10/31/09

The Retrospace Halloween Flashback Episode



Nope. Sorry for the false advertising . This will not be "a weird psychedelic orgy". This is just a flashback post. A bitter disappointment, I know.

Remember when you waited all week to watch your favorite show and it turned out to be one of those awful "flashback episodes"? God, how I hated them! You remember - rather than write and film a whole new episode, they just recycled footage from previous episodes and had the characters reminisce. AAARRRRGGHH!  I hated them! I'd rather they just show a rerun... it's more honest.

Well, I'm being up front with you. This is a Retrospace flashback episode. There, I said it. We may as well make the best of it. So, in case you missed out, here's some links to Halloween related posts from last year. At least they're probably better than recycled flashback clips on Perfect Strangers or Mama's Family.












 
 
 
 
 

Happy Halloween!


10/29/09

Artful Conception #2: Monsters Carrying Chicks (part two)


Guess what? My post on Monsters Carrying Chicks has become my most visited post of all time. Surprised? Don't be.  Prior to this, my most visited post was They Spanked Women in the Old Days (a post which had nothing to do with spanking fetishes.... go figure). But, I guess I shouldn't be critical - I'm very happy for any visitors to Retrospace.  It does become a tad frustrating, however, when the long, well thought out, researched posts pale in comparison to the traffic on a post where I just slapped a bunch of pictures up.

I've already bitched and moaned about this in my post A Look Who's Dropping By, so I'll spare you any more rants.  I'll also mention that on my Spanking Women post, an anonymous commentor totally put me in my place and made me rethink my opinions a little.  Let's get real - these pictures are fun to look at. They're harmless - look in any magazine like Cosmo or Entertainment Weekly and you'll find a whole lot worse material than on Retrospace.


So, if you've managed to endure the rambling in the last two paragraphs, you deserve a reward. Here's some more of those crazy monsters who love to carry chicks!!

Vintage Scares #9: Midgets


I know I sound insensitive when I say this, but midgets and dwarves often scare the hell out of me. Before you judge me, please read on.

I've mentioned before that there are certain things which, under the right conditions, scare the living shit out of me. Clowns, ventriloquist dolls and children (those twins in The Shining... need I say more?) all can be horribly frightening in the dark.  Now it's time to add another item to the list - Little People.

Bear in mind, a midget, a clown, a child, and a ventriloquist doll aren't frightening in their own right, but when they appear unexpectedly out of their "element" doing strange things, it can be quite terrifying.  My own toddler has scared the crap out of me when I saw him walking through the house in the middle of the night.  There's just something about it!

Examples:

As a kid, the Oompa Loompas never sat well with me. They left me feeling a little uneasy. The thought of waking up and finding an Oompa Loompa standing in the dark by my bed caused me great insomnia as a wee lad. 

Ever seen The Manitou (1978)? The VHS box reads: "A psychic's girlfriend finds out that a lump on her back is a growing reincarnation of a 400 year-old demonic Native American spirit.".... Yes, you read it right. Read it again, and let it sink in this time.  Now, what if I told you that demonic Native American is a deformed midget who literally punches his way out of the womans uterus? Think about it.

Ever seen lungs impaled by a leprechaun riding a Pogo stick? Well, then you haven't seen the shitty Leprechaun series (and there's been FIVE of them so far!). Great review found here.


I can say this with perfect confidence: The Sinful Dwarf (1973) is the most effed up disturbing movie I have ever seen. This grindhouse nasty HAD to have left every cast member and crew traumatized; the DVD should come with a coupon for a free therapy session and a pack of Zoloft. Why did I watch it, you ask? Eccentric Cinema said it best in a review of this film:

"For connoisseurs of trash cinema, watching this low budget grotesquerie is the equivalent of having to take a dump in the scuzziest public toilet imaginable... You just gotta do it, even if you know an industrial strength antibacterial will be required afterwards."



And finally, just when you thought "Dwarfsploitation" couldn't get any worse, there's Spermula (1976). SWEET SASSY MOLASSY!



