Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"It's a cookbook! It's a COOKBOOK!!!"


In the previous post on Night of the Living Dead the subject arose in the comment section as to whether or not injecting social commentary or allegory into horror was a good thing. I'm not sure if there was a consensus or not, but I do not one of my favorite sci-fi/fantasy/horror shows of all time, The Twilight Zone, injecting allegory and social commentary into at least 50 percent of all episodes that ever aired. And I loved it anyway.

Rod Serling wrote what he thought would be the pilot episode for The Twilight Zone in 1957 and sold it to CBS Studios. It was titled The Time Element and told the story of a man who keeps waking up in Honolulu on the morning of December 7th, 1941. He tries to warn everyone but it never works. CBS didn't like it and shelved it. A year later it was discovered by producer Bert Granet who put it on his show, The Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse (too many "houses" in that title) and it was a hit. A year after that, The Twilight Zone began in earnest.

Some years ago there was an excellent American Masters episode on Rod Serling, shot in black and white, and bookended by Twilight Zone motifs in which Serling is rushed to the hospital on that fateful day of June 28, 1975, when his four pack a day smoking habit finally did him in. It revealed that Serling started The Twilight Zone because he was tired of every political or social statement he injected into his dramas being censored out. He knew if he made the same points with monsters, aliens and time travellers, no one would care enough at the network to censor them. He was right.

The funny thing is, most people's favorite episodes, including mine, having nothing whatsoever to do with social commentary, and everything to do with extremely cool twist endings. For instance, in that American Masters episode they break down Eye of the Beholder, the famous episode (aren't they all) where a woman is having her bandages removed after plastic surgery. No one, not even the doctors and nurses, is seen until the bandages come off. Now, after this happens, and she is revealed to look "normal" to us, and the hospital staff bizarre pig-face people, she runs down the hall and we see monitors with a pig-man version of Hitler yelling and screaming about conformity. American Masters goes on about how the episode is an indictment of conformity and Fascism and makes a bold statement and blah, blah, blah. No disrespect to Serling or The Twilight Zone but does anyone care? I sure don't. I just want to see those pig-doctors at the end. And condemning Fascism in a post World War II universe isn't exactly going out on a ledge or anything.

So The Twilight Zone never appealed to me as a Great Educator on all that was right and wrong in the world. But as a fan of sci-fi, fantasy and horror, it appealed to me greatly. Surprisingly, given the fact that most all of the episodes have a twist ending, they're still enjoyable to watch the second or third time around. There's usually a marathon every year on the Sci-Fi Channel and all the seasons are readily available on DVD. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Boris Karloff's Thriller, but that's another story. I'll leave you with some of my favorite episodes:


Time Enough at Last: That would be the one in my banner up above. Burgess Meredith survives a nuclear explosion and with everyone dead can now spend all his time reading. Nothing could possibly go wrong.


The Man in the Bottle: A pawnbroker gets free wishes from a Genie. Nothing ever goes wrong with wishes from Genie. Ever.


The Howling Man: A man hiking across Europe takes shelter in a monastery where a man is imprisoned. The man tells the hiker that the monks are crazy. The monks tell him he's the Devil. Nah, couldn't be.


The Invaders: Agnes Moorehead taking on little doll size aliens at her farmhouse. They are aliens right?


The Odyssey of Flight 33: A plane keeps going through time portals taking in and out of history. Will it ever get back home?


The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank: A man rises from his coffin at his funeral. Did a demon take control of his corpse? Nah, he was probably just sleeping.


To Serve Man: Uh, the title of this post.


Little Girl Lost: Poltergeist doesn't exist without this episode.


The Little People: Astronauts land on a planet of tiny little people and one of them decides to become their "God." I can't imagine anything going wrong with that plan.


Nightmare at 20,000 Feet: How could I not include this one?


An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge: Originally produced as a short film it was sold to and used by The Twilight Zone.


Stopover in a Quiet Town: A hungover couple wake up in a strange town. And they're the only ones there. I'm sure there's just a picnic going on somewhere that they're missing.


And there are loads more because I love so many of them. Now if only Boris Karloff's Thriller would get released on DVD I'd be happy. Momentarily at least.

77 comments:

Arbogast Karnstein said...

Boy, you sure said something there, Lappucini. Politics is like love... so important to the writer and so unimportant to us. If that's what's needed to fuel the piece, then fine... but we like our shocks. Maybe one day we can finally admit that that's a noble pursuit in and of itself, that cathartic rush towards a fictive oblivion, and not have to cadge our love of such thrills within the context of respectability.

