Weekend links 497

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Poster by Zdenek Ziegler for Roma (1972), a film by Federico Fellini.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: a short history of Straight to Hell, a long-running fanzine launched by Boyd McDonald in 1971 dedicated to true stories of men having sex with other men. The post gives an idea of the contents but for a deep dive I’d suggest Meat (1994) at the Internet Archive, a collection of the best of the early editions of STH. Related: “Straight to Hell was an immensely popular underground publication. John Waters, William S. Burroughs, and Robert Mapplethorpe were fans; Gore Vidal called it ‘one of the best radical papers in the country.'” Erin Sheehy on Boyd McDonald’s determination to kick against the pricks.

• RIP psychedelic voyager and spiritual guide Richard Alpert/(Baba) Ram Dass. The Alpert/Ram Dass bibliography includes The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead (1964), an acid-trip manual written in collaboration with Timothy Leary and Ralph Metzner from which John Lennon borrowed lines for the lyrics of Tomorrow Never Knows. But the most celebrated Ram Dass volume is Be Here Now (1971), a fixture of countless hippy bookshelves whose first editions were all handmade.

• “An Einstein among Neanderthals”: the tragic prince of LA counterculture. Gabriel Szatan talks to David Lynch, Devo and others about the eccentric songwriter, performer and voice of Lynch’s Lady in the Radiator, Peter Ivers.

• For the forthcoming centenary of Federico Fellini’s birth Stephen Puddicombe offers suggestions for where to begin with the director’s “exuberant extravaganzas”. Related: Samuel Wigley on 8½ films inspired by .

• “I met resident Tony Notarberardino for the first time in 2015 and entering his apartment was like crossing into another dimension.” Collin Miller explores the Chelsea Hotel.

• “More green tea, professor?” The haunted academic, a reading list by Peter Meinertzhagen. Related: Our Haunted Year: 2019 by Swan River Press.

• “30 July, Yorkshire. Thunder, which is somehow old-fashioned.” Alan Bennett’s 2019 diary.

• More acid trips: Joan Harvey on the resurgence of interest in psychedelic drugs.

• At Lithub: Werner Herzog’s prose script for Nosferatu the Vampyre.

Tief gesunken, a new recording by Bohren & Der Club Of Gore.

In Heaven (1979) by Tuxedomoon | Die Nacht Der Himmel (1979) by Popol Vuh | Roma (1981) by Steve Lacy

Weekend links 465

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The Star (1970) from The Aquarian Tarot by David Palladini.

• Artist David Palladini died in March but I only heard the news this week. His poster for Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu has been a favourite of mine ever since the film’s release, while some of his other works have featured here in the past. Still popular among Tarot users is the Aquarian Tarot (1970), a deck published a few years after Palladini had helped with the production of the Linweave Tarot. From the same period as the Aquarian deck is a set of Zodiac posters, all of which exhibit Palladini’s distinctive blend of Art Nouveau and Deco stylings. In addition to posters, Palladini produced book covers and illustrations, and even a few record covers. A book collecting all of this work would be very welcome.

Erotikus: A History of the Gay Movies (1974? 75? 78?): Fred Halsted presents a 90-minute history of American gay porn, from the earliest beefcake films to the hardcore of the 1970s, some of which Halsted also helped create. Related: Centurians of Rome [sic]: Ashley West and April Hall on the bank robber who made the most expensive gay porno of all time.

Peter Bradshaw reviews Too Old to Die Young, a Nicolas Winding Refn TV series described as “a supernatural noir”. Sign me up.

Naomi Wolf’s Outrages establishes the context for [John Addington] Symonds’s desperate efforts to justify his own sexual feelings. Since he was born in 1840, he was 15 when the first edition of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass appeared, the same year that legislation in Britain streamlined the laws against sodomy and ensured that men found guilty of it served long prison sentences. With intelligence and flair, Wolf uses the various responses to Whitman to show the levels of intense need in the decades after the publication of Leaves of Grass for images and books that would rescue homosexuality from increasing public disapproval.

Colm Tóibín reviews Outrages: Sex, Censorship and the Criminalisation of Love by Naomi Wolf

• Record label Dark Entries has discovered 40 more reels (!) of music by Patrick Cowley dating from 1974 to 1979.

• “Is Stockhausen’s Licht the most bonkers operatic spectacle ever?” asks Robert Barry.

• Sex, Spunk, Shoes and Sweet Satisfaction: A Q&A with artist Cary Kwok.

• Tripping his brains out: Eric Bulson on Michel Foucault and LSD.

• Paul O’Callaghan chooses 10 best Dennis Hopper performances.

• “More obscene than De Sade.” Luc Sante on the fotonovela.

• Karl Blossfeldt’s Urformen der Kunst (1928).

• The Strange World of…Gong

Neonlicht (1978) by Kraftwerk | Brüder Des Schattens, Söhne Des Lichtes (1978) by Popol Vuh | Lichtfest (2017) by ToiToiToi

Weekend links 393

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The Invisible World of Beautify Junkyards will be the next release on the Ghost Box label in March 2018. Design by Julian House.

• Tantalising discovery of the week was Alphons Sinniger’s Eno (1974), a 24-minute film about post-Roxy Music Brian Eno which shows (among other things) the recording of Here Come The Warm Jets. The film is a scarce item that appeared briefly on YouTube before being yanked. Copies have been reposted (see here) although they may not stay around for long.

