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None more black: The grim American gothic horrors of ‘Wisconsin Death Trip’
02.13.2017
11:56 am

Topics:
Books
History
Movies
Occult

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Black River Falls’ Miss Congeniality circa 1890

Between the years 1890 and 1900, something terribly wrong happened to the good people of Black River Falls, Wisconsin. A tiny mining town populated mostly by Norwegian and German immigrants lured by the promise of cheap land, the once-bustling community fell into disrepair in the late 1880s when the inhospitable climate caused the mines to shut down, essentially dooming the town and everyone in it. While the town did ultimately survive, the ensuing decade was merciless to Black River Falls residents. A thick, impenetrable darkness descended on the town as the population withered, succumbing to poverty, disease, madness, murder, and worse.
 

 
In 1973, Michael Lesy told the terrible true tale of Black River Falls in Wisconsin Death Trip, a book that juxtaposed stark images shot by photographer Charles Van Schaick, who documented the town’s downward spiral in a series of jarring portraits, with matter-of-fact newspaper reports of all the murder, mayhem, devil-worship, suicide, hauntings and general bedlam that infected the town like a virus. If ever a place was cursed, it was Black River Falls, and Wisconsin Death Trip remains one of the bleakest, most devastating accounts of rural American life ever published. Seriously, this place was essentially Hell on Earth.
 

All this and diphtheria, too: a typically unsettling slice of life death in Black River Falls.
 
Witness, if you will, just a smattering of the horrors within:

A ten-year-old boy and his younger brother run away from home, find a remote farm several miles away and promptly blow the owner’s head off. They spend the rest of the summer frolicking at the ill-gotten farmhouse until the farmer’s brother comes for a visit. The boy is sentenced to life in jail.

A funeral director is suspected of botching a burial. The woman’s body is exhumed and the woman is found to have been buried alive, her fingers bitten half off in madness after discovering her horrific fate.

A sixty-year-old woman, afraid that the rash on her back would kill her, steps into her backyard, douses herself with gasoline and self-immolates.

A young mother takes her three children out for a day at the beach, and then drowns them, one by one, while the others watch. A fifteen-year-old Polish girl burns down her employer’s barn—and his house—because she wanted some “excitement.” 

A young German man, having only moved to Black River Falls a month prior, attempts suicide by train, lying down on the tracks and refusing to move. He is finally removed by four men. He later vanishes.

A teenage girl, jilted at the altar by her fiance, goes mad with grief, hanging herself in the local asylum. Meanwhile a young man, also recently jilted, shoots his ex-fiance and then himself. A recently divorced man shoots his ex-wife and her family dead in the crowded town square.

An outbreak of diphtheria kills off a score of local children. The school is closed and the houses of the afflicted burned to the ground. A formerly world famous opera singer moves to town and within a month is reduced to eating chicken feed to survive.

A farmer decapitates all of his chickens and burns down his farmhouse, convinced that the devil has taken over his farm. A drifter is taken in by a kindly family. He has dinner with them and as they sleep, he shoots them all and then himself.

And there’s more, so much more. Just endless misery death, murder, mutilation, arson, starvation, cruelty and unrelenting depression. And all in the space of just a few years.
 

 
In 1999, a highly unsettling documentary based on Lesy’s book was released. Also titled Wisconsin Death Trip, it showed the photographs, recounted the newspaper reports, and recreated many of the crimes in black and white, bringing Black River Falls’ grisly past to life. The film also juxtaposes the town’s lunatic ancestors with dead-eyed portraits of the then-current residents, less murderous but still as dazed and depressed as ever, staring blankly into the camera at nursing homes or bus stops, clearly waiting for the Lord or somebody merciful to end their dreary, pointless existences. I would not recommend consuming both the book and the documentary in one sitting unless you have a bucket of Prozac handy, but I will say this: You might think you’re pretty goth ‘n all with your serial killer books and your Bauhaus records, but you are definitely not Black River Falls goth. Those motherfuckers were the real deal.

