A Pound of Paper

Source: John Baxter, A Pound of Paper: Confessions of a Book Addict (London: Doubleday, 2002), pp. 103-106

Text: But then, around 1965, whatever it was that made the Sixties such a distinctive decade began to work its liberating magic on Australia. Hints of other lifestyles and different points of view drifted across our skies like UFOs. Some saw them in the literature of the Beat Generation, others in rock music, but for me the vehicle of revelation was the movies.

Most Saturdays, I’d stop book hunting around noon, buy a slab of roast pork-belly at the Chinese takeaway on Campbell Street, watch the owner hack it into slices with his cleaver, then carry it with a bottle of Coke across the road to the Capitol Cinema. There I would pay, in those pre-decimal days, 2s 6d for a ticket and search the empty circle for a seat without protruding springs to spike my backside, and where I could munch the deliciously greasy spiced meat with no risk of being rousted by some officious usher.

A few moments usually remained before the start of the first film in the day’s double bill to contemplate John Eberson’s flaking midnight-blue ceiling, and wonder how it would look with its tiny stars illuminated — a feature rusted up long before I discovered the place. Since then, the Capitol has been restored and even its stars shine once more, but in those days its greatest appeal resided in its shabbiness, offering as it did both cheapness and anonymity. One could lose oneself in the warm dark — ‘lie low,’ as Leonard Cohen said, ‘and let the hunt go by’.

But what drew me back every week was the films. Mostly black and white and Italian or French, invariably dubbed into English, cut down to a jerky ninety minutes, and further hacked by the film censor, they reflected lives utterly alien to someone who’d never eaten an olive, seen a subtitled film, spoken to a Frenchman or kissed a girl, let alone slept with one.

Occasionally, during my adolescence, a foreign film had reflected back some flashes of my own experience — a 1954 movie called The Game of Love, for instance (a title attached by British distributors to almost anything French where the heroine removed a garment more intimate than a cardigan). Two teenagers, friends since infancy, meet at the same resort every year. They’re too shy to do anything about their mutual attraction until an older woman seduces the boy. The experience frees him to see his childhood friend for the first time, but undermines their uncomplicated love. An adaptation, in short, of Colette’s Le Blé en herbe — Ripening Seed. But its world of the beach and holidays was familiar enough to hint at lessons I might put into practice, some time, with some woman, if I ever got to know any.

Anybody in Australia hoping to learn about life from the cinema faced an uphill struggle in the Sixties. Nudity, violence, horror, obscenity, blasphemy and sedition — the censors cut them all. In the film of John O’Hara’s Butterfield 8, Liz Taylor, explaining to Eddie Fisher how she came to be a ‘party girl’ — i.e., part-time prostitute — traces it back to childhood, when a boyfriend of her mother’s, whom she regarded as a sort of uncle, took her on his knee and ‘interfered with’ her. Liz goes on, ‘But the worst thing was…’ At which point the film hiccuped, the sure sign of a cut. The next shot was of Fisher, looking bemused. Only much later did we discover that Liz said, ‘But the worse thing was, I enjoyed it.’ Enjoying sex? Obviously that had to go.

Interesting as I found the occasional flashes of eroticism in foreign films, the one that got me thinking most had no sex at all. The version presented at the Capitol was known as The Bandit’s Revenge, though it was actually called Salvatore Giuliano. Set in the rocky landscape of Sicily, it was a half documentary / half drama about a young man — face never seen — who, dressed in an incongruous grey dustcoat and with a World War II machine gun over his shoulder, led his gang against … who exactly? I couldn’t make that out. It would be years before I decoded the film, but Francesco Rosi’s darting direction remade my sense of how a story is told, as did the near-operatic behaviour of the characters – the old man who walks to a hilltop, for instance, and apostrophizes his native land like a character from Greek tragedy. Above all, the ink black and lime white of Gianni di Venanzo’s photography prepared me for Antonioni and the French new wave, just as the content lured me to history, politics, and, above all, to Europe.

Comments: John Baxter (1939- ) is an Australian writer of science fiction, film criticism and memoir. The cinema to which he refers is the Capitol Theatre, Sydney. The films he mentions are Le Blé en herbe (France 1954), Butterfield 8 (1960) and Salvatore Giuliano (Italy 1954).

Gielgud’s Letters

Source: Letter from John Gielgud to Paul Anstee, 29 December 1996, reproduced in Richard Mangan (ed.), Gielgud’s Letters (London: Weicenfeld & Nicolson, 2004), pp. 336-337

Text: 29 December, New York

… Oh – The Chelsea Girls – an outrageous film by Andy Warhol – voyeurism in the Chelsea Hotel. It lasts 3½ hours, and is mostly out of focus – a double screen – everything goes on – mostly queers and lesbians, but you can’t see anything clearly, and the sound track is deliberately distorted. One can’t tear oneself away, but it is a crashing bore – yet the audience sits spellbound and packed. Really decadent and incredible that it is allowed. Two small children came in with their Dad, and I almost had a stroke – but I’m glad to say he removed them after about ten minutes. Yet the Catholic Church have banned Blow-Up, which doesn’t seem to me indecent at all.

Comments: John Gielgud (1904-2000) was a British actor and theatre director, one of the theatrical greats of the age. Chelsea Girls (1966) was an experimental film directed by Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey, filmed mostly at the Hotel Chelsea in New . It was shown on a split screen. Blowup was a 1966 British-Italian film directed by Michaelangelo Antonioni. The actor and designer Paul Anstee, recipient of the letter, was in a relationship with Gielgud for many years.

Scandinavians

Source: Robert Ferguson, Scandinavians: In Search of the Soul of the North (London: Head of Zeus, 2016), pp. 327-329

Text: Fast-foward, as they say, to 1967 and a Swedish film called Hugs and Kisses. It was at a time when the British Board of Film Censors was still largely preoccupied with censoring naked bodies out of existence, and every visit to a cinema would be preceded by a sombre moment in which the curtains drew back to reveal a statement in white print on a black background announcing which of three audiences the film was considered appropriate for: an ‘X’ certificate for over-sixteens only; an ‘A’ for under sixteens accompanied by an adult; and a ‘U’, which meant anybody could see it. Getting into X-rated films was a kind of holy grail for kids under sixteen, and in Blackpool there were two cinemas in particular that were known to be easier to get into than others. One was the New Ritz on the Promenade, and the other the Tivoli, a little further back from the seafront, not far from the Talbot Road Bus Station. Both were flea-pits, scruffy, rundown and cheap. As far as I can recall, they only ever showed X- or A-rated films. At fourteen I hadn’t even started shaving, so visits to the Tivoli and the New Ritz were things I used to hear about from my older brother William. The word had got out that there was a film showing at the New Ritz with a naked woman standing in front of a mirror where you could see her pubic hair, her breasts, her arse – everything, as we boys used to gasp in disbelief in the playground.

My brother usually went to the cinema on Friday nights with two friends from school. This Friday, for some reason, they couldn’t make it and he reluctantly ordered me to go along with him. We caught the 11A from St Annes Square, got out and began walking towards the cinema entrance. It wasn’t raining but he had given me his white shortie mac to wear, saying it would make me look older. Right outside Louis Tussaud’s waxworks, next door to the cinema, just before we reached the neon glow of the foyer, he stopped, scrutinized me, turned up the collar of the shortie, took a packet of Embassy tipped from an inside pocket, lit one from the one he was smoking and stuck it in my mouth, telling me quite unnecessarily to remember to say to the ticket-seller that I was sixteen if he asked how old I was. As it turned out the ticket-booth was manned by a tired old pensioner who hardly even bothered to look up from his newspaper to sell us our tickets, which is how I got in to see Hugs and Kisses and for the first time in my life saw female pubic hair. It turns out the hair belonged to an actress named Agneta Ekmanner, now seventy-nine years old and to this day still working, according to the IMDb website. I am fascinated to note that she had a part in Suzanne Osten’s Bröderna Mozart (The Mozart Brothers), the 1986 film Olof Palme went to see on the night of his murder. Hugs and Kisses was Swedish, and with this film I had my first experience of that legendary frankness about sexuality that has been such an important part of how the rest of the world thinks about Scandinavians; or to be more precise how the rest of the world thinks about Swedes and Danes. Norwegians and Norwegian cinema were never a part of the sexual revolution exported throughout the last decades of the twentieth century by its neighbours, and which was still being exported in the twenty-first century by the Danish director Lars von Trier in films such as The Idiots and Nymphomaniac. In the 1980s, in the days before the internet, a striking sight when crossing the border by road from Norway into Sweden was all the caravans parked up on spare farm land on the Swedish side advertising ‘PORNO’ for sale in huge hand-lettered writing.

Comments: Robert Ferguson is a British translator, biographer (Henrik Ibsen, Knut Hamsun), author and authority on Scandinavian life and culture. His book Scandinavians is a study of nature of Scandinavian society. Hugs and Kisses (Swedish title Puss & kram) was directed by Jonas Cornell and was released in the UK in 1968 with a X certificate, after some cuts. Olaf Palme was prime minister of Sweden. He was shot in a Stockholm street by an unknown assailant.

Are Movies Going to Pieces?

Source: Pauline Kael, extract from ‘Are Movies Going to Pieces?’, The Atlantic Monthly, vol. 214, no. 6 (December 1964), pp. 61-81, reproduced in I Lost It at the Movies (New York: Marion Boyars, 1993)

Text: One evening not long ago, some academic friends came to my house, and as we talked and drank we looked at a television showing of Tod Browning’s 1931 version of Dracula. Dwight Frye’s appearance on the screen had us suddenly squealing and shrieking, and it was obvious that old vampire movies were part of our common experience. We talked about the famous ones, Murnau’s Nosferatu and Dreyer’s Vampyr, and we began to get fairly involved in the lore of the genre – the strategy of the bite, the special earth for the coffins, the stake through the heart versus the rays of the sun as disposal methods, the cross as vampire repellent, et al. We had begun to surprise each other by the affectionate, nostalgic tone of our mock erudition when the youngest person present, an instructor in English, said, in clear, firm tone, “The Beast with Five Fingers is the greatest horror picture I’ve ever seen.” Stunned that so bright a young man could display such shocking taste, preferring a Warner Brothers forties mediocrity to the classics, I gasped, “But why?” And he answered, “Because it’s completely irrational. It doesn’t make any sense, and that’s the true terror.”

Upset by his neat little declaration – existentialism in a nutshell – by the calm matter-of-factness of it, and by the way the others seemed to take it for granted, I wanted to pursue the subject. But O. Henry’s remark “Conversation in Texas is seldom continuous” applies to California, too. Dracula had ended, and the conversation shifted to other, more “serious” subjects.

But his attitude, which had never occurred to me, helped explain some of my recent moviegoing experiences. I don’t mean that I agree that The Beast with Five Fingers is a great horror film, but that his enthusiasm for the horror that cannot be rationalized by the mythology and rules of the horror game related to audience reactions that had been puzzling me.

Last year I had gone to see a famous French film, Georges Franju’s Eyes Without a Face, which had arrived in San Francisco in a dubbed version called The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus and was playing on a double-horror bill in a huge Market Street theater. It was Saturday night and the theater, which holds 2646, was so crowded I had trouble finding a seat.

Even dubbed, Eyes Without a Face, which Franju called a “poetic fantasy,” is austere and elegant: the exquisite photography is by the great Shuftan, the music by Maurice Jarre, the superb gowns by Givenchy. It’s a symbolist attack on science and the ethics of medicine, and though I thought this attack as simpleminded in its way as the usual young poet’s denunciation of war or commerce, it is in some peculiar way a classic of horror.

Pierre Brasseur, as a doctor, experiments systematically, removing the faces of beautiful young kidnaped women, trying to graft them onto the ruined head of his daughter. He keeps failing, the girls are destroyed and yet he persists – in some terrible parody of the scientific method. In the end, the daughter – still only eyes without a face – liberates the dogs on which he also experiments and they tear off his head.

It’s both bizarrely sophisticated (with Alida Valli as his mistress doing the kidnaping in a black leather coat, recalling the death images from Cocteau’s Orpheus) and absurdly naive. Franju’s style is almost as purified as Robert Bresson’s, and although I dislike the mixture of austerity and mysticism with blood and gore, it produced its effect – a vague, floating, almost lyric sense of horror, an almost abstract atmosphere, impersonal and humorless. It has nothing like the fun of a good old horror satire like The Bride of Frankenstein with Elsa Lanchester’s hair curling electrically instead of just frizzing as usual, and Ernest Thesiger toying with mandrake roots and tiny ladies and gentlemen in glass jars. It’s a horror film that takes itself very seriously, and even though I thought its intellectual pretensions silly, I couldn’t shake off the exquisite, dread images.

But the audience seemed to be reacting to a different movie. They were so noisy the dialogue was inaudible; they talked until the screen gave promise of bloody ghastliness. Then the chatter subsided to rise again in noisy approval of the gory scenes. When a girl in the film seemed about to be mutilated, a young man behind me jumped up and down and shouted encouragement. “Somebody’s going to get it,” he sang out gleefully. The audience, which was, I’d judge, predominantly between fifteen and twenty-five, and at least a third feminine, was as pleased and excited by the most revolting, obsessive images as that older, mostly male audience is when the nudes appear in The Immoral Mr. Teas or Not Tonight, Henry. They’d gotten what they came for: they hadn’t been cheated. But nobody seemed to care what the movie was about or be interested in the logic of the plot – the reasons for the gore.

And audiences have seemed indifferent to incomprehensible sections in big expensive pictures. For example, how is it that the immense audience for The Bridge on the River Kwai, after all those hours of watching a story unfold, didn’t express discomfort or outrage or even plain curiosity about what exactly happened at the end – which through bad direction or perhaps sloppy editing went by too fast to be sorted out and understood. Was it possible that audiences no longer cared if a film was so untidily put together that information crucial to the plot or characterizations was obscure or omitted altogether? What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? was such a mess that Time, after calling it “the year’s scariest, funniest and most sophisticated thriller,” got the plot garbled.

In recent years, largely because of the uncertainty of producers about what will draw, films in production may shift from one script to another, or may be finally cut so that key sequences are omitted. And the oddity is that it doesn’t seem to matter to the audience. I couldn’t tell what was going on in parts of 55 Days at Peking. I was flabbergasted when Cleopatra, with no hint or preparation, suddenly demonstrated clairvoyant powers, only to dispense with them as quickly as she had acquired them. The audience for The Cardinal can have little way of knowing whose baby the priest’s sister is having, or of understanding how she can be in labor for days, screaming in a rooming house, without anybody hearing her. They might also be puzzled about how the priest’s argument against her marriage, which they have been told is the only Catholic position, can, after it leads to her downfall and death, be casually dismissed as an error.

It would be easy to conclude that people go to see a “show” and just don’t worry if it all hangs together so long as they’ve got something to look at. But I think it’s more complicated than that: audiences used to have an almost rational passion for getting the story straight. They might prefer bad movies to good ones, and the Variety list of “all-time top grossers” (such as The Greatest Show on Earth and Going My Way) indicates that they did, but although the movies might be banal or vulgar, they were rarely incoherent. A movie had to tell some kind of story that held together: a plot had to parse. Some of the appreciation for the cleverness of, say, Hitchcock’s early thrillers was that they distracted you from the loopholes, so that, afterwards, you could enjoy thinking over how you’d been tricked and teased. Perhaps now “stories” have become too sane, too explicable, too commonplace for the large audiences who want sensations and regard the explanatory connections as mere “filler” – the kind of stuff you sit through or talk through between jolts.

It’s possible that television viewing, with all its breaks and cuts, and the inattention, except for action, and spinning the dial to find some action, is partly responsible for destruction of the narrative sense – that delight in following a story through its complications to its conclusion, which is perhaps a child’s first conscious artistic pleasure. The old staples of entertainment – inoffensive genres like the adventure story or the musical or the ghost story or the detective story – are no longer commercially safe for moviemakers, and it may be that audiences don’t have much more than a TV span of attention left: they want to be turned on and they spend most of their time turning off. Something similar and related may be happening in reading tastes and habits: teen-agers that I meet have often read Salinger and some Orwell and Lord of the Flies and some Joyce Cary and sometimes even Dostoyevsky, but they are not interested in the “classic” English novels of Scott or Dickens, and what is more to the point, they don’t read the Sherlock Holmes stories or even the modern detective fiction that in the thirties and forties was an accepted part of the shared experience of adolescents. Whatever the reasons – and they must be more than TV, they must have to do with modern life and the sense of urgency it produces – audiences can no longer be depended on to respond to conventional forms.

Perhaps they want much more from entertainment than the civilized, but limited rational pleasures of genre pieces. More likely, and the box-office returns support this, they want something different. Audiences that enjoy the shocks and falsifications, the brutal series of titillations of a Mondo Cane, one thrill after another, don’t care any longer about the conventions of the past, and are too restless and apathetic to pay attention to motivations and complications, cause and effect. They want less effort, more sensations, more knobs to turn …

Comments: Pauline Kael (1919-2001) was an American film critic, noted for her strong opinions and sharp style. This is the first half of her essay. She continues with an argument against technique in ‘art house’ films for technique’s sake. She concludes, “People go to the movies for the various ways they express the experiences of our lives, and as a means of avoiding and postponing the pressures we feel. This latter function of art – generally referred to disparagingly as escapism – may also be considered as refreshment, and in terms of modern big city life and small town boredom, it may be a major factor in keeping us sane.” My thanks to Dawid Glownia for bringing the essay to my attention.

Links: Complete essay at www.atlantic.com

Les Choses

Source: Georges Perec (trans. David Bellos), Things: A Story of the Sixties (London: Vintage, 2011) [orig. Les Choses, 1965], pp. 55-57

Text: Above all they had the cinema. And this was probably the only area where they had learned everything from their own sensibilities. They owed nothing to models. Their age and education made them members of that first generation for which the cinema was not so much an art as simply a given fact; they had always known the cinema not as a fledgling art form but, from their earliest acquaintance, as a domain having its own masterworks and its own mythology. Sometimes it seemed as if they had grown up with it, and that they understood it better than anyone before them had ever been able to understand it.

They were cinema buffs. Film was their primordial passion; they indulged it every evening. or nearly. They loved the pictures as long as they were beautiful, entrancing, charming, fascinating. They loved the mastery of space, time and movement, they loved the whirl of New York streets, the torpor of the Tropics, fights in saloon bars. They were not excessively sectarian, like those dull minds which swear only by a single Eisenstein, Buñuel or Antonioni, or even – as there’s no accounting for tastes – by Carné, Vidor, Aldrich or Hitchcock; nor were they too eclectic, like those infantile people who throw all critical sense to the winds and acclaim a director as a genius if he makes a blue sky look blue or if the pale red of Cyd Charisse’s dress is made to clash with the darker red of Robert Taylor’s sofa. They did not lack taste. They were highly suspicious of so-called art movies, with the result that when this term was not enough to spoil a film for them, they would find it even more beautiful (but they would say – quite rightly – that Marienbad was “all the same just a load of crap!”); they had an almost exaggerated feeling for Westerns, for thrillers, for American comedies and for those astonishing adventures full of lyrical flights, sumptuous images and dazzling, almost inexplicable beauties such as (the titles were imprinted on their minds for ever) Lola, Bhowani Junction, The Bad and the Beautiful, Written on the Wind.

They did not go to concerts at all often, and even less often to the theatre. But they would meet, by chance, at the Film Theatre, at the Passy Cinema, or the Napoleon, or in little local flea-pits – the Kursaal at Gobelins, the Texas at Montparnasse. the Bikini, the Mexico at Place Clichy, the Alcazar at Belleville, and others besides, around Bastille or in the XVth arrondissement, graceless, ill-equipped cinemas frequented by the unemployed, Algerians, ageing bachelors, and film buffs, where they would see, in atrociously dubbed French versions, those unknown masterpieces they remembered from when they were fifteen, or those reputed works of genius (they had memorised the entire list) which they had been trying in vain for years to see. They would always remember with wonderment the blessed evening when they had discovered, or rediscovered, almost by chance, The Crimson Pirate, The World in His Arms, Night and the City, My Sister Eileen, or The Five Thousand Fingers of Dr T. Alas, quite often, to tell the truth, they were horribly let down. Films they had waited so long for, as they had thumbed almost feverishly through the new issues of the Entertainment Guide every Wednesday, films they had been told by almost everyone were magnificent, sometimes did finally turn out to be showing somewhere. They would turn up, every one of them, on the opening night. The screen would light up, they would feel a thrill of satisfaction. But the colours had faded with age, the picture wobbled on the screen, the women were of another age; they would come out; they would be sad. It was not the film they had dreamt of. It was not the total film each of them had inside himself, the perfect film they could have enjoyed for ever and ever. The film they would have liked to make. Or, more secretly, no doubt, the film they would have liked to live.

Comments: Georges Perec (1936-1982) was a French experimental novelist and essayist. Les Choses, his first novel, is a portrait of French life in the 1960s, seen more through things (choses) the characters own than the characters themselves.

The Last Ballad

Source: George Mackay Brown, ‘The Last Ballad’, The Listener, 20 June 1968, p. 800

Text: In a primitive community what happens circulates as story or ballad. During the Napoleonic Wars an Orkney sailor called Andrew Ross died under the lash. The news came to the islands, carried by other seamen, in many versions. The ballad-maker is not interested in the details, only in the central situation, the skeleton of the story: he allows the corruptible flesh of time and chance to rot. He fits out the story with a mask and dress of his own making, till it has a new life in the word.

Andrew Ross, an Orkney sailor,
Whose sufferings now I will explain,
While on a voyage from Barbados,
On board the vessel Martha Jane.

The mates and captain daily flogged him
With whips and rope, I tell you true,
Then on his mangled bleeding body
Water mixed with salt they threw.

This, though it is a very crude piece of balladry, becomes the story of Andrew Ross for all time. […] It is part of a seamless fabric that has been there from the beginning, where all stories are gathered, a part of a great story. […]

‘Andrew Ross’ was the last ballad. Everything changed when the first newspapers arrived. […] Language was no longer a mystery: it was machine to be exploited for social and utilitarian purposes. […] Wireless, in the 1930s, was another step along the road. […]

The island people, always hungry for new gadgets, bought television sets in the Fifties when they were still out at range of the transmitters. Endless blizzards slanted across the screen. Still they watched.

Several frightening things have happened in the course of a few years. TV personalities like Cliff Michelmore, Inspector Barlow and Fanny Craddock are spoken about more familiarly by islanders now than are the people who live in the outlying farms. The shadows on a screen have become more real than their flesh-and~blood neighbours. The gradual loosening of the sense of community goes on. Families stay at home in front of then TV sets on winter nights; the old social gatherings with fiddle and ale and story are rapidly fading into the past. A third frightening thing is the new tyranny of facts actively fostered by TV programmes (though it began in the islands a century ago with the newspapers). Facts, figures, graphs, statistics, are the important things. What has happened in the past generation, in consequence, is that the story-teller is being pushed out by the frightful bore who will give you his opinions about Vietnam and the colour problem and heart transplants: not really his own opinions at all but some prejudiced odds and ends that have stuck in his mind from a discussion witnessed on Panorama the night before. In the old days, one imagines, such a bore would have been courteously ignored, or otherwise put in his place. Today he is listened to with all reverence.

The crude ballad of ‘Andrew Ross’ was an attempt by a pastoral community to explain a terrible thing that had happened to one of their own press-ganged boys. They experienced it themselves, ritually, in a ballad, and so it became a part of the total experience of the community. There is no attempt to subsume horror into man‘s total experience, in this particular way, in the modern modes of entertainment. Aberfan and Belsen and Agadir remain black, unabsorbed horrors, underlined but in no way illuminated by all the ‘realistic’ treatment they have been given – the intricate columm of statistics, the photographs, the eye-witness accounts. No meaning emerges from all the swathings of fact. It is significant that when a TV dramatist recently attempted to enter imaginatively into the Aberfan situation, in Softly Softly – and I thought he did it very well – there were howls of protest the following week in Talkback. I listen to the wireless and watch television quite a lot, and the BBC pays me an acceptable guinea here and there for work l do. Many of the programmes are of high quality. But what seems to be happening is that small fruitful units of culture are being merged into larger, noisier, cruder units, so that, as T.S. Eliot said,

There is not enough silence
Not on the sea nor on the islands.

There is little we can do about it.

Comments: George Mackay Brown (1921-1996) was a Scottish poet and author, who was born and lived most of his life on the Orkney islands. The above extracts come from an essay written for the BBC’s journal The Listener. The full article goes into greater details about the ballad tradition, the arrival and newspapers (in the 1820s) and radio listening. Cliff Michelmore was a current affairs presenter; Inspector Barlow was a character was a character played by Stratford Johns in the police dramas Z Cars and Softly Softly; Franny Craddock was a TV cook. Panorama is a current affairs series, launched in 1957 and continuing to this day. Talkback was a BBC right-of-reply programme. The T.S. Eliot lines come from his poem ‘Ash Wednesday’.

Television

Source: Roald Dahl, ‘Television’, in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1967, orig. pub. 1964)

Text:
The most important thing we’ve learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set –
Or better still, just don’t install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we’ve been,
We’ve watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone’s place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they’re hypnotised by it,
Until they’re absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don’t climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink –
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
IT ROTS THE SENSE IN THE HEAD!
IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND
HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND
A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!
HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!
HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!
HE CANNOT THINK — HE ONLY SEES!
‘All right!’ you’ll cry. ‘All right!’ you’ll say,
‘But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!’
We’ll answer this by asking you,
‘What used the darling ones to do?
‘How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?’
Have you forgotten? Don’t you know?
We’ll say it very loud and slow:
THEY … USED … TO … READ! They’d READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching ’round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it’s Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and –
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How the Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There’s Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole –
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks –
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They’ll now begin to feel the need
Of having something to read.
And once they start – oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They’ll grow so keen
They’ll wonder what they’d ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.

Comments: Roald Dahl (1916-1990) was a British writer of both adult and child fiction. ‘Television’ is a song sung by the Oompa Loompas in his children’s novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and echoes the distaste expressed in the novel for television, as exemplified by the television-watching and violence-obsessed character Mike Teavee.

Saturday Night at the Movies

Source: Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill, ‘Saturday Night at the Movies’, song recorded by The Drifters, 1964. Lyrics reproduced from http://www.metrolyrics.com/saturday-night-at-the-movies-lyrics-the-drifters.html

Text:
Well Saturday night at 8 o’clock
I know where I’m gonna go
I’m a gonna pick my baby up
And take her to the picture show

Everybody in the neighborhood
Is dressing up to be there too
And we’re gonna have a ball
Just like we always do

Saturday night at the movies
Who cares what picture you see?
When you’re hugging with your baby
In last row in the balcony

Well there’s Technicolor and Cinemascope
A cast out of Hollywood
And the popcorn from the candy stand
Makes it all seem twice as good

There’s always lots of pretty girls
With figures they don’t try to hide
But they never can compare
To the girl sittin’ by my side

Saturday night at the movies
Who cares what picture you see?
When you’re hugging with your baby
In last row in the balcony

Saturday night at the movies
Who cares what picture you see?
When you’re hugging with your baby
In last row in the balcony

Saturday night at the movies
Who cares what picture you see?
When you’re hugging with your baby
In last row in the balcony

Saturday night at the movies

Comments: Barry Mann (1939- ) and Cynthia Weill (1940- ) are an American married couple who have written many popular songs since the 1960s. Weill is the lyricist. American vocal group The Drifters was founded in 1953, and different permutations of the line-up have continued to the present day. ‘Saturday Night at the Movies’ reached no. 18 in the Billboard charts in the USA and no. 3 in the UK charts. Its basic theme was repeated in The Drifters’ 1974 hit ‘Kissin’ in the Back Row of the Movies‘.

Magic Hour

Source: Jack Cardiff, Magic Hour (London: Faber and Faber, 1996), pp. 237-238

Text: One day soon afterwards I asked Michael Todd what news he had about the smells. I knew there was a man in Switzerland, Professor Hans Laube, who was working on the various smells outlined in the script and I asked Michael if he had received any samples yet. I was shocked when Michael answered that he hadn’t seen anything yet. I suggested that Laube should send some samples to us – of the sea, tobacco, apricots, etc. – as soon as possible. I took out a bottle labelled ‘apricots’ and inhaled excitedly. It smelled of cheap eau-de-Cologne. Every sample smelled the same: a third rate perfume, nothing at all like they were supposed to smell.

Michael and I were horrified. Michael telephoned Professor Laube who assured him that everything would be perfectly alright on the night of our big test in Chicago in two months’ time. All we could do was trust the professor and pray.

Our big night duly took place in Chicago. The cinema had a thousand seats and most of the audience were trade people. On the back of each seat a tiny pipe was fitted with a spray to project smells to the viewer seated behind. The pipes ran under the floor where an enormous dispensing machine had been installed acting as a ‘smell brain,’ having stored every aroma to be projected during the film. In addition to the eight tracks on our 70mm film, there was an extra track carrying the smell signal. As the film travelled through the projector an electric signal triggered a mechanism which projected a small quantity of aroma-laden air on-cue to every seat in the audience.

Well, the magnificent machinery worked wonderfully. The only trouble was, the smells that were projected towards the eager nostrils were exactly like cheap eau-de-Cologne…

The film was released in New York where the critics all had wrinkled noses and acerbic tongues.

Then came a bathetic coup de grâce. In a nearby cinema, a few days before the New York opening, an enterprising gent showed an awful ‘B’ film and installed incense in the air conditioning, triumphantly advertising his film as ‘the first smellie’.

Comments: Jack Cardiff (1914-2009) was a British cinematographer and director. Magic Hour is his autobiography. The feature film Scent of Mystery (USA 1960), whose test screening is described here, was the first and last film to be produced in Smell-o-Vision. It was directed by Cardiff, and starred Denholm Elliott, Beverly Bentley and Peter Lorre. It opened in February 1960 in specially rigged-up theatres in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. Technical problems with the smells, combined with poor reviews, condemned the film, which was subsequently re-issued in Cinerama, without the smells, as Holiday in Spain. Smell-o-Vision involved a belt holding a sequence of perfume containers which connected to a motorised reel, synchronised through a system of markers to the projector. The smells would be released when their cue came on the film, and were emitted through pipes under the seats of the audience.

Drive-in

Source: Mike Love and Brian Wilson, ‘Drive-in’, song recorded by The Beach Boys, All Summer Long LP (1964). Lyrics reproduced from songlyrics.com, http://www.songlyrics.com/beach-boys/drive-in-lyrics/

Text:
Every time I have a date there’s only one place to go
That’s to the drive-in
It’s such a groovy place to talk and maybe watch a show
Down at the drive-in

Forget about the plot, it’ll do very well
But make sure you see enough so you’re prepared to tell
About the drive-in
I love the drive-in
(we love the drive-in, we love the drive-in)

If the windows get fogged you’ll have to take a breath
Down at the drive-in
Or the cat dressed in white will scare you both to death
Down at the drive-in

A big buttered popcorn and an extra large coke
A few chili dogs and man I’m goin’ broke
Down at the drive-in
Yeah at the drive-in
(we love the drive-in, we love the drive-in)

Don’t sneak your buddies in the trunk ’cause they might get caught
By the drive-in
And they’d look kinda stupid gettin’ chased through the lot
Around the drive-in

If you say you watch the movie you’re a couple o’ liars
And “remember only you can prevent forest fires”
Down at the drive-in

I love the drive-in
(we love the drive-in, we love the drive-in)
Down at the drive-in

I love the drive-in
(we love the drive-in, we love the drive-in)
Down at the drive-in

I love the drive-in
(we love the drive-in, we love the drive-in)

Comments: All Summer Long is the quintessential album from the Beach Boys’ early beach culture phase, with drive-in cinemas a part of that culture. “Remember only you can prevent forest fires” is a reference to an advertisement featuring the character Smokey Bear, who became popular in cartoon strips, radio programmes and as a toy.