That damn snake cult has to be dealt with. Time for an analysis of the long-requested Conan trilogy (?) including Flava Flav’s side piece, Briggite Nielsen in Red Sonja. One great film written by Oliver Stone, and two sub par stink balls that are a lot of fun. The esoteric is there, as well […]
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Kiss Me Deadly  (1955; 106 minutes; Black and White)
Director: Robert Aldrich
Writers: Mickey Spillane (novel), A. I. Bezzerides (screenplay)
Stars: Ralph Meeker, Albert Dekker, Paul Stewart, Gaby Rodgers, Jack Elam, Wesley Addy, Strother Martin, Percy Helton, and introducing Cloris Leachman.
“A crack formed and enlarged, and the whole door gave way — but from the other side; whence poured a howling tumult of ice-cold wind with all the stenches of the bottomless pit, and whence reached a sucking force not of earth or heaven, which, coiling sentiently about the paralysed detective, dragged him through the aperture and down unmeasured spaces filled with whispers and wails, and gusts of mocking laughter.” — H. P. Lovecraft, “The Horror at Red Hook” (Weird Tales, 1927)
“Soberin and Gabrielle are vying for the contents of the box. Gabrielle shoots Soberin, believing that she can keep the mysterious contents for herself. As she slyly opens the case, it is ultimately revealed to be stolen radionuclide material, which in the final scene apparently reaches explosive criticality when the box is fully opened. Horrifying sounds emit from the nuclear material as Gabrielle and the house burst into flames.” — Wikipedia, Kiss Me Deadly 
“The key Mike found led him to something of which he had no comprehension and which will very possibly kill him, and maybe destroy the Earth. He and Gabrielle are caught in a world of meanings that preexist them — culture, science, religion and myth. They proceed as they do in pursuit of something they don’t understand — but think they understand the value others place on it. They are fatally wrong.”
While recently reading Barton St. Armond’s classic article “H. P. Lovecraft: New England Decadent,” I came to the Lovecraft quote above and had an odd thought: I’ve seen this before! Then it hit me: the finest screen adaptation of H. P. Lovecraft occurred already in 1955, and quite unconsciously at that. I suppose that’s the best way, the way it had to be; no bothering with Lovecraft’s purple prose or mythos monsters; just the pure essence of Lovecraftian terror, mixed with a lot of sleaze to keep the marks happy and then sloshed up on the screen. It’s called Kiss Me Deadly.
Here’s a synopsis courtesy of DVD Savant :
Sleazy, cynical detective Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) makes his living with divorce cases, often unleashing his sexy secretary Velda (Maxine Cooper) as an agent provocatrix on straying adulterers. When he picks up naked-under-a-trench coat hitchhiker Christina Bailey (Cloris Leachman, in her first movie) and she’s later tortured to death, Hammer decides to ditch the bedroom work and pursue the secret behind the brutality, purely for profit. His government agent friend Pat Chambers (Wesley Addy) warns him off, but Mike slowly pulls the case apart by threatening witnesses and putting Velda and his best buddy Nick (Nick Dennis) in harm’s way. When the secret turns out to be a mysterious box stolen from a government science lab, Hammer finds out too late that he’s latched onto something far too big, and too hot, to handle.
This is a Lovecraft tale? Sound absurd? Can you prove it isn’t? Consider this from the screenwriter: “I wrote it fast because I had contempt for it. It was automatic writing. Things were in the air and I put them in it.”
Not your usual auteur’s claim of authorship. It’s the usual note of contempt of well-paid Hollywood commie hacks for two-fisted American pulp writers, here Mickey Spillane rather than Lovecraft, and with the interesting additional note of surrealist writing techniques. As happens in many a horror tale, you don’t have to believe in the Ouija board to conjure up something ugly “in the air” when you play with it.
Although opening to indifferent business, the film has become a legendary noir, ultimately getting a Criterion Collection release a couple years back. Reading all the commentary and fanboy buzz on the net you can’t get far without hearing about how Aldrich and Bezzerides not only had contempt for the material, but wanted to take down the whole Mike Hammer phenomenon, which they seemed to think spelled either the coming of Fascism or the return of the Stone Age. The message they seemed to want to deliver — best expressed by Fed pal Pat near the beginning — is surprisingly up-to-date: don’t take the law into your own hands, give up your guns, stop listening to conspiracy theories, and trust — but above all, don’t question — the Feds.
But as I’ve said here on Counter-Currents before, the writer who lets his imagination free is not likely to produce something pleasing to the PC crowd.
In the case of this film, by portraying Hammer not as Spillane intended — a somewhat more violent, lower-class but still Marlowe-style knight errant — but rather as a psychopathically violent moron, they produced an astounding sleazy and ultra-violent film that barely escaped the box office poison of a “C for condemned” rating from the Catholic Legion of Decency and was cited as a threat to America at the very same Congressional hearings investigating those damned comic books!
But Hammer is brutish and stubborn, keeping the cops and the feds in the dark even though they keep trying to impress upon him the importance of this case; he doesn’t seem to realize just how far in over his head he is. . . . Hammer’s no hero, and the film’s staggering climax represents his complete failure: his realization of the horrible forces he’s been toying with, followed by a nuclear meltdown from which he barely escapes. And then the film simply ends, with abrupt finality, leaving Hammer as a broken, irrelevant archetype, an out-of-date relic whose time has passed with the relative innocence of the pre-atomic age.
Once compared with what Aldrich & Co. produced, Spillane’s Hammer did indeed seem more like Marlowe or the Thin Man; the self-sabotage is rather like Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, where the Jewish and American sadism makes the audience sympathize with the Nazi “villains.” It’s no surprise to recall how Tarantino already ripped off (or “paid homage to”) KMD’s “glowing what’s-it in the suitcase” McGuffin for Pulp Fiction.
Still, I need to answer a number of objections you undoubtedly have. First, you might point out that Lovecraft liked to make his protagonists scholars, however oddball, or professors, scientific explorers, or even just wealthy slackers (“The Hound,” “Pickman’s Model”), not thugs like Hammer. Even the “detective” in the quote above is, rather implausibly, a dandy from Trinity College, Dublin who returns to New York to join the police force and investigate occult matters.
Well, the film picks Hammer up “out of the gutter [he] came from” as the mob boss says (even the mob loathes him; the feds want someone “to open a window” after interrogating him) and tidies him up into “more of a Playboy-inspired dream guy, a proto-James Bond who has to fend off dishy dames with a club.” Not that Mike himself is now an effete snob. As the New York Times says: “Mike himself is a sort of cultural caveman, whom Aldrich pointedly surrounds with high art: modern paintings, 19th-century poetry, radios that invariably pour forth classical music whenever Mike switches one on.”
Like a good post-war consumer, Mike has read all about the “Playboy Philosophy” and has bought all the right toys, from his mid-century modern bachelor pad — complete with wall-mounted, reel-to-reel answering machine — to his brand-new Corvette; the rest of the surrounding, the “culchah” items, are provided by his clients and informants.
After meeting the Rossetti-spouting Christina, he searches her book-lined apartment — casually stealing the book he needs, of course — and finds out that she “always seemed have [the radio] tuned to that station” — the all-Schubert station, apparently — so the next time Mike’s at home needing to do some hard thinking, sure enough he turns on a radio set to the same station, as if Mike usually listens to string quartets rather than bachelor pad exotica (Brooklyn hipsters from the ‘90s would kill for that so-ironic pad, man). During another “think, damn it” session he asks Velda to read out the poem Christina has marked, presumably to allow him to concentrate on this difficult “thinking” business, but it sure seems as if he could be functionally illiterate.
The final clue falls into his hands at a “modern art” gallery, where, archetypically, he gives away his entrance by walking, caveman that he is, right into and smashing a glass end-table. (I’d love to hear that was a goof Aldrich decided to keep in.)
So while Mike isn’t himself an egghead, he is surrounded by cultural references, which actually is what gives the Lovecraft touch.
Like one of Mad’s parodies, the movie unfolds in a deranged cubist space, amid the debris of Western civilization — shards of opera, deserted museums, molls who paraphrase Shakespeare, mad references to Greek mythology and the Old Testament. A nineteenth-century poem furnishes the movie’s major clue.
The movie is filled with cultural references, from Rossetti at the beginning to the pompous, soon to be shut up with a bullet Dr. Soberin at the end.
Dr. Soberin: As the world becomes more primitive, its treasures become more fabulous.
The latter sequence is particularly choice, as Soberin rattles off his culture markers and Lilly, doubling Mike (a point we shall return to), childishly, or barbarically, stubbornly (another key point) ignores his insinuations and insists on knowing — not literary or mythical references, but what’s in the box.
Dr. Soberin: Curiosity killed a cat and it certainly would have you if you’d followed your impulse to open it. You did very well to call me when you did.
Lily: Yes, I know. But what’s in it?
Dr. Soberin: You have been misnamed, Gabrielle [Lily’s real name, also the actress’s name, misnames her?]. You should have been called Pandora. She had a curiosity about a box and opened it and let loose all the evil in the world.
Lily: Never mind about the evil. What’s in it?
Dr. Soberin: Did you ever hear of Lot’s wife?
Lily: No. [WTF never heard of Lot’s wife?]
Dr. Soberin: No. Well, she was told not to look back. But she disobeyed and she was changed into a pillar of salt.
Lily: Well, I just want to know what it is.
Dr. Soberin: The head of Medusa. That’s what’s in the box, and who looks on her will be changed not into stone but into brimstone and ashes. But of course you wouldn’t believe me; you’d have to see for yourself, wouldn’t you?
Perhaps it’s her Damian meets Lolita eroticism, but the filmmakers are again subverted, as the audience is definitely on Lily’s side as she shuts up Soberin — poimanently, ya see? — and opens the damned box. Though not before Soberin delivers his peroration:
Dr. Soberin: Listen to me, as if I were Cerberus barking with all his heads at the gates of hell. [What, she didn’t get Lot’s wife and she’ll get this?] I will tell you where to take it, but don’t . . . don’t open the box!
Even the film’s Voice of Reason is equally pompous and fragmented — decadent, if you will. When Pat finally tells Mike what’s up, he speaks slowly, as if talking to a dense child, but still can’t really put it together himself, and mumbling disconnected words he hopes will ring a bell with no further effort on his world-weary part:
Lt. Pat Murphy: Now listen, Mike. Listen carefully. I’m going to pronounce a few words. They’re harmless words. Just a bunch of letters scrambled together. But their meaning is very important. Try to understand what they mean. “Manhattan Project, Los Alamos, Trinity.”
But anyway, rather than a cultured protagonist, the Lovecraftian note here is carried by the presentation of a cultural wasteland, where culture exists only a scattering of dying embers, tossed around without much or any understanding by the Last Men (perhaps, given what happens when the box is opened, literally Last Men). It’s the world Lovecraft believed himself to be condemned to live in, not his (imaginary) Regency past.
That landscape, physically, in terms of shooting locations, is Los Angeles, today [as of 1955]. Surely that can’t be Lovecraftian? Just so, precisely its absence of human culture makes LA the perfect Lovecraftian location. The nighttime scenes are all polished chrome glaring like boiling acid under blinding neon and fluorescent lights (like the box’s contents) while the daytime scenes seem to be filled with grey dust under a pitiless sun that just went nova (foreshadowing the effects of the box’s light).
More importantly, perhaps, many of the exteriors were shot in the Bunker Hill section (an appropriately New English name, don’t you think?) and thus have a more typically Lovecraftian touch of old, ruined neighborhoods. Indeed, shortly after the film was made the whole area was flattened for an “urban renewal” project, making the film, ironically, something of an archaeological record of a now long-vanished, once “modern” area.
And even more importantly, Aldrich, perhaps to show that Mike is “crooked” or “screwed up,” decided to use a number of odd camera angles, not only, say, on the stairs of Lily’s flophouse but even the presumably modern and normal hospital Mike awakens in early in the film.
LA General or Arkham Asylum?
As St. Armand notes,
So many of these skewed structures which we find in Lovecraft . . . with their gambrel roofs and rotten timbers and rooms tilted at crazy or obtuse angles, are, of course, psychic allegories of decadent and tumbled-down minds, twisted to exquisite and picturesque degrees of insanity. . . . Here the dreamland which . . . populates modern Boston with ghouls and living gargoyles is no longer an antiquarian fancy but rather immediately beneath the cellar door or around the nearest corner.
Bunker Hill or Innsmouth?
Then, there’s the violence; sure that’s un-Lovecraft? No one in Lovecraft’s world goes about gathering information like Mike does. He has two methods: if he sees you as a member of the white collar class, a coroner or health club concierge, he’ll peel off some cash to offer what he considers a fair price; should you refuse, or hold out for more, that’s when the finger-breaking starts.
Otherwise, he just jumps right in like a skinhead at a mosh pit, and you’re lucky if he finds it more amusing to snap your rare Caruso 78 in half rather than your spine.
If Batman and the Joker had a love child
Admittedly, this thuggish kind of violence is quite out of Lovecraft’s line — breaking fingers in drawers, dropping a jacked-up car on a hapless sidekick and the like — although remember, he did like Robert Howard’s Conan. More to the point, however, is that the filmmakers have taken a page from the horror genre and realized that it’s often more effective — and less likely to get you into trouble with the censors — and even perhaps more cinematically fun to imply, not show.
Thus, when Christina is tortured to death with some kind of metal-crimping device, we only see her legs squirming as we hear her shrieks. Actually, the shrieks continue after they stop spasming, which is perhaps a mistake but certainly emphasizes the illusory, make-believe nature what we’re seeing; it also suggests the kind of torturous results of the warping of the space/time continuum Lovecraft’s protagonists tend to fall into. Again, we don’t see Nick being crushed beneath the car, nor anything but his arm afterwards.
And in a famous sequence, Mike dispatches a goon by some kind of movie-land “martial arts” trick; it’s shot from below, so we don’t see what he does (Vulcan deathgrip?) and the camera then lingers on Jack Elam’s wonderfully creepy face as he emotes sheer terror/confusion over what he’s seen. Later, his boss is compelled to wonderingly ask Mike “What’d you do to him, anyway? You scared Charlie half to death,” rather like any number of doomed Lovecraftian protagonists.
As the movie nears the end, we see more and more — perhaps the need to keep the pace accelerating prevented Aldrich from using any tricky shots? — such as breaking the coroner’s fingers and b***h-slapping the health club concierge, and, of course, Lily’s iconic immolation, which we’ll devote some space to soon. This is consistent with the notion of the horror tale revealing more and more as the climax approaches. And of course, you can’t blame them for not showing the local, or possibly global, effects of the suitcase; ten years later even Dr. Strangelove only used stock footage of mushroom clouds.
But — but — but– What about the sex? Surely that’s not in Lovecraft. Well, indeed, women are pretty hard to find in Lovecraft, and the only sexual congress seems to be with extra-dimensional monsters (e.g., “The Dunwich Horror”). In the same way, the only sex we find in KMD is implied by the blackmail set-ups Mike sends Velda on. For a supposed swinging bachelor, Mike gets laid about as much as SNL’s Czechoslovakian Brothers. Like the violence, it’s all in the implications.
The Feds tell us he’s a “bedroom d**k” (he settles divorce cases through blackmail) and that while Velda handles the men, he handles the women, but we never see or hear of any, and that’s just business anyway. Christina starts off on his bad side by making him wreck his sports car, and she’s soon dead anyway; the mob boss’s sister, a drunk nympho, throws herself on him, but he only uses her to get into the house, then dumps her (“Here’s to friendship” is as far as she gets), while he recognizes Lily is a crazy nymphet not to be touched.
Altogether, Mike, like Lovecraft, is a he-man woman-hater that probably agrees with one of the goons: “Women are worse than flies.”
Speaking of Lily: played with Satanic, screen-melting intensity by Gaby Rogers, she’s a sort of multi-doppelganger. The doomed Christina, nekkid and running barefoot, is the classic movie woman in distress, yet is nevertheless rather masculine, with her short hair and trench coat, the first of many sexually antipathetic roles that Cloris “Frau Blucher” Leachman would play. Lily easily takes over her role (Lily to Christina’s Rossetti obsession) — while pretending to be Christina’s roommate — as Mike’s guide to the underworld (in both senses); when they meet she’s also (presumably) nekkid, under a robe this time, and barefoot; when next they meet she’s be running and screaming like Christina as well. Eventually, Velda will supply her with the nifty black/white Chanel suit that neatly emphasizes her duplicitous nature.
Her trench coat makes her a double for the standard private d**k. Her fatal colloquy with Soberin shows her fully in the private d**k mode, demanding to know and see.
This girl/boy/woman is not an easy person to live with, as Dr. Soberin and Mike discover. She is, as played by ex-European Gaby Rogers, née Rosenberg (another atomic caper resulting in death by fire), the ultimate Jamesian American Girl:
Daisy Miller’s freedom in the face of European social conventions is of a kind that would make her insufferable in any civilized society. . . . She is utterly uneducated, and no intelligent man could stand her for long since there could be no possible exchange of speech with her; she has nothing to recommend her but looks, money, confidence and clothes.
Gaby has looks and confidence, and clothes courtesy of Velda; when Soberin threatens to cut her out on the money, she responds by pulling out something Leavis and James — and Soberin — didn’t count on: the private d**k’s best friend, a roscoe, with predicable — and unpredictable — results.
The mythical elements here are pretty deep or widespread. When, near the beginning of the film, the thug with the pliers asks the jerkass we will come to know near the end as Dr. Soberin whether the now-dead Christina should be tortured some more, Soberin makes some typically pompous and leadenly “amusing” remarks about “that would be resurrection from the dead.” When Mike, who should have died in the car with Christina, is somehow rescued and wakes up in the hospital, he is said to be “back from the dead.” Lily Carver comes back from the dead in the person of Gaby, Mike not knowing till the end that the Feds fished the real Lily out of the river days ago.
Lily/Gaby, Christina’s roommate, thus resurrects both Lily by pretense and Christina by becoming Mike’s new naked in a trench coat partner. Confronting his double, Lily/Gaby at the end is like the confrontation of Lovecraft’s “Outsider” with his mirror image in the eponymous story — Hoberman calls him “a walking corpse”; while Pat the Fed already dismissed him in the third person with “Let him go to hell” — and Mike falls dead (with some help from Gaby’s roscoe, of course).
This is Gaby’s final resurrection, the true resurrection — not the ridiculous reanimated corpse (as Alan Watts called it) of the exoteric Christian (Mike, the “walking corpse” brought “back from the dead”) but St. Paul’s Gnostic idea of the Body of Light, with all its parallels in every esoteric tradition.
The pedantic Soberin — too sober to grasp such super-subtle ideas, unlike the “feline” intuition of Gaby — has been doubly routed. Gaby has answered his question from the beginning of the film — “How do you bring back the dead?” — and proven that she is indeed not “misnamed,” for she has revealed herself not as subhuman — “feline” — but superhuman, a being of light, an angel — Gabriel.
“Hip” film critics love to talk about how Gaby “subverts” the detective genre, and especially the Mike Hammer character—this time, girl shoots boy. Despite the filmmakers, I think what’s actually happening here is that Gaby is redeeming the Mike character. While even the Feds grudgingly admit Mike “can sniff out information like nobody I ever saw” his search for what Velda mocks as “the Great Whatzit” is really motivated by greed, when he suspects the box must be valuable to someone. Gaby’s insistence on knowing what’s in the box, by contrast, is childish but sincere — she only kills Soberin when he reneges on sharing the proceeds, after the long back and forth about Medusa and Co.
But how can Mike be redeemed? The filmmakers, as I’ve noted, want to push the Good Liberal notion of “shut up and trust the government” and so portray Mike as “stubborn” and Gaby as subhuman (Soberin condescends with “You have the feline perceptions that all women have”) rather than inquisitive.
Wesley Addy as Pat the Fed delivers the filmmakers’ contemptuous epitaph – “You’re sooo smaaaart”—with his trademark WASP condescension. He’s kind of a wimpy Al Gore, dealing with a “climate denier” or Ross Perot or George W.; Hoberman say it’s “as though addressing a dumb animal” (as Soberin does Gaby).
But is it fair? Noted Lovecraftian Darrell Schweitzer has come to the defense of the “imbecility of [the typical Lovecraft] protagonist”:
The critic has probably read [“Dreams in the Witch House”] either in a fantasy magazine or a collection of Lovecraft stories. . . . Walter Gilman, on the other hand, is supposed to be living in the “real” world where things like [anthropomorphic rat familiars] are beyond the range of normal experience. Gilman knows that they are impossible. The human mind is a stubborn thing [like Mike!], and when it is convinced of something, it isn’t always dissuaded by mere proof. . . . He does what any normal, sane person would do. . . . Unless all heroes are occult detectives we cannot expect them to readily accept the fact that the laws of existence have been violated.
Mike isn’t “stupid” so much as he’s in over his head. As I’ve pointed out before, Lovecraft’s protagonists aren’t stupid or gullible, but almost always all-too educated, like Dr. Soberin, thus inclined to know, as Schweitzer says, what is and isn’t the case, which is exactly what leads them to their doom.
Thus Lovecraft’s protagonists are unlike the “occult detectives” once popular in the Victorian age — such as Algernon Blackwood’s John Silence or William Hope Hodgson’s Carnaki, or most famously, Stoker’s Van Helsing. They are not calm, wise experts easily unmasking fake mediums or calling upon some handy bit of mystical folklore to save the day.
However learned conventionally or mystically, they quickly find themselves in too far, asking one question too many. As Lovecraft famously said:
The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age. — “The Call of Cthulhu”
Kiss Me Deadly has been described as the ultimate noir film, summarizing the conventions of the genre and then breaking new ground. Hoberman sees this as happening all through the ’50s, as if some kind of atomic mutation had taken place:
Genres collide in the great Hollywood movies of the mid-fifties cold-war thaw. . . . The western goes south in The Searchers; the cartoon merges with the musical in The Girl Can’t Help It. Science fiction becomes pop sociology in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. And noir veers into apocalyptic sci-fi in Robert Aldrich’s 1955 masterpiece Kiss Me Deadly, which, briefly described, tracks one of the sleaziest, stupidest, most brutal detectives in American movies through a nocturnal, inexplicably violent labyrinth to a white-hot vision of cosmic annihilation. — “The Thriller of Tomorrow”
Note the Lovecraftian language uses. “Veering into apocalyptic sci-fi” would be a perfect description of Lovecraft’s own evolution in the thirties, from horror in the Weird Tales style to long, “scientifictional” novellas. Perhaps Lovecraft’s achievement could be described as taking the three original genres bequeathed to him by his master, Poe –- detective, science fiction, and post-Gothic horror — and creating a kind of mash-up more suitable for modern circumstances. To do so, he had to downplay the detective’s infallible and cool logic (as Poe’s Dupin or Conan Doyle’s Sherlock), so as to trigger the horrific end, while using science — or “science” — to provide a comforting illusion of normality, against which the horror stands our more “inexplicably.”
Kiss Me Deadly strikes the Lovecraftian note because, inadvertently, it arises from the same post-war cultural chaos that would retrospectively root itself in Lovecraft’s Synthesis, producing such characteristically modern noir-horror-sci-fi works as Alien, Blade Runner, and The Matrix.
It’s no surprise that the French loved it; as Hoberman notes:
In France, Kiss Me Deadly was admired mainly by the young critics at Cahiers du cinéma, where it was considered “the thriller of tomorrow” and Aldrich, dubbed Le gros Bob, was hailed as “the first director of the atomic age.”
Claude Chabrol praised the film in rather Poe-esque terms:
Kiss Me Deadly, Claude Chabrol wrote in his passionate review, “has chosen to create itself out of the worst material to be found, the most deplorable, the most nauseous product of a genre in a state of putrefaction: a Mickey Spillane story.” Aldrich and Bezzerides “have taken this threadbare and lackluster fabric and splendidly rewoven it into rich patterns of the most enigmatic arabesques.”
At last, let’s deal with the famous ending, or rather, the famous endings. This will require a certain amount of exposition. First, the set-up:
The movie ends at a stylish beach house in Malibu. Carver fells Mike with one shot from a .38, after [inviting him to] “Kiss me Mike. Kiss me. The liar’s kiss that says ‘I Love You,’ but means something else. You’re good at giving such kisses.” She then opens the box and turns into a pillar of fire . . .
Now the mystery starts.
