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Laurence Merrick 2

Life imitating art?

One of the many unusual figures whose life trajectory intersects with the Manson Family saga is Laurence Merrick, an Israeli Defense Forces veteran who, as critic Bryan Thomas relates at Night Flight, was sent to the U.S. in 1960 “to speak in support of Zionism, and while he was fundraising in New York City, he met his future wife, a dark-haired aspiring Broadway showgirl and wannabe actress named Joan Huntington.” From there the pair “came out to the west coast, and set up the Merrick Studio, located at 870 N. Vine St. in Hollywood, California, and for a time it was an inexpensive place for actors” – including Vietnam veterans – “to learn lessons about their craft.”

The Merricks were subsidized by the government, too, which enabled them to make a lot of money running the school. They bought a nice house in Beverly Hills and then decided to put their studio profits towards making their own movies, which they could then cast with students from the school, a win-win situation for everybody.

Laurence Merrick

Merrick, Thomas writes, is “probably best known for co-directing the legendary 1972 documentary Manson with Robert Hendrickson, which […] ended up garnering an Academy Award nomination for Best Feature-Length Documentary.” The Israeli “was also well-known in Hollywood […] for the fact that one of his students, Sharon Tate, would later be killed by members of Manson’s Family, during August of 1969, the same year he spent fourteen days directing [the biker film] Black Angels.” Note the interesting choice of words, too, when Thomas relates that Huntington viewed her husband’s movies as “training exercises”.

A 1977 UPI article states that “Merrick became interested in the Manson Family because actress Sharon Tate, who was murdered with four friends by the group, had been a student at his school” – implying that Merrick only took an interest in Manson after the killings had taken place; but Merrick and Hendrickson had begun conducting interviews with Family members “before and after the shocking murders that rocked the nation in 1969,” Thomas indicates (italics added). As his account of the making of Black Angels tantalizes, the totality of Merrick’s involvements with this movie, Tate, and the Manson Family strains the limits of what can be dismissed as mere “synchronicity”:

In fact – in yet another example of the parallels that existed between Southern California’s biker and hippie countercultures – members of Manson’s Family would occasionally drop by Paramount Ranch, located at 2813 Cornell Road, in Agoura, California, and visit the set while Merrick and his cast and crew were filming scenes. […]

Merrick’s script focuses on two biker gangs at each other’s throats, a white motorcycle gang called Satan’s Serpents — led by Chainer (once again played by Merrick’s favorite leading man, Des Roberts) — and a black motorcycle gang, called the Choppers (their leader was played by Bobby Johnston, whose biggest role previous to this one was as a prison guard in In Cold Blood).

The film’s title, Black Angels is actually the name attributed to the highway patrolmen who observe the two rival biker gangs from a distance, waiting for the race-motivated war for turf to explode.

Merrick recruited a real black biker gang to play the Choppers in order to provide authenticity.

The main plot concerns one “Black Angel” in particular – a lieutenant for the highway patrol named Harper (Clancy Syrko, who also edited the film) – who wants to see all of the biker gangs wiped off the face of the earth, and he plots to pit the two gangs against each other so they will end up in a race war leading to both of them being destroyed. […]

Black Angels

It’s interesting to note that this film’s concept of pitting white against black in a race war, in the year 1969, is very similar in some respects to Manson’s concept which he called “Helter Skelter”, an apocalyptic war arising from racial tensions between blacks and white, which he believed was foretold in Chapter 9 of the book of Revelations in the bible (as well as hidden messages he believed he heard in the Beatles’ “Revolution #9”).

Makes you wonder what kinds of conversations they were having at Paramount Ranch between members of the cast and crew and some of Manson’s followers.

There were also many interesting cameo appearances, including a real member of Charles Manson’s gang, Mark Ross (he plays “Singer”), who later claimed to write a theme song for the film that was never used […]

The film’s tagline “God forgives, the Black Angels don’t!,” incidentally, was borrowed from the hugely successful 1967 Italian spaghetti western, God Forgives… I Don’t.

Another tagline – and perhaps another reference to Manson? – was “A portrait of the family.”

Speaking of Manson and his family, again, it was during the film’s production that Merrick was invited to head over to Spahn Ranch, with a 16mm camera, in order to film the Manson family on their own turf.

Merrick also shot footage of them at Devil’s Canyon, their Barker Ranch hideout in Death Valley, and then later – during the Manson trial – at the Hall of Justice in downtown Los Angeles, in addition to other locations.

Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi, who did as much as anyone to shape the public’s perception of the Manson Family mythos, participated in the production of Merrick and Hendrickson’s documentary and appears onscreen.

Guess What Happened to Count Dracula

Des Roberts as Count Adrian in Merrick’s Guess What Happened to Count Dracula?