Neil Sarver said...

Well, I think there is some social commentary to be found - or arguably found - in several of those. But then, I'd say that the best social commentaries are indeed the ones that can be enjoyed at least as well if one misses or ignores it... or whether one imagines the creator(s) intended it or not.

A good story with no commentary at all is a good story. A good story with a mediocre commentary is a good story. Even a good story with a disagreeable commentary really is still a good story.

A bad story with an important meaningful and insightful commentary on the way the world works is indeed still just a bad story.

bill r. said...

This is very bizarre, because just this weekend I bought season 3 of The Twilight Zone (for $15), and the first one I watched was "The Howling Man". I'd never seen it before, but I'd read the short story it was based on. Both the story and script were written by Charles Beaumont, a good friend of Richard Matheson, author of "The Invaders" and "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet". Those two guys wrote most of the episodes of The Twilight Zone that Serling himself didn't write*. And Beaumont also wrote a novel called The Intruder,which I haven't read, but which is apparently about an evil man coming to a small peaceful town and stirring up racial tensions. The Intruder was turned into film by Roger Corman, and it starred William Shatner, who, as you know, is the star of "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet", which was written by Richard Matheson. And Matheson wrote a very good short story called "The Distributor", which has a premise very similar to The Intruder.

*AND one of the other prolific Twilight Zone writers was George Clayton Johnson, who I'll be writing about briefly in a post on my blog later today!!! Will the connections ever end???

Jonathan "Howling Man" Lapper said...

It's true Arbo, I learned nothing socially redeeming from The Zone despite Serling's best efforts. But I did learn that if you wake up in a strange place, and no one else is around, you're either in a sensory deprivation chamber training for NASA, the new play thing of a giant girl on another planet or a toy being sold on the street. I keep these things in mind every time I go to sleep.

And I can't remember any of what I was actually supposed to have learned from those.

Jonathan "Howling Man" Lapper said...

Well, I think there is some social commentary to be found - or arguably found - in several of those.

But Neil, that was my point. Social commentary runs through at least half of all the episodes. Actually I think I'm being generous, probably more like 75 percent. The point is, despite Serling wanting me to care about those aspects, I didn't.

And you said a mouthful when you say a bad story with meaningful commentary is still a bad story. Allow me to introduce you to Stanley Kramer.

Jonathan "Howling Man" Lapper said...

Bill - And I am Legend! My friends just call me Omega Man. My god it's incredible.

I love "The Howling Man" story. And there's something about the meager effects and production values that makes it creepier to me. The cape, the horns - It's like the deviled ham mascot is walking on the set but it has a great feel to it.

bill r. said...

I don't know if the cheap effects make "The Howling Man" creepier for me, but I don't find them to be a drawback, either. I mean, he's the Devil! What's he supposed to look like?

Jonathan "Howling Man" Lapper said...

I just mean that old black and white cinematography combined with the classic devil look, as opposed to say the more bestial look later movies and tv gave him, works well for me. By the way, no worries about him wandering the world anymore because I caught him about two weeks ago and I'm keeping him in my basement. I promised him free cable and all the beef jerky he could eat if he just stays there and doesn't leave. Oh yeah, and no howling all night. So far, he's been very agreeable.

bill r. said...

Well, with cable he can watch "Meet the Kardashians", so he knows his work is already done.

YEAH! THAT'S RIGHT! I JUST PUT SOME COMMENTARY RIGHT IN THERE!!

The Tuscaloosa Strangler said...

I don't remember that devil episode very well, but wasn't part of the (sub)text that he looks just like we think he does?

Throw in HBO -- against my better judgment I've gotten hooked on "True Blood" -- and I'll be right there on your couch next to ol' scratch, soaking up the cathode rays and chewing on that jerky.

bill r. said...

Rick - No, that's not part of it. Before he changes into the Devil as we know him, I thought he looked kind of like a very shaggy Peter O'Toole. So, I guess you could be right, if you happen to really hate Peter O'Toole.

By the way, your memory of the episode reminds me of Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke.

Jonathan "Howling Man" Lapper said...


YEAH! THAT'S RIGHT! I JUST PUT SOME COMMENTARY RIGHT IN THERE!!


And I learned nothing from it.

bill r. said...

Crap. Okay, let me try it another way. Maybe this will make it go down easier:

Well, with cable he can watch "Meet the Kardashians", so he knows his work is already done.