In the version most often seen from roughly 1960 to 1997, Hammer regains consciousness while Carver burns. He rescues his secretary Velda (Maxine Cooper) from a locked room, and they limp arm-in-arm toward the exit. At that point we cut to a disconnected string of exterior shots. Light and smoke belch from the beach house. Several awkward jump cuts add superimposed explosions, as a miniature of the house breaks apart. A nondescript “The End” title appears, and the film fades abruptly — not to black, but to gray leader. The music score and roaring sound effects overlap the ragged cut and then end with a poorly-timed fade.
But according to Francois Truffaut’s original 1955 review of Kiss Me Deadly in Cahiers du Cinema, “As the hero and his mistress [he means Velda] take refuge in the sea, THE END appears on the screen.” The original trailer shows similar shots.
Someone, identity long since lost, thought this worked better, and cut the negative thusly soon after release. Unknown to MGM, Aldrich, or anyone else, a pristine original negative was sitting around in the Aldrich archives.
At the point where standard prints cut to the ragged short ending, this copy continued into a completely new sequence. The couple descended some stairs and then took off across the beach. The shots of the burning house were now separated by four new angles with Velda and Mike throwing long shadows down the beach. Rear-projected views showed the pair in front of the exploding beach house. They watched from the surf until an authentic end title (“The End, A Parklane Picture”) appeared. The mystery box growled and howled throughout at full volume, like the monster of a 50s Science Fiction film. [Or the boxt in Raiders of the Lost Ark] The beautiful ending had more production value than anything else in the movie. Although it was disturbing, it was conventionally edited, and resembled nothing that would inspire the French New Wave.
Quite unusually, it is the original ending that provides something of a “happy ending,” making it clear that Mike and Velda escape the house. The difference vanishes when you consider that Mike has been shot at close range, already burned by radiation before arriving, and is about 50 feet from a nuclear explosion. For that matter, we don’t know if the Whatzit is some kind of Strangelovian doomsday device that will destroy the Earth or trigger WWIII, so “living happily ever after” seems unlike in any event.
Since we are aware of the doubling of Mike and Gaby, as well as the mythical themes running throughout, we can see something else going on in the original, long ending: paradoxically, it is Gaby whose fate is more secure.
We’ve already called attention to Gaby’s checkerboard clothing, and her purer pursuit of knowledge. We can say that this Pure Fool has reached the end of the quest. As we’ve noted many times, hideous apocalyptic endings are merely a genre convention. What is important here is that Gaby has achieved a state of pure light, becoming a vertical pillar of fire, combining both the Hermetic symbol of light and verticality and the Judaic YHVH. Again, we recall the homage to the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, which presents the negative, inverted Judaic version, in which the search for knowledge and transcendence fails and is punished as sin.
We cut to Mike, who, having been shot by Gaby, has fallen, in an oddly stiff way, like a tree falling, and now lies sprawled at length on the floor. This is the fall into horizontality, the material world of space and time. He and Velda then descend the stairs and flee horizontally across the beach.
As Lovecraft suggested in the quote above, Mike and Velda are seen to flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age. They return to the oceans, like the protagonist of “The Shadow over Innsmouth.” These are, of course, the Waters of material existence that the Realized Man (or Woman) must cross or walk over.
While behind them, the house, another symbol of the warp and woof of material manifestation, no longer needed, disintegrates, as Gaby’s soul, presumably, escapes vertically into the higher dimensions. Of course, this also connects us back to Lovecraft, and most importantly, his master, Poe, and his iconic “Fall of the House of Usher.”
Clearly, anyone who wants to create a work of pure, PC agitprop needs to be a little more careful than to simply put yourself on autopilot while dealing with that infra dig pulp stuff; it may be smarter than you think—or than you are.
Kiss Me Deadly, original [restored] ending
2. Film Noir by William Luhr, (Wiley, 2012) p 141.
3. Originally published in 1979, Waterfire Providence republished it in 2013 in a fine edition (paperback and kindle) including plates of the works discussed, from Goya to Clark Ashton Smith.
4. “You’ve seen these films! Haven’t you, my man?” — Will Graham, Manhunter.
5. “Can you prove you didn’t? You certainly can’t prove I did.” Ray Miland, Dial ‘M’ for Murder, 1954.
6. Quoted in Luhr, p. 138.
7. “Although a leftist at the time of the Hollywood blacklist, Bezzerides denied any conscious intention for this meaning in his script.” Wikipedia, op. cit .
8. Although earlier pulp detective writers had been up-marketed and used to make some well-regarded films, the Hollywood Elite drew the line at Spillane, who was far too popular, too “fascist” (unlike a good party member like Dashiell Hammett) and had even started off in the lowest depth, comic books (Luhr, p. 129). Oddly enough, KMD itself was singled out by the Kefauver Commission as 1955’s number one menace to American Youth. Chandler and Hammett preceded Lovecraft in the canonical Library of America, followed by P. K. D**k; can you imagine Spillane there?
9. Later, there would be a similar panic among the “respectable” culturati over James Bond; Kingsley Amis easily shows the absurdity of Bond as a Hammer-style “sadist” in his The James Bond Dossier (London: Jonathan Cape, 1965).
10. See especially the conclusion of “A Light Unto the Nations: Reflections on Olaf Stapledon’s The Flames” here . The problem is especially tricky with fascism; one doesn’t “know” anyone of such a type — Pauline Kael famously said she “didn’t know anyone who voted for [Nixon]” — so one all too easily draws on oneself and produces an accidental and revealing portrait of liberal totalitarianism; see my “The Fraud of Miss Jean Brodie” here . For contrast, consider Henry James’ The Bostonians; as F. R. Leavis says, “James understands the finer civilization of New England, and is the more effective as an ironic critic of it because he is not merely an ironic critic; he understands it because he both knows it from inside and sees it from outside with the eye of a professional student of civilization who has had much experience of non-Puritan cultures.” The Great Tradition, (George Stuart, 1950), p. 134. He later refers to this as “insight . . . utterly unaccompanied by animus” (p. 135).
11. J. Hoberman, The Magic Hour: Film at Fin de Siècle (Philadelphia: Temple University press, 2003) p. 23. Spillane was so infuriated by the portrayal that he made sure the next time Hammer was filmed to not only write and finance the movie but play Hammer his own damn self. The result, The Girl Hunters (filmed in England other than some shots of Spillane swanning around Midtown Manhattan in a white trench coat — “Just like a cop to wear a white trench coat” Burroughs had noted in the opening chapter of Naked Lunch — and featuring the pre-Bond Shirley Eaton) is . . . interesting.
12. Only the Cinema: “Films I Love, #22: Kiss Me Deadly,” here .
13. See Trevor Lynch’s review here .
14. As did Steven Spielberg (“Marion, don’t look in the box!”) and Alex Cox (Repo Man); Brian Wall adds Bunuel (Belle du Jour) and David Lynch (Mulholland Drive); see Brial Wall, Theodor Adorno and Film Theory: The Fingerprint of Spirit (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), p. 67 (and here ). Hoberman (The Magic Hour) adds Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player.
15. Hence St. Armand’s interest, as one of several stores where Lovecraft reveals and works out his Decadent and Symbolist influences.
16. “Spillane also seems to have invented the sadistic quip during killings — but Bezzerides gives this role to the deadly female instead.” http://www.dvdtalk.com/dvdsavant/s286kiss.html 
17. “But there’s also “a new kind of art in the world,” as one character explains to Mike, and its embodiment turns out to be the object of his search, a leather-bound steel box.”
18. “KMD may have one of the best ’50s images of consumer iconography. On Hammer’s wall is a reel-to-reel answering machine. These devices actually existed in that era, and the make is Code-A-Phone.” — http://www.freepresshouston.com/film/thoughts-on-kiss-me-deadly/ . Check it out here.
19. “The detective, played by Ralph Meeker (the actor who replaced Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire), drives a Jaguar, has a futuristic telephone answering machine built into his bachelor pad’s wall, and, a bag of golf clubs in the corner, lives a version of what was not yet called the Playboy philosophy. The faux Calder mobile and checkerboard floor pattern add to the crazy, clashing expressionism.” “Kiss Me Deadly: The Thriller of Tomorrow” by J. Hoberman, here .
20. Hoberman, op. cit.
21. Luhr: “The use of the Rossetti sonnet to uncover a major clue underscores the film’s repeated references to past culture” (p. 140).
22. Talk about subverting the filmmakers’ intent, some have even discovered a “liberal subtext” that makes Mike a sort of Alan Alda: “As much as anything else, it’s the positive images of women, immigrants, African-Americans, and poor people, along with Hammer’s getting on with them so well, especially the folks at the jazz club, boxing gym, and auto repair shop, that gives the film much of its leftist edge.” — Café Noir, here . This “common touch” angle is especially worked in the aforementioned Girl Hunters, where a good third of the film is Hammer/Spillane collecting favors and plaudits from all the little people who are so grateful to owe him — even his landlord won’t take his back rent: “Take, take; remember when you gave?” That Hammer is played by Spillane himself and many of the little people are real friends of his gives it a rather odd tone. I leave it to the reader to reflect on what the praise of “getting on with” the poor tells us about the liberal’s rather feudal idea of his role in society.
23. “The force of Soberin’s mythical invocations is the reverse of what he desires; the free-floating prestige of his examples only seems to add to the glamour of the box” (Forgetting Lot’s Wife, p. 74).
24. The film can’t strictly have a “hero” since the message is “obey the (Liberal) government.” Heroism and individualism are only good when bad fascists are in charge; then it’s “question (non-Liberal) authority.”
25. Like Lovecraft’s occult gobble-de-gook.
26. Of course, we also recall Lovecraft’s incantations and cosmic mumbo-jumbo; even, perhaps, the Trinity that Red Hook’s detective hales from?
27. This, of course, is the note that interests St. Armond, Lovecraft’s self-image as a Decadent, an 18th-century gentleman exiled in a philistine future.
28. The first look like the digitally over-restored print of Ed Wood’s Night of the Ghouls, the second like a lost work of Coleman Francis. Actually, the later kinds of scenes are perhaps more Clark Ashton Smith than Lovecraft, but just go with me on this.
29. “The Bunker Hill area underwent a controversial total redevelopment which destroyed and displaced a community of almost 22,000 working-class families renting rooms in architecturally significant but run-down buildings, to a modern mixed-use district of high-rise commercial buildings and modern apartment and condominium complexes” (Wikipedia, Angel’s Flight ). “In 1955, Los Angeles city planners decided that Bunker Hill required a massive slum-clearance project. The top of Bunker Hill was cleared of its houses and then flattened as the first stage of the Bunker Hill Redevelopment Project to populate Bunker Hill with modern plazas and buildings. When the height limit of buildings for Los Angeles was finally raised (previously buildings were limited to 150 feet), developers built some of the tallest skyscrapers in the region to take advantage of the area’s existing dense zoning. In approving such projects, the city sought to project a modern, sophisticated image (Wikipedia, Bunker Hill Redevelopment Project ).
30. Op. cit., loc. 732.
31. Even before Miranda, movie audiences preferred not to see such methods used by “good guys.” Mike treats every suspect and informant the way Batman does the Joker in The Dark Knight, rendering the Joker’s attempt to taunt him acting like the Joker himself nugatory. Mike is already a combination of Batman and Joker, giving his big, smarmy smile a psychotic resonance. Hoberman: “The movie stops in its tracks to focus on his excited grin as he snaps a collector’s priceless 78 record.” Presumably this is how the filmmakers — and good liberals today — think vigilantes are or would be, rather than concerned citizens performing a distasteful but needful duty. Interestingly, Mike does all his violence after Pat the Fed takes his gun away; so much for “guns cause violence.” He pries a key, not a gun, from the coroner’s “cold dead fingers” after smashing them in a desk drawer.
32. I’m reminded of The Black Cat, where the vengeful Lugosi flays Karloff alive . . . off screen.
33. Luhr, p. 129. Similar claims, of course, are made by the advocates of the Ed Wood or Coleman Francis oeuvres. It’s been claimed online that Christina’s dubbed screams are the same ones used for Gaby at the end (or vice versa) which also nicely bookends the film and emphasizes the make-believe, but also amps up the Gaby/Lily/Christina doubling we’ll explore later.
34. For a complete accounting, see “Lovecraft’s Ladies” by Ben P. Indick in Discovering H. P. Lovecraft, ed. Darrell Schweitzer, 2nd ed. (Wildside Press, 1995).
35. “Rodgers, born Gabrielle Rosenberg in Germany in 1928, was the niece of the founder of phenomenology, Edmund Husserl, and grew up in Amsterdam, where she remembered playing with Anne Frank as a child; she appeared on the cover of Cosmopolitan in 1957, representing “The New Face of Broadway,” and married songwriter Jerry Leiber, author of “Jailhouse Rock,” “Hound Dog,” “Love Potion No. 9,” and numerous others.” Criterion Collection website, here .
36. Many critics have discussed the checkerboard and “x” symbols found throughout the film; I of course would liken them to the Traditional symbolism of Universal Manifestation as a weaving pattern of warp and woof. See “The Corner at the Center of the World: Traditional Metaphysics in a Late Tale of Henry James” here , reprinted in Aristokatia I and forthcoming in The Eldritch Evola . . . & Others (Counter-Currents, 2014).
37. “So plainspoken as to be a parody of the hardboiled detective she imitates in her inexorable and inexpressive search for knowledge” — Martin Harries Forgetting Lot’s Wife: On Destructive Spectatorship, p. 74.
38.Leavis, op. cit., p. 143.
39. “Old (’30s–’40s) term for a handgun: same vintage as gat, heater, cannon, etc. ‘He pulled a roscoe and ventilated the gorilla.’” Urban Dictionary, here .
40. Darren McGavin, who would star in “Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer” (1957–’59) later starred in a short-lived 1968 series, The Outsider.
41. “The Thriller of Tomorrow”; a similar confrontation occurs in “The Jolly Corner,” the James ghost story I analyze in the work cited in Note 35 above.
42. See Evola’s Hermetic Tradition, Part Two, where he discusses how the Realized Man creates for himself a new, indestructible body — the Tantric Diamond Body — by reconstructing himself from the atomic level on up — the film’s atomic chain reaction is an inverted symbol of this.
43. Ironically, after being shot by Gaby, Soberin transforms himself into the dog, Cerberus.
44. Prominently featured in the Bunker Hill locations is the “Angel’s Flight ,” a rather Lovecraftian funicular railway, featuring two cars, Sinai — pillar of fire? — and Olivet.
45. It’s as if Brigid O’Shaughnessy shot Sam Spade and took off with the Maltese Falcon. Usually, it’s Mike who does the gut-shooting. In Spillane’s own film, The Girl Hunters, he tricks Shirley Eaton into blowing her own head off with a shotgun.
46. Soberin’s enigmatic remark that the Whatzit “can’t be divided” suggests the extra-dimensionality of one of Lovecraft’s Elder Gods.
47. “Character Gullibility in Weird Fiction; or, isn’t Yuggoth Somewhere in Upstate New York?” in Discovering Lovecraft, loc. 1003.
48. See my review of Graham Harmon’s Weird Realism, “‘A General Outline of the Whole’: Lovecraft as Heideggerian Event” here and in forthcoming The Eldritch Evola … & Others.
49. Blackwood was an initiate of the Golden Dawn; Evola even deigns to quote John Silence on some occult self-defense techniques in his Introduction to Magic.
50. Anomalously, the folklorists from Arkham know just the right formula to dispatch the Dunwich horror and dismiss the revenant Charles Dexter Ward.
51. “. . . he gradually discovers layers of power and danger that surround him of which he knows nothing and with which he is unprepared to cope” (Luhr, p. 134).
52. “Kiss Me Deadly looks back both to canonical film noir, whose era was winding down, and ahead to neo-noir, or resurrected noir, which would not emerge for more than a decade. Death and resurrection are central themes [as we saw with Gaby] . . . embodying the baroque endpoint of an exhausted genre, pushing that genre’s tropes to and beyond their limits” (Luhr, p. 144).
53. Hoberman, “Thriller of Tomorrow.”
54. Conveniently summarized in “The Restoration of Kiss Me Deadly” by Glenn Erickson, here , from which I take the following summary of the endings
55. It’s a bit like the end of Bride of the Monster, and any number of other ’50s movies where atomic blasts happen right and left, with only a small danger of mutating into a 50 giant or something, as long as you wear your “protective goggles.”
56. See, as always, Baron Evola’s The Hermetic Tradition, especially Chapter One on the symbolism of the Tree.
57. In the James tale we analyze in “The Corner,” this is how the protagonist ends up, sprawled out on a checkerboard patterned floor; while there’s none here, there is one in Mike’s apartment.
58. Remember those “long shadows” they “throw down the beach”?
59. See René Guénon, The Multiples States of the Being, Chapter 12, “The two chaoses.”
60. See Guénon, op. cit., but especially Coomaraswamy, The Door in the Sky (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997) that exhaustively documents the symbolism of, for example, the hole in the roof of, for example, a teepee or another traditional structure, which smoke outlet serves as a symbol of the path of the soul.
61. “This opus has become a cult film . . . I cannot say why — I never completely understood our screenplay, and my confusion was still there when we ran the completed film” — producer Victor Saville; quoted in Mickey Spillane on Screen: A Complete Study of the Television and Film Adaptations by Collins and Traylor (McFarland, 2012), p. 61.
Harry Dean Stanton (1926-2017)
by Brett Stevens on September 15, 2017
It was with dismay that I read of the demise of Harry Dean Stanton, who made it to a ripe old age despite habits that modern medical science deems fatal at a young duration. A classic character actor, he imbued great personality into a number of films, including the Generation X educational classic Repo Man (1984), a film about the collision of suburban bourgeois values and a failed society.
In that film, he struck an iconoclastic posture as one of the few “adults” who would admit the utter failure of the paradise of democracy, equality, consumerism and libertarianism that the United States had become in the 1980s, pointing out the vast obliviousness of every aspect of society and the failure to address reality of all who should be in that role. For this, and his other acting successes, he will be remembered fondly.comments powered by Disqus.
Jane Austen, Western Restorationist
by Brett Stevens on March 22, 2017
Some time ago, Greg Johnson at Counter-Currents wrote about women and someone brought up Jane Austen. Six years later, this provoked Leftist celebrity-academia to sperg out and get schooled by AltRight.
With that backstory out of the way, we can look at the actual appeal of Jane Austen, and then expand upon it. Luckily, you have a credible guide; I wrote extensively on Jane Austen while entrenched in academia, before realizing that academia was just as much a lie as the private sector and bailing out of both as much as possible. And so, there are some expansions that can be argued as well.
Austen writes books that many still consider “women’s novels” for their topic matter, which is fine as long as you think that Apocalypse Now was a war film and Repo Man was a film about cars, or that Naked Lunch was really about heroin, for that matter. Setting is not content; a good novel is like a virus, with an outer shell of setting and characters, and a payload of philosophy and detailed observation of life.
As revealed in one of our recent Austen reviews, her thinking as a writer extends beyond the concerns of her characters to human questions of morality, existential fulfillment and even civilization itself. She may write through the lens of women’s issues, but Austen belongs on the shelf with Nietzsche, Houellebecq and CÃ©line.
Naturally, the Establishment is resisting the idea that Austen could be Alt Right, which tells you right away that some similarity between the two can be found, because otherwise they would not bother getting the hive-mind in a buzz about this issue. As Hannibal Bateman writes:
From The Times article â€œJane Austen Has Alt-Right Fans? Heavens to Darcy!â€:
But it has prompted the most sustained chatter among Austen scholars, a more reliably liberal bunch who, like Ms. Wright, emphatically reject white nationalist readings of her novels.
â€œNo one who reads Jane Austenâ€™s words with any attention and reflection can possibly be alt-right,â€ Elaine Bander, a retired professor and a former officer of the Jane Austen Society of North America, said in an email.
…Of course Jane Austen comes out of a White world. This is why the commentary on the original Counter Currents article were so relevant. Because Jane Austen as a European writer speaks to peculiar conditions of European man, the same way Langston Hughes and Chaim Potok speak to their respective black and Jewish readers. All of Austenâ€™s work takes place in a world where European identity, and in particular, regency English countryside identity, were presupposed.
Austen not only touches on, but by arguing for certain attitudes within them, endorses some of the most taboo institutions to Leftists, including caste systems, eugenics and aristocracy. In the Austen world, people are either good or bad, and those that behave according to the psychology of Leftism are parasitic and threatening.
Click here for an imaging of what Jane Austen might have looked like. Just two centuries ago, and already so much is forgotten. But her vision lives on because it remains relevant for any sane and thinking person in this time, as well.
For example, her classic Pride And Prejudice melds eugenic theory with an intensely realistic morality. All of the bad men are slightly effete, harmless-looking and parasitic; all of the good ones are elitist, good-natured and generous. The self-deluding characters end up with other self-deluders and make themselves miserable, and realists find each other and escape.
In her book Emma, Austen describes the Leftist mentality as similar to a lonely over-disciplined child playing in a doll house. The people and consequences are not real, only symbolic, and this manifests in a profound and damaging loneliness. In the background, civilization chortles on, oblivious to these deeper issues, as if Austen is reminding us that most of humanity is inert.
For this reason, it is both a mistake to argue that Jane Austen is an Alt Right writer as it is to argue that her work does not contain some ideas which overlap with the Alt Right. She writes about a white world of a different era, in which social rank (caste distinctions) and personal qualities are more important than commerce. Her world is appalled by European foreigners, much less non-whites, whose presence she would find as awkward as she finds the concept of slavery.
In other words, like most literary superstars, Jane Austen was that odd mixture of intense Realism and a passionate sense that the idea is greater than the material, or Germanic-style Idealism. In her books, characters are practical, but also live for spirit and a strong sense of doing what is right not only by themselves, but by principle itself.
Claiming that her philosophy fits into the Alt Right world is thus both true and not the whole story. As The Chronicle writes:
On the popular blog of the alt-right publisher Counter-Currents, the world of Austenâ€™s novels is extolled as a prototype for the â€œracial dictatorshipâ€ of tomorrow. One commenter wrote, â€œIf, after the ethnostate is created, we revert back to an Austen-like world, we males ought to endure severe sacrifices as well. â€¦ If traditional marriage Ã la P&P [Pride and Prejudice] is going to be imposed, again, in an ethnostate, we must behave like gentlemen.â€
In Jane Austen, the only reason the ethnostate works at all is the presence of an aristocracy. Austen’s work is intensely elitist, and she recognizes that most people are horrible and most human events are in fact failures. For example, witness this classic voicing by Elizabeth Bennet that expresses elitism and aristocracy at the same time:
There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense.
Most things are garbage; most people are confused. The few who rise above merit attention, and this theme runs through Emma and Pride And Prejudice as well as other Austen works. In a foreshadowing of modern literature, most of her characters end up self-destructing or slotted into dead-end existences, while the few good ones struggle and then finally find a path of meaning for themselves.
This elitism is the core of hierarchy. When sorting out a human group, it makes sense to place the best above the rest, not just by external traits (wealth, power, status, popularity) but by internal traits (honor, intelligence, wisdom, pathos). Much of Austen’s work consists of filtering out the internal traits from the external image presented by characters, including slimy ones.
For those of us in the present day, this becomes essential because under democracy, everything is political. In Austen’s world we can see a comradeship of the gifted in which the political is recognized as a front, and the internal traits and motivations of individuals determine their quality and thus their relevance to that world. Austen may be as anti-democratic as she is insightful.
Her characters are — unlike modern “literary” protagonistas — not uncomfortable with their roles. Women want to get married and have families; men want to be men; proles want to prole, and elites are concerned with the abstract issues that are relevant to leadership. Each thing has its place, and the only remaining task is to sort them all by hierarchy.
That type of comfort only occurs in a strict hierarchy of both leadership and social status, demonstrated in her time by aristocracy and caste. Every person has a place, or zone of comfortable operation, paired to his or her characteristics. Scullery maids are not expected to be ladies, nor are footmen expected to be gentlemen. But all are accepted as they are and even seen through a kindly filter.
One reason that Austen remains popular is that she shows us a time before the neurotic existence occasioned by modernity, which has its roots in the removal of this leadership and hierarchy and their replacement with egalitarian mob rule. In Jane Austen’s time, being accurate in speech was still more important than flattering others, and discerning inner traits was permissible. Neither is true today.
