DC's

The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Gordon Hessler Day *

* (restored/This post was originally requested/commissioned by silent reader Nathan Bartholomew)

 

‘Gordon Hessler passed away in his sleep January 19, 2014 at the age of 83. An underrated horror director, Hessler cut his teeth on the Hitchcock Presents TV show then helmed several genuinely creepy and atmospheric British films. He worked with Vincent Price three times, all with scripts by Christopher Wicking; SCREAM & SCREAM AGAIN (1970) was an outrageous sci-fi/horror hybrid that presented a berserk view of swinging 60′s London (and also starred Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee). CRY OF THE BANSHEE (1970) was gritty and mean-spirited featuring Price as a sadistic monarch with an intense hatred of witchcraft and a sardonic sense of macabre. THE OBLONG BOX (1969 – co-starring Chris Lee) was a dark and moody tale of voodoo, body snatching, medical experiments, brotherly betrayal, and being buried alive.

‘Hessler’s MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE was like a Vincent Price movie without Price (it starred Herbert Lom and Jason Robards). It mixed Poe with Phantom of the Opera and was an interesting take on Paris’ historic Grand Guignol theater. One of his last films, GIRL IN A SWING (1988) was an effective, low-key ghost story worth seeking out. Hessler directed Ray Harryhausen’s GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD in 1973, a film that’s always lived in the shadow of 7th VOYAGE as an inferior sequel but has aged well. It’s a terrific fantasy film worthy of big screen reassessment (and was recently released on Blu-ray by Twilight Time). No one could mistake his KISS MEETS THE PHANTOM OF THE PARK for a good movie, but the 1978 TV movie plays like a live-action Scooby-Doo episode and has a huge cult following. He also directed two martial arts films in the late ‘80s starring Sho Kusugi, the best known actor/martial artist during the 1980s ninja cinema craze: PRAY FOR DEATH (1985), and RAGE OF HONOR (1987).’ — collaged

 

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Stills



























































 

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Further

Gordon Hessler @ IMDb
‘KISS Co-founders Simmons and Stanley Remember Gordon Hessler’
Gordon Hessler @ MGM Channel
Lumière ! Réalisateurs : Gordon Hessler
Gordon Hessler: An Alan Smithee Podcast
DVD Savant Double Feature: Gordon Hessler
‘And You Call Yourself a Scientist!’
Shock Cinema Issue #38
‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’: The Quality of Humor
SATANIC PANDEMONIUM: THE OBLONG BOX

 

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Interview
from DVD Drive-In

 

What was your relationship like with AIP?

Gordon Hessler: I always got along well with Deke Heyward, the head of DIP. He was very politically adept at handling things at AIP. He would protect you from [Sam] Arkoff and [James] Nicholson because they’d come into town and stay at the Savoy Hotel, and then they’d go in to discuss the picture, or they would see the finished product and make their suggestions.

Obviously they were happy with you, as you continued to work with them.

GH: Well, THE OBLONG BOX was very successful for them. They were in tremendous trouble with DE SADE. They didn’t get along with Cy Endfield and all sorts of other problems existed. It was the greatest piece of luck that I was fired from it. When I did THE OBLONG BOX, they left me alone, there was nobody there. The day I started, Nicholson came on the set and said, “Good luck.” That’s it, and he was off. That film was made for £70,000, which is about $250,000. At Shepperton Studios, you could shoot from 8 AM until about 4 PM because of the union. If you wanted to do overtime, you’d have to let them know by lunchtime that you were going to take it one more hour. And only if all the union leaders agreed would they go along with it. It was a very tough assignment to shoot and get finished. Actually, when we were finishing it, I had three or four more days left. They [AIP] said, “Look, we like what you’re doing, take an extra week. Can’t you make this bigger?” This never happened to me before, so I was happy with the situation and I took an extra week at the studios and built up certain sequences. I can’t remember which, but whatever we were shooting, we elaborated on it. And the film did very well for them.

How did you get along with Vincent Price?

GH: Oh, marvelous, he was a marvelous man, highly intelligent. I remember at Shepperton Studios, during THE OBLONG BOX, we had an African prince who was the head of this tribe. So we put them in the film for this dance sequence. I asked Vincent if he wouldn’t mind having lunch with this African prince, or king, or whatever he was. You know, most actors always talk about themselves; Vincent was completely the opposite. He talked to him about African art, and all about the various art he knew about and so on. I was just stunned at the conversation and his knowledge. What a unique man.

I’m sure you’re aware that your director’s cut of MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE has been restored and remastered by MGM and recently aired on U.S. cable TV.

