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William S. Burroughs’ time-traveling experimental flexi disc, ‘Abandoned Artifacts’
08.10.2018
07:04 am
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Talk Talk Vol. 3, No. 6, cover art by William S. Burroughs

The Lawrence, Kansas label Fresh Sounds had a long-standing relationship with William S. Burroughs. In ‘81, owner and proprietor Bill Rich introduced Burroughs to Fresh Sounds recording artists the Mortal Micronotz, to whom the author gave his song lyric about child-chewing, “Old Lady Sloan.” Burroughs later read his Civil War tale, “Death Fiend Guerrillas,” for a Fresh Sounds compilation, and he recorded his own interpretation of “Old Lady Sloan” for a 1995 Mortal Micronotz tribute album.

Bill Rich also edited a magazine called Talk Talk, some of whose numbers came with Fresh Sounds flexi discs. One such issue was Vol. 3, No. 6, published in September ‘81, with cover art by WSB and, inside, a square, six-inch disc of the author reading from the first chapter of The Place of Dead Roads (page 10 in the Picador paperback)—or, more precisely, three Burroughses reading the same text at three different points in space and time. Abandoned Artifacts superimposes recordings from performances in Toronto, Chicago, and San Francisco, and it is downright spooky when they match in cadence and tone. Percussion by one Martin Olson juices the passage’s weird, incantatory power.

The interview with Burroughs from Talk Talk Vol. 3, No. 6 helps make sense of the title Abandoned Artifacts, especially if you don’t have The Place of Dead Roads handy:

Mr. B.: We are squandering time and time is running out. We must conceive of time as a resource. That is one of the concepts central to this book. Another is that people are living organisms as artifacts made for a purpose, not cosmic accidents, artifacts created for a purpose.

TT: What are some of the purposes?

Mr. B.: Space. Leaving the planet. We are here to go. This first chapter shows you the concept of living beings as artifacts which is developed much more in the rest of the book. Artifacts created for a purpose, just like arrowheads.

TT: Have you decided on a title?

Mr. B.: Oh, yes, Place of Dead Roads… The planet earth, place of dead roads, dead purposes.

Leaving the planet? Yes, please!
 
Have a listen after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Oliver Hall
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08.10.2018
07:04 am
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‘I went straight to Hell’: Philip K. Dick did NOT like LSD
08.03.2018
08:25 am
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‘The cross took the form of a crossbow, with Christ as the arrow…’
 
The interview with Philip K. Dick embedded below, recorded in Santa Ana on May 17, 1979, touches on many of the author’s experiences and obsessions—the combat his father saw in World War I, how he came to join the Episcopal Church (“My wife said if I didn’t, she’d bust my nose”), the dying rat who shook his faith, the coming of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s Omega Point, contemporary attitudes towards homosexuality, compulsory ROTC at the University of California, the time he got pancreatitis from using “bad street dope” cut with film developer, the constant threat posed by authoritarian movements—but I’ve cued it up to this vivid description of a bad, bad trip he had in 1964:

I only know of one time where I really took acid. That was Sandoz acid, a giant horse capsule that I got from the University of California, and a friend and I split it. And I don’t know, there must’ve been a whole milligram of it there. It was a gigantic thing, you know, we bought it for five dollars and took it home and we looked at it for a while—looked at it, we were all gonna split it up—and took that, and it was the greatest thing, I’ll tell you.

I went straight to Hell, is what happened. I found myself, you know, the landscape froze over, and there were huge boulders, and there was a deep thrumming, and it was the Day of Wrath, and God was judging me as a sinner, and this lasted for thousands of years and didn’t get any better. It just got worse and worse, and I was in terrible pain, I felt terrible physical pain, and all I could talk was in Latin. Most embarrassing, ‘cause the girl I was with thought I was doing it to annoy her, and I kept saying Libera me domine in die illa. You know, and Agnus dei qui tollis peccata mundi [...] and especially, Tremens factus sum ego et timeotimeo meaning “I’m afraid”—and I said Libera me, domine! Whining like some poor dog that’s been left out in the rain all night. Finally, the girl with me said “Oh, barf” and walked out of the room in disgust.