Watch ‘Wisconsin Death Trip’ after the jump…

Posted by Ken McIntyre | Leave a comment
The Black Metal Antiquarium is the Internet K-hole of teen metal mayhem
02.08.2017
11:30 am

Topics:
Music
Occult

Tags:

b1
 
You’ve seen it everywhere. The crudely-drawn goat that graces the cover of the first Bathory album is quickly becoming one of rock n’ roll’s most ubiquitous images. It’s the new Ramones t-shirt. And like the famous four’s memorable circle logo, the Bathory goat is often worn by folks who have never even heard the beastly sounds on that grisly 1984 album Bathory has endured because it’s so brutal, so inhuman, so extreme that it was literally shocking upon its initial release. It was the first real declaration of black metal war, the opening salvo in an ongoing campaign to kill Christianity (and false metal) dead with leather, spikes, and minor chords played a thousand miles an hour. Although Bathory was an actual band, it has always been identified by one character, frontman Quorthon (RIP). If anybody is responsible for ushering in the age of black metal darkness, it’s him.
 
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Quorthon, early 80’s, looking more glam than grim

But was Quorthon just a frustrated glam-rocker? I’m sure there are snowy, fjord-y pockets of Earth out there where I could get hung, drawn and quartered for even suggesting such heresy, but if the Black Metal Antiquarium is any indication, around the the time of the first Bathory album, ol’ Tommy “Quorthon” Forsberg was into Motley Crue just as much as the rest of us were. It’s just one of the many compelling nuggets in this loosely knit collection of videos and photos that paint a vibrant, bloody, and occasionally hilarious portrait of the earliest days of black metal, from its creaky 80’s proto-black beginnings to the alarming wave of murder and mayhem (and Mayhem) that engulfed the scene in the 1990s.
 
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Mayhem in their rehearsal space, late 80’s, clearly getting into the spirit of things.

Inspired largely by the cartoon Satanism of 80’s Brit metal-punks Venom, Scandinavian black metal exploded in the early 90’s with misanthropic bands like Darkthrone, Immortal, Emperor, and most infamously Mayhem, the most dangerous band in the world, a shadowy outfit with an extremely thorny history that includes self-mutilation, suicide, and cold-blooded murder. And this is while most of them were still teenagers!
 
BM5
Mayhem’s Euronymous, who would later be murdered by his own bandmate, Varg Vikernes.

What’s particularly exciting about the user-generated Antiquarium is that it is curated and archived by bands and fans who were there at the time in places like Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, and South America, the epicenters for musical extremities throughout that tumultuous decade. That’s helpful, because it’s sometime difficult to tell one 17-year-old Norwegian kid in corpsepaint from another, particularly when the source is a blurry fanzine photo from 1992. Of course, it does sorta seem odd that this would happen on a Facebook page. In a better, more noble world, photographs of doomed Mayhem guitarist Euronymous sporting a half-shirt and a gross catfish mustache would be locked away in a forbidden vault somewhere, pressed between the pages of an arcane tome bound in human flesh. And maybe someday they will be, but this is still pretty cool for now.
 
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While relatively sedate at this point—the millennial take on black metal (ambient BM, “Red” BM, “Blackgaze,” etc) is decidedly less psychotic than their 90s era counterparts—historically it is still the most overtly homicidal/suicidal rock genre ever created. And that’s not even counting all the burned churches and desecrated gravestones. It is a history of outright war against humanity, littered with beatings, bleedings, hate crimes, stone-cold murder, and painful, shrieking noise. And as the Antiquarium proves, through old photos, flyers, demo covers, zine pages and fuzzy shot-on-VHS video clips, it was created mostly by dopey teenage kids smearing their faces with clown makeup and aping their fave Venom and Black Sabbath records. It’s always good to remember that even the cuddliest kittens are hiding sharp claws.

Here are a few especially juicy entries..
 
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These pre-teen monster-mash goofs would grow up to become Brazilian thrash metal masters Sepultura.
 
BM4
Emperor are now considered one of the most progressive black metal bands and vocalist/guitarist Ihsahn is one the most well-respected musicians on the scene. But in 1990, when the band was called Xerasia, he was just another teenage dirtbag ripping off Alice Cooper.
 
BM6
Black metal’s goth-goblin Mortiis, back when he preferred housedresses and bathtub suicides to elf ears and leather wings.
 
More metal mayhem (and Mayhem) after the jump…

Posted by Ken McIntyre | Leave a comment
Read Aleister Crowley’s dirty, dirty 666-word sex poem ‘Leah Sublime’
02.07.2017
09:37 am

Topics:
Belief
Occult
Sex

Tags:


Leah Hirsig photographed in front of a portrait of her done by Aleister Crowley. The painting was done at Hirsig’s request for Crowley to paint her as a ‘dead soul.’
 