GH: I’m amazed that MGM had the instinct to do this version of it after so many years. I was appalled when I originally saw the theatrically released version. I wrote a five-page letter to Arkoff. I knew it was his picture and he could do what he wanted with it, but I asked him to do certain things so it would at least make more sense. But by that time, it was already out and released. There’s another film that I did–which I feel very strongly about–called GIRL ON A SWING that was terribly mauled. It’s awful what Miramax did. They spliced ten or 15 minutes out of it, and it didn’t make any sense. We all wanted to take our name off of that picture. In my contract, they had to give me a 35mm print of the original version–it’s the only one in existence. But as far as MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE, it seems that someone at MGM is doing some researching or something, releasing my cut of the film. This cable TV version–which I haven’t yet seen–is apparently the original. I remember the flashbacks were originally never tinted, but AIP tinted them for the theatrical release. The whole idea was not to tint them so that you wouldn’t know when you’re more or less in a dream sequence or just being puzzled by it. The whole trick in that was instead of it being a flashback, this would be a flash-forward, which people really hadn’t done before at that time. It was a premonition of what was going to happen. When it’s tinted, it’s just so obvious. Audiences picked up on it immediately.

SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN is an extraordinary film, very different from the typical Poe/Price cycle. Was AIP happy with it?

GH: Well, they didn’t know what the film was about and were always questioning what I was doing. The editor kept assuring them that everything was fine, but they didn’t quite know what they had as a picture. I’m sure they were a little queasy when that film came out because Arkoff had to try and sell it. We knew we had a good film. It was different. It was a science fiction film really, but the thing is, although the pulp book was very badly written, once Chris Wicking had put the nucleus of that idea into it, it elevated the whole picture and made it much more interesting. But all these pictures were made so quickly with so little money, I think we shot that in three or four weeks. But we had fun making it.

You had Christopher Lee in small parts in THE OBLONG BOX and SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN. How did you get along with him?

GH: I got on very well with Christopher Lee. He became even more talented as he moved on in his career. I was quite surprised at how good he was in certain movies. When you’re shooting, you’re so busy and you never really get to know the actors very well. You meet them and they get a sense of what you want, and then you don’t see them again because they’re off doing another picture. I think that the thing with a horror picture is that you have to convince your actors to believe in what they’re doing. You really have to get embellished in it and enjoy it.

You also worked with Peter Cushing in SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN.

GH: I really didn’t get to know him because he was put into the picture. That was Deke Heyward’s idea. Deke would try to find some well known actor to dress up the picture–who at least Americans would be familiar with–which was a good idea. He did the same thing with Lilli Palmer in MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE. When I was doing the AIP pictures, I tried to keep a stable of actors and give them different roles. They were so wonderful, and they had to work for practically nothing. Since I was producing and directing, I had to go to the actors and tell them that I could only offer them so much, and that they could take it or leave it. It’s not that I was in a situation to bargain with them. I just didn’t have it in the budget. When you only have £70,000 and you’re working in a large studio, everybody else got screwed–these actors. Hopefully they get some residuals of some kind, I’m not sure.

 

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The Lost Son of Batman

 

‘The financial position of DC Comics in the early 70’s was precarious. A number of publishing moves initiated by publisher Carmine Infantino had failed to see a substantial return, coupled with a number of their creators either retiring or crossing over to work at Marvel, lead to new owners Warner Bros-Seven Arts selling off the movie rights to their characters to the highest bidder to raise capital. While ABC television picked up the option on Wonder Woman, and the Salkind family snapped up Superman, the rights to Batman were sold to Canadian producer, George H. Brown in 1972. Brown himself would be declared bankrupt the following year with the rights being brought up by the Hong Kong based Shaw Brothers, whose primary output was kung-fu pictures, yet who had just signed a joint-production deal with British based Hammer films. The resultant Batman film produced is probably one of the strangest and most schizophrenic films ever produced – it is certainly one of the cheapest with a reported budget of £300,000.

‘John Phillip Law was cast as Batman but he had to withdraw due to sickness, leading to the casting of David Chiang. The Shaw Brothers answer to Bruce Lee, Chiang would play Bruce Wayne’s son, who assumes the mantle of Batman after the death of his father, now played by Stuart Whitman. Anton Differing appeared briefly as a very Germanic Alfred, his performance hampered by a lengthy bout of food poisoning. As the non-comic book villain Lady Ice, Julie Ege looks stunning but her line readings were so weak she had to be re-voiced by Joanne Lumley. Chiang’s usual sparring partner Ti Lung appears as Ege’s bodyguard, Dragon Fist and the climatic duel between him and Chiang is the film’s one real highlight.

