The fantasy, absurdity and sometimes transparent artificiality of popular cinema has appealed to many artists. Some have been moved to make their own B movies, such as the three examples in this sequence. 

Films showing in this section: 

11.34 Dora Carrington and Beacus Penrose Dr Turner’s Mental Home 1929
11.43 Bruce Lacey and John Sewell Everybody’s Nobody 1960
12.01 Jeff Keen White Dust 1972

Dora Carrington and Beacus Penrose Dr Turner’s Mental Home 1929

10 minutes. Collection: BFI National Film & Television Archive, Courtesy Penrose Estate 

The painter Dora Carrington and her lover Beacus (Bernard) Penrose made this and one other short film with friends during one weekend. Dr Turner’s Mental Home may have been inspired by H. G. Wells’ novel The Island of Dr Moreau 1896, which was already a popular horror-film subject. Carrington made the costumes and props, Penrose operated the camera. The film had its first and perhaps only early showing at Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s home in Gordon Square, London. 

Biographies:

Dora Carrington was born in 1893. She studied at the Slade School of Art, and was introduced by Mark Gertler to the Bloomsbury group of artists and writers. She painted and made woodcuts for the Hogarth Press. Three collaborations with Penrose in 1929 were her sole excursions into film. She committed suicide in 1932.

Beacus [Bernard] Penrose was born in 1903, younger brother of Roland Penrose, artist and founder of the ICA. He was a lifelong sailor/adventurer. He died in 1988. 

Bruce Lacey and John Sewell Everybody’s Nobody 1960

16 minutes. Collection: Anglia Film Archive, Courtesy the artist 

The multipurpose M.A.N. seen in this film is Bruce Lacey’s invention. It anticipates the robot creations with which he made his name as an artist in the later 1960s. But it is also a humorous echo of the many androids that have appeared in science fiction films ever since the silent era. 

Biographies:

Bruce Lacey was born in 1927. He studied at Hornsey College of Art and the Royal College of Art, London, after War service in the Navy. He made props for TV and theatre, including for Spike Milligan and Michael Bentine. He exhibited robots in Cybernetic Serendipity ICA 1968 and other exhibitions. Many of his films record performances, or were used in performances. John Sewell was a designer who established the BBC’s distinctive screen graphics in the 1950s. He was also an enthusiastic amateur filmmaker. 

Jeff Keen White Dust 1972

34 minutes. Collection: BFI National Film & Television Archive Courtesy the artist 

In Jeff Keen’s words, White Dust is ‘a home movie/serial edited and superimposed in the cameras, filmed with no script and no post-cutting. The film opens with a series of establishing shots: the sea - the actors - certain streets. From these images narrative threads emerge and dissolve again - through linking tableaux and film-star poses - to celebrate the lost world of adventure serials and B-Movies’. 1984 

Biography:

Jeff Keen was born in 1923. He served in the Army during the Second World War. Self taught, he has been making films since 1960, often on the amateur gauges of Super8 and VHS video, sometimes in combination with performance. His anarchic plundering of themes and motifs from popular culture also finds expression in life-size cut-out sculpture and photocopied bookworks.