Weekend links 432


Tokyo at night, one of a series of watercolours depicting the back streets of the city by Mateusz Urbanowicz.

• “The experience of reading the book is something like watching Dr. Strangelove on one screen, Apocalypse Now on a second screen, and having both feeds interrupted by explicit gay erotica.” Bad Books For Bad People examines William Burroughs’ celebrated YA novel, The Wild Boys. The subject is a perennial one here, explored at length in this post.

• Lindsay Anderson The White Bus (1967), a surreal precursor to If…. and O Lucky Man!, will receive the high-quality BFI reissue treatment as part of the Woodfall Films portmanteau feature, Red, White and Zero.

• The Radiophonic Workshop have composed the score for Possum, a horror film by Matthew Holness. The main title theme is here. The film is released later next month.

Might I have written a sober affair, had I not been under the influence? Perhaps not—I have never needed tramadol to be attended by angels, or to feel demons pricking my feet. But I think of Vincent van Gogh, who looked at the world through the yellowish haze conveyed by digitalis, and grew enraptured by sunflowers and straw chairs, and I think of a glass prism through which a beam of white light passes and is split into a rainbow. What had been a single lucid idea had passed through the drugs I took and been dispersed into a spectrum of colours I had only half foreseen.

Sarah Perry on trying to write while besieged by bodily pain and prescription drugs

• Jacques Tourneur’s masterful MR James adaptation, Night of the Demon (1957), is released on region-free Blu-ray next month by Powerhouse Films.

• Mixes of the week: FACT mix 673 is The Bug presents PRESSURE, and XLR8R Podcast 561 by Zendid.

• The Space Shifters exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, London, messes with Adrian Searle‘s mind.

Gregory Wells on queers, faeries and revolutionaries in the psychedelic movement.

Wide Boys (1977) by Ultravox! | On Demon Wings (2000) by Bohren & Der Club Of Gore | Spoonful (2013) by Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters

Weekend links 411


The Temple of Love (1911–24) by Herbert E. Crowley.

• My film viewing in the 1980s involved a considerable amount of backtracking: watching any film noir that turned up on the TV while chasing the early works of David Cronenberg, and various “New Hollywood” classics on television or at repertory cinemas (when such things were still plentiful). Contemporary fare by comparison was often a lot less attractive, although I’d be waiting for new work from David Lynch and Nicolas Roeg while pursuing obscurities (usually the banned or censored) on videotape. Popular films seldom generated actual loathing but throughout the decade I nurtured a persistent hatred for the works of John Hughes, an animus that can still return today when I read yet another nostalgic article about his oeuvre.

The monoculture of the 1980s was writ large on American cinema of the decade. From Arnold Schwarzenegger’s muscle-rippling actioners to John Hughes’s adolescent confections, bombastic, generally upbeat films characterised the decade of the yuppie.

Christina Newland offers a welcome riposte to the pastel-hued retrospectives in a piece entitled “Reagan’s bastard children: the lost teens of 1980s American indie films”. While not exclusively teen pictures, I’d have mentioned three low-budget films written by Eric Red: The Hitcher (1986), Near Dark (1987) and Cohen and Tate (1989).

The Temple of Silence: Forgotten Works & Worlds of Herbert Crowley is a lavish (and costly) study of the strange comic strips and incredibly detailed drawings of Herbert E. Crowley (1873–1937). Mark Newgarden interviewed Justin Duerr about rescuing Crowley’s art from undeserved neglect. I missed an earlier interview by Steven Heller with Temple of Silence publisher Josh O’Neill. There’s more: The Wiggle Much a Tumblr devoted to Crowley’s comic strips and other artwork. (Ta to Jay for the tip!)

Pandemic is an interactive film by John Bradburn for The Science Museum. “A pandemic is causing heart failure–how far will you go to create a pig/human hybrid to provide donor organs?” The multiple choice begins at YouTube; there’s also a behind the scenes feature at the Museum blog, and a trailer. Anyone who remembers a certain scene in Lindsay Anderson’s O Lucky Man! may hesitate before playing.

Given the plain palette of so much 1969–70 rock—jammed-out bluesy boogie in the Canned Heat and Allman Brothers mode, nasal pseudo-country harmony singing à la CSN&Y and their afterbirth—it is tempting to imagine an entirely alternative history for rock. It’s a parallel world where Fifty Foot Hose’s Cauldron, United States of America’s self-titled album and synthedelic oddities from Syrinx, Silver Apples, Beaver & Krause and Tonto’s Expanding Head Band were just the run-up to a giant leap into the electronic future.