‘Original director Gordon Hessler was fired after a month due to repeated clashes with the screenwriter and producer Don Houghton, leading to Hammer’s Chief Executive Michael Carreras having to complete the picture himself. Issues with the Shaw Brothers Hong Kong studios meant that much of the film was recorded without sound leading to a very costly series of post-production work which gobbled up much of the film’s already meagre budget. Chiang looks absurd in the Batman costume, something which Carreras/Hessler seem to admit to given that Chiang only wears it twice in the whole film. The tiny resources granted to Hammer means that Hong Kong Harbour, doubling as Gotham City, only manages to reinforce the fact that the budget is almost non-existent. When shooting finally drew to an end, Carreras realised that they only had just over 60 minutes of usable footage. The Shaw Brothers managed to pad out the running time by splicing in unused scenes from earlier Chiang/Lung films, the majority of it from 1971’s Duel of Fists. Carreras’ hope that Hammer’s own team in the UK would handle the special effects were for nothing,with the Shaw’s handing it over to a subsidiary of Toei. “It looked one of those bloody cheap Godzilla films by the time they got through with it! The fire at the docks at the climax? I could’ve spit on that burning model and put the fire out!”, Carreras would later say.

‘The final film limped out to British cinemas in November 1975 as the bottom half of a double bill with Man About the House. After only managing to take a paltry £1,014 in its first month, Bernard Delfont pulled the film from his ABC cinema chain. In the Far East, the Shaw’s assembled a more action-orientated edit, released under the title The Legend of the Lost Son of The Batman which did much better. Unfortunately, due to a carefully worded contract, Hammer Films did not see a cent of that revenue – all box office receipts for that region went straight to the Shaw Brothers. DC were mortified when confronted with the completed picture and instigated a major lawsuit to reclaim the rights from the Shaw Brothers, finally buying their own property back for a rumoured $2 million. The film would not be released in the US until 1979 when Roger Corman’s New World Pictures picked up the film as part of a package buy-out. Corman re-cut the film, bookending it with scenes shot by Allan Arkush featuring Dick Miller as “Matches” Malone. Corman has stated that the edit was an attempt to catch some of the excitement following the success of Star Wars. It failed to do so and either Corman’s version or the original are hardly seen at all today. Bootleg DVDs have been known to sell for up £70 to £80 on the comic convention circuit.’ — Warning: Contains Traces of Bowie

 

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14 of Gordon Hessler’s 46 films

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The Oblong Box (1969)
‘This troubled production from American International Pictures initially began life as the next project for young British filmmaker Michael Reeves. He had clearly impressed his backers with the strength of his third film Witchfinder General (1968). The death of Reeves during the pre-production of The Oblong Box was a major blow, not only to the film, but to British filmmaking in general. With the death of Reeves any ambition the film might have had began to dwindle and this was signposted by the arrival of the undistinguished Gordon Hessler as his directorial replacement. Hessler was a capable director, but one who rarely achieved any kind of inspiration – and this derivative and clichéd piece of gothic horror was badly in need of inspiration.’ — Son of Celluloid


Trailer


Finale

 

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De Sade (1969)
‘I was asked to produce a film, DE SADE, for AIP while I was in Los Angeles that was taking place in Munich, Germany. I flew into London and met the writer, and the director was supposed to be there, but he never showed up. He didn’t come to the meeting; he was sick or something like that. Having met the writer, I flew to Munich to set up the film about eight weeks before they were going to start shooting. I was there preparing the production and then I was told that the original director was not going to make the picture. So we waited for a while, and finally the American director who did ZULU, Cy Endfield, came in to do it. This was a big picture for AIP, which usually made very cheap pictures, and I was an outsider. I was not an employee, just a freelance director. My position got very shaky there, even though I was very friendly with everybody. I was actually fired from the job because the local people employed by AIP wanted to produce the picture rather than have an outsider like me.’ — Gordon Hessler


Excerpt


Excerpt

 

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Scream and Scream Again (1970)
‘With its daft one-size-fits-all title and unassailable front-line of Cushing, Lee and Price, one could easily be forgiven for writing off Scream and Scream Again as another entry in the ill-fated cycle of ‘old boys club’ horror movies that began to take off as the box office for old-fashioned horror flicks started to diminish through the ‘70s. All bets are off however the second one sits down to actually watch Scream and Scream Again. By some strange quirk of fate, this modest Amicus/AIP co-production turns out to be one of the most beserk, imaginative and unconventional British horror movies ever made – a real kick in the teeth for anyone who bought a ticket expecting to see Vince and the gang rattling around dark old house for eighty minutes. That’s not to say it’s actually all that great, but … ‘ — Breakfast in the Ruins


Trailer


Excerpt

 