Aleister Crowley published his poem Leah Sublime in June of 1920. The poem has been called one of the most obscene pieces of literature ever written by Crowley—or anyone else for that matter—in which he describes his sexual exploits with one of his “Scarlet Women” Leah Hirsig.

Born in Switzerland in 1883, Hirsig was a high school teacher in the Bronx before she and her sister Alma worked up the courage to approach Crowley—who was living in New York at the time—in 1918. Crowley and Leah had an instant, combustible attraction to one another and spent most of their first visit together passionately kissing. During the sister’s second visit to Crowley, he requested to draw Leah in the nude—something he had never done. It would be one of many times Crowley would draw Leah’s portrait including one occasion where the aspiring occultist requested that he paint her as a “dead soul.” Here’s more from Crowley himself on his early meetings with Leah as told by author Lawrence Sutin in his 2002 book Do What Thou Wilt: A Life of Aleister Crowley:

The “little sister” (Leah) reminded me of Solomon’s friend, for she had no breasts… She radiated an indefinable sweetness. Without wasting time on words, I began to kiss her. It was sheer instinct. She shared it and equaled my ardor. We continued with occasional interruptions, such as politeness required, to answer her sister in the rare intervals when she got out of breath.

 

 
By the time 1920 rolled around Crowley and Leah—who was now going by the mystical name of “Alostrael,” were routinely participating in obscene ritualistic sex romps involving, among other things, a goat, which helped Leah earn her “Scarlet Woman” title. She also played an instrumental part in the formation of The Abbey of Thelema in Cefalù in Sicily—an occultist utopia of sorts where Crowley’s followers could attend “The Collegium of the Spiritum Sanctum” (or College of the Holy Spirit), participate in rituals and other cult-like activities. As a testament to how vilified Crowley was, he was thrown out of Italy by Hitler’s sidecar, fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.  Crowley would eventually end his relationship with Leah, her allegiance to the Great Beast remained intact. She would later move to France where she supported herself working as a prostitute before moving back to the U.S., and marrying William George Barron with whom she had a child in 1925. Shortly thereafter Leah went back to her old job teaching school.

More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Members of Crass, the Pop Group, Killing Joke, PiL, and Current 93 are the New Banalists Orchestra
02.03.2017
08:40 am

Topics:
Music
Occult
Politics
Punk

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Mark Stewart titled the 2012 solo album he made with Kenneth Anger, Richard Hell, Tessa Pollitt, Keith Levene, Gina Birch, Factory Floor, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Youth, et al. The Politics of Envy. A proper dialectician, he prepared the way by singing about the “Envy of Politics” on 2011’s Mammon, a six-track digital album by London’s New Banalists Orchestra.

The orchestra appears to be the musical component of the New Banalists group founded by Stewart and the artist Rupert Goldsworthy. The Bandcamp page says only that the New Banalists “formed an orchestra to proclaim [their] manifesto”—which is refreshingly concise, as manifestos go, and seems to be slightly different in each iteration:

TASTE IS A FORM OF PERSONAL CENSORSHIP.
DENY THE POLITICS OF ENVY
TECHNIQUE IS A REFUGE OF THE INSECURE
SHADOW WAR

 

Rupert Goldsworthy and Mark Stewart’s beautiful logo for the New Banalists
 
On Mammon, Penny Rimbaud and Eve Libertine of Crass, John Sinclair of the White Panther Party and the MC5’s management, David Tibet of Current 93, and Zodiac Mindwarp (“The trick is to tough it out, sailor”) of the Love Reaction espouse a bohemian, psychedelic anticapitalism over music by Youth of Killing Joke and Michael Rendall, some of which will sound familiar to fans of Hypnopazūzu. Ex-PiL guitarist Keith Levene and the late cannabis kingpin Howard “Mr. Nice” Marks are on there, too.

After the jump, watch the ad for Mammon and then stream the whole thing…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Thrill to ‘The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor,’ forgotten comic book hero
01.23.2017
11:14 am

Topics:
Art
Occult
Pop Culture

Tags:

01dr7april74.jpg
#7 April 1974.
 