Nosferatu the Shapeshifter: An inventory of intertitles, prints and premiéres. A page that includes some detail about Die zwölfte Stunde. Eine Nacht des Grauens (The Twelfth Hour: A Night of Horror), a seldom-seen reworking of Murnau’s film from 1930 which added sound, additional scenes (none of them by Murnau) and a happy ending.

• At Dennis Cooper‘s: Entry Level: Luchino Visconti’s “German Trilogy”: The Damned, Death in Venice, Ludwig (1969–1973).

• “3,500 occult manuscripts will be digitized and made freely available online, thanks to Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown.”

• From 2015: Watch Alejandro Jodorowsky give a tarot reading (for Nicolas Winding Refn).

Portals of London: “Towards a catalogue of London’s inter-dimensional gateways”.

• At Spoon & Tamago: Gigantic sculptures by Kenji Yanobe of cats wearing helmets.

• At the BFI: Adam Scovell on 10 great “urban wyrd” films.

• At Swan River Press: Our Haunted Year: 2017.

Portals (2001) by Bill Laswell | Portals And Parallels (2010) by Belbury Poly & Moon Wiring Club | Abysmal Cathedrals Arise!—Beyond The Quivering Portal—Minds On Fire (2012) by The Wyrding Module

Polaroids

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I was given a Polaroid Instant Camera some years ago, not the cult SX-70, a later model. I still have it somewhere but never used it very much. The film cartridges were still available in shops, but at around £1 a shot Polaroids always seemed like a costly indulgence unless you had some specific use for them which I never did. The photo of Murnau’s Nosferatu was taken from a TV screen, and seems to be the only print I kept.

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Radiation Victim Holding a Rabbit and Carrot (1974) by Les Krims.

This post was prompted by a search for the Polaroid manipulations made by Les Krims in the 1970s. Krims was one of the first people (the first?) to exploit the potential of the print’s slow processing to create surreal and grotesque images. Krims self-published a collection of these as Fictcryptokrimsographs in 1975. The Francis Bacon-like “radiation victim” is one of the more restrained examples, many of the others being male and female nudes in various stages of mutation.

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Peter Gabriel (1980).

The mutation technique was more famously employed by the Hipgnosis design team and Peter Gabriel for the cover art of Gabriel’s third album. (Americans insist on calling this album “Melt” even though it was never titled as such.) The technique was also used for photos on the inner sleeve and on two of the single releases.

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No Self Control (1980). Front and back sleeve of 7-inch single.

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William Burroughs by Ralph Steadman.

Also in 1980, Ralph Steadman says discovered the same technique while on holiday in Turkey. I recall him discussing his own manipulations, which he calls “Paranoids”, on TV around this time. There’s no indication that Steadman was aware of Krims or the Gabriel album but he’s continued to use the technique ever since. The Burroughs portrait was one of a series created in 1995 when Steadman paid a visit to Lawrence, Kansas. There’s film of the meeting here although I’m more interested in the older TV film on the same page which shows Steadman creating a new composite portrait by drawing onto the emulsion.

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Portrait

Albin Grau’s Nosferatu

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For many directors a film like Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (1922) would have been a career peak, but Friedrich Murnau went on to make The Last Laugh (1924), Faust (1926) and Sunrise (1927). All those films improve cinematically on Nosferatu but the vampire film continues to cast the longest shadow: quoted, remade, and with even its production fictionalised in Shadow of the Vampire (2000). The lasting success of Nosferatu wasn’t all Murnau’s doing, however.

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It’s arguable that without the preliminary work of production designer Albin Grau (1884–1971) the film might have been little more than a curious precursor of the Universal Dracula (1931). Grau was responsible for the set design and the extraordinary appearance of Max Schreck’s Count Orlok; Grau also created the film’s memorable poster and advertising imagery in which the vampire’s appearance hints at something even more terrible than the figure that stalks before the camera.

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A great deal of German silent cinema is labelled “Expressionist” even if the films themselves show little in the way of overt Expressionism. Nosferatu isn’t very Expressionist at all but Albin Grau’s sketches and posters certainly tend in that direction, so much so that they make me wonder how different the film might have been if it had been as stylised as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919). In addition to his artistic pursuits, Grau was an occultist which explains the attention to detail in the bizarre contract drawn up between Knock and Count Orlok, a document that looks more like a page from a grimoire than anything used by an estate agent. There’s a quote from Grau in his occult capacity in John Symonds’ Aleister Crowley biography, The Great Beast, complaining in 1925 about Crowley’s ascension to the heights of the Ordo Templi Orientis.

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Nosferatu: The Knock-Orlok contract.

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Nosferatu comes out of the occult preoccupations, having been Grau’s project from the beginning when he formed a film company, Prana-Film, with Enrico Dieckmann. The pair announced plans for three films: Dreams of Hell, The Devil of the Swamp, and a drama about a vampire. Only Nosferatu materialised then sank the company almost as soon as it was finished: Prana-Film had spent more on publicity than on the film itself, and went deep into debt. The success of the film might have helped their finances but the death blow was struck by Florence Stoker and the British Society of Authors who won a court case against the company for filming Dracula without permission. The efforts of the Stoker estate to destroy Nosferatu are recounted in detail in David J. Skal’s fascinating Hollywood Gothic (1990). Many of Murnau’s minor films were lost through various misfortunes, and it’s a fluke that a handful of prints of Nosferatu survived. Happily for us, it’s not only vampires that manage to remain undead.

Continue reading “Albin Grau’s Nosferatu”