An iconic shot of actress Raquel Welch as a cavewoman in the 1966 film ‘One Million Years B.C.’
If my research regarding the long history of actresses playing cavewomen in films is correct, it is likely that actress and Ziegfeld Follies girl Cecile Arnold was the first woman to play a prehistoric chick in Charlie Chaplin’s 1914 silent film, His Prehistoric Past. Decades later, however, movie-goers would be treated to a vast array of like-themed films such as One Million B.C. (1940); Prehistoric Women (1950); One Million Years B.C. (starring the Raquel Welch in 1966); Hammer’s smashing 1967 remake of Prehistoric Women; the bonkers Italian film, When Women Had Tails (1970); and another stone-age hit from Hammer, Creatures the World Forgot (1971).
I must be honest—I’m very fond of pictorial-style posts, and this one may be my favorite of all that I’ve done here on Dangerous Minds. And that is because the Internet was exceedingly generous when it came to revealing images of vintage, risky-looking cinematic cavewomen. Photos of Hammer girls Edina Ronay and Caroline Munro, actress Martine Beswick, Barbara Bach (the wife of Beatle Ringo Starr), and the enchanting Norwegian actress Julie Ege—are all featured in this post. Over 30 images of sexy fictional cavewomen follow—most of which are NSFW due to the skimpy attire. You’re welcome.
Actor Charlie Chaplin surrounded by a few of his cavewomen (and a not so sleepy caveman) in the 1914 film, ‘His Prehistoric Past.’
Actress Edina Ronay in the 1967 “Hammer Glamour” remake of ‘Prehistoric Women.’
The actor Dirk Bogarde was standing outside the Karl Marx-Hof workers’ apartments in Vienna ready to shoot a scene for Liliana Cavani’s film The Night Porter. Bogarde was playing Maximilian Theo Aldorfer, a Nazi SS officer. who had pursued a sadomasochistic relationship with a concentration camp prisoner called Lucia played by Charlotte Rampling. Bogarde was “shit-scared” wearing a black Nazi uniform in public. He wondered how the local citizens would take to his appearance. He had covered his costume with a raincoat while he waited for his cue. It was almost thirty years since the end of the Second World War when the full horror of the Nazis’ depravity had been revealed.
A large crowd gathered to watch the filming. Bogarde waited for the signal to walk across the cobbled, tram-lined street and enter the apartment. The camera turned-over. Bogarde removed his coat to reveal the SS uniform underneath. On seeing his military outfit, the crowd of onlookers cheered and clapped. They sang the “Horst Wessel Song.” Small children ran towards him just to touch the uniform. The old woman, whose apartment they were using in the film, bent down to kiss Bogarde’s gloved hand and said, “It’s the good days again.” Bogarde felt sick.
During the war, Dirk Bogarde had served as an intelligence officer. He was one of the first officers to enter the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where he witnessed the “mountains of dead people” as he walked through the camp and looked inside the huts where there was “tiers and tiers of rotting people, but some of them who were alive underneath the rot, and were lifting their heads and trying ....to do the victory thing. That was the worst.”
After the war, Bogarde became the pin-up of 1950’s British cinema, most notable for his performance as Simon Sparrow in the highly popular series of Doctor.. movies—starting with Doctor in the House in 1954. But Bogarde never wanted to be a matinee idol. He, therefore, decided on a series of controversial film roles starting with Victim in 1961, where he played a gay barrister, at a time when homosexuality was illegal in Britain, who is blackmailed over a sexual relationship with another man. He followed this up with Joseph Losey’s The Servant, then The Mind Benders, John Schlesinger’s Darling, Losey/Harold Pinter’s Accident, Visconti’s films The Damned and Death in Venice.
It was after the five grueling months of filming Death in Venice when the character of Gustav von Aschenbach had so possessed him, that Bogarde he decided on taking a break from movie-making. He returned to his farmhouse in France with his partner and manager Anthony Forwood, where he spent his time gardening and writing and tending to the 400 olive trees on his land. Time-off was great, but as Forwood pointed out one sunny day, Bogarde needed money to keep his home and lifestyle together. He, therefore, decided to go back to making movies.
