Sunday, October 30, 2011

"Law no more!" - Kindergarten Consciousness in ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (1933)


Thanks to Criterion's fancy restoration the ships and shipping in the pre-code horror Island of Lost Souls--long absent from DVD--have extra foggy resonance. Finally. My dream request that Criterion release this title at last has been answered. I feel like the dream king of a remote Skull-shaped island, who can see deep into the shadows of the studio jungle and make out the grim black beast faces that before were just vague VHS-streaks.

It makes all the difference. This time Criterion's burned all the artifacts out of her!

Director Earle C. Kenton eschewed mere stock footage rear screen projections, and the enormity of the ships and their lines and cables strung in the fog really hits you on blu-ray - you can practically smell the salt-sprayed animals and you feel bad for them and anyone who has to smell it, like a waterlogged zoo. There are lovely shots of bright spot light and pitch deep black coming through chiaroscuro latticework, pond reflections reflecting potential lovers dissolving back into DNA sequences ripe for halving; the subtle changes of distressed expression on Leila Hyam's face as the windows facing her at dinner teem with lewd, grinning, probably jacking-off donkey men; the character of Oran ("Him.. tell me... spill blood!") now standing out more from the foliage as every feature of his black on black Caliban face is restored with the Criterion glow and every obscene pustule on Moreau's hopelessly phallic Sebastian's garden-variety prehistoric plants glistens in the moonlight.

One would feel better about it all if the old man had some opiates or Ketamine on hand to knock out his animals before all the painful glandular surgery, but that would undo the grisly satisfaction of the ending. Still, there's a lot of pain in this movie. Due to Laughton's portly sadistic toad-like elan, his Moreau becomes something like the younger brother of his other two main early 30s sadists: Cap'n Bligh in MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY (1935) and 'bullyin' Barrett in THE BARRETTS OF WIMPOLE STREET (1934). Those mythic British connections are perhaps intended, as a satire of such types, the English sadist using the strict codes of conduct of the age as tools for abuse (apparently England's brutal school system will do that). We learn from my old Scarlet Street buddy David J. Skal in the extras that HG Welles meant the original version to be a kind of Swiftian meta-satire on the Victorian fad for social evolution and science and disregard for the suffering of lab animals, but my reading of the film this time before seeing his extra harkened back farther, as far back as ye can Goethe - to the Annunaki in the old tablets of the Sumerians in ancient Mesopotamia. Look at the picture below and tell me it doesn't look like this ancient god is feeding the animals at a zoo (mmm, strawberries, or pine cone pineal glands!)

Him tell me... spill blood!
If you don't know your ancient alien theory, Lord Enki came here and made humans from a mixture of Annunaki and resident ape /animal DNA so that they could be taught to mine for gold which was then shipped off-world. Enki got soft on his critters and gave them some tips on the use of fire and language against strict orders. He even taught them to eat.. meat.

Maybe the end of most mad scientist movies-- when the monsters run amok and kill their maker-- are really a kind of very long-belated revenge against lord Enki for fucking us up - making us part god, part beast -a  hideous still-beating THING! We've been simmering all these eons in our ancestral memory, resentful of ever being dragged from our Edenic animal sleep and thrown into the cold logical light of reason, pain, spelling, kindergarten; being forced to walk on two legs instead of comfortable crawling, and all that other serpentine-mammalian hybrid consciousness duality - both herd animal and solo predator --all just to satisfy the morbid curiosity of a well-heeled reptilian alien madman who's angry at the world 'cuz he's too deep in the closet to have a sex life of his own. Moreau could also be in that sense an early accidental ringer for J. Edgar Hoover (more on that to come)!


The big highlight in ISLAND is the climactic showdown between the two biggest hams of horror at that time: Bela Lugosi as the keeper of the law going against the whip-snapping Charles Laughton. Lugosi's ranting--after being beaten down, forced to endure untold hours of daily make-up application, brought to heel by bad deals from Universal and morphine addiction--brings several lifetimes worth of rage to bear; Laughton's hamming--no need for studio beat-downs when his homosexuality is beaten into the closet by the intolerant age itself--matches Lugoisi's floridity with a gradually eroding bed of fearlessness. 

It's a great moment in classic horror, worthy of any Karloff-Lugosi pairing. And perfectly cast. I can't see Karloff playing either Moreau or Lugosi's beast man; he was never much of an ego-mad tantrum-raving screamer-- his is more the creepy mellifluousness of his Satanist in THE BLACK CAT--and in the end this showdown is all about tantrums --the bratty older child wreaking havoc on the younger ones until they band together and wreak their vengeance. When we see the 'faithful dog' die to save his master, we're suddenly ashamed we've been dressing our pets up in little butler outfits all these years.

Another cool aspect of SOULS is its ahead-of-it's time approach to liberal empathy. Perhaps the fall from Eden wasn't the serpent's DNA-diddling after all but the sneering condemnation of a moral crusader like Richard Arlen. The outrage of his Mr. Parker towards the vivisection of these creatures makes him a kind of early representative for PETA. On learning Lota was once a panther, note Parker's choice of language - "These others I can maybe overlook, Moreau," he says, "but to make a woman, with a woman's suffering! That I can't forgive."

In other words, his empathetic response is manageable with the grunting, tough manly beasts, but a woman is, as Carol Clover noted, man's sensitive springboard, his mental frame for absorbing a more acute form of projected punishment via the masochistic gaze.

In other words, the gaze is a holy thing that must be guarded from trauma. Hence you can serve a bunch of pork, steak, and chicken at the craft services table during a film shoot, but if you kill a pig, chicken or cow onscreen you are 'cruel' and in violation of "the law" - What is the law? To protect the stomach of squeamish animal and woman lovers --are we not men? There's no way you can possibly kill a creature 'more' cruelly than at a freakin' stockyard or under a doctor's scalpel, so it's not the animal's suffering the laws protect but our own squeamish gaze. We want to be assured no suffering we see onscreen is ever real; it might upset us. If only Moreau had given vocal chords to the meat on the craft services table! Their ghostly yowls might haunt the entire world into veganism!  And what argument could Mr. Parker have then, that wouldn't make him sound like a hypocrite as he reaches for another plate of veal?