Excuse me while I drool. I know it’s not polite but really what else can I do? Having missed out on this classic comic book horror series The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor the first time around, I really don’t have much choice. You see, being landlocked on a distant island far, far off the coast of America, Doctor Spektor never made house calls to my neighborhood comic book emporium in Edinburgh or even Glasgow. There were lots of Spideys and Hulks and Avengers but much less of my preferred taste in the Boris Karloff’s or even the Cryptkeeper’s ghoulish delights to keep my boyhood imagination suitably fevered.

And look what I missed….

The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor was the brainchild of one Donald F. Glut—a whizzkid filmmaker who made a total of 41 amateur movies during his teens and early twenties. These mini-movies featured “dinosaurs, the Frankenstein Monster, teenage monsters, Superman and other superheroes”—basically anything that took his fancy. Though none of these films were blessed with any real script they did achieve enough “notoriety”—mainly through the pages of Famous Monster of Filmland—to allow Glut to rope in actors like Glenn Strange—the man who filled the Frankenstein’s monster’s boots after Boris Karloff moved on—to take part on his features. Strange starred as (who else?) the Frankenstein Monster in Glut’s The Adventures of the Spirit in 1963.

Glut’s last amateur film was his take on Spider-Man in 1969 which was a seriously loopy Ed Wood-like film.

But anyhow….

His apprenticeship in home movies earned him a career as a scriptwriter for film and TV. He wrote novelizations of films, too—most notably for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. He also wrote storylines for comic books like Marvel’s Captain America (1978) and X-Men Adventures (1993) as well as DC’s House of Mystery (1974-81) among many, many other titles. Since the mid-1990s, Glut has been carving a niche as a writer/director of exploitation horror films like The Erotic Rites of Countess Dracula (2001), Countess Dracula’s Blood Orgy (2004) and most recently Dances with Werewolves (2016).

But we don’t need to know that. What we do need to know is that Glut created the sophisticated Doctor Adam Spektor—occult detective and monster hunter. (Imagine having that on your business card…) Spektor along with his Native American assistant Lakota Rainflower investigated strange goings on in the weird and terrifying supernatural world of vampires, werewolves, ancient curses and swamp creatures.

Now having just about caught up with—or rather having enjoyed a prescription of—Doctor Spektor’s marvellously thrilling adventures I just wanted to share my enthusiasm for Glut and artist Jesse Santos’ work. Look at these covers—just look at ‘em. They are awesome, aren’t they?

The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor ran from May 1973 to February 1977. And while there has been a pale reboot since, here’s a gallery of Santos’ excellent cover art for Glut’s debonair hero who almost manages to make wearing a bolo tie and a goatee beard seem cool.
 
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#9 August 1974.
 
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#23 December 1976.
 
More fabulous covers, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Lucifer, Satan & other Devils: The Occult art of Rosaleen Norton, the Witch of Kings Cross
01.19.2017
02:32 pm

Topics:
Art
Feminism
History
Occult

Tags:

08nortonwitch.jpg
‘Lucifer and the Goat Mendes.’
 
The most notorious witch in Australian history was an artist named Rosaleen Norton (1917-79) who scandalized her ultra-conservative homeland with her outrageous bohemian lifestyle and strange occult beliefs during the 1950s.

The press dubbed Norton the “Witch of Kings Cross”—a low-rent artists’ quarter and red light district in Sydney, New South Wales. They claimed she was an evil Satanist who revelled in perverted Black Masses and unnatural orgies with her sex-mad coven. It was true Rosaleen (Roie to her friends) liked sex with both men and women. She enjoyed sex and saw no shame in admitting that she did. She also practised sex magick and made no secret of its powers. But Rosaleen was no Satanist. She was a pagan who followed her own particular belief in Pan.

From earliest childhood Rosaleen felt she was different—and felt compelled to prove this indeed was the case. As her friend and biographer Nevill Drury later recalled:

[Rosaleen] revelled in being the odd one out, purporting to despise her schoolmates. She argued continuously with her mother. She ‘hated’ authority figures like headmistresses, policemen, politicians and priests. She had no time at all for organised religion, and the gods she embraced - a cluster of ancient gods centred around Pan - were, of course, pagan to the hilt. She regarded Pan as the God of Infinite Being.

