Simon re­mem­bers a spooky role

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HANDS UP ANY­ONE who’s seen The Blood on Satan’s Claw?

No? Phew! It was a 1971 hor­ror film in which I played a medieval toff (it was a bit of a stretch). They gave me a long wig that made me look like a cross between Lady Penelope and Rus­sell Brand. The gist of the story was that our vil­lage was be­com­ing in­fected by Evil. (Witch­craft was all the rage in the 1970s.) One by one cast mem­bers were found to have bits of the Devil grow­ing about their per­son – a claw, a patch of mat­ted hair, etc. Old Nick was rein­car­nat­ing un­der our noses. We had eerie shots of crows cir­cling, a mag­goty eye­ball in a field, and Pa­trick Wy­mark act­ing very slowly and look­ing moody in a cloak – his wig was ob­vi­ously a cast-off from Corona­tion Street.

When my turn came, I was sup­posed to wake in the night and see my left arm cov­ered in fur and my fin­gers trans­formed into a hideous claw; I would reach for my handy bed­side dag­ger to hack it off. It took for­ever in make-up to rig my pros­thetic arm and plumb in a tube for the co­pi­ous blood that was go­ing to flow. The kindly prop man said he’d heat up the blood for me: ‘We don’t want you to catch cold, do we?’

I had prac­tised a va­ri­ety of ter­ri­fied gri­maces in the bath­room mir­ror – I opted for a bit of An­thony Perkins with a dash of Dirk Bog­a­rde, so I was ready for the big mo­ment. Valiantly I hacked away at my in­fected arm – I panted, I screamed, I ground my teeth, I writhed. The luke­warm blood was squirt­ing

The kindly prop man said he’d heat up the blood for me

every­where. It was a bad mo­ment for my wig to come un­stuck and take on a life of its own. It was like driv­ing a car with­out a steer­ing wheel – my head went one way, the wig the other, swiv­el­ling out of sync as in The Ex­or­cist. In the out-takes it looked as if my head were on back to front and cov­ered in ketchup. When I had fin­ished, the di­rec­tor wanted a close-up of my hand des­per­ately reach­ing for the knife. This was my hand’s big chance – a tense mo­ment alone on the screen. ‘Ac­tion!’ My fin­gers trem­bled and stretched out to­wards the dag­ger, they twitched, they clawed the air, they gave it their all. ‘And the Academy Award for Fin­ger Work goes to…’ ‘Cut!’ the di­rec­tor called. He came over to me and whis­pered what may have to be the ti­tle of my au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, if ever I write one: ‘Simon, don’t over­act with your fin­gers.’ Simon is in The Archers, and to­day will be at­tend­ing a memo­rial con­cert for a dear friend and in­spi­ra­tional teacher, Nick Mil­ner-gul­land, at Ard­ingly Col­lege; simon.wil­liams@tele­

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