Of course while on his island--Moreau insists on it in his laws--everyone is a vegetarian, just like Hitler!
---

Final note: I generally don't groove on DVD menus, but the Criterion one sets a new awesome standard, expanding on the cover art, with overlaid medical drawings spliced together and music from the film playing over, cool and menacing.  Dig. I love it. DVD of the year.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Old Dark Capsules: THE GHOUL, CAT AND THE CANARY, THE MONSTER WALKS, THE OLD DARK HOUSE, THE BLACK RAVEN


Secret panels, stormy nights, dying heirs, hairy hands, Karloff, candles, lawyers; priceless mcguffins stolen from a dead man's watch pocket; maybe a coroner, woken up at this ungodly hour of the night; guys in ape suits for the medium shots, stock footage of a monkey for the close-ups; Bela Lugosi stuck playing a butler with barely any lines because the producers are worried about his morphine addiction; shrieking maids; bats; black cats; skulls on desks; conniving trophy wives everyone wants dead. What could be more Halloween-ish? It's the Old Dark House genre, basically forgotten today because there are no more old dark houses. Now they're either 'haunted' or long-since converted to apartments.

But if you've ever spent a weekend at a rich friend's mansion then you know how weird it can get: a late night trip to the bathroom after everyone else has gone to bed can be a terrifying, surreal nocturnal journey ala THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER river trip. The walls are so thick that if someone were screaming for help downstairs in the study you'd never even hear them, or be able to find them.

And no longer can eccentric millionaire uncles just caper down to Egypt and help themselves to whatever cursed, ancient artifacts they care to dig for. The colonialist yard sale is closed! But the films, thank Ra, remain open! Here's five I know like the back of m'hand: 


 THE GHOUL
1933 - ***
British studio Gaumont's attempt to make a 1930s Universal horror reveals just how great Universal horrors were by contrast. At any rate, GHOUL's foggy and cozy as a cup of Earl Grey at a midnight graveyard picnic. Karloff is an eccentric Egyptologist who spends 75,000 pounds on an emerald he thinks will bring him back from the dead. He dies soon after and is entombed to the strains of Wagner's immortal "Sigfried's Funeral March" but apparently without the gem. Soon thereafter a cast of skulking emerald seekers materialize out of the fog including Ernest Thesiger (Dr. Pretorious!) and a grumpy Dickensian lawyer who employs rather elaborate strings of words like "I intend to grant myself the pleasure of calling on her this evening." They're all either looking for the emerald, stealing it from someone else, having sadomasochistic fantasies (how very British!), writing notes, making peace with angry cousins, or being strangled by a Karloff back from the dead!


The grand guignol moment is when Boris carves a bloody ankh symbol on his bony chest, cut from many prints. Overall THE GHOUL would make a fine, weird double bill with the original MUMMY (1932), and possibly even stole its props, but alas, like so many British-Egyptian Museum horrors of the era all the supernatural elements must be conveniently explained away by film's end. One mustn't leave the queen's subjects thinking such things are true, you know... a gullible lot they are, I'm afraid, sir. That's not to say this jewel still isn't a little loose in its setting, if you know what I mean, guv. Say no more...

THE CAT AND THE CANARY
1939 - ****
My favorite Bob Hope movie! I've seen it 1,000 times! Dragging my canoe behind me! I taped it off 'Spotlight' in 1980 and, in some ways, I'm still watching it. Bob Hope is the perfect mix of romantic hero and scared goofball quipper as Wally Campbell. The leading lady is Paulette Godard, who turns out to be the sole heiress to her eccentric Uncle Cyrus Norman's estate, which is an old house way out on le bayou, where an escaped maniac who calls himself 'The Cat' is prowling for victims. Guest must take canoes to get to the mansion, and Hope's stoic creole paddler has already heard Hope's jokes "last year... Jack Benny Program."


George Zucco reads the will and is the first to get murdered. Gale Sondergaard is the housekeeper in tune with the mysterious chimes and 'murmurs' of the old house. The other relatives all play up the notion Paulette is insane (she keeps seeing hands come out of walls) but it's mainly so they can lay claim to the fortune, thanks to the sanity clause, and don't tell me there ain't no Sanity Clause because if there's one movie I've seen even more times than CAT it's NIGHT AT THE OPERA (I taped it off Prism).

You lucky stiffs, Uncle Cyrus' ghost must be holding bank night because CAT AND THE CANARY has been restored on DVD and glows like never before so you don't have to put up with my olde dupe which I once would have been happy to dupe for you in exchange for REMEMBER LAST NIGHT? Now it's available in that Thanks for the Memories - Bob Hope DVD set, which is a must even if you already have ROAD TO MOROCCO and GHOST BREAKERS (which everyone says is better than CAT, but I disagree. CAT is the shit!).

THE MONSTER WALKS
1932 - *1/2
An old creep in a wheelchair with a big old dark house? Check. Ape in a cage in the basement? Affirmative. Mischa Auer as the illegitimate son of the old creep in the wheelchair and the maid, angry he's denied any of the family fortune after all the hours he's slaved for that old man? Check but ick, now it's depressing in its offhand illumination of social injustice. Willie Best furthers the social injustice angle as the shuffling, uber-cowardly stereotype chauffer to the bland honky hero. Ape man hands coming out of the wall to strangle blonde poseur to the fortune are cool, but not enough. It puts the 'ugh' back in enough.

I know the Leonard Maltin review by heart: "Willie bests Mischa for laughs, but it's a close race." Lenny, you're my racist wheelchair-bound true father who taught me to write like a subliminal weisenheimer. Still, the stormy night-rattling-sheet metal makes it nice to fall asleep to as the sun comes up on another frosty November 1st, your blood levels of alcohol, ecstasy, nicotine, and candy now dwindled to a shudder no amount of coffee can allay.

THE OLD DARK HOUSE
1932 - ****
I had such high hopes for this film, the 'lost' Universal horror of 1932. For decades it was a holy grail for Universal horror nuts like me. Old VHS copies were nth generation dupes, horrifically murky. Then Kino came to the rescue via a restored, lone surviving print, and its star Gloria Stuart even did an audio commentary for the laserdisc! I never had a laserdisc player, but James Cameron did, loved the commentary and that's how she came to narrate TITANIC! It's awesome to hear this no-nonsense 1932 starlet tell you about shooting in the rain with James Whale and Boris Karloff and putting up with a cast of intellectual thespian Brit eccentrics and their clique-ish tea rituals, as meanwhile the shots all go down smooth as a Knobb Creek skinny dip... death where is thy sting?

