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Off with your nose!: A look at the long, strange, cinematic history of Baron Munchausen


An enchanting movie poster for the Czechoslovakia film ‘The Fabulous Baron Munchausen’ (aka ‘The Outrageous Baron Munchausen’/‘Baron Prášil’) directed by Karel Zeman (1962).
 
I suspect the vast majority of Dangerous Minds readers have seen Terry Gilliam’s’ multi-multi-million dollar film, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988)—though I also believe that many of our devoted followers are probably also acquainted with the rich, cinematic history (at least eight shorts and more than a handful of films exist) based on the tall-tale-telling Baron who was actually a real person. It should also be noted that any George Harrison superfan likely knows a bit more about the Baron’s 200-year-old history as Harrison was an avid collector of the work of Gustave Doré, the great illustrator and engraver who conceived the quintessential image of the Baron.

As he notes in the extras of the Second Run Blu-ray of The Fabulous Baron Munchausen Terry Gilliam gives much credit for his vision of the story to director and special effects artist Karel Zeman saying Zeman’s influence on his own work is “continual,” and he’s “pretty sure” he has stolen many of Zeman’s artistic methods for his own films. Other fans of Zeman’s work include Tim Burton and special effects legend Ray Harryhausen who has said he “deeply appreciated” Zeman’s talent. As it relates directly to this post, one of the films the former Monty Python member perhaps pilfered from was The Fabulous Baron Munchausen (aka The Outrageous Baron Munchausen/Baron Prášil).

The Fabulous Baron Munchausen was directed by Zeman who also created the multi-layered, dreamlike special effects in the film. Here is Zeman (as seen in an interview with the director in the Second Run release), on his vision for the movie:

“I wanted to capture the surreal world of Baron Munchausen. I wanted this romantic fantasy to be unleashed from the mundane reality. So I used imagery resembling prints from the period. At the same time, I decided to treat color like a painter on a canvas. I put in only when it was necessary.”

 

Zeman on the set of ‘The Fabulous Baron Munchausen’ giving direction to actors Milos Kopecký (Baron Munchausen) and Rudolf Jelínek (Tonik). This image is part of a large collection of Zeman’s work displayed at the Karel Zeman Museum in Prague.
 
Every shot in The Fabulous Baron Munchausen contains some variety of extravagant special effects, and Zeman’s vivid imagery—much of which is based on Doré‘s original illustrations, fill every inch of every frame. According to Zeman’s daughter Ludmila, her father was an avid reader and collector of comic books and would often incorporate jokes or gags he found amusing into actions performed by his actors. Zeman even recruited Ludmila for The Fabulous Baron Munchausen and the then fifteen-year-old got to ride a horse as the stunt double for Jana Brejchova, the stunning Czech actress (and former wife of director Miloš Forman) who played Princess Bianca in the film. The Fabulous Baron Munchausen is widely considered a masterpiece thanks to Zeman’s determination to make a very different film than German director Josef von Báky’s beloved Nazi-funded version of Munchausen’s story, 1943’s Münchhausen or The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

The budget for Báky’s movie was estimated at $6.5 million dollars (or approximately $95 million dollars if it had been made in 2019) and was commissioned by Nazi propaganda pusher Joseph Goebbels. Interesting, the screenplay for Báky’s adaptation was written by Emil Erich Kästner whose novels were regulars at Nazi book burnings. Kästner was in fact banned from publishing his literature in Germany between the years 1933 and 1945. The wildly opulent film was intended to rival The Wizard of Oz, but with an adult-oriented twist including a scene full of topless harem girls and other fantasy-based, “grown-up” scenarios. Despite the fact the film intended to serve as a mechanism for war propaganda, it ended up a luxurious, over-the-top take on the amorous, adventurous, cannonball-riding Baron.
 

George Harrison and Eric Idle on the set of Terry Gilliam’s ‘The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.’
 
As previously mentioned, Python super-fan George Harrison would be the main conduit for the last of the final big-three Baron Munchausen films, Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. In 1979 he showed off his large assortment of Munchausen stories and shared his love of artist Gustave Doré with Gilliam. Then, Gilliam’s pal musician Ray Cooper gifted Gilliam with a copy of a book full of the stories of Baron Munchausen written (though published anonymously) by Hieronymus Karl Friedrich Freiherr von Münchhausen (1720-1797), encouraging the director (if not daring him) to make a film out of them. Allegedly $46 million (though Gilliam says it was “nowhere near $40 million), flowed into the lengthy, arduous production that was already over budget by two million dollars before filming began. Though it was a financial box-office bomb, it received high praise and would collect three British Academy of Film & Television Awards, and was nominated for four Oscars. The stories from the set have become legendary, such as Oliver Reed being perpetually drunk and hitting on a seventeen-year-old Uma Thurman, who plays Venus/Rose in the film. Gilliam’s finished product will forever be considered a triumph in the realm of fantasy filmmaking and “fantastical exaggeration” which the real Münchhausen perfected and unwittingly passed along over hundreds of years through other storytellers fond of hyperbole.

