Archive for Philip K Dick

Page Seventeen III: Trinity

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 20, 2021 by dcairns

She did have one admirer: her uncle Horace, the husband of her aunt Nina, her mother’s wayward older sister. When the teen-aged Nina had taken to romping with farmhands in the hayloft, George Smith had packed her off to a San Francisco boarding school noted for its Carmelite discipline. On the train she met Horace Robinson, and after a brief tete-a-tete they eloped several stops before San Francisco. Months later they actually were married — or so they told George Smith.

The obsession, found in twins, with dualities–as complimentary and conflicting at once–has been termed twinning by Dr. George Engel (“The drive is always to be two, yet unique from all others.”) This “twinning” motif found expression in a number of Phil’s stories and novels, notably Dr. Bloodmoney (1965), Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said (1974), A Scanner Darkly (1977), Valis (1981) and The Divine Invasion (1981).

So we followed him, as behind us the second man–George, apparently–busily transferred all the luggage from the plane to a rough wooden cart. The first man led us to the cliff, and then around a bit to the right, and there was an elevator. Or not exactly an elevator, but a kind of cable car on tracks, a large square room with railroad-type wheels on the outside of its slanted rear wall. When we were all aboard, with the windowed doors shut, the man pushed a lever and we were winched slowly and smoothly up the steeply angled side of the cliff.

They stepped through the door into the main hangar, George pointed to the object in the center, bathed in floodlights planted in a fenced off circle. The ship was not a saucer at all; it was spherical, all gray in color, and about sixty feet in diameter.

There were four of us to six of them, like I have already indicated, but poor old Dim, for all his dimness, was worth three of the others in sheer madness and dirty fighting. Dim had a real horrorshow length of oozy or chain round his waist, twice wound round, and he unwound this and began to swing it beautiful in the eyes or glazzies. Pete and Georgie had real sharp nozhes, but I for my part had a fine starry horrorshow cut-throat britva which, at that time, I could flash and shine artistic. So there we were dratsing away in the dark, the old Luna with men on it just coming up, the stars stabbing away as it might be knives anxious to join in the dratsing. With my britva I managed to slice right down the front of one of Billyboy’s droogs platties, very very neat and not even touching the plott under the cloth. Then in the dratsing this droog of Billyboy’s suddenly found himself all opened up like a peapod, with his bare belly and his poor old yarbles showing, and then he got very razdraz, waving and screaming and losing his guard and letting in old Dim with his chain snaking whisssssshhhhhhhhh, so that old Dim chained him right in the glazzies, and this droog of Billyboy’s went tottering off and howling his heart out. We were doing very horrorshow, and soon we had Billyboy’s number one down underfoot, blinded with old Dim’s chain and crawling and howling about like an animal, but with one fair boot on the gulliver he was out and out and out.

‘I took the opportunity to call upon the Rector, after I had questioned Mr. George Jarnock, who required to my queries in place of Sir Alfred Jarnock, for the older man was in a nervous and shaken condition as a result of the happening, and his son wished him to avoid dwelling upon the scene as much as possible.’

“You mean that you don’t know, George?” Marne gave a low whistle of astonishment. “You have not realised that our time is running out? Haven’t you heard of the Cass River Scheme? Well, for your information, it is being prepared by your own ministry and if the project goes through quickly we may never have a chance of opening the Railstone tomb, because Caswell Hall will be at the bottom of a reservoir. The odds are that Brownjohn will have been enthroned long before that, of course, but we are not out of the wood yet. In fact the trees are closing in on us. I would study the details of the Cass scheme, if I were you. To the best of my memory the reference contains the initials K.V.I.” There was a click and the line went dead.

Seven chaps called George in seven paragraphs from seven page seventeens from seven books distributed around my bookshelves. Why George? He just started turning up a lot.

Anita Loos: A Biography by Gary Carey; Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick by Lawrence Sutin; What I Tell You Three Times is False by Donald E. Westlake, writing as Samuel Holt; The Gift of the Gods by Raymond F. Jones from Things, edited by Ivan Howard; A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess; The Thing Invisible from The Casebook of Carnacki the Ghost Finder by W.H. Hodgson; Bury Him Darkly by John Blackburn.

Page Seventeen II: The Quickening

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 9, 2021 by dcairns

Hannah’s financial situation must have been desperate, but her sons were to remember more vividly than the privations her efforts to bring gaiety and small pleasures into their lives: the weekly comic, bloater breakfasts and an unforgettable day at Southend after Sydney found a purse containing seven guineas but no means of identifying its owner. She was, when well, a constantly amusing companion. She would sing and dance her old music hall numbers and act out plays to them. In his old age Chaplin still recalled the emotion aroused in him by her account of the Crucifixion and of Christ as the fount of love, pity and humanity.

There were no meals served in the house but the best of hors d’oeuvres and titbits, from beluga caviar to grandma’s cookies. The coffee was the best this side of Italy, the connoisseurs said. So were the drinks, plentiful and expensive, although the prices varied. I have often wondered since what ESP guided Madame Frieda’s pencil to guess the extremities of the freight. The cover charge was the same for everybody, for which you could have a cup of coffee and if any of the hostesses was bored and felt like talking to you, she did. No extra charge.

The lift opened and I stepped out into a small foyer done in a restful shade of matt grey with carpet to match. These Intelligence boys are getting so much dough nowadays they can even afford to employ pro decorators to do up their torture chambers. There was another guard, the ex-Eton and Oxford smoothie type this time, to be found wherever Government practices its more obvious lunacies, in another armoured-glass cage. I gave him my credentials and he picked up one of his several phones.

