The Runton Drive-In Cinema Club

Allegedly, there is a dog snatcher operating in the Runton area, although I am unconvinced. I discussed the evidence with ‘Anton’ recently as we took delivery of a projector and screen for a showing of The Hound of the Baskervilles, which also features a crime involving a dog, and which is part of a broader plan of Joe’s to revive the estate’s post-pandemic fortunes. Coincidentally, the bloke delivering the projector was, like the Baskerville hound, also once the subject of legal scrutiny, as the subject of the popular rhyme Ellie and John, Ellie and John / Legally right, but morally wrong, a reference to the ages of he and his girlfriend, being at the time 51 and 17 respectively. Anyway. My source for the dog snatcher, a Northrepps simpleton, claims that he drives around in a van with RSPCA spelled incorrectly on the side ‘Which is how you know it’s him’.  Apparently, last week he drove into a woman at speed, breaking her spine. He then stole her dog. ‘Stole her fucking what?’ said ‘Anton’, identifying the point at which he felt the behaviour had become unacceptable. After further discussion, we agreed that not being able to spell ‘RSPCA’ correctly is likely to draw attention to yourself and was an oversight we would be keen to correct. In possession of a screen and projector and exciting spools of actual celluloid film which we hoped Joe would know how to make work, we watched John drive off. ‘Do you think he can spell ‘paedo’ correctly?’ mused ‘Anton’, which was a bit much.

The Hound of the Baskervilles is the first in a series of outdoor film nights that will initially be held in the Restored Barn. The initial response seems to be good; we have already had interest from a sizeable local film club which disbanded during the Pestilence when it became illegal to have more than seven people in the same place, even if two of them are ghosts, which is quite likely in the countryside where everything is terrifying, so that’s a start. If it takes off, we can hire a massive screen and run it like a drive in and, to test the idea while keeping things highbrow, we have a season of Carry On films scheduled for autumn. If you are unfamiliar, Carry On films are an oddly likeable cinematic franchise consisting of Barbara Windsor’s bikini top falling off while Sid James furiously stabs the cat under a copy of the Racing Post dressed as a doctor and shouting ‘Blimey!’ to a soundtrack of slide whistles and ‘arooga’ style old school car horns, over and over again, for an hour and a half. They are every bit as wonderful as they sound.

While I’m sure Carry On films are all very cool and comforting and post ironic and what not, The Hound of the Baskervilles is more in keeping with Runton, what with it being a slightly creepy shagging retreat for minor Victorian aristocracy in the middle of nowhere and everything. A drive-in here showing, for example, horror films in the bleak, black, midwinter would work well. To spice things up, ‘Anton’ and I could knock on the windows of unsuspecting film buffs during the Blair Witch Project and see if they soil themselves with fright, an idea we had as we unfolded deckchairs and formed them into the seating area. I am not a great cinema buff but, if there was one change I could make in any film, it would be to have Han Solo shout ‘What?’ instead of ‘I know’ when Princess Leia says she loves him in the carbonite chamber during The Empire Strikes Back. This would make sense, too, because it was a hectic moment with a lot going on, it was quite noisy in there, and if nothing else it would’ve saved her considerable faff of rescuing him in Return Of The Jedi if he’d replied that he wasn’t into it to begin with. As we made sure our rows of deckchairs were nice and neat, we rounded off our appreciation of the cinematic arts by reflecting upon how Peter Sellers apparently had eight heart attacks in three hours after huffing a bucket of poppers prior to having a go on Britt Ekland, and how, all things considered, that must have been quite a remarkable evening.

In summary, I urge visitors to enjoy East Anglia untroubled by concerns around spinal injury and dog theft. I hereby dismiss the dog snatcher story as nonsense as, if nothing else, many dogs here are owned by people who also legally own firearms, and who would happily discharge them at a rogue member of the Society to Prevention Cruelty Animals of Royal. That said, if you should find yourself face to face with the undead while enjoying the scenic delights of the area during the coming winter months, it isn’t me and ‘Anton’ pissing about. It’s actually happening, so stay in the moment and deal with it. In any case, ‘Anton’s proposed change to The Empire Strikes Back would be to have the film exactly as it is, but with ‘…both of Princess Leia’s tits out all the time’, so he is already horrifying enough.


Main: Cromer Hall, said to be the inspiration for the house in the Hound of the Baskervilles.

Top inset: My dog, not the inspiration for the hound in the Hound of the Baskervilles.

Middle inset: Likeable cinematic sex pest Soloman Joel Cohen, aka Sid James.

Lower inset: The view from our front room window last winter. Owls all over the place, and probably haunted too, I should think. That said, the dog likes it.

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