It was a little bit like when I rolled my VW. I mean, it was all very messy and strange. The only good part of it was when I looked in the refrigerator, and I hadn’t defrosted the refrigerator for a long time, and there was nothing in the freezer compartment. I looked in, and I saw this giant cavern with stalactites and stalagmites, and I thought it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. Ashtray, with cigarette butts in it? Most horrible smell I’d ever smelled! But music sounded very beautiful.

About a month later, I got the galleys for Three Stigmata to read over, and I started reading the galleys, and I thought, “Oh dear, I can’t read these galleys. They’re too scary.” Because all the horrible things that I had written about in Three Stigmata seemed to have come true under acid. So I used to warn people then, that was ‘64, and I used to warn people against taking it. I begged people not to take it.

 

 
Dick put one of the characters in A Maze of Death through the same religious bummer, and he wrote about the ways the psychedelic experience resembled mental illness in two mid-sixties essays, “Drugs, Hallucinations, and the Quest for Reality” and “Schizophrenia & The Book of Changes.” The latter includes a passing reference to the eternity he spent in Hell one night:

Yes, friends, you, too, can suffer forever; simply take 150 mg [sic] of LSD—and enjoy! If not satisfied, simply mail in—but enough. Because after two thousand years under LSD, participating in the Day of Judgment, one probably will be rather apathetic to asking for one’s five dollars back.

Biographer Lawrence Sutin reports the eyewitness account of Dick’s friend Ray Nelson, who remembers the author “sweating, feeling isolated, reliving the life of a Roman gladiator, speaking in Latin and experiencing a spear thrust through his body.” Sutin also quotes this portion of a 1967 letter Dick wrote to Rich Brown, which discloses a few more details of the acid vision of God:

I perceived Him as a pulsing, furious, throbbing mass of vengeance-seeking authority, demanding an audit (like a sort of metaphysical IRS agent). Fortunately I was able to utter the right words [the “Libera me, Domine” quoted above], and hence got through it. I also saw Christ rise to heaven from the cross, and that was very interesting, too (the cross took the form of a crossbow, with Christ as the arrow; the crossbow launched him at terrific velocity—it happened very fast, once he had been placed in position).

Listen to what the man says, after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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08.03.2018
08:25 am
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The British neurologist who uses William S. Burroughs’ ideas to treat Parkinson’s disease


 
Though he never met William S. Burroughs, the British neurologist A.J. Lees credits the author as an important teacher in his recent book, Mentored by a Madman: The William S. Burroughs Experiment.

The expert in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases first encountered Burroughs on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. During the 1970s, after reading Naked Lunch, Lees began experimenting with apomorphine, the substance Burroughs advocated to cure junk addiction, as a treatment for symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

In 2013, again following Burroughs’ example, Lees traveled to the Amazon rainforest to take yagé, or ayahuasca. He told the Guardian that taking the drug “broke down certain rigid structures that were blocking innovations in Parkinson’s disease research.”

Lees has also used apomorphine and Brion Gysin and Burroughs’ Dreamachine to investigate visual hallucinations in Parkinson’s patients.

Below, in an interview at the Beat Hotel, Lees talks with Andrew Hussey about Mentored by a Madman. He’s also spoken about the book on Erik Davis’ Expanding Mind podcast and in a video for ACNR Journal
 

Posted by Oliver Hall
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06.14.2018
07:08 am
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‘Europe after the Rain,’ classic documentary on Dada and Surrealism
05.03.2018
10:14 am
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‘Portrait of Andre Breton’ by Man Ray, c. 1930
 
Europe after the Rain, the Arts Council of Great Britain’s 1978 documentary on Dada and Surrealism, looks at the careers of André Breton, Tristan Tzara, Salvador Dalí, Antonin Artaud, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Kurt Schwitters, Yves Tanguy, John Heartfield, Giorgio de Chirico, Francis Picabia and René Magritte, among others. Sure, there are better ways to see these artists’ work than on YouTube, but this film is worth watching, because it makes both movements’ commitment to revolutionary left-wing politics explicit as few other surveys do.

