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Jean Cocteau’s poem for Orson Welles
08:16 am


Orson Welles
Jean Cocteau

Orson Welles by Jean Cocteau (from the frontispiece of André Bazin’s book on Welles)
Orson Welles and Jean Cocteau first met at a performance of “Voodoo Macbeth,” the all-black Shakespeare production Welles staged in New York in 1936 with funding from a New Deal program. They remained friends and encouraged one another’s rascality, according to Simon Callow’s account of the 1948 Venice Film Festival in One-Man Band, the third volume of his Welles biography:

He and the perenially provocative Jean Cocteau formed a sort of anti-festival clique, clubbing together to commit what Cocteau rather wonderfully called lèse-festival. [...] Together in Venice, the two men behaved like two very naughty boys. Welles shocked his hosts by ostentatiously walking out of the showing of Visconti’s uncompromisingly severe masterpiece, La Terra Trema.


Cocteau and Welles in Venice, 1948
Welles was a member of the Comité d’Honneur at Cocteau’s 1949 Festival du Film Maudit, at which both The Magnificent Ambersons and The Lady from Shanghai were screened. (Kenneth Anger’s Fireworks made its European debut there, too, and Artaud’s “Sorcery and Cinema” was first published in the festival catalog.) Cocteau contributed this sketch of his friend to the program for Welles’ The Blessed and the Damned, an evening of two one-act plays that opened in Paris in 1950:

Orson Welles is a giant with the face of a child, a tree filled with birds and shadows, a dog who has broken loose and gone to sleep in the flower bed. An active loafer, a wise madman, a solitary surrounded by humanity, a student who sleeps during the lesson. A strategy: pretending to be drunk to be simply left alone. Seemingly better than anyone else, he can use a nonchalant attitude of real strength, apparently drifting but guided by a half-opened eye. This attitude of an abandoned hulk, and that of a sleepy bear, protects him from the cold fever of the motion picture world. An attitude which made him move on, made him leave Hollywood, and carried him to other lands and other horizons.

Quoting some of the increasingly hysterical praise for Welles printed elsewhere in the program and then in the show’s reviews, Callow wonders: “At least Cocteau had the excuse of being an opium addict; what were these chaps on?”

Keep reading, after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Mouth-watering trailer for a ‘what if?’ 1970s adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s ‘High-Rise’
02:12 pm


J.G. Ballard

Ben Wheatley’s recent adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s masterful 1975 novel High-Rise scratched a profound itch many of us had had for years, but by rights we really should have had an adaptation from its own time, a brutalist B-movie with dissonant stereophonic music that should take its rightful place alongside Death Race 2000 and Logan’s Run.

We never got that movie, but that doesn’t mean we can’t pretend.

Adam Scovell has helpfully put together a marvelous trailer for a make-believe BBC series based on High-Rise using imagery from a really interesting-looking series from the early 1970s called Doomwatch that garnered controversy at the time for several episodes, including one that focused on mutant rats taking over the streets of London. The episode Scovell used is called “The Human Time-Bomb,” and it ran on the BBC on February 22, 1971.

I don’t know much about the plot except that the bland plot synopsis from the time sounds intriguingly Ballardian: “Dr. Fay Chantry performs a biological study of tower block life—and finds far more than she expected.”

On his blog Celluloid Wicker Man, Scovell raises a very interesting point, which is the possibility—one might even say the likelihood—that “The Human Time-Bomb” is actually a direct source for Ballard’s novel:

The Human Time-Bomb rather uniquely pre-empts almost all aspects of High-Rise in such detail that it must be considered whether Ballard himself actually saw it when broadcast. I have little doubt that he at least knew about the series, such was the crossover of the series’ goals with his own conflation of science and disaster.

He also notes that during this time, it wasn’t hard at all to find Ballard’s themes played out on the telly:

British Television of this period is brimming with Ballardian imagery; endless brutalist structures, obsessive emphasis on cars, violence and misogyny.  This is all compacted into a huge variety of drama, only ever really escaping from such aspects when a series or play was set in period.

