Archive for William Peter Blatty

Pg. 17 #10

Posted in FILM, literature, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 7, 2020 by dcairns

 

Barber came to the controversy thanks to a girlie magazine. In the summer of 1979 Gallery offered its readers, amongst the nudes, a record of the section of the police Dictabelt that includes the noises said to be gunshots. He played it again and again, and detected something the experts had missed. What had been thought to be unintelligible “Cross-talk” — conversation coming in from another radio channel — Barber’s ear identified as the voice of Sheriff Bill Decker, in the lead car of the motorcade. The sheriff’s voice occurs on the recording at the same point as the impulses that the Committee’s experts said were gunshots. What he is saying is, “Move all men available out of my department back into the railroad yards there… to try to determine just what and where it happened down there. And hold everything secure until the homicide  and other investigators can get there.” Clearly Decker did not issue his orders till after the shooting.

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It was Reverend Pettigrew who complained about Floyd Gummer carrying them in his drugstore. Of course I went right down and seized them. Floyd was a good old boy and I knew he wouldn’t go complaining to any American Civil Liberties Union or any of those Illuminatus-controlled eastern troublemakers. I just told him about the complaint and he handed them over gentle as a lamb. He didn’t want to be on the bad side of the Reverend any more than I did. You sure can learn more diplomacy in a small town than you can at the Paris peace talks.

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All interesting, indeed. And yet all these findings taken together did not slimmest reed of evidence. The case for demonic possession had finally to rest on what was plentifully lacking at Loudun: the reliably witnessed and reported occurrence of so-called paranormal phenomena. Levitating mattresses are very out front.

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I never took it as seriously as some people because of my insatiable curiosity about everything. This is why the moment I finished making a picture, I left California as quickly as I knew how, on a train in those days, and used that time in bed all the way across the continent for reading, because I didn’t have time to do it back there. I would see all the plays in New York, see all my friends and then maybe stay here or go abroad.

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South Avenue northeast of the Village acquired a reputation not long after the Civil War as a competitor to the Bowery. Legend has it that the area was christened by the notoriously corrupt Police Captain Alexander “Clubber” Williams, when, upon being transferred in 1876 from the Oak Street Station in the drably commercial far downtown to West Thirtieth Street, he said, “I’ve been living on chuck steak for a long time, and now I’m going to get a little of the tenderloin.”

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Zukor not only gave Goldstein the money — which was an uncharacteristic gesture for someone as cautious as Zukor — but he visite the arcade and within a short time convinced Kohn they should set up one of their own on Fourteenth Street, which at that time was New York’s tenderloin, crammed with dance halls, saloons, and arcades and teeming with immigrants looking for inexpensive thrills. As he later recounted his inspiration to Michael Korda, “I looked around and said, ‘A Jew could make a lot of money at this.'”

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“Aaron Wassertrum, for instance! He’s a millionaire. Owns a third of the Ghetto. Didn’t you know that, Herr Pernath?”

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Seven extracts from seven page seventeens in seven books, plucked fairly randomly — but I, too, believe in the reality of accidents — from my bookshelves. The books were ~

Not in Your Lifetime, by Anthony Summers; Right Where You Are Sitting Now, by Robert Anton Wilson; William Peter Blatty on The Exorcist, From Novel to Film, by William Peter Blatty; People Will Talk, by John Kobal, interview with Gloria Swanson; Lowlife, by Luc Sante; An Empire of their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood, by Neal Gabler; The Golem, by Gustav Meyrink.

Semi-random illustration: the Kino-Babylon cinema, Berlin, designed by architect Hans Poelzig, also set designer of DER GOLEM.

Heroic Surrender

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on October 4, 2019 by dcairns

Descriptions of WHAT DID YOU DO IN THE WAR DADDY? obviously didn’t do it justice because I was really surprised at how good it was. If I’d ignored descriptions and simply visualised a widescreen wartime farce by Blake Edwards — shunting the turgid GREAT RACE from my mind and sticking with THE PINK PANTHER — I might have approached it with more enthusiasm and seen it years ago — but it would also have been necesary for me to picture it at the top end of Edwards’ output. It’s REALLY accom-plished and very funny and in foul bad taste. If turning war into entertainment is a disreputable activity, turning it into a bedroom farce, with battles replaced by harmless punch-ups, ought to earn you a spot in movie Hell’s hottest cauldron.

