Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Holiday Guide to a Cinematic Shadow Pantheon (Part 2)

The perfectly disturbing New Year’s Eve cinematic experience could be nothing other than Victor Sjöström’s 1921 film, The Phantom Carriage, an adaptation of Selma Lagerlöf’s 1912 Theosophical novel entitled Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness!  Though little known today, this film had a tremendous impact on such major filmmakers as Ingmar Bergman and Stanley Kubrick.  Despite a relatively complex story structure composed of flashbacks within flashbacks and stories within stories, the central conceit of The Phantom Carriage is not at all dissimilar to that of a traditional fairy tale….

Once upon a time, on New Year’s Eve, three men sit in a dilapidated cemetery passing a bottle of cheap liquor back and forth while talking about a local legend:  that of Death’s Driver.  According to the prevailing myth, the last person killed on New Year’s Eve must take over the reins of a horse-drawn carriage fashioned by Death himself.  For the next year, that person must serve Death by collecting the souls of the recently deceased until the following New Year’s Eve.  Inevitably (at least according to the logic of fairy tales), our protagonist, an alcoholic ne’er-do-well named David Holm (played by the film’s director, Victor Sjöström), is accidentally murdered just before the stroke of midnight.  Then comes Death’s Driver, who just so happens to be a fellow derelict named Georges (Tore Svennberg), the man who first told Holm about the legend.  Georges died exactly a year before in Holm’s presence under very similar circumstances.  (As in all fairy tales, coincidence and fate play a crucial role in this film.)  Georges removes Holm from his physical body, binds his astral body hand and foot with rope, and leads him on a soul-searing journey through the world of the living, forcing Holm to confront the consequences of his misspent life in a sermonizing manner that might remind one of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1843), but The Phantom Carriage lacks all of the sentimentalism so integral to Dickens’ far more famous novel.

I’ve recently completed a rather lengthy article about this film for a forthcoming anthology about Expressionism edited by film scholar Gary D. Rhodes for Edinburgh University Press.  The article, nearly 10,000 words long, is entitled “Here Among the Dead:  The Phantom Carriage and the Cinema of the Occulted Taboo."  When I learn more details about the publication date of the anthology, I’ll be sure to pass it along.  In the meantime, get your hands on the digitally restored Blu-ray/DVD of The Phantom Carriage, released by Criterion in the Fall of 2011, and watch Sjöström’s groundbreaking phantasmagoria as the clock strikes twelve….


Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Holiday Guide to a Cinematic Shadow Pantheon (Part 1)

If you're looking for an alternative X-mas experience, to offset the perennial screenings of such classic films as A Christmas Carol and It's a Wonderful Life, then I recommend cuddling up with a cup of Irish Hot Cocoa and watching some of the unjustifiably obscure X-mas themed films recommended by our knowledgeable staff here at the barbed-wired, high security Cryptoscatology.com compound.  We have chosen to call this series "A Holiday Guide to a Cinematic Shadow Pantheon."  In this inaugural installment we recommend a pair of peculiar Yuletide tales....

The Curse of the Cat People (1944).  This was the first film directed by Robert Wise, who would later direct such cryptoscatological classics as The Body Snatcher (1945), The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), and The Haunting (1963).  This is ostensibly a sequel to Jacques Tourneur's groundbreaking horror film, Cat People (1942); however, no knowledge of the previous film is required to appreciate the sublime strangeness of this metaphysical paean to the dream worlds of childhood. 

Not only is this one of the most unorthodox B-films produced by Val Lewton for RKO in the 1940s, it's also one of the most offbeat sequels ever filmed by a major Hollywood studio.  Its evocation of both the wonder and alienation of childhood is reminiscent of the haunting tales Ray Bradbury began to write at around this same time (see, for example, the tales in Bradbury's1947 collection, Dark Carnival).  Since Bradbury often cited Lewton's films as an influence, this is almost certainly not a coincidence.  In fact, Lewton's films had a tremendous impact on several major writers of dark fantasy, Robert Bloch, Richard Matheson, and Harlan Ellison included.  Though many film scholars do not hold The Curse of the Cat People in the same high regard as some of Lewton's other masterpieces (e.g., the aforementioned Cat People as well as I Walked with a Zombie and Isle of the Dead), nonetheless a faithful coterie of Lewton aficionados maintain that this particular offering is among the most personal and profound of his darkly fantastic oeuvre.

Quentin Lawrence's Cash on Demand (1962), produced by Hammer Films in England, is a Yuletide suspense story about a Scrooge-like bank manager named Harry Fordyce (Peter Cushing) who, on Christmas Eve, is terrorized for precisely 84 minutes by a master thief and conman named Colonel Gore Hepburn (André Morell).  A noirish, mirror-world alternative to Dickens' most famous saccharine morality tale, A Christmas Carol, Lawrence's Cash on Demand will add a much-needed dose of anxiety to your stocking this merry X-mas season. 