This leads us to another uncomfortable recognition: the white world of Jane Austen could not exist without its other aspects such as aristocracy. The world she describes will never emerge from equality and democracy. It is an entirely different direction that we could have at any moment, were we willing to surrender our pretense of equality.
Aristocracy in turn could not exist without her elitism, or recognition that inner traits exist and are important, and that we need those with the best inner traits on top because if decisions are left up to lesser people, crisis and horror result. It is this realization, which reverses the logical framework for both the French Revolution and The Enlightenment,™ that really scares the Left.
If we read Austen as honest and alert people, we encounter a vision of human existence which directly refutes Leftism while simultaneously adopting and disciplining the emotional responses behind it, much as Elizabeth Bennet learns to discipline her emotions in Pride And Prejudice. While that vision includes the ethnostate, it is not limited to it.
That in turn normalizes the ethnostate as a concept. Instead of being a radical idea, it is an ingredient in the most sensible recipe for happiness; it is not chosen for its symbolic meaning or personal value, but because it works, like every other idea demonstrated positively in an Austen novel.
Her insight is to show us that the reason these policies work at the national level is because they work at the personal level. The question of civilization is not institutions, but individuals, and individuals follow the same framework and so can be predicted. Is Austen Alt Right? Perhaps neither yes nor no, but she attacks modernity the same way the Alt Right does, and we should heed her wisdom.comments powered by Disqus.
Michel Houellebecq, founder of Neoreaction
by Brett Stevens on November 14, 2015
When Michel Houellebecq hits the news for his new novel, Submission, it makes sense to remember his roots: writing about the tedium of modern life and fleeting glimpses of beauty, truth and purity that tempt people from it. Usually, as tragic characters, they cannot realize that beauty because of their broken psychologies and neuroses.
Houellebecq burst onto the scene in 1997 with Whatever, a cynically humorous book — think Louis-Ferdinand Celine or William Burroughs — about the failure of modern life. Its characters struggle through pointless and boring jobs, alienating sexual relationships and dysfunctional families, all while wandering through a 21st-century dystopian wasteland that is both beautiful in its ruin and crassly plastic in the assumptions through which most people survive.
Two years later came Elementary Particles, a classic postmodern novel — think Thomas Pynchon’s V — where two characters take opposite versions of the same path. Written much about wave/particle duality, as a metaphor for both the fragmentation caused by individualistic society and the soul itself, this novel traces two brothers as they wander through the endless existential pitfalls and career successes of modern France. It defines the West handily: to succeed while feeling empty and never having what one actually needs.
After that, Houellebecq wrote Platform, a book which compared sex tourism with terrorism and found moral and existential emptiness at the root of both, and The Possibility of an Island which examines isolation through immortality while looking at the nature of cults, as the West increasingly begins to resemble one in the book. He followed that with The Map and the Territory which explored the difference between symbol and meaning, in a nudge toward the idea that nations are more than mere boundaries but are formed of a shared idea, feeling and spirit. All of his books center on the same notion, which is that modern Westerners are hopelessly lonely because they have removed themselves from life through layers of abstraction.
Houellebecq came on the heels of another artistic movement that took up the thread of a chain of ideas:
The downfall of the illusion started with two important thinkers and a musical movement. Ted Kaczynski, a.k.a. the Unabomber, wrote a treatise called â€œIndustrial Society and Its Futureâ€ in which he identified technology as the primary enemy of humanity, but also illustrated in clear Nietzschean terms the pernicious influence of Leftism and liberalism through their common origin in egalitarianism. He analyzed them through psychology, not ideology, which helped dig deeper toward the source of our decline. Michel Houellebecq wrote a book in 1997 called Whatever that simultaneously revealed the insanity of liberalism, the inanity of todayâ€™s style of work, and the empty misery of modern sex lives, also digging into the psychology of modern life rather than taking Leftist ideas at face value. The musical movement of â€œblack metal,â€ a type of violent, alienated heavy metal, reversed the psychology of rock music which described itself as â€œgoodâ€ in order to defend the callow pursuit of individual desires and karmic drama. The rock approach was both hedonistic and based in â€œprotest songsâ€ or declarations of the victimhood of the individual, cruelly forced to submit to social order, standards, values, and anything else which stood in the way of self-gratification, echoing the egalitarian ideal of liberalism.
Black metal turned its back on â€œgoodâ€; it aspired to â€œevilâ€ and rejected all that was popular, human, and based in the individual in favor of a naturalistic wildness and feral self-interest like one might find in a Jack London novel. Where rock music assuaged the fears of teenagers that they would be inadequate in some Darwinian contest, black metal affirmed the need for war, death, and competition to restore the strength, honesty, and appreciation for natural beauty in humanity. In doing so, it transcended the individual, and while much has been written about its tendencies toward Satanism, the real drive behind the occult leanings of black metal seems to have been a rejection of the moral binary that made people believe that â€œgoodâ€ came from flattering individuals with equal validity granted to all their desires. In rock, the individual and the social group become one; in black metal, the social impulse and the individualistic are together rejected. The morally obedient shopkeeper is replaced by the feral and lawless warrior, artist, and adventurer.
These rising ideas came only a few years after Francis Fukuyama penned his famous (and now partially retracted) The End of History and the Last Man, which posited a final evolution of humanity into liberal democracy, state-subsidized consumerism, and multiculturalism. Some conservative writers explicitly rejected this notion, most notably Samuel Huntington with his The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, in which he argued that history was very much alive and continuing through conflict between civilizations, which were formed of ethnic, cultural, and moral commonality more than by political and economic ties.
Putting Houellebecq into this context, we see him as one of the steps in the groundwork of ideas that led to the explosion in right-wing thinking that linked nationalism, anti-sexual revolution, anti-modern and anti-consumerist thinking together. This followed the Kaczynski/black metal nexus that linked the right with a more intense form of environmentalism that demands, like the Deep Ecology mission statement, that we re-order our society so that it does not create behaviors that damage the environment, instead of applying the band-aid of regulation and energy efficient appliances that leftist environmentalists like.
Others have seen that Houellebecq is the standard-bearer of the new rightist resurgence:
Last weekâ€™s Spectator carried a piece about Les nouveaux rÃ©actionnaires, French intellectuals who reject the culture of 1968 and the politics of multiculturalism. As Patrick Marnham writes:
The new reactionaries are convinced that one of the cornerstones of French culture, â€˜freedom of expressionâ€™, is dying. They reject â€˜post-colonial guiltâ€™ and are appalled by â€˜cultural relativismâ€™. To get down to the nitty-gritty, they take the view that Franceâ€™s sovereignty is under threat from Arab immigration. Europeâ€™s migration crisis has highlighted their fears, and the lip service that President Hollande pays to Angela Merkelâ€™s refugee-quota system â€” widely unpopular in France â€” has further aided the reactionariesâ€™ arguments.
The neo-reactionaries donâ€™t appear to be reactionaries as such, just people who have fallen out with the Left over multiculturalism just as neo-conservatives fell out with the Left over Communism. No true reactionary could argue that a â€œgolden ageâ€ began in 1789, as the article states â€“ a year that brought about the â€œregicide stateâ€, in the words of the late Fr Jean-Marie Charles-Roux.
It is for this reason that many of us who read Moldbug do so in the context of Houellebecq, or more appropriately, as a series of libertarian arguments designed to make us see Houellebecq’s point of view. Other movements like The Red Pill started angry but found themselves coming around to Houellebecq’s observations, such as that men are lonely because of a lack of lasting and faithful love. Even the most recent New Right resurgence has a distinctive Houellebecquian tone (that word just broke my spell checker) in that it looks more toward identitarianism as a source of commonality than a pragmatic adaptation of policy.
Others have noticed the insight that Houellebecq is conveying:
Like many people who pretend to parle a little francais but get tired after reading a page, Iâ€™ve only just now read the newly-translated â€œSubmission,â€ Michel Houellebecqâ€™s dystopian vision of a near-future French republic that succumbs willingly to a vaguely Tariq Ramadan-esque form of political Islam. When I say â€œdystopian,â€ the casual reader may infer â€” as many people did when the book first appeared, literally at the same moment as the â€œCharlie Hebdoâ€ massacre â€” that the dystopia is the Islamicized France, that Houellebecq is trying to do for Islamism or â€œEurabiaâ€ what Orwell once did for Stalinism. But if youâ€™ve read the keener reviews (or Houellebecqâ€™s previous novels) you probably understand that no, actually, the dystopia is the contemporary West, and the Islamified future that Houellebecqâ€™s story ushers in is portrayed as a kind of civilizational step forward, or if you prefer a necessary regression back to health.
I sort of knew this going in but even so it was remarkable how â€” well, I think neo-reactionary is really the only term to use to describe what Houellebecq seems to be doing in his portrait of contemporary France and his mischievous prophecy about its potential trajectory. And I do mean neo-reactionary in the internet-movement, Mencius Moldbug sense of the term (if you arenâ€™t familiar with this particular rabbit hole, good luck): The overt political teaching of â€œSubmissionâ€ is that Europe is dying from the disease called liberalism, that it can be saved only by a return of hierarchy and patriarchy and patriotism and religion and probably some kind of monarchy as well, but that religion itself is primarily an instrumental good and so the point is to find a faith that actually convinces and inspires and works (and thatâ€™s, well, a little manly), and on that front European Christianity and particularly Roman Catholicism is basically a dead letter so the future might as well belong to Islam instead.
Kaczynski saw liberalism as a psychological disease; black metal saw it as moral cowardice; Houellebecq sees it as a spiritual disease (calling to mind one of the greats of Swedish death metal, who composed an album entitled Terminal Spirit Disease). Perhaps all three are right. Perhaps it is simply illogical and dismantling of civilization, which in turn creates the effects of all three as people become the particles adrift of Houellebecq’s second novel. Like Celine’s Journey to the End of the Night, his books feature characters venturing through a society that is on its surface thriving but a few levels deeper as dystopian as Blade Runner. The only movies that come close to portraying this kind of disconnect are Apocalypse Now, Demolition Man and Repo Man which reveal the underlying loneliness of anyone who is awake in a time of sleepwalkers who have bought into whatever political or economic justifications seem to make people feel successful for living in this time. It is why they meet so much resistance: they attack society, true, but more pointedly, they attack our individual illusions of living in a good era, which makes people upset because they rely on those illusions in order to tolerate all of the tedium, parasitism and nonsense.
Another insight from fellow writer Karl Ove Knausgaard gives more of the whole picture of what Houellebecq, like Celine, is evoking:
When FranÃ§ois at the beginning of the novel writes that the great majority in Western societies are blinded by avarice and consumerist lust, even more so by the desire to assert themselves, inspired by their idols, athletes, actors and models, unable to see their own lives as they are, utterly devoid of meaning, what he is describing is the function of faith in modern society. The fact that he himself does not possess such faith, that he exists outside of it, within the meaningless, as it were, he explains as follows: â€œFor various psychological reasons that I have neither the skill nor the desire to analyze, I wasnâ€™t that way at all.â€
This is the only place in the novel that opens up for the idea that the emptiness and ennui that FranÃ§ois feels is not just universal, a kind of existential condition applicable to us all and which most people hide away behind walls of illusion, it may also have individual causes. That is somewhere he doesnâ€™t want to go, and thus a vast and interesting field of tension is set up in the novel, since the narrator is a person who is unable to bond with others, feels no closeness to anyone, not even himself, and moreover understands solitude existentially, that is from a distance, as something general, a universal condition, or as something determined by society, typical of our age, at the same time as he tells us his parents never wanted anything to do with him, that he hardly had any contact with them, and that their deaths are little more than insignificant incidents in his life. Such an understanding, that the ennui and emptiness he feels so strongly are related to his incapacity to feel emotion or establish closeness to others, and that it is difficult, indeed impossible, not to see this as having to do with lifelong rejection, is extraneous to the novelâ€™s universe, since nothing would be remoter to FranÃ§oisâ€™s worldview, an intimate model of explanation would be impossible for him to accept, a mere addition to the list of things in which he doesnâ€™t believe: love, politics, psychology, religion.
The point here is that most of us are accustomed to “Systems” like democracy, capitalism, etc. and we tend to see solutions the same way. “Get religion in there!” screams the American Republican. But that, alone, will not do it. Religion is not a system of rules like our regulatory state or EU laws, but a compulsion within the individual to charge life with meaning and thus, want to do good. Similarly we cannot like the Nazis impose Nationalism by rules, but need to come together as a people toward a common idea of positive logic, or what we want to create on an ongoing basis. National identity is like that, as is religion, and also the alertness to life itself that Houellebecq’s characters get a whiff of but can never complete. We must regrow our souls, and this cannot be done externally. It can only be done through vague and amorphous ideas like identity, reverence, and transcendence. We must re-grow the love for life in our souls to see what good is, and through that, to re-animate the corpses of religion, identity and culture.
Houellebecq is not as popular on the internet as those who offer Systems. Moldbug offers us the idea of taking the gated community to the next level and creating libertarian micro-states within the dying realms of the West, but that does not address the internal problem, which is that people have not beaten their internal rottenness. The Orthosphere offers us religious fanaticism informed by history, which beats out the fundamentalist and extremist variants and is mostly right, but not a solution in itself. Cramming people into religion without having their souls ready to come to it will turn religion into an ideology and, as a glance over the alt-right Traditionalist and Catholic blogs show us, has already done so. Even capitalism can become ideological, or externally-imposed as a universal, when designated as The Solution. Those ideas are simpler than the thought of a spiritual revival against disease, and so they win out over Houellebecq on the blogs of the world, but none seem satisfying because ultimately they lack what Houellebecq has given us: a map out of the territory of darkness of the soul by noticing beauty and making ourselves receptive to the possibility of goodness, joy and delight in our world.comments powered by Disqus.
Metal audiences and listeners, aficionados of a genre that is well known for it’s enthusiasm towards the macabre will always have the generalization of being attached to the horror genre. A very recent review of Cannibal Holocaust on here is testament to the leanings that many metallers and Hessians would have towards gore, science fiction and the supernatural, occult side of cinema. Seeing as Cannibal Holocaust did ‘realism’ to a certain extent, reviewing Rodrigo D: No Futuro intends to further this. This drama film, about an aspiring drummer is a brilliant narrative about survival amidst the harshest and roughest of environments captures a realism not present in most forms of dramatic cinema, but also possesses the same punk nihilism that would easily appeal to anybody who enjoyed Alex Cox’s brilliant ‘Repo Man’ and Tim Hunter’s ‘Rivers Edge’, stripped towards a far more coherent realism that is totally at odds with commercial ‘glossy’ film-making.
The fact that the film was shot in the same neighborhood where many of the main actors lived, within a city known to have the world’s highest murder rate at the time, only gives light to the fact as to how these young people would have gone about their daily lives, for which reason the writer feels rather little need to offer intricate details towards the plot of the film. It’s backdrop revolves around a day to day existence under the constant plethora of violence, crime, strife and nothingness for it’s young protagonists, amidst a musical backdrop that is a myriad of punk hardcore, thrash and early death/black metal, an indicator that if Europe were home to romanticism and North America a hotbed for nihilism, then surely in it’s earlier days the South American metal scene was the land where a brutal realism, born from poverty and societal decay, made itself clear.
Musically the soundtrack is one of the most compatible, suitable and cohesive to be heard in any underground flick. The fact that the bands featured on here are so distinctly similar to one another yet retaining their own character is perhaps indicative of a thriving yet incestuous underground scene in Medellin at the time, the savage and raw tonal quality having much in common, but perhaps a much more chaotic, ambient, stripped down take on what the Brazilian underground acts (Sepultura, Sarcofago, Mutilator, Vulcano, Sextrash) had done in a similar era. The remaining soundtrack is permeated with punk rock and hardcore that although not on the same level of corrosive aggression still oozes the same depravity and oblivion that makes the film all the more worthwhile and excellent.
An additional bonus to this is the presence of members of seminal Columbian act Parabellum in the film, the scene in which they are featured being poignant and insightful enough to merit that parts of the film were as good as being documentary footage. The scene featuring another local act, Blasfemia is excellent and iconic, with the band playing a rooftop gig/rehearsal, in the backdrop of idyllic mountains in the distance of decrepit, violent shanties.This is a highly recommended film for anyone fond of exploring realism within cinema, and also for those who want insight into South American underground music of the 80′s, getting hold of the soundtrack would be highly recommended. A gripping film, and both watcher or listener is entitled to take that opinion in either direction.
Written by Pearson
You probably remember Al Leong even if you never knew his name. He has acted in dozens of films as a bad guy supporting other bad guys. Hence the name of the documentary Henchman: The Al Leong Story directed by Repulsion guitarist Matt Olivo, which will see release in 2014.
Olivo has continued his musical career in parallel to his cinematic one. Interviewing dozens of media moguls and high-profile talent such as John Carpenter, Olivo assembled the documentary out of reminiscences and interviews. These enabled him to portray the career and life of legendary Hollywood stunt performer, actor and martial artist Al Leong, famous for his work in Die Hard and dozens of other violent entertaining films.
To help Olivo continue his overtime career (once you’ve been in Repulsion, you’ve wona t life) go to the Henchman: The Al Leong Story Facebook page and make sure to “like” the page, and then spread the word of the film to friends, family, bystanders and any movie industry executives you happen to know.
2,283 words Withnail & I (1987) is a masterpiece of British dark-comic satire written and directed by actor, novelist, and screenwriter Bruce Robinson, who went on to write and direct How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989), another strong film in a similar vein. His career seems to have petered out, though, after a couple […]
I remember the moment in 1996 when I first heard about David Cronenberg’s Crash on National Public Radio. I exploded in outrage. I thought the story of a group of people who made a sexual fetish of car crashes had to be the stupidest movie concept of all time. Not decadent or perverted, mind you—although it was obviously trying really hard in that respect—but just stupid. I had the sense that Western decadence, like a 16,000-page burlesque by the Marquis de Sade, was finally running out of perversions, and Cronenberg was desperately trying to come up with a novel tab and slot combo, perhaps by employing some sort of random content generator, like picking words from a book at random. “Sex and . . . car crashes. Yeah, that’s the ticket.”
Of course, I was wrong about all that. Culturally, things have gotten so much worse since 1996, that a film about attractive white people who get off on car crashes seems almost wholesome in retrospect. As for where the story came from: Crash was based on a novel by J. G. Ballard, which explains the try-hard geekiness of the concept. But maybe Ballard was the one using the random perversion generator. I have not read the novel, and I don’t know how faithful the film adaptation is, but I am commenting here on the movie alone.
Of course, the connection between sex and car crashes is not random and accidental. Both are objects of voyeurs, which is what Crash makes us, the audience. But most viewers rebelled, and Crash was a huge commercial and critical flop. Virtually everyone, audiences and critics alike, found Crash unintelligible, unsexy, repellent, and sometimes downright ludicrous.
Thus it was some years before I actually saw Crash, and to my surprise, it is truly an excellent movie. I would rank it as Cronenberg’s best, alongside A History of Violence . The story of Crash is much less satisfying, but I give it extra points for avant-garde audacity and sheer visual style.
Crash had me from the opening credits, which loom up like signs along a nighttime highway, accompanied by Howard Shore’s spiky, metallic, percussive theme scored for an ensemble of electric guitars.
Then we are inside an airplane hangar. The camera languidly stalks and caresses the bulging, sleek, riveted surfaces of small planes. Then we see Catherine Ballard (Deborah Kara Unger), a beautiful but cold and ferret-faced blonde, expose one of her breasts and press it against the surface of the plane as a lover takes her from behind.
Then we are inside a television studio. People are looking for Catherine’s husband, director James Ballard (James Spader at the peak of his attractiveness and charisma), who is in the camera room having a quickie with a crewmember, which is interrupted.
Next we are on the balcony of the Ballard’s posh modern apartment in a high-rise overlooking a busy expressway near the Toronto airport. Catherine is looking out over the expressway. The couple tell each other of the day’s sexual adventures, as a prelude to their own love-making. As James takes her from behind, Catherine commiserates with her husband about his interrupted tryst. “Maybe the next one,” she repeats consolingly.
Maybe the next one will work out, for there will always be a “next one.” James and Catherine are clearly compulsive serial sexual adventurers. Both of them are highly attractive, affluent young professionals in a large city. Birth control and abortion have separated sex from procreation. Sexual liberation has unchained hedonism from morality. At thirtysomething, they have already racked up hundreds, if not thousands, of partners and are beginning to get a little jaded. As long as they avoid venereal diseases, though, they can keep rutting until they look like Keith Richards.
Many critics have remarked on how unsexy, unarousing, and unpornographic Crash is, citing it as evidence that Cronenberg is an inept director. But they have missed the point. Crash is not a “sex positive” film. It is an anti-sex film. It is a film about addiction and degradation. Expecting Crash to make sex addiction sexy is like expecting Requiem for a Dream to make drug addiction alluring.
In the next scene, an indeterminate time has passed. James is driving home from work on a rainy night. Idiotically, he is trying to read through papers as he navigates the freeway. Suddenly, he loses control of his car, heads down an embankment, and ends up in oncoming traffic. He collides head on, and the man in the front passenger seat of the other car shoots like a projectile through both windshields and into the passenger seat of James’ car, dead. Seriously injured himself, James sits stunned as the female driver of the other car claws away her seat belt and exposes her breast.
Next we see James in the hospital, black sutures spiking up from deep, blue-black bruises, a shattered leg being held together by a hideous metal contraption with spikes buried in his flesh. Catherine tells him that the driver of the other car, Dr. Helen Remington (Holly Hunter), is also in the same hospital. Sometime later, James is up and walking and encounters Dr. Remington in the hallway, walking with a cane, her body horribly twisted. He speaks to her, and she grips her cane in rage, as if she wants to thrash him with it, then totters on, silent.
With her is Vaughn (Elias Koteas, who looks like Chris Meloni’s homely brother), a tall, lurching figure in doctor’s whites with horrible scars on his face. He carries a file filled with photos of lacerated and sutured accident victims. Vaughn remains behind to inspect James’ leg brace and examine his other injuries, deeply invading James’ personal space, smirking and leering at his injuries, and ending with an inappropriately long gaze directly into James’ eyes. One is left feeling this is not so much a medical examination as a pick-up.
It becomes clear that James has been changed by his brush with death. While in the hospital, he rebuffs Catherine’s sexual advances. While convalescing at home, he says to Catherine, “Is the traffic heavier now? There seem to be three times as many cars as there were before the accident.” Helen Remington later reports the same experience to James: “[The traffic is] much worse now. You noticed that, did you? The day I left the hospital I had the extraordinary feeling that all these cars were gathering for some special reason I didn’t understand. There seemed to be ten times as much traffic.”
Crash is masterful at communicating the sense that through their trauma, James and Helen have, in effect, entered a new world. Of course they are still on planet earth. They have entered a new world in the Heideggerian sense of world: a new context of intelligibility. The same things surround them, but their meaning has changed completely. The crash is what Heidegger calls an Ereignis, an event that transforms the meaning of everything.
When James and Helen meet the second time, they are at the police lot where their wrecked cars are impounded. James has revisited the accident not only by seeking out his wrecked car, but also by buying a new car of the exact same make and model. Because of his crash, James cannot relate sexually with Catherine, but he can with Helen, because they have shared the same experience. They end up having sex in James’ car in an airport garage. Then, when James returns home, he has sex with Catherine in the same seated position.
Then the movie gets really weird. Vaughan reappears as the impresario of a reenactment of James Dean’s fatal car accident. After the crash, the police appear, the spectators scatter, and Helen and James escape with Vaughan and the driver of the Dean car, Seagrave (Peter MacNeil), who is seriously injured. When we arrive at Vaughan’s lair, we meet Gabrielle (Patricia Arquette), another crash victim who wears hideous braces that look like bondage gear over black lace lingerie. All of these crash victims live in the same altered world of meaning, in which they reenact their traumas—and historic versions of their traumas, like the deaths of James Dean and Jane Mansfield—until first Seagrave then Vaughan are killed.
Catherine, who is the only member of the cast who has not been in an accident, wants to join the rest of them, and they want to bring her in as well. Catherine is run off the road by Vaughan, but she is not injured. Then, after Vaughan is killed, James fixes up the car that Vaughan died in and uses it to run Catherine off the road again.
