Trip texts revisited

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An update to a post from several years ago about the handful of significant books that appear in Roger Corman’s The Trip (1967). The earlier post was prompted by a DVD viewing; this update has been prompted by a re-viewing via blu-ray which yielded screen-grabs showing more detail. As I’ve no doubt said before, one of the pleasures of home viewing is being able to scrutinise film frames in this manner, something that was previously only possible if you were a writer with access to a cinema print.

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Corman’s film is probably the only feature from American International Pictures that contains any kind of extraneous intellectual reference. The AIP ethic was always “shoot it fast and cheap”, a production rule that had no time for winking to the hip contingent of the audience with books, of all things. Leave that stuff to the French. The Trip was still shot fast and cheap but Corman had been stretching himself increasingly while making his cycle of Poe films, especially with The Masque of the Red Death which had a longer production schedule, a British cast and crew, and a symbolic finale that sets it apart from its rivals at Hammer and other studios. The Trip is as far-out as Corman gets, the cut-up shots of Peter Fonda stumbling in delirium around Sunset Boulevard wouldn’t be out of place in any underground film of the period.

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The surprising thing about the books that appear in the scene where Fonda’s character, Paul, drops his acid is that they’re perfectly appropriate items of set decoration but only two of them—the unmissable copy of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, and David Solomon’s LSD: The Consciousness-Expanding Drug—would have been discernible to an audience. The latter inclusion is probably more to do with the three magic letters being so prominent on its cover than anything else, although it is the kind of book you’d find in a house owned by lysergic voyagers. The blu-ray detail now reveals more of the book hiding behind it although this one has eluded my attempts to search for a match: “The [something]….”? I thought it might be The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran but none of the editions prior to 1967 resemble the cover.

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The main discovery this time round was finding a match for the book hidden by Howl, a title that I now confidently declare to be the 1962 Avon edition of Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein. (The reds and blues of the cover art are more discernible in a full-frame shot.) When watching the DVD I thought those words might be “Hugo Award Winner” but couldn’t make out an author’s name, and “Award Winner” was a guess. The book might also have been written by someone named Hugo… Heinlein’s novel was a hippy favourite in the 1960s, one of several books together with The Prophet, Richard Brautigan’s novels and poetry, Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf, etc, that were popular with turned-on readers. The irony of the author of Starship Troopers being mooned over by the love ‘n’ peace crowd wasn’t lost on the younger generation of SF authors but their criticisms didn’t travel outside genre circles. Heinlein could evade opprobrium for being one of the signatories of an ad in Galaxy for June, 1968, supporting the war in Vietnam because hippies en masse weren’t reading SF magazines.

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As noted in the earlier post, the book behind the Heinlein is a 1960 edition of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, which I was only able to identify because I own a copy of the same edition. Behind this there lurks another title whose identity is now going to nag at me. The cover decoration means it will be easy to find if it ever turns up somewhere. But will I remember it when it does? We’ll see.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Alice’s Adventures in the Horse Hospital
LSD-25 by The Gamblers
More trip texts
Trip texts
Acid albums
Acid covers
Lyrical Substance Deliberated
The Art of Tripping, a documentary by Storm Thorgerson
Enter the Void
In the Land of Retinal Delights
Haschisch Hallucinations by HE Gowers
The art of LSD
Hep cats

Squirm: Drew Struzan versus Gustav Klimt

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This poster by Drew Struzan turned up in my RSS feed courtesy of 70s Sci-Fi Art. So Struzan did the US poster for Squirm, thought I, …who knew? Wait a minute…are those Klimt figures?! Closer scrutiny confirmed that, yes, Struzan does indeed appear to have swiped a handful of figures from Gustav Klimt as victims for the carnivorous worms. Squirm (1976) for those who haven’t seen it, is described by The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film as:

Pretty bad film about electrified earthworms in Georgia that have teeth and make noises like horses. It does have an amazing scene with long worms burrowing through a man’s face. Whole rooms are filled with what looks like thick spaghetti. Don Scardino is the studious young hero. The ads claimed there were “250,000 real worms” in the film. From the director of Blue Sunshine.

