Sunday, October 26, 2014

Clive Barker's Director's cut of Nightbreed (1990/2014)

Memory, as they say, and assay, is a strange and curious thing: it has a plasticity that somehow still conveys the truth of something while generously protecting the mind from the horrors and chaos of an uncaring universe, the human condition reduced to its essentials. Any literature aspiring to greatness is going to explore our peculiar predicament of being sentient in what appears to be a mindless cosmos; Clive Barker's additions to the canon, Blakean in their imagery & themes, invoking love (an expression of divinity) alongside corruption (the material world), are what high art is made of. (And as with the highest forms, he takes some of his prima materia from the lower depths.)  

From sex, to politics, and religion, it's all about bodies and who controls them, but some of this is about remembering.

I was twenty-two when I saw Nightbreed at the theater in 1990 and had come wondering what the hell it was about since 20th Century Fox insisted that it be marketed as a slasher. 

When you're that young, you frankly don't know shit, yet paradoxically believe you know everything, you're molten, outside, unassimilated into society at that point--therefore, "dangerous." Obviously, I've changed a lot since then: now I know how little I know and knew then. At that time, romantic love meant everything to me, now, not so much, yet, life being circular, you tend to come back around to things. Experience leavens  base innocence. Barker had a very ambitious agenda indeed when he attempted to foist his non-Manichean monster movie onto an unsuspecting American public used to a more black and white storytelling; what you had was a collision of "mindsets" (his term for it) about fictional monsters being fodder for militarized "heroes." In 1990, no one wanted to try to the understand the other whether they were human or a fictional monster. That should be a reminder that there are no others ultimately, and that the monsters we've conjured in storytelling are often mirrors of ourselves to get beyond that screen. 

Context being everything, this all came to a head on the eve of the first Gulf War when the public was being whipped into another cycle (see?) of hating the other; additionally, the movie was released just weeks after the illegal invasion of Panama. The Soviet Union was busy collapsing; German reunification occurred just three days before its release, the release of Nelson Mandela from prison after twenty-seven years, less than a week earlier. Old habits tend to continue on anyway, anachronistically.

The timing was bad on all fronts for Barker who was nobly spitting into the cultural trade winds with his film version of his 1988 novel Cabal: unfortunately, the suits at Morgan Creek wanted something more like Hellraiser, the idea of the monsters in a horror movie (really, a fantasy with elements of horror) being the good guys didn't sit well with them, and they rejected it as out of hand and demanded Barker make extensive cuts and reshoots. What it did was to place the psychotic psychiatrist character played by legendary cult director David Cronenberg more at the center of the story; they also demanded that there be more of an emphasis on the menacing qualities of the nightbreed. Not only did they miss the point of most classic monster movies, they just wouldn't listen to Barker, and so, what went out into the world was a confused fusion of his and their ideas. The good side is, they weren't able to remove the sympathy for the breed, outsiders all, but they did incredible harm to the love story between main characters Boone and Lori with all their meddling. A movie that cost $10 million--and a bargain for Morgan Creek at that--made less than nine, and that was that, it bombed, having an afterlife on cable and home video. Part of Barker's legend as a prodigy was that the total cost of Hellraiser had been under $1 million USD. 

Say what you want, but he made an epic with his second film, and that's where the money people come in, and serendipitously perhaps, the themes in the original story material got underlined in real life. The failure haunted Barker for years.

The more jaded among us might see one reading the movie as a parable of the modern world crashing into the author's anachronistic fantasy world with sadly predictable results. Occasionally, the universe smiles and throws something unpredictable out there: a small but fundamental victory for the underdog. You could write an entire book on the themes in Nightbreed, from the content of the script, to the theatrical & final cuts, and the politics of the actual making (or, really, unmaking) of the movie itself. Nothing happens in a vacuum.   In the end, the breed are history's losers, and conversely, winners, like the heretics of the world religions and every other kind of social rebel that ever lived under a repressive order. You cannot kill the truth. But in 1990, history seemed settled, that seemed to be that, the show was over, and there are very few second chances with motion pictures. Did I mention that homophobia was actually worse than it is today?