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Cry of the Banshee (1970)
‘Within Cry of the Banshee can be found the groundings of what most people know as folk horror. The witchcraft elements will of course be attributed to Reeves’ film but there are more aspects in Cry of the Banshee that would crop up in later films. The worship aspects and group gestalts would be put to more dramatic and disturbing effects in Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971); a film that similarly embraces the reality of the supernatural to explain away its evils. However the purely humanistic evils found in Banshee can be seen in the sub-genre’s poster boy; The Wicker Man (1973). There’s little visually to tie in but there’s no doubt that Cry of the Banshee can be seen to be a step closer to the ultimate in folk horror madness. Some of the performances may be colourful but the film’s horror is still strong. However the better moments come from the human evils rather than the supernatural ones. The banshee creature bares little on scenes of torture and burning which have a documentary shake to them and are just as effective as Reeves’ prolonged agonies. Coupled with some Hammer like pulp and Price’s usual villainy, a film is left that is enjoyable, flawed and surprisingly influential.’ — Celluloid Wicker Man


Trailer


the entire film

 

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Murders in the Rue Morgue (1971)
Murders in the Rue Morgue is a 1971 American horror film directed by Gordon Hessler, starring Jason Robards and Herbert Lom. It is ostensibly an adaptation of the Edgar Allan Poe story of the same name, although it departs from the story in several significant aspects, at times more resembling Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera. In an interview on the film’s DVD, Hessler said that he thought everyone already knew the ending of the story, so he felt it necessary to reinvent the plot. According to IMDB.com, the film was banned in Finland in 1972.’ — Wiki


Trailer


Excerpt


Gorden Hessler Interview #2 – Murders in the Rue Morgue

 

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Medusa (1973)
‘A couple of empty champagne glasses lay between a pair of corpses, a man and a woman – their hands folded peacefully together in the prose of two lovers who’ve opted to end it all with suicide. This is the shocking scene that greets a group of Greek police officials who have just boarded a floating yacht in the opening minutes of Medusa, a 1973 curio from television director turned big screen auteur, Gordon Hessler. Clearly this film isn’t for everyone but if you love to see actors getting crazy and going over the top and generally having a great time, you should check it out.’ — CrankedOnCinema


Excerpt

 

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The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974)
‘Following manuscript-styled opening credits, an incantation of Baudelaire’s albatross: A swooping creature drops a fragmented amulet on the vessel’s deck, Sinbad (John Philip Hall) decides to hang on to it after a faceless odalisque with painted eyes on her palms comes as a vision. Another piece of the tablet belongs to the noble Vizier (Douglas Wilmer), who hides a charred visage behind a gold-plated Hellenistic mask; together they reveal a navigation chart, the answer to its riddle is at a mystical island populated by natives who paint themselves jade-green and worship Ray Harryhausen behemoths. The climactic brawl between a centaur and a griffin has to be some kind of stop-animation benchmark, and a few wide-eyed words are all it takes for the Amazonian figurehead at the ship’s prow to come to vengeful life. Still, Harryhausen’s most touching work is done in the quiet, beguiling scene in which the villainous wizard (Tom Baker) patiently breathes life into a tiny gargoyle, a concise ode to the divine qualities of the craftsman’s art.’ — cinepassion.org


Trailer


Excerpt

 

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A Cry in the Wilderness (1974)
‘On his isolated farm in the wilderness, Sam Hadley (played by George Kennedy) has an unfortunate run-in with a rabid skunk. How Sam and his wife handle the situation is the basis for the story, which is totally not convincing. Sam reacts in ways that defy logic or common sense. Plot devices include hallucinations, a coincidental flood, and menacing hillbillies. The acting is not bad, but the actors have nothing to work with. The story’s premise, in my opinion, is not credible. It relies too much on coincidental timing, improbable behavior, hokey characters, and a predictable outcome. Indeed, without the skunk, there would be no story at all. The DVD version of this film is 74 minutes, but it seemed more like two hours. I don’t wish to be unkind, but the film seemed to me to be a cross between a bad episode of Green Acres and a poor remake of the movie Deliverance. A more interesting film might have resulted if the story had been told from the POV of the skunk. How did the skunk react to the encounter? Was the skunk traumatized? Did the skunk suffer nightmares? What did the skunk learn, and so on.’ — Lechugilla


Excerpt

 

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KISS Meets The Phantom Of The Park (1978)
‘A crude opening montage sees the members of Kiss super-imposed on top of night-time fairground footage. Inexplicably, Peter Criss is seen miming the drums on a roulette wheel. Drink it in, Kiss Army recruits, as this is the last glimpse of your commanding officers you’ll be getting for quite a while. Director Gordon Hessler (whose horror credits include Scream and Scream Again and Cry of the Banshee for AIP, as well as taking over The Oblong Box after the death of Michael Reeves), clearly has other things on his mind. Like FUN, primarily. Beautiful, sun-dappled, 1978 suburban American amusement park fun, to be precise. Thankfully I’m a bit too young and located on the wrong side of the world to be fully smitten by this full-scale nostalgia landslide, but anyone currently in about the 35-45 age bracket and raised somewhere in the Southern half of the USA should probably prepare themselves for paralysing wistfulness and bouts of uncontrollable sobbing, as gentle, smiling Dazed & Confused teens fade in and out of focus, enjoying a summer’s day out in their local parentally-approved leisure complex.’ — Breakfast in the Ruins