If you’d like to learn even more about the history of Baron Munchausen in cinema, film historian Michael Brooke provides a fascinating, in-depth exploration of the Baron’s many appearances on the big screen on the Second Run Blu-ray for The Fabulous Baron Munchausen (Baron Prášil). Far-out images and trailers from all three films follow.
 

A still of actor Hans Albert as Baron Münchhausen riding a cannonball in 1943’s ‘Münchhausen’ or ‘The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.’
 

A curious scene from ‘The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.’
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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03.19.2019
08:51 am
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‘The Slog Movie’: Raw and unkempt punk chaos erupts out of West Los Angeles, 1982
03.18.2019
08:32 am
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We’ve all seen our share of punk rock docs. Decline, Another State of Mind, DOA, Urgh! I thought I’d watched just about everything at this point. But, as the saying goes - “Ask a punk.”
 
Having grown up in West Los Angeles myself, I can’t help but watch The Slog Movie and feel just a little bitter. I wanted that to be my youth. None of this Bird scooter, Snapchat, Tinder, bullshit. No one even hangs out at Oki-Dog anymore (nor should they). But at least someone was around to capture this moment-in-time sliver of punk rock magic. And that someone was future filmmaker Dave Markey, of We Got Power! fanzine fame.
 

 
Filmed entirely on Super 8, the 1982 film chronicles the lifestyles of the young LA punks who frequented the slam pits of the burgeoning SoCal hardcore scene. Low budget and entirely raw, humorous, and sometimes anarchic, the video fanzine-style doc serves up a blend of segments, candid interviews and genre-defining performances by those nonchalant forefathers of the period, like Black Flag (their first show with Rollins), Circle Jerks, Fear, Wasted Youth, Red Kross, and TSOL. There is also a cameo by Pat Smear hanging at Oki-Dog, scenes from “The Punk Shack” and the fabled Cuckoo’s Nest, punks at the Santa Monica Pier, an advertisement for Black Flag skate decks, “A Day in the life of a punk,” and a little trip up North with Markey’s teenage band, Sin 34.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Here’s a snippet of Thurston Moore’s review of the doc - so you know it’s legit:
 

The Slog Movie at once captures the substrata of L.A. 1st generation hardcore by hanging out with it in the backyards and empty matinee gigs it crashes around in. As there is only so much fun in tracking the brattitude of a band like Symbol Six, Dave creates vignettes of satirical attack on the inanity of lame rock culture like Ted Nugent. And booking the confounding and completely rocking Red Cross at an outdoor show on the Santa Monica Pier is a moment where real creative punk and poser punk is separated.

 
Watch ‘The Slog Movie’ in its punk entirety below:
 

Posted by Bennett Kogon
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03.18.2019
08:32 am
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Laibach’s nightmarish new short film, ‘So Long, Farewell’: a Dangerous Minds premiere


Photo by Ciril Jazbec
 
The Sound of Music ends with the von Trapp family’s escape from the Nazis through the Alps, crossing from annexed Austria into neutral Switzerland. Or that’s how the stage version ends; the closing shot of the 1965 film is ambiguous. In it, the von Trapps appear to be going in the wrong direction, fleeing into the Bavarian, rather than the Swiss, Alps.

In fact, the mountain at which Robert Wise chose to film the last shot of The Sound of Music was the Obersalzberg, the site of Hitler’s mountain retreat at Berchtesgaden. Once you recognize the location, the end of the movie takes on a horrible significance: as they hike up the Obersalzberg, singing “Climb Ev’ry Mountain (Reprise),” Georg and Maria von Trapp are leading their brood on a death march to the Nazis’ second headquarters. We can easily imagine these Hollywood von Trapps wandering too close to the Berghof after the last notes of the song have died in the chill air, and the camera, like the guilty eyes of Buñuel’s Christ in L’Age d’Or, has averted its gaze from earthly things.

Laibach’s new film “So Long, Farewell” begins with this cinematic wrong turn into horror. The group has been interpreting The Sound of Music since 2015, when, as the first Western (?) band ever to perform in North Korea, Laibach included a number of songs from the musical in their set. In this, the latest video from Laibach’s Sound of Music album, the singing family has not escaped the Nazis—note the swastika-shaped Christmas tree from John Heartfield’s “O Tannenbaum in deutschen Raum, wie krumm sind deine Äste!“ ripped from its parodic context, as a fir is cut from the earth—but, because it is a special time of year, the children are permitted to leave the basement for a few minutes to sing for the adults.

Speaking with a single voice, Laibach answered my questions about “So Long, Farewell” by email. The film follows our conversation below.
 

 
Please remind us why Laibach chose The Sound of Music for the performances in North Korea.

Laibach: Throughout our career we’ve been looking for an opportunity to sink our teeth into The Sound of Music. When we received an invitation to perform in Pyongyang, we knew the moment had finally arrived. The Sound of Music is probably the only piece of American pop culture that is not only allowed, but also actively promoted by North Korean authorities. For years now the musical has been part of their school curricula. It seemed only natural that we address the people of North Korea with something as universal as The Sound of Music, therefore we decided to create the concert program around our interpretations of the songs from this musical. The Sound of Music story really fits well into the North Korean situation and can be understood affirmatively, but also subversively – very much depending on the point of view.