Unfortunately, because of his critically acclaimed performances in films like The Servant, The Damned, and Death in Venice, the roles Bogarde was offered tended to be “degenerates,” spies, and Nazis. These scripts began to pile up in his basement.
One day, Bogarde was enthralled by a movie about Galileo on television. Though in Italian, he immediately recognized the film as a work of real artistic brilliance and originality. He waited until the end credits rolled so he could find out the name of the director. It was Liliana Cavani. The name was familiar. Cavani had sent him a script which he had deposited in his basement. It was called The Night Porter.
[T]he first part was fine, the middle a mess, the end a melodramatic mish-mash. Too many characters, too much dialogue, two stories jumbled up together where only one was necessary, but the point was that in the midst of this tumult of pages and words, buried like a nut in chocolate, there was a simple, moving, and exceptionally unusual story; and I liked it.
The story was a dark erotic psychological drama centered around the relationship between an SS officer and a young female prisoner, who meet up twelve years after their first encounter inside a concentration camp. In the film, Max is working as a night porter in a German town where the residents are fellow Nazis hiding from prosecution for war crimes. Lucia’s arrival at the hotel rekindles the sexual relationship with Max while threatening the former Nazis with disclosure. The script may have been a “mish-mash” but Bogarde was attracted to the central relationship between Max and Lucia—more so after he found out Cavani had based her script on actual events.
Read more about the story behind ‘The Night Porter,’ after the jump...
Here we are. Near the tail end of such an unsettling and horrific year, at least Charles Manson is dead. One of the nation’s most infamous criminals, Manson’s debated narrative has remained as one of America’s most controversial; that of a psychotic hippie cult leader who directed and guided the gruesome murders of at least seven people. A man who it is claimed single-handedly “ended the Sixties” and whose predicted race war presaged the revival of the white nationalism seen today. After 46 years behind bars, the madman has finally left the building. May he rot in Hell.
It was announced recently that Quentin Tarantino’s next film will focus on the infamous Manson Family murders of 1969. Sorry to spoil the questionably-tactless announcement, but there have been, like, dozens, possibly even hundreds of Manson films already made. Some are dramatizations, others pro-Manson conspiracy theories. My personal favorite is the loopy 1989 documentary titled Charles Manson: Superstar. Created by goofy occultnik Nikolas Schreck (author of The Manson File), Manson’s fragile psyche and fucked-up philosophy is presented through a rare and uncensored stream-of-consciousness interview taped at the San Quentin Penitentiary.
The film begins with an observation of the dates of Tate/Labianca murder dates, August 8-9th, described, in Schreck sprach as having “always been a magnet of savage purification.” Other grim and ironically coincident events that took place on these dates include the atomic bomb drop on Nagasaki, the first national congress of the Klu Klux Klan, the birthdate of the real-life inspiration for Psycho, the resignation of Richard Nixon, and even the opening of Disney’s Haunted Mansion ride. Could there be a correlation? Probably not, but just go with it.
One of four on-camera interviews that Manson gave in the 1980s, the 100-minute documentary displays the unfiltered and frankly nonsensical Charles Manson. Physically unbound from his shackles and momentarily free from the glare of the media, Manson attempts to describe his life’s details, his innocence, and his forever existence behind bars. Set to an eerie backing track (featuring several of your cult favorites), and masterfully edited to further enunciate the insanity, Schreck presents a bleak narration of Manson’s role in the world: that of a supposed visionary, a psychotic shaman and even a Satanic demon in human form. Other highlights include footage of a still-standing Barker Ranch, Manson’s attempt to play music on a trashcan, and those uneasy feelings when his underworld Pope ventures a little too close to the awe-struck filmmaker. The presence of actual madness and horror in this documentary is so vivid that it often exudes a level of discomfort similar to a particularly lurid mondo film.