All these crashes are interspersed with increasingly kinky sexual encounters: James fucks Helen (again). Vaughan feels up Helen in his car while James watches. Vaughan fucks a prostitute in his car while James watches. (Creepily, Vaughan flexes one of the prostitute’s legs, clearly taking pleasure in it simply as a hinged object, like a pocket knife.) Vaughan fucks Catherine in a car while going through a car-wash while James watches. (With his greenish corpse-like complexion and scars, Vaughan looks like Frankenstein’s monster deflowering his bride among the instruments of Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory.) Then James fucks Vaughan in Vaughan’s car. (Followed by Vaughan ramming his car into James.’) James also has sex with Gabrielle in a car, skipping her vagina and inserting his penis into a deep scar on Gabrielle’s leg. Then Helen and Gabrielle have a bit of lesbian action in the back seat of the wrecked car in which Vaughan died. And despite the physical hotness of the various actors (under all the scar tissue and prosthetics), none of it is remotely arousing, and a lot of it is downright distasteful—which, I maintain, is Cronenberg’s brilliantly realized intention.
If Crash is just a movie about sex and car crashes, it rapidly becomes tedious, then ludicrous, then just meaningless, then people stream toward the exits. For Crash to hang together and be meaningful, there has to be a deeper connection between sex and car crashes than just the word “and.”
And no, the fact that both are subjects of voyeurism is not enough. People move quite comfortably from sexual voyeurism to sex, but nobody moves from accident voyeurism to accidents.
Also, when people have brushes with death, they often snap out of self-destructive behavior patterns, such as sex addiction. But in Crash, brushes with death simply lead to the intensification of addictive behaviors, infusing the accidents themselves with sexual energy so that they too are obsessively repeated until some of the characters are actually killed. And no, I don’t think it is enough to simply trot out some Freud talk about neurotics being drawn back to and repeating primal traumas, because that is just a description of what is happening in the film not an explanation of why it is happening.
So what is the connection between sex and car crashes? My answer is simple: in Crash the car crashes are not car crashes, they are sex acts too, specifically unsafe sex acts that lead to the transmission of HIV. For me, the meaning all fell into place on the second viewing when James, lying in his hospital bed, says, “After being bombarded endlessly by road-safety propaganda, it’s almost a relief to have found myself in an actual accident.” James, of course, is a sex addict, and sex addicts are also bombarded endlessly with safe sex propaganda, especially AIDS awareness propaganda. And while road safety propaganda does not make driving less pleasurable, safe sex propaganda does cast rather a pall over things, since condoms reduce pleasure and addicts cannot simply stop having sex. This means that they often feel relieved once they catch HIV, so they can cease worrying about it and really throw themselves into their addiction. Once you crash a car, you don’t want to crash a car again. But once you have unsafe sex, you want to have it again, and if you no longer fear HIV, you are free to make a fetish of unsafe sex with HIV positive people. Indeed, even though most of the couples are male-female, I think Crash is really about homosexual men, for the simple reason that practically every sex act in the film is from behind.
This interpretation throws a lot of light on the end of the movie. Vaughan has died. James buys the car in which he died and gets it running again. Then he runs Catherine off the road. Her car goes down an embankment and flips. She is thrown out of the car. James rushes to her side and asks if she is hurt. Although dazed and bloody, she says that she is all right. James then slips her panties down and enters her from behind, repeating her consoling words from earlier in the film, “Maybe the next one, darling, maybe the next one.” None of this makes any sense psychologically if car crashes are just car crashes, but it makes perfect sense if Catherine is “bug-chasing,” because there will be a next one, and a next one, and eventually she too will crash through the disease barrier and enter the realm where hedonism, shorn of its last inhibition, is free to become a full-blown death cult, in which its devotees grind themselves into oblivion.
Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac: Vol. I and II (2013) is the type of pretentious art-house exhibitionism that begs for conservative condemnation and liberal defense against the prudish “man” — at least upon first inspection. The fundamentalist Islamic Turkish government has recently taken the bait by reacting predictably and banning the film, labeling it, what it is only explicitly and superficially, as “pornography.” But is the recent exposition of sex addiction films such as 2011’s Shame, 2013’s Don Jon, and Nymphomaniac symptomatic of the degeneration of any healthy balanced society?
Nymphomaniac’s protagonist, Joe, is played by three actresses: Charlotte Gainsbourg as the middle-aged incarnation, Stacy Martin as a younger Joe, and Anaya Berg as a ten-year-old Joe. In the end, Joe is left self-pityingly alone, with a ruined marriage, abandoned daughter, and a dangerous career — an overall squandered miserable existence — and she knows it. The film begins near its end, when Joe is found beaten in a dingy alleyway, like a drugged-out victim of a gang rape. And the plot unfolds as she recounts her life of debauchery to an erudite priestly old virgin named Seligman, played by Stellan Skarsgard, who has brought her back to his flat for convalescence and “confession.” Indeed, the story is recounted as a confession, but there is no moral growth, repentance, or redemption.
I skimmed through two reviews of the film, one calling it “feminist” and the other “misogynist,” each with anecdotal evidence to support its claim. Both writers were too confined by their worldviews to see the film as it is. Is the film feminist or misogynist? The answer is: who cares?
For Seligman, Joe is a heroine for breaking the double standard of sexuality — “If she does it she’s a w***e, but if he does he’s ‘The Man.’” While the other side of the women’s lib ticket sees in von Trier’s lens male fear of female sexuality — the vaginal passage portrayed as sexualized womb envy, as young Joe fucks ten different men a night to get her kicks, something that not even the most sexually voracious man could accomplish. In this capacity, Joe represents a threat to the hackneyed leftist chant of the “hegemonic patriarchy.” Joe acts as a deified sacred w***e of the living breathing “Slutwalk” culture .
In today’s polymorphous, perverse, pornographic popular culture, Nymphomaniac fits right in, no lubricant necessary. It’s not art that calls forth idealism or beauty, but neither does our culture at large. Nymphomaniac is intellectually and emotionally challenging, at times disturbing, and ultimately transgressive. The graphic sexuality of the movie, which utilized real “sex doubles,” only reflects the graphic sexuality of our times. We get the art we deserve.
But the work itself is not pornography in the ordinary sense. Yes, the film portrays a lot of sex, and that sex is every bit as debased as pornography. But Nymphomaniac is no more pro-sex than Requiem for a Dream is pro-drug. The purpose of the film is not to get you off. Rather the opposite. It is so depraved and repulsive that it functions as an argument for celibacy.
For example, there is nothing titillating about watching the saggy, paunchy, and menopausal grimacing in orgasm. Nor is the film’s relentless depiction of unfolding tragedies and cathartic emotional outbursts. Uma Thurman’s screaming confrontation with her cheating husband and his paramour, as her children bear witness to the breakdown, is genuinely hard to watch. Likewise Joe’s delirious and incontinent father’s slow, agonizing death in a hospital bed. The breakdown of Joe’s marriage is another of the tragedies that Trier depicts with such relish, especially in his “depression trilogy” (AntiChrist, Melancholia, and Nymphomaniac).
Sexuality was Joe’s means to escape her own existential problems, and hooking up became every bit as addictive as heroin. But Joe refuses to sleep with Seligman at the film’s conclusion. She presumably kills him, but the purity of his virginity, his sacredness in his role as “priest,” and as a man of the higher calling of the mind, is left untainted by her profane nature. By murdering Seligman, Joe keeps the old tribal taboo of the separation of the sacred and profane intact, thereby redeeming the world. This ending — in which Seligman acts completely outside his character, presumably incensed with a mad desire inspired by Joe’s debauched tales — comes off as completely unrealistic and sloppily scripted, but didactic.
While von Trier himself comes off as a snarky art school egomaniac — his production house has dabbled in real “pornography for women,” and he has the word “F**K” tattooed rebelliously on his knuckles — this self-indulgent P.O.S. actually makes some decent films. Well, films we deserve anyways.
1. Making one Turkish blogger quip, “Las von Trier I wish my country was as free as your mind.”
Therefore, having a “free mind” is equated here with sexual promiscuity (artistic or otherwise) as one “enlightened” bastion of liberalist tolerance; much like having “an open mind” means pretty much the same thing. Or being “reactionary” meant opposing the scientific evolution of society according to Marxist materialism. I mean you don’t want to be a “square,” or a “vanilla” or a “fascist” do you? Often the left, whether militantly political or repugnantly social, conjures up these pejorative distinctions to cripple those who differ from their enlightened perspective.
(It is probably not a coincidence that the pejorative term “vanilla” used by the GLTGB, BDSM, and the general hypersexualized crowd against traditional/conventional types of sexuality and coupling has a racial connotation to it. I mean, you don’t want to be “white” do you?)
2. Contrasted with Scorsese’s same-year Hollywood stylized glorification of the Jewish bacchanalia cult of unregulated stock-market manipulation and profiteering in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), von Trier’s Nymphomaniac comes off as masterful as a Shakespearean tragedy.
Parts 1 & 2; Czech translation here 
Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction  is one of my favorite movies. I didn’t want to like it. I didn’t even want to see it. Everything I’d heard made me think it would be thoroughly nihilistic and quite unpleasant. But then someone at a party described Pulp Fiction  as a movie about “greatness of soul at the end of history,” and that caught my attention, because at the time I immersed for the nth time in Plato’s Republic , the core of which is an account of the human soul, as well as Alexandre Kojève’s Introduction to the Reading of Hegel , from which Francis Fukuyama derived his “end of history ” trope.
The very idea of mentioning Plato and Hegel in the same breath with Quentin Tarantino may seem absurd, but bear with me. Pulp Fiction is not a decadent film. It is a film about the most fundamental metaphysical and moral choices we can make—that just happens to be set in the midst of the criminal underclass of a decadent society. The basic issue to be decided is whether to live according to material or spiritual values—to satisfy one’s individual desires or to subordinate these to serve something higher: the common good, one’s personal sense of honor, or a religious calling. This deep seriousness makes Pulp Fiction more than just clever, dark-comic nihilism. It is a genuinely great movie.
The three main characters of Pulp Fiction are two hit men, one black (Jules Winnfield, brilliantly played by Samuel L. Jackson) and one white (Vincent Vega, played by John Travolta), and a corrupt boxer, Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis).
Each of these men represents a particular spiritual type, defined in terms of which part of his soul rules the others. Jules Winfield is a spiritual man, meaning that in a conflict between spiritual and material considerations, he follows the spiritual path. Butch Coolidge is an honor-driven man, meaning that in a conflict between honor and the satisfaction of his desires (even to the point of preserving his life), he chooses honor. Vincent Vega is ruled entirely by his desires, meaning that in a conflict between his desires and honor or spiritual motives, he chooses his desires.
These types of individuals correspond to the three fundamental Indo-European social “functions”/castes as explained by Georges Dumézil and reflected in Plato’s Republic. The spiritual man corresponds to the priestly function/caste. The honor-driven man corresponds to the warrior function/caste. The desire-ruled man corresponds to the economic function/caste.
Pulp Fiction tells the overlapping stories of these three men in a complex, non-linear fashion. The meaning of the movie becomes clearer, however, if we discuss the story in chronological order.
The Outline of the Movie
The titles in quotes are Quentin Tarantino’s. The others are mine.
Part 1: The Diner: Two criminals known as “Pumpkin” (Tim Roth) and “Honey Bunny” (Amanda Plummer) decide to rob a diner.
Part 2: The Killing: Hitmen Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield kill several people and recover a briefcase containing contents stolen from their employer, gangster Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames).
Part 3: “Vincent Vega and Marsellus Wallace’s Wife”: Vincent Vega takes Marsellus Wallace’s wife Mia out for dinner and dancing.
Part 4: “The Gold Watch”: Boxer Butch Coolidge double-crosses Marsellus Wallace and prepares to flee town when he discovers that he has to return to his apartment to recover his father’s gold watch. (The prologue of this scene is a flashback that explains the significance of the watch.)
Part 5: “The Bonnie Situation”: Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield have to dispose of the body of one of their associates who is accidentally shot in their car in broad daylight.
Part 6: The Diner Again: After disposing of the body, Vincent and Jules decide to have breakfast at a diner, only to have their meal interrupted by Pumpkin and Honey Bunny’s robbery.
The Chronology of Events
1. The flashback to Butch’s childhood
2. The Killing
3. “The Bonnie Situation”
4. The Diner/The Diner Again
5. “Vincent Vega and Marsellus Wallace’s Wife”
6. “The Gold Watch”
Pulp Fiction is set in Los Angeles and environs in the early 1990s. The movie was filmed in 1993 and released in 1994.
Jules Winnfield, the Spiritual Man
Let’s begin the story with the killing. It is early morning. Jules Winnfield has come to pick up Vincent Vega for a job. When we meet Vincent Vega he has just returned to Los Angeles from three years in Amsterdam.
After three years in one of Europe’s greatest cities, what has rubbed off on him? Vincent’s conversation focuses entirely on fast food, drink, and drugs: what the Dutch eat with their French fries, what the French call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese (Royale with Cheese—on account of the metric system), where you can buy beer, the laws governing marijuana use in Holland, etc. Vincent, as we come to learn, is not stupid. He is intelligent and witty. But he is totally ruled by his desires.
Vincent and his partner Jules Winnfield go to an apartment occupied by four young thieves, three white and one black, who have stolen a briefcase from the black gangster Marsellus Wallace, who is Vega and Winnfield’s employer. The two hit men are let into the apartment by the black thief Marvin, who has betrayed his white friends to the black gangster Wallace and his black enforcer Winnfield. After recovering the briefcase, Winnfield kills two of the white thieves, sadistically toying with their leader, Brett, including shooting him in the leg and a quoting the Bible at him before finishing him off. This ends Part 2, “The Killing.”
The storyline resumes in Part 5, “The Bonnie Situation,” when the third white, who has been hiding in the bathroom, bursts out firing a .357 Magnum. All six shots miss. Jules and Vincent then shoot the gunman, collect the briefcase, and depart with Marvin in tow.
Jules interprets the fact that the bullets missed as “divine intervention.” “God came down from heaven and stopped the bullets.” Vincent interprets it as merely “luck,” a “freak occurrence,” “this s**t happens.” These fundamentally different interpretations reveal fundamentally different characters. As we have already seen, Vincent is ruled by his desires. Thus it makes sense that he would interpret the event in fundamentally materialistic terms as a meaningless freak accident. Jules, by contrast, gives the event a spiritual interpretation, revealing an openness to a higher reality and thus to motives higher than the satisfaction of mere material interests.
In the getaway car, Vincent turns to Marvin for his opinion of the event. Vincent is holding his gun, pointed at Marvin. Marvin, who seems none too bright, says he has no opinion. Then Vincent blows Marvin’s head off, drenching the interior of the car in blood. Vincent claims it is an accident, although he was none too pleased that Marvin had not mentioned that the third white thief was hiding in the bathroom with a “hand cannon.” Still, Vincent is a rather calculating and risk-averse individual. Before the hit, he meticulously questions Jules about the number of people they are facing and keeps insisting that they should have brought shotguns. Thus intentionally killing Marvin in a car in broad daylight seems uncharacteristically reckless.
To avoid being pulled over driving a car bathed in blood, Jules drives to the nearby house of his friend Jimmy (played by Quentin Tarantino himself). Jimmy is not amused. He tells his friends that he is not in the “dead n****r storage” business. His wife Bonnie, a nurse working graveyard at a hospital, will be home in an hour, and the killers, the corpse, and the car will have to be gone. Jules calls Marsellus, who dispatches Winston Wolf (Harvey Keitell), who apparently has some experience in these matters. The whole scene is played in a darkly comic way, wallowing in the grossness of the blood and the corpse, as well as the moral sordidness of its casual disposal. Marvin is “nobody who will be missed,” and, truly, there are plenty more where he came from.
After Wolf disposes of the body and departs, “The Bonnie Situation” has been resolved, and the last part of the movie commences: Part 6, The Diner Again.
Jules and Vincent decide to have breakfast at a local diner (it truly has been a long morning). Vincent orders pancakes and sausages, Jules coffee and a muffin. When Vincent offers Jules some sausage, Jules refuses on the ground that pigs are unclean animals, to which Vincent retorts in a childish voice, “Sausages tastes good. Pork chops taste good.” Again Vincent shows that he is fundamentally ruled by his desires, whereas Jules has higher standards, in this case aesthetic. (Jewish dietary laws are explicitly rejected as his motive, but spiritual men routinely codify their moral and aesthetic preferences as religious commandments.)
Then the conversation returns to the bullets that missed. Vincent again dismisses it as a freak accident. Jules again insists that it was divine intervention, a message from God. He has decided to quit “the life”—meaning the life of a killer—and “wander the earth like Kane in Kung Fu,” getting in adventures and meeting people until God tells him he is where he ought to be. Vincent, who is immune to the spiritual and focused entirely on the material, knows exactly what people with no jobs and no money who wander the earth are. They are bums. Jules is proposing to be nothing more than a bum. Vincent, whose entire life seems to be ruled by his digestive tract, then interrupts the conversation “to take a s**t.”
When Vincent is in the toilet, Pumpkin and Honey Bunny launch their robbery and the movie comes full circle. It goes quite well, until Pumpkin tries to take Marsellus’ case from Jules. Jules gets the drop on him, then in an absolutely riveting speech, explains that he will not kill them because he is “in a transitional period” (transitioning out of “the life”). His brush with death has brought on “a moment of clarity.” He now sees through the excuses and self-deceptions he has used to rationalize his life as a criminal. He sees that he has been nothing more than a tool of “the tyranny of evil men.” He keeps the briefcase. Pumpkin and Honey Bunny depart, followed by Jules and Vincent.
At this point, the movie ends, but we are not even half-way into the story. If Tarantino had originally meant to present the movie in chronological order, Samuel L. Jackson’s absolutely riveting delivery makes it easy to understand why he chose to make this the final scene. Everything after it would seem like an anticlimax.
Next in the story is Part 3, “Vincent Vega and Marsellus Wallace’s Wife.” Vincent and Jules, having departed the diner, arrive at a bar owned by their employer, Marsellus Wallace. The scene begins with Wallace speaking to Butch Coolidge, the boxer, but I will save my discussion of this scene until later, when I discuss “The Gold Watch.” Although we do not see it happen, Jules presumably tenders his resignation and departs on his spiritual quest. We learn nothing more about his fate.
Since Jules Winnfield is now departing from the story, this is the appropriate place to explore another way in which spiritual themes play a role in Pulp Fiction. What is in Marsellus Wallace’s briefcase? When Vincent opens the briefcase in The Killing, a golden light shines out of it. Vincent takes a drag on his cigarette and stares, transfixed. In The Diner Again, when Pumpkin demands that Jules open the briefcase, again we see a golden glow. With a look of awe on his face, Pumpkin asks: “Is that what I think it is?” Jules nods yes, then Pumpkin says, “It’s beautiful.”
An interpretation  that I find appealing has been floating around the internet since 1994: The briefcase contains Marsellus Wallace’s soul. He has sold it, or it has been stolen, but in any case he wants it back. This interpretation fits in with a number of details in the movie in addition to the strange glow and the looks of awe: The combination of the briefcase is 666, the Number of the Beast. Jules tells Pumpkin that the briefcase contains his boss’s “dirty laundry,” and indeed, Marsellus Wallace has a lot of dirty laundry, a lot of sins upon his soul.
The first thing we see of Marsellus Wallace is the back of his shaved head. At the base of his skull is a large Band-Aid. One wonders if something has been removed. It has been suggested that his soul was removed through the back of his head, although the idea apparently has no basis in myth or tradition. If Jules and Vincent were trying to recover Marsellus Wallace’s soul, it would also explain why God might indeed want to intervene on their behalf. And as for the death of the four thieves: Well, they are the devil’s little helpers anyway.
Vincent Vega: The Desire-Driven Man
Although Jules Winnfield quits “the life,” Vincent Vega stays in Marsellus’s employ, and his next job is to take Mrs. Wallace out for a night on the town while Mr. Wallace is away.
Am I the only one to whom this does not sound like a good idea? During the opening sequence of The Killing, we learn that Marsellus’ white wife Mia (Uma Thurman) is a failed actress. (She was in a pilot.) We also hear that Marsellus had another of his associates, Atwan Rockamora, thrown off a fourth storey balcony for giving Mia a foot massage. (Those of us who on this basis suspected Tarantino of being a foot fetishist were vindicated by the Kill Bill  movies.)
For Vincent, the first order of business in taking out his boss’s wife is to buy some heroin. He goes to the house of his dealer Lance (Eric Stolz). As Vincent waits for Lance, he listens to a disquisition on body-piercing from Lance’s wife Jody (Rosanna Arquette). Having purchased and injected some spendy gourmet heroin, Vincent departs for the Wallace residence to pick up Mia.
We soon learn that Mia is cut from the same cloth as Vincent: she is witty, playful, and entirely dominated by her desires. Cocaine is her drug of choice, along with alcohol and cigarettes. Everything about this couple is extremely cool, from Vincent’s car to their clothes, their music, their witty repartee, and their wonderful dance scene. But their most disarming traits are their sensitivity and old-fashioned manners. It is impossible to dislike Vincent and Mia. It is hard not to envy them. Their lives would be a fun vacation from our lives. This whole segment of Pulp Fiction does full justice to both the allure and the emptiness of their postmodern hedonism.
Mia has Vincent take her to Jack Rabbit Slim’s, a 50s nostalgia restaurant in which the booths are classic cars and the waiters and waitresses dress up like 50s movie and pop stars. (The prices, however, are very much in the 90s.) Vincent sums the place up brilliantly, in one of the movie’s best lines: “It’s like a wax museum with a pulse.” After Buddy Holly takes their order, Mia slips into the bathroom to snort some coke. After dinner, they doff their shoes then compete in, and win, the Jack Rabbit Slim’s twist contest. There is a great deal of clever dialogue, but the overall impression is that Vincent and Mia have only one use for their intelligence: to accumulate novel experiences and undergo pleasant sensations.
Cut to the end of the evening. Vincent and Mia stagger back to the Wallace residence. Having eaten, drunk, danced, laughed, and shot up, Vincent’s desires are now moving in a sexual direction. But first he has “to take a piss.” He ducks into the bathroom to get a grip on himself. Here we see the roles of reason and morality in a desire-dominated life.
For Plato, reason is a multi-faceted faculty embracing everything from induction from sense experience to calculating options and outcomes to mystical insight into transcendent truths. All human beings use reason, but only the spiritual individual accesses its highest powers. Jules Winnfield’s conviction that God was sending him a message is an example of the highest, mystical function of reason, although it seems none too reasonable to the rest of us.
For desire-ruled individuals like Vincent, however, reason is merely a tool to satisfy their desires. It is empirical and calculative. Modern philosophy, no matter how rational it professes to be, tends to define reason merely as a tool for the satisfaction of desire, which makes even professed rationalists hedonists in the end.
Vincent wants to f**k Mia. (There is no point in putting a finer word on it.) This, he claims, is “a test of character,” and he shows that modernity defines character, like reason, in a way that leaves desire firmly in control. Vincent would enjoy fucking Mia. But he would not enjoy the probable consequences if Marsellus finds out. (Mia denies the foot massage story, but who knows . . .)
Vincent does not choose against sex with Mia based on his sense of the honorable or the sacred. Rather, he masters one desire by rationally counter-posing other, greater desires: the desires to remain alive and on good terms with his boss. Thus he resolves that he is going to have a drink, say goodnight, be a perfect gentleman, then go home and jerk off.
Vincent, in short, achieves self-mastery though rational self-indulgence. Reason for Vincent means hedonistic calculus. Character means the ability to sacrifice present pleasures for future pleasures. These are the highest virtues to which a hedonist can aspire.
While Vincent is communing in the toilet with the cleverer demons of his nature, Mia is getting bored in the other room. Vincent has gallantly offered Mia his coat, which she is still wearing. In a pocket, she finds his bag of heroin. Thinking it is cocaine, she snorts some of it, sending her into an immediate overdose. When Vincent finds her—glassy eyed, foaming at the mouth, bleeding from the nose, a grotesque parody of Man Ray’s “Tears”—he panics. He is a no-doubt wanted criminal. So is his boss. So he cannot take Mia to an emergency room. Too many questions. So he drives her to the house of his dealer Lance, where, after a good deal of dark-comic hysteria, he revives Mia by stabbing her in the heart with a huge syringe full of adrenaline, shocking her back to consciousness. (“Pretty trippy” chortles Jody. Then her friend Trudi celebrates life with another bong hit.)