Take this list from 1919, drawn up by Richard Huelsenbeck and Raoul Hausmann on behalf of the Dadaist Revolutionary Central Council:

Dadaism demands:

1) The international revolutionary union of all creative and intellectual men and women on the basis of radical Communism;
2) The introduction of progressive unemployment through comprehensive mechanization of every field of activity. Only by unemployment does it become possible for the individual to achieve certainty as to the truth of life and finally become accustomed to experience;
3) The immediate expropriation of property (socialization) and the communal feeding of all; further, the erection of cities of light, and gardens which will belong to society as a whole and prepare man for a state of freedom.

(The full manifesto goes on to demand free meals on Potsdamer Platz for “all creative and intellectual men and women,” the requisition of churches, “immediate organization of a Dadaist propaganda campaign with 150 circuses for the enlightenment of the proletariat,” and “immediate regulation of all sexual relations according to the views of international Dadaism through establishment of a Dadaist sexual center.”)
 

‘Europe after the Rain II’ by Max Ernst, 1940-1942
 
The movie is full of treasures: BBC interviews with Max Ernst and Marcel Duchamp from the Sixties, a reading of Artaud’s “Address to the Dalai Lama,” an account of Freud’s meeting with Dalí. As usual in a film of this type, the attempts to dramatically recreate speeches by historical figures are embarrassing. I am not extra fond of the portrayal of Tzara as a supercilious toff. But the re-enactment of Breton’s dialogue with an official of the Parti communiste français is illuminating, and complements the other valuable material on the “Pope of Surrealism”: his work with shell-shocked soldiers in World War I, trials and expulsions of other Surrealists, collaboration with Leon Trotsky in Mexico, less-than-heroic contributions to the French Resistance, and study of the occult.

A VHS rip of the movie has been up on YouTube for some time, but this sharpened upload only recently appeared through the good offices of Manufacturing Intellect. It’s worth noting that the original VHS rip is nearly six minutes longer.
 

Posted by Oliver Hall
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05.03.2018
10:14 am
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William Blake Doc Martens are a thing
04.05.2018
09:09 am
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The William Blake 1460 (via Dr. Martens)
 

Mantles of despair girdles of bitter compunction shoes of indolence
Veils of ignorance covering from head to feet with a cold web

—William Blake, Vala, or the Four Zoas

Aw, nuts. I put on my brand-new mantle of despair, my vintage girdle of bitter compunction, and my $139 veil of ignorance with the Swarovski crystals in it, and here I am without any shoes of indolence to complete my ensemble. Like a schmuck! Like a sad, sorry schmuck.

That’s the kind of thing I used to find myself saying before Dr. Martens partnered with the Tate to print William Blake illustrations on their footwear. Now I have my choice of gnostic kicks for a night out.
 

The William Blake 1461 (via Dr. Martens)
 
There’s the demure three-holed shoe covered in “The House of Death,” which depicts Adam’s vision in Paradise Lost of every postlapsarian condition of suffering and disease. Or, if it’s more of a “Borstal Breakout” kind of evening, I can lace up the eight-holed boot of “Satan Smiting Job with Sore Boils,” perfect for stomping poseurs outside the public house. Oooh, they’ll wish for a case of Old Nick’s sore boils when I’m finished!
 

 
I’m just kidding; I would never wear these…

Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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04.05.2018
09:09 am
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Penderecki’s ‘The Devils of Loudun’ is the sleaziest, most depraved opera you’ll ever see


 
Obtaining the original cut of Ken Russell’s The Devils is still a royal pain in the ass. But it’s easy to see this gorgeous TV movie of Penderecki’s first opera, Die Teufel von Loudun, a 1969 studio production with the original cast, conductor and orchestra, subtitled in English.

Penderecki’s opera is based on the same stage play as Russell’s film: John Whiting’s adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s The Devils of Loudun. All concern the real-life Satanic panic that gripped the French village of Loudun in 1632, when a whole house of Ursuline nuns was possessed by the devil, or so it was said, and their priest, Urbain Grandier, was burned at the stake for witchcraft.