~snip!~

Pan was undoubtedly a rather unusual god for a young woman to be worshipping in Australia. But then Roie was different. And she was different in an age when it was quite a lot harder to be different than it is now. She was bohemian, bisexual, outspoken, rebellious and thoroughly independent in an era when most young ladies growing up on Sydney’s North Shore would be thinking simply of staying home, happily married with a husband and children. Roie was not afraid to say what she thought, draw her pagan images on city pavements, or flaunt her occult beliefs in the pages of the tabloids. To most people who read about her in newspapers and magazines she was simply outrageous.

Rosaleen was certainly outrageous. She was expelled from school for drawing pictures of vampires, pentagrams and demons during art class, which were claimed to have terrified her fellow classmates. In 1952, when a collection of her work was first published in book form as The Art of Rosaleen Norton three of the images contained therein—“Black Magic” (which depicted Rosaleen herself having sex with a panther), “Rites of Baron Samedi” and “Fohat” (which depicted a demon with a large muscled snake for a penis)—caused such offence that the publisher was prosecuted for obscenity and the pictures removed from all future printings. In America the book was deemed so pornographic that all imported copies were destroyed by custom officials.

Worse was to follow in 1955 when a woman named Anna Karina Hoffman was arrested for vagrancy. When questioned by police, Hoffman claimed she had participated in horrific Satanic black masses organized by Rosaleen. It was this accusation that led the tabloid press to dub Rosaleen the “Witch of Kings Cross” and promulgate the series of trumped-up news stories about her lurid (s)excesses.

However, the following year, one of her lovers, the highly respected composer Sir Eugene Goossens was arrested by Australian customs for attempting to bring some 800 pornographic images into the country—many of them marked “SM” for “sex magick.” The ensuing investigation by officials was heavily detailed by the press. It destroyed Goossens’ career and further denigrated Rosaleen’s character.

Still Rosaleen continued on her own way—painting pictures, following her own religious beliefs, enjoying a varied and active sex life and even dropping LSD to “induce visionary states” to enhance her awareness as an artist.

It was this visionary aspect which was at the heart of Rosaleen’s art:

From an early age she had a remarkable capacity to explore the visionary depths of her subconscious mind, and the archetypal beings she encountered on those occasions became the focus of her art. It was only later that Roie was labelled a witch, was described as such in the popular press, and began to develop the persona which accompanied that description. As this process gathered momentum, Roie in turn became intent on trying to demonstrate that she had been born a witch. After all, she had somewhat pointed ears, small blue markings on her left knee, and also a long strand of flesh which hung from underneath her armpit to her waist - a variant on the extra nipple sometimes ascribed to witches in the Middle Ages.

~snip!~

Roie’s personal beliefs were a strange mix of magic, mythology and fantasy, but derived substantially from mystical experiences which, for her, were completely real. She was no theoretician. Part of her disdain for the public at large, I believe, derived from the fact that she felt she had access to a wondrous visionary universe - while most people lived lives that were narrow, bigoted, and based on fear. Roie was very much an adventurer - a free spirit - and she liked to fly through the worlds opened to her by her imagination.

Roie’s art reflected this. It was her main passion, her main reason for living. She had no career ambitions other than to reflect on the forces within her essential being, and to manifest these psychic and magical energies in the only way she knew how. As Roie’s older sister Cecily later told me, art was the very centre of her life, and Roie took great pride in the brief recognition she received when the English critic and landscape artist John Sackville-West described her in 1970 as one of Australia’s finest artists, alongside Norman Lindsay. It was praise from an unexpected quarter, and it heartened Roie considerably because she felt that at last someone had understood her art and had responded to it positively. All too often her critics had responded only to her outer veneer - the bizarre and often distorted persona created by the media - and this was not the ‘real’ Roie at all.

Today no one would I doubt if anyone would bat an eyelid at Rosaleen’s lifestyle or beliefs—which shows how much our world has evolved. This year marks the centenary of her birth which should bring a new assessment of her life and work and introduce a new generation to the artist behind Australia’s most notorious witch.
 
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‘Black Magic.’
 
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‘Self Portrait with Occult Animals and Symbols.’
 
More of Rosaleen’s art, after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Murder, death, KILL! Vintage horror pulp novels from the 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond
01.10.2017
08:36 am

Topics:
Amusing
Art
Books
Movies
Occult

Tags:


The cover of ‘Rock A Bye Baby.’ A horror novel from 1984 by prolific horror writer Stephen Gresham.
 