10/28/09

Bad Songs #2: Drink'instein



Dolly Parton has said that she considers her compositions for the Rhinestone soundtrack among the best work she's done. I won't argue that there's a few good tracks here..... Drinkinstein is not one of them. Perhaps, the song itself is not that horrible - maybe just forgettable.  However, Stallone's vocal performance will have you weeping and gnashing your teeth. And to think, he passed up the opportunities to star in Romancing the Stone and Beverly Hills Cop to do this!

I cannot mentally picture someone taking the Rhinestone CD, putting it into their car stereo, and NOT skipping this song.  I would wager that this song has never been played through.... by anyone..... ever.  Do you want to be the first? I dare you.

10/26/09

Retrospace's 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time



Is there a single magazine or blog left that hasn't listed out their favorite horror films of all time? Well, I didn't want to be the only one, so here's my list in order.

  1. Halloween (1978)
  2. The Exorcist (1973)
  3. The Shining (1980)
  4. Trick 'r Treat (2009)
  5. Tutti i Colori del Buio (1972)
  6. Don't Look Now (1973)
  7. Drag Me to Hell (2009)
  8. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
  9. The Omen (1976)
  10. The Amityville Horror (1979)
  11. Tales from the Crypt (1972)
  12. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
  13. An American Werewolf in London (1981)
  14. The Brood (1979)
  15. Mulholland Drive (2001)
  16. Friday the 13th Part II (1981)
  17. Carrie (1976)
  18. The Devil's Backbone (2001)
  19. Black Sabbath (1963)
  20. Psycho (1960)
  21. I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1958)
  22. Scream and Scream Again (1969)
  23. Phantasm (1979)
  24. The Sentinel (1977)
  25. Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)
  26. Damien: Omen II (1978)
  27. Alice, Sweet Alice (1977)
  28. Friday the 13th (1980)
  29. Rosemary's Baby (1968)
  30. The Sixth Sense (1999)
  31. Ghost Story (1981)
  32. Planet Terror (2007)
  33. The Ring (2002)
  34. Pet Semetary (1989)
  35. The Wicker Man (1973)
  36. Deep Red (1975)
  37. The House that Dripped Blood (1970)
  38. What Have You Done to Solange? (1972)
  39. Ju On- The Grudge (2003)
  40. Let's Scare Jessica to Death (1971)
  41. Hell Night (1981)
  42. Race with the Devil (1975)
  43. The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
  44. Black Belly of the Tarantula (1971)
  45. Count Yorga, Vampire (1970)
  46. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
  47. Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972)
  48. Exorcist III (1990)
  49. Duel (1970)
  50. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
  51. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
  52. Blood Splattered Bride (1972)
  53. Dressed to Kill (1980)
  54. Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)
  55. Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  56. It's Alive (1973)
  57. Scars of Dracula (1970)
  58. A Tale of Two Sisters (2004)
  59. Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (1968)
  60. Creepshow (1982)
  61. The Legacy (1979)
  62. High Tension (2003)
  63. The Funhouse (1981)
  64. Demoniacs (1974)
  65. The Changeling (1980)
  66. The Case of the Bloody Iris (1971)
  67. Friday the 13th (2009)
  68. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
  69. My Bloody Valentine (1981)
  70. Scanners (1980)
  71. Twins of Evil (1971)
  72. Sleepy Hollow (1999)
  73. Audition (1999)
  74. Blood and Black Lace (1963)
  75. Poltergeist (1982)
  76. The Believers (1987)
  77. Halloween II (1981)
  78. Scream (1996)
  79. Trilogy of Terror (1975)
  80. Saw (2004)
  81. The Little Girl Who Lived Down the Lane (1976)
  82. Stir of Echoes (1999)
  83. Re-Animator (1985)
  84. The Mothman Prophesies (2002)
  85. The Howling (1981)
  86. The Devil's Rejects (2005)
  87. Creepshow 2 (1987)
  88. Prince of Darkness (1987)
  89. Hostel (2006)
  90. Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)
  91. Se7en (1995)
  92. The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967)
  93. Vacancy (2007)
  94. House on Sorority Row (1983)
  95. Toolbox Murders (1977)
  96. The Descent (2006)
  97. Dead and Buried (1981)
  98. Lisa and the Devil (1973)
  99. Misery (1990)
  100. Kill, Baby.... Kill! (1968)

Please comment with any glaring omissions on my part. I'd like to hear some of your top horror films, and any disagreements with any on my list. I'm always interested in recommendations - especially in lesser known gems or newer releases. Or, better yet, make your own list and link back!