Have a look at the trailer for the 70s ‘High-Rise’ that shoulda been, after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Insomnia or the Devil at Large’: Gorgeously primitive watercolors by Henry Miller
08:47 am


Henry Miller

In the mid ’60s, Henry Miller, the great and often controversial American writer whose works were mostly banned in the US until 1961, developed an infatuation on a Japanese lounge singer and actress named Hoki Tokuda. Miller and Tokuda would eventually marry (a true May-December affair—their age difference was almost 50 years, and the marriage was reportedly…unconventional in other respects as well), but before sealing the deal, fretfulness over their relationship would provoke a prolonged bout of insomnia in Miller, and during that spell of sleeplessness, he produced a series of watercolors and the short story “Insomnia or the Devil at Large.” Miller described the watercolors thusly:

They reflect the varying moods of three in the morning. Some were sprinkled with bird seed, some with songes, and some with mensonges. Some dripped from the brush like pink arsenic; others clogged up on me and came out as welts and bruises. Some were organic, some inorganic, but they were all intended to lead their own life in the garden of Abracadabra.”


“Insomnia” would eventually see its most widely-distributed publication as a 33-page book in 1974, but in 1970, Loujon Press of Albuquerque, NM produced a rather lavish boxed portfolio featuring 17x22” reproductions of the Insomnia watercolors and a letterpress book containing the story. Several editions were made, with the intention of producing 999 boxes in all, but the reality was somewhat more modest. Evidently only about 300 of the wooden cases were made, and the editions, designated with letters A through F, were all published in smaller numbers than originally hoped, some in cheaper boxes, some in an “economy” edition comprised of simply the book and prints with no case at all.

One of the nicer sets, from edition G, has just come up for bidding via the Aspire Auction company. Its provenance is about as direct as can be—it was procured directly from Miller himself by a book and art dealer named Arthur Feldman, and it’s signed.

Insomnia or The Devil at Large”, book and a portfolio of twelve works, 1970. Lithographs on paper, book with comb binding, marked Edition G out of 385 copies to colophon, first edition, signed and dated by the artist “May 1st 1970”, published by Loujon Press, Albuquerque, NM. In wooden box with sliding lid, overall 24” x 19 ⅛”

Bidding closes on Thursday, April 6th. Best of luck. The images that follow are from the copy being offered for sale, and are culled from the auction house’s web site. Clicking spawns an enlargement.

More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Months later, Bob Dylan is STILL trolling the Nobel Committee! (Updated)
09:31 am


Bob Dylan
Nobel Prize

After last year’s surprising choice of Bob Dylan to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, some observers surely saw it coming that the prototypical trickster Dylan would largely ignore the experience and—implicitly—deny the Nobel Committee’s authority even to make such a distinction.

Initially, Dylan did not deign to mention the fact of the award in public, maintaining a silence so thorough that it tolerably irked the Nobelites: A few days after the announcement, writer and Swedish Academy member Per Wastberg referred to Dylan as “impolite and arrogant” for neglecting to utter a word on the matter. Interestingly, a few days after that Dylan positively gushed over the event, calling it “amazing, incredible” and asking “Whoever dreams about something like that?” But he soon announced that “pre-existing commitments” would force him to miss the ceremony. Patti Smith performed a Dylan classic in his stead.

Dylan never really stops touring, and 2017 is no exception. Dylan has a six-week tour of Europe coming up, and the first two shows take place in Stockholm on April 1 and 2.

According to literary omnivore Michael Orthofer, who helpfully deciphered some foreign-language reports, even though he will be a matter of blocks away from the Swedish Academy, Dylan has not made contact with the Swedish Academy in any way:

But, as the lady in charge, Sara Danius, now admits/reveals… well, they apparently haven’t been able to get him on the phone for months. So they have no idea what his plans are, or aren’t. As she says: “Vad han sedan beslutar sig för att göra är hans ensak”.

Interestingly, delivery of a lecture is practically the only demand placed on Nobel laureates, and Dylan’s apparent lack of interest could theoretically endanger his receipt of the hefty check that also comes with the Prize—Danius has indicated that failure to comply would result in nonpayment.

The prevailing theory is that Dylan is wealthy enough not to mind losing the check.

As Orthofer snarked, “This continuing humiliation train-wreck is something to behold. But I bet they all have their concert tickets…..”

Update: Much to the relief of the Swedish Academy, mere hours ago Dylan agreed to accept the Nobel Prize in Literature. Sara Danius, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy quoted above, commented:

The good news is that the Swedish Academy and Bob Dylan have decided to meet this weekend.

