Them Dry Bones


As part of my ongoing quest to watch all the films in Denis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Movies, a quest I’ve subtitled “See REPTILICUS and die,” I downloaded a Japanese feel-good movie called THE LIVING SKELETON, which has fan-made subtitles. I was interested to learn that the Christian funeral rites in Japan are slightly different to those in the occident.


“He is a kindhearted person, he is a confident person. He is a strong person too, everybody has got his kind consideration. He is a person with principle. Hope he can get the liking of God, amen.”


“Let him remove the smoke of gunpowder from this world, resume the life carefree, amen.”


“Soul of letting that of his purified, come back to god side, amen.”


“Wish him to be full of good mood, amen forever.”


“Wish him to live calmly in the world without smoke of gunpowder.”

“Wish God will be your daughter as soon as possible i-”

And then, alas, he’s interrupted. On the one hand, the more informal language makes the oration feel down-to-earth and homely. On the other hand, bits of it are quite hard to figure out, but they’re no worse than all that stuff about the Trinity and the Holy Ghost and all that, which absolutely nobody understands. So I’m proposing the Church of Christ the Fan-Subtitled, in which all ceremonies, prayers, and indeed the whole Holy Bible will have been translated into Japanese and back again, to see what will happen. Will it bring us closer to God, or closer to the instruction manual from a 1980s VCR?

Wish God will be all our daughters.


12 Responses to “Them Dry Bones”

  1. There is a certain weird poetry in the subtitles.

    “Soul of letting that of his purified, come back to god side, amen.”


  2. Arthur S. Says:

    Well most of the English language translations of the Bible including the much overrated King James version would probably look as ridiculous to the Apostles and the Church Fathers as this does to most occidental Christians. Of course occidental Christians if they ever bother to consider Christians who are non-white would find other surprises as well. Like how Arabic Christians call God “Allah” since that’s what the word means in Arabic.

    I remember seeing Rossellini’s INDIA with fan-subtitles. It was a pretty phantasmagoric experience since the subtitles kept referring to Baghdad and Star Trek characters.

  3. Wow! I heard of one subtitler who always inserts a gratuitous quote from Star Wars into his subtitles so her can tell for sure if anyone rips off his translation. If I were doing that, I’d use the line “Was the smudge trying to warn Clive of danger?” spoken by Robert Stephens, fervently, in The Asphyx, partly because it’s the greatest thing anybody’s ever said, ever, and partly because it already sounds like a demented bit of fan subtitling.

    It’s a great groovy spooky soundtrack, as you can tell from that clip. Maybe it even helps that things don’t make much sense in the subs — they’re a bit strange elsewhere too.

  4. Wow. Just got done watching the clip Peter provided us. In the immortal words of talk-show host Johnny Carson, “That is some weird, wild stuff”. I wouldn’t mind catching up with this one. I enjoyed reading the text provided by YouTube contributor Cinematic Damnation, his endorsement makes it sound very enticing. Hey, if Hazel Motes can create the Church of Christ Without Jesus Christ, and believe in it with impassioned (if somewhat demented) sincerity, then why not a Church of Christ the Fan-Subtitled?

  5. Arthur S. Says:

    Well that book was written by a Catholic(the film directed by a non-believer) albeit a very original and witty kind and was concieved apparently as a parody of existentialism.

  6. Huston apparently had to be talked into being faithful to the book’s conclusion, which stuck in his craw somewhat. “OK,” he admitted at last, “It’s a happy ending — God wins.”

  7. Arthur S. Says:

    Well God won in his MOBY-DICK as well, since the whale was God, the wrathful God that enjoys fucking with human endeavour and laughing at our failures, the kind of God Huston admired and strove to model himself after. The exception I suppose is his remarkable documentary LET THERE BE LIGHT a work of real compassion.

    In any case I’ve never seen WISE BLOOD’s ending as “happy”. More that he finds a moment of peace at the end of his sad life and is able to find the better nature in a woman who initially wanted to exploit him. O’Connor’s short story A Good Man is Hard to Find is even more disturbing and shocking. For the best Catholic artists, belief in God is merely a starting point. As Graham Greene said, “I needed a religion to measure my evil against.” And his books almost never happy endings, neither do Bresson’s(save for A MAN ESCAPED and PICKPOCKET).

    And I think that Wise Blood’s ending does factor in Huston’s own viewpoint. His talent in adapting literary works was his ability at being personal and faithful at his best. Like REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE and especially THE DEAD.

  8. It’s been too long since I’ve seen the Huston film or read the O’Connor novel — although I love ’em both.

    What my memory tells me, in any case, is that the film’s ending is slightly less dark than that of the novel, that the suggestion that the landlady takes care of Hazel Motes came with the screenplay.

    Rather than being a parody of Existentialism, though, I believe that O’Connor’s “Wise Blood” is a picture of someone — Hazel Motes — in the grips of the Holy Spirit, someone who denies the Faith and yet at the same time can’t let it go.

    Huston’s depiction of this, in the film, is not without sympathy, but decidedly icy. As is his depiction, for that matter, of the killers in “Prizzi’s Honor.”


    I would read “Wise Blood” again, but I’m having too much trouble finishing Pynchon’s goddam “Against the Day” (Yashmeen and Kit are before Riemann’s grave, on page 662.)

  9. I enjoyed the Pynchon! It took me ages though. Now I’m either reading The Dalkey Archives by Flann O’Brien or Dr Nicola, Master Criminal by Guy Boothby.

  10. I wonder if The Living Skeleton would have worked as well if it were in colour?
    I often find that films in black and white seem almost to induce a more meditative state. Take a couple of films I am very fond of, Teshigahara’s Woman in the Dunes and Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck. I don’t think that either film would have been as effictive if it had been made in colour.

  11. I like Flannery O’Connor’s short stories. I’m also very fond of her prose collection Mystery and Manners. She has a lovely piece in that book on Flaubert.

    On the theme of existentialism, one of my favourite conemporary novels is John Banville’s The Untouchable. It is a fascinating blend of espionage and existentialism.


  12. The Banville sounds up my street! I like blends of espionage with something else.

    The Living Skeleton would certainly have a different flavour in colour. But there are plenty of delerious and trippy Japanese horrors in lurid colour — Goke Bodysnatcher from Hell, Jigoku and Horrors of Malformed Men all produce a strange, unpleasant state in the viewer. B&W tends to be subtler though.

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