As the bedraggled pair stumble back to the Wallace house, they no longer look so cool and attractive. They look like death warmed over. One knows that all their coolness, cleverness, and wit—not to mention what passes for reason and character in their lives—will not be enough to save them from the consequences of their affluent hedonism: addiction, degradation, and death by misadventure. (As an “anti-drug” film, Pulp Fiction is second only to Requiem for a Dream .)
Postmodernism, Hedonism, & Death
The story of “Vincent Vega and Marsellus Wallace’s Wife” beautifully illustrates two philosophical theses: (1) there is an inner identity between postmodern culture and hedonism, and (2) hedonism, taken to an extreme, can lead to its self-overcoming by arranging an encounter with death—an encounter which, if survived, can expand one’s awareness of one’s self and the world to embrace non-hedonistic motives and actions.
This is not the place for a whole theory of postmodernism. “Postmodernism” is one of those academically fashionable weasel-words like “paradigm” that have now seeped into middlebrow and even lowbrow discourse. Those of us who have fundamental and principled critiques of modernity quickly learned that postmodernism is not postmodern enough. Indeed, in most ways, it is just an intensification of the worst features of modernity.
For my purposes, postmodernity is an attitude toward culture characterized by (1) eclecticism or bricolage, meaning the mixing of different cultures and traditions, i.e., multiculturalism, and (2) irony, detachment, and playfulness toward culture, which is what allows us to mix and manipulate cultures in the first place. The opposite of multiculturalism is cultural integrity and exclusivity. The opposite of irony is earnestness. The opposite of detachment is identification. The opposite of playfulness is seriousness.
The core of a genuine culture is a worldview, an interpretation of existence and our place in it, as well as of our nature and the best form of life for us. These are serious matters. Because of the fundamental seriousness of a living culture, each one is characterized by a unity of style, the other side of which is an exclusion of foreign cultural forms. After all, if one takes one’s own worldview seriously, one cannot take incompatible worldviews with equal seriousness. (Yes, cultures do borrow from one another, but a serious culture only borrows what it can assimilate to its own worldview and use for its greater glory.)
The core of a living culture is not primarily a set of ideas, but of ideals. Ideals are ideas that make normative claims upon us. They don’t just tell us what is, but what ought to be. Like Rilke’s “Archaic Torso of Apollo ,” ideals demand that we change our lives. The core of a living culture is a pantheon of ideals that is experienced as numinous and enthralling. An individual formed by a living culture has a fundamental sense of identification with and participation in his culture. He cannot separate himself from it, and since it is the source of his ideas of his nature, the good life, the cosmos, and his place in it, his attitude toward culture is fundamentally earnest and serious, even pious. In a very deep sense, he does not own his culture, he is owned by it.
In terms of their relationship to culture, human beings fall into two basic categories: healthy and unhealthy. Healthy human beings experience the ideals that define a culture as a challenge, as a tonic. The gap between the ideal and the real is bridged by a longing of the soul for perfection. This longing is a tension, like the tension of the bowstring or the lyre, that makes human greatness possible. Culture forms human beings not merely by evoking idealistic longings, but also by suppressing, shaping, stylizing, and sublimating our natural desires. Culture has an element of mortification. But healthy organisms embrace this ascetic dimension as a pathway to ennoblement through self-transcendence.
Unhealthy organisms experience culture in a radically different way. Ideals are not experienced as a challenge to quicken and mobilize the life force. Instead, they are experienced as a threat, an insult, an external imposition, a gnawing thorn in the flesh. The unhealthy organism wishes to free itself from the tension created by ideals—which it experiences as nothing more than unreasonable expectations (unreasonable by the standards of an immanentized reason, a mere hedonistic calculus). The unhealthy organism does not wish to suppress and sublimate his natural desires. He wishes to validate them as good enough and then express them. He wants to give them free reign, not pull back on the bit.
Unfortunately, the decadent have Will to Power too. Thus they have been able to free themselves and their desires from the tyranny of normative culture and institute a decadent counter-culture in its place. This is the true meaning of “postmodernism.” Postmodernism replaces participation with detachment, earnestness with irony, seriousness with playfulness, enthrallment with emancipation. Such attitudes demythologize and profane the pantheon of numinous ideals that is the beating heart of a living culture.
Culture henceforth becomes merely a wax museum: a realm of dead, decontextualized artifacts and ideas. When a culture is eviscerated of its defining worldview, all integrity, all unity of style is lost. Cultural integrity gives way to multiculturalism, which is merely a pretentious way of describing a shopping mall where artifacts are bought and sold, mixed and matched to satisfy emancipated consumer desires: a wax museum jumping to the pulse of commerce. This is the world of Pulp Fiction.
Yet, as Pulp Fiction also shows, even when desire becomes emancipated and sovereign, it has a tendency to dialectically overcome itself. As William Blake said, “The fool who persists in his folly will become wise.” As much as hedonists wish to become mere happy animals, they remain botched human beings. The human soul still contains longings for something more than mere satiation of natural desires. These longings, moreover, are closely intertwined with these desires. For instance, merely natural desires are few and easily satisfied. But the human imagination can multiply desires to infinity. Most of these artificial desires, moreover, are for objects that satisfy a need for honor, recognition, status, not mere natural creature comforts. Hedonism is not an animal existence, but merely a perverted and profaned human existence.
If animal life is all about contentment, plenitude, fullness—the fulfillment of our natural desires—then a distinctly human mode of existence emerges when hominids mortify the flesh in the name of something higher. Hegel believed that the perforation of the flesh was the first expression of human spirit in animal existence.
This throws light on the discourse on body piercing delivered by Jody, the wife of Lance the drug dealer. Jody, it is safe to say, is about as complete a hedonist as has ever existed. Yet Jody has had her body pierced sixteen times, including her left nipple, her clitoris, and her tongue. And in each instance, she used a needle rather than a relatively quick and painless piercing gun. As she says, “That gun goes against the whole idea behind piercing.”
Well then, one has to ask, “What is the whole idea behind piercing?” Yes, piercing is fashionable. Yes, it is involved with sexual fetishism. (But fetishism is not mere desire either.) Yes, it is now big business. But the phenomenon cannot merely be reduced to hedonistic self-indulgence. It hurts. And it is irreversible.
Thus, in a world of casual and meaningless self-indulgence, piercing and its first cousin tattooing are deeply significant; they are tests; they are limit experiences; they are encounters with something—something in ourselves and in the world—that transcends the economy of desire. They are re-enactments of the primal anthropogenetic act within the context of a decadent and dehumanizing society.
But to “mortify” the flesh means literally to kill it. Each little hole is a little death, which derives its meaning from a big death, a whole death, death itself. And it is an encounter with death itself that is truly anthropogenetic—at least potentially so.
Jules and Vincent had a brush with death, but the bullets missed. For Jules, this brought on a moment of clarity. His self-deceptions were breached, he saw his life for what it really was, and he changed it. But the experience was wasted on Vincent.
Vincent and Mia Wallace also had a brush with death. (Mia’s death would surely have entailed Vincent’s death.) But again, it was wasted on Vincent. (We never learn how it affected Mia.)
For Hegel, however, the truly anthropogenetic encounter with death is not a mere “near miss,” but rather an intentionally undertaken battle to the death over honor, which is the subject of Part 4, “The Gold Watch,” to which we now turn.
The Gold Watch
We first encounter boxer Butch Coolidge at the beginning of Part 3, “Vincent Vega and Marsellus Wallace’s Wife.” The setting is a tittie bar owned by Marsellus Wallace. The time is mid-morning, so the bar is empty. Butch is a small timer near the end of his career. If he was going to make it, he would have made it already. So he is looking to scrape up some retirement money by throwing a fight. Marsellus Wallace offers him a large sum of cash to lose in the fifth round. Wallace plans to bet on Butch’s opponent and clean up.
Butch accepts the deal, then Wallace dispenses a bit of advice: “Now, the night of the fight, you may feel a slight sting. That’s pride fuckin’ wit ya. F**k pride! Pride only hurts, it never helps. Fight through that s**t. ’Cause a year from now, when you’re kickin’ it in the Caribbean, you’re gonna say, ‘Marsellus Wallace was right.’” Butch replies, “I’ve got no problem with that, Mr. Wallace.”
Just before Butch leaves, Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield enter, fresh from their encounter with Pumpkin and Honey Bunny. As Butch approaches the bar, Vincent, who (as we all know) has had a really bad morning, taunts him as “palooka” and “punchy.” Butch is clearly incensed but lets it drop. Apparently, his pride is well in check.
We meet Butch again in Part 4, “The Gold Watch,” which begins with a flashback. It is 1972. Butch is about eight years old. He is watching TV when his mother introduces him to Captain Koons (Christopher Walken), who was in the same North Vietnamese Prisoner of War camp as Butch’s father, who died there.
Captain Koons has come to keep a promise to Butch’s father. He is delivering a wristwatch that was bought by Butch’s great-grandfather Erine Coolidge when he went off to fight in World War I. Twenty years later, he gave it to his son Dane Coolidge, who went off to fight in World War II as a Marine. Dane was killed at the battle of Wake Island. Knowing that he had little chance of survival, he entrusted a man named Winocki, a gunner on an Air Force transport plane, with the task of delivering his watch to his infant son whom he had never seen. The gunner kept his promise, and that same watch was on the wrist of Butch’s father when he was shot down over Hanoi. To keep the watch from being confiscated, Butch’s father hid it in his rectum. When he died, he entrusted it to Captain Koons, who hid it in his rectum until he was released. “And now, little man,” says Captain Koons, “I give the watch to you.”
Cut to the aftermath of the fight. A female cabbie, Esmeralda Villa Lobos, is listening to the radio as she waits outside the arena. We hear the announcers say that the other boxer, Floyd Ray Willis (a black man, according to the script) was killed and that Butch Coolidge fled the ring. Then Butch exits the arena from a window and jumps into the cab. He has broken his deal with Marsellus Wallace and is clearly on the run. But the question is: “Why did he fight to win, to the point of killing the other boxer?”
The natural interpretation is that his pride got the best of him. What stirred up his pride? The most plausible answer is his dream/recollection of the story of the gold watch. After all, everything in the story is connected to honor: the three generations of his family (patriotic folk from Tennessee) who fought in America’s wars, two of them giving their lives. The fact that we know that these wars were not in America’s interests, and that American men were sent to their deaths by aliens and traitors, does not alter the fact that the military cultivates an ethos of honor to overcome the fear of death. Furthermore, Winocki and Captain Koons both honored their promises to deliver the gold watch to the next Coolidge heir.
Thus the watch represents honor, the honor of fighting men, a fact that is not stained but enhanced by the detail that both Butch’s father and Captain Koons kept it hidden in their rectums for years. As Butch later says, his father “went through a lot” to give him that watch. What they went through commands respect.
So my initial interpretation was that Butch’s honor was stirred up by the recollection of the watch, thus he went into the ring and fought, not for money, but for honor. And since he had made a deal with Marsellus Wallace to throw the fight, he was risking his life to fight for honor. And he fought all-out, killing the other boxer. So Butch seems to have proved himself to be a man ruled by honor, not by desire.
Hegel on the Beginning of History
The duel to the death over honor is a remarkable phenomenon. Animals duel over dominance, which insures their access to mates. But these duels result in death only by accident, because the whole process is governed by their survival instincts, and their “egos” do not prevent them from surrendering when the fight is hopeless. The duel to the death over honor is a distinctly human thing.
Indeed, in his Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel claims that the duel to the death over honor is the beginning of history—and the beginning of a distinctly human form of existence and self-consciousness.
Prehistoric man is dominated by nature: the natural world around him and the natural world within him, namely his desires. History, for Hegel, is something different. It is the process of (1) our discovery of those parts of our nature that transcend mere animal desire, and (2) our creation of a society in accord with our true nature.
When we fully know ourselves as more than merely natural beings and finally live accordingly, then history will be over. (History can end, because as a process of discovery and construction, it is the kind of thing that can end.) Hegel claimed that history ended with the discovery that all men are free and the creation of a society that reflects that truth.
When two men duel to the death over honor, the external struggle between them conceals an internal struggle within each of them as they confront the possibility of being ruled by two different parts of their souls: desire, which includes the desire for self-preservation, and honor, which demands recognition of our worth by others.
When our sense of honor is offended, we become angry and seek to compel the offending party to respect us. If the other party is equally offended and intransigent, the struggle can escalate to the point where life is at stake.
At this point, two kinds of human beings distinguish themselves. Those who are ruled by their honor will sacrifice their lives to preserve it. Their motto is: “Death before dishonor.” Those who are ruled by their desires are more concerned to preserve their lives than their honor. They will sacrifice their honor to preserve their lives. Their motto is: “Dishonor before death.”
Suppose two honorable men fight to the death. One will live, one will die, but both will preserve their honor. But what if the vanquished party begs to be spared at the last moment at the price of his honor? What if his desire to survive is stronger than his sense of honor? In that case, he will become the slave of the victor.
The man who prefers death to dishonor is a natural master. The man who prefers dishonor to death—life at any price—is a natural slave. The natural master defines himself in terms of a distinctly human self-consciousness, an awareness of his transcendence over animal desire, the survival “instinct,” the whole realm of biological necessity. The natural slave, by contrast, is ruled by his animal nature and experiences his sense of honor as a danger to survival. The master uses the slave’s fear of death to compel him to work.
History thus begins with the emergence of a warrior aristocracy, a two-tiered society structured in terms of the oppositions between work and leisure, necessity and luxury, nature and culture. Slaves work so that the masters can enjoy leisure. Slaves secure the necessities of life so the masters can enjoy luxuries. Slaves conquer nature so masters can create culture. In a sense the whole realm of culture is a “luxury,” since none of it is necessitated by our animal desires. But in a higher sense, it is a necessity: a necessity of our distinctly human nature to understand itself and put its stamp upon the world.
The End of History
Hegel had the fanciful notion that there is a necessary “dialectic” between master and slave that will lead eventually lead to universal freedom, that at the end of history, the distinction between master and slave can be abolished, that all men are potential masters.
Now, to his credit, Hegel was a race realist. He was also quite realistic about the tendency of bourgeois capitalism to turn all men into spiritual slaves. Thus his view of the ideal state, which regulates economic life and reinforces the institutions that elevate human character against the corrupting influences of modernity, differs little from fascism. So in the end, Hegel’s high-flown talk about universal freedom seems unworthy of him, rather like Jefferson’s rhetorical gaffe that “all men are created equal.”
The true heirs to Hegel’s universalism are Marx and his followers, who really believed that the dialectic would lead to universal freedom. Alexandre Kojève, Hegel’s greatest 20th-century Marxist interpreter, came to believe that both Communism and bourgeois capitalism/liberal democracy were paths to Hegel’s vision of universal freedom. After the collapse of communism, Kojève’s pupil Francis Fukuyama declared that bourgeois capitalism and liberal democracy would create what Kojève called the “universal homogeneous state,” the global political and economic order in which all men would be free.
But both capitalism and communism are essentially materialistic systems. Yes, they made appeals to idealism, but primarily to motivate their subjects to fight for them. But if one system triumphed over the other, that necessity would no longer exist, and desire would be fully sovereign. Materialism would triumph. (And so it would have, were it not for the rise of another global enemy that is spiritual and warlike rather than materialistic: Islam.)
Thus Kojève came to believe that the universal homogeneous state would not be a society in which all men are masters, i.e., a society in which honor rules over desire. Rather, it would be a world in which all men are slaves, a society in which desire rules over honor.
This is the world of Nietzsche’s “Last Man,” the world of C. S. Lewis’s “Men without Chests” (honor is traditionally associated with the chest, just as reason is associated with the head and desire with the belly and points below). This is the postmodern world, where emancipated desire and corrosive individualism and irony have reduced all normative cultures to commodities that can be bought and sold, used and discarded.
This is the end of the path blazed by the first wave of modern philosophers: Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, David Hume, etc., all of whom envisioned a liberal order founded on the sovereignty of desire, in which reason is reduced to a technical-instrumental faculty and honor is checked or sublimated into economic competitiveness and the quest for material status symbols.
From this point of view, there is no significant difference between classical liberalism and left-liberalism. Both are based on the sovereignty of desire. Although left liberalism is more idealistic because it is dedicated to the impossible dream of overcoming natural inequality, whereas classical liberalism, always more vulgar, unimaginative, and morally complacent, is content with mere “bourgeois” legal equality.
The great theorists of liberalism offered mankind the same deal that Marsellus Wallace offered Butch: “F**k pride. Think of the money.” And our ancestors took the deal. As Marsellus hands Butch the cash, he pauses to ask, “Are you my n****r?” “It certainly appears so,” Butch answers, then takes the money. In modernity, every man is the n****r, the spiritual slave, of any man with more money than him—to the precise extent that any contrary motives, such as pride or religious/intellectual enthusiasm, have been suppressed. (Marsellus, a black man, calls all of his hirelings niggers, but surely it gives him special pleasure to deem the white ones so.)
History Begins Again
But history can never really end as long as it is possible for men to choose to place honor above money. And that is always possible, given that we really do seem to have the ability to choose which part of our soul is sovereign.
It is, moreover, possible as long as the examples of our ancestors, better men than ourselves, can still stir us. When Esmeralda asks Butch what his name means, he replies “I’m an American, honey, our names don’t mean s**t.” It is one of the funniest lines of the movie, but also one of the saddest. Americans are such a sorry lot of spiritual slaves because we don’t know who we are. We don’t know who our ancestors are. We don’t know what our names mean. So we don’t have to live up to them. Or if we do know, we allow the Marsellus Wallaces of the world to bribe us into forgetting about it.
Of course “Butch” means something. It is a fighting man’s name. Butch is a fighting man, from a long line of fighting men. Although he fights for money, not honor. But then, when he has reached the rock bottom of spiritual sordidness—when he sells himself as the n****r of a black gangster—he redeems himself. This is what makes Butch Coolidge seem so heroic.
But then we discover that we were completely wrong. Butch stops to make a phone call, and we learn that he has taken Marsellus’s money then leaked the word that the fix was in, which tilted the odds dramatically in favor of his opponent. Then Butch bet all of Marsellus’s money on himself and beat the other boxer—and he had to beat him, so he fought all-out and killed him—in order to win a huge payout. So Butch turns out to be a bigger crook than Marsellus Wallace. And we all know what happens to people who steal from Marsellus Wallace.
Butch meets his French girlfriend Fabienne at a cheap motel. They are cute together, and she obviously wants to have his children, explaining at length about how she wants to have a large, perfectly round potbelly. They plan to leave town the next morning, but Butch discovers that Fabienne forgot to pack his father’s gold watch.
Again, Butch is faced with a conflict between honor and desire, a conflict in which his life is at stake. Honor tells him to retrieve the watch, although he knows that he will have to risk his life to do so, because Wallace will surely stake out his apartment. Desire, most eminently the desire to stay alive, tells him to take the money and run. So now we see, for real, what kind of man Butch is. He chooses honor, risking his life to retrieve the watch.
Butch cautiously returns to his apartment and retrieves the watch. Astonished at the ease, he ducks into his kitchen for a snack (he has had no breakfast). As he waits for the toaster, he is startled to see a machine gun with a huge silencer lying on the counter. As he hefts the gun, he hears the toilet flush. The bathroom door opens, and there stands Vincent Vega, reading material in hand. The two men freeze, staring at each other. Then the toaster pops, breaking the spell, and Butch pulls the trigger, reducing Vega to a bullet-riddled corpse sprawled in the bathtub.
It could have been Jules Winnfield, but he followed his spiritual enthusiasm and left “the life.” Vincent, ruled by his desires, stayed in. Vincent, ruled by his desires, mocked Butch as “palooka” and “punchy,” daring him to retaliate. Which, eventually, he did. And given Vincent’s character, it is singularly appropriate that Butch got the drop on him while he was “taking a s**t.”
Butch flees in Fabienne’s Honda. As he waits at a light, Marsellus Wallace crosses the street in front of him with coffee and donuts for the stake out. When the two men recognize each other, Butch floors it, running Marsellus down. But his car is hit by oncoming traffic. When Marsellus comes to and sees Butch, injured in the wrecked Honda, he pulls out a .45 and starts firing wildly as he staggers across the street. Butch ducks into a pawn shop, and when Marsellus follows, Butch knocks him down and starts punching him furiously: “Feel that sting? That’s pride, fuckin’ wit ya.’”
Unfortunately, they have blundered into no ordinary pawn shop. Maynard, the shop-keeper gets the drop on Butch with a shotgun then knocks him out cold. When he comes to, he and Marsellus are tied to chairs in a basement dungeon with red S&M ball gags in their mouths. Maynard explains that nobody kills anyone in his place of business except himself or Zed, who is arriving presently. Zed and Maynard are two homosexual hillbilly sadists who apparently plan to rape, torture, and murder Marsellus and Butch.
When Zed and Maynard take Marsellus in the other room to reenact a scene from Deliverance, Butch manages to free himself. He could just sneak out, saving himself and leaving Marsellus to a well-deserved fate. But Butch can’t do it. He chooses a riskier but more honorable path. He decides to rescue Marsellus. He looks around for a suitable weapon. First he hefts a claw hammer. Then a small chainsaw. Then a baseball bat. Finally, his eyes light on a samurai sword—the perfect symbol of honor.
He returns to the dungeon. Zed is raping Marsellus (who does look just like a hawg—a roasted one, complete with an apple in his mouth) while Maynard watches. Butch dispatches Maynard and taunts Zed. Marsellus, in the meantime, gets up, grabs Maynard’s shotgun, and blasts Zed in the groin. At this point, Marsellus could have killed Butch as well. (Butch was very, very stupid to let Marsellus get the drop on him.)
But Marsellus responds to Butch’s gallant gesture in kind. He agrees to drop his grievance against Butch if he does not tell anyone about what has happened and if he leaves L.A. never to return. I know it is unlikely. But if he got his soul back, maybe it is starting to kick in. (But not soon enough to save Zed from a “medieval” fate.)
Butch accepts the deal and roars off on Zed’s chopper to meet Fabienne. They still have time to catch their train to Tennessee. And on that happy note, the story (as opposed to the movie) of Pulp Fiction ends.
* * *
Even its detractors admit that Pulp Fiction is a stylishly directed, superbly acted, darkly comic movie. I hope I have convinced you that it is a deeply serious movie as well. Yes, Quentin Tarantino is a thoroughly repulsive and nihilistic human being, and everything he directed before and since Pulp Fiction reflects that. (See my reviews of Kill Bill, Vol. 1  and Inglourious Basterds .) But repugnant people create great art all the time, in spite of themselves. Yes, Pulp Fiction contains interracial couples, villainous bumbling whites, and noble, eloquent blacks. One just has to look beyond the casting to the story itself.
Pulp Fiction is only superficially anti-white. On a deeper level, it can aid us in rejecting modernity and recovering the spiritual foundations of something better.
Pulp Fiction is valuable for our cause as a critique of modernity in its final decadent phase, what Traditionalists call the Kali Yuga, Hegelians call the “end of history,” and idiots celebrate as postmodernity. Philosophically speaking, modernity is the emancipation of desire from reason, honor, culture, and tradition.
Pulp Fiction takes such philosophical abstractions and pairs them with unforgettably dramatic concrete images and events. Modernity is Marsellus Wallace telling us to f**k pride, take his money, and become his n****r. Modernity is coke, smack, and Jack Rabbit Slim’s. Modernity is Vincent Vega sprawled dead in a bathtub, Mia Wallace with a huge syringe stuck in her heart, and Jules Winnfield scooping up bits of brain and skull in the back seat of a blood-soaked car.
But Pulp Fiction does much more than just critique modernity. It also shows us an alternative. Not an alternative vision of society, but rather the spiritual basis of an alternative to modernity. Spiritually, modernity is the rule of desire. Part of the grip of modernity is that even people who intellectually reject it are still modern men who have no idea of how they could become anything else.
Most modern people lack the concepts necessary to think of themselves as anything more than desire-driven producer-consumers. Reason to them is just calculating options. Honor is just the narcissistic display of commodities that we are told symbolize status.
Pulp Fiction brilliantly concretizes and dramatizes the moments of decision when one chooses to be something more than a mere modern man: Jules Winnfield’s choice to follow his desires or his mystical conviction that God is sending him a message; Butch Coolidge’s choice to be a sneaky, bourgeois coward or a man of honor.