Although it was rereleased on DVD in 2002, Charles Manson: Superstar has not found much praise outside of the underground due to its, um, strikingly “pro-Manson” stance. I mean, Schreck does refer to Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi’s notorious true-crime book Helter Skelter as a work of fiction. What else would you expect from a guy who is best known for his appearance on Geraldo Rivera’s infamously ridiculous 1988 Devil Worship: Exposing Satan’s Underground TV special?
Watch the spine-tingling 1989 documentary ‘Charles Manson: Superstar’ after the jump…
Last year, I was very fortunate to see an early cut of Rupert Russell’s documentary on the rise of fake democracy Freedom of the Wolf, which will be on release soon and is currently screening at the International Documentary Festival (IDFA) over the next two weeks. The title of the film comes from the renowned philosopher Isaiah Berlin who once said, “Freedom for the wolves has often meant death to the sheep.” This quote provides a starting-point for Russell who goes in search of the world’s most dangerous idea Freedom.
The end result is an excellent and indispensable documentary which provides one helluva ride across continents to meet the people battling on the frontline like the demonstrators occupying the streets of Hong Kong against the Chinese government’s removal of their democratic rights; or the youngsters in Tunisia who are left frustrated and isolated after the failure of the Arab Spring where telling a joke now can land them in jail; and to death on the streets of America, #BlackLivesMatter, and the game-changing election of Donald Trump in 2016. Freedom of the Wolf is the essential documentary to go and see if you want to get a handle on what is happening to freedom and democracy in the world right now .
I caught-up with Russell who has been screening Freedom of the Wolf at film festivals across the world to great acclaim. I started by asking him what had the response to his film been like at film the festivals?
Rupert Russell: The screenings have been fantastic; with a few cultural differences. In the UK, people have been responding to the dark humor – there’s a low-level absurdity that runs through the whole film, which the Brits pick up on pretty quickly. In Poland, the audiences were anxious to discuss how to mount successful protests; which, for them, is understandable!
DM: Was it what you expected?
Russell: To be honest, I think it’s wise to have no expectations. Sure, you screen the film to your friends and family who are supportive and tell you it’s great. I’m sure even Ed Wood had words of encouragement when he played a cut of Plan 9 From Outer Space or Tommy Wiseau with The Room. So I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the reaction.
DM: What do you think Trump will do? Where do you think he’s going as President?
Russell: After the Republicans take a pummeling in the 2018 elections, Trump will be rattled. He’ll provoke a foreign war to consolidate his base and divide the Democrats. Where? Who knows. Australia and Canada appear as villains in Trump’s twitter feed as much as North Korea. I’m guessing that Trump is going to surprise us by invading a U.S. territory. Remember in 2015 how the InfoWars crowd was stoking a heated conspiracy for months that Obama was going to “invade” Texas? It may sound insane, but Trump’s favorite website reported that this kind of action is a normal response to a “hostile” enemy – even if it is already under the control of the Pentagon. Puerto Rico would be the obvious contender for a self-invasion. But Trump is never predictable, so I’m putting my money on California.
DM: Do you think revolutionary acts “keep the status in the quo”?—as a character in one of Derek Jarman’s films once ironically pointed out?
Russell: If your bar for success is the elimination of inequality, sexism, racism and other forms of oppression in their entirety, then yes, every act – revolutionary or not – is unlikely to eliminate them. There’s something ingrained in us to create distinctions and hierarchies. Jonathan Swift in Gulliver’s Travels captured this flaw in human nature elegantly in the sectarian conflict between Big-Endians and the Little-Endians; that is, between those who crack open an egg on the big or little end. If we can’t find a real reason to divide ourselves, we’ll find one: no matter how arbitrary or absurd.
But if you lower the bar, to say, improvement, then I think even small – let alone revolutionary – acts can make a big difference. If you thought the global women’s marches on January 21 were going to lead to the removal of Donald Trump or the overthrow of patriarchy, then yes, you will have been disappointed. But the current pushback against famous men who have sexually assaulted, harassed, and demeaned women, then I think you have the Women’s March to thank for it. It generated grassroots organizations - in both real life and online - that gave women spaces, opportunities, and platforms to articulate and understand what, until then, had been largely private interactions.