The academy will then hand over Dylan’s Nobel diploma and the Nobel medal, and congratulate him on the Nobel prize in literature.

The ceremony will be “small and intimate,” with no media present. Danius added, “Only Bob Dylan and members of the academy will attend, all according to Dylan’s wishes.”

Dylan will submit a taped version of his required lecture, which is not unprecedented. Much as Michael Orthofer predicted, the Swedish Academy does have a group outing planned for one of Dylan’s Stockholm performances.

It’s good that Dylan does actually have the basic politeness not to snub the Swedes as thoroughly as seemed to be the case just a few hours ago. Dangerous Minds still holds to the view that Dylan is doing the absolute minimum he can do to acknowledge the award and still collect his 8 million Swedish Krone, which is after all nearly a million dollars.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Killer clowns: Kooky pulp novels & magazines featuring gun-toting, knife-wielding circus clowns
10:26 am


pulp novels

The cover of ‘Uncensored Detective’ 1946.
Oddball vintage publications are one of my favorite things to write about here on Dangerous Minds—and like many of you just when I think I’ve seen it ALL (whether I wanted to or not), some “new” vintage weirdness comes across my radar. People often ask me how we find all the high octane, low brow goodness that we feature here on the blog every day. Unfortunately, the answer to that question is also the same as the answer to the first and second rules of Fight Club. Besides, you should consider yourself lucky as these eyes have seen some really, really weird things. (Things no one should see!) Which is a perfect introduction to the subject of this post—bizarre vintage pulp novels and magazines that feature circus clowns gone bad on their covers. And when I say bizarre I mean gorilla-shooting, sneaky, knife-throwing, clowns.

Though most of the fictional clowns on the covers of the various pulp novels and magazines posted below are up to no good, there is at least one that preferred to behave like a Robin Hood of sorts known as “The Crimson Clown.” Created by playwright, novelist and screenwriter Johnston McCulley—the man behind masked swashbuckler Zorro—the Crimson Clown stories were really popular with the detective lit-lovers set since his first appearance in Detective Story Magazine back in 1926. The Crimson Clown would steal from people he deemed “too rich” giving half of his booty to charity and keeping the rest for himself. He was also known to carry a syringe full of some sort of drug that would render his victims unconscious. But just because he was vigilante who liked to help out the needy doesn’t necessarily make the idea of a clown with a syringe full of cuckoo-juice running amok any less terrifying. Nope. Nothing creepy about that at all. I’ve posted the covers of all the clown-oriented vintage pulp I could dig up and man, there was a lot. Of course, if you are at all coulrophobic, you might want to look at the images below in your “safe place.” See you under the bed!

‘Detective Magazine’ 1948.

‘Detective Novels Magazine’ February 1944.
More killer clowns after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Too much junkie business: John Cooper Clarke on ‘Confessions of an English Opium-Eater’

John Cooper Clarke at Thomas De Quincey’s grave (via BBC)
“Are you aware, my man, that people are known to have dropped down dead for timely want of opium?” This, one of the great all-purpose sentences in the English language, has lost none of its utility since it first appeared in Thomas De Quincey’s 19th-century drug memoir Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. If you don’t have a personal valet to try it out on, see how it works on your boss, or when you get to the front of the line at Baja Fresh. Tapping the back of your left wrist for punctuation when you get to the word “timely” drives the point home, I find.

In this episode of the BBC series The Secret Life of Books, John Cooper Clarke, punk poet of Salford and quondam dope fiend, takes viewers on a literary journey to the bottom of a bottle of Mother Bailey’s Quieting Syrup. Though Clarke doesn’t use Alexander Trocchi’s phrase “cosmonaut of inner space,” I can’t help thinking of it when he pits dopers’ rights to the sacred disorder of their own minds against the depredations of capital:

De Quincey used opium to explore his dramatic inner world. To my mind, he was a visionary in a utilitarian age. In the early days of the Industrial Revolution, the qualities of vigor, productivity, and strength were valued over opiated idleness. And then there’s De Quincey, living like a secular monk in the tainted monastery of his own mind.

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
The amazing Dr. Hal, Subgenius ‘Master of Church Secrets,’ will answer any question!