It looks to me as if, in Laibach’s telling of The Sound of Music, the von Trapp family does not escape capture by the Nazis, and a sinister patriarch played by Ivan Novak takes the place of Baron von Trapp. The appearance of Milan Fras as the Reverend Mother further complicates the picture: does the abbess sanction this ghastly ménage by her presence? What is the scenario of the “So Long” video?

“So Long” is in fact more a short film than the music video. The original film is, of course, the first of all the apotheosis of Hollywood entertaining industry standards and clichés, but there are many – not even very well hidden – perverse twists in it, full of sexual and psychoanalytical connotations. Slavoj Žižek has a very thorough (and very Laibachian) observation, claiming that officially the film is in principle showing Austrian resistance to Hitler and the Nazis, but if you look at it closely, you see that the “Nazis are presented as an abstract cosmopolitan occupying power, and the Austrians are the good small fascists, so the implicit message is almost the opposite of the explicit message.” No wonder that Austrians officially don’t like this film much, or maybe they are only denying it on the surface and watching it secretly in their cellars. This “hidden reverse” may also be the reason why the movie was so extremely popular, Žižek argues, because it “addresses our secret fascist dreams.” (Which is an interesting assertion, considering most of the people who created the original musical were Jewish.) Catholicism, of course, plays a key role in The Sound of Music film, therefore it represents an important stance in the “So Long, Farewell” miniature as well. On the surface, Catholicism portrays itself as being all about harsh moral discipline and strict rules. But, under the surface, it provides opportunities for great license, including sexual license. You can have your cake (feeling righteous morally, identifying with this “morally strict” organization) and eat it too (providing opportunities to have fun and play around). According to Žižek the power of the film resides in its obscenely-direct staging of embarrassing intimate fantasies. The film’s narrative turns around resolving the problem stated by the nuns’ chorus in the introductory scene: “How do you solve a problem like Maria?” The proposed solution is the one mentioned by Freud in an anecdote: Penis normalis, zwei mal taeglich… Recall what is arguably the most powerful scene of The Sound of Music: after Maria escapes from the von Trapp family back to the monastery, unable to deal with her sexual attraction towards Baron von Trapp, she cannot find peace there, since she is still longing for the Baron; in a memorable scene, the Mother Superior summons her and advises her to return to the von Trapp family and try to sort out her relationship with the Baron. She delivers this message in a weird song “Climb Ev’ry Mountain!” whose surprising motif is: Do it! Take the risk and try everything your heart wants! Do not allow petty considerations to stand in your way! The uncanny power of this scene resides in its unexpected display of the spectacle of desire, an eros energumens which renders the scene literally embarrassing: the very person whom one would expect to preach abstinence and renunciation turns out to be the agent of the fidelity to one’s desire. In other words, Mother Superior effectively is a superego figure, but in Lacan’s sense, for whom the true superego injunction is “Enjoy!” But the real Maria and the real Baron didn’t marry because they loved each other; according to her autobiography they married only for the love of children.
 

 
Red is everywhere in this video: the mistletoe berries, the Reverend Mother’s rosary, the children’s Trumpian neckties, and the hot red light throughout. Instead of climbing to freedom in the snowy Alps at the end, it looks like the family descends into the fires of Hell. Does Laibach’s Sound of Music end in captivity and death?

Yes, in “So Long, Farewell,” the von Trapp family never escaped from the Hollywood Austria, annexed by Nazis. They were “trapped” and they just went a bit “underground.” Same in North Korea, people are trapped within the Pleasure Dome of North Korean controlled society (not that Western society is not controlled…). The Sound of Music certainly ends in captivity and death, like we all do.

When you first saw The Sound of Music, was the film censored or altered in any way? If Laibach were to censor the movie, what would you change?

We could in fact change the ending, that would give a different perspective to the whole film, but the scenario did loosely follow the real story of the von Trump family. We don’t recall that the film was censored anyhow when we saw it first time, but Žižek claims that the three minutes of the “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” song, with Mother Superior singing was in fact censored back then in Yugoslavia, as this is the most obscene moment in the movie.

“The von Trump family” is a wonderful parapraxis. When making this film, did Laibach draw inspiration from Mrs. Trump’s Christmas decorations at the White House?

Quite possible, especially if decorations in White House would be created as a classic Trumpian slip.

As far as I know, the few swastikas that appear in Laibach’s work come from the photomontages of the anti-fascist artist John Heartfield. In this case, it’s the swastika-shaped tree from Heartfield’s parodic poster announcing the Third Reich’s new “standard fir” for the holidays, a festive addition to the hearth of the von Trapp/Trump home. I wonder if, in the film, the proclamation of Heartfield’s poster has become a historical reality. In other words, is it mandatory for the family to display the “crooked” tree?

Using a straightforward reference to the classic Heartfield Christmas tree today would merely present the aesthetization of the subject, while the direct swastika-shaped tree becomes a mandatory festive background of historical reality, the aesthetization of a society that does not find it (very) problematic anymore.
 