However, a lot of us out here felt that something was missing from the theatrical cut, as evinced in the opening titles of that showed scenes which were cut. (Some still are, but now we're fortunate enough to have access to the outtakes in pristine condition.) Beginning with some of Barker's public statements and various rumors over the last twenty-four years, considerable force has been gaining for a new cut. I direct the reader to search out the story of the "Cabal cut" which made a final reconstruction of Barker's original vision possible, a convoluted tale in itself. After years of searching, an announcement was made last year that the lost film elements had finally been found in a storage warehouse in Dayton, Ohio. What was once the detritus of a lost vision had become a global cause via Internet outreach and public showings of the Cabal cut. By 2013, the stage was set and cinematic history was about to be rewritten, and that's a rare occasion. Shout Factory! has made good on that promise and beyond. Its message of universal love is central, but I believe the restoration is also about fixing a work of LGBT filmmaking that advocates the same message of acceptance as Richard Oswald's Different from the Others (Anders als die Andern, 1919), the first pro-gay movie in cinematic history. Both movies were damaged for ideological reasons.

If Barker's Cabal and Nightbreed remind us of anyone in literature, it's Arthur Machen. Machen was a Welsh Catholic who, ironically enough, had an intense fear of forbidden sex, a kind of ritual  sex he was made aware of by fellow occultist and American expatriate A. E. Waite, co-author of what is still the most popular version of the Tarot. To be a Catholic in Britain at that time was considered a little eccentric. After Cornelius Agrippa, Waite was also the first to systematically catalog and study the Western inner tradition and was a sworn enemy of Aleister Crowley. When it comes to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, there's plenty of subversive sexuality, inside and outside of the magic circles. I'm not suggesting that Barker based Nightbreed on the politics of esoteric lodges, no, albeit a lodge of that sort could be considered a "cabal" of another kind. Here, we really could go on forever, because that's how the occult works, it's a rabbit hole. Similarly, the Gnostics and other religious minorities and sects were once smeared as sexual deviants; the pagan has been equated with homosexuality; accused witches were blamed for male impotency, and so on. Being different can be dangerous in human society.

The reason I mention Machen is that he wrote similarly weird tales that dealt with shunned races who fled underground from human society. That sounds just like the tale of any human outsider. But is it really metaphor when faced with the incredible fact that everyone who isn't African has a percentage of Neanderthal coursing through their veins? And not so long ago, the bones of "Hobbits" ("homo floresiensis") have been found in caves on an Indonesian island, suggesting that the human story and what constitutes human beings is plastic, always changing, and open to wide interpretation and revision, if not correction. The results of some of that pondering have been catastrophic, such as in the application of eugenics philosophy to social problems, first, in North America, and not much later, Shark Island and in Nazi Germany. Artistic truth can be funny in the way that it naturally draws our attention to these truths of the human experience. A lot of what happens in Nightbreed in its final cut has a lot to do with the first half of the 20th century and the legacy of a long history of genocide.

Machen wrote most of his incredible weird tales about "little people" (and worse) living underground--"where the monsters live." 
"This folk," I translated to myself, "dwells in remote and secret places, and celebrates foul mysteries on savage hills. Nothing they have in common with men save the face, and the customs of humanity are wholly strange to them; and they hate the sun. They hiss rather than speak; their voices are harsh, and not to be heard without fear. ... But as I idly scanned the paragraph, a flash of thought passed through me with the violence of an electric shock: what if the obscure and horrible race of the hills still survived, still remained haunting wild places and barren hills, and now and then repeating the evil of Gothic legend, unchanged and unchangeable as the Turanian Shelta, or the Basques of Spain? (from "The Black Seal," 1895)
The Basques have been found to have an unusual genetic connection to the Neanderthal. Who are the monsters, and who are the humans? Only action and love as will can tell us.