Submit to the superior mind of Dr. Hal!
One name alone could never properly designate the spellbinding polymath who calls himself Dr. Howll and Dr. Howland Owll, though he is known to hundreds of listeners around the world as the host of the Ask Dr. Hal! show.

A clergyman and theologian of the highest attainment in the Church of the Subgenius (“Master of Church Secrets”), Dr. Hal is a man of great learning, the numerosity of whose specializations is exceeded only by the perspicuity of his understanding, which in turn is outstepped only by the very testicularity of his hauteur. Why, Dr. Hal’s conversation makes Dr. Johnson sound like an analphabetic dirt farmer doing whip-its in an Andy Gump at the Gathering of the Juggalos, if you’ll pardon my French!

Ask Dr. Hal! via Laughing Squid
When did Dr. Johnson, so comfortably provisioned with nitrous tanks up in his ivory tower, ever give the American working stiff a break like this? “I refute it thus”: for $5, Dr. Hal will answer any question you can fit into an HTML form. Alternatively, “if you’re going to San Francisco,” be sure to wear some dollars in your hair, because your trip to the ¢ity by the pa¥ just got even more expensive: there is a run of Ask Dr. Hal! shows coming up in April at Chez Poulet in the Mission. If Chicken John likes your question, he will even pour you a shot of Fernet.

That’s Dr. Hal’s partner in the live show, Chicken John Rinaldi, the author of The Book of the IS, Volume I: Fail… To WIN! Essays in engineered disperfection and The Book of the Un, Volume 2: Friends of Smiley! Dissertations of dystopia. The live Ask Dr. Hal! show works like this, according to Chicken John:

You fill out the slip, you write your name, you write your question—any question about any topic, left or right, up or down: science, entomology, etymology, Greek mythology, sex, religion, jewelry, what’s the plastic thing on the end of your shoelace called. Aglet, by the way, on the end of your shoe. Aglet.

Much more after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Live! from Capitol Hill: Bertolt Brecht’s Folkways LP
07:24 am


Bertolt Brecht

On October 30, 1947, Bertolt Brecht gave a command performance for Congress. The House Un-American Activities Committee summoned the German playwright, poet, and Doors lyricist to the Cannon House Office Building to examine him about matters of the direst urgency and the gravest possible consequence to the Republic, such as the name of the leading actor in Hangmen Also Die! and the lyrics to Brecht’s song “In Praise of Learning.” By what vile, McCarthyist tactics they extorted from Brecht these most closely held secrets of the Third International, I dare not print.

The recording is presented by the critic Eric Bentley, whose narration bridges edits in the tape and provides historical context. Like most Folkways records, the LP comes with a booklet; this one reproduces the transcript of Brecht’s testimony and Bentley’s voiceover along with a facsimile of the hand-corrected statement Brecht prepared for the occasion but was not allowed to read. From the booklet’s introduction:

It is an encounter that rivals in drama some of the great trial scenes in Brecht’s plays, and it will fascinate equally both those interested in Brecht and those interested in the HUAC.

Although tantalizing fragments of the recording have been heard in Brecht on Brecht, and the complete transcript has been printed by the government, this is the first time that the encounter has been brought to the public. Bertolt Brecht’s voice was recorded few times in any language, and this is almost certainly the only recording of Brecht speaking English.

You know you’re talking about an old record when its subtitle includes the phrase “an historic encounter” (or, in the cover artist’s words, “an historical encounter”). But the interests of these ghosts’ voices, speaking in the Caucus Room 70 years ago, are not so remote. Over a decade before this engagement, Brecht had addressed Germans’ perplexity about truth in politics under the Nazis and what the Führer really believed in his heart in “On the Question of Whether Hitler Is Being Honest,” which cut the Gordian knot in its concluding sentences:

Certainly, Hitler could be honest and mean well, and yet still objectively be Germany’s worst enemy. But he is not honest.