The spiritual man is Jules Winnfield, honestly confronting the fact that he has been lying to himself all his life, that he has been the tool of the “tyranny of evil men” (from Hobbes and Locke down to Marsellus Wallace), and instead “trying to be the shepherd.” The warrior is Captain Koons keeping his word and delivering the gold watch; the warrior is Butch Coolidge descending back into hell with a samurai sword to do justice. These are the kinds of men who can start history again and deliver our people from evil.
Plato claims that society is the soul writ large. If democracy is the rule of desire writ large, then the regime that corresponds to Butch Coolidge’s soul is a warrior aristocracy. The regime that corresponds to Jules Winnfield’s soul is a form of theocracy in which social order is based on a transcendent metaphysical order, what Evola called the idea of the Imperium. If Tarantino had tried to show us the political big picture, he would have gotten it all terribly wrong. But what he does show, he gets dead right. Mapping out the political alternative is our job.
The Social Order of the Underworld 
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014
As long as academia compels its scholars to write books in which they avoid asking questions about race, discerning readers will ask such questions for them. The Social Order of the Underworld is one such book. Nominally, it is a study which uses economics to explain prison gangs and their function, structure, and behavior. On this account alone, the book is enlightening, engrossing, and at times fascinating. From the perspective of the political Right, The Social Order of the Underworld becomes invaluable for the data it provides, even though author David Skarbek makes no mention of this. Indeed, his work confirms the very basis of much Right-wing – and especially Alt Right – thought: that human beings are fundamentally tribal and racial by nature, and, when placed in situations unconstrained by any official or legal authority, will cluster among themselves and regard out-groups with suspicion.
This is what I call “accidental research.” A scholar uncovers data which bolsters forbidden perspectives and either ignores it all (as Skarbek more or less does), tries to downplay it, or actively argues against it. In either case, we’re richer for having this book on our bookshelves, despite the author not exactly being a hero for the cause.
Skarbek organizes his book almost like a high-level flowchart, with each chapter leading logically, almost inexorably, to the next. Between chapters, he interpolates absorbing anecdotes which are directly apropos to his central thesis: that gang members are for the most part rational actors, and that gangs have formed to meet the inmates’ quite natural need for order, protection, and extra-legal governance. In fact, Skarbek uses his “governance theory” to challenge existing theories explaining the social order in prisons. It’s a specialized field with scant scholarship to be sure, but Skarbek’s novel reliance upon economic models and the respectable amount of data and firsthand accounts he collects must certainly have made some waves in his corner of academia when it was published in 2014. Whether it will have any widespread impact on prison policy remains to be seen.
Skarbek begins with a general description of his governance theory. The second chapter discusses what’s known as “the prison code” and its rise and fall. Chapter three marks the rise of prison gangs, interpreted through the prism of general governance. Chapters four and five deal with the internal workings of the gangs. Chapter six addresses the formidable reach of prison gangs beyond the walls which contain them. And the final chapter contains Skarbek’s conclusions and recommendations for reducing the influence and power of prison gangs. And that’s it. Usually I find books with few but long chapters somewhat tedious or burdensome, but Skarbek, in clear, unpretentious prose, makes it work. That his subject matter is rife with tension, violence, and tragedy certainly helps make this a page-turner as well.
Prior to the 1950s, when white inmates still outnumbered minorities two to one, there were no prison gangs to speak of. Instead, much of the order behind bars was achieved through norms which were eventually consolidated into what’s known as the “convict code.” Prisoners, of course, didn’t have reliable recourse to prison authorities to help solve their problems or administer justice in their dealings. So they looked to the code to help guide their behavior. Skarbek describes the code thusly:
Inmates are to refrain from helping prison or government officials in matters of discipline, and should never give them information of any kind, and especially the kind which may work harm to a fellow prisoner.
In other words, keep cool and don’t be a rat. There’s more to it than this, of course, but these are basically commandments one and two when it comes to pre-gang prisoner conduct. Inmates who respected the code got respect. Those who didn’t, didn’t. And if a certain inmate violated the code often enough, he could face disesteeming, ostracism, or even violence from the other prisoners. None of this was official, of course. Norm-based governance is, if anything, decentralized and informal. Yet for a hundred years, it worked.
Another interesting finding shows how race and ethnicity were downplayed during the age of the convict code. Not only did fewer inmates feel the need for a strong affiliation with distinct groups than today, but many of the informal groups which enforced the code and settled disputes (called “tips” or “cliques”) were interracial. Skarbek quotes novelist, screenwriter, and actor Edward Bunker, who served time at San Quentin in the 1950s:
. . . [A]lthough each race tended to congregate with their own, there was little overt racial tension or hostility. That would change in the decade ahead . . . [W]hat I did for a black friend in the mid-fifties is something I would never have even considered a decade later.
Edward Bunker might be most famous for playing Mr. Blue in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs  in which, early on, he opined about his favorite Madonna songs. He also co-wrote the screenplay for the excellent 1985 prison escape film, Runaway Train , and penned a handful of novels, including the riveting No Beast So Fierce , which was published in 1973.
Skarbek identifies four rapid demographic trends which weakened the convict code in the 1960s and ultimately relegated it to secondary status in the age of prison gangs by the 1970s:
- The overall increase in the prison population
- The increase in racial diversity within the prison population
- The decrease in the average age of the prisoners
- The increase in the proportion of violent offenders in the prison population
These three changes, more than anything else, caused turmoil in prisons. The relatively smooth social order dictated by the convict code was forever shattered, and inmates now required something stronger and more centralized in order to survive, let alone help solve their problems. Because prison authorities could not provide such services, inmates had no choice but to form gangs.
Skarbek draws certain parallels between the rise of prison gangs and underworld organizations such as the Sicilian and Russian mafias. As described in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas , the Mafia served essentially to “protect people who can’t go to the cops. That’s it. They’re like the police department for wiseguys.” While this is certainly true, prison gangs wield much greater control over prisoners than mafias do over ordinary citizens on the outside. For one, they quite literally keep the peace. In the 1970s, after the initial turbulence caused by the demographic changes listed above, prison violence and riots declined steeply in accordance with the rise of prison gangs. Second, going well beyond the convict code, prison gangs required that inmates set aside former rivalries and swear lifelong allegiance to the gang. Many of these gangs, such as the Mexican Mafia and La Nuestra Familia (the two most powerful Hispanic gangs in California) even have written constitutions, official questionnaires for new inmates, strict by-laws, quasi-military hierarchies, and significant tattoo requirements. Third, while it is not true that every inmate in a particular prison is in a gang, it is true that the majority of inmates are affiliated with them in some way.
Finally, and most importantly, prison gangs revolve entirely around race. Blacks stick with blacks, whites with whites, and Hispanics with Hispanics. Different races will certainly do business with each other (most often over narcotics and other black market contraband) and there are rules of conduct in these circumstances as well. There may even be some wiggle room when it comes to low-level, interracial fraternization, especially during peacetime, when business is booming. However, when the shivs are drawn, the races stick together, no exceptions.
Chapters four and five delve into the inner workings of prison gangs and demonstrate the surprising meticulousness with which they operate. Below is a flowchart illustrating complex relationships and hierarchies found in La Nuestra Familia:
Not shown in this chart is the ingenious check and balance of captain appointments. While a general can construct a hierarchy among his captains, he cannot appoint them except in war. Under normal circumstances, captains can only be appointed by vote among the lieutenants and soldiers. So, if the rank-and-file are displeased with their general, they can elect captains who will be more likely to buck his authority.
While making his case that gangs provide essential governance to prisoners and fill economic niches only found in the joint, Skarbek is not blind to the violence, terror, rape, and abuses gangs inflict on otherwise (for lack of a better word) innocent inmates. Like any political organization, gangs also suffer from corruption and incompetence, which in the long run does much to turn former members into stool pigeons or dropouts – a class of inmate as despised as child molesters. He makes it clear that just because gangs have good reasons to exist does not mean they are always good.
Before concluding his book, Skarbek also answers the mystery of how several hundred incarcerated gang members of a particular gang can wield such fearsome power over the thousands who compose the street gangs in their former neighborhoods. The answer seems straightforward and obvious in hindsight, but it really isn’t. It’s also one of the best reveals of The Social Order of the Underworld, so I will leave it to those who actually read the book to find out.
Even beyond its accidental research, Skarbek’s study has its flaws. For one, it concentrates mostly on Hispanic gangs, with the Aryan Brotherhood coming in a distant second. Perhaps this is because Skarbek intentionally limited his study to gangs in California and Texas, the two states with the largest prison populations. Either way, he doesn’t offer an explanation. Very little attention is devoted to black gangs. Perhaps they’re not as organized as their Hispanic and white counterparts, or perhaps a deeper study of black gangs would challenge some of his conclusions or recommendations. Again, Skarbek does not say.
To any reader on the Right, however, the accidental research of The Social Order of the Underworld screams mainstream academia. Granted, it is not as bad as it could be – Skarbek doesn’t recognize the data’s importance to the Right and then attempt to explain it away (as Nicholas Wade did to some extent in his otherwise excellent A Troublesome Inheritance ). Still, I would expect many Right-wing readers to greet The Social Order of the Underworld with the same jumble of gratitude and annoyance they greet any mainstream work which accidentally strengthens their convictions.
Essentially, Skarbek sets a beautiful table, but expects us to eat standing up. He fails to point out that prisons are essentially a microcosm of humanity, and that much of what goes on there has direct parallels throughout history. What did the age of norms have that the age of gangs lack? Quite obviously, a white majority. When whites ran the show in the joint, things were relatively calm and orderly, little centralized governance was required, and race wasn’t a big deal. As soon as whites lost that majority, however, violence and overall thuggery increased, as well as the need for murderous organized crime syndicates to keep prisons from descending into utter chaos.
Skarbek exerts no intellectual effort in explaining why this is, despite there being scholarship that explores this very issue. Kevin MacDonald describes the individualistic and non-clannish nature of whites in his The Culture of Critique , and many of his findings are played out here. Further, a wealth of prison data and scholarly information on racial and IQ differences can be found at American Renaissance , which could also shed a buzzing, yellowish fluorescence over what goes on in prisons. Skarbek seems to take for granted the need for prison gangs in order to construct his governance theory, and neglects to include any potential genetic component for this need.
Furthermore, Skarbek ignores obvious parallels throughout recent history. As white America became less white in the twentieth century, the need for stronger, more centralized government (as promoted by the increasingly non-white Democratic Party) increased, just like it did with prison gangs. Increasing as well was the corruption and abuse which often accompanies such an increase in political power, just like it did with prison gangs. Skarbek pays some lip service to how these tumultuous changes in prisons came on the heels of the Civil Rights movement. But nowhere does he connect the dots between increased Hispanic immigration and black freedom, on one hand, to the rise of violence and racial tribalism in American prisons on the other. For Skarbek, it was racial diversity, among other things, which caused this, not the faults or defects of specific races.
Perhaps there is something uniquely genetic about whites that keep them from needing so much governmental control? Perhaps there is something uniquely genetic about non-whites – blacks and Hispanics, especially – that make them more brutish and violent, thereby increasing their need for governmental control? Skarbek’s data seems to point in this direction, but Skarbek himself seems too well-mannered to actually say so. Instead, he would rather unconvincingly propose that the best way for prisons to get a handle on their gang problem would be to create an environment which lessens the need for the governance gangs provide. In particular, Skarbek calls for the release of more prisoners into society, making prisons more “liberal” when it comes to contraband and other inmate restrictions, and, in general, employing more police in crime-ridden areas. Despite presenting some data to support these recommendations, he fails to realize that if you attempt to artificially limit the prison population, then extra police won’t be able to do much good since there will be fewer places they can put the bad guys after they arrest them. Further, with more liberal policies in prison, criminals won’t have a healthy fear of incarceration, and will therefore have fewer inhibitions when deciding whether or not to commit crimes in the first place. And this says nothing of the problems that an increased number of criminally-minded people roaming in freedom can cause.
Skarbek essentially wishes to foist the problem of gangs back onto the general public and call it a solution, which is doing little more than smearing lipstick on a pig. Along with all the accidental research found in an otherwise valuable book, this kind of pig-headed thinking is, sadly, the least accidental thing about it.
Max Allan Collins and James L. Traylor
Mickey Spillane on Screen: A Complete Study of the Television and Film Adaptations 
Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2012
“Dat’s Mike Ham-muh?” — Dismayed patron at a showing of I, The Jury (1953)
“Mike Hammer is Mickey Spillane . . . Mickey Spillane is Mike Hammer” — First opening and last closing credits, respectively, of The Girl Hunters (1963)
Imagine, if you will, that Ayn Rand, dissatisfied with King Vidor’s The Fountainhead, announced that her next book would eventually be filmed — by Rand herself. And it would star — Rand herself; along with various non-professional actor buddies.
Imagine, then, Atlas Shrugged, brought the screen in the early ‘60s, with Ayn as Dominique, Nathaniel Branden as John Galt, Alan Greenspan a governmental czar Wesley Mouch, etc. Plenty of scenes of Ayn, with her signature $ brooch, swanning around Park Avenue and the old Penn Station (pausing to wonder aloud when someone will tear down that architectural monstrosity and put up something modern and efficient), etc.
Seriously, could it have been worse than what we wound up with?
Now, does it become stranger still, if I note that another writer — he disdained the word “author” — did just that (with one of his own books, of course)? And that it was a writer Ayn Rand expresses some approval of?
And that it was — Mickey Spillane?
If you’re not familiar with Spillane, the book under review provides a nice bit of biographical updating. The main author, Collins, has the advantages of being a detective writer himself, and of being a friend of Spillane’s, right to the end, and even collaborating with him on several books. In fact, he wrote a sort of obit that, stripped of the autobiographical asides, will give our reader a nice summary  of the facts:
1947. Mickey Spillane, former fighter pilot, is one of many World War II vets having a tougher time than promised in the glorious postwar world. He’s worked Gimbel’s basement, selling neckties. Before the war he’d written comic books (Captain America, Submariner), but the market has dried up some. And nobody wants his private-eye comic, Mike Danger . He has a new wife and a chunk of land in upstate New York. He pitches a tent and pounds out a harder-hitting, sexier prose version of the comic book. He knows a guy who knows a guy at E.P. Dutton, and his nine-day wonder — I, the Jury— winds up in an editor’s hands. The editor finds it in poor taste but possibly commercial, and there is already reprint interest from Signet Books, whose sexy Erskine Caldwell paperbacks are doing pretty well. Dutton takes a chance.
I, the Jury comes out in paperback in 1948 and is the biggest sensation in the history of mystery. Mickey, whose second Hammer book, The Twisted Thing, was initially rejected by Dutton, is now that publisher’s fair-haired boy (“Death’s Fair-Haired Boy,” according to Life magazine). His sales soon surpass Caldwell’s, rocketing into the millions. The vigilante tactics of Mike Hammer are reviled by liberal critics, while the (then) extreme sexual content riles conservative commentators. Spillane laughs it off, but perhaps feels the sting. Hollywood calls and producer Victor Saville  makes movie versions that the author despises and the public tolerates — one, Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me, Deadly  (1955), achieves the status of a classic film noir. There’s a comic strip, a radio show, and Darren McGavin  plays Hammer in a late 50s TV series. Mickey, hammered by the critics, takes time off to star in a movie for John Wayne (Ring of Fear, 1954), tour with Clyde Beatty’s circus, deep-sea dive, race stock cars, fly jets. Along the way he becomes a Jehovah’s Witness.
Mickey doesn’t write much between 1952 and 1960, just some novellas and film scripts. . . . The Hammers continue selling despite Mickey’s silence, and by the beginning of the 1960s, seven of the 10 bestselling books of all time are his (and he has only written seven). As a stopgap till Mickey starts writing books again, his paperback publisher, Signet, publishes a Spillane-influenced series of British spy novels, presenting “the English Mike Hammer,” James Bond.
In the 1960s and 70s Mickey roars back with more Mike Hammer novels, a movie in which he plays his own famous hero  (his acting gets raves), and some bigger, blockbuster-style novels, including the outrageous The Erection Set. He begins an incredible run of 18 years doing Miller Lite commercials, spoofing himself as Hammer next to his lovely “doll” (Lee Meredith of Producers fame). He writes an award-winning children’s book (The Day the Sea Rolled Back, 1979). He forms a partnership, after a casual meeting on an air flight, with Jay Bernstein, who produces numerous Hammer TV movies as well three successful series, all starring Stacy Keach. By the 90s many critics are reappraising Mickey, and finally the Mystery Writers of America votes him in as a Grand Master. Without him and Mike Hammer, there would have been no Dirty Harry, no James Bond, no Sin City.
Constant Readers will know that I have a longstanding obsession with two of the Hammer films: the Hollywood Liberal putdown that accidentally turned into a noir classic, Kiss Me Deadly, and Spillane’s’ response, the auto-hagiographic The Girl Hunters. I bought this book — or rather, downloaded the kindle when it went on sale — to learn more about the two movies. But I was surprised — pleasantly — by two things: the remarkable level of Spillane’s involvement in TV and movies, and not only in versions of his signature character; and the remarkable perspicuity of Collins’ observations on the films, especially KMD and TGH.
But first, right from the start, Collins is right to emphasize the key to Mike’s popularity: the ways Spillane enables the reader to identify with an otherwise some-what larger than life hero.
He fights hard and loves hard, and may not be as smart as most movie private eyes, which gives him a nice everyman quality.
This is the “I could do that if I had the breaks” sense that humanizes the hero and allows the reader to ease into the fantasy of being him. This much Hammer shares with Holmes, Bond, and even Batman.
But there are two important differences. First, the prose style itself: Mike’s adventures are narrated in the first person; even the titles rely on “I”, “me” and “my” (Spillane jokes (?) that he stopped writing after the first burst because “I ran out of pronouns” and had to think up another trick).
[This lets Spillane] convey the special relationship that existed between readers and the unconventional, even psychotic hero who was Mike Hammer. Seldom has a narrator been more effectively used by an author as a point of identification for readers.
By contrast, Holmes is such a sui generis character that Conan Doyle uses the device of Watson writing up case histories; as I quote Prof. McCrea, ”Watson is our way into the stories.” The Bond stories are entirely in the third person, enabling the author to utilize what Amis calls “The Fleming Effect,” downloading all kinds of “inside” info, which, in the case of all those brand names, at least, would be intolerable if someone were narrating the story to us.
And second, as far as content goes, is that, again in contrast to Holmes or Bond, Mike Hammer is never described; instead, “The evocative paintings on the paperback covers encouraged male readers to fill in Mike Hammer’s face with their own.” By contrast, both Bond and Holmes are clearly, even lovingly detailed by their creators, and Holmes appeared in illustrated magazines right from the start.
Of course, both devices would make it tough to bring Hammer to the screen. Narration has become a genre characteristic for detective films, but for that reason also seems like a clunky cliché; it’s also become the signature of desperate filmmakers looking for a way to provide narrative structure to a poorly made film.
As for avoiding depiction, using the camera’s POV did work in the detective noir Murder my Sweet, but it’s still both cliché and difficult, which is why it’s hardly ever used anyway.
Both drawbacks coalesce in the problem: who can play Mike Hammer onscreen? For the first film, I, the Jury, (1952), Spillane pushed for Jack Stang, a friend and former cop. But that would have failed the identification test; Hammer’s “bullying tactics are offset by his partial lack of size [which also makes him more like us] . . . a six-foot-three Hammer (like Jack Stang) might have made Spillane’s hero come across as a thug.”
By contrast, the actor chosen, Biff Elliot, had a “light-heavyweight look overcame that problem.” Nevertheless, producers had him wearing shoulder-padded suits that produced “an almost ape-like gait,” though Collins suggests Hammer-as-Frankenstein Monster does have a certain sympathy factor.
He also had a bit of a Boston accent; hence, the anguished plea from the moviegoer quoted above.
This problem would be overcome in the two most successful Hammer films. First, by casting Ralph Meeker, whose ability to play tough but not entirely stupid guys was proven when he took over the Stanley Kowalski role from Brando; macho but not thuggish, charismatic but able to ooze oily charm when needed, Meeker, despite Spillane’s longstanding objections, is perfect for the role.
Spillane’s dislike of the Meeker film would eventually lead to a solution too obvious to be used by anyone but the bull-headed Mickey Spillane: cut out the middleman.
Spillane was the rare author of popular fiction who physically resembled the type of superhero he writes about — broad-shouldered, steely-eyed, with a D**k Tracy hawkish nose and a commanding physical presence, Mickey Spillane IS Mike Hammer . . . which is exactly the way he’s billed in “The Girl Hunters.”
“I knew my lines. I wrote them.”
But first, Mickey, like Mike, had to get motivated; he had to get fired up for revenge (a motif we’ll explore later). That was provided by Meeker’s film, Kiss Me Deadly.
Kiss Me Deadly
I’ll take my previous take on KMD as read, and just note what Collins adds; because basically Collins is all right, and even adds some nice touches.
Collins sees clearly that KMD was intended not as real Mike Hammer film but as a hatchet job, “a somewhat hypocritical, left-leaning attack on the character and author.” But things did not go as planned.
In an outcome as surprising as the ending of a Mike Hammer novel, the filmmakers wound up inadvertently capturing the magic of Spillane’s fever-dream storytelling at the moment of its popular peak.
Almost by accident, Aldrich and Bezzerides achieved a kind of paperback perfection, conveying the surrealism and underlying nihilism of Hammer’s world, and capturing the feel and mood of the novels more completely than a faithful acolyte ever could.
My essay on KMD tries to explain how that accident happens, but Collins provides lots of details. The film seems to have been deliberately designed to be ass-backwards, so as to mock Spillane even in technical details; “much of the film is purposely backward, beginning with opening credits that roll down but read up,” and moving the action to LA rather than NYC.
They also “jettison the first-person, strong identification of the novels — no Chandler-esque voiceover here — and depict Hammer from the outside. From their perspective, the view is a troubling one.” Identification with Hammer is the last thing they want: Hammer — like, say, Trump — is not a person, certainly not a hero; he’s an inarticulate backlash, not a movement; a symptom or a disease, to be diagnosed and hopefully eradicated by the film’s educational exposure.
Unlike the 45-fetishism of the books, this Mike doesn’t carry a rod, or even seem to want one. Ironically (again) this liberal gun-aversion adds brutality to the film, as Mike handles his adversaries with his bare hands: roughing up a tailing punk and then casually throwing him down a flight of concrete stairs, softening up a recalcitrant witness by smashing one by one a collection of opera 78s, and, in an infamous scene, when a coroner holds out for a bigger bribe, crushing his fingers in a desk drawer.
On the other hand, Mike does some (off camera) martial arts tricks that, though equally brutally effective, hint, I would add, of Mike’s shamanic abilities; it “makes an almost mystical force out of Hammer.”
Another distancing effect: “the three actresses are attractive but unusual in their looks, carriage and personality,” a feature we’ve noted before in this and other shamanic or metaphysical tales. Cloris Leachman, who’s “introduced” here, is well known enough to illustrate the point, but the real standout is Gaby Rogers  who “displays an off-beat beauty. . . . Her last-act transition into suicidal femme fatale is chillingly believable”; as I summed up both aspects,
But nothing can outshine the satanic brilliance of Gaby Rogers, Husserl’s niece and Anne Frank’s playmate, as the most fatal femme fatale of all; her eyes are like jellied fire and burn through the screen long before she sets herself, and the film, ablaze with an ending stolen from Ed Wood’s Bride of the Monster. “Kiss me, Mike. I want you to kiss me. Kiss me. The liar’s kiss that says I love you, and means something else.” Bang!
Despite all these charms, “Hammer shows surprisingly little interest in these attractive women.”
Collins notes that “For a movie shot in under three weeks, the mastery of the camera-work and art direction is dazzling,” and he’s certainly right; we’ve written before about its almost hallucinatory brightness, a hyper-realism that seems to take place post some nuclear apocalypse (and thus tied in with the famous ending).
He calls attention to the number of concrete steps, staircases, funicular railways, and other symbols of ascension, and notes that Hammer seems to die and be resurrected several times — while “Christ figure Christina dies for real.” Could this mean that in this inversion of the Christian myth, Hammer survives in the end as well?