Frank Zappa named the record of this production of Penderecki’s opera—in particular, the exorcism by enema in Act II—as one of his favorites in a 1975 interview with Let It Rock:

The Devils Of Loudon: Krzysztof Penderecki. Because it’s also an extremely well-produced album and I think it’s an excellent piece of dramatic music. And also because Tatiana Troyanos who plays the main nun sounds absolutely marvellous during the enema scene. The story is about a hunch-backed nun who’s possessed by the Devil and has to have an exorcism. The exorcism involves the nun being given a hot herbal enema. In live performance the exorcism takes place behind a screen and you hear Tatiana singing and screeching whilst an orchestra plays enema music. You also hear the Devil chuckling from inside the nun’s bowel.

Ken Russell’s ending is quite special, of course, but Penderecki’s is no less terrifying. Cardinal Richelieu’s boys pull a reverse Wicker Man. Get ready to feel deeply uneasy!
 

Posted by Oliver Hall
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03.23.2018
08:07 am
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William S. Burroughs on the cut-up technique and meeting Samuel Beckett & Bob Dylan
03.22.2018
09:35 am
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“It’s the stink of death, citizens!” (Photo by Peter Hujar)

This hour-long BBC Radio special opens with “Old Lady Sloan,” the Mortal Micronotz’ interpretation of a Burroughs lyric about a happy pedophage, a record the host, John Walters, borrowed from John Peel for the occasion. If the program starts out sounding like a clip-show tribute to Burroughs’ cultural influence, it’s more than that. Aside from a chat with future WSB biographer Barry Miles (identified only by his surname), a little music, and Burroughs’ performances of the now-classic routines “The Do-Rights” and “The Wild Fruits,” the broadcast is given over to Walters’ lengthy interview with the author, champion of apomorphine, and devotee of the Ancient Ones.

Burroughs tells Walters about his years in England, and meeting Samuel Beckett and Bob Dylan; he observes that certain American politicians boast of their ignorance and stupidity. His (camp, I think) misogyny has softened by ‘82. What really sets the interview apart, though, is Walters’ enthusiasm, his openness, his willingness to risk sounding uncool. Here he is grappling with the implications of the cut-up technique:

Walters: What always attracted me when I first heard about that—I suppose, a lot of students at the time—it seemed to introduce a random effect, a found work, do you know what I mean? I wonder if it was so random as all that.

Burroughs: Well, how random is random? Uh…

Walters: Well, let’s put it like this. I was in a pub in Charlotte Street, of all places, in Soho, and a mate of mine had read Nova Express—this was ‘64, ‘65—was talking about this, “You must buy this book,” and started to try and explain to me his interpretation of cut-up and fold-in techniques, which he probably got wrong. And I couldn’t remember the name of the book when I got outside, and then an Express Dairy van from the Express Dairies came by, and I thought, “Express, Nova Express!” And I thought, “That’s what he’s trying to tell us. Random events can have a hidden meaning. We can get messages.” But I don’t think that’s what you see in it, is it?

Burroughs: Oh, exactly. Exactly what I see in it. These juxtapositions between what you’re thinking, if you’re walking down the street, and what you see, that was exactly what I was introducing. You see, life is a cut-up. Every time you walk down the street or look out the window, your consciousness is cut by random factors, and then you begin to realize that they’re not so random, that this is saying something to you.

More after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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03.22.2018
09:35 am
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Paul Bowles’ recipe for a Moroccan love charm
03.19.2018
09:46 am
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Paul Bowles in Fez, 1947

Paul Bowles’ contribution to The Artists’ & Writers’ Cookbook appeared under “Jams, Jellies and Confections,” opposite Robert Graves’ recipe for Sevillian yellow plum conserve. In it, Bowles explained how the people of Fez make one of his favorite treats: majoun keddane, a kind of jam that requires some dates, figs, walnuts, honey, spices, butter, and wheat, and at least two pounds of cannabis.