Opening credits


Excerpt

 

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Tales of the Haunted (1981)
‘This low-budget feature is actually comprised of re-edited installments from a syndicated television serial. Jack Palance stars as a self-serving, abusive boor who becomes stranded — along with his two hapless children — by a thunderstorm, forcing them to take shelter in an isolated country estate owned by a group of mysterious and wealthy old dowagers. Seeing a golden opportunity, Palance soon turns to plundering their estate, but his plans collide horribly with the secret activities of a Satanic snake-cult who carry out ritual sacrifices in the attic. Guess who’s next in line? Given the cheap-looking confines of the shot-on-video production, director Gordon Hessler manages to generate some creepy atmosphere, and Palance chews acres of scenery as the diabolical daddy, whose tyrannical behavior makes his eventual fate quite satisfying.’ — Cavett Binion, Rovi


Excerpt

 

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Pray for Death (1985)
Pray For Death is essentially a carbon copy of Revenge of the Ninja. In both films Kosugi plays a Japanese businessman who relocates his family to America for the sake of his job, but once there runs afoul of gangsters. In both movies his respective wives are killed, AND in both films Kosugi’s two sons play the roles of his onscreen kids, which end up surviving the bloody carnage father and gangster doll out among each other in both movies. Pray For Death is notable for two things, it’s Kosugi’s last role in a movie where he plays a ninja, and it’s notorious for being his most violent and sadistic. Kosugi find’s himself going head to head wtih James Booth, who plays a gangster psychopath that enjoys beating old men to death, torturing Kosugi in front of his kid, and raping and killing Kosugi’s wife towards the end.’ — You Won Cannes


Trailer

 

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Rage of Honor (1987)
‘Starting from the opening “party boat” scene, you know you’re in for a heavy dose of 80’s awesomeness. (frustratingly, the one song used in the film, a Wang Chung/Mister Mister-like jaunt, is not listed in the credits or anywhere online that we could find). Both here and throughout the whole film, Sho’s thick accent is in full force. Some of the most hilarious moments in the movie come during the dialogue scenes, where the other actors have to simply pretend his accent isn’t unintelligible. So, to keep Sho Kosugi’s dialogue to a minimum, he pauses instead of speaks in many cases. The result is amusing. But the other actors aren’t blameless here either – while Sho’s name in the movie is “Shiro”, it sounds like most people are calling him “Churro”. While this would be insulting to Mexicans and Japanese alike, I think we can put this down to lack of understanding of Japanese naming traditions. While this is part and parcel of the whole Sho experience, fans really want to see Sho in action, and they are treated to some great stuff here.’ — Comeuppance Reviews


Trailer

 

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The Misfit Brigade (1987)
The Misfit Brigade is adapted from a novel from Sven Hassle; who was a former Nazi Soldier and thus a bit of a questionable and slightly controversial figure himself. Regardless of his background, The Misfit Brigade definitely isn’t pro-Nazi and actually quite blunt and uncompromising in the expression of its political opinions. The protagonists in this movie are anti everything and that’s probably why this is such a good and plausible film. And by plausible I do not necessarily mean the depicted events in the film, but the characterizations of the rejected SS-soldiers and deserters. Director Gordon Hessler – known from the early 70’s Vincent Price horror movies The Oblong Box and Cry of the Banshee – does an admirable job as well and he could rely on a fantastically devoted cast, including Bruce Davison as the uncrowned leader of the bunch, David Patrick Kelly as the eloquent and provocative Legionnaire and Jay O. Sanders as the big & dumb kamikaze freak Tiny. David Carradine is sublimely nefarious as the power-hungry Colonel Von Weisshägen; complete with his glasses for one eye only to make him look extra evil. Oliver Reed receives top billing but only makes a cameo appearance during the hectic and extremely cool climax. The role, however, is perfect for him and he gives his absolute everything in only five lines of dialog.’ — Coventry


Excerpt


Excerpt

 