Notes:
(1) In another post, I've already explained my reasoning for putting Halloween at the top.
(2) You'll notice there's no real classics on the list like Universal's Frankenstein and Dracula. True horror enthusiasts will probably scoff at my lack of respect for the classics. My apologies - it is what it is. Perhaps, I'll learn to appreciate the horror film grandaddies one day.
(3) I have yet to see Eden LakeSuspiria, Let the Right One In, Wrong Turn, Zombieland or Paranormal Activity - all highly regarded. Perhaps, once I see them, I'll add them to the list.
(4) I'm not real big on the horror/comedy thing. Thus, Scary Movie, Evil Dead, Slither and Student Bodies didn't make the list.
(5) Funny Games was certainly horrifying, but IMHO didn't quite qualify as horror. I was afraid I'd have to then include Bully, Happiness, etc... a slippery slope.

In Search of the Horror Film Gold Standard





I recently watched the remake of The Hills Have Eyes with some friends, and the issue was brought up as to whether this should be considered a horror movie.  The film is without fail classified as horror at the video store, on Netflix, etc.,.... but why? A family is attacked by a bunch of irradiated mutants out in the desert. Could this not just as well be thrown in with science fiction? Plus, from beginning to end, there's fighting, running, chasing, and killing..... all the elements of a typical action flick.  In fact, there's a whole lot more blood, guts and killing in the Rambo remake, yet Rambo would never be lumped in with horror movies. It's confusing!

First of all, let me state for the record that classifying things, whether it be music, movies or even vegetables, can become an exercise in futility at times. Is a Giant Panda more like a bear or a racoon? The tug of war among zoologists on this issue has been going on for years.... but what's the point? The fact is, humans naturally like to classify things to help better understand their world. Your brain classifies things whether you like or not, it's part of your biology.  So, let's set aside the tired pretention that we don't need to worry about whether a song or movie fits into a certain category. It's in our nature. So, now I again ask the question: what makes something a horror movie?

I think most people's gut reaction to what makes something a horror movie would be: a combination of violence and scares.  Given that movies like Friday the 13th, Halloween, Scream, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Saw and A Nightmare on Elms Street are by far the most successful horror films of the past few decades, this answer isn't surprising. However, this couldn't be farther from the truth. This Venn diagram shows how using violence and scares to categorize a movie as "horror" is just not correct.


Mini Skirt Monday #24: Mini Skirts from the Crypt




Like most any product, from automobiles to whole wheat crackers, sex sells. So, it shouldn't be surprising that horror themed comics, magazines, movie posters or VHS covers quite often featured a beautiful female to sell their product. More often than not, this meant a damsel in distress.... and back in the 60's and 70's this meant a damsel in distress in a short dress.

So, for those interested, here's a small gallery of the wonderful combination of mini-skirts and vintage horror. Enjoy!





10/25/09

Retrospace Zeta #6: Halloween Pics



Halloween really lends itself, perhaps more than any other holiday, to imagry.... it's a holiday that really is all about visuals.  A witch, a darkened room, a scarecrow at night, a graveyard... they all evoke a sense of the season. For those of you who haven't had a chance to catch the Halloween themed images I've been slapping up on my Tumblr blog, Retrospace Zeta, here's a sampling of them.....

.... do you dare read on?

10/23/09

Why Disco Died, Reason #22: Disco Phantasm



Disco started as an underground thing - primarily among homosexuals and minorities in large cities.  Rather than focusing on lyrics or guitar chords, it was simply a backdrop to dance to. Disco was just a good beat that blended well with a little cocaine and hedonism.  Thanks to the likes of ABBA and Saturday Night Fever, it soon became a musical behemoth that found its way onto Sesame Street records, TV variety shows, and bad movie after bad movie. Musicians of all varieties were quick to cash in on the craze: Rod Stewart, Blondie, Barbara Streisand, and KISS all tried their hands at making a disco record.