A huge tip of my hat goes out to the exhaustive blog Too Much Horror Fiction (is there such a thing? I think not) for inspiring this post. Curated by the self-described “neat, clean, shaved & sober” Will Errickson, the site has been cataloging and reviewing vintage horror novels since 2010. As a bonafide horror junkie, I’ll never understand how I didn’t know about this site until today. If you’re a horror nerd like I am and were perhaps not hip to Errickson’s dedication to the books that helped shape our youth, then welcome to your new Internet time-killer. Zing!

I’m sure a few of the books I’ve featured in this post will be familiar to you—such as the cover of the 1976 book The Fury which was the basis for Brian De Palma’s 1978 film of the same name starring Kirk Douglas, John Cassavetes and Amy Irving. I’ve also included a few H.P. Lovecraft paperbacks featuring fantastic cover artwork that will bring you right back to those times you spent spinning those revolving metal book racks around hoping to find a cover repulsive enough to freak your parents out with. If this post gets you pining away for this kind of vintage goodness then you’re in luck as many of these books can still be found on auction sites such as eBay and Etsy. Some of the artwork that follows is slightly NSFW.
 

The 1976 cover of a reprint of the novel by Jack Finney ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers.’ Finney original penned the book, which has been adapted into several notable films, in 1955.
 

‘Evil Way,’ 1990.
 
More macabre book covers after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
That time Elvira & ‘Ralph Malph’ (dressed up like Gene Simmons) were on ‘CHiPs’
01.05.2017
09:58 am

Topics:
Amusing
Occult
Pop Culture
Television

Tags:


Erik Estrada as ‘Officer Frank Poncherello’ (AKA “Ponch”) and Donnie Most in character as ‘Moloch’ from the ‘CHiPs’ episode ‘Rock Devil Rock’ that aired on October 31st, 1982. 
 
Like many of you, I spent much of my youth just like the character of “Mike Teavee” from the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory did—watching a ridiculous amount of prime time televison programming. What’s especially fun about reflecting back on many of those shows are the occasional appearances of rock and roll luminaries like Suzi Quatro jamming with her fictional band on Happy Days as the awesome “Leather Tuscadero,” Debbie Harry canoodling with Kermit on The Muppet Show, or Plasmatics powerhouse Wendy O. Williams and her Emmy-worthy performance as the ass-kicking “Big Mama” on an episode of MacGyver (“Harry’s Will”). Today I’ve got something that transcends all that as it involves actor Donnie Most who played “Ralph Malph” on the aforementioned Happy Days and his appearance on the goofy TV cop drama based on the California Highway Patrol CHiPs playing “Moloch.” Moloch was a satanic mashup of Gene Simmons and King Diamond in full makeup, clad in red spandex and a fucking cape. And he was played by Ralph Malph of all people!

If you’ve never seen this episode of CHiPs (which is completely understandable) you are in for a treat as it also features Cassandra Peterson all dolled up like her gothy alter-ego Elvira and get this—current Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo (who was only eighteen at the time) playing a character called “Flippy.” Flippy! I’ve included a few images of Mr. Most getting into character as well as some faux concert footage and an amusing Moloch “video shoot” that must be seen to be believed. If you need another reason to watch then here it is—Donnie “I still got it!” Most provided his own vocals for the song “Devil Take Me.” Fuck yes. You can watch the entire episode on iTunes for three bucks and it’s worth every goddamned penny.
 

 

 
More ‘Moloch’ after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
‘What’s The Matter With Helen?’ (or remembering Debbie Reynolds the DM way!)
01.03.2017
02:09 pm

Topics:
Movies
Occult
Queer
Superstar

Tags:


 
Okay, where do I begin?

First my respects to the amazing and kooky Miss Debbie Reynolds, a great and truly iconic Hollywood star.

Although most obituaries chose to skip over this (in every sense of the word) incredible moment in Reynolds’ career, What’s the Matter with Helen? is definitely worth a look. The film was directed by the bizarre Curtis Harrington, who began and ended his career by making the same short film version of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher. The first when he was just sixteen years old in 1942, and the second at age 73 in 2000. Like Kenneth Anger, Harrington started making short experimental films in his teens in the 1940s. He befriended Anger and was featured in his 1954 film Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome playing Cesare, the Somnambulist. Harrington would later shoot Anger’s Puce Moment.