The stranded travelers include: Charles Laughton as a blustery captain of industry; Lillian Bond as his chorus girl traveling 'ahem' companion; Melvyn Douglas the cheerful forgotten man; Stuart and her taciturn husband Raymond Massey as Mel's sophisticated, supportive friends. The old dark's residents include: Ernest Thesiger ("Dr. Pretorious again, sir!") as the brother of the bitchy no-nonsense, no-teeth old pious Christian woman Rebecca Fem (Eva Moore), who shouts "No beds! They can't have beds!" Decent old Thesiger lets them park it by the fire anyway, and even busts out his secret stash of gin - much to his pious sister's disapproval. Karloff is a bit underused as the  violent, scarred, mute, horny, and exceedingly drunken butler ("a night like this could set him off!"), he'd have been great as Saul... not that... oops, four o-clock! Break for tea, everyone!  Sorry Gloria,  intellectual thespian Brit eccentrics only... there's a dear.

 THE BLACK RAVEN 
1943 - ***
When I'm having a travel-induced panic attack this is my go-to PRC for nonstop black-and-white storms,  muffled dialogue, and George Zucco's silken voice all serving to make things extra cozy, and it all takes place--as do all the best old dark house films--over one wild-ass crazy 'dark and stormy' night, ending as the sun comes up. Zucco plays a kind of posh Moriarty-ish version of the Dude from Big Liebowski, moving around the waterlogged cardboard sets in his robe and slippers. He's the titular Raven, a retired criminal par excellence who now runs a small inn which he uses as a front for an operation that ferries criminals over the Canadian border. No actual ravens appear in this film, but Glenn Strange is the idiot manservant and Charles "Ming" Middleton is the dour but clueless sheriff. An assortment of would-be border-jumpers check in because the bridge is washed out; a suitcase of embezzled cash changes hands, corpses accrue and if you're me, a dark part of you really responds to the killer's climactic rant against smelly garlic-eating working class bus commuters! Make sure to get the best available edition as there's lots of crappy public domain copies out there where everything is too dark and and half the dialogue is hopelessly muffled. Though if you get a little dark and muffled yourself tonight, you just may not notice... a night like this could set him off! Hmmm?
 ----------------

Special shout-out to Verdoux! - it seems to contain the same eerie alchemical magick as celluloid itself!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

White as a Sheet: BLACK MOON (1934) and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 (2010)


Voodoo and witchcraft-related horror films often simmer with a whole gris-gris bag of subtext vis-a-vis gender, race, and psychology under a boilerplate plot: a white dolt either with a white girl or alone lands on a voodoo island for gold or research or shipwreck, a cute young (white) woman from the village betrays the gods to be with him; they escape in a boat as the island erupts in flames and all the black monsters die except the grinning ferryman who is innocent in his naivete, who spirits them away where they can breed and uphold the status quo and in later years go "Voodoo? Harumph!" when the kids ask him about it. If the woman who betrays her people for the white visitor is not white, however, she dies to save him or to appease the tiki gods or miscegenation-phobic censors. If she does live, you must imagine Carl Denham lecturing at a feminist studies group: "She was a queen in her jungle world, but she threw it all away to follow a handsome stranger home to to his own lands, and here she is, barefoot and pregnant, for your own amusement!"

Few places is this gender/class/race subtext more glaring and yet consciously progressive than Columbia's rare and hard-to-find BLACK MOON (1934). With its mix of horror-action and white man's burden-coded proto-feminism it just may be the least racist and sexist of all 1930s racist-sexist zombie movies --a kind of pre-Lewton Lewton where women understand the supernatural realms instinctively while the half asleep men try to keep it all buried via tactics like condescension, humiliation, beatings, and threats --none of which work a damn-- until the status quo boundaries have shrunk to noose size.


Keeping with the subjugation motif, Fay Wray gets second billing in MOON but is the most recognized name, having tangled with Kong on Skull Island the year before. However, on this particular forgotten island the white power over the denizens is long established via racist French sugar cane plantation owner (Arnold Korff). His young niece (Dorothy Burgess) left the island years ago for New York City and now wants to come visit. He doesn't want her to, lest it excite the natives. Living there as a kid she apparently did some serious mystic bonding with the locals and now the drums are calling her to return, return, with her own young daughter (a maid, and Wray) in tow.

The voodoo scenes turn out to be surprisingly respectful of the tradition - and the drumming and singing is awesome, with day-for-night shots of glistening black bodies drumming and dancing, old wizened faces staring off into the distance, and lots of white garb that may be more true to the area but is much less 'fun' in a wrong way (i.e. no Anton Grot or William Menzies-type set design). The unsung master of stereotype transcendence, Clarence Muse, is on hand as the charter boat captain who takes old Jack Holt to the island. Muse is worried about his own girl, a local who's become much too mixed up with the voodoo scene. (See my ode to him here). Somehow or other all the racist crap of the era seems to just melt away around Muse. He even forms a kind of interesting bond with Holt --just two normal American guys wondering what's got into their women. There's no nonsense like would be if their characters were played by Willie Best and Bob Hope, for example, which wasn't too bad in and of itself compared to other teams, like the ungodly shuffling of Steppin Fetchit in CHARLIE CHAN IN EGYPT.


But while it's applaudable on these levels, and it is spooky right from the opening with servants in the voodoo lady's New York City apartment, shuddering at the sound of Dorothy Burgess teaching her infant daughter to play voodoo drums, it never lasts: a strange man who works for the colonialist uncle shows up with the message he doesn't want Burgess to go to the island--the natives are too agitated--she tells him ring off and he's killed on his way to see the husband to tell him to get his wife locked down. What's cool is we want her to go to the island, so the native skulkers are killing the messenger for our benefit. The natives are clearly the good guys up to a point, as we bristle at the idea these scowling white dudes are going to decide where Dorothy Burgess can and can't go. But in the end of course they are right.


Lacking any kind of central figure to care about, aside from Wray and Muse (both minor figures in the film) makes the film a little too reliant on atmosphere and expectation. The ominousness builds up for the big ceremony but it's so 'respectful' when it comes it's a bit of an anticlimax. The kid's maid is killed early on when she keeps objecting to the child being given things like knives and voodoo dolls to play with, but we don't see the murder or the body. Why? Wray wires for Holt to come and take them home but the wire operator is killed before he can send it. At least we get to see the explosion. Even so, we side with the voodoo crowd because we're waiting for something genuinely 'bad' to happen. But we do like Holt's relationship with his little daughter. They have a genuine bond and he's not a simpering sort like dads in films today, but a rough and ready 70s dad type and she loves it.


PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 shares a lot of BLACK MOON's deep subtextual feminism. Here the dad is a self-satisfied liberal authoritarian pretending to be fun, hip, gentle family man but he scoffs at the supernatural while his wife and maid know better, which only makes him resentful and furious, forbidding any mention of supernatural goings-on in his presence. 


Like its forerunner, PA2 was a huge hit in theaters, and like BLACK MOON has a great set-up with only mild yield: the initial ghost attack looks enough like an ordinary break-in that it compels dad to install security cameras and as our subjects sleep through the night these security cam images--a ghostly lit pool with the cleaner snake slithering around the surface; the crib room with the German shepherd guardian (the dog's not much for supernatural detection, surprisingly), the big petit bourgeois living room--take on a creepy life of their own as our eyes nervously scour the scene in search of some uncanny element or movement. Andre Bazin would surely approve!
 

Why the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY films work as instant pop culture artifacts is their William Castle-ish utilitarianism - they are here to provide bonding moments of shock in the cinema on Saturday night, or to creep out couples on their couches, couples similar to the couples depicted. And that is all - they are obviously super cheap to make, and make far more than their more expensive competitors. But what they show is something new--the modern American family to itself as it really is, revealing the awful difference between how 'scary' we look on video vs. the pretty people we see in the mirror. The dad thinks he's a hilarious righteous sex machine but we see he's an asshole, etc. and then, watching himself on screen, so does he. These people are the American family that the sitcoms and TV want to portray, but don't have enough time. All the corpses the screenwriters can dredge up in the family garden pale in comparison to the unstoppable demonic ghost possession in the real time found footage usually edited out of TV shows. For eight hours or so every night most of us are in a sate of total unconsciousness. Who knows what's going on while we're asleep? It's creepy. That's what got us hooked in the first place with the first PA - a possessed sleeping girl standing motionless over her sleeping husband... hour after hour.

It's important in each example here that the endangered family be upper-middle class as success makes the dad 'dependent' on the prevailing reality and culture. He's got something to lose. He knows hungry young bucks are eyeing his spot. A white trash redneck sleeping in his pick-up truck has nothing to lose by embracing new paradigms and is thus way more likely to be down with the supernatural. But in the American upper middle class' unconscious, the uncanny is ghettoized so deep that when dad finally sees the tape and learns the truth he becomes a fractured, incoherent mess, worse than useless and ripe for possession. If such a possession was offered he'd snap at it, a chance to switch sides and affix his star to whatever's currently in charge, whatever overpowering force wants to supply the new paradigm, no matter, as long as he can still feel smug.

Just as BLACK MOON is not just about race oppression and more about gender oppression, each one a metaphor for the other, so too the PARANORMAL films convey the freak-out that occurs when the rational left-brained know-it-all douche bag dad types are forced to confront the truth in inarguable form, on security cameras. They can never completely protect their children --their kids will always be exposed to danger.  Not even the TV set can provide a respite now. Over the last twenty years dad's nervous system has been swamped by the belief that pedophiles and danger lurk in every corner, but the liberals say don't get a gun, trust the government to take care of it, just realize they won't It's a two prong attack designed to sell SUVs and home security systems, and when a threat comes right through all the defenses money can buy, the dad can only vehemently deny it doesn't exist, and persecute anyone who says otherwise.

Such a realization of complete powerlessness is the apocalypse of the American family and its one salvation. One thinks back to the "they're here" moment in POLTERGEIST, and if you compare the downward spiral from level-headedness to powerless tired mess of Craig T. Nelson as the dad in that film vs. the gone-to-pieces dad in PA2, all you can do is weep for the incredible dissolving father. The ghosts came through the TV static in that 1980 pre-cable film (when white noise static and station sign-offs still existed), but the PA films are made on and with digital --there is no more four AM shot of an American flag to signal the end of another broadcast day, no chance for static to speak through. We have 900 channels of cable and it never, ever sleeps. All hail Shark Vacuum

Friday, October 21, 2011

Angels of Death: 10 Favorites


I love chicks that are truly crazy, not the faux bad-assedness of poseurs like Winona Ryder in Heathers (who express remorse for their murders as if mom and censor are waiting just off camera) but those who are truly liberated, in a way that terrifies even the bourgeois tenured profs who presume themselves beyond knee-jerk anti-feminist patriarchal reactions. It's payback time for the Inquisition with these devilish damsels on the screen.

People come to horror movies to see their deepest, unresolved, pre-empathic infantile anger expressed and cathartically exorcised. Bela Lugosi embodied this rage for my generation, the egomaniacal genius who scorned society and its unconscious banality appeared to us through the fuzzy UHF signal like an alien ruler. We rooted for him even unto the closing credit flames. In his honor I praise the chthonic bitchez in these films, for they stomp all over 'safe' characterizations and trust the audience not to start killing everyone the moment the film's over. They use their claws.

I only wish I could mention the great female killers from certain gialli, but that would be giving away the plots and I would never....

Yoko Mimimada
HOUSE
1977
I need to see this film about a dozen more times before I'll be able to write about it, but whatever... it's paisley psychedelic strangeness with incessant, nerve-grating piano melody stopping and starting until it becomes torture-- finds Minimada playing the demonic doppelganger auntie to a gaggle of schoolgirls who are all devoured by her deadly... house. She's old and in a wheelchair but as the girls are consumed she becomes younger and more empowered until in a final showdown she's a picture perfect soap commercial model. This film may be too out there even for an 'enhanced' audience, but is the kind of thing you can freak out people of all ages with.

If you need to come down afterwards, try AUDITION!

Sue Lyon
MURDER IN A BLUE WORLD 
1973
Three things I'm crazy for: nurses, Sue Lyon, and mercy killing; all three are wrapped up in this piece where Lyon is a homicidal nurse who kills patients so they don't have to spend their lives crippled, old, or boring. Meanwhile a bunch of douchebags with tacky helmets, whips, and dune buggys pull some of the old surprise party ultra-violence on random families who are usually watching Clockwork Orange-related programming. You get the impression this Spanish director Eloy de la Iglesia really loves his Kubrick (Sue was, of course, Stanley's LOLITA). She's aged well but alas has the aging sex goddess doing cheap Italian horror movies to pay the bills thing going on.