And if you take the two most successful civil disobedient campaigns in history – the civil rights struggle in the US and campaign for independence in India – the striking thing is how long they took. Change takes decades. Sometimes a protest resulted in a step backward with more oppression; other times they moved things forward. But the individuals knew that their struggle was historic and may even take multiple generations to complete. That’s why the arc of history is “long” – and not conveniently contained within a 24-hour news cycle.
DM: What do you think will happen in Hong Kong? And in Tunisia?
Russell: In Hong Kong, the short term looks very bleak. Young leaders are in prison, and pro-democracy legislators have been banned from the legislature. In the long term, I’m optimistic. There’s a body of research in psychology that has found that the events that happen in your early adult life – from 18 to 22 – have an incredible impact on the rest of your life. So in Hong Kong, you have an entire generation who has teargassed by the police and slept under highways for democracy; they’re not going to forget that. And in twenty, thirty years, these will be the people who will be running the banks, the civil service, and even the police in Hong Kong.
Tunisia is sadly predictable. The President, Beji Essebsi, has used the police to drive motorcycles in protests and kept laws that prohibit the criticizing of public officials on the books (inherited from the dictatorship, which he served in). He has made some important reforms on women’s issues, freeing Muslim women from the necessity of having to marry another Muslim. This shouldn’t surprise us though. He was the Minister of the Interior – the heart of the police state – under the secular dictator Ben Ali. So a mixture of authoritarianism and anti-Islamism was to be expected. The unfortunate thing is that while progress on women’s issue is reported in the Western press, his illiberal actions are not. Perhaps this is because we want to keep in our (Western) minds the notion that Tunisia is a “success” and “progress” is being made. It’s a narcissistic reflection of our own ideals; our values flourishing outside of our immediate cultural orbit. And if we look too closely, we may not like what we see.
DM: What next for you? What are you making?
Russell: I have just completed an animated web-series for the online streaming platform, Yaddo. It’s called How the World Went Mad and it uses a mixture of satire and science to try to explain the rise of Trump. Each episode takes a lesson from social science to explain a different aspect of this “disease” – diagnosis, symptoms, transmission, epidemic, and cure. It’s been a lot of fun and I can’t wait to put them out there. Not sure how the episode on suicide bombing is going to be received. But I’m ready for the trolls (the episode might be the one thing that will unite ISIS and the Alt-Right).
It’s been noted that all of Hayao Miyazaki’s movies, in addition to being a feast for the eyes, are positively obsessed with food. There’s always a section in every movie where the characters enjoy a bite to eat, and in every case the food is meticulously observed and rendered. The food can be grand or simple, doesn’t matter, the same careful attention to detail, whether it’s the feast of the king in The Cat Returns or Umi’s cooking in Up on Poppy Hill or the candies in Grave of the Fireflies.
Some dedicated Instagrammer going by the name 01ghibli23 has decided to recreate the meals of Miyazaki’s movies in real life, right down to the careful positioning of the egg on the bread or the pieces of carrot on the plate. In addition to these re-creations, there are also pix of Miyazaki’s posters and Totoro-shaped cookies and stuff like that.
Great, now I want to watch all of Miyazaki’s movies and I’m hungry….. Actually that’s not a bad place to be at all!
Seventeen is a made-for-TV documentary on American teenagers. Highly controversial before it even aired, it was pulled and never made it to the small screen. It went on to become an award-winning film.
Seventeen is the work of filmmakers Joel DeMott and Jeff Kreines (note that DeMott is female, despite her traditionally male forename). The duo followed a group of Class of 1981 seniors during their final year at Muncie’s Southside High School. In the film, students mouth off to their teachers, curse up a storm, talk openly and graphically about sex, get drunk, get high, and are generally seen acting in an irresponsible fashion. Race relations is a recurrent topic—the language used will be shocking to the average viewer—with the threat of violence breaking out between black and white residents so frequent that it becomes unnerving. A number of students appear in Seventeen, but the focus is on Lynn Massie, a particularly outspoken and vivacious teen. Massie, who is white, is dating a black classmate, which is frowned upon by many in her community. At one point, racist neighbors burn a cross on the Massies’ front lawn.