And it turned out they'd all been dead for three years...!!

Jonathan "Howling Man" Lapper said...

Rick, he's pretty possesive about the jerky. I'd be careful.

As for the look thing, well that's kind of how I caught him. You see, he looks like an angel, walks like an angel, and talks like an angel, but I got wise: I said to myself, "He's the devil in disguise."

Jonathan "Howling Man" Lapper said...

Thank you Bill. I feel like a richer man now.

House of Arbogast said...

Isn't it Keeping Up with the Kardashians? I don't actually watch the show as I live in the San Fernando Valley, where Armenians aren't a novelty.

bill r. said...

You're right, that's the title. I feel better about myself, knowing that I got it wrong. I don't watch the show either, but I do know that one of them has a nice ass.

Brian Doan said...

A bad story with an important meaningful and insightful commentary on the way the world works is indeed still just a bad story.

But enough about Oliver Stone...

Jonathan, you've made me want to go put some of these eps in my netflix queue, once that sucker gets a little less full. Any thoughts on Night Gallery? I watched some of the first season last summer, and found some of it surprisingly creepy (and some of it very hokey).

Jonathan "Howling Man" Lapper said...

I feel like a richer man now.

Adam Ross said...

"The Howling Man" is hands down my favorite TZ episode. It feels like an age-old ghost story, but I can't imagine it being told as well as TZ displays it. I agree about the devil effects, I wouldn't want them any other way.

Three other favorites of mine that didn't make your list:

"After Hours": Mannequin doesn't happen without this episode. It's also really creepy.

"A Piano in the House": Not sure why I like this one so much, it's a predictable story, but the acting and direction make it very enjoyable.

"Shadow Play": This is one TZ episode that might have benefited from an hour-long, it packs in almost too much existential philosophy. Almost. Great ending, and Dennis Weaver!

Jonathan "Howling Man" Lapper said...

Brian - Serling hated doing Night Gallery but needed the money. He had no creative input with it, just an actor to introduce the stories. Still, some of the episodes were pretty good. But none of them ever rose to the quality of The Twilight Zone.

Jonathan "Howling Man" Lapper said...

Adam, I like Shadow Play and A Piano in the House too but The After Hours I love and I forgot to mention that one. A mannequin wondering a department store thinking she's human. What a cool and creepy concept.

Krauthammer said...

The Twilight Zone is probably my favorite TV show, and I agree with you 100 percent. I don't mind at all when someone inserts political commentary, but I never find it a necessity like so many film and television writers apparently do; and don't really take them into account when judging the work.

As for favorite Twilight Zone episodes, how about Walking Distance? It's not as scary as some others, but it's amazing.

Countess Contrary said...

I have to play Ms. Contrary here. I think most worthwhile horror films are fueled by smart ideas that go way beyond the "just want to thrill ya" category. Of course the "thrills" of horror films often offer first time viewers a lot of fun but I go back to films again and again when they have more to offer me besides easy scares.

Horror itself is a genre that is firmly rooted in Romanticism which sprang from strong opposition to organized religion and the reigning political powers at the time. Naturally social commentary is evident in the early horror fiction of romantic authors like Mary Shelley, Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, etc. Often a simple morality tale can be a poignant jab at social conditioning.

Serling knew this and that is why his stories are timeless. I couldn't disagree with you more when you write:

they break down Eye of the Beholder, the famous episode (aren't they all) where a woman is having her bandages removed after plastic surgery. No one, not even the doctors and nurses, is seen until the bandages come off. Now, after this happens, and she is revealed to look "normal" to us, and the hospital staff bizarre pig-face people, she runs down the hall and we see monitors with a pig-man version of Hitler yelling and screaming about conformity. American Masters goes on about how the episode is an indictment of conformity and Fascism and makes a bold statement and blah, blah, blah. No disrespect to Serling or The Twilight Zone but does anyone care? I sure don't. I just want to see those pig-doctors at the end. And condemning Fascism in a post World War II universe isn't exactly going out on a ledge or anything.

Sure the pig face people offer a quick momentary scare once the woman's bandages come off but that episode remains with me because of the underlying ideas it presents about beauty, racism, segregation and what you refer to as "fascism" which - if the current social and political landscape is any indication - are all still extremely relevant topics.