The incredible Kimberly Lindbergs champions the film over at TCM's Movie Morlocks thus:
...by making Sue Lyon his muse, Eloy de la Iglesia hijacks Kubrick’s LOLITA and leaves the audience questioning their voyeuristic relationship with the cinema and its effect on our own sexual impulses. Eloy de la Iglesia‘s Lolita isn’t a fictional ideal of feminine beauty or a hapless victim of the male ego and Sue Lyon seems to get a kick out of exploiting her character. By the end of MURDER IN A BLUE WORLD it becomes apparent that Stanley Kubrick’s films have been thoroughly deconstructed and put back together in such an unusual way that Sue Lyon is able to completely redefine her celebrated ’60s role.

Priscilla Lawson
FLASH GORDON
1936
People remember the monsters and Flash's wrestling tights from the brilliant original 1936 serial but not everyone remembers that at the core of all the derring-do was a hot love quadrangle: Princess Aura, daughter of Ming the Merciless, lusts uninhibitedly after the earth man, who stays true to Dale (Jean Rogers), the long-suffering earth woman who is desired by Ming. Dale is often thrown into very revealing gowns and pawed by hawk men and the same crab-clawed dragon monster over and over with different heads, while Aura arches her wicked eyebrows and pulls strings behind, her father's throne like the Fah Lo Suee of Mongo. It was Princess Aura I had the hots for as a kid and Lawson is pretty solid and awfully kinky. I guess it was okay as far as the code was concerned to lust uninhibitedly in a 1930s serial if you never get your man. "Space Soldiers" is I think the name this hides under on the Netflix stream. If you can see the whole serial, see it. If you can't, see the edited together feature SPACE SOLDIERS. Either way, keep your eye on Priscilla at all times.

Allison Hayes
ZOMBIES OF MORA TAU 
1958
The best parts of this film are not even the hilarious underwater fights (slow motion with a bubble machine and blurry filter to hide the fact it's all shot on dry land) but the scenes with Allison Hayes as the bitchy trophy wife of the rich fat cat behind the seafaring gold hunt in them thar voodoo islands. In case you forgot, Hayes is the 50 FOOT WOMAN and a honey for the ages, always looking like she just slithered off the cover of a 1930s pulp magazine. And she turns into a zombie, in this film, and the idiot non-zombie people just won't even... well, let me turn you over to Day of the Woman's Britney-Jade Colangelo, from whom I cribbed the image above:
The hottest moment is when Hayes talks her rich fatcat into letting her kiss the handsome hunk hero! Right in front of him! Fat cat even has to insist!!

Beatrice Dalle
TROUBLE EVERY DAY
2001
"TROUBLE fulfills the promise of CAT PEOPLE, which told of a race of humans who would turn into black leopards after making love and could turn human again only after taking a life. However in Paul Schrader's 1982 version, these killings were kind of tepid, with the panther striking while the victim is lolling around in a post-coitus haze. None of that waiting around for Denis! The way Dalle continues to obliviously whisper and coo in her now dead lovers' ears for example, links to her a real cat lady, the type tries to keep toying with her prey long after its dead. Such scenes are few and far between (a similar one was apparently edited from later cuts of LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT), they make producers uncomfortable because they threaten the safety of their model of the cinemagoer as one already dead and presumed therefore impervious to attack, as if the image and the eye are tectonic plates and the idea of cinema is to promise contact yet prevent any actual buckling. Dalle's sexuality buckles it and triggers a simulacratic melt-down; the covetous eye is torn out in a fit of enjoyment that transcends all textual boundaries. "(cont. reading here)

 Mariclare Costello
LET'S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH
1971
It's tough being a paranoid schizophrenic when everyone really is out to get you. This is what Jessica learns when she and her husband and some meathead move to an island off New England to get away from the big Apple's 70s crime. They find a squatter named Emily (Costello) living in their big manse, and are about to kick her out, but she's kind of cute and the meathead takes a shine to her.  Jessica is just pumped that she didn't hallucinate Emily -- she really is there! And she plays the lute. And her picture is in an old frame in the attic dated in the 1800s. Uh oh... There's a really terrifying scene where Emily makes a pass at Jessica, and then kind of --- well, it's freaky, quiet, fucked up beyond rational thought, and awesome.

All the Ladies on the Isle
THE WICKER MAN 
2006
"Many critics label LaBute a misogynist, but his remake of WICKER MAN allows him to portray plenty of very powerful, frightening, intelligent women going up against a coarse, unconscious, ineffectual male cop and that's the opposite of what a misogynist would do. For many men, a truly liberated, sexually aggressive, snarling female is one of the most terrifying creatures ever conceived of by - and I hesitate to say God because God is suddenly not even a "He" when they're around, and everything gets dark and scary and one's balls shrink and release hormones of queasy dread that hit us like an extra dose of gravity. And without the people of Summers' Isle kowtowing to his manly whims, Nic Cage's "A Child is Missing, damn you!" righteousness is revealed as the macho bullying it's always has been.  Cage here is like the sister's boorish boyfriend in REPULSION or the sleazy neighbor in CARNIVAL OF SOULS, only here he's outnumbered and roaring like an old pervert crushed to death under the headlights of a Russ Meyer supervixen. (Where the Wild Wicker Lieutenants Are, 1/7/10)

 Ruth Gordon
ROSEMARY'S BABY
1968
What Polanski dredges out of Ruth Gordon’s clown-cake make-upped old lady smile is an evil against which there is no rational defense if you've been socially conditioned --as a woman in the 20th century--to be nice and decent to friendly elderly neighbors. Since Minnie Castavet is old and perky and adorable there is no defense against her prying, manipulating, and ensnaring because according to the social doctrine old ladies must be obeyed while women Rosemary's age are treated like children too incompetent to know what's best for their own wombs.