The next morning, when I awoke and looked out of the bow window of the big, old-fashioned bedroom, I saw under a grey sky a country that was all mustery. The long, lovely valley with the river winding in and out below, crossed in mid-vision by a medieval bridge of vaulted and buttressed stone, the clear presence of the rising ground beyond, and the woods that I had only seen in shadow the night before, seemed tinged with enchantment, and the soft breath of wind that sighed in at the opened pane was like no other wind. I looked across the valley, and beyond, hill followed on hill as wave on wave, and here a faint blue pillar of smoke rose on the morning air from the chimney of an ancient grey farmhouse, there was a rugged height crowned with dark firs, and in the distance I saw the white streak of a road that climbed and vanished into some unimagined country. But the boundary of all was a great wall of mountains, vast in the west, and ending like a fortress with a steep ascent and a domed tumulus clear against the sky.

Now, Father Handy and Tibor needed a power – mekkis, Father Handy thought to himself – to come from Above and aid them . . . on this, the Servants of Wrath agreed with the Christians: the good power lay Above, Ubrem Sternenzelt, as Schiller had once said: above the band of stars. Yes, beyond the stars; this they were clear on; this was modern German.

It is the desire of the moth for the star. It is no mere appreciation of the Beauty before us – but a wild effort to reach the Beauty above. Inspired by an ecstatic prescience of the glories beyond the grave, we struggle, by multiform combinations among the things and thoughts of Time, to attain a portion of that Loveliness whose very elements, perhaps, appertain to eternity alone.

SATAN

Up there, my friend, there’s only One who creates. One who rules. One who does everything, is everything.

Seven passages from seven page seventeens from seven books found lying around the Shadowplayhouse.

Chaplin by David Robinson; Fragments: Portraits from the Inside by Andre de Toth; The Dolly Dolly Spy by Adam Diment; Tales of Horror and the Supernatural by Arthur Machen, from The Novel of the Black Seal; Dies Irae by Philip K. Dick and Roger Zelazny; Selected Writings by Edgar Allan Poe, quoted in the introduction by David Galloway; Milton’s Paradise Lost, Screenplay for the Cinema of the Mind by John Collier.

The Unchosen One

Posted in FILM, literature, MUSIC, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 27, 2021 by dcairns

I picked up BARABBAS on DVD from a charity shop along with KING OF KINGS, £1 each, and was amazed at how good it was. I mean, this is Richard Fleischer’s widescreen period and I was pretty disappointed by 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA. But Fleischer was good at widescreen and 3D and stuff, at least sometimes. I don’t quite know how to account for his patchiness.

But BARABBAS is based on an acclaimed novel by Pär Lagerkvist and adapted by Christopher Fry (The Lady’s Not for Burning) with an uncredited assist by Nigel Balchin (The Small Back Room). It has De Laurentiis’ millions behind it — but used with a winning combination of intelligence and taste and sheer vulgarity. When we first see the Coliseum, for instance, it’s a massive great set, with real extras in every row, not foosball figures rising and falling in rows, and the area is packed with brawling gladiators, some of them little people, with elephants, a tiger pit, flaming waters — absolutely crazy excess. And that’s basically just an establishing shot, though it’s about twenty shots.

This is one of those BEN-HUR jobs, biblical maginalia — take a character who’s around at the time of Christ and follow his wacky misadventures. Here it’s the thief who was spared crucifixion, played by Anthony Quinn in a boldly sullen, bovine manner — remarkable to have such an epic built around such an uningratiating figure. He’s surrounded by a good, eclectic cast that includes Katy Jurado, Silvana Mangano, Ernest Borgnine, Arthur Kennedy. Strongest impressions are made by Jack Palance as a sadistic gladiator — terrifying! — Harry Andrews, once described by Richard Burton as the world’s greatest wearer of costumes — and Michael Gwynn, building on his REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN experience by playing an eerie Lazarus.

(I bought the Burton diaries, btw. He also OUTS Harry A., thus rocking my world. NEVER would have guessed that.)

They shot a genuine solar eclipse for the crucifixion, but the jaw-dropping set pieces and beautiful compositions and lighting by Aldo Tonti (NIGHTS OF CABIRIA) make that a mere sideshow. Look at this shot (below) — the figures seem like hanging garlands dropping from the central hub, and the different skin tones of the various faces give it a floral look too.

Here we see the guy making the crown of thorns — unsung artisan of torture — and he pricks his finger making it. I said it was vulgar. They want to make you feel the sharpness of the thorns because we’re so used to the image we’re numb to it, but it’s pretty cheap. Still, I prefer it to the Mel Gibson solution which would just be to show graphic penetrative skin-ripping detail in close-up. And where would a biblical epic be without at least a bit of trivialising vulgarity?

It’s all amplified hugely by Mario Nascimbene’s score — his favourite trick is to sit down on the low notes of his piano in some reverberant cavern, creating an awesome slam. Sometimes we don’t even get the slam, just the dead echo of its passing. Spooky.

Barabbas has an encounter with the early Christians in Rome’s catacombs — it has a phantasmal quality that reminds me of Philip K Dick’s hallucinatory musings — “The Empire Never Ended” — anything taking place that far back in time should give us temporal vertigo, but so few movies pull it off — SATYRICON does, and so do bits of this.

Just when I thought I couldn’t like the film any more, for what it is, along comes the ANSWER TO A MYSTERY — beautiful depth-composed tracking shots of mass crucifixion — as used as stock footage with a lava overlay by Ken Russell in ALTERED STATES. I told you I really really wanted to know where that stuff came from. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I can die happy — I just had my second Covid jab and I want to get the benefit — but I’m absurdly pleased to have sorted that out.