Simon Reynolds in an excellent piece on one of my favourite musical sub-genres, electronic psychedelia

• The week in animated film: Emerald Rush, a video for an extract from Jon Hopkins’ new album, Singularity; Awaken Akira, a short homage to Katsuhiro Otomo’s graphic novel/film by Ash Thorp and Zaoeyo; Extra (1996), a video by one of the Akira animators, Koji Morimoto, for music by Ken Ishii.

Tenebrous Kate on The Powers of Darkness & The Powers of the Mind: The Legacy of Jacques Tourneur’s Night of the Demon. Related: a look at the film’s shooting script and pressbook.

• At Dangerous Minds: John Gray, the pre-Bosie lover of Oscar Wilde, and the man whose surname is memorialised in Wilde’s most famous creation, Dorian Gray.

• Skewing the Picture: China Miéville posts the full text of an essay from 2016 about the rural weird.

• Share a pastrami sandwich with TED Klein in Episode 65 of Eating the Fantastic.

• More Hodgsoniana: The Land of Lonesomeness, a short story by Sam Gafford.

• At The Quietus: Barry Miles on William Burroughs’ years in London.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Curtis Harrington Day.

Night Of The Assassins (1977?) by Les Rallizes Dénudés | Night Of The Earth (1980) by Chrome | Night Of The Swallow (1982) by Kate Bush

Painting the Henge


Wiltonia sive Comitatus Wiltoniensis; Anglice Wilshire (1649) by Atlas van Loon.

Avebury doth as much exceed Stonehenge in grandeur as a Cathedral doth an ordinary Parish Church.

John Aubrey

John Aubrey (1626–1697) was the pioneering antiquarian and archaeologist whose interest in the ancient sites of southern England made him the first person to subject Avebury to any serious study. As a consequence his comparison between Avebury and Stonehenge may contain some bias—Stonehenge’s site on the desolate Salisbury Plain made its presence well-known even if it was little understood—but it should be noted that in Aubrey’s time there were more stones at Avebury than there are today, and the long avenues leading to and from the outer circle were still intact. The stones of Avebury were unfortunately small enough to be broken up by the locals for building materials.


Stonehenge (1835) by John Constable.

The size of the stones, and the isolation of the site explains why Stonehenge has proved more attractive to the arts than other Neolithic monuments. William Macready in the 19th century added Stonehenge-like trilithons to his stage designs for King Lear, an addition that persisted for decades; Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891) famously ends with a scene at the stones, while in the 20th century Stonehenge was shoehorned into Night of the Demon (1957), Jacques Tourneur and Charles Bennett’s film adaptation of Casting the Runes by MR James. James was an antiquarian himself so may well have approved of the inclusion, especially the way the stones are used in the opening scene.


Stonehenge at Sunset (1835) by John Constable.

Painted renderings of the stones tend to be a mixture of archaeological studies and depictions like those featured here. The site had an understandable attraction to the Romantics, and drew both Constable and Turner there. (See Turner’s paintings and sketches here.) Constable’s watercolour of the stones against a turbulent sky is oft-reproduced. Some of the stones seen in 19th paintings and drawings lean more than they do today, having been restored to the vertical in the 20th century.


Stonehenge – Twilight (c. 1840) by William Turner of Oxford (not to be confused with his more famous namesake).

Closer to our own time there’s Henry Moore’s marvellous series of lithograph prints from 1973 which study the stones from a variety of angles. These include close views, something few other artists seem to attempt. The photo print below shows the site as it was in the 1890s with cart tracks passing nearer to the stones than visitors today are allowed to venture.


Previously on { feuilleton }
Stonehenge panorama

Coming soon: Sea Monsters and Cannibals!


No, not Pirates of the Caribbean III although that film will be with us soon and is certain to contain at least one of the above ingredients. The dubious delights of exploitation cinema have been put back on the map recently by Grindhouse, the double feature from Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, but garish melodrama is nothing new in the film world. Silent films had more than their share of sex, violence, monsters and maniacs, and many featured a degree of nudity that wouldn’t be seen again until the late Sixties, thanks to the Hays Code. “Everything in life is exploitation,” Barbara Stanwyck was told in Baby Face (1933) and she went on to prove it by sleeping her way to the top in a film considered by moral guardians of the time to be so scurrilous that its uncensored print remained buried until 2005.


These wonderful hand-tinted plates from the George Eastman archive are lantern slides used to display information about coming attractions, and would have been screened between features as a kind of motionless trailer. The movie trailer as we know it today had been around since about 1910 but it wasn’t until the late Twenties that the regular production and screening of trailers took off. Lantern slides were a cheap way of keeping audiences attentive while the next feature was being prepared.