 
Writing for Die Welt on the eve of Laibach’s first trip to North Korea, Slavoj Žižek discerned the image of the Josef Fritzl household in The Sound of Music. He argues that warmth, good cheer and sentimentality are not only compatible with brutal crimes, but hospitable to them; when Fritzl imprisoned his children in the basement and raped them, Žižek suggests, he did so with a merry song in his heart. Is there a place for bad conscience in kitsch?

Only if it is a bad kitsch. A good reference to this problem is also possible to detect in the Sharp Objects TV series, especially in its final episode.

Žižek also imagines the children attending an “upstairs reception in the Fritzl villa” where they sing “So Long, Farewell” before departing for bed, one by one. Is that where the idea for the film originated?

There are several different inspirations for the “So Long, Farewell” film miniature; there’s definitely The Sound of Music itself – a film full of latent sexuality within the patriarchal (and matriarchal) musical family with structural elements of fascism, then there’s an ultimate model of utopian, communist/religious (very musical) state, nominally led by the supreme Kim Dynasty, and finally there is a reference to the extreme case of Josef and Rosemarie Fritzl’s family from Austria – a raw model to the similar families around the world, potentially including some famous ones within political and entertainment/musical spheres as well.

Laibach’s The Sound of Music is out on Mute Records, and Morten Traavik’s documentary Liberation Day follows the band’s travels in North Korea. (Also of note, Laibach fans: MIT Press’ excellent book NSK from Kapital to Capital includes a contribution from Alexei Yurchak, the scholar who coined the term “hypernormalisation.”)
 

Posted by Oliver Hall
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03.14.2019
09:19 am
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‘F*ck the Army’: When Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland toured their anti-Vietnam War show, 1972

01ftapos.jpg
 
Bob Hope was late. Ten minutes late. But it was a ten minutes that probably saved his life. Hope was en route to entertain US troops stationed in Vietnam in December 1964. These troops were officially documented by the White House as being there in an “advisory capacity,” which gave Hope the opening for his show:

Hello, advisors! I asked Secretary McNamara if we could come and he said, ‘Why not, we’ve tried everything else!’ No, really, we’re thrilled to be here in Sniper Valley.

Hope’s flight had been rescheduled from landing at Saigon to the US air base at Bien Hoa. Saigon was considered too dangerous. The Viet Cong might just take a pot shot at the comedian. In fact, it turned to be something far more deadly.

After the show, Hope was to head off by car to the Caravelle Hotel in Saigon, but as his cue cards, on which his jokes were written, had become mixed up, his assistant, Barney McNulty was tasked with sorting them out. This delayed Hope and his entourage, which included Jill St. John and singer, former Miss Oklahoma and well-known homophobe Anita Bryant, by ten minutes. As they were driving to their destination, a car bomb exploded outside the Brinks Hotel just about a block from the Caravelle. If he’d been on time, Hope and his crew would have been toast. Instead, they got a ringside seat of the blast and its devastation which killed two, injured 60, and destroyed the Brinks Hotel.

Hope toured US military bases in Vietnam from 1964-1972. His intention was to boost the soldiers’ moral, and let them know the folks back home were thinking about them. His intentions may have been honorable but to many back home, Hope came to represent the folly of America’s involvement in Vietnam. It led to the saying “Where there’s Hope there’s death.”
 
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In response to Hope’s “hawkish” pro-war tours of Vietnam, Jane Fonda started touring army bases in 1970 giving voice to the many dissenting soldiers and veterans who were against the war. She then teamed up with Donald Sutherland in 1971 to perform with a troupe of entertainers under the name F.T.A. which was sometimes known as the “Free Theater Associates” or more (in)famously as “Fuck the Army.” The idea for the tour came from dissident Howard Levy who wanted “to stage an anti-war response to the touring shows of Bob Hope, who thought the war was just peachy.”

These F.T.A. shows originally came out of the G.I. coffeehouse movement—“the loose network of coffeehouses that had sprung up around U.S. military bases as a way for GIs to plug into the movement in the U.S. against the Vietnam War.” The group performed satirical sketches and songs opposing the war. Though they faced objections from some senior military personnel, F.T.A. managed to perform at military bases in Fort Bragg, Okinawa, the Philippines, Japan, and all along the Pacific Rim. Fonda and Sutherland produced a movie documenting these shows which was released in 1972 but was “mysteriously” pulled from screenings not long after its release due to fierce criticism from politicians, the media, and (surprise, surprise) top army brass.

Directed by Francine Parker, who was one of the first female members of the Directors Guild of America, F.T.A. documented Fonda, Sutherland, folk singer Len Chandler, singers Holly Near and Rita Martinson, writer/actor Michael Alaimo, and comedian Paul Mooney performing a variety of skits and songs including Sutherland as a sports announcer describing an attack on a Vietnamese village as if it were a ballgame and Fonda as Pat Nixon. This was all interspersed with interviews from many of the men and women involved in the war—including African-American GIs describing the racism they faced in the field.
 