And just when you thought you'd heard it all, you find a disco version of the Phantasm theme by Captain Zorro. I don't actually own this record (although, I wish I did). Last I checked, this page, deeply buried on the internet, has a copy to buy and lets you listen as well. For your convenience, here it is....




I think the only proper way to enjoy this is with a long line of cocaine and to wear a pair of polyester slacks so tight the waistband acts as a tournakit..Otherwise, you're just not getting the full effect.

Another complaint is the cover of the 12" record sleeve.  I mean, it seems so obvious that the iconic killer sphere in Phantasm should be converted into a disco ball.  That would've been perfect. Since Captain Zorro didn't think of it, I tried it myself (see picture at the top of this post). And I must admit, I actually kind of like the original Phantasm theme. Here it is for comparison...

300 Followers..... Yay!!!


Thanks to everyone who drops by Retrospace.... the more the merrier.  As fun as it is creating posts, it just isn't the same without someone to read it.... or better yet, comment on it. 

And I'd like to extend a special thanks to the longtime "followers" of Retrospace, who've been commenting for over a year now: Keith at Dino's Lounge, Wings at Caffenated Joe, Bill at the Uranium Cafe, Retrohound, Dr. Monkerstein, jbfunky, and Booksteve. I am sure I'm leaving some "old timers" out - sorry.

So, thanks again to everybody for taking time to drop by.  Much appreciated!

10/22/09

The Paul Lynde Halloween Special (Part Two)



When we last left our humble horror host, he had been granted a wish to become a Rhinestone Trucker.  Before his rival, Long Haul (Tim Conway), can marry the smoking hot Kinky Pinky (Roz Kelly), Lynde drives his big rig right into the diner.  Apparently, the Rhinestone Trucker could give a damn about how many innocent lives he takes out - this wedding's not going to happen on his watch!


(Note: I apologize for the quality of some of these pictures. There simply isn't a good copy of The Paul Lynde Halloween Special in existence - the quality of the DVD is worse than VHS recorded on slow play.)

Ultimately, The Rhinestone Trucker wins the duel for the lady. He has a wad of cash that lures Kinky to his side. Where'd he get the money? He says he got it for starring in a movie called "Deep Trucker".  Obviously, this is a play on Deep Throat.... nothing like a little hardcore pornography humor in a holiday TV special!

10/21/09

The Paul Lynde Halloween Special (Part One)



I've already posted about this twice before, but to be honest, this show deserves the full treatment.  Retrospace focuses a lot on oddities of the 1970's, and this one, dear readers, takes the cake.  I would be derelict in my duties as the custodian of Retrospace to not serve up a detailed and accurate account of this Mother-of-All-70's-Weirdness.  If you think I went overboard on this post, just know that I could have easily written a 20,000 page book on this, and just be getting started. The Paul Lynde Halloween Special should be adapted for film, it should be a required course at every university, it should memorized by every man, woman and child. If I were president, the transcripts of The Paul Lynde Halloween Special would like the Little Red Book in China or The Communist Manifesto in the former Soviet Union - required in every home.

Note: This show repeatedly overwhelms me and I have a tendency to shout obscenities when I'm overwhelmed.  I will try and keep things PG around here, and will replace my F Bomb Clusters with PG rated exclamations in all caps. For instance, "Holy Shit" shall hereby be replaced with HOLY HAND GRENADE!

Okay, so let's imagine it's the evening of October 29th, 1976, and you and your family are settling down in the den to watch a Halloween special on the TV.  Your dad is in the Barcalounger drinking a cold one and your mom is paging through the TV guide. She reads aloud that it's hosted by Paul Lynde.



"That's that fruity guy on Bewitched," says dear ol' dad. "This should be rich."

The commercials are over, and this is what you see....


10/20/09

Actors on Record #4: John Carradine



John Carradine wasn't exactly selective of his acting roles - it seemed like anything that came his way, he took - and those were, more often than not, a B grade horror flick.  In fact, Carradine has been in more movies than any actor in history - over 300! Christopher Lee comes closest to matching him with over 200, but is still a long way off.  Not to mention, Carradine also appeared on many, many television shows like "BJ and the Bear", "Lost in Space", "Ironside", "Wonder Woman", and "The Beverly Hillbillies".


