Weekend links 636


Untitled painting by Oliver Frey based on The Wild Boys by William Burroughs.

• RIP Oliver Frey, a prolific illustrator and comic artist whose art for UK computer magazines in the 1980s made a lasting impression on a generation of games players, hence this obituary at Eurogamer. On this site, however, Frey is also remembered for his artistic alter-ego “Zack” (previously), an equally prolific creator of comic-strip erotica for Britain’s few gay-porn mags at a time when any such material being sold in the UK ran the risk of police seizure or even a court appearance. For a while, Zack’s Rogue and Tom of Finland’s Kake were rare examples of assertive, unashamedly lustful gay characters with strips of their own, which makes Oliver Frey something of a pioneer, and a daring one at that.

• “The title characters were a trio of boys named Jupiter Jones, Pete Crenshaw, and Bob Andrews, who live in the fictional California town of Rocky Beach, not far from Hollywood, on the coast…” Colin Fleming on the satisfyingly spooky adventures of Robert Arthur Jr’s Three Investigators. I was never as obsessive as Fleming was but I read all of the books about the trio that I could find in our local library.

• “Though its inimitable visual style has safeguarded it as a quintessential cult film most at home behind a shroud of pot smoke, the influence of Koyaanisqatsi has been sweeping.” Josef Steen on 40 years of Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi.

• “Putting it simply, coincidences and curiosities and chance encounters happen when people go looking for zodiacs.” Mark Valentine on Britain’s terrestrial zodiacs.

• At Literary Hub: Marguerite Duras on writing the screenplay for Alain Resnais’s Hiroshima Mon Amour.

• New/old music: a reissue of Solar Maximum by Majeure.

• New music: Kerber Remixes by Yann Tiersen.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Ingrid Caven Day.

• Threnody To The Victims Of Hiroshima (1959-61) by Krzysztof Penderecki | Memory Of Hiroshima (1973) by Stomu Yamash’ta | Hiroshima Mon Amour (1977) by Ultravox!

The Planets by Ken Russell


This 1983 film from Ken Russell bears comparison with Michael Powell’s film of Bluebeard’s Castle in being another television adaptation by a famous director of a well-known piece of music that few people have heard about or managed to see. (Derek Jarman often spoke of Powell and Russell as two rare talents frequently ignored or slighted in their own country.) Russell’s film was made specially for The South Bank Show, the weekly arts programme of the ITV network in Britain. As with most South Bank Show films it was screened once then vanished into the archives. There was a later laserdisc release in the US but laserdiscs are now as redundant as CD-ROMs. I’ve yet to hear of a DVD release.


Mars, the Bringer of War.

The Planets was Russell’s first film after Altered States (1980), and shares some of that feature’s cosmic moments, especially in the Neptune section. The Planets also seems heavily indebted to Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi which had been released to great acclaim the year before. Where Reggio matched unique shots to a unique score by Philip Glass, Russell produced a collage work that matches stock footage to each section of the Holst suite. The result is very effective in places, although after subsequent decades of music videos and YouTube mixology the effect is less impressive than it was when first broadcast. Among the hundreds of images some familiar Russell obsessions appear: Nazis, naked women and the inevitable crucifixion. I don’t think he managed to get any nuns into this one but the Pope gives a Catholic flavour to the Uranus section. Since the whole piece is wordless it’s left to the viewer to decide how much these juxtapositions are ironic or sincere. The music is performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy.


Venus, the Bringer of Peace.

The Planets can’t be viewed on YouTube at the moment, probably for the usual copyright reasons, but there is a watchable copy on this Russian video site. Given the quantity of recordings of The Planets it’s understandable if there isn’t a great demand for Russell’s version but it still seems unfairly overlooked.

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