Merrick’s previous movie, Guess What Happened to Count Dracula?, concerns the occult, mind control, and, at least subtextually, acknowledges Jewish power in Hollywood – and it only intensifies the Tate-LaBianca resonance of Merrick’s work, even featuring a minor character named Sharon. Thomas continues:

The movie featured several of Merrick’s students in key parts, and chiefly concerned what happened to Dracula’s son, Count Adrian (Des Roberts, who plays the vampire while sporting a wicked John Carradine-style goatee). Roberts and his musical partner, Andy Wilder, also provided the film’s musical score.

The film was shot at the Magic Castle in the Hollywood Hills, a mansion built in the 1920s which had been renovated for performances by magicians.

One of Merrick’s students owned the place, and had invited Merrick and his wife over for dinner, which left a lasting impression, and when the couple began thinking of locations where they could shoot their Dracula movie, they both remembered the Magic Castle, which was just about to undergo a renovation. […]

The movie also contains a subplot straight out of the then recent box office smash Rosemary’s Baby, when one character — an actor named Guy (just as John Cassavetes’s character was in Roman Polanski’s film), played by John Landon — is all too willing to sell his soul in return for being given a successful acting career.

It’s also interesting to note that Merrick’s film features a “surprise” ending that was clearly inspired by Polanski’s previous film, 1967’s The Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck, when Polanski’s future wife Sharon Tate sprouts fangs in the film.

According to Horrorpedia, “more obscure X-rated edits of the film [Guess What Happened to Count Dracula?], with an emphasis on male gay sex, were released as Does Dracula Really Suck? and Dracula and the Boys.”

Adding to the mystique of Merrick’s Manson documentary is the fact that it features Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme caressing a rifle and explaining, “You have to make love with it; you have to know it […] so that you could pick it up any second and shoot.” This interview took place several years before Fromme was convicted of (supposedly) having attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford in Sacramento. Merry Prankster and founding Yippie Paul Krassner claims that Manson sent him a letter instructing him to get into touch with Fromme around 1971:

I called, and we arranged to meet at her apartment in Los Angeles. On an impulse, I brought several tabs of acid with me on the plane. […]

The four of us [Krassner, Fromme, and her roommates Sandra Good and Brenda McCann] ingested those little white tablets containing 300 micrograms of LSD, then took a walk to the office of Laurence Merrick, who had been associated with schlock biker exploitation movies as the prerequisite to directing a sensationalist documentary, Manson.

Squeaky’s basic vulnerability emerged as she kept pacing around and telling Merrick that she was afraid of him. He didn’t know we were tripping, but he must have sensed the vibes. He may even have gotten a touch of contact high. I engaged him in conversation about movies. We discussed the fascistic implications of The French Connection.

Was Fromme “afraid” of the Merrick from the effects of the LSD – or did she have other reasons? This brief encounter, whatever its meaning, in combination with Fromme’s participation in Merrick and Hendrickson’s Manson constitutes another Israeli connection to an eccentric piece of American political assassination drama following the various Jewish and Zionist intrigues surrounding the murder of John F. Kennedy.

Bizarrely, Merrick himself was murdered in an outrageous episode further dissolving any distinction between reality and theater. Bryan Thomas relates the bizarre incident:

Dennis MignanoThen, in 1977, Merrick’s life would intersect fatally with a potential acting student named Dennis Mignano, who – much like Manson himself – had really wanted to have a music career, but when that didn’t pan out, the struggling rock singer decided to take acting lessons.

That decision had led him straight to Merrick Studio – which by now was teaching classes in acting, directing and cinematography – where he applied to be a student.

He believed that Merrick – due to his association with Manson, bikers, and magic – was the perfect person to help him launch a successful acting career (Mignano had reportedly been obsessed with magic as a child).

Mignano filled out an application to be a student, and then was told he was eligible for government assistance to pay for his tuition, but he had to wait for three weeks for the application to be processed.

Mignano grew irritated and felt like the delay was yet another setback and a disappointment, but he waited, and while he did so he watched episodes of a 1976 TV mini-series called Helter Skelter, which just happened to be re-airing on TV.

The TV series may have played a small part in reminding him that his life was now intertwined with Merrick’s and he then became obsessed with the idea that Merrick had actually placed a curse on him.

On January 26th, 1977, he went to the school and waited in ambush for Merrick to appear in the parking lot for a few hours and then pulled out a pistol and shot 50-year old Laurence Merrick in the back.

Mignano then fled the scene, and much like the opening scene of Richard Rush’s 1980 action film The Stunt Man – which, and get this, starred actor Steve Railsback, who had played Charles Manson in the Helter Skelter mini-series – he, by pure chance, happened upon a movie being shot mere blocks away, on Willoughby Ave., and the killer blended in with the crew (just as Railsback’s character did), pretending to be part of the film production team.

Merrick, meanwhile, staggered into his office at the studio, telling his students “Some son of a bitch shot me and I don’t even know why!” Some of the students thought they were witnessing an impromptu acting exercise, but quickly realized that their teacher was dying in front of them.

Merrick was rushed to Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital, but he was pronounced dead within an hour. Students at the Merrick Studio Academy of Dramatic Arts said that Mignano had been hanging around the building all morning, asking them questions about Merrick and his Manson documentary.