Carradine had a undeniably creepy vibe about him that somehow elevated even the shittiest of roles. He had been an accomplished Shakespearean actor, so his superb acting skills often "polished a turd", so to speak and made an otherwise worthless film watchable.

My favorite Carradine films include Munster Go Home! (1966), The Astro-Zombies (1968), The Sentinel (1977), Shock Waves (1977), Vampire Hookers (1978), The Monster Club (1980), The Howling (1981), and who can forget Sex Kittens Go to College (1960) starring Vampira and Conway Twitty!


But enough about Carradine's acting career - this is an "Actors on Record" post, so let's get to his recording career. In 1958, Carradine appeared on a beatnik album consisting of free form jazz with spoken word vocals, all performed by fairly well known celebs like Hoagie Carmichael.  Here's Carradine's contribution called "Night Song for the Sleepless". I don't think he chimes in over the bongos and flutes till the 1:45 minute mark. Enjoy!


Comic Books #12: More Comics from the Crypt


Long before kids were killing hookers on Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, they were entertained by simpler things.  I remember sitting for extensive periods of time just listening to records with nothing but spooky sounds.  No lyrics, no instruments, no story, no accompanying comic book... just a bunch of creaking doors and lame screams and moans. Somehow, this held my attention.   No, I wasn't a little "slow" - I knew plenty of boys who were doing the same thing.  Here's a track from the album called "The Creeper".




I ran across this little ad in one of my horror magazines from 1966.  Looks like some inconsequential photo caption book - the farthest thing imaginable from a bestseller. Just for the hell of it, I was curious if this odd little story had been lost forever through the ravages of time.
Turns out, it popped up here and there on internet sellers. Evidently, it was written by a Robert Reisner who had written several other photo caption books, a biography of Charlie Parker, and several on graffiti through the ages (this one sounded interesting to me - I'm curious what kind of grafitti was scrawled on the walls of the Pantheon).
  

Remember Sea Monkeys? The picture made it look like you'd have a thriving colony of aquatic friends coming in the mail.   I imagined a clan of mer-folk lounging on rocks, perhaps speaking some sort of language incomprehsible to us humans. Instead , all I got was a small packet of dried Brine Shrimp. I added some salt to some water in a goldfish bowl , they rehydrated, and presto, boring itty bitty shrimp that did nothing.

Comic book ads were famous for preying on the gullibility of children. They were priced low enough so the kids could buy it themselves (again, this is before the days of mom and dad bought their kids anything and everything under the sun) - so the less gullible parents never even got a chance to put the kibosh on the whole transaction.


This next one is from a Horror Monsters magazine from 1962. It's not really Halloween related, but I couldn't resist including it. Ciao, baby.

10/19/09

Bad Songs #1: "The Hell of It" from The Phantom of the Paradise


I haven't seen The Phantom of the Paradise (1974) in forever - I really need to rewatch it. I remember it being awful, but one you could enjoy as a guilty pleasure.  I'm sort of confused how it is that Brian DePalma, the guy responsible for classics like Carrie, Dressed to Kill and Scarface, could put out something like this.  Then again, it has been a while, so maybe I should refrain from further criticism.  Evidently, some people think it's good enough to put together a big budget remake of this film in 2010.... big surprise.

Those who lived through the seventies will well remember Paul Williams - he was omnipresent in those days. You couldn't go two seconds without seeing his ugly mug. One minute he's on B.J. and the Bear and Smokey and the Bandit, the next he's hanging with Kermit the Frog on The Muppet Show and Danno on Hawaii Five-O.  Come to think of it, even if you didn't see or hear him, he was still present - you just didn't know it: he composed almost everything you heard from The Love Boat theme to "Just an Old Fashioned Love Song" by Three Dog Night and "We've Only Just Begun" by The Carpenters.  This dude was EVERYWHERE!

Listening to the soundtrack, I was stricken by a Willams song called "The Hell of It".  It's bad..... real bad. Listen at your own risk. You've been warned.