The young Curtis Harrington was a charter member of the Hollywood underground which revolved around people like Anger, witchy artist Marjorie Cameron (the subject of Harrington’s short film “The Wormwood Star”), silent movie actor Samson De Brier and other druggy, gender-bending, rule-breaking free thinkers. Satanists, homosexuals, witches, freaks, drag queens, artists, murderers, millionaires and bums, the whole gamut of Hollywood Babylon as we know it today long before things of the sort became popular in the sixties. In the 1950s this was as far underground as Hell itself. The most amazing part of this is, of course, that so many of the biggest stars of the day were enamoured with these people, had to have them at their parties and had different levels of social (and sexual) involvement that will provide facts, info and weird stories to obsess on for decades to come. Unlike Kenneth Anger, Curtis Harrington headed for the hills (Hollywood, that is), and had a decent career making mostly odd horror films (and TV shows like Dynasty) while continuing to do his short experimental art films. What’s The Matter With Helen? is one of the best of his feature films.
 
jdjdfueyg
 
By 1971 there was a already an established trend in Hollywood horror films, dubbed the “Grande Dame Guignol Cinema,” it’s something that has also been called the “hagsploitation” or “psycho-biddy” genre. I refer to films like What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte and What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice?. Although Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard could technically be said to be the first, the advent of the hag genre exploded of course with Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? starring the aging Bette Davis and Joan Crawford letting their hair (and their faces) down. Way down. Which was the entire professional requirement other than being a former leading lady. Since Curtis Harrington knew so many big stars from the 1930s and 40s who were growing into their fifties and wondering what to do with their careers, he made a few hagsploitation movies himself.
 
dfyjg
 
Another thing Curtis Harrington had in his pocket by 1971 was his choice of the cream of the crop of old Hollywood’s wildest, weirdest and campiest actors, as well as some of new Hollywood’s most annoying child freaks, especially since the plot of What’s The Matter With Helen? included Reynolds playing a children’s tap dance teacher in 1930’s Hollywood. So many cheese-eating hamster hambones in this one.
 

 
To quote Shelley Winters:

It’s about two women during the thirties who run a school to turn out Shirley Temples, and in my next scene I have to stab Debbie Reynolds to death. Poor Debbie — they’d better not give me a real knife.”

Harrington’s cream of the crop, being the eccentric that he was, was just incredible. A who’s who of a pop culture obsessive’s dreams. On the top end of What’s The Matter With Helen?‘s credits we have, of course, Reynolds, Winters and future McCloud actor Dennis Weaver joined by the very old time super actor Michael Mac Liammóir (whose name had at least three different spellings), described in a IMDB bio as:

... a theatrical giant who dominated Irish theatre for over 50 years. Actor, designer, playwright and brilliant raconteur he was very much his own creation. He cut an imposing figure under the spotlight and in real life dressed flamboyantly wearing full make-up at all times and a jet black hairpiece. When he died in 1978 aged 79 The Irish Times wrote that ‘Nobody can assess the contribution that Micheal MacLiammoir made to Irish theatre’....Sir John Gielgud commented “Designer, wit, linguist and boon companion as well as actor, he was a uniquely talented and delightful creature.”

 
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As What’s The Matter With Helen?‘s credits roll they further reveal a string of incredible characters: Agnes Moorehead (who had an unforgettable Hollywood career but is mostly remembered as Endora on Bewitched), wild fifties (very) bad girl Yvette Vickers (Attack of the Giant Leeches, Reform School Girl, Juvenile Jungle, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, and more), and Timothy Carey (possibly the single most out there Hollywood actor in the history of film, who saved his money from movies like The Wild One, East of Eden, The Killing, Naked Gun, Rumble on the Docks, Poor White Trash/Bayou, Beach Blanket Bingo, Head and so many more, to make his masterpiece, The World’s Greatest Sinner with soundtrack by a young Frank Zappa. [Carey spent his later years going on TV talk shows and shooting a movie with his son Romeo called The Devil’s Gas about the importance of farting. Yes that’s what I said]. But beyond them, it also features Pamelyn Ferdin, the most annoying fingernails-on-the- blackboard child actress of the sixties and seventies (who turns up in odd films like The Christine Jorgensen Story and was seemingly on every TV show ever made back then such as My Three Sons, The Monkees, The Paul Lynde Show, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters and too many more to mention.)