And now, my memory of Nightbreed is changed forever, and base metal has been transmuted to gold. Being human is to be in the process of remembering and forgetting. Nightbreed is about remembering where we've been.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

comments section

For some reason, comments are fucked up, having problem accessing them. I'm not ignoring you. If, for whatever reason (make it a logical one please), you want to vent your spleen: .

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"Dude, I just realized..." [insert conspiracy theory here]

If indeed you are sane, you need to reply immediately that, "I don't give a shit about your stupid fucking opinions, or your goddamned speculations based on a staggering ignorance of our history and human nature, fuck you very much." This won't stop them. 
Stupidity needs an airing and wants to parade itself: "No, really," says the asshole that flunked out of history and barely passed civics. "This is REALLY important, it's the truth!"

"No, really, I'm not fucking around--I don't value your opinion about anything."

Feed a cold, starve a fever dream. When you respond to a conspiracy nut, you're giving them oxygen. The same goes for political opponents. Let them suffocate alone, in silence.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Another old review of an important movie...

If you haven't seen it already, I recommend seeing Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. This one still gets a lot of hits:

Still true...

You're never gonna see a dude, dudette, or anyone, walk into a party with a big bag of pot, and suddenly, yes, instantly, they all flock/sashay ostentatiously to that person/dude, dude(tte)s. Never. Unicorn time. Didn't happen, anywhere.

Saturday, October 18, 2014


A review of the director's cut is coming in a few days.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Seattle Socialist Sawant rips fellow city leaders for ‘brazen’ retreat with corporate execs

Seattle Socialist Sawant rips fellow city leaders for ‘brazen’ retreat with corporate execs
Postscript: I visited Seattle in 2002 and found it boring. You can have it. People pay shitloads of money to live there? They're stupid, and of course, boring. There's nothing especially exciting about the place. I' do heroin too if I lived there--if you want to call it that.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Libertarian Senate candidate from Iowa dies in plane crash

Libertarian Senate candidate from Iowa dies in plane crash

Sears, RIP

Who woulda thunk that once a libertarian hedge fund manager took over at the venerable American chain, applying his dumbo dinosaur ideology to the place (important note: make all of your employees who formerly worked together to make a business a success turn on each other, crucial, really...) would destroy it rapidly? 

The genius just had to "loan" Sears $400 million to save face, and now, now, Sears has posted a "dinner ring" with a swastika on it. My grandfather is turning in his grave, right now.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Hello, Ukraine...

I get a lot of hits from two nations: these here United States and the Ukraine. This started before I met a number of people from the Ukraine on Twitter and France is often a close third. I thank you all for your interest.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Arianna, my first play!

Ed.-I never liked this stupid asshole, never trusted her. Giving someone like her a second chance was always gonna be a mistake...

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Clive Barker's Nightbreed Director's cut

I was one of the first thousand to preorder it. I saw the movie back in 1990 and wasn't entirely pleased with it. Warners billed it as something like a slasher at the time, which is not. What Nightbreed was and now is again is the Citizen Kane of monster movies where the tables are turned--or that's what it was supposed to be, an epic tale, a metaphor for discrimination against LGBT people, and much more, a lost classic now found and restored to its former glory before the suits got their hands on it. 

A comparison is in order here: This is like the achievement of a full restoration of the first gay-positive movie ever made, Different from the Others (Anders als die Andern, 1919, starring Conrad Veidt, the somnambulist from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) or The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), it is historic.

I should receive the set by this weekend or early next week. A sprawling review and reflection on the new cut is coming. I'll also be doing a similar essay on Breaking Bad as a cultural and historical phenomenon in time now that the series has concluded and the dust has settled a bit. Expect the unexpected.
Postscript, 10.10.14: It's arrived! This is going to take some time to digest, but I should have my first observations up in about a week. The set is pretty amazing and the new artwork for the 3-BD set is better than the promotional art at the time. David Cronenberg should be pleased, he gets more screen time.

10.11.14: After watching the director's cut last night, I can say that we have a new classic.  What's most surprising is how what Barker intended most is a great, epic love story, a tale of universal love. Nightbreed has finally arrived to the audience it was intended for all along. There are so many things to say about it, and I will shortly. 

