Weekend links 522

moesman.jpg

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

trip1.jpg

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.

trip2.jpg

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.

trip3.jpg

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.

trip4.jpg

tbotd.jpg

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

Burt Shonberg’s Poe paintings

usher1.jpg

House of Usher (1960): Vincent Price and Mark Damon.

This post ought to have followed the one in January about the sinister portraits glimpsed in Roman Polanski’s Dance of the Vampires. I still don’t know who was responsible for those paintings but the artist who created the equally outré family portraits in Roger Corman’s House of Usher (1960) was credited for his work. Burt Shonberg (1933–1977) was a friend of Corman’s who had to produce the six portraits at speed (the entire film was shot in fifteen days) so the results are sketchier than they might have been in a production with a bigger budget. I always liked the anachronism of these pictures, the way they look very much of their time; the effect is a jarring one that adds a note of much-needed strangeness to Corman’s otherwise sparse interiors.

usher2.jpg

Shonberg was a curious artist, the gallery page on his website shows a progression from Picasso-style early works in the 1950s to his own brand of mystical psychedelia. Some of his paintings from around the time of House of Usher have that stained-glass fragmentation one finds in the work of Leo & Diane Dillon from the same period. Shonberg’s biography says Corman used more paintings in The Premature Burial (1962) but I don’t have a copy of that to hand and haven’t found any examples. There’s also the detail that Shonberg was involved for a while with Marjorie Cameron, herself an artist who appeared as the mysterious “Water Witch” in another AIP production, Curtis Harrington’s Night Tide, a year after House of Usher.

usher3.jpg

usher4.jpg

Continue reading “Burt Shonberg’s Poe paintings”

The Horse of the Invisible

carnacki1.jpg

Can Carnacki make any claim to be taken seriously as a detective? If he solves anything it is by force of will, rather than the application of deductive powers. He is no Sherlockian ironist, no high-domed mental traveller. He stands as close to Holmes as Mike Hammer does to Philip Marlowe. His methods are enthusiastic but basic: good old-fashioned head-in-the-door stuff. He is not so much a “ghostbuster” as a self-starting lightning rod for psychic phenomena that has not yet been housebroken.

Thus Iain Sinclair in a typically acerbic afterword to the 1991 Grafton paperback of Carnacki, the Ghost-Finder by William Hope Hodgson. Holmes would indeed look askance at Carnacki’s methods but that didn’t prevent the occult investigator being drafted as one of The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes in the first television series of that name in 1971. I was reminded of this dramatisation following last week’s discussion of Hodgsonian cinema; I’ve known about the episode for years—notable for having Donald Pleasence in the role of Thomas Carnacki—but hadn’t watched it until this week courtesy of YouTube.

Philip Mackie wrote the script for The Horse of the Invisible, and Alan Cooke was the director. Their adaptation is interesting mostly for seeing a Hodgson story dramatised; as a piece of television the presentation is serious and well-acted but looks rather creaky today, suffering from the over-lit artificiality that always blighted studio-shot productions attempting to create any kind of atmosphere. Donald Pleasence is his typical lugubrious self which doesn’t really suit Carnacki’s bull-headed enthusiasm but I don’t mind that, Pleasence was a good actor so it’s a treat to see him play the part. And we do get to see Carnacki’s “electric pentacle” in action (Carnacki enjoys his Edwardian gadgets) in the midst of which the beleagured Michele Dotrice is forced to spend the night. The most successful Carnacki stories are those that play to Hodgson’s strengths as a writer of supernatural dread, stories such as The Gateway of the Monster or The Hog. The Horse of the Invisible doesn’t attain the heights of those tales but then it would be a doomed venture trying to conjure Hodgson’s cosmic horrors on a limited budget. With this story you get a taste of the supernatural, which no doubt sets it apart from the other “Rivals”, whilst staying within the bounds of credibility.

carnacki2.jpg

There’s one curious detail worth mentioning: in both the story and the dramatisation the character of the fiancé is named “Charles Beaumont”. There was a real Charles Beaumont, a screenwriter responsible for many scripts for The Twilight Zone TV series, as well as for some of the superior American horror films of the 1960s, including Night of the Eagle, The Haunted Palace (Roger Corman’s adaptation of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward) and The Masque of the Red Death. In last week’s discussion I mentioned John Carpenter’s The Fog as a good example of Hodgsonian cinema on account of its ghost pirates. My memory may be playing tricks but I’m sure that Carpenter has a reference to a “Charlie Beaumont” in either The Fog or Halloween, both films being littered with significant character names. (There’s a “Mr Machen” in The Fog). Donald Pleasence was in Halloween, of course, playing a doctor with a name lifted from Psycho. I’ve searched in vain for the Beaumont reference; does this ring a bell for any Carpenter-philes?

Both series of The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes are available from Network DVD.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Tentacles #2: The Lost Continent
Tentacles #1: The Boats of the ‘Glen Carrig’
Hodgson versus Houdini
Weekend links: Hodgson edition
“The game is afoot!”
Druillet meets Hodgson

Die Farbe and The Colour Out of Space

farbe2.jpg

Die Farbe (2010).

The colour, which resembled some of the bands in the meteor’s strange spectrum, was almost impossible to describe; and it was only by analogy that they called it colour at all. Its texture was glossy, and upon tapping it appeared to promise both brittleness and hollowness.

The Colour Out of Space (1927).

Die Farbe (The Colour) is a German feature film by Huan Vu based on HP Lovecraft’s tremendous short story The Colour Out of Space. Vu’s film was completed last year, and has been well-received at film festivals and by Lovecraft aficionados but I’ve been rather tardy in hearing about it. Better late than never.

Having adapted two-and-a-half stories, I tend to take a more than cursory interest in works based on Lovecraft’s fiction. One of the reasons I tackled his works in the first place was out of frustration at the apparent inability of film producers and comic artists to treat the stories as they’d been written. The Colour Out of Space is one of the masterpieces of Lovecraft’s mature period, and was the favourite of his own stories, a skilful blending of horror and science fiction in the tale of a fallen meteorite infecting a farm with an inexplicable process of decay and physical mutation. The mysterious colour is the product of some unearthly substance inside the meteorite which corresponds to no known part of the visible spectrum. This wasn’t the first story of Lovecraft’s that I read—I’d earlier found The Moon-Bog in a ghost story anthology—but it was the first that made a serious impression when I came across it in another anthology at age 12 or 13. Since then, whenever people ask me which Lovecraft stories to read first The Colour Out of Space is always one I recommend.

farbe1.jpg

Continue reading “Die Farbe and The Colour Out of Space”