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The film is a bit rough around the edges but is an important testament to the many soldiers (and performers) who opposed the war in Vietnam. The film ends with Sutherland reading from Dalton Trumbo’s 1938 novel Johnny Got His Gun:

Remember this well you people who plan for war. Remember this you patriots, you fierce ones, you spawners of hate, you inventors of slogans. Remember this as you have never remembered anything else in your lives. We are men of peace, we are men who work and we want no quarrel. But if you destroy our peace, if you take away our work, if you try to range us one against the other, we will know what to do. If you tell us to make the world safe for democracy we will take you seriously and by god and by Christ we will make it so. We will use the guns you force upon us, we will use them to defend our very lives, and the menace to our lives does not lie on the other side of a nomansland that was set apart without our consent it lies within our own boundaries here and now we have seen it and we know it.

 
Watch it, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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03.12.2019
08:33 am
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‘Blast’: Kool Keith remixed by Planet B, featuring a member of the Locust (a music video premiere!)
03.07.2019
09:01 am
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Kool Keith’s ‘Blast’ b/w ‘Uncrushable’ on Three One G

If you’re looking for one of those doctors who has taken the Hippocratic oath, Kool Keith may not be your man. “Fuck it, he’s dead,” Keith’s alter ego, Dr. Octagon, pronounced on his 1996 debut, as his latest patient expired of cirrhosis of the eye and a horse wandered the halls of the hospital. Truth be told, the bedside manner of his alter alter ego, Dr. Dooom, was not very comforting either. Doing harm was pretty much his bag.

But if you’re looking for a barber surgeon of the medieval period, who’ll do you for a bloodletting, a leeching and an enema—a specialist in taking apart who still needs some practice putting back together—no one will slice and dice you like Kool Keith. I think that’s why the line “Do not be bougie with the facelift” on “Blast” chills me to the bone: can you imagine how your face would look after a few hours in the operating room with Kool Keith? Emerging from anesthesia, feeling the new apertures for undiscovered bodily functions with which he’s pimped your head? Looking in the mirror through the eyes of an alligator and a shark? As Keith feeds you sashimi cuts of your own brain?
 

Heather Hunter Photography
 
Speaking of horrors, one of the best performances I have ever seen in my life was Kool Keith’s set at the 2004 Coachella Festival, the only year I attended the Southland’s annual historical reenactment of a dysentery outbreak in a Civil War infirmary. About 20 minutes in, Keith stopped rhyming and started counting: “one. . . two. . . three. . . four. . . five. . .” He counted to, I think, 27 before making an abrupt exit (“Fuck it, Coachella, we out!”—mic drop) that left his nonplussed hype man swaying on the stage, eyes darting anxiously from side to side.

So I’m pleased to introduce the music video below, a short slasher movie dramatizing Planet B’s (i.e., Justin Pearson and Luke Henshaw’s) remix of “Blast” from Kool Keith’s new EP on Three One G. (The record concludes with a mashup of “Uncrushable” and “Church of the Motherfuckers” by Dead Cross, the supergroup with members of Faith No More, Slayer and Retox.) Unless you work in a charnel house, it is NSFW.
 

Posted by Oliver Hall
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03.07.2019
09:01 am
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The horror film that inspired Billy Idol’s ‘Eyes Without a Face’ & how he almost lost his eyeballs


Billy Idol.
 
Today on Dangerous Minds I present to you two of my favorite things; a vintage, upper-tier European horror film paired with the punk rock icon Billy Idol. The film in question, Les Yeux Sans Visage (Eyes Without a Face) is quite horrifying, though its director George Franju (the co-founder of Cinémathèque Française, an organization that holds one of the largest archives of film documents and film-related objects in the world), didn’t see it that way. Instead, he classified his film as a story revolving around grief and despair, and what can happen once one has reached the very depths of both valleys. Franju’s film was based on the 1959 book Les Yeux Sans Visage by Jean Redon for which Redon had already written a screenplay. Redon’s adaptation would be augmented by French fiction crime author Pierre Boileau, and the film would make its debut in Paris on March 2, 1960. When it was shown at the Edinburgh Film Festival later in the year, it was reported that seven people in the theater fainted during the surgery scene—and if you have seen Les Yeux Sans Visage yourself, this is entirely understandable.

One of my favorite pieces of horror history inspired by this film concerns that maverick of the horror genre, John Carpenter. Actress Edith Scob wore several different masks in Eyes Without a Face which were cast from her own face. Some were created for the many close-up scenes of Scob in the movie which, according to Scob felt like “thin skin glued around the eyes and lips” as well as a thicker mask which could be more easily removed. Carpenter has said the mask worn by Scob played a very important part of his concept for maniac slasher Michael Myers and the mask he wore in 1978’s Halloween.