What’s The Matter With Helen? was written by Henry Farrell who wrote both What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (most of these Hollywood hag films had titles that were full sentences or questions) the plot concerns a Leopold and Loeb-type thrill murder committed by the sons of two women who are drawn together by these horrible events. Destroyed by the trial, the shame and being attacked mentally and physically, they decide to run away to Hollywood, where they can change their names, reinvent themselves and start all over. There are quite a few amazing twists and turns in the story, gory murders (even a few bunny murders, the shame!), plus beautiful and weird cinematography that make it worth seeing more than once.
 

 
The insanity of some of the goings on behind the camera are legendary and hilarious. At first they couldn’t find a big name star to take the lead, but Debbie Reynolds eventually took the role of Adele. To quote her biography Unsinkable:

Eventually, Debbie Reynolds took the role of Adelle. She had a contract with NBC to be an uncredited producer of a film, so she chose this, taking no salary. “They put up $750,000 and hired Marty Ransohoff to be on the set, but I actually produced it.”

Incredibly—or not so incredibly considering who we’re talking about—Shelley Winters was in the middle of a nervous breakdown:

According to Reynolds, Winters’ psychiatrist advised her not to portray “a woman having a nervous breakdown because she was having a nervous breakdown! But nobody knew that, and so all through the film she drove all of us insane! She became the person in the film.” Reynolds witnessed Winters’s questionable mental status off of the set. The two had been friends many years before, and Reynolds offered to chauffeur Winters to and from the set. “I was driving one morning on Santa Monica Boulevard and ahead of me was a woman, wearing only a nightgown, trying to flag down a ride,” recalled Reynolds. It was Winters, who claimed, “I thought I was late.” According to a Los Angeles Times article published while the film was in production, Winters was so difficult on the set that the studio threatened to replace her with Geraldine Page.

More after the jump…

Posted by Howie Pyro | Leave a comment
Beautiful paintings of witches, myths and devilish temptation
12.22.2016
10:45 am

Topics:
Art
Occult

Tags:

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‘Witch and Cat’ (1893).
 
Let’s dig the scene.

It’s the late 1800s—the fin de siecle. Art is all Symbolism and Decadence. You’re an artist. You hang with your buddies. They’re artists too. You all think art is something more than just sex and illustration or mere surface and image. You think art is a form of magic. Artists can change reality with colors. You create pictures that express something of your experience—something from your soul.

You and your buddies have your own little club. It’s a secret brotherhood. You call yourselves Les Nabis—a Hebrew word for “prophet” or “seer.” You think of yourselves as magicians. You dabble in magic and theosophy. You talk about ideas and seek a shared philosophy—some common purpose. You create your own Nabi language and practice arcane rituals. You carry a sceptre made from the snake of wisdom and a pentagram for the occult. You kick off your secret get togethers with a neat little mantra:

Sounds, colors, and words have a miraculously expressive power beyond all representation and even beyond the literal meaning of the words.

That’s your scene.

You are Paul Ranson (1864-1909)—a French artist who takes his lead from Paul Gauguin, mysticism, the occult and spirituality. Les Nabis—the artists you hang with include Pierre Bonnard, Édouard Vuillard, Maurice Denis and the group’s founder Paul Sérusier. You’re a bunch of hipsters—pretentious hipsters—but you don’t care. You have this shared belief that a picture only has meaning:

...when it possessed style.That is to say when the artist had succeeded in changing the shape of the objects he was looking at and imposing on them contours or a color that expressed his own personality.

This is what you think of as magic—personal magic.

In some respects Les Nabis anticipated the Fauves, a little Art Deco and more directly Abstract Expressionism—with its emphasis on the artist’s experience expressed through the abstract. Ranson held the society’s meetings at his studio—which he called The Temple. All this ritual and faux language and holding to strange occult and mystical beliefs was an attempt to big up the group’s reputation. They really didn’t need to as the art was good enough to stand and fall on its own merits. However, the cross pollination of ideas from the occult and the quasi-mystical did inspire Paul Ranson to create some very beautiful paintings of witches, mythic beasts, fauns, devils, and religious allegory—Eve, the temptation of Saint Anthony—which are still as magical today.
 
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‘Witches in Saturnalia’ (1891).
 
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‘Witch in her Circle’ (1892).
 
More of Ranson’s fabulous beasts to be found, after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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