Michael Weldon’s book has a very lenient attitude towards this kind of nonsense so for a film to be labelled as bad is always a warning. Having seen Squirm, I agree with Weldon’s appraisal. There were a lot of animals attacking humans in the cinema of the 1970s, thanks in part to the success of Jaws, so a story about worms on the rampage is merely another addition to the trashy pile. (The Japanese poster even managed to emulate the famous Jaws poster.) Squirm is especially ridiculous when the humble earthworm is so resistant to being any kind of menace unless its size is dramatically increased, as in Dune or Tremors, the latter being a much better horror film with its own Jaws-like poster.

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Jurisprudence (1907) by Gustav Klimt.

Struzan’s figures are based on those in Jurisprudence, one of the paintings that Gustav Klimt worked on from 1900 to 1907 for the ceiling of the Great Hall at the University of Vienna. There were three pictures—the others represented Philosophy and Medicine—but all were deemed too pornographic for public display. The paintings were subsequently destroyed in 1945 by retreating Nazi troops after having been seized from their Jewish owners and moved with other loot to the Schloss Immendorf.

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Klimt’s Jurisprudence is the strangest of all his works, with three Furies presiding over the cowed figure of a man ensnared by evil, represented here by an octopus. Philippe Jullian in Dreamers of Decadence declares Klimt’s symbolic cephalopod to be “unique in European Art”. I alluded to the Furies, and thereby surreptitiously alluded to those tentacles of evil, when I put a Klimt-like figure into my adaptation The Call of Cthulhu in 1988.

Continue reading “Squirm: Drew Struzan versus Gustav Klimt”

Weekend links 556

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Captain Edward St. Miquel Tilden Bradshaw and his Crew Come to Grips with Bloodthirsty Foe Pirates by S. Clay Wilson, Zap Comix no. 3, 1968.

• RIP S. Clay Wilson, the wild man of American comics. The scene of mayhem above is typical in being barely coherent at a small size; click for a larger view. Patrick Rosenkranz at The Comics Journal describes Wilson as “the most influential artist of his generation…creating an extensive body of work that will defy authority and offend propriety until the end of days”. When Moebius was writing in the 1980s about the founding of Métal Hurlant he had this to say about the American undergrounds: “They were the first in the world to use comics as a means of communication, to express real emotions. Before, comics were used only to do stories, entertainment. They had some great moments but they were all very conventional. The American Underground showed us in Europe how to express true feelings, how to tell something to the reader through the comics. They blew the minds of the few professionals in Europe who saw them.” Also at TCJ, the S. Clay Wilson Interview. Wilson sent me a postcard once. I wish I knew what the hell I’d done with it.

• Michael Hoenig, synthesist for Agitation Free and (briefly) Tangerine Dream, plays one of the pieces from his debut album of electronic music, Departure From The Northern Wasteland, on a radio show in 1977. Hoenig’s album is long overdue a remastering and re-release.

• “My job, which the BBC has tasked me to do, is to provoke people and ask them, ‘Have you thought about looking at the world this way?'” Adam Curtis talks to Michael J. Brooks about his new TV series, Can’t Get You Out Of My Head.

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{ feuilleton } celebrates its 15th birthday today. Monsieur Chat, the mascot of this place, is happy about that but then Monsieur Chat is happy about most things.

• At Greydogtales: Opening The Book of Carnacki. A call for contributions to a collection of new stories about William Hope Hodgson’s occult detective. I’d be tempted if I didn’t already have more than enough to keep me occupied.

• “I’m being asked to talk about it a great deal at the moment, with the pandemic.” Roger Corman and Jane Asher on filming The Masque of the Red Death.

• New music: Cygnus Sutra by Mike Shannon, “a soundtrack to a fantasy/sci-fi epic not yet written”.

• A trailer for The Witch of King’s Cross, a documentary about occult artist Rosaleen Norton.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Spotlight on…Hans Bellmer & Paul Eluard The Games of the Doll (1949).

• RIP also this week to Rowena Morrill, fantasy artist, and to Chick Corea.

• “Computers will never write good novels,” says Angus Fletcher.

• DJ Food on Zodiac posters by Funky Features, 1967.

• Mix of the week: Fact Mix 794 by Lutto Lento.