If you want to see what horror films look like when they're written in an attempt to only create cheap thrills, spend a few hours with some of the craptastic Sci-Fi channel "made for TV" movies. I'm too lazy and cautious to drop names of current directors but many of the crappy Sci-Fi channel movies are prime examples of what kind of horror movie you get when you employ lazy writers to write pointless scripts with a few “jump out of your seat” moments.

My apologies for disagreeing with everyone but I love Night of the Living Dead for its scares as well as its social commentary (intended or not).

Now I'll slink off into the night . . . I've got a ton of political mailers to send off.

Jonathan "Howling Man" Lapper said...

Kimberly, I'm confused, why aren't you falling in line with the rest of us? Don't you want to be like us? Don't you want to conform?

I'm joking of course. I admit I was being overly dismissive of the social commentary aspects of The Twilight Zone so let me state my case more clearly without that dismissal.

I love the show as I said and don't mind any of the social commentary. It is what sets it apart from other shows of its ilk. What I'm saying for me, and not anyone else who has commented here, is that the social commentaries don't make those episodes for me, the stories stand on their own. In other words, when we're discussing Night of the Living Dead and talking about how Romero intended no social commentary we still get social commentary out of it, as when I commented that I cannot watch the closing credits without thinking of the old newsreel footage of lynchings in the South.

For me, social commentary is more effective when it is either unintended or left for the viewer to infer from the story. In Eye of the Beholder I believe you can take out the dictator on the television set and get not only the same message but arrive at that message on your own in a more personal and powerful way. In a way, it is as if Serling does not trust his audience to get it unless he bluntly hits us over the head with it. I think overt social commentary like that lessens the effect because it underestimates the intelligence of the audience.

Thus, when you say Sure the pig face people offer a quick momentary scare once the woman's bandages come off but that episode remains with me because of the underlying ideas it presents about beauty, racism, segregation and what you refer to as "fascism" which - if the current social and political landscape is any indication - are all still extremely relevant topics. that exemplifies my point. The underlying ideas are indeed already there but Serling is not content to leave them as underlying, preferring to bring them to the surface in a none too subtle manner.

So in the end, I can say that you and I do not disagree, that is we still get the same message from the episode and still find that message relevant, but I believe that the message is more powerful when allowed to seep into the viewers subconscious mind.

One of the great things about Horror and Science Fiction is their ability to take their stories and make them relevant to the world around them. I believe the best of them do this through their story and not through overt messages. Dracula is a brilliant commentary on Victorian attitudes towards and fear of sex. Absolutely brilliant! But Stoker never overtly preaches that point. He tells the story of a creature who "infects" those he seduces, sullies them and dirties their soul and we can read it and understand that without it being outwardly spoken. Were it outwardly spoken it would have been much less effective. Dramatically so, I believe.

To step outside the genre, a movie like Whose Life is it Anyway? explores the dignity of human existence bluntly with a sledgehammer in which the characters actually discuss the dignity of human existence just in case we missed it. It suffers greatly as a result and becomes a low-rent philosophical tract instead of a great story. Another movie released within a couple of years and also involving a courtroom battle, The Verdict gives us the same themes and ideas (only in this case the victim is not able to speak for herself and is not the lead) but never actually defines itself as such. Through the personal redemption of the drunken Frank Galvin, we the audience get it. We understand without having to be forcefully told as with Whose Life is it Anyway. That's a big difference.

I don't mind social commentary. I believe it can be inferred from just about any movie out there to some degree, but the best of them make telling a great story their first goal and if they do that well then the commentary will make itself evident to the audience regardless.

House of Arbogast said...

I prefer my social commentary to be grafted onto movies that don't actually attempt it rather than discerned in movies that do. Makes me look smarter than I am!

Neil Sarver said...

Once I've made a point, it becomes my point regardless of whether someone else has made the point prior to me or even if I'm making the same point in response to their point. I don't know why people don't understand this very simple and basic fact.

And Stanley Kramer and I have met, in fact literally, but that's another, surprising less interesting story.

I'd more like to comment on the later exchange between Kimberly and you, but I'm terribly tired. Perhaps when I'm more awake I will gather such thoughts and reply... but then perhaps I shall not.

Suffice to say, I think nothing I said disagrees with what Kimberly said unless I skimmed something important...

Last Nellhaus on the Left said...

I was eight years old when I saw this episode of The Twilight Zone. It really freaked me out.

If you haven't seen it yet, check out the Serling penned Requiem for a Heavyweight.

Fox said...