Embedded in this recipe was another, for an even more exotic and labor-intensive Moroccan dish called Beid El Beita F’kerr El Hmar. This was a kind of breakfast recipe said to bestow magical powers:

Buy an egg. Find a dead donkey, and the first night lodge the egg in its anus. The second night the egg must be put into a mousehole on top of a Moslem tomb. The third night it must be wrapped in a handkerchief and tied around the chest of the person desiring to perform the magic. The following day it must be given for breakfast, prepared in any fashion, to the other individual, who, immediately upon eating it, discovers that the bestower is necessary for his happiness. (Or her happiness; the sex of the two people seems to have nothing to do with the charm’s efficacy.)

More after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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03.19.2018
09:46 am
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Aubrey Beardsley’s ‘obscene’ drawings for Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allan Poe, and ‘Lysistrata’  (NSFW)
03.08.2018
02:22 pm
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‘Salome.’
 
In 1898, when the artist Aubrey Beardsley was on his deathbed, he wrote to his publisher, pornographer Leonard Smithers, and demanded he “destroy all copies of Lysistrata and bad drawings… by all that is holy all obscene drawings.” Smithers took no notice of the recent Catholic convert Beardsley’s crise de conscience and made a very tidy profit publishing the infamous artist’s work after he died.

Beardsley was a phenomenon. It is quite difficult to grasp just how revolutionary and how utterly shocking this slight young man’s deceptively simple ink drawings were to both the critics and the public of Victorian England. His work was described as the product of a sick mind and damned as “grotesque” and “obscene.” Yet, despite this froth and seething outrage, Beardsley became, for a very brief time, famous, or rather infamous, and his work inspired a legion of imitators who made profitable careers from copying his art.

Beardsley was born into a lower-middle-class family in Brighton on August 21st, 1872. His father was a spendthrift who squandered money on drink and pleasure. His mother had pretensions towards a more genteel existence and did her best to encourage her children into the cerebral pleasures of art and culture. As his father was unable or more likely unwilling to hold down a regular job, his mother frequently sought funds from her own father—a former military officer—to pay the bills. From an early age, Beardsley showed a talent for art and music. He gave piano recitals with his older sister Mabel and the pair devised their own theatrical productions which they performed for the amusement of their mother and her friends.

He was a frail child and became severely ill with tuberculosis, which plagued him throughout his life and was eventually the cause of his death at a mere twenty-five years of age. His mother described Beardsley as being as “fragile as a piece of Dresden china.” However, his consumption fired his frenzied periods of intense work where he spent hours drawing before collapsing from exhaustion.

At school, he developed his own “perverse” style of illustration—first in the borders of his exercise books, then in the pages of the school magazine. After his education, he found work at an architect’s office, but Beardsley was far more interested in life as an artist than starting an office career. He was encouraged by the artist Edward Burne-Jones, who told him he never liked to encourage young men to be artists, but in Beardsley’s case, there was never any other option. Burne-Jones told Beardsley to enroll in classes at the Westminster School of Art where he soon discovered he had a style of drawing that was “freakishly” his own. He claimed he had seven styles of drawing and was determined to develop more. Two important influences on Beardsley came during a trip to Paris when he saw work by Toulouse-Lautrec and an exhibition of Japanese prints. These inspired him to finesse his own style into something new and highly original, something he liked to describe as “grotesque.”

Beardsley sent his latest illustrations off to various magazines. These were rejected. His work was considered too weird and too dangerous for the suburban readers of popular magazines. However, some work he had sent on spec to the publisher J. M. Dent, which brought Beardsley his first commission. He was hired to illustrate Thomas Malory’s tale Le Morte d’Arthur for £200. The work was long and hard and demanded considerable concentration, determined willpower, and strong, confident execution. Beardsley alternated between using pen and brush to create his pictures. Over the course of producing this monumental work, Beardsley changed and developed his style of drawing from the overly elaborate to a clan and austere simplicity. This was the start of his meteoric rise into London’s fashionable art and literary world.