Annie Nightingale’s favourite music.

Zodiac (1984) by Boogie Boys | From The Zodiacal Light (2014) by Earth | Zodiac Black (2017) by Goldfrapp

Weekend links 522

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Self-Portrait (1935) by Johannes Hendrikus Moesman.

• At Bibliothèque Gay, René Bolliger (1911—1971), an artist whose homoerotica is being celebrated in an exhibition, Les Beaux Mâles, at Galerie Au Bonheur du Jour, Paris, next month. There are more beaux mâles in a new book of photographs, Hi, Hello!, by Roman Duquesne.

• The summer solstice is here which means it’s time for Dennis Cooper‘s favourite fiction, poetry, non-fiction, film, art and internet of the year so far. As before, I’m flattered to be listed in the internet selection. Thanks! Also at DC’s, Michael Snow Day.

• “I hope Roger Corman is doing okay,” I was thinking last week while rewatching one of Corman’s Poe films. He’s been overseeing the production of three new features during the lockdown so, yes, he’s doing okay. I loved the Cries and Whispers anecdote.

• “Unsettling and insinuating, fabulously alert to the spaces between things, Harrison is without peer as a chronicler of the fraught, unsteady state we’re in.” Olivia Laing reviewing The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again by M. John Harrison.

The original Brain label release of Aqua (1974), the first solo album by Tangerine Dream’s Edgar Froese, had a different track list and different mixes from the Virgin releases. The album has never been reissued in this form.

• New music at Bandcamp: Without Thought, music for an installation by Paul Schütze; and Hatching Under The Stars, songs by Clara Engel.

Deborah Nicholls-Lee on Johannes Hendrikus Moesman (1909–1988), “the erotic Dutch surrealist you should have heard of”.

Kate Solomon on where to start with the Pet Shop Boys. I’d also recommend Introspective.

• Dalí in Holographic Space: Selwyn Lissack on Salvador Dalí’s contributions to art holograms.

• At Spoon & Tamago: An obsession with retro Japanese round-cornered windows.

John Boardley on the “writing mistresses” of the calligraphic golden age.

Mark Duguid recommends Michael Reeves’ Witchfinder General (1968).

• The favourite music of Crammed Discs boss, Marc Hollander.

• Occult/erotic prints by Eleni Avraam.

Aqua: Every Raindrop Longs For The Sea (Jeder Tropfen Träumt Vom Meer) H2O (1973) by Achim Reichel | Aqua (1979) by Dvwb | Aqua (1981) by Phew

Trip texts

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I would have changed the subject today if it wasn’t for spotting a copy of David Solomon’s LSD: The Consciousness-Expanding Drug (1964) in Roger Corman’s notorious and rather creditable stab at psychedelia, The Trip (1967). Corman’s film is an oddity in his run of AIP exploitation films in being far less condemnatory than you’d expect (although Peter Fonda’s character isn’t always enjoying his experience), and must also be the only film in the whole AIP canon with signifying texts.

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By the time Solomon’s book makes an appearance, Fonda’s character, Paul, has started freaking out but earlier on, during his conversations with John (Bruce Dern), we have Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems (1956) shouting out of the frame. “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness…” Okay Rog, we get it.

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There’s more, however. Behind Howl there’s another book whose identity eludes me, while behind that you can make out the red typography and white dorje symbol from the 1960 OUP edition of The Tibetan Book of the Dead. The only reason I recognised this is because I own that edition so the cover is very familiar. This would be a popular text in an acid-tripper’s apartment; John tells Paul to “Relax and float down stream”, a line that recapitulates the advice given in Leary, Metzner and Alpert’s The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead (1964). Most surprising for me about this inclusion is that The Tibetan Book of the Dead features a lot more prominently in that other major film about psychedelic experience, Enter the Void (2009). Am I the only person to have made this material connection? Probably. Does anyone care? Probably not, but I do like recording these associations.

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Cover design by Lawrence Ratzkin.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Acid albums
Acid covers
Lyrical Substance Deliberated
The Art of Tripping, a documentary by Storm Thorgerson
Enter the Void
In the Land of Retinal Delights
The art of LSD
Hep cats