This comment section is like an allegory for roundtable discussions at the average coffee house in my town... but this topic is better, and you guys aren't irritating.

bill r. said...

Personally, I'm someone who finds social commentary to be the least interesting or important aspect of any given work of fiction. Even if the message is left submerged, I very often don't care. I like my art to be artful, not educational. For me, great art, in whatever form or whatever genre, is too mysterious, its qualities too hard to pin down, for whatever commentary one might find in it to explain its greatness, especially when, in my experience, the topics being commented upon tend to be simplified to the point of inanity.

Look at There Will Be Blood. As allegory, that movie falls apart if looked at closely. Anderson realized that as he began filming, and said that all his intentions in that regard fell away. What we're left with is a film that is deeply strange, and mysterious and -- to me, however flawed it is -- brilliant.

Or, to stick to horror, how about The Shining? Kimberly, you say that without social commentary, horror devolves into Mansquito. But what's the social commentary inherent in Kubrick's film? Not to put words in anybody's mouth, but the only answer I can anticipate would have to do with alcoholism and domestic violence, and so forth (I anticipate that answer because I've heard it before, but if you have another take, Kimberly, I'm all ears). I would argue that Kubrick doesn't say anything about those topics, other than that they're bad. That film is one of the principle masterpieces of the genre, but can anyone pind down what it's "saying"?

The Ghost and Mrs. Marilyn said...

I love this banner and it highlights one of my very favorite Twilight Zone episodes, one that shows the horror of small ironies. I personally am glad the Ironic Generation is gasping its last - it's been a frightening couple of decades for me.

I miss y'all. I'm enjoying the festival, but noboy comes by anymore to tell me "I haven't seen that but you make it sound so interesting" or even "Sarah Silverman is a pig". Boo hoo.

Zuni Fetish Doll Lapper said...

Neil, all your points ride the coat tails of my points. Don't ever forget that.

When did you meet Stanley Kramer? Did he like zombie movies?

And everything here is important, so if you skimmed anything at all, you skimmed something important.

Zuni Fetish Doll Lapper said...

Peter, I love that episode too. When I first saw it as a kid I thought the hitchhiker was Noel Coward (not that any other kids my age knew who Noel Coward was so I was kind of a freak for even thinking that).

And I've seen Requiem as well. Another of Serling's films that I like a lot but doesn't get a lot of recognition is Seven Days in May. I watched the HBO remake many years ago and was thoroughly disappointed. It's not a great work to begin with but I still like the 64 version very much.

Zuni Fetish Doll Lapper said...

Bill, Kimberly, until anyone comments any further on the subject I think all three of us (and Arbo with his two line reply) have stated our cases well enough. Like I said, my main problem is the blunt as opposed to subtle where the audience can infer what they want without being told.

Zuni Fetish Doll Lapper said...

Marilyn, now I feel bad. As some of you may have noticed I've been posting late (around one in the afternoon instead of eight in the morning and then commenting sporadically after that). I'm afraid my job chose October Kill Fest month to pile boatloads of work on me and on top of that I'm trying to get new posts up every day and then devote time to discussing it in the comments. So I apologize if I have been lax around the blogosphere this month. It will improve. And I finally finished my month end movie so I'll have more time at night to surf around as well.

Sarah Silverman is a pig.

Diary of the Dead is atrocious.

Zuni Fetish Doll Lapper said...

Krauthammer, I like Walking Distance too. Hell, I gotta be honest, I pretty much like all, well almost all, of The Twilight Zone episodes, even the weaker ones, just because of the look, that music and Serling's intros and codas. Talk about a comfort show for me, that's one right there.

But Walking Distance is a great episode, not a weak one, and I love how the limp appears at the end after he has altered the past.

bill r. said...

Zuni Fetish Doll, why do you wish to stifle healthy debate on your blog? When did this turn into "Fascist Styles"??

Zuni Fetish Doll Lapper said...

Debate away, I'm just saying the three of us made our points well. And I wasn't going to announce the name change to Fascist Styles until November. Thanks. Thanks a lot.

Marilyn said...

I enjoy social commentary in horror films like Land of the Dead, which makes a few points with subtlety and without distracting from the essential horror focus. 1984 is a horror movie that is nothing but message, but it is done skillfully, with attention to narrative. I think great literature often is great because I chooses large themes of social import, e.g., The Tin Drum, and infuses it with the particularity of one or more person's points of view and experiences. That's the way we can vicariously experience these events ourselves and feel them cut us to the quick.