For our part, we called attention to the checkerboard or black/white motifs that show up everywhere, from tile floors to ladies suits, an obvious allusion to the Traditionalist symbol of the warp and woof of the phenomenal universe; Collins adds that that the filmmakers planted lots of “X’s” too, as a homage to Howard Hawks’ similar use of them to represent death in Scarface (1932); but here they also recall the kisses signing a childish note, like Lily’s childishly lisped and repeated line, calling Mike to the love/death finale:
“Kiss me, Mike. I want you to kiss me. Kiss me. The liar’s kiss that says I love you, and means something else.”
Everything in this movie means something else: the filmmakers wanted to trans-value Mike and his methods, show them to be stupid and dangerous, like anti-Communism and Mutual Assured Destruction, make the audience loath them like good Stevenson voters, but like the stolen nuclear core he won’t stay in that box; Kiss Me, Despite?
Despite Aldrich and Bezzerides conceiving the film as a denunciation of Spillane, Kiss Me Deadly evokes Spillane’s (if not Mike Hammer’s) bizarre vision of the universe as none of the other films do
Despite what the latterday critics may think, the Mike Hammer of Kiss Me Deadly is primarily a positive character.
The Girl Hunters
Spillane/Hammer came roaring back, thirsting for revenge. TGH solves the two great problems we’ve discussed, first person narrative and lack of physical description.
First, by using Spillane as Hammer, we have someone who at least looks the part, but still seems enough like an ordinary guy to identify with; that he’s a non-actor just makes it seem more like “Hey, I could not only be Mike Hammer, I could play him in the movies too!” And as noted, I learned that actually Spillane had a lot on his resume already: “With his co-starring role in ‘Ring of Fear,’ his guest shots on television, and occasional commercials he’d appeared in, Spillane felt confident he was up to the challenge.”
The second problem was elegantly solved as well, “by using narration only in moments when Hammer is lost in alternately romantic and violent reverie over the missing Velda.”
The reversals continue, with reversed credits (although this time “Mike Hammer IS Mickey Spillane”) and the action moved back to New York City and Upstate. But then another reversal: aside from some location shooting, the movie was actually made in London, with British and Canadian actors. But then, “Spillane’s Manhattan is a dream landscape anyway.”
It pretty seamlessly done, though the constant insertion of the rather generic NYC footage — Mickey enters a building, leaves a building; yanks off his white trenchcoat, pulls it back on, etc. — begins to feel intrusive, but eventually, I would insist, gains its own kind of hypnotic power.
And above all, it’s a real pseudo-nostalgic treat; never having been near Manhattan in the ’60s, it still conveys to me an almost documentary sense of urban life in that era, when manly (mostly white) men, home from the Good War, walked around like they owned the place; before they were displaced first by the cult of Youth and then by the endless guilt trips of PC. It’s like Mad Men in black and white, and Don Draper tells his own damn story.
Speaking of which, it’s also a treat to see a movie where a newspaper columnist and Spillane friend Hy Gardner (playing, perhaps badly, himself as Mike’s friend), can eulogize a murdered senator as someone who “hated the commie punks as much as we do.” I’m sure Spillane includes Aldrich and Bezzerides among the punks.
Otherwise, the meld is fairly seamless, although Collins does note one Coleman Francis-worthy (as I would have said) snafu when Mike drives up the Henry Hudson Turnpike in a Ford Galaxie 500 (my dad’s old car!) and arrives at an English country house in a Thunderbird, but here he does note the contribution to the overall hallucinatory, fever-dream tone of Mike Hammer; I would say this shapeshifting also adds to the shamanic atmos’ as well.
Speaking of which, Collins points out how Mickey’s performance takes the well-worn plot point of the drunken private d**k pulling himself together to solve a case to a higher, I would say shamanic, level:
Watching the unshaven, bum-like Spillane transform into crisply trench-coated, porkpie-hat-sporting Mike Hammer is a genuine treat, even a thrill-like seeing Clark Kent enter the phone booth only to emerge as, well, you get the picture.
And the 45 is back; in fact, there’s a whole arsenal — as real as Mike and his pals, provided by a London gangster, and lovingly detailed here  — though Mike only gets his permit back more than halfway through.
In the end, Mike gets his man, and in “the only finale in a Spillane-derived film to capture the shocking, hypnotic, sexy, violent, abrupt endings that so characterize the books,” after a tremendous brawl — no stunt doubles in sight — Mike literally hammers a spike into the guy’s hand, to keep him on ice until the Feds arrive. Try that with one of your railroad spikes, Dominique! Or maybe Tarantino would like to try his hand at it.
All this, and we’re only halfway through the book! There’s a whole ‘nother section on TV Hammer, but I’m going to skip that, both because I’m less interested in ’80s TV (although I agree with Collins that Stacy Keach is a fine actor who has made the role his own, at least for you younger kids), and to try to save the reader’s interest from flagging. As I say, you younger kids might find it of interest.
The Appendices has useful things like biographical capsules on the actors who have appeared in Hammer films, and conversely, a list of actors arranged by what character in the “Hammer universe” they embodied.
Another bonus is the transcript of an interview Collins conducted with Spillane. Of course, it largely covers the same ground, but it’s great to hear it in Mickey’s inimitable voice. One choice bit gives some background on the famous ice pick scene from TGH, which actually happened to Mickey and was then added to the film.
Now I know about this trick, what they do, they [shove the pick into the bar and then pull off the handle, so they] can stick you with that ice pick, meanwhile their prints are still on there [the handle they pulled off] and in the meantime you die of loss of blood, internal bleeding is what you die of.
Naïve me always wondered why the guy shoved the pick into the bar; I figured it was just a symbolic threat, and he had some other weapon he’d actually use. I guess I’m no good in a bar fight. But see, here’s where Fleming shows up Spillane. It’s not in the book, so we don’t know how Spillane would have handled it there; in the movie, he could have added this detail to a patron out of the side of his mouth, perhaps. But Fleming would have given us the story along with the action, the “Fleming Effect” as Amis calls it, making us feel like insiders and all full of “street smarts.”
And where do you think the Joker got that pencil trick in The Dark Knight?
Most interesting though is “The Hammer (Film) Code,” where Collins reiterates his points about pronouns and reader identification, addresses and dismisses, like Amis, the concerns about sex and sadism, then turns to formulate the Hammer Code:
An enhanced sense of duty and friendship, and very much distrust [of] the motives of society and its ability to deliver effective justice. And yes, revenge. . . .
Collins points out that “Hammer is an amalgam of two character types, the hero and the revenger,” not a sadistic postwar degenerate but a type with a legitimate lineage going back to Shakespeare. So was Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, a point critics miss because the popular Marlowe movies were made under strict censorship.
The Marlowe/Hammer difference is striking only because the directors and writers of Hammer on film do not flinch in their portrayal of Chandler’s mean streets. The film world of Bogart and Powell is romanticized toughness, soft-focus mayhem; the film world of Meeker and Spillane is a more realistic melodrama, gritty, hard-edged-where the streets are not just called mean, they actually are.
We could tie this in to our earlier comments about the Holmes type arising in the wake of the realistic novel; Spillane is simply too realistic for our genteel critics and prestige filmmakers, if not for the home audience, especially the men, like Spillane, who had just returned from WWII.
No matter how hard Robert Aldrich and A. I. Bezzerides try to make us dislike their Mike Hammer, the audience still admires a man who can rise up when something evil enters his world, and respond in harsh kind.
Spillane created Hammer to be a hero who fought the villain by co-opting the villain’s means. In a world without moral absolutism, such simplicity retains a timeless appeal.
This gets back to what went “right” with KMD. For Aldrich and Bezzerides, Hammer as avenger is worse than the disease, and, in proto-feminist fashion, crucified Christina and irradiated Velda “are the only small hopes for mankind that Aldrich and Bezzerides hold out.” Just keep calm and wait for the police. It’s like they were filming it for the Lifetime Channel.
Spillane, of course, offers a hero. And despite the filmmakers’ best efforts, so do they — it’s a shabby world Aldrich and Bezzerides present, but Mike Hammer is the best man in it.
We can once more quote the future M, Judi Dench, as she intones at the beginning of The Chronicles of Riddick: “In normal times, evil would be fought with good. But in times like these, well, it should be fought by another kind of evil.”
Movies might be a bit more faithful to the details of the gutter these days, but there are other problems a Hammer faces, new kinds of codes.
Today, they have codes that they expect you to abide. I don’t accept their codes. You got gender factors coming into it, you have to say certain things, go certain ways, you can’t use certain words. They don’t want you to use the word Negro, colored, they don’t want anything that’s identifiable. They don’t want you talking about women in a certain way. I don’t buy their attitudes. I don’t like the way the world is at all today. Today’s a mess.
What was it Chandler wrote? “Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean . . .” And that other part? “He talks as the man of his age talks, that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness.”
Porkpie hat firmly clamped to his head, trenchcoat — white, ‘natch — tightly buttoned; writing, directing, acting, and even playing his own trumpet theme on the soundtrack, Mike Hammer IS the hero America deserves.
1. Actually, Greenspan would make a fine Ellsworth Toohey, would he not? Rand apparently had wanted Clifton Webb, but the studio nixed the idea of bringing the Broadway dance sensation to Hollywood; that would be left to Otto Preminger, who cast Webb in his debut role as Waldo Lysacker in Laura. See essay “The Babysitting Bachelor as Aryan Avatar: Clifton Webb in Sitting Pretty, ” Part One  and Part Two .
3. “Now I’m not an author, I’m a writer, that’s all I am. Authors want their names down in history; I want to keep the smoke coming out of the chimney.” Mickey Spillane Interviewed by Michael Carlson, here ; “Mickey’s persona is that of a tough guy who doesn’t really care about his art, but as this interview makes clear, good story telling grows from understanding people, and Spillane has a PhD in people.”.
4. “In the 1960s, Spillane became a friend of the novelist Ayn Rand . Despite their apparent differences, Rand admired Spillane’s literary style, and Spillane became, as he described it, a “fan” of Rand’s work.” See McConnell, Scott, ed., “Mickey Spillane,” 100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand (New York: New American Library, 2010), pp. 232-39.
5. Not to be confused with The Firesign Theater’s “The Adventures of Nick Danger, Third Eye.”
6. “One day this little prissy guy, I’m at a tea party, if you can picture me at a tea party, and this guy comes up to me and says ‘what a horrible commentary on the reading habits on Americans to think that you have seven of the top ten bestsellers of all time” and I looked at him at I said ‘You’re lucky I don’t write three more books’.” — Carlson interview, op. cit.
7. For the first, see “Mike Hammer, Occult D**k: Kiss Me Deadly as Lovecraftian Tale,” here  and reprinted in The Eldritch Evola … & Others (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2014); for both, see “Essential Films . . . & Others,” here .
8. See “The Baker Street Männerbund: Some Thoughts on Holmes, Watson, Bond, & Bonding,” here .
9. “Quit talkin’ about me in the third person” Mike complains when he’s picked up out of the gutter at the start of The Girl Hunters.
10. Mike does have a sidekick, a cop named Pat Chambers, but he doesn’t make much impact, compared with Mike. Although, I had a friend back in grad school — now a professor of philosophy in Nebraska — who was a great fan of then-starting to be reputable crime writers like Raymond Chandler — talk about “quest motifs” and whatnot — but who admitted to a liking for Mickey Spillane. As a teen, he was informed that his name, Pat, was a sissy name, but took great comfort in the discovery that Mike Hammer had a pal named Pat, a tough NYC police detective. Other than such “purely personal associations,” as the Magister Ludi would say in The Glass Bead Game (or “the personal equation,” as Evola would say), it’s hard to see anyone identifying with Pat. In KMD he seems like a friend but he’s also an insufferably smug spokesman for the “let the government do it” liberal views of the filmmakers; in TGH he’s jealous loser driven to sadistic interrogations. After roughing up Mike yet again, Mike sneers to the police surgeon “You’re right Doc, he’s really sick.”
11. The one exception, The Spy Who Loved Me, which is narrated by the Bond Girl is, Amis observes, universally regarded as a failure. There is one, late Holmes story in the first person, and it too is a failure.
12. Bret Easton Ellis uses a second-person variation of this in American Psycho, where the constant brand awareness does indeed estrange us from the titular psycho.
13. The first description of Bond from Casino Royale, Chapter 8 — PINK LIGHTS AND CHAMPAGNE: “His grey‑blue eyes looked calmly back with a hint of ironical inquiry and the short lock of black hair which would never stay in place slowly subsided to form a thick comma above his right eyebrow. With the thin vertical scar down his right cheek the general effect was faintly piratical.” There’s also a scar on the right cheek, we learn. Interestingly, the very first cover depiction of Bond is the first American paperback, which already shows the “Hammer effect” of Bond re-imaged by a 50s American reader : “April 1955 first American paperback of Casino Royale published by Popular Library under the title You Asked For It. This is a classic pulp paperback seen on shelves in the US in the 1950s. The cover is certainly alluring in a sleazy sort of way but it is hard to imagine the people illustrated on the cover as James Bond and Vesper Lynd. It is sometimes said that one reason for the title change of this pulp paperback, besides being more provocative, is that it was feared that American readers would not be able to pronounce ‘Royale.’ It is also notable that the back cover of You Asked For It refers to Bond as Jimmy Bond.” Bond would indeed become “Jimmy,” and a CIA agent to boot, in the ’50s TV version of Casino Royale. Ironically, the UK paperback image “was based on the American actor Richard Conte who appeared with James Stewart and Lee J. Cobb in the 1948 film noir Call Northside 777 and later starred in the films Ocean’s Eleven in 1960 and The Godfather in 1972. Bond as Barzini! “If Don Corleone has all the judges and the politicians in New York, then he must share them, or let us others use them. He must let us draw the water from the well. Certainly he can present a bill for such services; after all, we are not Communists!”
14. For some reason, Bond covers, at least the first editions , studiously avoid Bond himself, although that presumably is his hand on the cover of OHMSS.
15. From Beast of Yucca Flats (Francis, 1962) to Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1986). Sometimes, the director is too cheap or incompetent to record live sound (“Coleman Francis solves the problem of sound sync” — MST3k on Beast); perhaps the soundtrack was dropped in Lake Mead (The Creeping Terror) or two entirely different films are being spliced together to fill out a double bill (Monster A Go-Go).
16. The “ape like gait” reminds me of what I say about Ralph Meeker’s Hammer in Kiss Me Deadly. Here Collins has a rare slipup; he says Hammer wakes up the gallery owner by breaking in; broadly, true, but actually the owner wakes up when Hammer walks into and shatters a glass coffee table, which I suggested is meant to convey Hammer as a cave-man shuffling along oblivious to the art and culture around him.
17. Along with Spillane: “Victor Saville was bad news because he wanted money just to do one big picture. I’d sold millions but he wanted to make The [Silver] Chalice, [Paul Newman’s Hollywood debut] which fell on its face with a deadly thud, and he could’ve made the biggest hit in the world with I, the Jury Instead he gets this slob writer called Harry Essex, who last I heard was making porno films, and he rooned everything, I mean, everything’s stupid. Imagine this guy hits Mike Hammer over the head with a wooden coathanger and knocks him out. You hit Mike Hammer over the head with a wooden coathanger, he’ll beat the crap out of you. You went to see it and . . . Yeah, I hadda walk out of it . . . And the audience reaction was . . . Awful. Biff Elliott walks out and says ‘I’m Mike Hammer’ and someone goes ‘Dat’s Mike Hammah?’ He was a good actor, a good friend, but he’s left-handed with a Boston accent. Saville’s lawyer saw him do live TV in New York, he won a prize, says, ‘aw I got the right guy to play Hammer’. I had the right guy, Jack Stang, a real cop, only he couldn’t act.” — Carlson interview, op. cit.
18. Though Hammer films would always have a problem with technology; I, the Jury was filmed but seldom shown in 3D (poster here ), while The Girl Hunters was unable to find the money for color filming, though it’s still billed as a “Colorama Production.”
19. I could swear I’ve seen it said that Meeker was offered the Bond role but I can’t find any evidence now. See Meeker on the panel Connery tries to stump on What’s My Line, here . The two would meet again in Meeker’s last picture, and Connery’s first post-Bond, The Anderson Tapes (1971). The level of interest in “Meeker in a Speedo “ (from an Outer Limits episode) on the internet rivals “Connery in a red thong .”
20. “Now here, in this forsaken jungle hell, I have proven that I am all right!” Bela Lugosi in Bride of the Monster (Ed Wood, 1956)
21. The filmmakers’ contempt for the material made them not pay enough attention to it, and the automatic nature of their involvement allowed subconscious, Traditionalist motifs to arise. “This opus has become a cult film. . . . I cannot say why — I never completely understood our finished screenplay and my confusion was still there when we ran the completed film.”
22. The first thing we see is the bare feet of the running Cloris Leachman; Collins makes the interesting observation that the filmmakers seem to enjoy introducing us to characters by focusing, literally, on their feet, shoed or not. Has Tarantino noticed this?
23. As I pointed out in the Holmes essay, the book Bond kills Blofeld, and various others, with his bare hands, which ups the sadism and perhaps the latent homosexuality.
24. See, for instance, the essays on Olaf Stapledon’s Odd John in Green Nazis from Space! (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2016).
25. The Evil Babes Wiki says  “Gaby Rodgers, mainly a stage actress, who made only 1 other movie, gives a quirky, off center performance as Lily — a character who seems a world away from the usual predatory, hard boiled, high maintenance, worldly film noir “femme fatale”; but Lily’s gamin appearance and needy manner are just a disarming surface below which lurks a twisted, totally evil personality. With stark camera closeups on her face, Lily’s warped, taunting, triumphant, gleeful sadism in her final confrontation with Hammer, where sex and death are being implicitly equated, is one of the most disturbing and chilling moments on film.”
26. “Essential Films . . . & Others,” here . Ironically, Rodgers is the only surviving member of the film’s cast at this date.
27. The famous two endings seem to give us the choice of Hammer and Velda blown up in the house, or saved but presumably dying of radiation poisoning. As we’ll see, Spillane will bring Hammer back to the screen with a vengeance.
28. Even the title is against itself. Spillane insisted that his beloved pronoun be set off with a comma: not “Kiss me in a rather deadly way” but “Kiss me, Death.”
29. Mickey also worked on the script, but apparently had another Ring in mind: “That was some movie. This was where I got the Jag. The guy wrote and directed the picture had problems, but John Wayne who produced it, never gave up on his friends. Duke was having a bad time, going through a divorce, and they needed to fix the script. So they’re thinking who could do it, and someone says, Spillane’s a writer, he could do it. Now I’m playing ME in the picture, for pete’s sake. They called me up in Newburgh on Wednesday, I’m already back home across the country, and said come back and fix it. So I took my Wagner records, flew West, and worked Friday, Saturday, Sunday. They set me up in a beautiful hotel suite, and I worked. So I’m sitting there Sunday, all done, having a cold beer and listening to “The Ring” and in comes Andy McLaughlan, Victor’s son. He says, ‘how you doing?’ and I tell him I’m all done and he thinks I mean I’m done for the day because it’s Sunday, and I say “I’m finished’ and he says “whaddaya mean you’re finished, you just got here!” So I hand him the pages, and he’s reading and going “wow, wow, wow” and he calls Duke and Bob Fellows and says we got it. He goes out in the street and says to this woman ‘you wanna make a hundred bucks?” and the guy she’s with nearly slugs him, but he was looking for typists! . . . And they wanta pay me for the script but I won’t take nothing for that, it was a favour. But Duke says, ‘he was looking at those Jags in the lot next to the C**k and Bull’. One night, I’m back in Newburgh, it’s snowing, and out in front of my house is this beautiful Jag with a red ribbon around it, and a note that says ‘Thanks, Duke’. People see that car now, I had a guy saying ‘who makes those?’ I said, that car’s older than you are!” — Carlson interview, op. cit.
30. One of which, Shirley Eaton, “is only one of several ironies that signify the passing of the popular-culture torch from Hammer to Bond.” Not only do we get Ms. Eaton in her various Goldfinger-style bikinis, we also a climactic showdown where the bad guy, for no particular reason, whips off his hat and sails it at Mike, Oddjob-style.
31. Oddly, for someone so closely identified with the mean streets of NYC, Spillane wrote his first Hammer bestseller so as to use the money to get out of Manhattan and build his own ex-GI bohemia for family and hard-drinking friends in Newburgh, NY. “I’m a country boy. I hate New York. But that’s where things happen, so I use it as a base for stories, I know enough about it. But it’s too crowded, jammed up, I can’t be happy there.” Eventually he moved to coastal South Carolina. “It’s a nice place, but too many Yankees coming down there. It was OK when I was the only one! You’d think the South won the Civil War.” — Carlson interview, op. cit.
32. “Just like a cop, to wear a white trenchcoat. Probably trying to pass as a f*g.” William Burroughs, Naked Lunch, 1962.
33. “Things change. The Blue Ribbon [featured in TGH], that I thought’d be there forever, that’s gone. The face of the city changes. The city’s almost alive, you can see the movement of people from one section to another. When they took all the Els down on the East Side and let the sunlight in, everything changed.” — Carlson interview, op. cit.
34. It’s interesting that only one episode uses a voiceover, “The Summer Man” (Season 4, Ep.8) where Don decides to try and keep a journal; it’s widely regarded as pretty weak. After all, Don admits that, as an ad man, he’s never had to write more than 250 words at a time, which is pretty pitiful compared even to Spillane’s daily comic book output: postal regulations required two pages of text for each issue, and Spillane would write them in half an hour, for $25. “You could write four a day and you’re getting $100 a day when a hardworkin’ man out there was making $35 a week.” And turns out that Spillane shares our love of what Henry James called “the dear, the blessed nouvelle”: “The 20,000-world novelette length was one Spillane preferred above all others, where he displays some of his best-crafted work.”
35. “I’m at a party once, with Hy Gardner, the columnist, and I wind up sitting between Salvador Dalí and Jimmy Durante, and they’re talking to each other in something like English, and neither one understands a word the other’s saying, so I’m in the middle, interpreting.” — Carlson interview, op. cit.
36. We previously quoted Colin Wilson on Holmes as developing into a Nietzschean Superman.
37. “Billy Hill was the Al Capone of London. . . . Now Billy asked if there was anything he could do for me, and we had this awful Spanish gun for Mike Hammer, so I asked him if he knew where we could find a .45, and next day he shows up on the set with a gunny sack, and he says “I got your pieces for you, where should I put them?’ and he dumps about two dozen .45s there, and ammo, and the prop boy nearly hit the roof, “those are REAL GUNS”. Bob Fellows the producer, knew this, but he didn’t pay any attention, he just got them registered. The paperwork was incredible.” — Carlson interview.
38. The movie is very detailed and presumably accurate about the hazards of walking around NYC with an unlicensed gun. Later, we’ll meet a tough guy in a bar who threatens Mike with an icepick, and Mike psyches him out by pulling out a clip and pretending to have a gun. This sort of realism is far more involving than Tarantino-style Mexican standoffs. Real gangsters and even bodyguards know better than to carry a gun and get picked up for quick ride to the Big House upstate. Ever hear of Bloomberg’s “stop and frisk”? Tommy in Goodfellas shoots people left and right, and pulls out a gun on Henry in the famous “Why am I funny” restaurant scene, but that’s because he’s a dangerous nut who eventually has to be whacked just to keep the peace. When did movies stop noticing this? The producers of Better Call Saul have a better handle on this: in the “Pimento” episode Mike gives us a demonstration  of why he doesn’t need to carry a gun: “Mike confidently and without breaking a sweat shows Mr. Cocky why he doesn’t need a gun, when he simply takes Cocky’s and dismantles it, before knocking Cocky to the ground, taking his other guns from him, throwing them in a trash can and leaving Cocky writhing in pain on the ground, while Mike and Price drive off to TCB (take care of business).” The scene reminds me of how Bogart’s Sam Spade easily disarms Wilmer in The Maltese Falcon (“A crippled newsie took them away; I made him give them back.”); see “Humphrey Bogart: Man among the Cockroaches,” in The Homo and the Negro (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2012). A key plot point in TGH involves Velda’s paperwork for her PI license; for a guy Aldrich smeared as a loose cannon, Mike sure does like to do things by the book.