War’s peace.

We also have a fatal poisoning, two attempted rapes (male-on-female and male-on-male), a burial alive, and the comedy of mental illness. Edwards attributed his slightly vicious sense of slapstick (think of Herbert Lom’s thumb) to his chronic back pain, which drove him to make light of physical suffering. I’m not sure when he first had his trouble with agitated depression (documented in fictional form in THAT’S LIFE) but the persistent strain of madness in his comedies (Herbert Lom again, S.O.B., and others) must surely have some autobio origin.

War’s piece.

For all that, this is a sunny, breezy romp. Written by William Peter Blatty, who I guess had the military experience (black ops!) to give it as much verisimilitude as you can have in a story where Italians and Americans, then Americans and Germans, then men and women, trade uniforms for comic effect.

Dick Shawn in drag: a habitue of the realm of nightmare.

The three leads have no business gelling in this movie, but James Coburn (astonishingly cool — too relaxed for the character as written, but overpowering the writing with sheer charisma), Dick Shawn and Sergio Fantoni somehow work. I only knew Shawn from THE PRODUCERS, where he’s my — and maybe everybody’s? — least favourite element (his character is deleted entirely from the musical), but he’s very skilled here — lots of fine detail work. Even if I don’t quite warm to him as a presence, I am moved to admire the talent. Fantoni is both skilled and likeable, a really funny guy. Turns out I’d seen him in lots of things, from SENSO to ATOM AGE VAMPIRE, but never in a comedy. Some additional storehouse of charm is unlocked.

The same is true of Giovanna Ralli, who can do things here that wouldn’t have suited the gialli I’ve seen her in.

Edwards applies the same genius for anamorphic long takes to the more-or-less serious invasion of a small Sicilian town (odd to think that A WALK IN THE SUN is happening a few miles away in a different genre) as he does to bedroom farce and drunken escapades. If you can overlook the question of “Should he be doing this?” — and the film works really hard to make sure we do — it’s a really dazzling piece of cinema. Edwards can do large-scale slapstick with moving parts — like a tank falling through the earth — which traditionally don’t like to obey the rules of comedy timing. And make it look easy and natural, so that someone like Spielberg might be fooled into thinking he can do it too.

A demented monologue from Harry Morgan rounds the thing off in almost Shakespearean fashion, somehow clarifying the poetic intent and maybe almost justifying the whole thing — the events portrayed, and the film itself, are a kind of All Fool’s Day festival, a suspension of the laws of reason, allowing us to have a holiday, albeit a very suspenseful one, along with the characters, from the conditions imposed by Reason — a prevailing state of Total War.

WHAT DID YOU DO IN THE WAR, DADDY? stars Derek Flint; Lorenzo Saint Dubois; Teocrito; Asst. DA Vittoria Stori; Johnny Nobody; Col. Potter; Archie Bunker; General Burkhalter; Xandros the Greek slave; Nazorine; Karl Matuschka; Mademoiselle Fifi; and Horst.

Abby Normal (A Woman Under the Influence)

Posted in Comics, FILM, literature, Mythology, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 23, 2012 by dcairns

ABBY should of course have been called THE BLAXORCIST, but the difference between this and William “King Dick” Marshall’s other horror franchise is that BLACULA derives from a 19th century novel, safely out of copyright (with only the cape borrowed from Bela Lugosi) whereas ABBY derives from a major Warners release. Warners sued and ABBY was taken out of cinemas — though DVDs now circulate, they’re derived from a badly “pinked” 16mm print — nobody knows where the original negative and release prints may be…