I hate polemical fiction and nonfiction, e.g., Michael Moore or Thelma and Louise. That's because they don't surround their message with a compelling, artful film. It's the difference between quality and crap. It always is.

Fox said...

I agree with what Bill said about There Will Be Blood in missing on allegory, but I think that movie is a giant turd in total. In it's grandiosity it attempts to be something special, a classic for it's time. It wants to be this before it's even been made. That's why the ending is so terrible. Anderson didn't know what to do so he tacked on absurdity. Absurdity that he knew critics would call "brilliant" just b/c well... b/c he's P.T. Anderson and he gets a pass, yo! Plus, I just find the movie to be laborious and cranky and cynical. I ... DRINK ... YOUR ... MOVIE, P.T.! And I piss it out!

Zuni Fetish Doll Lapper said...

Fox, I seriously doubt Bill is calling it "brilliant" because "he's P.T. Anderson and he gets a pass." I'm pretty sure Bill is saying that because he found many admirable qualities to the film. I did too by the way. That kind of oversimplified generalization doesn't apply.

Fox said...

My favorite allegory as film ever was the straight-to-adult-video-film Seven Gays In May. It's directed by John Frankfooter and stars Spurt Lancaster & Kirk Douglass. The screenplay is still by Rod Serling, however.

Fox said...

I wasn't calling out Bill on those things. When I quoted "brilliant" I see now that it seems like I was refrencing him, but I wasn't.

bill r. said...

There Will Be Blood is certainly no Diary of the Dead.

Zuni Fetish Doll Lapper said...

Diary of the Dead is atrocious.

Fox said...

If There Will Be Blood is no Diary of the Dead then what does that make The Dark Knight?

(i don't really know what that even means...)

bill r. said...

I'm not following your math.

Flesheating Arbogast said...

I've always preferred subtext that illuminates personal, human truths rather than political ideas. I'd rather have personality revealed through extreme situations - that's what scares me in Night of the Living Dead and what was so sadly missing from Land of the Dead. George Romero is one of those classic Liberals who develops a bunker mentality - as he grew older, his style became more blunt and bullying and his films less interesting. I still like the guy, though.

But I thought Land of the Dead was atrocious.

And Sarah Silberman is a pig.

Zuni Fetish Doll Lapper said...

Diary of the Dead is atrocious.

I agree, personal human truth revealed is more satisfying. For all the crap I give Babs in NOTLD, I like how at the end she finally pushes her trauma into the backseat and fights with Ben to keep the zombies out. It doesn't work of course and it's heartbreaking that she's taken out, by her brother even. But she's a more admirable person in the end than Cooper, who seems stronger and more sensible at first glance.

Sarah Silverman is a pig.

Fox said...

Land of the Dead is definitely atrocious, Sarah Silverman is precocious, and Lapper is braggadocious.

The Ghost and Mrs. Marilyn said...

Don't you think we could come up with a pretty good horror scenario for Sarah Silverman Is a Pig?

Maybe restage the Twilight Zone episode and have her be the lead doctor.

Maybe having her whole family look at her and reject her, Hassidic Jews stone her for being trafe, etc. Of course, that probably already happens...

Classic liberal? I think that's a slur, but I'm not sure. Do you have to be a progressive not to harden in your kneejerk beliefs? Or a conservative? That's just not fair.

Countess Contrary said...

Bill - I think I pretty much made my point as Lapper said. But lets be honest here, there are only a handful of horror and sci-fi films that wear there politics, social messages, etc. on their sleeve.

Generally speaking, good horror writers (like the ones I mentioned above) cloak their political messages, social commentary, etc. in a great story so if you don't want to notice their underlying message you don't have to, but that doesn't mean it isn't there.

Serling was a bit more up front about making his points then say Poe or Shelley, but he lived in a new age of modern media during very trying times. He obviously felt - like many did at the time - that he had to push back hard against what he saw happening all around him.

I haven't seen There Will Be Blood but as for The Shining, having read the book and seen the movie (both versions to be exact) I'd say that it's a story about child abuse and I believe King has pointed out that he wanted to explore what alcoholism can do to a family as well as tell a really creepy story. It may seem trivial now to a lot of modern readers (or viewers of the film) but back in 1977 when King published The Shining, child abuse and alcoholism were still "taboo" subjects that weren't discussed by polite society. Even in 1980 when Kubrick made his film these topics were not openly discussed.

If you stripped King's story of those elements it would - I'd argue - loose a lot, if not all of its power.

Of course that doesn't take away from the fact that it's also a damn creepy story about a haunted hotel. But I think King's underlying ideas add a richness and depth to the story, which I think Kubrick clearly picked up on when he was making his film.

Do you have to agree with me? Of course not but I think if you re-wrote the script and turned the Torrance family into a happy healthy family unit you would strip The Shining of the underlying themes that make it compelling and ultimately disturbing viewing.

Now I've officially said just about everything that I can on the topic. I politely agree to disagree with everyone - expect maybe Neil and Marilyn?

On a side note - I have to get back to doing my "Classic Liberal" job of sending out political mailers in an effort to stop Prop 8 from getting passed in California but I really need another cup of coffee. Could you pour me one, Fox?

p.s. I didn't like Diary of the Dead or Land of the Dead either.

Zuni Fetish Doll Lapper said...

I've noticed there seems to be more political discussions around the blogs (and I'm not talking about the upcoming election stuff), just in general. Maybe it is the upcoming election filtering its way in. I'd like to go off on politics myself at times but I've made too many friends to mess around with that. Last year I got political on my other blog and two of my favorite commenters started going at it, resulting in multiple deleted comments. So I'll reserve that for my other, other blog. The one under another pseudonym I never tell you guys about. Feel free to start calling me Sybil.

I have also noticed this blog has produced not one but two catch-phrases: "Sarah Silverman is a pig" courtesy of Marilyn and "Diary of the Dead is atrocious" courtesy of Bill. Starting in November, I'm going to revamp things a bit around here and those two catchphrases are going to become the official motto of Cinema Styles. Thanks guys.

Zuni Fetish Doll Lapper said...

Well I have to go now to the bus stop so I can't give a long response to Kimberly except to agree that there is little else to be said. Although I didn't like seeing that we agree to disagree because I was saying that I just didn't like the message ungracefully shoved down my throat, not that I didn't like social commentary at all. So I thought we agreed there. Maybe I'm just too agreeable. Anyway, thank you Kimberly and Bill for a great discussion on the topic with well thought responses.

Fox said...

Isn't classic liberalism where neo-conservatism came from? Is that why it's a slur to Marilyn? So many labels.

Maybe it's just me, but "progressive" is one of those terms that gives me the lemon-face. It's like when a sportscaster says "points" instead or "runs" in baseball.

Your coffee is coming, Countess. But I serve it black, like those hardcore Paleo-cons like it.

Fox said...

So I'll reserve that for my other, other blog.

Do tell!

Marilyn said...

Fox - Ever since the neocons made "liberal" a dirty word, liberals have gone deeply into hiding. There always were progressives--hence, "The Progressive" magazine, which is more left than many liberals want to go. I don't mind using the label "progressive" since "liberal" became so reviled, because it expresses many of my beliefs for those who need shortcuts and yet doesn't really define me.

As for politics on the blogs, I think things have been pretty good up to now among film bloggers, but today I was disturbed to see Daniel at Getafilm put up a poll to find out who is voting for Obama or McCain and why. To me, that crosses the line of where I'd go as a film blogger. I wonder how many people will participate.

Fox said...

Daniel at Getafilm put up a poll to find out who is voting for Obama or McCain and why. To me, that crosses the line of where I'd go as a film blogger. I wonder how many people will participate.

Is there an option for WRITE-IN: option for Marilyn "Ferdy" Ferdinand? :)

I wonder how that will go over at Getafilm. I don't mind discussing politics on my blog, especially since I read a political bent into so many films these days, but I like to think I don't get too emotional about it. I think it's silly when people get so worked up.

bill r. said...

If we're all letting this go, then I'll let it go. I just want to point out that I never said that The Shining should be stripped of anything. I just don't think there's a hell of a lot of "commenting" going on. The alcoholism and abuse are part of the characters, and yes, it's a theme, but, again, neither Kubrick or King are saying anything of substance about the issues beyond that those things are bad. And that's not a knock on King or Kubrick.

The End
by
Bill R.
Age 32
Mrs. Rice's First Grade Class
10/22/08

Fox said...

Bill's 32! (don't read anything into that, it's simply a straight-up "cool, now I know Bill's age" thing.)

Flesheating Arbogast said...

Classic liberal? I think that's a slur, but I'm not sure. Do you have to be a progressive not to harden in your kneejerk beliefs? Or a conservative? That's just not fair.