Mignano confessed to the crime in 1981 and was confined to a mental institution. Six months after his murder of Merrick, Mignano’s sister Michele, a topless dancer, was also murdered – a case that remains unsolved. Questions about Merrick remain, as well. Why was his actors’ studio receiving government funding? Did his work on behalf of Israel end after he left New York for Los Angeles – or did it continue in some capacity as he interacted with the Manson Family and completed his films?

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

sinai-guerrillas

Feel lucky, goy?

panther-squad

Great cover. Terrible movie.

Regular followers of this blog may be aware of my ongoing interests, not only in the Jewish Question as it expresses itself both culturally and politically in recent films, but also in the obscurely nostalgic as well as my apolitical fondness for VHS refuse of the awesome eighties and tacky nineties. These readers will understand and forgive my indulgence of curiosity in a moment of impaired judgment when I discovered a cheap 1991 video era relic titled Sinai Guerillas. Just take a look at the art on the box. What VHS trash aficionado could pass over something as righteous as this? That too-cool yenta commando with her machine gun, shades, exposed cleavage, and bullet belt, ready to mow down a horde of evil, cartoonishly stereotyped Arab primitives, like some hyper-Zionist variation on the work of Andy Sidaris, Fred Olen Ray, or Cirio H. Santiago! How could this promising cover adornment not herald some rare and boobs-and-blood-filled VCR viewing experience? Unfortunately, not since Sybil Danning beckoned siren-like from the similar cover of the abominable Panther Squad have I been so completely and mercilessly let down by a deceptive and damnable VHS box.

blazing-sand

It wasn’t enough to burden the Germans forever with “Holocaust” guilt. They also had to be subjected to epic turkeys like Blazing Sand.

Imagine my disappointment when Sinai Guerillas turned out to be not some unfairly neglected exploitation gem of the early nineties but a retitled and English-dubbed repackaging of the utterly tame and quaintly corny 1960 Israeli adventure movie Blazing Sand! Concerning a perilous mission to rescue a wounded Israeli stranded in Arab territory, the story plays much like a Middle Eastern western, with tiresome scenes of the Jewish posse riding their horses and camels across a desert peopled not by savage Indians, but by Jew-despising Arabs. Emphasizing the parallel with the western, one of the characters even dresses like a Jewish cowboy!

The genre connection is, furthermore, more than superficial. Just as the western in its heyday celebrated a rugged confidence in American mastery and expansiveness, so Sinai Guerillas extols the Zionist claim to a twentieth century “frontier” in Greater Israel. The story takes the characters into what is supposed to be Jordan – which, however, is never mentioned by that political designation. After all, this “whole place used to belong to us. Now we have to come here illegally,” one of the Jews says indignantly. The artificially imposed lines on maps “are a hindrance to the cultural development of a rising young nation,” the viewer is told. Apart from constituting a mild cinematic curiosity as a pop-cultural artifact of Zionist chauvinism, the film does offer some regional scenery, but very little else. Even the awkward attempt at sex appeal, with actress Daliah Lavi performing a robotic fifties-style exotic dance routine to entertain a dying comrade in his final moments of life, is enough to put a chill into those blazing sands.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

blazing-sand-daliah

Daliah Lavi in Blazing Sand. No slouch on the kosher bimbometer, but not exactly what I had been led to expect by the false advertising. The woman depicted on the glorious VHS cover appears at no point in the actual film – nor do the two helicopters, the flamethrower, or the scantily clad lounge singer pictured on the back of the box. God damn you, you Zionist bastards!

Paul Morrissey

Paul Morrissey

Mention Paul Morrissey and movies about transvestites, heroin addicts, and other varieties of lowlife are likely to come to mind; but the director of such films as Flesh (1968) and Heat (1972) holds very different views than one might assume from a first impression of these films and from his professional association with Andy Warhol. “Staunchly conservative, Morrissey still frowns upon the moral and artistic state of America today,” writes Steve Ryfle, who interviewed the filmmaker in 2000. Rather, Morrissey’s vintage films reflect his view that “modern American life was going down the toilet.”1 David Bahr of The New York Times writes:

Paul Morrissey disdains rock music, abhors recreational drugs and thinks even less of liberal politics. When asked his views on sex, he pauses for a moment, looks his inquisitor in the eye and says: “I’m Catholic. I’m with Rome 100 percent.”

Such sentiments may seem surprising coming from a director whose films luxuriate in the libertine lives of heroin users, masturbating transvestites and polymorphous-perverse male prostitutes. Yet Mr. Morrissey – who from 1966 to 1972 directed more than half a dozen movies produced by Andy Warhol, discovered the avant-garde rock band the Velvet Underground and once saw a court label his work “obscene, vulgar and profane” – believes he’s misunderstood, to say nothing of misrepresented.2

Morrissey situates his work outside the counterculture and characterizes it instead as his disapproving reaction to the general collapse of morality as it occurred around him:

There’s something I realized years later, after I had made all the films, although I probably realized it at the time even though I wasn’t conscious of it. At that time, there was this idea that was just coming in – the media was just getting hold of it, and the music world was just screaming its lungs out about how great it was – saying you could do whatever you want. That was really idiotic, and stupid and foolish and silly, unbelievably stupid.