Cannibals of the South Seas was a 1912 documentary by Osa and Martin E. Johnson and it’s a good bet it was a lot more prosaic than this slide implies. The Isle of Lost Ships seems from the picture to be a sea-faring horror tale but turns out to be a 1923 adventure story based on a novel by one Crittenden Marriott and directed by Maurice Tourneur, father of the great horror and noir director, Jacques Tourneur (Cat People [1942], Out of the Past [1947], Night of the Demon [1957]). This first film is now as lost as the becalmed ships of its title but it was remade as an early talkie in 1929 and that film still exists somewhere. Film remakes are also nothing new. The tentacles and Sargasso setting made me suspect Mr Marriott had purloined an idea or two from William Hope Hodgson, writer of a series of excellent horror stories concerning the Sargasso Sea and (in his fiction) its population of tentacled abominations; Dennis Wheatley certainly stole from Hodgson, as I’ve mentioned before. But Marriott’s novel, The Isle of Dead Ships, and the films based upon it, prove to be less interesting than the slide promises. And so we learn a primary rule of exploitation cinema that was well-established even then: promise much but don’t always deliver.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Seamen in great distress eat one another
Druillet meets Hodgson
Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys
Davy Jones

Voodoo Macbeth


In my obsession with all things Orson Welles, his 1936 production of Macbeth holds a special fascination, partly for being my favourite Shakespeare play, and partly for the curiosity of its production—an all-black cast that included genuine Haitian drummers who famously claimed to have drummed a Broadway critic to death after he gave the play a hostile review. The De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea is hosting an art event based on Welles’ production.

In 1936, whilst the UK was celebrating the new De La Warr Pavilion, and exciting artistic movement was reaching its close in New York—the Harlem Renaissance. A significant event within of this movement was an all-black African American version of Macbeth, presented by The Federal Theatre Project at the New Lafayette Theatre, Harlem and directed by writer and actor Orson Welles. This production became known as ‘Voodoo Macbeth‘.

There are many things that were remarkable about this unique and innovative project. The play was one of the first explorations of a modern and diasporic spin on the Shakespearian tale. It was also the point at which Welles was introduced to John Houseman, which then led to the formation of the Mercury Theatre Company that produced seminal works such as the War of the Worlds and Citizen Kane. Furthermore, the ‘Voodoo Macbeth‘ production displayed visual and aural motifs using lighting, stage design and overlapping sound which became signature elements to Welles’s later film projects.

The essence, spirit, and cross-artform experimentality of ‘Voodoo Macbeth‘ is the basis for a contemporary art, film and performance season at the De La Warr Pavilion and has been named after the production. This unique project looks at the historical and contemporary dialogue that Welles’s work had and still has with performance, film and visual art.

The curatorial concept of the De La Warr Pavilion’s exhibition Voodoo Macbeth focuses on the debate and the ideas around Welles’s unique and defining aesthetic which continues to attract much critical attention. The exhibition suggests that Welles’s approach has informed the work of many contemporary artists working in film today.

Both the historical and contemporary context of Voodoo Macbeth are explored within the exhibition and wider season of events. Original works by Orson Welles are presented alongside those of his contemporaries including Jean Cocteau, Jacques Tourneur and Lee Miller. These artists were working with film and photography during the period of the 1940s onwards and have a shared concern in exploring visual ideas and motifs around the idea of an ‘expansive frame’. As artists, they blurred the boundaries between visual art, theatre, literature and film, to produce lyrical and poetic visual works.

Work by contemporary artists within the exhibition have been selected on the basis that their work embodies the artistic narrative and the spirituality of Welles’s use of light, dark and spatial composition. The exhibition includes work by Phyllis Baldino, Glenn Ligon, Steve McQueen, Mitra Tabrizian and Kara Walker. In this context, Voodoo Macbeth explores how, for artists today, the genre and its relationship to installation practice in performance, film, sound and visual art is an important part of the process. Importantly, they do not mimic the formalist structure of film, painting and sound but endeavour to embed these works with elements of popular culture, critique and humour. Like Welles, who was a masterful story teller, these artists have developed works which take on the character of an intimate 21st century tale. Unlike Welles, these tales are tailor-made, for a gallery audience to explore and enjoy.

Produced by the De La Warr Pavilion in association with Brighton Photo Biennial and curated by associate curator David A Bailey in collaboration with BPB curator 2006 Gilane Tawadros.
The Galleries are open 10am–6pm except on Christmas Eve (closing
at 5pm), Christmas Day (closed all day) and New Year’s Eve (closing at 3pm). Free.

Voodoo Macbeth, Oct 7th–Jan 7th.

The Voodoo Macbeth exhibition is a part of the Brighton Photo Biennial, for more details on the BPB please visit their website www.bpb.org.uk, or contact them via the details below.
Biennial Office
University of Brighton
Grand Parade
Brighton BN2 0JY

Tel: +44 (01)273 643 052
Email: mail@bpb.org.uk