Marki Bey
SUGAR HILL
1974
"Played by Marki Bey, a regular on STARSKY AND HUTCH, Sugar Hill is amazing! It's great to be rooting for a murderous voodoo priestess and not have to worry she's going to develop a conscience or let love weaken her resolve for deadly reprisal-making via a series of comic book-style death traps involving zombie massages ("Treat me easy, easy," the unwitting massage recipient asks); a severed chicken foot (a peak AIP moment); voodoo dolls ("When the doll is enflamed you will pick up the knife and use it on yourself!"), leg cramps, and hungry pigs ("Hope they like white trash!"). When the 'good' guys are the zombies, the mobster bad guys don't have a chance in hell... and I'm in psychotronic heaven."(9/9/10)
 Lesley Tapin
LEMORA: A CHILD'S TALE OF THE SUPERNATURAL
1973
Sweet Lila Lee (Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith) escapes her creepy preacher foster parent and catches a midnight bus to spookville in this low budget and all the more eerie for it thriller. If you ever used to catch those bizarre, faded color, cheap puppet and bad dubbing-infused German and Swedish 'kid's film' K. Gordon Murray imports on TV or in the local matinees then the threadbare theatricality of LEMORA will be like remembering a childhood nightmare. There's some vague lesbian resonance between the evil Lemora and Rainbeux as Lemora introduces her to a lot of weird perverse blood-drinking style shit, and I cannot reveal the awesome ending!

 For another great women in horror top ten, check out this from last February's Women in Horror Month.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Halloween Essential: THE BOOGIE MAN WILL GET YOU (1942)



An attempt by Columbia to recreate the success of Frank Capra's Broadway play Arsenic and Old Lace, THE BOOGEYMAN WILL GET YOU would be pedestrian fluff except the script rocks and  Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre play together with much comic energy and we're meant to share their bemused disdain for Bill, the high-strung little pisher of a romantic lead, Larry (AL JOLSON STORY) Parks. He's shipping out to war but first has to square up with flighty ex-wife, Winnie ("Miss Jeff" Donnell). Ever-angered at his own co-dependent need to save her (he thinks she's gullible), it's clear she does need saving (heavy clocks and sideboards nearly fall on her quite often) but she doesn't think so. She starts the film out buying a crumbling old inn in some sunny hamlet, where mortgage-strapped Karloff is brewing atomic supermen in the basement and two old character actors round things out as the resident 'cook' and 'pigkeeper.' Visitors to the inn include two doubtful state troopers, a crazy 'human bomb' escaped Italian soldier, and the always delightful Max Rosenblum as a powder puff salesman ("like what ya dab on ya kissa"). Lorre is the town magistrate, sheriff, and the notary public who arranges the deed to be signed over. Parks and Winnie set about the renovations, and hunting for possible shadiness and it's all so good, so right, you get the vibe you might remember from when dad's away for the weekend on business and mom lets you stay up extra late, and when the cops come she's just as nervous and full of jive excuses as you are.


If you've seen ARSENIC, the film version being made two years after BOOGEYMAN, you know that Parks' equivalent would Cary Grant's Mortimer Brewster. He uses the same high voiced morality and protectiveness as an excuse for avoiding sex. Recall how Grant keeps his bride waiting at the cab while he tries to quickly send his homicidal aunts off to Bellevue, like they are the ones who need it. Parks at least seems to want to have sex at some point, and is willing to do the Bed, Bath, and Beyond route to get there. Winnie has his number ("Bill," she asks romantically, "don't you ever get tired of yourself?") and it's all understandable because young men were hard to find back in 1942. If they weren't in uniform they better look 4-F. 

The catch here is that, just like we root for Grant's crazy aunts in LACE, we root for Karloff and Lorre as a team BOOGEYMAN: first they spar with each other and then form a bond with Lorre helping Karloff turn passing salesmen into electro-powered supermen: "He will destroy Berlin! He will throttle Tokyo!" Meanwhile, the ghost of Unkus ("The last of the Mohicans!") keeps emitting unearthly yowls in the day-for-night exteriors, and a portly 'balletmaster' snoops around, deflecting knife attacks with his whalebone corset.

The dialogue is deliciously archaic throughout, as if a drunken Vincent Price was mocking passages in some old Victorian novel. Someone had a good time writing this, and the actors ride that spirit. Lorre gets a great glint of mischief in his eyes. Karloff riffs on his zillion past mad scientists.


There's lots of great little bits: Lorre's magistrate character has a kitten he carries in his coat ("she has an amazing affinity for crime and corruption!") and has an easygoing way with doing all the jobs required in this strange 'historic' town that seems to consist of the colonial hotel Winnie buys, and Lorre's house, and the strange Americana aspect helps add a patina of political allegory, reflecting the way social order and governmental fixedness dissolve on the homefront when the bulk of the brains and brawn are occupied elsewhere. 

Karloff of course is more than the perfect match for Lorre; these guys played off each other well by that time, having worked together on Broadway in ARSENIC AND OLD LACE's original Broadway run, so BOOGEY benefits from LACE in more ways than one. One of the big tragedies of cinema is that Karloff wasn't released from his Broadway contract in time to do Capra's film version, though the rest of the cast all got to (west, that is). Karloff instead made this once the show was over, and Raymond Massey stepped in on ARSENIC, making all the jokes about "He he looks just like Karloff!" completely confusing. That said, I actually prefer BOOGEY to ARSENIC. There's a lot less repetition and whinnying sexual anxiety and a lot more Lorre and Karloff. That means, in other words, more Halloween perfection, despite the relative sunniness (Capra got to use real night, and you can feel the difference). And it's short. Put it on a double bill with Roger Corman's THE RAVEN and your Halloween shall not be mirthless!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

SHINING Examples: The Pupils in the Bathroom Mirror


Caught THE SHINING (1980) for the 18th time Tuesday (!) and noticed the vast disconnect between the members of the Torrance family, how badly each is trapped in their own nightmare head space and how the Overlook's trans-dimensional gravity widens that space into uncrossable gulfs. I also realized how a post-structuralist malaise hangs over the Overlook, making even normal job interview blather cryptic and enriched with mantra-like repetitions which I have to assume are a meant as vain buffer against the madness of irrational experience. Of the entire cast, only Shelly Duvall's perky mom uses words in a direct, emotional manner and everyone but Danny thinks she's a rube because of it. I also gleaned new insight into cabin fever and the archetypal meaning of the bathroom. So come with me, neighbor, I don't want to be alone.

Cabin Fever is something we know very little about since scientific inquiries into its nature are difficult. Just knocking on an isolated subject's door with a questionare in hand can lessen the insanity, or put the knocker at serious risk. This is because the condition infers a complete collapse of the social sphere. Without anyone to bring him back to a consensual reality, the sufferer soon can't tell the real from his imagination.