People, by the late sixties, were doing whatever they felt like, and nobody gave a damn.

“I understood that these people were good story material, good subjects to show where life had gotten to, and how pathetic it was,” Morrissey explains.3 Blood for Dracula (1974), for instance, imagines a future-shocked traditionalist vampire (Udo Kier) who despairs of finding virgin blood to drink in the sexually free and easy 1970s, while Trash (1970) depicts the boredom of heroin dependency. “So much of the culture glamorized drugs at the time,” remarks frequent Morrissey leading man Joe Dallesandro. “Paul wanted to show the seedier side, where it all led to.”4 Women in Revolt (1972), which utilizes a cast of transvestites for satirical purposes, mocks the increasingly noisy and confrontational feminist movement of the day. “I thought it would be funny if they were playing women who were converted to lesbianism by the women’s lib movement,” Morrissey says. “The whole women’s thing was so ridiculous. ‘We don’t need men,’ and all that.”5

The director envisioned his Madame Wang’s (1981) as a satire of nonexistent American values and the decline of Western Civilization:

The huge Masonic Temple was a Greek temple, it represented past culture, and it was abandoned and lived in by derelict female impersonators. That was my take on Americans, especially Southern California Americans. They couldn’t care less about anything, except maybe getting up in drag or doing a punk rock show and screaming and throwing themselves on the floor. And the poor Russian agent comes from East Germany and says, “I’ve got to meet Jane Fonda, we’re taking over this country one day, and we have to have all of our operatives in place and I’m one of them.” And everyone says, “great, so what?”6

Morrissey gives the following explication of his comedy flop Spike of Bensonhurst (1988), in which his “pain in the ass” protagonist (Sasha Mitchell) “treats everybody like dirt, and does whatever he wants”:

The little switcheroo, which I thought was the point of the story, was that finally when someone disciplines him it turns out to be the best thing that happens to him. The idea that there are some standards and a sense of order in the world somewhere […]7

Like so many avowed conservatives in American politics, however, Morrissey’s work reveals his complicity in the projects of the culture destroyers even as he professes traditionalism. The mundane drugs-and-drag depravity of his classic oeuvre, while successfully illustrating the emptiness of the revolutions in sexuality and consciousness that had been engineered during the 1960s, also serves to normalize the ascendant dysfunction.

“Life is so second rate now,” Morrissey assesses.

And that idea that life has degenerated to a second rate position was part of the story to all those movies. I still don’t see that as a story element in any other movies – the obvious fact that life today is so much poorer than it was before. And I don’t think you can tell that story unless you’re aware that there’s a difference now. Most people don’t even know there’s a difference between today and before.8

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Endnotes

  1. Ryfle, Steve. “Life Is a Toilet: The Films of Director Paul Morrissey”. Shock Cinema 17 (Fall-Winter 2000), p. 18.
  2. Bahr, David. “Conservative Bard of the Demimonde”. The New York Times (February 27, 2000): http://www.nytimes.com/2000/02/27/movies/film-conservative-bard-of-the-demimonde.html?pagewanted=all
  3. Ryfle, Steve. “Life Is a Toilet: The Films of Director Paul Morrissey”. Shock Cinema 17 (Fall-Winter 2000), p. 18.
  4. Bahr, David. “Conservative Bard of the Demimonde”. The New York Times (February 27, 2000): http://www.nytimes.com/2000/02/27/movies/film-conservative-bard-of-the-demimonde.html?pagewanted=all
  5. Ryfle, Steve. “Life Is a Toilet: The Films of Director Paul Morrissey”. Shock Cinema 17 (Fall-Winter 2000), p. 20.
  6. Ibid., p. 21.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid., p. 19.
Village of the Damned (1995)

Village of the Damned (1995)

Germanicus Fink, also known as Son of Europe and Mr. Weedwacker, recently saw John Carpenter’s version of Village of the Damned (1995) and gave the following interpretation at Murder by Media:

Anyway, people commonly assume the movie is anti-White because the evil alien children have blond hair (actually it’s white), but it is so obviously about the Jews.

The real giveaway occurs after they have created so much animosity among the townspeople because they have been causing many people to destroy themselves. They all suddenly decide to move into an old barn outside of town for their own protection. They then order everyone to bring them supplies so they can sustain themselves.

Could there be a more obvious analogy about Israel?

“John Carpenter’s movies, all except possibly [. . .] Prince of Darkness, deal with the Jewish question,” Fink goes on. “The Thing and They Live are obvious examples. Village of the Damned is packed with references to Jewish behavior. Once you see it I know you will agree with me.”