I worded it awkwardly. I should have said "textbook liberals who develop a bunker mentality," because I think there are such cases and I think they go against the expectation that Liberals are open-minded. Although I'm a Libertarian, I'm more Liber- than -tarian... yet I just can't jump on the bitchwagon, like Romero, who's been diagnosing the same disease for 40 years with no idea about treatment or cure. I think he's grown too comfortable in the role of counterculture working class hero and everything post-Dawn of the Dead has felt like pandering to me.

Flesheating Arbogast said...

I never said Sarah Silverman is a pig and I never will.

Zuni Fetish Doll Lapper said...

I never said Sarah Silverman is a pig and I never will.

Oh really. Well looking at your comment there, after "I never said" and before "and I never will" I see "Sarah Silverman is a pig."

BUSTED!

Fox said...

Speaking of Sarah Silverman, check THIS OUT.

bill r. said...

Susan Seidelman is a pig.

bill r. said...

That story is kind of hilarious, Fox.

At one point, during this weeks-long, passionate debate about Silverman and the degree to which she resembles a pig, I was one of her defenders, up to a point. I had liked her stand-up at one point, and I liked her TV show. But if you see her do a little bit of stand-up, you're just about covered as far as her act goes for the rest of your life. And I noticed there were times when she was just flat-out mean. And now, her TV show -- which just started its new season -- is getting shaky. She's the least funny person on it now.

And now this London fiasco...damn it, it's true! Shannon Sossamyn is a pig!

Zuni Fetish Doll Lapper said...

That's like the old joke Woody Allen tells in Annie Hall come to life. You know, the one about the food being awful; and such small portions! The audience and critics are complaining throughout the article about the "overhyped" routine - and then complain about how short it was.

That story is funny on both sides. It makes me wonder if it's real or a parody story.

Shel Silverstein is a pig.

Sylvester Stallone is a pig.

Sissy Spacek is a pig.

Susan Sarandon is a pig.

Sally Struthers is a pig.

That's it for now.

Flesheating Arbogast said...

I don't think any of us would walk away unscathed from an enforced Q&A.

Now go home.

Zuni Fetish Doll Lapper said...

I am home, trying to decide what the new wallpaper should be here come November 1st. What to do, what to do... oh bother.

Zuni Fetish Doll Lapper said...

Aaaaaaaand.... 70.

Got tired of seeing 69.

Neil Sarver said...

When did you meet Stanley Kramer? Did he like zombie movies?

I thought I covered the fact that this wasn't interesting, didn't I?

His wife had a drama school or extended seminar or some such thing and they came to my school and sold it up with some kind of exercises or some crap. I was... uh... 10? I really wanted to go.

At that time I wanted to act.

Since then I've learned that my ability to guage my own expression is nil, which is why I fail at acting so badly. This makes no sense to anyone else, but suffice it to say my face and body are always expressing any given emotion substantially more than I'm feeling it, so when I'm faking one level, I'm showing that much greater level, too... It totally sucks all around...

And makes it just as well that parents couldn't afford that expensive seminar... although I guess they spent a lot on other expensive acting crap, so who knows?

Did I have a point?

Zuni Fetish Doll Lapper said...

Yes, you did have a point. It was buried in there but what I got was: Yes, he liked zombie movies. Thank you.

Flesheating Arbogast said...

Got tired of seeing 69.

It's all about the angle.

Marilyn said...

Finally, my message of the porcineness of Sarah Silverman has reached critical mass. I love England!

"textbook liberals who develop a bunker mentality,"

Just keep digging; the wording hasn't changed the meaning. I could point to the latest celeb news at IMDb that says Republicans in Hollywood feel picked on. Indeed, I'd say that conservatives have had the biggest persecution complex over the past 50 years.

bill r. said...

Have we?

Jonathan Murder Lappendre said...

Hey everybody, I have a new post up that doesn't mention Republicans or Democrats! Cool! We should all check it out because it's Republican/Democrat free! Isn't that great?!

Anyway, please, no political fights.

Like I said I get very political elsewhere but not here. And in the spirit of utter diplomacy let me just say that I can find Christians who say they are being marginalized and Atheists who say the same thing. That's religion for you. Same goes with politics (that's why they always put them together). I can find as many Democrats saying Repubs have the persecution complex as Repubs who say it's the Dems.

Anyway, new Political Party free post up top now. Check it out!

bill r. said...

Oh, so we should check it out, should we?? Why you I oughtta...!