As upsetting as cross burning is (though the Massies seem unsurprised by it), perhaps the most alarming sequence in the film takes place during a drunken house party. Amongst the high schoolers getting wasted is Lynn’s youngest brother—who can’t be more than twelve—who chugs beer after beer. When the keg runs dry, Lynn starts counting her cash for a beer run, when “Jeff” (likely filmmaker Kreines) is heard off-camera agreeing to chip in. Then Lynn’s mother appears in the room and it quickly becomes apparent that we’ve been watching a bunch of underage young people getting blotto at a party sanctioned by parents. Mrs. Massie even narcs on a couple of partygoers who didn’t pay the $3 cover. Unbelievable.
The most movielike instance in Seventeen occurs when, after the night of partying, the teens silently mourn the recent death of a friend while listening to music. It’s a moment in which it’s easy to forget that what’s happening on screen isn’t scripted—it’s real.
Seventeen is compelling cinéma vérité, for sure, but it just wasn’t the sort of thing that was seen on TV in 1982. Xerox, the corporate sponsor of Middletown, as well as PBS affiliates, had a largely negative reaction to Seventeen. There was also the threat of lawsuits from some of the Muncie residents who appeared in the film, and PBS likely had concerns that future federal funding could be cut. It’s unclear if Peter Davis, the producer of Middletown, pulled Seventeen, or if PBS president Larry Grossman gave it the ax, but on March 30, 1982, PBS announced the documentary wouldn’t air.
David Lynch and Jack Nance on the set of ‘Eraserhead’
I was reading a review of the new season of Twin Peaks in The New York Review of Books and came across an absolutely hilarious line about David Lynch I hadn’t seen before. The speaker is Mel Brooks, who (amazingly) hired Lynch to direct The Elephant Man on the strength of Eraserhead and an earlier short called The Grandmother. Brooks related that meeting Lynch in real life confounded his expectations: “I expected to meet a grotesque, a fat little German with fat stains running down his chin and just eating pork.” Instead he was confronted with a “clean American WASP kid ... like Jimmy Stewart thirty-five years ago.”
Looking for further context for the “fat little German” that never was caused me to go down a few Lynch wormholes dating back to the 1970s (the word wormhole is carefully chosen, because after all, this is also the man who directed Dune).
In their 1983 book Midnight Movies (which actually features Eraserhead as its cover image), J. Hoberman and Jonathan Rosenbaum include the following exchange:
Hoberman: I’ve never seen a scholarly article on Eraserhead, have you?
Rosenbaum: No. It’s funny–-it’s almost as if it’s too perfect. Maybe in order to have an academic cult film it also has to be unhinged. Except what we are calling “unhinged” and “cult,” they’re calling “classic texts.”
Perhaps it should not come as a surprise that an 88-minute industrial-surrealist art film that played a major role in catapulting its director in the ranks of internationally renowned directors was not tossed off as an afterthought. On the contrary: the movie took nearly five years to make, the director actually lived on the set of the movie, and through his force of belief in the project was able to inculcate an almost cult-like mystique among the stalwart crew, who were hardly getting paid anything.
Lynch applies makeup on the face of Laurel Near, preparing to shoot a scene as the Lady in the Radiator
As fans of Lynch, we are very fortunate that a man named K. George Godwin attempted to document as much as he could about the making of Eraserhead before the coals had gotten too cold. In 1982 he published a detailed account of the years-long shoot called David Lynch and the Making of Eraserhead, which is available for you to read online. Most of the pictures in this post come from that book.