This writer would be hard-pressed to explain how such Carpenter classics as Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), Halloween (1978), Christine (1983), or Big Trouble in Little China (1986) “deal with the Jewish question”; but the argument has certainly been advanced that They Live (1988) is rife with such resonances, with some even suggesting that the “Hoffman” lenses in the film, which allow people to recognize the manipulative aliens that surround them, are a reference to the work of Michael A. Hoffman II.

What about Village of the Damned? Along with the original 1960 movie, the story is based on the 1957 novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham. Film historian  Steve Haberman, in his audio commentary on the 1960 version, calls it a “fairly faithful adaptation” of the book by Wyndham, whom he characterizes as an author of “respectable bestsellers” – which suggests that Wyndham’s work was ideologically unobjectionable and therefore promoted by the entertainment establishment.

The Midwich Cuckoos (1957)

The Midwich Cuckoos (1957)

Luke O’Farrell, writing at Heretical, sees in The Midwich Cuckoos an anti-Semitic message similar to what Fink reads into the John Carpenter film:

Mass immigration. I started thinking about it the other day when I was reading John Wyndham’s novel The Midwich Cuckoos (1957). It’s about an English village in which women are impregnated by a mysterious alien race. Someone starts to wonder about the aliens’ motives:

If you were wishful to challenge the supremacy of a society that was fairly stable, and quite well weaponed, what would you do? Would you meet it on its own terms by launching a probably costly, and certainly destructive, assault? Or, if time were no great importance, would you prefer to employ a version of a more subtle tactic? Would you, in fact, try somehow to introduce a fifth column, to attack it from within?

In the 1950s, when The Midwich Cuckoos was first published, White societies were very stable and very well-weaponed, and a direct assault on them would certainly have been costly. So the alien race that wanted to challenge their supremacy didn’t launch a direct assault. Instead, just as that John Wyndham character suggested, they introduced a fifth column to attack it from within.

Who was the alien race? Jews, of course. And what was their fifth column? It was non-whites.

Amazon reviewer Allen Smalling, however, says of the Folio Society’s edition of The Midwich Cuckoos that its foreword by Adam Roberts

makes rather too stringent a case, in my opinion, that the Midwich children represented a “subject race” much as Jews did under Nazi Germany. I don’t hold with that interpretation, but it is worth noting that the children in the book were rather dark-complected, arguably Semitic in appearance, unlike the blond Aryan types portrayed in the 1960 movie.

There seems to be some disagreement among putative readers, though, as to how Wyndham actually describes the unearthly children in his book. Haberman, in his Village of the Damned (1960) commentary, claims the novel describes them as having “gleaming golden hair”. Not having read The Midwich Cuckoos, this writer is in no position to referee, so any reader who happens to know is invited to chime in on this matter.

Village of the Damned (1960)

Village of the Damned (1960)

Haberman relates that Village of the Damned screenwriter Stirling Silliphant, who would go on to pen In the Heat of the Night (1967), claimed that MGM was “appalled to find that they had bought what they termed an anti-Catholic film. Apparently studio executives felt that the impregnation of village women paralleled the Immaculate Conception.” Consequently, MGM sent the script to its British branch with a lower budget and instructions for a rewrite.

The film was directed by Wolf Rilla, a Jew whose family emigrated to London after Hitler came to power. “In this film, these aliens become little traitors in our own homes, sort of like space-crafted Hitler Youth,” says Haberman, who adds that “it may go back to our portrayal of the enemy in World War II – the Nazi superman who was sold to the world as physically and mentally superior but obviously lacked any moral sense whatsoever.”

Martin Stephens as David in Village of the Damned (1960)

Martin Stephens as David in Village of the Damned (1960)

Stormfront poster JohnJoyTree says, “I fear Wyndham was a typical liberal in racial matters. Consider The Midwich Cookoos [. . .] with its blue/blonde alien supermen who must be wiped out: or The Crysalids, where the persecuted ‘racially impure’ telepathic mutants are the inheritors of the Earth: etc etc.” Of the anti-war, pro-disarmament Village of the Damned sequel Children of the Damned (1963), in which a new, multicultural crop of super-evolved youngsters offers the liberal dream of a one-world peace to end the Cold War, Wyndham is said by screenwriter John Briley to have “liked it very much”.

A Mondoweiss commenter, meanwhile, finds parallels in The Midwich Cuckoos with both the Nazis and Israeli settler zealots:

What I hear of the settler children reminds me of the Midwich Cuckoos, the creation of the 1950s science fiction writer John Wyndham. They are children with strange, malevolently used powers based on their ability to think and feel as a group. As I remember they are described in very Aryan fashion, so the story seems like a satire on how what began as a bunch of deluded children became the irresistible German army of 1940. But totally shared thinking is not dangerous for one race only.

Blogger MPorcius offers the following insights into Wyndham’s 1955 novel The Chrysalids, in which the mutant minority protagonists “begin to receive telepathic messages from New Zealand”:

Christianity in the novel is an oppressive scam; women have large fabric crosses sewn onto their dresses, and in a scene late in the novel the fleeing mutant women cut these devices off their clothing, symbolizing their liberation.  Maybe these crosses are supposed to remind us of the Crusaders?  I often think these oppressed-minority-with-special-powers stories are allegories about anti-Semitism, and Wyndham’s naming the main character David, and inclusion of a debate among the mutants about whether it is wise to marry “Norms,” encourages such suspicions.  Maybe we should see New Zealand as akin to Israel?

