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Mark Kermode

Kermode (front right) playing with The Dodge Brothers at Marylebone station, July 2009
Born Mark Fairey
2 July 1963 (1963-07-02) (age 46)
Barnet, North London, England
Residence Brockenhurst, New Forest, Hampshire, England
Nationality English
Citizenship British
Education PhD (English)
Alma mater University of Manchester
Occupation Film critic, presenter, musician
Employer BBC, The Observer, Sight and Sound
Known for Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo's Film Reviews and The Culture Show

Mark Kermode (born 2 July 1963) is an English film critic who contributes to Sight and Sound magazine and The Observer newspaper. He reviews films with Simon Mayo on Friday afternoons on BBC Radio Five Live, and co-presents the BBC Two arts programme The Culture Show. He also discusses other branches of the arts for the BBC Two programme Newsnight Review, and appears regularly on the BBC News channel. He also writes and presents a film-related video blog for the BBC. In The Screen Directory's chart of best ever film critics, Kermode appears at number 10.[1]


Personal background and education

Kermode, born Mark Fairey[2][3] in Barnet, North London, England,[4] attended Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School, an independent boys' school in Elstree, a few years ahead of comedians Sacha Baron Cohen, Matt Lucas and David Baddiel and in the same year as actor Jason Isaacs.[5]

Mark Fairey's parents divorced when he was in his early 20s and he subsequently changed his surname to his mother's maiden name by deed poll.[6]

He earned his PhD in English at the University of Manchester in 1991, writing a thesis on horror fiction.[4] Kermode has stated that "I was a revolutionary communist affiliate in the 80s", but that "none of us had any respect for Stalin".[7]

Kermode now lives in Brockenhurst with his wife, Linda Ruth Williams, a professor who lectures on film at the University of Southampton and has written The Erotic Thriller in Contemporary Cinema and co-edited Contemporary American Cinema.[8] In October to November 2004, they jointly curated a History of the Horror Film season and exhibition at the National Film Theatre in London.[8] Kermode and Williams have two children together — a son and a daughter — who have their mother's surname.[6]


Print media

Kermode began his film career as a print journalist, writing for Manchester's City Life, and then Time Out and the NME in London. He has also written for The Independent, The Guardian, Vox, Empire, Flicks, Fangoria and Neon.[9] Until September 2005, Kermode reviewed films each week for the New Statesman.[10] He sometimes writes for the British Film Institute's Sight and Sound magazine and The Observer newspaper. On 4 February 2010 Random House released his autobiography, It's Only A Movie, which he describes as being "inspired by real events".[11] It is also available as an audio download.


Kermode began working at BBC Radio 1 in 1993, on a regular Thursday night slot called Cult Film Corner on Mark Radcliffe's Graveyard Shift session.[12] He later moved to Simon Mayo's BBC Radio 1 morning show. He also hosted a movie review show with Mary Anne Hobbs on Radio 1 on Tuesday nights called Cling Film.[13] Between February 1992 and October 1993, he was the resident film reviewer on BBC Radio 5's Morning Edition with Danny Baker.

He currently reviews and debates new film releases each Friday afternoon with Simon Mayo on Mayo's BBC Radio Five Live show, which is also available as a podcast (and previously also as a vodcast).

The programme won Gold in the Speech Award category at the 2009 Sony Radio Academy Awards on 11 May 2009. The judges' citation was:

The winner of the Gold Award made the judges laugh out loud. They found this programme witty and entertaining, cheeky and irreverent, and they admired the sustained passion and energy of its presenters who made listening an effortless and rollercoaster pleasure.[14]

On the Radio Five Live show, Kermode is frequently referred to by nicknames including "The Good Doctor" and listeners also send in names for the double-act of Kermode and Mayo, such as Hinge and Bracket.[15]


Kermode is currently a regular presenter on BBC Two's The Culture Show. He also appears regularly on Newsnight Review and Film 24 on BBC News. It was during a 2006 interview with Kermode for The Culture Show in Los Angeles that Werner Herzog was shot by an air rifle. Herzog appeared unflustered, later stating "It was not a significant bullet. I am not afraid".[16][17] On 19 May 2007 he was featured on the show playing with his skiffle band, The Dodge Brothers, in which he plays the double bass.