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The Girl in the Swing (1989)
‘Gordon Hessler first made a name for himself as a producer of Alfred Hitchcock’s TV series in the 1960s, and later, as a director of several interesting (if not entirely satisfying) British horror films of the late ’60s and early ’70s. The Girl in a Swing is not a good movie, but it is so ambitious in its strangeness that it cannot routinely be dismissed. Among the many curious decisions connected with this European film is the choice of Meg Tilly, an American actress, for the leading role — a young German woman who speaks English with an almost-impenetrable accent. Twenty years ago, the great director Fritz Lang (Metropolis, M) hailed Hessler’s Scream and Scream Again as one of the outstanding suspense films of the ’60s, largely because he was impressed with the political subtext of what was otherwise a stock, modern horror movie. Movie buffs have been waiting for Hessler to live up to Lang`s praise since. The Girl in a Swing brings him closer than anything else he has made. That probably isn’t enough to satisfy a mainstream audience, but it`s enough to warrant that the film not be totally ignored. Hessler has emerged from a long stretch of obscurity with The Girl in a Swing, a bizarre, almost hypnotically fascinating study of sexual obsession.’ — collaged


Trailer


Siskel & Ebert review The Girl in a Swing

 

 

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p.s. Hey. ** JM, Hi. Oh, you know, your young age is always a marketable thing, the eternally enticing whole ‘new Rimbaud, etc.’ angle. The TV meeting went as well as it probably could have in the sense that our producers agreed that we can send the script to ARTE as is. Their criticisms were disturbing if not unexpected, i.e. they really don’t have a clue what the show really is and only care about the most conventional, superficial aspects. But, anyway, the script is sent, and that’s all we were hoping for. Well, I think ultimately there is absolutely no way that all of the buildings in Paris can be inspected, so I think it’ll ultimately end up being a ‘fingers crossed’ thing. Lovely poem mash-up. Kudos. I’m tempted to go try to find his profile — I don’t keep records — and pass it along, but I suspect he’d freak. Your careful, tangential read and expose on the other escorts is that post’s dream come true, which means mine too. Thanks for orienting your brain thereby! ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Thanks. Yes, RIP Carol Channing, a singular sensation. How was the Gary Indiana thing? At The Standard on Sunset, huh, interesting, strange. ** Steve Erickson, Thanks. The meeting went relatively okay, as explained above. Understood about Von-Trier <-> Robbe-Grillet. I’ll let your playlist wash over me if Spotify allows non-members to. Everyone, Here’s Steve Erickson. ‘Listen’ up. Take it away, Steve: ‘I’ve made a 30-song,133-minute playlist of late ’70s/early ’80s music on Spotify called APRES PUNK, LA DELUGE. I remember there was a writer here asking for recommendations about music from the punk scene in New York of that time. If he’s still lurking, this will give a good feel of the kind of songs that got played in clubs back then. ** Sypha, Ha ha, that’s the danger of judging them by looks alone first. I knew you weren’t being serious. Neither was I. Tone is so difficult online unless you use emojis, and I really don’t like dumbing down text with emojis. Although I like it when the escorts do. More visually than anything else, I guess. Happy HS’s birthday!!! Sure, I’ll add the link whenever you send it. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. Man, I think it’s possible that your country — well, not your country but your UK — is the most fucked up place in the world at this very moment, which is saying something. Any vibe on what the hell is going to happen? ** Keashirt, Nice shirt. Self-writing novel. What could be better? Let me think. Nothing. ** Kyler, I accept your confession. Yeah, I did that pulled tooth thing recently myself. Passed pretty quickly if my experience is any indication. Cool that the meeting with your publishers went well. They seem very mysterious if you don’t know anything about them. Ha ha. but they do. Too bad about that opera. I think it’s supposed to come here? Maybe I’m tripping. ** Misanthrope, Another good quote. Dude, you should write a little book of them. You could be the cultural Deepak Chopra but without his utter banality. Someone should set up an event, like a ‘who’s the most banal’ contest, and have Deepak Chopra and Yoko Ono stand or sit there spouting their banal aphorisms at each other, and I guess the audience would pick whose are worse? Well, of course you’re essentially right, but the cost of inspecting the pipes in every dwelling in every building in Paris would cost one hell of a pretty penny, man. You know you sound a bit like Trump when you infer that you alone can fix everything, right? Hey, it worked for him until he actually got there. But … art! Glorious art! ** Chris Cochrane, Good eye, Mr. Cochrane. Gold star for non-robot boy! ** Right. So, quite some time ago, this guy named Nathan Bartholomew commissioned me to make the post up there, and, recently, he popped back up out of the ether and asked me if I would restore it, and I have. And there’s your backstory for today. See you tomorrow.

13 Comments

  1. Yes politics in this so-called United Kingdom is in a right state. I have the zine course tomorrow and prep for The Call is good and exciting, but am also keeping half an eye on the Guardian politics blog and Twitter getting all the hot takes. I’m loath to discuss the topic on FB but I thought about posting a pic of Theresa May with the Terminator quote “It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with… and it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.” My own feeling is that she’ll survive today’s no confidence vote. I’m still hopeful for eventual Scottish Independence, but who really knows right now? Anyway… The Call is taking shape and will have art and text on the theme of speculative fiction because I’ve had it with reality anyway.