Others have also been inspired by the film, including Billy Idol who penned what would become his first top-ten hit in the U.S., “Eyes Without a Face” in 1983. Now that the song is perhaps rolling around in your head, the dreamy words cooed in the chorus by Perri Lister (Idol’s girlfriend at the time) are sung in French “les yeux sans visage” and this is a super obvious hat-tip to Franju’s frightening film. The accompanying video for “Eyes Without a Face” was shot in a mere 48 hours during which Idol neglected to take out his contacts. Here’s more from Billy and his actual eye emergency (as told in his fantastic 2014 book Dancing with Myself):

“Back in the 80s I wore hard contact lenses, and after shooting “Eyes Without a Face” for 48 hours, I flew to the next gig in Tucson, Arizona. At that point, I had been wearing them for 36 hours. I hadn’t slept that much—if at all. While waiting for the sound check, I went outside to lay down and passed out on the cool grass outside the college venue. I still hadn’t removed my contacts, until, without warning, I was awakened rather rudely by a sheriff pointing a gun directly at me. I could only hear his voice distant and hollow in my head. When I opened my eyes, I could only make out the outline of his weapon, while tears came pouring from my eyes. Something was wrong! The pain was so intense, and my eyes were gushing. They rushed me to a hospital, and my eyes remained bandaged for two days until my corneas had healed.”

Hearing Idol talk about the pain he was in when his contacts fused with his corneas churns my gut much like the film which inspired his kind-of-creepy hit song. Criterion released a digitally-restored Blu-ray of Les Yeux Sans Visage in 2013, and it is full of some great extras including insightful vintage interviews with Franju, and a recent interview with Edith Scob. As I’d hate to spoil the film for anyone, I’ll refrain from posting images from Les Yeux Sans Visage. Instead, you can watch the trailer which should be plenty enough to entice you into seeing this film as well as footage of Idol, Steve Stevens, and Perri Lister looking good while lip-synching “Eyes Without a Face” during the Saint Vincent Estate music event in Italy in 1984.
 
Watch after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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03.05.2019
08:20 am
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A short film on the making of Mark Stewart’s ‘Learning to Cope with Cowardice’ (a DM premiere!)
02.28.2019
01:14 pm
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Mark Stewart and the Maffia live in Kentish Town, 1986 (Photo by Beezer)

Last month, when Mute brought out a double-LP reissue of Mark Stewart’s solo debut from 1983, Learning to Cope with Cowardice, we interviewed the man about the record and its historical, political, and musical context. Now we have a new short film by Charlie Marbles about the making of the album to show you.

If you’ve never heard Learning to Cope with Cowardice, it is a collection of sounds that wraps your nervous system around the spools of a cassette deck, then uses your brain to degauss the tape head and your cerebrospinal fluid to lubricate the capstan: a variegated cut-up of genres, styles, media, times, places, and identities. In the film below, Stewart and producer Adrian Sherwood describe the mixing and editing techniques they used to make this mental work of art, some imported from New York hip-hop and other audio collage forms—Stewart, in particular, credits Teo Macero’s work on On the Corner and William S. Burroughs’ tape experiments as inspiration—and some invented on the spot and probably never yet repeated, such as “scratching” multitrack tapes.

The singer and producer describe Stewart’s desires for unconventional sounds (Sherwood remembers a snare so trebly “it was actually cutting your eyeball off”) and his struggles to get them through the technocracy of the mastering process onto the finished record. Stewart:

I was constantly fighting with engineers about buzzes and hisses and noises, and trying to make helicopter sounds, and then they’d try and change it, they’d try and normalize you. I’m not gonna be fuckin’ normalized!

Learning to Cope with Cowardice plus The Lost Tapes is available on double vinyl (benefiting Mercy Ships) and double CD. Check out Mark Stewart’s new political resistance playlist, too.
 

Posted by Oliver Hall
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02.28.2019
01:14 pm
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David Bowie wanted Flo & Eddie of the Turtles to star with him in a film he wrote
02.28.2019
08:51 am
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People cover
 
In the mid 1970s, David Bowie was working on a script that he wanted to turn into a film. The movie, conceived as a comedy, would star Bowie and the duo known as Flo & Eddie (Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan of the fabulous Turtles). Volman and Kaylan are funny dudes, and Bowie felt they were the guys to help make his film a cinematic success. 

In late March 1976, Bowie flew Volman and Kaylan to New York City to meet and discuss his script notes, which were several hundred pages long.
 
Flo and Eddie
Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman.

In his autobiography, Shell Shocked, Howard Kaylan wrote about the Bowie project.

Bowie flew Mark and me into New York at the end of the month to meet about his screenplay. It was a first-class journey that wound up at his Madison Square Garden concert, backstage. Then we went to the Village for more of the same. Limos took us everywhere, although we got to see David for all of about ten minutes. Still, I don’t think there were any complaints about the trip. Whatever Bowie wanted.

There was a screening of The Man Who Fell to Earth, starring Bowie, at a theater in Westwood. David had sent us our invitations in a large cardboard box. What the hell? Ah, also enclosed were two copies, some 750 pages each, of David’s screenplay notes for a feature film to be called The Traveler. The film was to deal with the very real alter ego that Bowie had created for himself, that of the Thin White Duke. Eschewing air travel, David would only travel to and from American via ocean liner where, once aboard, he would assume a disposable two-week identity where his lines between fact and fiction blurred and he regaled the other passengers with amazing tales of his conquests and heroics.

There was a lot to take and it offered a great many opportunities for fantasy and wordplay. I was excited. It took many hours to read this “outline,” as David called it.