Sometime in the mid-1960s, Lynch, having informally studied art at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C., and thinking of himself fundamentally as a painter, made serious plans to visit Europe for three years. Remarkably, he instantly felt out of his element in Europe and broke off the trip after just 15 days. He returned home. Lynch has said of this experience, “I didn’t take to Europe. ... I was all the time thinking, ‘This is where I’m going to be painting.’ And there was no inspiration there at all for the kind of work I wanted to do.”
Lynch had submitted his short movie The Alphabet to the American Film Institute for a grant, where it had won distinction because it was so unlike the other movies in that year’s grouping—in a technical sense, they could not group it with the other entries. He ended up getting grant money for a short, which was to become The Grandmother. After The Grandmother Lynch tried to get a grant at a new AFI-affiliated organization called the Center for Advanced Film Studies. He submitted a script called Gardenback.
At the same moment, a producer at 20th Century Fox expressed interest in turning Gardenback into a feature-length movie, the prospect of which ended up creating problems because the AFI had recently gotten burned on a student feature-length project In Pursuit of Treasure and was reluctant to fund a student for anything similar. Interestingly, Lynch’s scripts tended to be on the short side because of his own instinctive understanding to allow nonverbal “scenes” to stretch on indefinitely. AFI looked at his script for Eraserhead, which was only 21 pages long, and concluded that the final movie would be 21 minutes. To his credit, Lynch told them that he expected it to be much longer. AFI agreed to fund a movie lasting 42 minutes, exactly double the original estimate. (As mentioned, the final product would run 88 minutes.) The funding for the movie amounted to $10,000. Actually, Frank Daniel, the dean of the AFI, threatened to resign if the funding for the movie were to be rejected. Obviously, he got his way.
In a scene cut from the movie, Henry, searching for a vaporizer to ease the suffering of the baby, opens a drawer and finds vanilla pudding and peas instead
Amazingly, the initial projections for the shoot were for a few weeks, approximately six weeks. The shoot ended up taking more than four years. The movie was shot on some disused stables that belonged to AFI, where Lynch also lived. Lynch’s close friend Jack Fisk, a well-regarded production designer and art director who met Sissy Spacek on the set of Badlands and married her soon after, appears in Eraserhead as the Man in the Planet. He and Spacek donated money to keep the movie afloat, as did Jack Nance’s wife Catherine Coulson, who was working as a waitress. Coulson, a production assistant on Eraserhead, many years later achieved fame as the Log Lady on Twin Peaks. For a while Lynch supported himself by delivering the Wall Street Journal, which paid $48.50 a week.
During the shoot, it can be fairly said that Lynch mesmerized his crew somewhat with his commitment to his artistic vision. Elmes tells of coming on board several months in because of the untimely death of the original director of photography, Herb Cardwell:
Everybody knew where everything was and what everything was and how David worked—what to do and what not to do. So I went into it the way I normally would, which is to, in a very quiet way, take charge of what needs to be done and to do it myself. In the case of Eraserhead I really had to do it myself because there was nobody else to tell to do it. We were doing a closeup of the baby and David had looked through the camera and lined it up and it was all ready to go. And I went over to the table and I moved this little prop over so that it was not hidden so much by something else. And Catherine turned to me and said, “Fred, we don’t move things on that table.” And I said, “Well, it’s just that it was blocked and I wanted to see it more clearly.” And she said, “Well, David has never moved anything on the table.” So I put it back. ... Heaven forbid David should see!
Pauline Anna Strom is a San Francisco composer. Blind since infancy, Strom says she felt like “a loner and a heretic” growing up Catholic in the South. During the Seventies, she moved to San Francisco, where she heard Tangerine Dream, Eno and company on FM radio and was inspired to experiment with synthesizers and a TASCAM four-track. (DM is reliably informed that, despite all the other changes to the city, she still resides in SF with her long-lived iguana, Little Solstice.)