    • On a more positive note, the artist Jeremy Deller was on the BBC radio show Desert Island Discs at the weekend. He picked this rendition of Hallelujah by the Melodians Steel Orchestra that magics an overplayed song into something very much life-affirming.

  2. Hey D! Somehow my dumbass posted this on the wrong day, so here’s my message again:

    Hey Dennis, hope you had an awesome birthday! [And I’m glad the TV meeting went as well as it could, still psyched to see the show someday]

    Anyway if you ever need something to put you to sleep or drive your enemies crazy, here’s my short, cursed book thing that was going to be published, then wasn’t, then was again, then wasn’t again. It’s called ‘I HATE YOU, PLEASE READ ME’ (in homage to the BPD self-help book, ‘I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me’). You’re on page 102 haha

    https://joshuadaltonwriter.files.wordpress.com/2019/01/ihyprm.pdf

    xo have a good day!

  3. Dennis,

    How strange— I’ve been watching old Hammer films on YouTube lately. I’ll have to check out the first 3 titles mentioned at the top of the post to see if they are on YT or Netflix.

    I’m in Arizona, visiting my father who is 82 and in hospital. We had the last will and testament talk, which was surreal. I told my younger sister she could have everything, including the house. Every time I talk with an old person, I always ask them, whether I know them or not, if they are afraid to die. Invariably they say no. Could they be lying to save face? My father says he thinks dying is like going to sleep, but instead of waking up, you’re in a dream state.

    Hung out with my nephew, who is a white rapper — ha! He was excited because he is renting a small house and is finally away from his mother. He’s post-millennial and 23. His girlfriend Raven is also post-millennial and 23. They had 3 friends over, two boys and a girl, one of the boys was a goth with long dark hair and black fingernail polish. His name was Colin but everyone called him colonoscopy. They were drinking from a bottle of Raspberry Smirnoff. I had to draw the line, took requests, had my niece (my arm candy) drive me to the liquor store where I purchased a bottle of Jameson and a bottle of Jack Daniels— to be 23 again, ha ha thanks but no thanks. Hung out in my nephews recording studio, which is basically a laptop, a windsock and a very expensive microphone.

    About 2 Jameson’s in I had to take a leak and a Bob Ross Happy Trees poster was staring down at me from on high.

    Speaking of posters, will there be any PGL posters for sale at the screening in San Francisco?

    It was nice to be with my family, despite the drama, but I’m ready to go home. I leave Arizona tomorrow, with a head cold and slightly out of sorts.

    Love,
    James ❤️❤️

  4. Oh and my airplane reading is a book called ‘Insomnia’ by Marina Benjamin, which is an excellent book to read when one is in a weird headspace. I highly recommend it, Dennis!

  5. “Scream and Scream Again” is a Towering Masterpiece of Fantastic Cinema. Fritz Lang cited it as one of his favorite films of all time. The nameless murderous creature, being pursued for most of the action is played by Michael Gothard — unforgettable as the exorcist in Ken Russell’s “The Devils” He was quite a character deserving of a “Dennis Day” all his own.

    Alas because of the rainstorm I never made it to the Gary Indiana event.

  6. Amphibiouspeter

    January 16, 2019 at 7:04 pm

    Hey DC,

    It’s been a while, how have you been? I just read God Jr yesterday so thought I’d stop by to say hello. It’s cool to see how some of the funny obsessions on the blog (I.e. old computer games) come back in your writing but with like a million extra ideas inserted in them. Some good jokes in there too.

    I’m back in the UK, back at work, it’s all going a little bit stir crazy with the Brexit vote at the minute. On the positive side I’ve reduced my hours at work to give myself some more time to focus on my writing, which might mean I actually stick around here this time.

    Anyway have a good one, I hope things are well in Paris and I’ll be sure to check out one of these films at the weekend. Chat tomorrow x

  7. d-

    quite a week for announcements! i guess i’ll see you on the 7th. i’m probably just coming down to LA for the day, but let me know if you have any time to hang, maybe grab a bite or something. you’re more than welcome up here in big bear, too, if you have a day to kill and don’t mind the cold.

    in addition to that trip, i’m going to reno/SF at the end of march to visit friends and my mom and see acid mothers temple and spiritualized. and then LA again in april to see bikini kill (hopefully). and to seattle in july to see jawbox. 2019 is shaping up to be a great year. i’m also maybe getting promoted to supervisor at work, but even if i don’t, i’m really happy with my job and seriously enjoying living in big bear. i still get depressed like all the time, but it’s easier to deal with up here.

    i think i saw hessler’s ‘rue morgue’ when i was a kid. we used to have this saturday night horror movie show in vegas hosted by a dude named count coolrider (who now has a show on A&E, i think), whose whole schtick was that he was a vampire who drove a sweet hot rod. they showed all sorts of great B movie horror stuff.

    how’s tricks? paris looks like a powder keg lately. are you home currently, or travelling? either way, be safe and be good and i’ll see you in a couple weeks.

    talk soon. love.