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Nightmarish sculptures of H.P. Lovecraft’s terrifying cosmic entities
11:05 am


H.P. Lovecraft

‘Lovecraft Tormented’ wall sculpture. Get it here.
Like many of you oh-so-cool Dangerous Minds readers I am a collector of a great many THINGS. From records to books and a slew of action figures, my house is a mini-museum full of cool THINGS. I also happen to know that a number of our regular visitors to DM seem to have a thing for anything that associated with the great American horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. Which leads me to my post for today which features a number of intricate sculptures depicting some of Lovecraft’s eldritch entities such as “Dagon,” a creature that first made its appearance in Lovecraft’s short story of the same name from 1917; everyone’s favorite octopus-headed cosmic being, “Cthulhu”; Pickman’s model, and the nutty Nyarlathotep among others. I’m just aching to bring a few of these critters into my own menagerie of mayhem…

Some of the sculptures in this post are available for purchase. That said they are not cheap—specifically that magnificent wall sculpture “Lovecraft Tormented” (pictured at the top of this post). That puppy will run you a cool $1288. Several toy companies have released sets of Lovecraft’s monstrous nightmares and when they do, they sell out pretty fast, so if you see something in this post that strikes your fancy, get it now before it’s sold out and selling on eBay for bigs bucks. I’ve included some handy links for you to do just that under each available piece below.

‘Nyarlathotep’ sculpture by Sota Toys. Get it here.

‘Dagon’ sculpture. Get it here.
More Lovecraftian terrors after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
‘When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth,’ J.G. Ballard’s Hammer film
08:49 am


J.G. Ballard
Hammer Films

“Ballardian” is a word that will only gain currency during 2017 and the years to come. If there were a stock market for words, I would be bullish on this one. Today’s jobs, homes, vacations, grocery stores, politicians, kinks, vehicles, riots, drugs, disasters, wars, and surgeries all seem to have come out of a Ballard novel.

But the feature that gave Ballard his first film credit (as treatment writer “J.B. Ballard”), When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970), is so uncannily prescient as to resemble raw news footage of the day after tomorrow. Watch it alongside any 24-hour cable network and you’ll see: it’s like the screenplay of Dinosaurs was ripped from the headlines.

In his last book, the autobiography Miracles of Life, Ballard recalled the meeting that gave life to the movie:

The first time I saw my name (even if misspelled) in the credits of a film came in 1970, with the British release of When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth. This was a Hammer film, a sequel to the Raquel Welch vehicle One Million Years BC, itself a remake of the 1940 Hollywood original starring Victor Mature and Carole Landis. Hammer specialized in Dracula and Frankenstein films, then much despised by the critics. But their films had tremendous panache and visual attack, without a single wasted frame, and the directors were surprisingly free to push their obsessions to the limit.

I was contacted by a Hammer producer, Aida Young, who was a great admirer of The Drowned World. She was keen that I write the screenplay for their next production, a sequel to One Million Years BC. Curious to see how the British film world worked, I turned up at the Wardour Street offices of Hammer, to be greeted in the foyer by a huge Tyrannosaurus rex about to deflower a blonde-haired actress in a leopard-skin bikini. The credits screamed ‘Curse of the Dinosaurs!’


Young brought Ballard up to date on the status of the project (“Raquel Welch would not be available”) and escorted him into the office of Hammer’s Tony Hinds, where Young narrated the entire story of The Drowned World for the studio boss. Hinds muttered something about water being “trouble” and asked Ballard for his ideas; the writer described a few that had occurred to him on the drive between Shepperton and Soho.

‘Too original,’ Hinds commented. Aida agreed. ‘Jim, we want that Drowned World atmosphere.’ She spoke as if this could be sprayed on, presumably in a fetching shade of jungle green.

Hinds then told me what the central idea would be. His secretary had suggested it this morning. This was nothing less than the story of the birth of the Moon–in fact, one of the oldest and corniest ideas in the whole of science fiction, which I would never have dared to lay on his desk. Hines stared hard at me. ‘We want you to tell us what happens next.’

I thought desperately, realizing that the film industry was not for me. ‘A tidal wave?’

‘Too many tidal waves. If you’ve seen one tidal wave you’ve seen them all.’

A small light came on in the total darkness of my brain. ‘But you always see the tidal waves coming in,’ I said in a stronger voice. ‘We should show the tidal wave going out! All those strange creatures and plants . . .’ I ended with a brief course in surrealist biology.

There was a silence as Hinds and Aida stared at each other. I assumed I was about to be shown the door.

‘When the wave goes out . . .’ Hinds stood up, clearly rejuvenated, standing behind his huge desk like Captain Ahab sighting the white whale. ‘Brilliant. Jim, who’s your agent?’

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
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