William Girdler, writer-director, also made the ridiculous but fun THE MANITOU, memorable for Tony Curtis’s voluminous man-boobs pressing through his see-through shirt. ABBY offers no comparably disturbing images, but does share the fascination with tribal religions. Blatty’s EXORCIST cheekily suggests that Mesopotamian deity Pazuzu is moonlighting as a biblical demon, implying that perhaps ALL the gods and prophets of mankind’s faiths are really just demons in a Catholic universe (Buddha’s not laughing with you, he’s laughing AT you), ABBY centres on Eshu, a god from the Yoruba religion who is allowed his own phenomenological reality. And although the mischievous (to put it mildly) Eshu is ultimately vanquished by a priest, he’s not exorcised by the Catholic ceremony designed for that purpose, but by methods appropriate to the Yoruba religion. So in that sense, ABBY is less conservative than the bigger film.

Girdler tends to exaggerate the effects of the Friedkin film, though, so he has more “subliminal” flashes of weird faces (Dick Smith make-up tests in the original film, exaggerated versions of Carol Speed’s make-up in this one), while paring away ambiguities — the “Why Iraq?” stuff in the first film is replaced by more or less clearly motivated Nigerian scenes in this one. He also makes his victim of possession an adult, which removes some problems (could you legally make Friedkin’s film today?) and creates others.

Subliminal image alert!

On the one hand, having a preacher’s wife possessed by a sex demon could open avenues for grotesque satire (Milo Manara’s porno comic Click! filmed by Jean-Louis Richard [who married Jeanne Moreau, who also married… William Friedkin] gestures vaguely in that direction, with its free hand), but the film is very respectful towards religion, so sex has to be viewed as a horror. Eruptions of untamed libido must be stopped. Admittedly, Speed’s aggressive lust when she’s under Eshu’s influence, she’s pretty unladylike. But the conservatism that’s so unexpectedly prominent in the supernatural blaxploitation genre comes to the fore here.

But so does something else. Friedkin’s cleverest move was perhaps his casting of Mercedes McCambridge as the Voice — years of cigarettes and whisky and being Mercedes McCambridge had given her a throaty, rasping, gargly sound with only a trace of the female. Girdler simply gets a man to do it, and so Abby becomes a hairy-browed sexual predator with a man’s voice. Why do all William Marshall movies end up in a homoerotic Hades of pushmepullyou conflicted response?

ABBY has very committed performances from its ensemble, though Juanita Moore (not only of IMITATION OF LIFE, but Marshall’s co-star in LYDIA BAILEY) doesn’t get enough to do. Her one big moment is an outraged frenzy that anybody should suggest that her vicious nymphomaniac daughter might benefit from the attentions of a psychiatrist. Apparently she’s “good” and “God-fearing” and so she couldn’t possibly be mentally ill. That’s a pretty interesting (ie wrongheaded and dangerous) line of thought, though the movie is perhaps using it simply to avoid a bunch of boring analyst scenes. Instead we get colossal steel slabs of Chrysler maneuvering around Louisville at night.

Marshall is somewhat constrained by playing a man of the cloth, but his wry humour does come out, especially during the climax when he taunts Eshu, using some of his old Blacula condescension — I wasn’t sure whether he’s saying the demon is NOT Eshu in order to annoy it, or because he’s genuinely figured that out. But apparently this is stuff that Marshall added to the script himself, and it’s the best writing in the movie.

The whole climax takes place, in a departure from the source material, in a ghastly orange nightclub, made even more oppressive by the pinkness of the print. This is what the seventies WAS, people. We had brown and orange and that was it. The rest of the spectrum was embargoed until Prince came along. This colourless, windowless, airless, low-ceilinged lounge space is unquestionably the most frightening element of ABBY, and it’s worth watching to get there. Interestingly, since THE HUNGER, vampires have been associated with nightclubs — usually crap movie ones that are years out of date. They’re never frightening, even though a night club is my real-life idea of Hell. But ABBY’s tangerine leisure spaceship is genuinely a horrible, horrible place, where you can feel your soles sticking to the carpet from all the spilled drinks. Don’t watch alone.