Because the space of the hotel is so vast the Torrance family each falls into a separate madness. With no direct link to the social order present to keep them anchored--whether to each other, the social order or linear time/space--they dissolve into the archetypal time warp created by their own unconscious minds who are, for our purposes, indistinguishable from the ghosts and dark energy of the hotel. They are like an iPod that must erase its current contents to connect with a new hard drive (the family name isn't 'torrents' for nothing!) Danny is erased from his body altogether, to be replaced by his talking finger, Tony. Jack goes off the deep end; in his writerly determination to not be 'a dull boy' he's compelled to literally sever his family ties so he can escape into the past. Shelly's inability to get a 'normal' response from either of the Torrance males drives her into hysterics. There's no new hard drive waiting to fill her memory, the social connection won't erase.

Consider their example in light of the quintessential cabin fever victims, the bedraggled survivors of the Donner party (mentioned by Jack during the family's car ride). The Donners spent months starving and shivering in clumsy brush sheds, buried under mountains of snow, weakened by frostbite and starvation, with only some human remains for snacking. Several of them lost any semblance of 'sanity' simply because the situation itself was without any 'anchor' of space/time and social strata. In such a situation, sanity becomes a burden, an anachronism. We can read the accounts of the survivors, but it was not a time wherein people waxed on about their mental states unless they were novelists. 

In a way the relationship between Bowman and Hal in 2001 is reflected in THE SHINING with its random markers "Tuesday" and "8:00 AM" indicating the complete breakdown and meaninglessness of time. There are no weekends in space, or at the Overlook, no intruding signifiers of social order for your madness to wriggle against. No alarm clocks. No recourse in a battle of wits except to kill any person whose reality might contradict your own.

Post-Structuralism - The second thing that stuck out this nth viewing of THE SHINING was the constant repetition of 'tour guide' language: Jack and hotel staff (and later law enforcement via short wave radio) hide behind repetitive phrases ("sure looks like a lot of snow, over") and Jack especially clings to this repetition in his avoidance of any real commitment to his writing - his mantra of All Work and No Play make jack a dull boy functions as the endgame of a long string of repetitions heard throughout the film. Avoiding any genuine emotional connection to his family, Jack 'hides' in language, depending on his post-structuralist 'wit' for melting away the terror of any unsignified remainder that may come his way. But eventually the mantras all fall by the wayside; they are feeble tools compared to the vast arsenal of symbolic language employed by the unconscious.



Note that the ghost bartender Lloyd (right) appears at Jack's big moment of crisis - when Shelly Duvall accuses him of hurting his son and he goes a little mad in outrage. Here he's wasted five months not having a single drink, out of some dorky fatherly guilt, and all for nothing as he's accused of hurting Danny anyway. His language finally breaks up a bit from the mantras and he mutters he'd sell his soul for a drink. Bingo. Salvation and destruction all tied up in a single bargain. His statement "I would sell my soul for a drink," is perhaps the only 'true' thing he says, and as such constitutes a deal-done bargain. The devil springs right up with full bottle service. Jack's eyes widen and bug out as he talks with Lloyd and the other ghosts, but he never dares ask anything like "are you real?" for that would risk sounding as square as his wife.

The Bathroom - Ground zero when it comes to realizing the drugs are kicking in. Check your dilated pupils in the mirror; freak out when you close the medicine cabinet and see a figure standing behind you or a different background; the toilet looms alien with its gaping porcelain maw of porcelain and swirling reflective light-off-the-small-square-tiles serpent scale vortices. This is the place of hair combing and judgment and bereavement, vows made to never drink tequila after wine, and last looks before you return to the merciless world of co-ed living. It is the place where coke moves from the tip of someone's car key into your nose, or you sneak cigarettes, or find the gun taped to the back of the old-fashioned toilet. We all surely know the 'boost' we may get when we break from our navigation of precarious social situations and retreat to the mirror of the bathroom to check our hair and psych ourselves up. Here we are able to reconstitute our ego, a little mini-resurrection. The bathroom is where we go to delude and denude. We are allowed 'privacy' there, so can be naked without shame. And, as the hotel Overlook is so immensely private, the bathrooms in the film (there are two) are therefore double private, the haunted bath nook in room 237 is even a room within a room within a room, so triple private, and the tub is even in a nook at the infinite point, for yet another layer. Time and language drift away in the solace of the gleaming fixtures and tiles, which correspond perfectly with our visualizations of the the drainage portal that lurks at the bottom of our souls, between our own unconscious and that of the universal collective, which is always waiting to back up the pipes and flood the room.

OTHER TRIPPY BATHROOMS:
From top: 2001, The Holy MountainTwin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
Which came first, after all, the way bathroom tiles glisten in the light when you're tripping at 3:30 AM, or the reflection of your mind's eye temple and its sparking lights, each as large as the eye can wish to make out through the constantly rearranging serpentine points of definition? Small wonder that the bathroom is where all the scary business goes down in THE SHINING. For most Kubrick films, it is always, as it were, the same bathroom; the bathroom behind your eyes, or its eyes.  The black of your pupils in the mirror is the black of the 2001 obelisk and the blackness of the sink's drain, or Janet Leigh's dead eyes. It is the bathroom at the end of 2001 where Bowman hides from his older self; it's where Pyle shoots the sarge and himself in FULL METAL JACKET; it's where we see Nicole Kidman on the toilet while Tom adores his reflection in EYES WIDE SHUT. The colors in the Kubrick bathroom are always melting, the tiles always glistening like the skin of a giant slumbering serpent from the warped perspective of a fish-eye lens.

I've always felt if therapy wants to be truly effective it should take place in the bathroom. The room wherein the dancing dwarf speaks backwards in David Lynch's Twin Peaks is 'kind' of like this bathroom, a little less functional--like the outer lounge antechamber in swanky hotel ballroom bathrooms where you adjust your bow-tie at weddings and the dancing dwarf brushes your shoes and has a basket for tips and speaks in some indecipherable language. The beginning of Jodorowsky's THE HOLY MOUNTAIN takes place in a similar kind of bathroom/ tiled space, as the shaman shaves the heads of two women acolytes. This latter example evinces a superb understanding of the fantasmatic - with the hair shaving representing a complete identity melt (see also Kubrick's opening haircut sequence in FULL METAL JACKET) as an essential rite of passage when undertaking the trek to total self actualization and surrender.