    -c.

  8. I’ve suddenly come down with a cold that’s kicking my ass. Fortunately, I didn’t have much to do today, but tomorrow I have to write a review of Stephen Knight’s SERENITY and Friday morning I’m interviewing the director Ben Niles. I just felt like lying in bed today, but I can’t do that the next 2 days.

    I saw Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s THE WILD PEAR TREE last night and was very impressed. It takes three hours and 10 minutes to tell the story of about 5 years (although the time frame isn’t entirely clear) of the life of a young Turkish man who moves back home with his dad after college and tries to get his novel published. The duration gives one a feeling that we’re slowly growing up along with the character (especially when the film devotes half an hour to an argument between him and two imams), but it picks up the pace in the final hour, when he seems to age several years quickly. I don’t know exactly what to compare this to, and most reviews liken it to plays by Arthur Miller and Eugene O’Neill rather than other films, but it’s the most impressive new film I’ve seen in 2019, as meaningless as that is to say 2 weeks into the year.

    I’m now listening to Pere Ubu’s WORLDS IN COLLISION for the first time in years. It’s funny how their second incarnation had points of contact with ’80s Talking Heads and Devo that the far more avant-garde ’70s version of the band would’ve shunned.

  9. Hey Dennis – I’m pretty good. I was having a rough time with my health the last couple of months, but things are better now. It’s always a mystery, you know. I was in a dark place in December. But I’m working on some stuff for a show in the fall and it’s going pretty well. At least I’ve got lots of ideas.

    And I just got a ticket to PGL in LA! Thanks for in the invite. I’m stoked especially since I fucked up and missed the first half when you screened it last year. And it’s three blocks from my building! I love convenience. And this time I have no excuse for being late.

    Hope you had a good birthday. Can’t wait to see you again.
    B

  10. Hessler has never been on my radar, though I’ve seen “Scream and Scream Again” and the Sinbad movie. That severed hand in the handcuff scene is rightfully famous; not sure about the rest though.

    The escorts were hilarious yesterday. Especially Abstract, haha.

    Things are picking up with some spring project possibilities on the horizon. It’s been pouring here for a change, perfect for procrastinating and reading Bruce Benderson’s The Romanian in the bath. Really enjoying Benderson’s prose in that!

    Bill

  11. Dennis, Hahahaha. Yes, the banality of Chopra. I’ve seen him just enough to know what you mean. Yoko, on the other hand, I’m not at all familiar with her stuff, except when Howard Stern plays it…and then plays a bunch of stuff his staff created and gets people to tell what’s a real Ono piece and what’s not. Almost nobody can tell which is which.

    Oh, man, you got me. Yes, I see that, that whole “you sound like Trump” thing. I’m self-aware enough about it. You know something I found out too. I say, “Believe me” before I say something…a lot. Very much like him. But I’ve always done that. What the fuck, right?

    However….believe me, I could get it done! 😉

    Seriously, though, yes, lots of work and lots of money, but these countries have it. You have to bid that shit down and get good people in there doing it. I really think it’d be easier than it sounds. In a sense. Hahaha, shit, I’m sounding like him again. Very unintentional…believe me.

    Fuck, I’m on a roll! I can’t stop.

    Okay, I’ve stopped.

    However, I’ve become suddenly more disciplined in my life, more time conscious, and I’m now making time for a little writing every day, even if it’s a just a few paragraphs or one measly page. So far, so good. I want to get this thing finished and edited and then let the chips fall where they may. (And really, that’s how I’d get all those inspections done, hehehe.)

  12. Huh – I have a vivid memory of seeing Scream and Scream Again on late night TV as a kid and being completely freaked out by the scene where the guy wakes up in a hospital bed and discovers to his shock that all his limbs have been amputated. It was partly the horror of the idea of being reduced to a torso and head and partly I think, now that the still above has reminded me, something weirdly disturbing about the bunched pyjamas around the stumps. The scene forms part of a kind of trilogy of bed sequences that seriously unnerved me as a kid – the horse’s head in The Godfather and the man’s head / sheep’s (or pig’s?) body transplant in O Lucky Man being the other two. One thing linking the scenes now I think about it is that there’s a build up and reveal when the covers are lifted up.
    Anyway – curious to see the Gordon Hessler day… I didn’t now much about him beyond that one movie, which I’ve been meaning to revisit….

    Dennis -that’s such an interesting question about the gif novels and context… look forward to talking next week Mx

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