Gaumont Boys and Girls club. Every Saturday they’d be let in for sixpence […] a short cartoon, a Children’s Film Foundation main show that would frequently involve an island, schoolboys and a foreign saboteur, then finally one episode from an ongoing eight-week serial […] The main entertainment had been crawling under people’s legs along the row of seats, or deftly flicking an ice-lolly stick to maybe blind a seven-year-old stranger several rows in front.
- The “Children’s Film Foundation” is the British Children’s Film Foundation. The CFF was funded by a tax on box office receipts and, from the 50s through the 80s, created dozens of feature films for children. A good reminiscence, with descriptions of most of their films, can be found at TV Cream.
- The CFF logo changed somewhat over the years, but never seemed to feature balloons. The font used was similar to that used here.
- There does not appear to have been any real-world CFF production named anything like Clue Club. (There was a Hanna-Barbera children’s cartoon called Clue Club in 1976, but it seems to bear no relation to this story.) Repeated initial letters appear in plenty of CFF titles including: Pop Pirates and Runaway Railway.
- “Chumleigh” is a town in southwest England. Curiously, though it is referred to in the next panel as Chumleigh-on-Sea, though it’s not on the sea. Given the appearance of Dover-like cliffs on P7p1, it seems likely that Chumleigh-on-Sea is an invented location. CFF films often featured invented place names like this.
- While “Fanny”, and “Dick” are fairly common children’s names, “Titty” is far less so, suggesting that Moore has deliberately given all three children names which are also slang terms for sexual organs.
Commenter Eugene Doherty points out that these are also names from classic British children’s books:
– Dick from Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five series
– Fanny from The Faraway Tree series, also by Blyton
– Titty from Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series.
- “Things keep going wrong” are presumably all problems that were commonly seem in the Gaumont Saturday screenings of Moore’s youth. They all also occur within this story.
- “Carry On Gurning!” refers to the Carry On franchise of low-budget British comedies. “Gurning” is making a silly face (though usually sillier than the one on the poster).
The face on the Gurning poster is actor Sid James. (Thanks commenter Greenaum.)
For what it’s worth, four Carry On actors, including Sid James (upper right) appear on P7,p2 of Moore and O’Neill’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century: 1969.
- The “Rome” poster (seen more clearly on next panel and P3,p1) shows Victor Mature in CP#2‘s film within a comic.
- CFF films often featured antagonists who were easily identifiable by name and appearance, such as Crawley, here. The name may be meant to invoke occultist Aleister Crowley.
- Mr. Crawley is wearing a badge with a stylized “PP” for “Pleasure Palace”; this is similar to the badge Mr. Flicker wears with a stylized “CP” for Cinema Purgatorio (seen most clearly in issue #8, P1p1).
- Bathing huts (aka beach huts) are small wooden structures located high up on beaches, used to change into (and out of) bathing suits.
- Between P2 and P3, there is a bit of lost time. Presumably this is due to the frames (both film and comic-book) of aunt Millie in her bathing suit being stolen “for prurient” purposes” (as complained of on P2p3). Note the prominent Victor Mature poster that almost seems to be leering.
- Having one character with an “amusing” speech impediment is, of course, a classic storytelling device, not just in CFF films. (Early CFF films were apparently noted for the crisp enunciation of the child actors, though this relaxed somewhat in later years.)
- “Bad editing, cheap production values” were issues were typical of CFF films, whether or not these caused the gap (see note at P3p1, above).
- The poster depicts the serial hero The Flame of Remorse from CP#3.
- “J. Arthur Rank” was a British industrialist who also produced films. Rank set up the Rank Foundation charity to promote Christian belief. The Rank Foundation was involved in the creation of the CFF.
- “After Tombstone” is the western film from CP#7.
- “Whenever we’ve investigated ghosts, curses or devilish cults before, it’s always the janitor and some luminous paint” sounds similar to Scooby Doo cartoons. Oddly, however, it is not typical of CFF films, which often featured ghosts, monsters, or other overtly supernatural elements.
- The reels are out of order after the page turn. This action takes place after pages 6-7.
- “–sonous” is presumably “poisonous”.
- “This one’s lost ‘er mind!” is a traditional fate of the protagonist of a horror story, especially those of H.P. Lovecraft. See Moore’s Providence #12 for some discussion of this.
- “I’ve mistrusted you for the silliest of reasons.” – See note to P2p4.
- “Or perhaps a centipede” suggests that Crawley is connected with (perhaps is) the centipede-like monster that we will see on the next pages (but which comes earlier in the continuity of the film).
- This ironic, foreboding last line is typical of the ending of an EC horror comic. This makes it almost the exact opposite of a typical CFF ending, which invariably has the good children triumphing and the “baddies” brought to justice.
- A hair is caught in the projector, hence the same hair image in the upper right corner no matter where the kids go.
The hair image is not precisely the same from panel to panel, because the motion of the film through the projector causes it to wiggle around slightly. In pre-digital days, this was a common sight in theaters that didn’t practice good maintenance. This video shows typical examples.
- The poster in the background shows Otz the Cat and Pat the Dog (partial) from CP#8.
- The hair is atop the “Carry On Gurning” poster, seen on P2p3.
- “Hoarding,” in this context, is the exterior wall of the theatre, where movie posters are displayed.
- Cliffs are visible in the background, similar to the famous white cliffs of Dover.
- “Ghost Train” is a type of amusement park ride in which passengers are taken on a train ride through a dark building, frequently shifting directions, and being presented with scary scenes (which may include animatronics). While these rides often have a particular theme, they rarely have much of a plot – which might also be said of many CFF films.
- Panels 2-5 form a fixed camera sequence.
- Speaking of low production values, there is no background visible at all!
- Digital natives might not recognize that the film is burning from the heat of the projector lamp. See similar effects on YouTube.
- “The film’s stuck in the gate” differs from how film only melted when the film got stuck in the projector, leaving one cell in front of the powerful heat of the lamp for much longer than the intended fraction of a second. This can not be precisely what is happening here, though, as Dick continues to move and speak throughout. This may refer metaphorically to the condition of the cinema and its patrons as being “stuck” in a kind of purgatory.
- “In this day and age” is a proverbial statement, indicating that the thing being complained of should no longer exist in modern times. On a more literal level (especially coming after the previous panel’s use of “stuck”), this suggests an aspect of Moore’s eternalism, that the narrator’s experience will simply repeat and repeat forever, with no way of leaving “this day and age”.
- The woman’s leg (from P1p4) doesn’t appear to have moved. That can’t be comfortable…
panel s 2-4
- Though not immediately apparent, panels 2 and 4 are a fixed-panel sequence.
- “Wasn’t that man further along the row when you were here before?” compares how in issue #9, P8p2, he was in the first seat of the row. In P1p3 of this issue, his position is not visually clear, but the narrator describes him as “at the row’s far end”, suggesting he is still in seat #1. By P8p2, he is in seat #6, by P8p4, he is in seat #9!
Metaphorically, “death is approaching”. Or, perhaps more accurately, “knowledge of your state of being dead is approaching”.
- The old (dead) man appears to be mummifying somewhat. There are no longer any flies around him.
- Identities of faces on Screen Regrets issues? Suggest??
- “Screen Regrets” and “Icy Loves” have double meanings here. Screen Regrets is a fictional magazine, as well as the narrator’s disappointment in the films she’s watched during the series. Icy Love is the Popsicle treat, as well as the narrator’s disappointing relationships, including with Geraldine, as mentioned on P1,p4 of this issue.