About a year and a half later, Volman & Kaylan returned to New York to go over the film idea with Bowie in more detail. They met up at the Mayfair Hotel, where Bowie was staying. The three spent the next couple of days hanging out, culminating with Volman and Kaylan interviewing Bowie for the Canadian TV program, 90 Minutes Live. After the interview, Flo & Eddie hugged Bowie and said their goodbyes.

The duo never heard another word about The Traveler.
 
Bowie after show party
Mark Volman, Ronnie Spector, David Bowie, and Iggy Pop. New York City, March 26, 1976.

A portion of the 90 Minutes Live interview is embedded below. The segment aired stateside on The Midnight Special in April 1978.
 

Posted by Bart Bealmear
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02.28.2019
08:51 am
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The obscure teen film that inspired ‘Captain Midnight’ the infamous HBO hacker
02.22.2019
08:35 am
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During the early morning hours of April 27, 1986, a Florida man by the name of John R. MacDougall hacked into Home Box Office’s satellite signal. MacDougall owned a satellite dish company, and was upset that HBO and other cable networks had begun scrambling their signals so their programming couldn’t be seen by dish owners any longer. MacDougall, desperate because his business had suffered, decided to send a message. As HBO subscribers were watching an airing of The Falcon and the Snowman, the following appeared on their screens for more than four minutes:
 
Captain Midnight on HBO
 
MacDougall came up with the alias “Captain Midnight” not long after viewing the 1979 teen film, On the Air Live with Captain Midnight.
 
Clipping
Newspaper clipping, July 27, 1986.

The movie chronicles the adventures of a southern California high school student, Ziggy, who’s the voice of a pirate radio station. Captain Midnight has elements of the “teen sex comedy” film type, though it’s relatively tame compared to the onslaught of raunchy R-rated movies that came to define the genre in the 1980s. Anyone who came of age during the decade and remembers sneaking into theater showings of flicks like Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), The Last American Virgin (1982), and Porky’s (1981), or staying up late to watch them on cable—all without mom and dad knowing—is going to love the awesome new book, Teen Movie Hell: A Crucible of Coming-of-Age Comedies from Animal House to Zapped!. Author Mike “McBeardo” McPadden has penned reviews for over 350 films, from the “hard R’s” of the ‘70s and ‘80s, to softer fare such as Captain Midnight, and early teen sex comedies like the 1925 silent picture, The Freshman. McPadden examines these films, many of which are decidedly not politically correct, in the context of our current world, acknowledging, for example, the problematic aspects of Revenge of the Nerds (1984). There are also insightful essays from various contributors, and loads of stunning, vintage poster art that will take you back. 
 
Book cover
 
Teen Movie Hell hasn’t been published just yet, but Dangerous Minds has a preview for you. We’ve got McPadden’s review of On the Air Live with Captain Midnight, along with pages from the book, which will follow. We’ve also included screenshots from the Captain Midnight film.

A fun trifle from interesting husband-and-wife schlock filmmakers Beverly and Ferd Sebastian (they also made the sexy 1974 bayou action flick Gator Bait and the crazy 1984 heavy metal movie Rocktober Blood), On the Air Live with Captain Midnight seems to have been unofficially and without acknowledgment remade in 1990 with Christian Slater as Pump Up the Volume. Technically, Pump is the better film, but in terms of conveying the movie’s subject—a teenager turned pirate radio star—the Captain rules the high seas all the way.

 
Title card
 

Tracy Sebastian, son of directors Bev and Ferd, stars as Ziggy, a high schooler who works part-time at a local radio station to make payments on his sweet van. While futzing with the van’s CB radio, Ziggy’s chubby nerdlinger pal Gargen (Barry Greenberg) accidentally takes over an FM broadcast signal. Ziggy immediately grabs the mouthpiece and launches into a rock-jock rap, introducing himself as “Captain Midnight.”

 
Ziggy
 

Every kid at school happens to be tuned in at just this moment. Instantly, Captain Midnight becomes a campus mystery and a hero. Ziggy-as-Cap keeps his good thing going, spinning tunes and spewing truths from his mobile outlaw broadcast station, building the legend each time he hits the airwaves.

 
Gargen
Gargen, a teen movie nerd archetype.

The FCC catches wind of the Captain and dispatches Agent Pierson (veteran tough-guy actor John Ireland) to stop the madness. Real-life Los Angeles FM legend Jim Ladd, as “Disc Jockey,” voices support for the radio renegade.

 
Ziggy and the DJ
Ziggy and the Disc Jockey.

Ziggy finally deigns to save Captain Midnight by destroying him. He announces he will parachute into Magic Mountain theme park, where devotees will finally get to press flesh with their underground idol. As the climactic scene unfolds, a local news report claims five thousand Cap fans have assembled amidst the amusements. The same locale also welcomed the band Sparks in Rollercoaster (1977) and Kiss in Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park (1978). On-screen, the crowd of “thousands” appears to number perhaps a few dozen extras.

 
Girls
 

Though the movie adventures of Captain Midnight end with the big airborne stunt, his spirit lived until at least until 1986, when a satellite TV tech jammed HBO’s Florida signal for five minutes and broadcast a message of outrage against the network’s service fee. The video protestor was named John R. MacDougall, but his on-air live handle was Captain Midnight.

