From one of the best Hammer horror films, The Devil Rides Out (Terence Fisher, 1968):
A film full of amazing eye close-ups -- a cross-eyed old witch, he of the sinister hypnotic gaze, Charles Gray (Rocky Horror Picture Show), a demonic Djinn with eyes like wobbling poached eggs, the pellucid, sad and vulnerable orbs of Tanith (Nike Arrighi), and the irreproachably just eyes of Christopher Lee as the cleverly-named Duc de Richleau. On the rather tame Satanic Orgy, which seems to have been choreographed by the same inspired soul who arranged the chaotic Iron Age dance routines in Norman Jewison's film of Jesus Christ Superstar (1973), Nikolas Schreck wrote (in his worthwhile book, The Satanic Screen): "Although Hammer originally planned a more appropriately erotic bacchanal, the prudish censor insisted that proper British Satanists must keep all their clothes on whilst orgying."
As a bonus, here's a clip of the deliriously dated, psychedelic credit sequence from the film:
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Mr. Castevet came in, holding in both hands a small tray on which four cocktail glasses ran over with clear pink liquid. “Mr. Woodhouse? A Vodka Blush. Have you ever tasted one? They’re very popular in Australia,” Mr. Castevet said. He took the final glass and raised it to Rosemary and Guy. “To our guests,” he said. “Welcome to our home.”
The Vodka Blushes were tart and very good.
from Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin, © 1967
And so was born the question: how do you make a Vodka Blush? Tell it dirty jokes? Compliment it profusely?
We suggest you follow the instructions below, and become the hit of your holiday party—whatever holiday it might be.
2 1/2 ounces Vodka
3/4 ounces freshly-squeezed lime juice (strained)
Fill shaker 2/3 with fresh ice. Add ingredients. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass.
"In the name of Satan, Lord of Darkness, Spirit of Evil, lead us into temptation, Amen. Corrupt our souls and bodies, Satan Prince of Fear, King of the Lower World, Prince of Hades, Prince of Rape and Fornication, Master of Hate, Father of Incest, Prince of Necrophilia, Serpent of Genesis, Prince of Death, Grandmaster of the Black Arts, protect your humble and faithful servants, Amen. You who are of death, who kiss death on the mouth, protect your servants. Satan, invade our souls and minds, corrupt and defile us, and mark us forever with the sign of evil on our foreheads. O Satan, come lead us out of misery. You are here. I sense you, I feel you. You are here inside me. Inside all of us. Prince Baal, Master of All Evil, we're yours."
-The Black Mass as recited by Bruno (Angel Aranda) & Berta (Sandra Alberti) in Carlos Puerto's Escalofrio (AKA Satan's Blood, 1978)
In a light mist, transparent vapour
Lost afar and yet distinct
A star gleams softly.
How beautiful! The bluish mystery
Of her glow
beckons me, cradles me.
O bring me to thee, far distant star!
Bathe me in trembling rays
Sharp desire, voluptuous and crazed yet sweet
Endlessly with no other goal than longing
I would desire.
But no! I vault in joyous leap
Freely I take wing
Mad dance, godlike play!
Intoxicating shining one!
It is toward thee, adored star
My flight guides me
Toward thee, created freely for me
To serve the end
My flight of liberation!
In this play
In moments I forget thee
In the maelstrom that carries me
I veer from thy glimmering rays
In the insanity of desire
O distant goal
But ever thou shinest
As I forever desire thee!
Thou expandest, star!
Now thou art a Sun
Flamboyant Sun! Sun of Triumph!
Approaching thee by my desire for thee
I lave myself in thy changing waves
O joyous god
I swallow thee
Sea of light
My self-of light
I engulf Thee!
- Alexander Scriabin, 1903
"Ritual is not a mere commemoration, but a repetition, a reactualization of the past events, so that the present time is interrupted in order to retum to the mythical time. This conscious repetition of gestures, customs and habits only achieves a real meaning as an identity with the primordial action destroying the chronological time (present) and projecting into the cosmogonical, mythical time when the creation of the world took place." - Lia Tomas, The Mythical Time in Scriabin
The dream unfolded in this manner. I was caught in one of those eternally empty hallways in the nether regions of some casino, somewhere between the great gambling caverns and the actual hotel. There's always a faux marble alcove fountain dribbling away and always some drunk taking a drink from it just before he stumbles onto the elevator. There are too many mirrors, too much gold leaf, Vikki Carr's "It Must Be Him" piped in, cubist carpeting.
Perhaps I was on the second floor, looking for a certain room, or a lingerie store that hadn't been built yet. But I was by an elevator and I'd watched a tourist slurp from a Parisian-style alcove fountain and board the lift. He grinned at me as the doors closed and suddenly I was surrounded again by my own reflection in a million kinds of gold, silver and glass mirrors. Everything shone and reflected at once like Mod advertising from the 1960s. I turned around and around and realized that the reflections on these shiny surfaces had nothing to do with this hallway or with me. The reflections were erotic atoms. Imagine standing in a forest in Colorado, the quarter-sized aspen leaves quaking in a winter wind and now imagine each of those leaves reflecting random parts of women and men you'd found attractive all through your life.
On one shimmering bit of silver there's a breast, a breast making a scimitar shaped shadow between the heft of it and the body. It wouldn't be attractive to everyone, as it's not pert. In fact, it's nearly cub-drawn. But something about that scimitar-shaped shadow always aroused you. Well, now, all of this gold leaf, and all of these spangles reflect the atoms of my erotic imagination. But I can't face the elevator, or it's no good. The elevator is just a funhouse mirror, where I'm distorted, fattened, aged, stunted. But the smaller surfaces -- the copper and bronze-colored autumn leaves on a metallic plant in the corner, the gold lame and brass door to the restroom, the silver asps that climb the wallpaper every time the novelty lighting flickers in the hallway -- all these surfaces flash portions of my sexual memory back to me and then dissipate to emptiness in the blink of an eye. But it's constant and the hallway lights begin flashing and in each spangle there is a breast or a nipple or a rough devil's beard of pubic hair, or a cock just rising, or the bruise on the dimple of a recently-taut ass as it slackens and ba-bumps into the bathroom to refresh itself.
And of course I'm swirling in this metallic concoction for what seems like ages, still listening to Vikki Carr. And then the elevator door opens and the lights stop flashing, but they remain dim, everything is burnished: time, breath, ego. And I stand before the Minotaur. He stands golden in the silver elevator compartment. His head is that of a black bull with horns still awash with gore, but his body is all brilliant gold aspen leaves, layered like chain mail, the cheapest, shoddiest gold and brass shaking on this heaving bull body like a million casino dancers shimmering under hot white light. His breath is so hot that it comes from his nostrils like angels made of steam, thick bodies rising into vents which slurp their praying bodies into nothingness. His eyes are black and reflect nothing. His frothy, stallion-black hair reflects nothing. But this glittering mail reflects every hour of bloodshed since the beginning of time in the most tawdry, brazen fashion. Like watching the throats of perfume counter girls slit over costume jewelry and beveled bottles of grotesque fragrances. I couldn't see one moment directly, but they were all reflected for a moment in the brass and sick, cheap gold. And then all the gold on him, all the silver, all the brass, turned crimson. Turned bright, saturated, technicolor crimson, and the Minotaur was clothed in blood...Huffing there in the elevator clothed in disco ball costume spangle brass lamp blow up chrome comic book long dangling uvula shaped South Dakota gold, the Minotaur felt soothed by my gaze and I watched each spangle on him turn back to gold and brass and crap silver. The elevator door closed and Minnie shook me awake to tell me my mouth was open while I slept and it was not attractive. She told me the tea was ready.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Minnie and I rarely leave home in the winter, but if we do we make a spectacle of our sweaters and coats, contrasting the black ice and the chalky sky with scarves from Istanbul, emerald green weaves from Donegal, squash-colored berets and mitten hats, and yellow or lavender longcoats purchased from hippies at the pier. And we appear at some generous brownstone stoop in the middle of a blizzard and magically produce Moorish tagines and crocks of home-made honey mead once we're welcomed inside. Recently, on just such an evening, we visited the home of our dear friends Kevin West and Earl Ray Saathoff. The wind and snow were whirling round us like spirits as we rang the doorbell at the most luxurious hour of 9 p.m. If people want you around, you can tell when visiting at 9 p.m. They're past all politeness by then. Either they want for company or they don't. Minnie and I would rather laugh loudly and walk away at the slightest hint of a grimace than be met with incertitude or polite good manners. At 9 p.m., you can tell what's what and act accordingly.
Earl and Kevin are filmmakers and Minnie and I have known them for years. People of our bent have decorated our flats the same way since we recovered from Art Nouveau and fin-de-siecle flourishes after World War I. You'll always find a field of gilt-framed, half-sketched Adonises in the foyer, stairstepping down from the high pressed-tin ceilings. As you hang your cloaks and scarves on the gnomish talons of coat trees you'll look down the foyer to a window, naively showing the best of a city turned drowsy with winter -- a haloed streetlamp, luxury cars parked akimbo in glad confusion, a fire escape light that gives each falling fleck of snow its ornate and delicate due. And the apartment will open up to you beyond the foyer and surprise you with its lack of substance. No more spirit balls tucked behind porcelain dolls propped up on a stack of antique talking boards. No more Victorian terrariums glowing with every kind of marsh moss, lined up like easy prey beneath the mythic wingspans of skulking stuffed hawks, falcons and vultures. We moderns deplore too many easy shadows.
Instead, there are the requisite implacable African gods, long ebony faces with blanks for eyes and puckered blanks for mouths, each orifice stretched in warrior rigor. And there is a long, fleet Zenith Hi-Fi beneath the picture window, so the masters of the house can watch themselves in the glass as they slide rare 78 rpm records from rice paper sleeve and set the diamond needle down onto these Congolese stomps, tunes from ancient Harlem sheathed in purple velvet, absinthe and opium. Earl is wearing a red turtle-neck sweater tucked into gray work slacks and Kevin is at the bar cart situated, for now, in the center of the room. He's imitating the sounds of ice cubes hitting the bottom of the glass -- "plop," "pock," "pop". They're glad for visitors and we could tell if they weren't. We only visit by surprise. It's a dank parody of the old fable, where each person must feed or water a stranger in fear of that person actually being a god. In our group, it makes us bold when visiting. We ask for more than that to which we'd be entitled, we make ourselves splendidly at home. There is no question that we are gods.
I love watching Kevin make this ice-on-glass sound with his tongue against his teeth. I love his grin as he does it because it's not much of a talent. And then he makes a glug-glug sound as he pours whiskey into one glass, wine into the other, mead into mine (though mead slips into a glass the way a spider slips between satin sheets), etc. Drafts make the main room daft with wavering candle flames and the artificially flickering amber electric lights in the sconces on either side of the fireplace add some wit to the cliche. We are not, all of us, candle worshipers. In fact, in New Orleans, there is a shop that sells the most marvelous lightbulbs, ones with strange porcelain Passion Play filaments, so you can watch the electricity quiver blue over miniatures of the crucifixion or quiver red over Judas' betrayal of the Christ. You can get lost in these as easily as into a candle flame.
But regardless, our kind have tidied up our act some since the turn of the century. Our books are no longer moldy, our clothes no longer smell of last year's rainwater, and our art no longer requires an intense squint under an eyeglass to divine its purpose. We have entered, along with all elegant folk, the era of the clean line. And in case you think that has broken the mood, or sold out to modern convention, I ask you to take a look at the home of Kevin West and Earl Ray Saathoff, on the Lower East Side, just on the border of our city's Chinatown.
They have managed to balance the sinister and the cordial perfectly. It would take an unsuspecting guest at least three drinks to notice that the Calvary crosses lit by the quivering blue lightbulb filament are turned upside down, or that the straw skirts around some Haitian fetishes (one Senator asked if they were fishing lures), rustle of their own volition, or that the walls themselves veer slightly inward near the pressed-tin ceilings. Each of the very large African masks are lit from within by very small red Christmas lights which appear more and more infernal the more wine you've consumed. Among the usual, relatively tame, framed erotic photographs from the fin-de-siecle, there are a few that will dizzy you if you allow yourself a panoramic view of the flat. There is one tin-type of a deceased infant, propped up in his coffin, between his two smiling parents that will send a shiver to your core if your eye simply stumbles upon it. They hired the photographer two days before the child succumbed to Yellow Fever and they tried valiantly to incorporate the happiness of their new family with the grief over the child's death. If you look closely, you'll see how their smiles are forced and if you look even more closely, you'll see that the infant's smile is the result of a set of tinsel-covered clothes pins attached just above its ears, lifting the lifeless cheeks. Some items in the room have an undertow and I'd be lying if I said I didn't get some glee over watching strangers succumb, slowly, to dread, or, at the very least, a modicum of discomfort.
But, as we here are all close friends, both Minnie and I tick off these details with familiar delight and go on about our conversation with Kevin and Earl. Some film scholars will be coming over later to talk about something we all find fantastic! Apparently there are esoteric, occult chapters that were excised by philistine publishers from many of the most scholarly texts on 20th Century experimental film. Minnie and I are immediately fascinated. Our cocktail friends are to include a compatriot of the great archivist/Magus Harry Smith, the great Amos Vogel (Film As a Subversive Art, 1974), P. Adams Sitney (Visionary Film, 1974), and Maya Deren's half-brother, Sidney Acollat.
It is well-known that the purpose of many experimental films -- Kenneth Anger's Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome and Invocation of My Demon Brother, many of Harry Smith's Early Abstractions, the films of Joseph Cornell -- is incantatory. In other words, they sit still for no one. They are spells, plain and simple. It takes very little derangement of the senses (two cups of wine, a little marijuana, a sliver of blotter LSD, a slight pillar of hash), for Anger's Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome to become a very different film with each viewing. I remember a friend of mine (I'll call him Akadman), who assured me that, after drinking several huge gulps from a box of wine, the content of Inauguration was vastly different when he was looking at it in a full-length mirror than it was when he actually faced the screen. There were long chapters on this in the books by Vogel and Sitney, but the publishers would have no part of it, and demanded those portions of the book be removed. There is not a soul in our particular crowd who does not find that laughable. We've all seen certain of these films as transmissions, vessels, haunted media, for ages, but apparently there may be a gathering this evening of specialists.
Minnie and I feel honored. Truly honored. I remember many years ago, at Cinema 16 -- I don't recall the year exactly, but it was probably the early 1950s -- seeing some Kenneth Anger films and feeling as if they were organic, not at all tied to the screen or even the projector, instead living on their own in a strange field between. They could change and adapt based on the mindset of the viewer. It was fine to know that I wasn't going mad. Both Kevin and Earl laughed at that, being film buffs and well-educated in the arcana of that particular artform. The wine and the mead and the martinis have warmed us into a variable state. We are ready for the conversation. I can see it especially in Minnie's small, pinched face. She is so prepared to be eminently fascinated by the new guests. The African masks are glowing red from within, the infant's rictus and dead stare are ignited by the fluorescing filaments of the blasphemous Calvary bulbs, and the guests are arriving.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
It's not yet noon, my dears, but after spending the morning combing our beloved Upper West Side for Free Brothers West Indian Orange Bitters & finally finding a bottle at Salumeria Rosi, I'm actually quite twitterpated to begin today's cocktail hour. The recipe is taken from that legendary grimoire, The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930) & the drink itself is ostensibly ruthless, though Minnie & I -- as many of you know -- are no slouches when it comes to Mixology & its even more enjoyable evil twin, alcohol consumption.
Satan's Whiskers Cocktail (Straight)
Of Italian Vermouth, French Vermouth, Gin & Orange Juice, two parts each ; of Grand Marnier one part ; Orange Bitters, a dash. Shake well & strain into cocktail glass.
I'll give you some time to hunt down your own bottle of orange bitters, fond brethren & then we'll be happy to compare notes & convivial anecdotes.
Roman & Minnie