Halloween Magazines #2


October 1925

There would seem to be no end to the wonderful supply of vintage Halloween magazine issues out there - especially for kids. As I mentioned in the last post, the Halloween magazine cover heyday was evidently over by the 1980's.  In fact, I had a hard time finding any kid's Halloween mag from the 1980's that I liked; so, I eventually threw in the towel and gave up!

If magazines were our guide, the early 60's were definitely the golden age of a Halloween childhood. I could have served up 50 covers and just scratched the surface.  At any rate, I've posted a few beginning in 1925 (above) and ended in 1979. If you have some good scans or know a good source for kiddie Halloween mags, leave a comment or drop me an email.  Enjoy!

10/16/09

Halloween Magazines


October 1905

I was scavenging around looking at old Halloween issues of various magazines and something hit me - the Halloween mags from the 1950's and earlier are fabulous pieces of art, and the ones from the 60's to present basically suck.

I'm referring here to the mainstream magazines targeted to adults. The horror mags like EERIE, CREEPY, and House of Hammer were phenomenal in the 60's and 70's; however, the standard non-genre magazines were really lousy. 

Take for example the 1905 Ladies Home Journal above: it's as beautiful as it is haunting - definitely frame worthy. Fast forward 70 years and Halloween is hardly mentioned in the October issues. When it does become the subject of a cover on LHJ, or Martha Stewart Living or Better Homes, it's a bland photograph of Halloween crafts, decor and recipes. Yawn inducing to say the least.

So, lets take a stroll through a few more Halloween issues of various magazines beginning at 1905 (above) and ending in 1981. The next post will deal with Halloween issues from children's magazines (which stayed good a couple decades longer than their adult counterparts). Enjoy!

10/15/09

Retro Film Report #6: The Gore Gore Girls by Henry James


The guest blogger for today needs no introduction. Henry James has authored dozens of critically acclaimed books including The Bostonians and The Turn of the Screw. Today, he graciously lends his skills with the written word to review the B movie classic, The Gore Gore Girls. Take it away, Henry!

It will be necessary, for several reasons, to give this movie review the form of a short sketch rather than of a critical essay. The data within these ninety five minutes of spinning celluloid is copious, and even if they were minimal they would serve but in a limited measure the purpose of the movie reviewer. This is a film of monumental vicissitudes or variations; one minute the rarest and sweetest fragrance, the next a licentious odor. Indeed, The Gore Gore Girls is a heavenly path with many a curious dint.

10/14/09

Album Covers #9: Horror Themed Records

You just can't top Sounds to make you Shiver! (1974) as the greatest horror themed record of all time. From a child's perspective, it's got it all - especially for children of the 70's, who were completely monster crazy. Could you possiblly portray the joy of Halloween and with more enthusiasm than this? Sure, it's busy, but so were the Tales from the Crypt comic covers - kids like busy.  I mean, this is not a minimalist Bauhaus or Velvet Underground album - this is a kid's Halloween fantasy brought to life!

Jesus Harold Christ on rubber crutches! This one cover covers every childhood horror theme imaginable! There's a ghost, Frankenstein, a werewolf, a witch, a graveyard, Dracula, Quasimodo, bats, a hangman's noose, a mad scientist and his laboratory, plus other nameless monsters wandering around and locked within the bell tower.  Who cared what was on the record itself, 70's kids had the coolest LP in history!

Sounds to make you Shiver! is certainly the best there is of this type of record. But let's take a look at some more horror themed album covers, each great in their own way.. If you have some personal favorites not included, please comment!


10/13/09

Foxy Ladies #7: Elvira, Mistress of the Dark



Everybody knows Elvira, so I'll refrain from the lengthy biography on this edition of Foxy Ladies.  Instead, I'll just serve up some facts about Cassandra Peterson that I found interesting. Her career was wonderfully varied and full of surprises, and I'm always intrigued by unexpected celeb connections. So sit back and enjoy the Elvira images and sound bites!
.


Cassandra Peterson was cited in The Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest dancer to work in Las Vegas (age 17). She performed at the Dunes hotel in Las Vegas, where she became "friends" with none other than Elvis Presley! The King convinced her to take up singing and leave Sin City - sage advice which she followed.




Cassandra toured Italy with a rock group called I Latins Ochanats. There she became fluent in Italian and had a chance encounter with Fellini, who put her in his film Roma (1972).