Audio and video quality are superb--it looks & sounds vastly better than its theatrical debut which is saying something. Yes, David Cronenberg has more screen time. I won't be printing any spoilers. 

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

From 2008: Some observations on the WM3

Ed.-I've written on this case several times and am always amazed at the comments my observations have generated. Have I been wrong about the case in the past? You bet, and so were many observers. Read the comments. Many of them are interesting, a few very illuminating. My deceased maternal grandparents were from Arkansas. I have some unique views on the place and its very backwards culture. 

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

From 2010: "Why Alex Jones Will Live Forever"

to my twitter pals...

I'm here, I'm not queer, but I accept everybody who's thoughtful. Let's talk, if you want. 

Postscript: And I might add: yes, there is comments moderation, but fire away, I tend to post 99% of everything that comes my way. Besides those asserting the DC Madam was murdered--I will not respond to them beyond occasionally refuting their ridiculous assertions--I'll be happy to answer any questions about the case and my book account on it.

And of course, if you want to put the word out there about this site, the case, and my book, you're welcome to. It will be greatly appreciated. The information on this blog and in the text serve the public interest.

Indiana trooper pulled over woman to ask if she’d accepted Jesus Christ as her savior: lawsuit

Indiana trooper pulled over woman to ask if she’d accepted Jesus Christ as her savior: lawsuit

Monday, October 06, 2014

and another thing...

After not doing so in any sustained sense, I'm going to start drawing again. I might post some results on here. Maybe. I'll be geeking out to horror movies for the rest of the month, among other things, besides taking my sweet niece Trick-or-Treating. The Autumn is my favorite season.

Additionally: Yes, it's banal, but we're taking things in for the winter. I have some celery to harvest, some eggplants, leeks, carrots, and brussel sprouts. Except for the first vegetable, most of these do well in the cold--at least for a time.

Additional cinema website coming

I've been thinking of doing this for a long time and now that time has come: a separate blog that will contain only observations and reviews of movies, the occasional doc-men-tar-y, animated work, & series. Beyond that, there are no rules, I'll do it at leisure and much of it will be my opinions on the state of the movie business. I haven't thought of a title yet, or even given it any thought, frankly, but I will in the next week. The standard American view is to assume that the industry is shielded from all of the problems we're all exposed to in mainstream economic life and somehow exists in its own space and time. It does not. 

Making motion picutres has always been a raging battle against art & commerce. As with everything else, that battle is essentially over with capital winning. The old Hollywood studio system was a separate and organic industry at one time; that time is long gone & ended with the general collapse of the labor movement and the decline of the working class. It was always about spectacle, but now power expresses itself more fully, spectacle being all that's left now. There can be no doubt that the movies were always a pallative--an opiate to calm the masses from making the natural connections about their predicament & revolting--and they still are, indeed, more than ever. It's never been a pure thing, but there was a time when you could still make relatively subversive (to power) statements. 

In the United States at least, most of that maverick spirit died with Sam Peckinpah, and by the late 1970s, nearly all the major studios were being bought up by conglomerates. That process was basically completed by the early 1990s with the death of Orion Pictures, the last genuine independent distributor left standing by that point. (One of their final releases was George Romero's The Dark Half.)

Don't get me wrong, the unions in the Hollywood system cut their own throats by a thousand cuts; but they're just as much victims. Right now, most of the computer animators are watching their own jobs evaporate to overseas labor pools. I'm sure that they never saw it coming. My question is, why?

Thursday, October 02, 2014


this site's most popular post ever...Mr. Smiley

Ed.-Iffin' you never heard of "Mr. Smiley," let me clue you in: it's some weird marijuana substitute that was once sold over the counter here and elsewhere across the US, mostly at shady gas stations.

I smoked it. It does produce intoxication. It's also very, very bad for you, and I don't recommend you try it. They only reason it didn't harm me is that I took two tokes, no more.

Without being too prolix: