Tag Archives: stanley kubrick

Yes, Dad

A third of the way into The Shining, the explicit terror has barely begun. Danny’s been riding his big wheel or watching TV with his mom while Jack marinates elsewhere in the monotony of their new home. Yet an exchange between the two of them when Danny’s fetching a toy fire truck is more insidious than any apparition. It’s just a father holding his son, at first tightly, nuzzling against his head, then with a looser grip as he looks him in the eyes. Their dialogue’s as banal as their domestic surroundings: “Are you having a good time?” asks Jack. “Yes, dad,” says Danny. “Do you feel bad?” asks Danny. “No, just a little bit tired,” says Jack. They go back and forth like this for a while, question and answer, before Danny brings up the hotel’s ambiance and the prospect of physical harm. “I love you more than anything else in the whole world,” assures Jack. “I would never do anything to hurt you. Never.”

Strings and rumbling percussion complicate the scene’s tenderness, as does Danny Lloyd’s robotic inflection. Jack Nicholson gives his lines sinister subtext with those arching eyebrows and curling lips. Their relationship manifests itself in these horror movie techniques. Throughout their talk, Jack keeps both hands on his son, because his affection’s synonymous with control. His is a love that precludes the vocalization of fear. Although this is a vast, bombastic movie, with Nicholson playing a histrionic monster, he’s nonetheless recognizable as a real-life dad with his bathrobe, stubble, and mussed hair. A dad can surround you forever with his body and his love; he can make himself impossible to escape. He can dislocate your shoulder and chase you with an axe and still protest that he’d never do anything to hurt you. Never.

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Link Dump: #78

This week’s kitty is from the People Holding Cats tumblr, and is being held by Jean-Paul Sartre, who’s deep in his work. Maybe hugging a kitty helps you concentrate on philosophy? Anyway, here are some links:

For search terms, we have the usual: “funny feminist view of sociology,” “greta garboe pussy,” and “hot girls goes grrrrr,” the latter of which sounds like an idea for a Pussy Goes Grrr spin-off blog.


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Horror is everywhere (4)

Over the past couple years, I’ve written repeatedly about how “horror is everywhere”: how horror iconography slips across genre boundaries, turning up in surprising places; how savvy filmmakers employ traditional horror imagery—vampires, witches, ghosts, etc.—even in “straight” dramas, often to shocking effect. So now here are five more films, all plucked from the TSPDT “1,000 Greatest Films” list, and their scariest moments…

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

I’m certainly not the first to point out that Frank Capra’s “beloved Christmas classic” is also one of the darkest films to emerge from 1940s Hollywood, tearing as it does into American ideals like family and the free market with severe emotional precision. But the darkness extends beyond the film’s sociopolitical implications: when Clarence lets George experience the world if he had never been born, it’s visually coded as an actual horror movie—an anti-ghost story, if you will. George investigates his and Mary’s would-be house, but nobody lives there; in this reality, it’s an unlit, decrepit building with graffiti and broken windows. And it’s haunted, sure enough, by George and his now-false memories of his wife and children. Capra uses cobwebs and shadows right out of Gothic horror to give George the ultimate “Be careful what you wish for.”

Easy Rider (1969)

Long before he became an avatar of cackling grotesquerie in The Shining and Batman, Jack Nicholson was on the other side of horror, as a victim of redneck violence in Dennis Hopper’s hippie picaresque. Although smoking pot and riding motorcycles may sound like fun, a cloud of southern “good ol’ boy” bigotry hangs over the film. When free spirits Billy (Hopper), Wyatt (Peter Fonda), and George (Nicholson) stop off for lunch in a small Louisiana town, their mildly rebellious looks and behavior stir up rage and jealousy in the local men, leading to a late-night ambush on the hippies’ campsite and George’s death by beating. This bloody turn of events directly anticipates a whole wave of horror movies (DeliveranceThe Hills Have Eyes, Pumpkinhead) wherein rural folk assault unwanted outsiders. (See “Getting Even,” the third chapter of Carol Clover’s Men, Women, and Chain Saws for more on this “city vs. country” strain of horror.)

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Really, what isn’t scary in Stanley Kubrick’s dystopian classic? In its futuristic England, no amount of locked doors can keep out psychopathic thugs, whose ranks include the protagonist, Alex. The film follows two different home invasion subplots, one of which segues into a rape-revenge narrative, while the other ends abruptly when Alex cracks the homeowner’s skull with a penis statue. The only reasons, I’d say, that A Clockwork Orange isn’t categorized as pure horror are 1) because of its sci-fi setting and 2) because it’s from the POV of the monster. And what a monster! Malcolm McDowell’s performance stretches the definition of “human” as he gibbers, lies, and beats his way through adolescence. Just listen to his low, chuckling delivery of the closing line, “I was cured all right.” Absolutely spine-chilling.