Thomas Dekker as David in Village of the Damned (1995)

Thomas Dekker as David in Village of the Damned (1995)

If a protagonist’s name in The Chrysalids reinforces the notion that he and his party are Jews, however, does this not also argue in favor of the Midwich children being Jew stand-ins in Village of the Damned? The lead alien child is named David in both movie adaptations. If Fink is correct and the movie is an allegory about the Jewish menace, then why make them so exaggeratedly fair-haired and dress them in vaguely fascistic black coats as they march in stiff lockstep like movie Nazis? Are these features fig leaves to hide the author’s or the filmmakers’ true intentions – iconographic red herrings, perhaps? What characteristics do the children have that might have prompted Fink to see them as symbolic of the Jewish state?

For one, they are aliens – outsiders – and maintain an intensely exclusive group identity. They are cruel and sadistic, for another, and separate themselves geographically by moving into a barn on the edge of the village. In the 1960 film this is mandated by the authorities, whereas in Carpenter’s version this little exodus is their choice. Then there is the implacable vengefulness and control-freakiness exhibited by the children. Obliteration – a Holocaust, perhaps? – will “not happen to us because we have to survive – no matter what the cost,” proclaims David (Martin Stephens) in the 1960 film. “You [gentiles?] have to be taught to leave us alone.” The David (Thomas Dekker) in the John Carpenter version delivers a very similar harangue.

Another alteration that the remake’s screenwriter, David Himmelstein, makes in adapting the original is that Christians are the most forcefully opposed to the alien children, with local reverend Mark Hamill actually attempting to shoot them in one scene. Is Himmelstein attempting to warn the viewer that Christianity is their best and only buttress against the Jew World Order? Given that Hamill and his supporters are unsuccessful and come across as rather crazed, one suspects that this was not the intention.

The fact, too, that Himmelstein wrote the script to Sidney Lumet’s film Power (1986), which attempts to scare the gullible with the Jonesian specter of Arab influence in American media and politics, would also tend to militate against interpreting Himmelstein’s Village of the Damned screenplay as a well-intentioned warning to the gentiles. Then, too, there is the fact that abortion, had the mothers in the story chosen to go that route, would have obviated the ultimate mass-murder of the children that brings the story to its resolution. This hardly seems like a Christian solution.

John Carpenter on the set of They Live (1988)

John Carpenter on the set of They Live (1988)

Is John Carpenter an anti-Semite? The answer clearly hinges on the subtext of They Live. “If you sat Abe Foxman down and made him sit through They Live there would be little doubt that he would begin to see this as a critique on Jews [and] on Jewish culture,” writes Robert Phoenix, “though Carpenter was really assailing Reaganite conservative culture at the time.” Numerous movies attacked conformist consumerism during the eighties, with similar themes receiving satirical sci-fi treatment in The Stuff (1985) and Happy Hour (1986), both films made with heavy Jewish participation. But does it ultimately matter whether They Live is intentionally anti-Semitic or not? Whatever Carpenter’s intentions in making They Live – and, for that matter, Village of the Damned – white nationalists can enjoy these movies as entertainments and as illustrative realizations of those aspects of the present order they must continue to combat. They Live lives – and so do the memes.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Ideological Content Analysis sorrowfully presents

60swomanfunicello

90swomanmadonna

The American Woman Through the Years

A scarifying and sobering stroll through serial sociological horrors!

(click for slideshow)

Naturally, everyone prefers a pleasurable moviegoing experience to a sharply unpleasant one; and yet, as adventurous, seasoned, and discriminating cinephiles already know, there is something instructive and salutary in an occasional trip to cinema’s Dark Side and a philosophically minded sojourn in the Movie House of Pain.  This is the tenebrous, nightmarish place (think Hellraiser and picture hooks and chains slowly swaying and clinking in unfathomable darkness) where nothing worthwhile is ever projected, where filth alone adorns the screen, and where Boredom and Loathing wait like lewdly lip-licking Cenobites to bind and eviscerate the viewer.  These are the experiences, after all, which give good and great movies their significance, just as, without the darkness, light itself would be impossible.

A case in point is Betty and Coretta, a Canadian-made Lifetime Network movie about Betty Shabazz (Mary J. Blige) and Coretta Scott King (Angela Bassett), the respective widows of martyred rabble rousers Malcolm X and Martin King.  Superfluous beyond belief, this most recent hosanna out of the Martin King Cult is exactly the film one would expect it to be: a stoic, vapid, stylistically sterile, and self-congratulatory cardboard reenactment of highlights from the lives of two not particularly fascinating women as they bravely continue to live their lives whole decades after the touted events that made them even tangentially relevant to anyone other than themselves – much of it punctuated, of course, by a soundtrack of the obligatory soulful moaning.

Considering the inconsequential nature of the women’s stories following their husbands’ deaths, Betty and Coretta understandably suffers from a lack of interesting event or forward narrative momentum.  Follow Coretta Scott King as she boldly faces reporters who have the nerve to question her about the FBI recordings.  Follow Betty Shabazz as she bravely raises a daughter troubled by nightmares after her father’s murder. Follow Coretta Scott King as she graciously gives multiple inspiring speeches and lobbies to get a holiday named after her husband.  Follow Betty Shabazz as she boldly hosts her own radio talk show.  Follow Coretta Scott King and Betty Shabazz as they admirably persevere, eat lunch, exchange brave mothering insights, move on up, and boldly shop for shoes together.  Betty’s public accusation that Louis Farrakhan (Alex C. Askew) had a hand in Malcolm X’s murder is as confrontational as the movie ever gets, and even this subplot fails to engage.

Worse, screenwriters Ron Hutchinson and Shem[p?] Bitterman’s script is rock-hard stale bread all the way, with Coretta Scott King sounding every time she opens her mouth as if she suspects the pious stenographers of black historical destiny may be hiding behind a curtain and recording her every word, calling her husband a “vessel for greatness” and arguing that “we need to consecrate his legacy.”  Angela Bassett’s wooden performance perfectly mirrors the empty verbiage she recites, and Malik Yoba is just as boring as Great Doctor Junior Himself.  Mary J. Blige fares better in her role, coming across much more naturally, but the dialogue does the actress no favors.  Lindsay Owen Pierre is unworthy of note as Malcolm X, and Ruby Dee, who narrates the film as a pseudo-documentary interviewee, gives evidence of incipient senility as she delivers her lines in halting, awkward syllables and sometimes even appears to read from cue cards as her eyes dart unsettlingly from side to side.

A star and a half.  Ideological Content Analysis, after being stretchered out of the Movie House of Pain like a wounded and bloodied trooper, indicates that Betty and Coretta is:

8. Pro-bastard.  Betty’s daughter keeps it real and skips the marriage bit.

7. Anti-gun.  Betty’s daughter has nightmares about men with guns.

6. Anti-miscegenation.  Betty’s daughter’s white live-in guyfriend, as if wiping his nose before offering to shake hands with Betty is not bad news enough already, also turns out to be a dastardly spy for the FBI.

5. Selectively anti-state.  The FBI is an antagonist, as are the congressmen who oppose the creation of the national King holiday.  (All the FBI probably needs, though, is a quota system, for it to become a tool for progress.)

4. Egalitarian.  Coretta campaigns for “economic justice” and identifies poverty as one of the evils plaguing America.

3. Statist/pro-NWO.  “Can you believe it?” Betty says, exasperated.  “Another round of budget cuts.  When are taxpayers gonna learn?  Pay a little now or a whole lot later.”  The film opens with witness to history Ruby Dee gushing at the momentous dedication of a King statue by President B.O.  Coretta longs for “a new world [order], a just world, a world dedicated to fayuhness and equality for awl.”  The UN is referenced as a weapon for forcing social change in America.

2. Feminist/black uber alles.  “You don’t need a man to survive,” Betty tells a student.  “You just need some trainin’ so you can get a good job.”  Addressing herself to black women, Coretta defiantly intones, “Weeee awwww a powuhful fawss.”

1. Anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn).  Imagine that.  And yet, in an unintentional irony, as soon as Betty has enough money, she gets “a nice home, away from the city [and her fellow blacks, presumably], where Betty could give her children the sheltered life she had dreamed of.”  Still, “Every time a neighbor see us, they think we gone blow somethin’ up.”  Bigots!

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Katherine

Katherine aka The Radical (1975) ****

Originally broadcast on television, this worthwhile film asks how a rich college girl from a respectable family could grow to so hate the society that has given her every advantage that she winds up as a bitter domestic terrorist and founding member of the murderous Weathermen Underground.  A pre-Carrie Sissy Spacek stars as the title character, with an unusually energetic Henry Winkler playing her quirky lover and fellow subversive.  To its credit, the film stops short of glorifying revolution, but it does humanize the aspirants in giving a glimpse into their experiences and motivations.  Balancing this, however, is the sympathetic portrayal of Katherine’s conservative parents (Art Carney and Jane Wyatt), who disapprove of their daughter’s decisions but love her and only want to help.  Rounding out the cast is Julie Kavner, future voice of Marge Simpson, as one of Katherine’s college friends whose life follows an entirely different course.  Some of the music is poor, but the film is recommended to anyone interested in the young stars or the radical politics of the period.

4 out of 5 stars.

 

KGB Connections

The KGB Connections (1982) ****1/2

Before Michael Moore and reality television programs popularized the obnoxious, attention-grasping gonzo approach, the documentary used to be a consistently fascinating and dignified form of filmmaking. Thankfully, The KGB Connections, an old-school black-and-white CBC documentary, hails from the days when stark truth was all that was necessary to hold the viewer’s attention. Consisting largely of interviews with CIA men and defectors from communist intelligence services, the film exposes shocking breaches of national security by the KGB, which utilized diplomatic missions (particularly the UN, described as a “nest of spies”) and “illegals”, spies smuggled into the country under false identities, to increasingly undermine U.S. interests throughout the sixties and seventies and into its last decade of existence.  If the film is to be believed, the Soviets even had the ability to monitor the phone calls at the White House and the Pentagon using harmless-looking antennae mounted on their consulate buildings.

The most amusing interviewee is easily Hedda Massing, who during the 1930s was one of the Soviet Union’s most distinguished recruiters of influential American citizens.  Massing and former communist Nathaniel Weyl dish the dirt on traitors Laurence Duggan, Noel Field, and Alger Hiss.  Also of interest is KGB proxy activity through Cuban intelligence and the recruitment and training of young American terrorists like the Weathermen.  There is a spareness to The KGB Connections that will probably not appeal to those with short attention spans, but history buffs and the politically aware will want to take the time to digest its abundance of information.  The unsettling electronic musical stings that introduce the different segments do much to enhance the film’s real eeriness.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

Graduate

This evening your humble reviewer attended a screening of The Graduate, which of course has long and correctly been touted as one of the greatest and most insightfully representative films of the 1960s.  He had seen it before and now wanted to see it again, this time on the big screen, because it is instructive and (more importantly) fun to revisit the classics, particularly when the classic in question features Dustin Hoffman in his star-establishing turn, Anne Bancroft in one of the most seductive performances ever to hit the screen, plus one of the finest pop soundtracks imaginable courtesy of Simon and Garfunkel – and yet there was something a little sad and discordant about your reviewer’s experience, beginning with the quietly stark sight of the almost totally bald head of the man standing in front of him in line to buy a ticket.  Your reviewer was one of only a very few people under the age of sixty in the theater, most of those in attendance probably having seen The Graduate in its original theatrical release.  The advanced age of these human remains of the 1960s was driven home when one straggling white-haired woman bumbled in, fell in the aisle, spilled her popcorn, and cried out “Help!” after struggling futilely to raise herself.  And yet, hard as it may be to believe, these geezers once belonged to a generation of rebels – as this second film of Mike Nichols attests.

The Graduate is a film about discomfort and uncertainty.  It opens and closes with images of pensively staring Dustin Hoffman in worried transit, first sitting in an airplane on its way to Los Angeles – mid-air furnishing for the movies a perfect metaphor for transition, a physical context for soul-searching in characters temporarily suspended between two geographical points representing stances and stations in life – and finally riding in a bus with somebody else’s bride, seemingly having won the day – but to what purpose?  Hoffman as Benjamin Braddock at no point appears comfortable with himself or in his surroundings until his cathartic coming of age in the arms of Mrs. Robinson; and even after discovering and asserting his will, he appears at the end to have arrived where he started – in uncomfortable uncertainty.  The Graduate is a film about the discomfort of being young in a world dictated by the old, the growing pains of a country and a civilization breaking out in revolting countercultural acne; the discomfort of innocence confronted with corruption; and (subtextually, the protagonist’s surname notwithstanding) the discomfort of an awkward Jew in good WASP society, with Dustin Hoffman doing for the quirky Jewish nebbish what Marlon Brando did for the t-shirted blue collar macho slob in A Streetcar Named Desire.

Benjamin Braddock is a young man of few if any discernable ideals or positive ideas about the changes he would like to effect in his life and his world; he is an intelligent and even scholarly but thoughtlessly selfish person and yet heroic in his way as he attempts to find his path on a shifting emotional and societal ground.  In 1967 his generation’s rebellion was newly blooming, a work in progress, its future a glorious mystery.  Now Braddock’s bus ride of destiny is over, the revolution very nearly complete.  His generation’s leaders, once installed in the centers of cultural and political power, proceeded to usher in an era of rot and corruption worse than anything that had outraged them in their university days.  Now that the hippie is the Man, politicians are more untrustworthy than ever, young men are still shipped off to die for corporate profit in absurdly unnecessary conflicts, and crony capitalism now masquerades as progress as yesterday’s victims set themselves up as despots, the only discernable accomplishment of their druggy governance being the gradual dismantling of everything that was still right with the world before they came along, took it over, and congratulated themselves on liberating it.

Still, and as The Graduate wonderfully documents, there really was an exciting time when nobody knew where the bus was going; the journey was just beginning, the travellers were young and beautiful, the music was gently thoughtful and vividly happening, the cultural impulse seemed to be to freedom rather than cynical tyranny; and the knowledge that the bus would eventually swerve drunkenly off the road of restraint and all reason and into an abject abyss of squalor in no way diminishes the artistic achievement of The Graduate and its classmates of the Easy Riders and Raging Bulls cohort, eloquently bittersweet though certain of their triumphs may have become in retrospect.

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