According to his friend, the writer Max Beerbohm, no one ever saw Beardsley work at his pictures which he claimed he produced by candlelight in a darkened room. Beardsley was more likely to seen immaculately dressed hosting tea parties at his mother’s house or socializing with the likes of Oscar Wilde and Beerbohm at the Cafe Royale. He became friends with Wilde and drew the illustrations for his play Salome. These illustrations became more famous than Wilde’s so-so drama, in particular, the image of Salome kissing the freshly decapitated head of John the Baptist with his blood spilling down, giving sustenance to a lily. Beardsley was then hired as art director for the legendary and controversial Yellow Book which provided a home to many great writers and artists and was, unfortunately, to be the unlikely cause of his undoing.

When Wilde was arrested on the charge of sodomy, he was described as carrying a “yellow book.” This quickly became confused with the Yellow Book magazine for which Beardsley has supplied his “grotesque” illustrations. This unfortunate association was too much for the magazine’s publisher who immediately sacked Beardsley. Virtually overnight, the young artist’s celebrated career was snuffed out. Thereafter, he eked out a small living by drawing erotica for privately published books and magazines.

Beardsley’s reputation was as controversial as his art. He was considered effete and a homosexual, but was more likely asexual. He was rumored to have been involved in an incestuous relationship with his sister, which supposedly led to either a miscarriage or a stillborn child. He once wrote to his publisher Dent that he planned to dress up as a woman and have tea in drag at the Savoy. These are all most likely nothing more than rumors and schoolboy pranks. Beardsley relished notoriety and never evolved from a juvenile sense of fun. His drawings were filled with breasts and phallic symbols. The aftermath of Wilde’s arrest and trial led Beardsley to reevaluate his life. He became a Catholic (at the encouragement of his sister) and denounced his most scurrilous and offensive work. This included his comic and highly explicit illustrations for a privately printed edition of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, the bawdy Greek drama of one woman’s attempt to end the Peloponnesian War by denying men sex.

Sadly, Beardsley succumbed to tuberculosis and died in France on March 16th, 1898.
 
From Oscar Wilde’s ‘Salome’ (1894).
 
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More ‘obscene’ beauty from Aubrey Beardsley, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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03.08.2018
02:22 pm
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Boris Karloff & Roddy McDowall go batshit crazy in this wild 50s TV version of ‘Heart of Darkness’

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Mistah Kurtz… he fucking nuts.

Boris Karloff is a bug-eyed Mr. Kurtz in this hip, bongo-fury, sub-beatnik fifties adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s tale Heart of Darkness. Karloff does his best over-the-top batshit crazy thing and is joined in a face-off by a half-naked, scenery-chewing and equally bug-eyed Roddy McDowall as Marlow, who overacts his way through the proceedings with considerable gusto.

This ain’t no run-of-the-mill take on Conrad’s classic story but one written by Stewart Stern the screenwriter of Rebel Without a Cause. And like that famous paean to teenage acne and angst, Stern has introduced a psychological subtext that gives the matter a topically Freudian twist which, to be frank, doesn’t quite work.

But heck, that don’t matter when there’s so much fever onscreen with Karloff and McDowall ably supported in their psycho-drama by Eartha Kitt as the Queen, Oskar Homolka as the Doctor, Inga Swenson as Maria, and Cathleen Nesbitt as the Crone.
 
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Gone Daddio, solid gone…
 
Heart of Darkness was loosely based on Conrad’s own experiences of his time spent in Africa and was intended as a condemnation of the racist imperialism he had witnessed firsthand. This might get a bit lost in Stern’s script where the Africans are mainly presented as little more than enthusiastic child-like bongo players—but it is what it is and you’re all grown-up enough to make up your own mind about this strange and quite daring television drama.

And if you can’t, well, take a taste of what it’s all about from Gonzo-theorist Erich Kuersten’s long essay “Ride the Snake” over at his blog Acidemic, where he explains just how this “primitive TV broadcast of Heart of Darkness spews forth an admission of evil and in the process exorcises it.” Kuersten is one of those rare original and essential writers who really should have a book of his articles published. ‘Nuff said.

Any-old-how, enjoy the madness of King Boris.

Watch it, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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03.05.2018
08:27 am
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