Strom’s music is not for the disco. At once soothing and disorienting, it’s her means of sailing in the timestream, conjuring up the frozen past and the (apparently) populous future. Her first release, 1982’s Trans-Millenia [sic] Consort, took its name from Strom’s time-traveling alter ego, according to the press materials for the new retrospective of her recording career (such is its futurity, it comes out tomorrow):
She believed that humanity was confined by its inability to access the people of the future, therefore suffering in a kind of group solipsism. Designing a world of music that rooted itself in all times but the present, Strom’s alter ego, the Trans-Millenia Consort, became a musical activist for triggering this state of heightened consciousness.
Pauline Anna Strom (photographer unknown, used with permission of Archie Patterson’s Eurock Archives)
Strom’s first LP has inspired a new film that also mixes the familiar unsettling and the unsettling familiar: Ether Antenna, set in Nepal. There are no human actors, only robots portraying incidents from the lives of Avalokiteśvara and Shakyamuni Buddha. A five-minute excerpt from Ether Antenna, set to music by Pauline Anna Strom, appears at the bottom of this post, and the director, Michael Candy, kindly agreed to answer a few questions by email.
It strikes me that the prayer wheel that appears at the beginning and end of Ether Antenna is a kind of robot, and that Tibetan prayer flags are automata, too. Why do we find machines in a 1,200-year-old religious tradition?
The idea of automata originates in the mythologies of many cultures around the world. It’s almost an obvious outcome of a technology-enabled civilization; as digital automation continues to penetrate our daily life, it’s easy to overlook the analogue counterparts and machines that have made modern living possible.
A few years prior to my residency, I traveled to Ladakh and spent a few weeks exploring the Indian Himalayas. One of the most striking things as a (foreign) engineer was to find ancient mechanical infrastructure still functioning and valid in society. It’s like, none of those complex folding walls, trap doors or snake pits Hollywood seems so fond of would ever function without a good amount of oil and snake food. But here, in this ancient mountain range, you can find and touch a several-hundred-year-old spinning drum embossed with text and with the flick of a finger have it praying for you; some even use water, wind or solar to complete their eternal journey clockwise.
Nowadays you can’t catch a taxi in Kathmandu without a plastic solar powered prayer wheel whirling away on the dash. For me, these are simple machines doing man’s spiritual bidding—to pray; ether machines keeping you connected to the cloud, from a time when people actually knew where the cloud was.
By the time we got to Woodshock we were half a dozen strong…
Before it became “The Live Music Capital of the World,” Austin, Texas was home to an alternative music festival known as Woodshock. A quip on the “Aquarian Exposition” of a similar name, the punk rock beer-bust was first held in Waterloo Park in 1981. Fourteen local Texan bands played for over six hours, which was interrupted by a massive sprinkler raid indicating the park’s curfew. The event’s inaugural poster was designed by a pre-Jesus Lizard David Yow, who desecrated the classic Woodstock dove by flipping it upside-down with XX’s in its eyes and a toe tag. Peace and Love, my ass.
In 1983, the event moved to Hurlbut Ranch in Dripping Springs, located in the hills just outside of Austin. The site had once hosted events like the 1972 Dripping Springs Reunion, initially dubbed the “Super Bowl of Country Music” until low attendance proved it to be a massive commercial failure. Willie Nelson, who played the Reunion, was inspired by the event and hosted his first annual 4th of July Picnic in Dripping Springs the following year. Unlike its site predecessors, Woodshock would bring with it a different element from the Texas music scene: the punks, freaks, and weirdos that, as the popular local bumper sticker says “Keep Austin Weird.”
The uneven dirt roads that led to the Hurlbut Ranch made Woodshock a festival that was nearly impossible to get to. Some could say its inaccessibility was a blessing in disguise, as isolation and expanse, in addition to access to legendary watering holes, encouraged a certain free-form insanity that in ways mimicked the spirit of Woodstock itself. This must be what it felt like to take the brown acid.