It's interesting to note that Lawrence also directed the cryptoscatological classic, The Crawling Eye (1958), a UFO disclosure film in which a United Nations troubleshooter named Alan Brooks (Forrest Tucker) goes head-to-head (head-to-eye?) with a giant, telepathic, tentacled eyeball from another planet.  In his 1997 book, Hollywood Vs. the Aliens:  The Motion Picture Industry's Participation in UFO Disinformation, Bruce Rux insists that The Crawling Eye featured "accurate UFOlogical elements, most notably in the recurrent abduction/implant remote alien control and sabotage motif" (236).  Filmmakers who are drawn into this esoteric field, whether by chance or by choice, tend to end up making more than one film that could be considered cryptoscatological in nature, and Quentin Lawrence (like Robert Wise) is no exception

Stay tuned for Part 2 of "A Holiday Guide to a Cinematic Shadow Pantheon" in which our crypotoscatology.com staff will recommend a special New Year's Eve cinematic experience....

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Mind Control & the Boston Bomber

According to Boston Globe journalists Sally Jacobs, David Filipov and Patricia Wen, Boston Bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev believed he was a victim of mind control.  The original 12-15-13 Boston Globe article, entitled "The Fall of the House of Tsarnaev," can be read HERE.  A brief excerpt follows:

"[Don] Larking and Tamerlan, who met when Tamerlan visited his mother at work, took an immediate liking to one another and shared their views on conspiracy theory and American politics. Larking loaned his young friend copies of a newspaper he reads, 'The Sovereign, newspaper of the Resistance!’, which suggests that US military explosives were used in the World Trade Center attack. But Larking found that Tamerlan had strong political views of his own. He did not, for example, approve of President Obama’s use of drones in foreign conflicts or what he considered the US government’s expansive foreign policy.
"'He felt the US should not get involved in other people’s affairs and should stick to its own business,' said Larking. 'He did not like the country’s involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq at all.'
"As their relationship grew closer, Tamerlan confided in Larking his troubling secret about the voice inside his head. Tamerlan told him that he had been hearing the voice for some time, and that he had a theory of what might be afflicting him.
"'He believed in majestic mind control, which is a way of breaking down a person and creating an alternative personality with which they must coexist,' explained Larking. 'You can give a signal, a phrase or a gesture, and bring out the alternate personality and make them do things. Tamerlan thought someone might have done that to him.'
"The person inside him, as Tamerlan described it to Larking, 'was someone who wanted to control him to make him do something.'"
Paul Joseph Watson's illuminating analysis of the Globe's reportage can be found HERE.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Nature Magazine Confirms the Theories of Stanislaw Szukalski?

Earlier this year, in a post entitled "BEHOLD!!! THE PROTONG," I wrote extensively about Stanislaw Szukalski's unique theories regarding humanity's connection to what he calls "the Yetinsyny."  According to Richard Chang of the Orange County Register, "[Szukalski] believed that the human race had bred with a competitive race of Yeti (Abominable Snowmen or Bigfoot, for the uninitiated), and the result was a hybrid that polluted the purity of homo sapiens.  Szukalski argued further that the hybrids [i.e., the Yetinsyny] were responsible for many of people's problems throughout history." 

In that very same Orange County Register article (from the 2-7-13 edition), Chang describes Szukalski's theories as "pseudoscientific."  Apparently, no less an authority than Nature Magazine now disagrees with Mr. Chang's opinion.  According to Nature, the highly respected international weekly journal of science, recent genome analysis might very well prove that Szukalski's "pseudoscientific" theories contain far more than just a kernel of truth.

Click HERE to read Ewen Calloway's 11-19-13 Nature article entitled "Mystery Humans Spiced Up Ancients' Sex Lives."

Let's fade out on one of my favorite Szukalski drawings (from p. 73 of Szukalski's book, Behold!!! the Protong)....


"The howling chest-beating gorilla in the Yetinsyn is perpetually pressed towards its biological preordainment.  It works overtime pounding on the pulpit of subversion, calling all the misfits of the world to unite against the hated Human.  The phrases ring hours after their delivery, 'We must fight against the Tyrants, the Capitalists, the Educated and well... why not against the Good-looking who are loved by beautiful women, too!  Long live da Peep-hole!  Long live the Revolution!'"
--Stanislaw Szukalski, BEHOLD!!! THE PROTONG, p. 72

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Colin Wilson R.I.P. (1931-2013)

According to Loren Coleman, Colin Wilson passed away on December 5th.  You can read Coleman's full obituary by clicking HERE

Rest in peace, Mr. Wilson, and thanks especially for giving us The Mind Parasites (1967) and "The Return of the Lloigor" (1969).  If I had to single out only a handful of favorite H.P. Lovecraft pastiches, these two works by Wilson would certainly sit near the top of the list alongside Fritz Leiber's Our Lady of Darkness (1977) and Robert Bloch's Strange Eons (1978).  "The Return of the Lloigor" can be found in August Derleth's Arkham House anthology entitled Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, and is well worth seeking out....