In a Jungian analysis Jack's room 237 bathroom scene is something straight out of Hansel and Gretel - with the bathroom as the gingerbread house. Jack is a nervous but horny Hansel, the initial stern leggy sexiness of the female apparition is his candy. The breadcrumb trail in this case is the maze-like paths of the carpet and hallways that seem to pull him, like a magnet in slow dream time motion, towards the the woman, who is old witch and leggy candy rolled into a one-two switch. In Jung's lexicon, this old witch is the undernourished and most cranky shadow/anima, the 'wrathful deity' in the first bardo, the flip side of the peaceful deity / sexy young woman. Jack should have read the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

To get back to cabin fever, anyone who's been to the psychedelic mountain will surely have some chills of recognition in 237, for the room itself has cabin fever-- everything is slowed like clockwork and, without a 'majority' rule of perception to block the infinite with their tunnel vision reality, it's as if the Overlook is a galaxy and 237 bathroom is a black hole, through which one is drained into the pipes of Aboriginal 'dream-time.' One moves through the pipe and comes out of Marian Crane's open dilated pupil in PSYCHO, or out of the pistol barrel fired into the camera of Mick Jagger's brain at the end of PERFORMANCE. This small black hole slows down the world around it in an inescapable clockwork pentameter; hypnotic in its steady unwavering mechanical rhythm; it is the earth, the sun, and the wheels within wheels revolving in 2001's spaceships or Ezekiel's wheels in the sky. The drones on the soundtrack work to achieve this revolving sense of hypnosis, as does the slow, dreamlike movement of the camera and actors, the repetition of certain words over and over as a tool of hypnosis - "gimme the bat!" for example, becomes a mantra, as does 'redrum' and 'my responsibilities' and "Danny! Danny boy!"


Post-Post Structuralism - In my past viewings I've found her unbearable, but I came to respect and like Shelly Duvall's character this time around. After all, she does knock her husband out with a bat and then lock him in the pantry. She defends herself with a knife and eventually triumphs over him in every respect. She fucking kicks his ass! Her kid may be a nutcase and her husband a smartass but Shelly manages to keep some kind of grip on things even as she herself begins to see the apparitions. I was particularly aware of the wincing of the men over her gushing naivete during their initial tour, and it's that which clued me into the post-structuralist aspect: "This may be the biggest, most beautiful place I've ever been in!" she beams. The men wince at her guilelessness.  Jack would never admit the Overlook was the biggest place he'd ever seen, lest he look like a rube whose never left Denver--and in part that's why he got the job. But its Shelly's kind of uncomplicated normality that survives cabin fever, not Jack's cynical melting clock-style evasiveness.


You see, you see Jack plays the game wherein all language is double filtered, repeated and used as a distancing tool, a way of negotiating one's way through matters too vast and complex to adequately sum up. For those who operate in this 'adult code' any gushing or exclamatory phrase pollutes the bond that acknowledges the power of the unspoken and is therefore evidence of immaturity --the domain of the squares, i.e. the wives who don't get invited out to drinks or the kid who knows you're tripping at the art opening and has to tell everyone so you can't 'pass' for sane as you would like. "You know he's tripping, right?" - "Shut up Max, I don't want them to know," -- "why, are you ashamed?" But tripping you can't even process the word ashamed, it's only that your enhanced depth perception has now been pinned down to a mere drug signifier to which most people have only one response, to rapidly move their hands back and forth on either side of your head and say "you're going down a tunnel whoosh whooosh!"

For speech to be 'successful' as indicative of one's adult insider status -- too cool to care, as it were-- said speech must circumvent and sidestep and 'double-time' its actual meaning, and protect the sublime in fields of repetition and banality. (Max should have said "Did you know he's not tripping? Isn't that wild!") The words Ullman speaks to Jack during the interview, for example, he's clearly spoken before, but he trots them out like a favorite old horse around a familiar well-worn track. The past murders are mentioned with the 'customary' tact and Jack reacts in just the way one would ideally react, without real thought or emotional surplus. Compare his reactions to someone who attempts to be 'earnest' when faced with a similar situation, and you know I'm thinking here of the meetings between Barton Fink and Lipnick (read my thing on that thing here)


This strategy is also what enables Jack later to talk with Lloyd and later the bathroom attendant, Grady. Jack confronts these speechful specters with, if anything, a greater connection and directness than he has with his own family but basically the connection is the same in that it is deliberately clouded by 'hip' language. Ghost bartenders are much more sympathetic than hysterical wives or disturbed sons, at least in Jack's eyes. Effortlessly moving into a racist, classicist mode of thinking, Jack becomes the gentleman who is served, i.e. the upper class, of which until now he--like us--has obviously regarded with anxiety, since (unless we're part of this 'old money' class) most of us never 'see' this reality in our normal life, yet feel we deserve to live in it. When we're suddenly presented with the opportunity we balk. We want to go home and change, to buy a new dress, we start to panic. But in his delusional state Jack feels more than ready and clearly views his wife and son as the disposable dregs of his present, like Shelly Winters in A PLACE IN THE SUN, the sort of albatross of a broad who can't let a minute go by at Disneyland without having to say "isn't this fun, honey?" or "are you having a good time?," laboring under the idea that language will somehow encompass and exceed the event, will adequately mirror the vastness of direct experience. But Jack knows that by saying it she in effect robs it of the qualities she ascribes to it. Moms do this all the time, don't they? Honey? Don't they? Honey?


The only way saying something is great without making it less great is if the great thing has moved safely into the past - which is part of why the bourgeoisie prefers their artists long dead before they honor them. The artist was great but can never be great in that moment. (Jack is finally happy when he is 'already dead' and appears bottom center in the 1921 photo (above) his arms contorted like a Satanic puppet.

Jack triumphs because he never weakens in his mastery of repetition in language, he's like a horror icon version of Warhol. In repetition only does language prove an equal to direct experience, and only repetition can actually 'enhance' direct experience by hypnotizing the conscious mind into a state of strictly observational stasis. Approached via mantra, by removing one's focus from the realm of the symbolic, by repeating a single word over and over until it loses all meaning, the obscene dimensions of the real are suddenly exposed. Say it enough times in a row and even the word 'beauty' becomes a hideous, trumpet-like mass of snouts and tentacles. Better just wait in the bathroom until these tentacled noises have passed into rusty memory and silence removes your last few senses like barnacles and all tomorrow's parties are safe in the distant now of the past. .