Apocalypse Now (1979)

Watch the last 10-15 minutes of Coppola’s war epic without sound or context. Then tell me it doesn’t look like the kinkiest, most homoerotic art-horror movie ever made. A soldier, wearing little more than sweat, fog, and shadow, breaks into a temple and—symbolically cross-cut with the ritual slaughter of a water buffalo—stabs an older man to death. By now, they’re both possessed by “the jungle” (i.e. by the film’s still-colonialist conception of the Southeast Asian wilderness) and far from the pseudo-civilization of the American military. That soldier, Martin Sheen’s Willard, has refashioned himself as something more like the primordial Creature from the Black Lagoon than a war hero. And the coup de grâce he delivers is edited to feel more like an orgasm than an assassination. “The horror, the horror,” indeed.

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Quentin Tarantino routinely makes visual nods to obscure horror movies—see the references to Dario Argento and Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell in the first Kill Bill, for example—but when Pulp Fiction‘s “Gold Watch” chapter (my favorite of the bunch) descends into Maynard’s basement, its horror is more than just an allusion. It becomes a short, sharp recapitulation of that same “city vs. country” horror found in Easy Rider (or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), as a pair of Angelenos are bound and gagged by a coven of pro-Confederate hick rapists. Butch and Marsellus get their grisly revenge, of course, but they can’t unsee what they’ve seen: that L.A.’s horrors go so much deeper than the criminal underworld they’re used to.

This lesson applies equally well to moviegoers, too: you may think you know what genre you’re in, but horror could be lurking just around the corner.


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Link Dump: #64

This week’s kitty is from Lev Kuleshov’s wacky Soviet comedy The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks. And if you think it’s cute, you should see its litter of kittens. It gives birth in a ten gallon hat! So cute. Now here are some links:

We have two pornographic search terms this week. The first is relatively straightforward: “big women that like sex who like animals.” The second, though (and we’ve had many searches for variations on this phrase)… “google two sex women two women love firends lesbian both lesbian gether weddnig pussy pussy is in the moives.” So, yeah.

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Link Dump: #41

Aww, look! Michel Piccoli, playing an old artist in Jacques Rivette’s La Belle Noiseuse, is petting a kitty! That’s so CUTE. Almost as cute as this week’s batch of adorable little links:

Search term of the week: “pragncy pussy.” That is some inventive misspelling. How girl get pragnt, anyway?


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Saving the World

Feed me, you said, and I was feeding you, Jack!

Such an uneasy camaraderie evolves between British officer Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers) and the psychotic General Jack Ripper (Sterling Hayden) in scenes scattered throughout Dr. Strangelove (1964). The War Room has its zany pre-apocalyptic antics, and Slim Pickens’ Russia-bound B-52 is hilarious in its satirically jingoistic way, but the portion of the film set in Ripper’s drab office is an absolute masterpiece of uncomfortable dark comedy. It’s not too hard to imagine it as a two-man play by Edward Albee—maybe a reworking of Zoo Story with some added machine-gun fire.

The premise for these scenes is so twisted: Mandrake essentially has to befriend a powerful but emotionally vulnerable madman in order to save the world. In a bid to gain Ripper’s trust, he agrees with virtually everything the General says, only occasionally dissenting from his paranoid ravings. Sellers retains a forced smile and laughs a little too loud, but his rapport-building tactics go nowhere, because as Ripper draws nearer to committing suicide, he becomes more and more walled off from the real world. So this scene devolves into two different one-sided conversations as each character gets lost in his own motives and anxieties.

In his futile efforts to avert a nuclear war, Mandrake hazards a trip into Ripper’s heart of darkness. That’s how he ends up feeding ammunition into Ripper’s machine gun as they fire on the American soldiers outside. With that “Feed me” line, Mandrake is playing on the close bonds that purportedly develop between soldiers in wartime. But his attempt to squeeze himself and Ripper into that well-trodden narrative falls on deaf ears, and his stratagem ends in comic disaster.

At least it was a valiant effort, and it gave screenwriters Kubrick and Terry Southern (with inveterate ad-libber Sellers) a chance to write some fantastic dialogue. For example, look at another of my favorites, as Mandrake recounts being tortured by the Japanese: “I don’t think they wanted me to say anything. It was just their way of having… a bit of fun, the swines. Strange thing is, they make such bloody good cameras.” In this bizarre, impossibly stressful situation, it almost makes sense—like so many of the nonsensical leaps made by characters in Dr. Strangelove—to connect torturing POWs with making cameras. Almost.

[For more about Dr. Strangelove‘s brilliant black comedy, see my piece from last week at The Film Experience about the film’s use of Vera Lynn’s “We’ll Meet Again.” ]

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Link Dump: #32

What better than a lunar cat family to host this week’s (rather full) Link Dump! I was never personally fond of Diana myself; adding kids to the mix just ruins everything (just like what happened when they added Rini/Chibusa; you’d think they’d learn from their mistakes) but it’s an adorable kitty family to go with some adorable (and some severely not adorable) links!

Not much to share in the realm of search terms this week: we had somebody looking for the “la belle et la bete porn version” (hint: Cocteau didn’t make one, although Genet’s Chant d’Amour is as close as you’re going to get); someone else typed in the run-of-the-mill misspelling “secks fail”; and finally, we continue our chronicle of icky bestiality search terms with “fucking “cow pussy””. Does this mean the searcher wanted to learn about how to fuck cow pussies? Or just, you know, colloquially: fuckin’ cow pussy? We may never know. (I hope.)


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