Kermode is also a resident film critic and presenter for Film Four and Channel 4 television, presenting the weekly Extreme Cinema strand. He also writes, researches and presents documentaries for Channel 4.[9] As of April 2008, Kermode has started a twice-weekly video blog hosted on the BBC website, where he posts clips of himself talking about films and telling anecdotes.[18]


Kermode played double-bass for a skiffle/rockabilly band called The Railtown Bottlers in the early 1990s. The Railtown Bottlers were also the house band on the BBC show Danny Baker After All for a series, starting in 1993,[19][20] where he performed with Madness lead singer, Suggs.[21] He currently plays bass in skiffle quartet The Dodge Brothers.[20]

Other work

Kermode has recorded DVD audio commentaries for Tommy, The Ninth Configuration, The Wicker Man[22] and (with Peter O'Toole) Becket.[23] Kermode has written books, published by the BFI in its Modern Classics series, on The Exorcist[24] and The Shawshank Redemption[25][26] and his documentary for Channel 4, Shawshank: The Redeeming Feature, is on the film's 10th anniversary special edition DVD.[27]

Kermode's autobiography, It's Only a Movie, was published in February 2010 which he promoted with a UK tour of lectures in small, independent cinemas like Cambridge's 'Picture House'. [1].[4]

Film reviews

Horror specialisation

Kermode is a visiting fellow at the University of Southampton, having gained a PhD at the University of Manchester in modern English and American horror fiction.[28] This makes him something of a horror film expert, together with his former contributions to Fangoria magazine[29], his authoring of the monograph The Exorcist (BFI Modern Classics), and his work on film-related documentaries like The Fear of God; 25 Years of the Exorcist, Hell on Earth: The Desecration and Resurrection of Ken Russell's The Devils, and The Cult of The Wicker Man.[30] He calls The Exorcist (1973) "the best film ever made".[31] He recommends The Witch Who Came From the Sea as one of the best video nasties of the 1970s.[32]

Kermode is sometimes critical of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), the censor for film in the UK, calling for horror films from abroad to be shown in their uncut versions. However, in recent years, he has stated on numerous occasions that the BBFC do a good job in an impossible situation, and expressed his approval of their decisions.[33]


Kermode's appreciation of genre cinema is not always in line with popular taste: he has a personal dislike for all three Pirates of the Caribbean films[34] and the Star Wars films, which he regards as "a gross infantalisation of the dark hearted 'serious' sci-fi" that he grew up with.[35] Kermode's emphasis on genre cinema has also meant he often expresses a liking for films panned by other critics, such as Basic Instinct 2 (2006)[36] and Lassie (2005)[37] because they follow genre expectations. Kermode has been critical of documentary maker Michael Moore (despite praising his most recent film Capitalism: A Love Story on his radio show) , accusing him of "feeding his own ego".[38]

Kermode rarely watches television, calling it "trivial" and stating that "I have been doing my best to avoid [TV] for the last 20 years."[39] On being challenged by The Observer to watch TV, he admitted "if there's one thing I've learned from agreeing to take up the Observer's TV challenge this summer, it's that an awareness of what's going on in television is probably helpful to an understanding of movies. Worse, it may even be essential".[39]


  1. ^ "The Screen Directory". Retrieved 2007-09-10. 
  2. ^ Norman, Matthew (24 January 2005). "Matthew Norman's Media Diary". The Independent. Retrieved 2008-01-14. 
  3. ^ Norman, Matthew (7 February 2005). "Matthew Norman's Media Diary". The Independent. Retrieved 2008-01-14. 
  4. ^ a b c "Film critic honoured by University of Manchester". University of Manchester. 14 Dec 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-19. 
  5. ^ Paul Lester (2008-02-01). "JC Interview: Jason Isaacs". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-06-23. "Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School ... [produced] quite a vintage crop in [Isaacs'] time: fellow pupils included Sacha Baron Cohen, David Baddiel and Matt Lucas. 'I've seen Baddiel a few times', Isaacs says, and he sees the others occasionally at awards ceremonies. ... [N]ot all the Habs stars of the time were Jewish, though, and Isaacs has a lot of time for another alumnus, the BBC's film critic, Mark Kermode: 'He is always incredibly lovely and says hello on his Radio 5 podcasts, which I've listened to in Auschwitz and many other strange places. He's said I was too cool [at school], but he was at the epicentre of the in-crowd.' " 
  6. ^ a b Lawson, Mark (9 April 2009). "Drawn to the devil". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 April 2009. 
  7. ^ "Koba the Dread". BBC Newnight Review. 2002-09-10. Retrieved 2008-04-04. 
  8. ^ a b "Professor Linda Ruth Williams". University of Southampton. Retrieved 2008-03-08. 
  9. ^ a b Mark Kermode, English Department teaching staff, University of Southampton, accessed 14 January 2008
  10. ^ Mark Kermode, New Statesman, accessed 14 January 2008
  11. ^ Gallagher, Victoria (10 February 2009). "Kermode to Random House". The Bookseller. Retrieved 11 January 2010. 
  12. ^ "Fancy a Brew? (Mark Radcliffe and Marc Riley website)". Retrieved 2008-04-23. 
  13. ^ "Mary Anne Hobbs". BBC. Retrieved 2008-09-20. 
  14. ^ Speech Award 2009 citations Sony Rodio Academy official site
  15. ^ Hastings, Sheena (30 September 2009). "Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode: In conversation for the Yorkshire Post". Yorkshire Post. Retrieved 28 December 2009. 
  16. ^ Herzog shot during interview,, 3 February 2006, accessed 14 January 2008
  17. ^ Herzog on his latest film Grizzly Man, BBC News, accessed 14 January 2008
  18. ^ Kermode Video Blog from the BBC's Blog Network website
  19. ^ "Critically speaking". Southampton Echo. 13 April 2002. Retrieved 28 December 2009. 
  20. ^ a b Kermode, Mark (1 June 2008). "My 20-year love affair with the joy of skiffle". The Observer. Retrieved 28 December 2009. 
  21. ^
  22. ^ "The Wicker Man review". Retrieved 2008-04-23. 
  23. ^ "Becket review". Retrieved 2008-04-23. 
  24. ^ Kermode, Mark (2003). The Exorcist (2nd ed.). London: BFI Publishing. ISBN 9780851709673. 
  25. ^ Kermode, Mark (2003). The Shawshank Redemption. London: BFI Publishing. ISBN 9780851709680. 
  26. ^ Kermode, Mark (22 August 2004). "Hope springs eternal". The Observer. Retrieved 28 December 2009. 
  27. ^ Papamichael, Stella (8 September 2004). "The Shawshank Redemption 10th Anniversary SE DVD (1994)". BBC Movies. Retrieved 28 December 2009. 
  28. ^ Kermode on BBC Newsnight Review, accessed 14 January 2008
  29. ^
  30. ^ Macmillan
  31. ^ Sight and Sound
  32. ^ Kermode was speaking during an interview with Simon Mayo on BBC Radio 5 on 12 June 2009 which as of 15 June 2009 can be downloaded at here
  33. ^ Kermode, Mark (2002--06-21). "Mark Kermode on censorship: What are they scared of?". The Independent. Retrieved 2009-01-11. 
  34. ^ "Mark Kermode, Pirates of the Caribbean review". Guardian Film.,,1816109,00.html. Retrieved 2008-04-23. 
  35. ^ "Mark Kermode, Sunshine review". Guardian Film.,,2042101,00.html. Retrieved 2008-04-23. 
  36. ^ ""Basic Instinct 2 - comedy sensation of the year"". The Guardian Online. Retrieved 2008-04-23. 
  37. ^ "Mark Kermode, Lassie review". BBC Online. Retrieved 2008-04-23. 
  38. ^ Mark Kermode (2004-06-27). "'Moore is shameless in feeding his own ego'". The Observer. Retrieved 2008-04-30. 
  39. ^ a b Mark Kermode (2007-09-23). "Should a film purist find time for TV?". The Guardian arts blog. Retrieved 2008-03-01. 

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