Woodshock 1985 included performances by local (and otherwise) musicians Daniel Johnston, Texas Instruments, Dharma Bums, the U-Men, Glass Eye, Cargo Cult (fronted by Biscuit of Big Boys), The Reivers, Poison 13, and the festival’s unofficial mascot, The Hickoids. Several of the groups were part of Austin’s growing post-postmodernist, or “New Sincerity” movement, considered to be reactionary to the ironic outlook of punk rock and new wave. David Yow’s Scratch Acid appeared on the original Woodshock lineup, but didn’t perform until the following year for reasons unknown. What really set 1985 apart from previous and future years, however, is the short film that was created by a local filmmaker named Richard Linklater.
Running at just seven minutes long, Woodshock is a 16mm satirical homage to the hippie movement at Woodstock and the experimental psychedelic films of the era. Linklater, who would go on to direct such celebrated Hollywood films as Dazed and Confused, School of Rock, and Boyhood, was a film student at Austin Community College at the time of filming. The short was the first ever to be completed by Linklater, along with co-creator and future collaborator, Lee Daniel. The two would later recreate the landscape of Woodshock in the “Moontower” party scene of 1993’s Dazed and Confused.
Similar to Heavy Metal Parking Lot, which was released in the same year, Woodshock is a documentary short about the music fan and not the music itself. Rather than focusing on the bands of the festival, Linklater focused on the revelers, the fucked-up weirdos fried on acid and drunk off Lone Stars. Despite its punk rock notoriety, Woodshock ‘85 was about the moment and the thrill of it all.
The only musician featured on-camera was outsider artist and proud McDonald’s employee, Daniel Johnston. Here the unknown 24-year old musician can be seen during an awkward exchange where he promotes his tape, the infamous Hi, How Are You. It was around this time that Johnston began to receive some national acclaim, although it would still be years away until Kurt Cobain wore a Daniel Johnston t-shirt. Ironically, this would not be the last time Johnston would solicit his demo tapes in a Richard Linklater film. The director’s first feature length, 1988’s 16mm experimental masterpiece, It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books, also boasts a brief Daniel Johnston cameo.
In the mid- to late 1960s, there was no shortage of attempts to explain what “the kids” were up to, an understandable impulse given that they were variously letting their hair grow out, protesting the illegal war in Vietnam, using the pill, smoking reefer, listening to the devil’s music, et al. In the past we’ve noted the tour buses that would wend their way through Haight-Ashbury so that the squares could gawk at the this new breed of hippie.
To be sure, the market for “concern about the youth” was so ripe that hardly anybody could louse up the opportunity. But then, some people are singularly talented. In 1967 an exploitation movie directed by Norman T. Herman was released about the kids that tried to have it both ways, hilariously calling itself Mondo Teeno for the kids themselves while targeting the concerned parents with the more chin-stroking title Teenage Rebellion. It seems that the wishy-washy approach of trying to be all things to all demographics backfired, as the movie made little impression on the moviegoing public.
Teenage Rebellion or Mondo Teeno, whichever you prefer, was a straight documentary of the type that might have appeared on CBS during the same period, with bracing footage of demonstrating teens and so on. Fascinatingly, the movie spawned a soundtrack that today is a surefire guarantee of amusing background music for any social gathering—some of the tracks feature Burt Topper’s overwrought narration, some don’t, but all feature perfectly good, often psych-tinged music from the era. It’s as groovy and funny as only a super-“serious” “expose” of 1960s youth culture can be.
The movie appears to have been structured as a tour of youth culture, with sections devoted to drug use, homosexuality, the anti-war movement, and on and on. The introductory track, “Teenage Rebellion,” is perfectly riveting chunk of garage psych courtesy of courtesy of Davie Allan and the Arrows, and “The Gay Teenager” unexpectedly uses a rousing string arrangement not unlike something from Serge Gainsbourg’s Histoire de Melody Nelson, which came out four years later.
One of the noticeable credits on the soundtrack is Mike Curb, who both produced the album and composed some of the music. Curb is a fascinating figure who had a hit called “Burning Bridges” as the Mike Curb Congregation (!) which was used in the 1970 Clint Eastwood joint Kelly’s Heroes and he later ran a label called MGM. In 1970 Curb made a splash when MGM dropped 18 acts because of drug use (!!).