SHIVERS #85 - DECEMBER 14, 2001

By James Abery


The League’s Christmas special is a tribute to the great Amicus portmanteau Horror movies, with special guest stars – and a Maharajah’s curse...

The room is small, barely accommodating the huge, ornate bedstead. A phantasmagoria of dolls and puppets leer from the shadows. A Chinese marionette lolls in a chair, white elephants frolic over a toy theatre. It is a playroom for a maniac.

This bizarre room is just one of the many locations created for the League of Gentlemen’s forthcoming Christmas Special. So small is the set, created in a genuine 18th century house in London, that there is barely room for the lights and cameras and the League themselves, all of whom are now dressed in appropriate 1890s costumes. “Look at it!” exclaims Mark Gatiss, surveying the incredible room in his splendid Victorian dressing gown. “It’s fantastic. I want to live here!”

It has been a fantastic year for The League of Gentlemen – the comedy foursome comprising actor/writers Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton and writer Jeremy Dyson. But the Christmas Special is something of a departure for them, since their shows have previously been set in the present. When Shivers visited the London location at the beginning of September, hopes were high among the cast for their new venture.

“We’ve based the Christmas Special on the old Amicus films Asylum, The House that Dripped Blood, Torture Garden, you know the sort of thing,” explains Steve Pemberton. He is standing in the street, decked out in a Victorian frock coat, with fierce side-whiskers and black contact-lenses. He cuts a terrifying figure. “We’re also trying to catch something of the Ghost Stories for Christmas which the BBC used to do but which they stopped some years ago.”

So will there be new characters in the special? Steve continues: “We’ve taken the less-established characters from the series, the ones that we think could do with having their back-story told. So we’ve not gone for Tubbs or Pauline. The Christmas Special centres on Bernice’s Church on Christmas Eve. She gets three visitors, each of whom tell her their story of woe and are then dismissed by her, but she has her own story as well. The three stories involve Herr Lipp, Mr Chinnery and Charley and Stella...”

Mark Gatiss is a fan of the Victorian era and his delight in creating Nineteenth century Royston Vasey is apparent.

“The locations for this are a joy. We’re using actual props from Sleepy Hollow, which puts you in the mood. This segment ties in with the Local Book, it’s a story called The Curse of Karritt Poor. In an earlier scene we were in a Victorian operating theatre, one of the old ones like an auditorium. I completed an operation, and the students watching applauded. I insisted that they bang their fists on the desks in the required manner.”

There is a special guest for the Christmas special, who is a familiar name to any fan of great British Horror films – Freddie Jones.

“It really was marvellous to get Freddie involved. It’s a direct link to exactly the sort of film we’re trying to recreate. We were standing about on location and Freddie was talking about Freddie Francis and David Lynch filming The Elephant Man.” So what about the third series of The League of Gentlemen? “There won’t be a third series,” says Mark mercurially. “But there will be a fourth..."


This site is optimised for Internet Explorer 5.0+ and 800x600 resolution.

© 2002-2006 Virtual Royston Vasey, except for bits belonging to The League of Gentlemen.