 
Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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02.22.2019
08:35 am
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Oliver Reed as a prototype Alex from ‘A Clockwork Orange’ in ‘These are the Damned’

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At one point, Ken Russell was the favored director for a movie version of A Clockwork Orange supposedly starring the Rolling Stones. What Russell would have made of Anthony Burgess’s novel is a moot point. However, it is more than conceivable that Russell would have cast Oliver Reed as Alex, the sociopathic gang leader who together with his “droogs” unleash acts of opportunistic “ultra-violence,” rather than Mick Jagger. Reed would have been an interesting fit though a bit too old for the role of teenager Alex.

Reed had played such a brooding, nasty, thuggish type before. Two years prior to the publication of Burgess’s novel, Reed played King, a psychopathic prototype-Alex in Joseph Losey’s These are the Damned (aka The Damned). Dressed in a tweed jacket, collar, tie, silk scarf, black leather gloves, and carrying an umbrella with an eight-inch blade hidden in its handle, Reed could easily have been auditioning for the role of Alex. His gang leader King terrorises tourists at a small seaside town, using his sister Joan (Shirley Anne Field) to ensnare unwitting victims for a bit of the “old ultra-violence” or as the film’s trailer puts it:

Black leather, black leather,
Smash, smash, smash.
Black leather, black leather,
Crash, crash, crash.

 
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Reed ready for a bit of the ‘old ultraviolence.’
 
Director Joe Dante has described These are the Damned as “an undeservedly obscure British science-fiction picture…unjustly neglected…[which] is really…one of the key films of the 1960s.” High praise for a low budget feature shot quickly over a few weeks in May 1961. Produced by Hammer Films, the company best known for their hugely successful series of horror films starring Peter Cushing and Christopher starting in 1956 with The Curse of Frankenstein and then Dracula (1958) and the big screen adaptations of TV’s sci-fi classic Quatermass. These are the Damned was an odd fit for the company’s roster with its strange mix of gang violence and disturbing (yet topical) science-fiction plot.

Loosely adapted from the novel The Children of Light by H. L. Lawrence, These are the Damned was directed by blacklisted director Joseph Losey, who’d been kicked out of Hollywood due to his allegiance to the Communist Party, which he’d joined in 1946. Losey considered working in Hollywood as “useless” and his association with the Communist Party made him feel “freer” and “more valuable to society.” Through politics, Losey believed he could make films of substance. What was America’s loss proved to be England’s gain, as Losey directed a string of classic films including a trio in collaboration with Harold Pinter The Servant (1963), Accident (1967), The Go-Between (1971), alongside The Assassination of Trotsky (1972), Brecht’s Galileo (1975), and the opera Don Giovanni (1979).

Losey was never quite happy with These are the Damned. Constrained by studio demands to make a commercial sci-fi flick, Losey “possessed little if any interest in science fiction as a literary mode and consequently threw out pretty much all of the novel, except for the image of the gang of teddy boys, led by King (Oliver Reed).”

He felt the rough framework of the book might act as the vehicle for a commentary upon the proliferation of atomic power and the potential debacle that could lead from its irresponsible use by high-minded technocrats. What more immediately attracted him was the setting he chose for the piece: Weymouth, an out-of-the-way part of England that is bleak, wild and ancient, and associated by the literary with the novels of Thomas Hardy and John Cowper Powys. Losey envisioned the kinds of contrasts that could be drawn between the isolated seascapes that housed the cordoned-off research laboratory overseen by Bernard (Alexander Knox) and the urban hubbub of the town crisscrossed by the motorcycles of King’s cohorts. In his mind, alien as these individuals and their surroundings seemed to be, they shared a common propensity for violence: “one was paralleling different levels of the same society which in effect were, in their own way, doing the same thing: the politicians and the hoodlums.”

What starts out as a film about gang violence and the sexual relationship between Joan and “an innocent American abroad: Simon (MacDonald Carey)” quickly develops into a dark and disturbing tale of the consequences of nuclear war. Joan and Simon discover hidden among the seaside caves groups of children who are being held captive and have been experimented upon and irradiated as a form of inoculation by a sinister secret military organisation in readiness to repopulate the planet after an imminent nuclear war.

The film was highly prescient, tapping into fears made real by the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. However, Hammer and its distributors didn’t know what to do with the film. It was passed uncut by the British Board of Censors in December 1961, but was only released in an edited form first in the UK in 1963 and then in the US as a support feature with further cuts in 1965.

However, it’s Reed who attracts the most interest and almost steals the film from Carey and Field with his turn as the psychopathic King. For a then relatively unknown and inexperienced actor, Reed showed his prowess in front of the camera and his ability to add depth and considerable menace to his role. It was the start of a series of films which have often, until more recently, been overlooked—films like Paranoiac (1963), The System (1964), and The Party’s Over (1965)—which revealed Reed’s talent as an actor which at its best placed him as the equal of Albert Finney, Peter O’Toole, Richard Harris, and Richard Burton.

Happy Birthday Oliver Reed.
 
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Shirley Anne Field.
 
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More production stills, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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02.13.2019
09:43 am
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