Alan Price: Four Film Poems

Alan Price lives in London he is a poet, scriptwriter, short story writer, film critic for and blogger at . His short story collection The Other Side of the Mirror, an alternative take on vampirism, was published by Citron Press in 1999. A TV film A Box of Swan was broadcast on BBC2 In 1990. Alan has scripted five short films. The last one Pack of Pain (2010) won four international film festival awards. His debut collection of poetry Outfoxing Hyenas was published by Indigo Dreams in 2012. A pamphlet of prose poems Angels at the Edge (Tuba Press) appeared in 2016. The poetry chapbook Mahler’s Hut was published in 2017 by Original Plus Books. In 2028, The High Window published his collection, Wardrobe Blues for a Japanese Lady.  In October 2019 Ebionvale Press published a collection of stories and flash fiction called The Illiterate Ghost. His most recent collection is The Trio Confessions (The High Window, 2020). He  is currently writing a novel and working on a series of prose poems with the working title The Cinephile Poems.


‘We live in an age of the list. The 100 best films, novels, songs, poems etc. Social media, with its bloggers, has seen a vast expansion of lists. I’ve decided to react against this trend by not adding my own list to the cultural stockpile. My poetry project is a book revealing 40 of my favourite films. I want to convey the epiphany I had seeing these films for the first time and on subsequent viewings. Each film is poetic in its own unique way. And each hopefully can be re-lived as poetry. If my poems make a reader go to the films, and return to re-read and enjoy what I saw in them, then I will have achieved a gratifying double-hit!’ AP



Alan Price: Four Film Poems

IT (1927) directed by Clarence Badger

Have you got IT? You must have. Don’t ever be it-less.
Clara had it – canyons of bounce, eyeing up the boss:
charisma, with red hair, giving audiences the triple look.
First for ‘the love sick dames.’ Second, those horny guys.
Third, old ladies who coughed and forgave the shocks
as she lingered, lusted, then calibrated box-office innocence.
Sprawling across an executive desk, pouting and dancing
at the Ritz or devouring her burger and man on Coney Island.
To hell with the boss’s blonde. This flapper will have him.
A shop assistant who can’t read a fancy French menu says
‘Gimme the same as you but for love makin’ I translate.’
I once served long hours in shops finding no Clara Bows
either side of the counter: went to the movies after work,
sat through every new helping of female IT sensing Ms Bow
hangin’ around, urging all to desire and laugh em’ out loud.


THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE (1946) directed by Robert Siodmak

In the hotel an eye watched at the back of a wardrobe
till a body blacked out, hands clawing at strangled air.
Babies in arms are not permitted read the bare regulation.
Held tight by mother I was bundled in to aggravate the rules
of their dark. If she’d turned for a second, made me choke
on projected light then the theremin and old dark house
would have recharged their menace, fixed me about-face
in the Cameo cinema where a New England psychopath
killed the weak and unnecessary. A mute examined herself
in a mirror: mouth blotted away by his stare. She gathered
terror into a scream to break open her voice on the phone
for the doctor, with a pony, trap and loving eye to rescue her
from the storm – body on a staircase, iodine for an invalid,
a wronged man, a smashed window, the dead girl dumped
in the cellar: flickering, re-emerging to scrape at her throat.


THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1954) directed by Charles Laughton

I witnessed a dark fairy tale through the changing of the reels
on a 16m projector: young, drinking wine, after a birthday party,
came our Southern treat: a vision of West Virginia horror.
When Willa found the flick-knife in the preacher’s pocket
and warmly said, ‘Men!’ you knew that she was doomed.
The priestly husband tilted back his head, raised up an arm
to the window of the high-gabled bedroom as if to sing an aria
for the Devil, his legal employer. The message was the falling
blade: then a drowned wife, hair streaming with the seaweed,
sat upright in her Model T. Auto. The children will endure
and survive the hunter (Death leaning on the foolish and good.)
Escaping down the river watched by a frog, owl, rabbits, and us,
through a spider’s web. Never seeming to sleep he chases you
on horseback. A shotgun’s fired. When arrested a stepson beats
his sister’s doll against the killer’s chest bursting out the stuffed
dollar bills so craved. Hands tattooed with Harry’s Love and Hate;
once gripped tight for a monster’s contest, now helpless, as lambs,
handcuffed to the reverend wolf.

THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (1957) directed by Jack Arnold

I once dreamt of becoming smaller and smaller;
my trousers fell down and the world ignored me
so how could I possibly help an average man,
shrinking in suburbia, on a black and white film?
That insecticide spray and radioactive mist meant
disaster for you Robert Scott Carey in our world
of competing giants: forced to live in a doll’s house,
then a match box. They thought a cat named Butch
ate tiny Bob but no one dissected the cat to find out.
He’d fallen into the cellar where he rescued cheese
from a mousetrap, clung to a pencil to survive
a flood and with a nail killed a spider so as to eat
stale cake; all the while hoping his wife would come.
But she drove away with Bob’s brother, taller than her.
When the cake crumbled in your hand you gave up
old hunter instincts. The circle of the incredibly small
and incredibly vast consoled. Such infinity of nature
and God’s plan, on your side, for further shrinkage,
driving every molecule with a greater urge to exist.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s