In 1971 she had a very small part as a showgirl in Diamonds Are Forever. She also is a showgril on the cover of Tom Waite's album, Small Change.

10/12/09

The Occult #3: Generation Hexploitation



There’s so much about the 1960’s and 1970’s that fascinates me. The titanic shift in the psychology of the U.S. and other Western countries during this period will forever both confound and interest me. Somehow, in just a few short decades, this country went from Singing in the Rain to I Spit on Your Grave. This shouldn’t be all that much of a surprise considering everything that was going on in the world: a war in Vietnam, students protesting in the streets, a president assassinated, nuclear annihilation right around the corner, a march on Selma, etc., etc. Amid all this, one thing that has intrigued me for a long time is the so-called “Occult Explosion”.

Not familiar with it? Well, the new occult trend was on the pages of nearly magazine in circulation at the time. Time’s cover story of March 21, 1969, “Cult of the Occult,” gave an indication of the large number of people involved in the occult phenomenon. During 1969 and 1970, Harper’s Bazaar, Esquire, and McCall’s all had special issues on the occult revival.


Time magazine article: A Substitute Faith

"Major publishers have issued dozens of hard-cover books on the occult and the related field of parapsychology in the past year. William Blatty's novel The Exorcist has been on the bestseller list for 52 weeks. The 1968 movie Rosemary's Baby—still the most terrifying of the lot—has spawned a series of occult successors, including, currently, The Possession of Joel Delaney and The Other. But the interest goes beyond books and movies: a growing number of colleges across the U.S. are offering courses on aspects of the occult."





This article in Ebony paints an interesting portrait of the phenomenon from the perspective of African Americans:  "Would You Believie It... Superstition Lives!"



... and LIFE magazine (12/31/1971) called 1971 "The Year of the Demon" in its book review section.



Think about all the movies that came out during this time period - there were so many that dealt with the occult: Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist, The Omen, Race with the Devil (starring Peter Fonda), The Sentinel - and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Even Alan Alda, of all people, was in a satanic film - The Mephisto Waltz. The U.K. certainly had its fair share as well: The Wicker Man, The Devil Rides Out, The Satanic Rites of Dracula.... to mention all the occult themed foreign films released during this period would literally take all day.


The music industry also reflected the trend. Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, King Crimson, Alice Cooper, and, the grandaddy of them all, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. From 1968-71, The Rolling Stones were heavily involved in satanism - i.e. "Dancing With Mr. D", "Sympathy for the Devil" and their involvement with Kenneth Anger.  Led Zeppelin also dabbled in the occult. In the early 1970s Page, a follower of Aleister Crowley, owned an occult bookshop and publishing house, "The Equinox Booksellers and Publishers" in Kensington High Street, London. Etc., etc., etc.,... we all know rock stars do crazy shit.

The big question is why this all came about.  Was it the Baby Boomers searching for answeres any way they could get it? Was it a rebellion to the standard Christian orthodox most Boomers grew up with? Was it the natural result of widespread hallucinogen use? Was it the paranoia and growing mistrust resultant from a bloody war in Vietnam, the Manson murders, and Kennedy assassination?..... who knows? It may have been all of the above.

Turn Off Your Mind: The Mystic Sixties and the Dark Side of the Age of Aquarius By Gary Lachman attempts to explain "how a decade of love and peace ended in Altamont and the Manson Family bloodbath". 



Another question is where it all started.  Of course, the occult itself is thousands of years old (depending on your definition) - but when did the trend take off? Some have narrowed it down to a small bookshop in Chelsea called The Magickal Childe.
In my opinion, the source is intangible. It was collective consciousness of the West at the time.  And as quickly as it came, it burnt out in the early 80's.  I remember a sensational piece-o-crap journalistic stunt by Geraldo Rivera around this time.  It got huge ratings and made it seem as if there was a satanist around every corner. A national condemnation to this sort of thing was not far behind - soon, it wasn't even safe to play Dungeons & Dragons.

 Oh, well. Perhaps someone can leave a comment and enlighten me as to how this all came about, and why it went bye bye.  And be sure to check out some occult images I've included below from vintage books and magazines. Enjoy!