39. Another irony: “British prints substitute an alternate shot that shows a wrist clamp being hammered into place, negating the scene’s effectiveness.” When will they stop messing with Hammer’s finales? Speaking of Tarantino, Lawrence Tierney, later of Reservoir Dogs, does a pretty good Spillane impression as Elaine’s terrifyingly macho writer father  in the Seinfeld episode “The Jacket” (Season Two, Episode 3 ). “During the ‘Seinfeld’ shoot, Jerry Seinfeld discovered that Tierney had tucked a butcher knife from the set under his jacket, apparently planning to steal it. Jason Alexander, who played George, said in an interview , “Lawrence Tierney scared the living crap out of all of us.” Apparently, Tierney was himself as dangerous an alcoholic jerkass as the writer, Richard Yates, his character was based on. Tierney IS Yates!
40. Except perhaps for the really young ones, who may find it hard to associate Mike Hammer with the guy who narrates those Too Cute! animal clip shows.
41. I think this is the interview that’s included in the 2014 Blu-Ray, which I haven’t seen. A review says : “Spillane is a natural story teller, and quite a presence. His anecdotes about the production are very engaging, including describing a number of murders that happened nearby, including a couple that he personally witnessed. His story about the standoff in the bar that inspired a scene in the film is priceless. This is very good.”
42. As Spillane says, “Sex and violence are punctuation marks in a story. The whole thing isn’t written about sex and violence. There’s a story involved.”
43. Revenge isn’t really in Bond’s MO — it is, after all, part of the name SPECTRE — but speaking of SPECTRE, it certainly becomes his MO after Blofeld kills Bond’s wife. Batman, of course, is defined by vengeance, although promoted as “The World’s Greatest Detective.” Despite their name, and the portentous opening narration, I always found “The Avengers” to be doing precious little if any actual avenging; too dark for the hip, mod image?
44. Hammer, to use Jack Donovan’s useful distinction, is not a good man, but he’s good at being a man. One might also relate Hammer to Walter White of Breaking Bad, especially along the revenge axis.
45. “Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor. He talks as the man of his age talks, that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness.” “The Fine Art of Murder,” an essay which first appeared in The Atlantic Monthly (November, 1945).
46. On the other hand: “What about Chandler? There’s that famous scene where Marlowe throws what’s pretty obviously a Mike Hammer book into the garbage. I know. I think it’s pretty stupid.” –Carlson interview.
Mort Schnellenhammer laughed. For the first time in his life, he felt like Steve McQueen.
“Relax, baby,” he said when the door hit her ass. “Freud is dead, but God is alive. Somewhere.”
— “Protocols of the Learned Elders of Hollywood”
This is the debut collection of fiction by Paul Bingham, who, according to his publisher, is “a theologian and consultant,” which seems an appropriate background for making a jaundiced evaluation of the cultural cesspool that is USA 2014. Its four tales form an American Book of the Dead. While the publisher says these are “tales of men at war,” I would go further and say they are tales of men — and women — who are already dead, but just don’t know it yet.
The first tale of posthumous life, “Population I,” unfortunately veers off course right from the start by presenting for our approval that old not-so-favorite, the Blocked Writer. This one is surrounded by even more writers, whose modest but undeserved success torments him to the point where he compulsively fantasizes submitting to anal domination by a poetic Negro convict, Jamal, who eventually takes over both his unfinished novel and his finished life.
But Jamal was the novel. His vision became the author’s vision.
My mind goes blank and Jamal thinks of another word.
Opening with “Population I is not about me, the Writer wrote.” we are immediately in the head of our narrator and for want of a better term, protagonist. It took me a few lines to realize this was the story itself, not an — otherwise absent — deprecatory preface from the author.
I don’t mean to suggest that our author would be an uninteresting character himself, only that The Writer, especially the Blocked Writer, is an all too familiar figure and, like Barton Fink, tends to be blocked because he is oblivious to the far more interesting characters around him. The reader would like to hear more about The Skinhead who plays folk-rock guitar, “hang[s] out with sadistic racists and write[s] for porn mags,” while insisting that Nazis are “a Jewish fairytale, man.” Or especially The Writer’s roommate, who “would be the perfect Bohemian prop, except she was chubby and didn’t chain-smoke . . . and lives “as a sophisticated bag lady in ordered squalor.”
Every day she rose from the bed where she had been strapped, roped, handcuffed, blind-folded, and fresh-fucked in every orifice. Naked, she settled down to write, incessantly, with the bright red circles on her limbs where the ropes had scratched still visible and the purple lash and lipstick marks omnipresent. Occasionally there was some chafing at the back of her neck where the lash had landed too often. She wore T-shirts and wife-beaters and she kept their heating bill high. And she wrote, continued to write, those endless pages of manual erotica.
One tends to agree with the Skinhead:
“Oh, stop bitching, this is life unfolding”
The next tale, “What the Dead Men Fear,” is a whole other thing; from the first page the reader snaps awake and stays awake for the duration of a preposterous plot involving the seamy underbelly of pop/country, meth, kidnapping and snuff videos. It’s a Chandleresque mix of tense, terse writing and bizarre but deadly characters, all of whom, as noted, are already dead by the time we meet them:
“What the f**k is wrong with you? My life isn’t worth living without the meth.”
“I wouldn’t know. Never had a life worth living.”
He’s hitting her cause he’s got nothing better to do. I know how he feels. Anyone should. When you’re dying, you gotta kill.
Then he said, “Oh, I get it, I’m supposed to die,” and abruptly stopped breathing.
She didn’t seemed to be alive. Maybe her heart had stopped.
You’re gonna be a legend, a porn saint. You’ll die for your art.”
Brazil shrugged. “It’s no big deal. Being dead isn’t bad. It won’t hurt your career.”
“Where’s my granddaughter?” “Not quite dead.”
The other theme here is . . . the head. Barton Fink has been left behind, and what we have here is the bastard love child of The Big Lebowski and No Country for Old Men, but keeping Fink’s head case.
The guy was a real cowboy junky. Owned a ranch in New Mexico, wore a cowboy hat stapled to his head . . .
The Old Man looked pityingly at Brazil. “You ever get throwed headfirst into a fence?”
“Well, that’s what the judge thought. They gotta have a pistol put to their heads, usually—before they give custody to the father.”
“See, I was gonna hold her hostage when the Crown Vics rolled in, then put a hole in her head.”
He ripped the guitar away from the punk and broke it over his head. Or tried to. The punk’s head broke first.
The pilot, an eaten-up Indian minus every tooth in his head, climbed out.
“Now we’re doin this here music video. We cut off her head in the video—”
The hair on his head grew six inches in every direction, and he wore a short-sleeved polo shirt over a red turtleneck.
“Next thing, we’re gonna strike a chord and her head’s gonna be a jelly.”
“But . . . no! We want the head. It’s what we planned for, it’s what the producer is going to be expecting. So just take the head off. Two blows, that’s all for the better, all for the good.”
“You’re right,” Brazil said. “Gotta start with the head. But this sounds acoustic. No one can hear the impact, right? Why not a chainsaw? You got a chainsaw?”
It woulda been a real triumph if they’d stayed out in the desert and taken her head off to some real nice Tex-Mex guitar licks. Might’ve redefined country music. I woulda liked it.”
And, brin’ing it all together:
“Then, I was thinking, you know, have you ever stood in a cemetery and looked at the headstones and wondered what it is that the dead men fear? Besides being alive? If I were dead a hundred years and came back, I’d be real scared to see a world full of front-runners like you.”
This being Bingham not Barton, though, the beach ending is considerably more bleak. It’s a bravura piece of writing, and one hopes his publisher makes some agent read this and get it filmed.
After this high point, the next tale, “Protocols of the Learned Elders of Hollywood,” is somewhat of a letdown. It’s a mash-up of Joss Whedon’s Firefly and its viewer cult, with Network, via a detour through the infamous first episode of The Lone Gunmen.
If they all died, romantically—it wouldn’t be my fault anymore. They’d all be immortalized—like Carole Lombard, James Dean. Lynrnd Skynrd.
“Could I do that?”
Reassurance came quickly.
Of course you can, you’re Mort Schnellenhammer, Executive. You make things happen; people die.
From the title onward, it’s a little too obvious, too by-the-numbers. But the fourth tale, “I Feel Alright.” brings us back to the level of “What Dead Men Fear.” After dodging insurgent mortars at a Baghdad McDonalds, an Iraq vet returns to the living death known as Texas. (“He looked out over Texas. He wondered why it was a place people wanted to be.”)
It was two months later and the day after. Josh Rollins had lived long in that stretch of time.
Every night, he’d sit bolt upright on the cot in his pickup truck’s camper, waiting for the blast that never came.
He was drifting but didn’t feel it. His Ford refused to break down and he awoke in darkness to the usual smells.
“What happened to you, man?” “You know, I been asking myself that same question. But I can’t hear me no more.
You learned how hard it was for 21st century grunt weapons to kill people so they stayed dead. The human body showed its resilience.
The smells intermingled like some Oriental dish—dead eggs, spoiled mustard, stagnant engine oil blended with burnt asphalt.
Dave was on his back. Heart blood was pooling underneath, so dark it matched the night. “I guess he’s dead.”
But let me tell you something about your buddies on the grid. You stop feeling for them after a while. When they’re dead, for instance. When you’re dead, too, I guess. Haven’t tried it all the way, though.”
An abortive date with a girl from the old days just sets the stage for the inevitable: get sucked back into the world of drug-dealing dirt bag friends, an explosion of violence on the side of a darkened highway — a cross between Fargo and Reservoir Dogs — and some fatal kind of closure:
Got all satisfied. For the last time in a lifetime. I’ll lose that later, but right now, I feel alright. Better than I ever felt. The night kept moving. It would never end if the highway didn’t.
Sometime after midnight, Josh Rollins parked his Ford Ranger halfway through a telephone pole that wasn’t there before.
Because nobody could have lived through all that.
And so, this first collection gives an uneven impression, some high points, some . . . not so high. How is one to “place” this volume, as the old time critics would say? The obvious point of comparison, among alt-Right fiction, is Andy Nowicki, who also contributes a laudatory blurb to the cover. Working in the same field, which Nowicki calls “revealing the black heart of a debased nation headed for a reckoning,” why does one find Nowicki’s tales more consistently satisfying? I think the reason is that while Nowicki’s characters are equally loathsome, they are not so obviously loathsome. Characters like Tony Meander, the titular Columbine Pilgrim, only reveal their loathsomeness slowly, as we get to know them, while Bingham’s, to paraphrase Debussy’s remark about Wagner’s leitmotivs, present their calling cards when introduced to us.
The longer stories being the more successful, one wishes Bingham would find inspiration in the experience of Henry James and H. P. Lovecraft, and devote himself more to the pleasures of what James called “the dear, the blessed nouvelle.” I for one would have welcomed the second and last stories expanded to the whole length of this collection, each or both together, giving the author more time to get us into and interested in these dark worlds and their less welcome inhabitants.
Uneven as it is, this debut is a fine beginning and an important addition to the small but growing shelf of the alt-Right’s fiction against the times.
“Our bodies come and go, but this blood stays forever” — Otis B. Driftwood
I am not a great fan of the horror film, at least in its current, Judaicly inspired “torture porn” incarnation. I did occasionally enjoy exposure to the “horror core” or “psycho-billy” music that started showing up here and there in New York in the early 90s. But I first encountered the work of Rob Zombie in the form of his early music videos, rather than the music itself, which I continue to find uninteresting; indeed, I likely saw the videos only in the context of Beavis and Butthead, and I also admit that it was the inclusion of hometown hero Iggy Stooge (the prototypical Wild Boy) that first caught my eye. Hence my interest in him has been largely as a visual artist, the creator of a unique and creepy personal aesthetic, like some “outsider artist” but too “low brow” or “pop” to be loved by the ironic hipsters — and so I was more than happy to hear that he was moving onto the Big Screen, if only in the form of cheap, ironic-hip horror.
But first, what was interesting in those videos, such as “More Human than Human” or “Dragula”? While Zombie’s music is fairly typical hard rock/nu metal/psychobilly, his visual world is more unique.
It’s a world of white 60s TV low brow culture: garage bands, long tangled hair, fuzz guitars, home movies of Mad Men style family scenes for ironic effect, scary clowns, atom bombs and civil defense drills, sexy Russian go-go dancers, “nudie cutie” movies, George Barris Kustom Kars, Big Daddy Roth “Rat Fink” art, Munsters characters, grade z horror, Victorian funerary marbles, etc.
One thing you won’t see: negroes, or anything negroes find to be “cool.” By setting his work in landscapes, real or imagined, of late 50s – early 60s pop trash, he has created “implicitly white” environments; whatever their terrors, they are fundamentally homey, even nostalgic, for Whites, and more “safe” than any of today’s otherwise so advanced “urban” (i.e., negro) multi-culti wastelands
Under the guise of “just kidding” and “so bad it’s good” Rob Zombie may have, perhaps unintentionally, crafted a unique vision of White culture in its prime — 1972 marking, by the reckoning of many, including myself, the apex of White economic and hence cultural dominance.
One aspect of this, as Maury Knudsen has observed, has been the reversal of a long standing cultural trope: the wise or at least innocent rural character, advising or preyed upon by the smug or sinister city slicker. Over the last century, this has slowly been reversed — and we know by Whom — into the ignorant, perhaps dangerous hick — always explicitly White — and the educated, “progressive” urban dweller — always at least implicitly Judaic. Perhaps the most obvious example of this was the decision by CBS to cancel its entire lineup of “rural sitcoms” such as Mayberry RFD and Green Acres, despite high ratings, simply to upgrade the network’s “image.”
From now on, if you were pulled over by a Southern sheriff, as in the pilot episode of The Andy of Mayberry Show, the result would not be comic complications and heartwarming lessons, but rape, torture, and murder, à la films like Macon County Line. Or films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the most famous example of the genre at which Zombie would now try his hand.
Zombie’s version of the genre would be interestingly different. Let me be clear: as in his music videos, I don’t think Zombie has any hidden White Nationalist message — although, like everyone even mildly famous, he is subject to the occasional internet panics about supposed “racism.” Like many such, he falls under suspicion because he’s interested in his subject itself, not in observing the cultural taboos about it. Zombie, unlike the smug hipsters in his films, and in their audience, actually listens to these people.
Now, as Trevor Lynch has observed , under PC conditions only monsters and psychopaths are allowed to speak the truth. And conveniently, while all White people are implicitly psychopaths — noted Judaic scientists like Freud and Adorno having diagnosed their unique group characteristics such as irrational and indelible “racism” and “anti-Semitism” — rural folk are the very worst.
Zombie’s characters are the worst White people on Earth, and they have something to say. What kind of wisdom might they provide, pushed out of Official Culture and hidden deep in the rural boondocks?
House of a Thousand Tropes
“In such houses have dwelt generations of strange people, whose like the world has never seen. . . . Divorced from the enlightenment of civilization, the strength of these Puritans turned into singular channels; and in their isolation, morbid self-repression, and struggle for life with relentless Nature, there came to them dark furtive traits from the prehistoric depths of their cold Northern heritage. By necessity practical and by philosophy stern, these folks were not beautiful in their sins. Erring as all mortals must, they were forced by their rigid code to seek concealment above all else; so that they came to use less and less taste in what they concealed. Only the silent, sleepy, staring houses in the backwoods can tell all that has lain hidden since the early days, and they are not communicative, being loath to shake off the drowsiness which helps them forget. Sometimes one feels that it would be merciful to tear down these houses, for they must often dream.” — “The Picture in the House” by H. P. Lovecraft
This is a literal “master piece” in which an apprentice demonstrates his mastery of the various skills and techniques of his trade. In this case, the horror genre. It is, to vary the metaphor, a tapestry of horror tropes from House of Frankenstein to the various Texas Chainsaw Massacres and Halloweens to Hannibal Lector. Not being a horror film geek, there may be more I’ve missed.
The advantage of genre style, in both film and book, which has caused many a mainstream or even “avant garde” artist to take on the format of a detective story or gangster film, is that its fairly rigid conventions allow the work to almost write or direct itself, so that the artist can concentrate on his own idiosyncratic touches, while also reassuring the viewer that he knows what‘s going on and what happens next. For example, Fritz Lang’s use of the clichés of the gangster melodrama in his Mabuse films.
While Hitchcock, for example, used and then deliberately subverted the cliché of the “caper” film in Psycho (killing off the “heroine” and major actor within 20 minutes), Zombie “plays fair” with the viewer; even when providing the now-expected “trick” ending he uses the now-iconic hand-from-the-earth shot from Carrie. What he does instead is provide some unconventional filling: a fairly sympathetic look at our culture’s chief monsters: White People.
The world of the Firefly family, like the cannibal clan in the Texas Chainsaw films, is implicitly White. The properly educated urban filmgoer does not expect to see a Black face in a movie set in Texas or the South, precisely because these settings play the role of homeland to madness, violence and evil. Blacks, partly due to the post-war Great Migration North, and partly to obscure their role in cultural decay, have been re-branded as “urban.” A black face can only appear as the victim of some cracker outrage, and only in the “bad old days.”
By contrast, the Northern zombie film maker, George Romero, frequently cast blacks in leading or heroic roles. Thus, by making a low-budget slasher film, rather than a “quality” Hollywood film, and setting it in the South, the filmmaker is free, even if he doesn’t know it, to simply show White people doing White things, even if it’s acting all crazy and killing everything in sight.
There are, in fact, only two black characters, one in each film. In House, a crazy homeless preacher is seen briefly; unlike the White psychos, his “information” is presented as comical, the way negros acting like White folk have traditionally been portrayed. In Rejects, a more substantial role is given to a pimp, who is somewhat implausibly supposed to be an old family friend — of course, just like Lando Calrissian, it’s he who betrays them to the law.
Just as the Southerner, the archetypal White Man, has been shunted aside and ignored, these “crazy” folks all have stories to tell, if only they could find the right audience. They resemble “Madman Muntz” in Barton Fink, who lops off people’s heads while typical urban, Judaic “genius” Fink ignores his stories, waiting to find some “real people” to write about.
Although set in 1977, the kids seem more like proto-millennial hipsters, touring the South to discover, and presumably write about, stupid “roadside attractions” set up by stupid yokels to rip off stupid (non-hipster) tourists. If the kids had survived, they might have an ironic travel blog today. Stopping for gas at “Capt. Spaulding’s Fried Chicken and Gasoline,” they are intrigued, ironically of course, with his collection of curiosities. But Spaulding is not charmed by their questions; he senses condescension, not genuine interest:
Captain Spaulding: Ya’ll think us folk from the country’s real funny-like, dontcha?
Bill Hudley: Jerry . . .
Captain Spaulding: Yeah, well saddle up the mule, ma. Slide me some grits, I’s got to get me some edu-cation, uh hu hu hu.
Bill Hudley: Jerry . . .
Captain Spaulding: You a*****e!
Later, Capt. Spaulding will be even less interested in telling anything to the cops, to whom he again rehearses his irritation with “those stupid ass kids“:
Lt. George Wydell: What did you see? Who was she with? Where was she going?
Captain Spaulding: I don’t know. Yeah, that girl was in here last night. She was with three other stupid kids. They was nosing around . . . asking a bunch of stupid questions.
Deputy Steve Naish: Questions about what?
Captain Spaulding: [getting angry and agitated] Nothin’. You ask me, those stupid ass kids probably got turned around ass backwards and got themselves lost.
Lt. George Wydell: Is that all? Now, I want you to think really hard.
[Spaulding scratches his head with his forefinger, mocking “thinking hard”]
Captain Spaulding: Well, I don’t rightly know. You see, they wasn’t in here long enough for me to get up close and personal with ’em like I do with most of the other assholes that come wandering in here!
The kids are unable to resist the temptation of a new local legend to mock, even though it’s pouring rain, and Capt. Spaulding has to literally draw them a map. Along the way they pick up Baby, who corroborates the story, and offers them shelter at her family’s suspiciously (to us) nearby house.
At the Firefly house, we first meet Mother Firefly, and learn from her that there’s been no phone since 1957, since she no longer had anyone outside she was interested in talking to. Sensing a willing audience, she tries to interest them in their Halloween celebration and customs, but the hipsters patiently inform her that they’re “too old” for such nonsense. Like Fink, they don’t realize how . . . interesting . . . the Firefly’s customs would be. Though put out, Mother Firefly is still, like Capt. Spaulding, “just messing with you.” Soon things will take a darker turn.
Meanwhile, upstairs, Otis P. Driftwood, a drifter who joined up with the family some years ago, has kidnapped a whole busload of cheerleaders and is subjecting them to his Speckesque tuition. For the first time, we get to hear what these people would say if they got a chance.
Otis: [ranting to tied up cheerleaders] “Why,” you ask? “Why” is not the question. How? Now, that is a question worth examining. How could I, being born of such, uh . . . conventional stock, arrive a leader of the rebellion? . . . I brought you here for a reason, but unfortunately you and your sentimental minds are doing me no good! . . . I have to break free from this culture of mechanical reproductions and the thick encrustations dying on the surface!
The equally captive audience of hipsters is now being forced to endure some more typical old time White activities, such as family dinner, followed by amateur entertainment. The girls are openly bored, while the boys are . . . intrigued . . . by Baby and Mother. But the increasing creepiness of the family members that continue to show up keeps everyone from openly mocking them. Albino Otis and uncontrollable filthy Grandpa descend and dinner begins.
The family finds it incomprehensible that these kids are looking around in the pouring rain for made up “Dr. Satan” nonsense while oblivious to the much more interesting Firefly family right around them.
Otis: Boy, I bet you’d stick your head in fire if I told ya you could see Hell. [The opening theme has informed us that “This is Hell, come on it.”]
Grandpa Hugo: What are you, Jimmy Olsen, cub reporter for the Daily A*****e?
And now it’s showtime! Baby‘s face is heavily powdered a garish white as she lip-syncs a Betty Boop song — typical old time White entertainment, or, as Zombie says on the commentary track, “some dumb redneck’s idea of glamour.” Things go South, as they say, about now:
Baby: [Baby gets pushed to the ground] Oh, you shouldn’t of done that!
Mary Knowles: Oh, really? Are you gonna do something about it?
Baby: I’ll do something, motherfucker. I’ll fucking cut your tits off and shove ’em down your throat!
Just like Dirty Dancing, it’s not a good idea to push Baby around. Not being a JAP, however, she doesn’t need her absent father to protect her, and pulls out a switchblade.
When next we see Mary, she is tied to a school chair and wearing a dunce cap. Having failed to learn her lesson, Otis tries his hand at remedial instruction.
Otis: Listen, you Malibu middle class Barbie piece of s**t, I’m tryin’ to work here. Work? You ever work? Yeah, I’ll bet you have. Scoopin’ ice cream to your s**t-heel friends on summer break. . . . I ain’t readin’ no funny books, mama. Our bodies come and go but this blood . . . is forever.
Bill, however, proves to be the perfect subject. He finally “gets it” or rather, gets his; he becomes his own roadside attraction: Fishboy, perhaps in a nod to Lovecraft.
Mary Knowles: Is he okay?
Otis: He’s a good guy. Oh, he’s been a great help to me! A real blessin’. I mean, I couldn’t have asked for a better specimen. You don’t know what kind of dry spell I’ve had here. Total block, total block! But Bill . . . he’s okay.
Mary Knowles: Where is he? Where is he? Can I see him? Can I see Bill, please?
Otis: Let’s go see. Behold . . . Fishboy!
[Otis pulls back a curtain to reveal Bill’s mutilated corpse]
Mary Knowles: Oh my god! Oh my god, Bill! No, no, this can’t be real. This can’t be real, this can’t be real, this can’t be real.
Otis: Oh, it’s real. As real as I want it to be, mama.
Meanwhile, Jerry’s still dumb as a post:
[Baby starts cutting Jerry’s hair with the scissors]
Jerry Goldsmith: No wait please come on stop it! What do you want? What do you want from me? What do you want from us?
Baby: Please be quiet I don’t wanna slip. Ok one more. You get this right, I’ll let ya go. If you get it wrong you are fucked! Ok, who’s my favorite movie star?
Jerry Goldsmith: I don’t know . . . M . . . Marilyn Monroe!
Baby: Hmmm . . . no Betty Davis! Sorry you lose!
[Baby scalps Jerry]
The remaining kids now put through what seems like some kind of badly remembered initiation ritual, conducted by Otis who is now playing the whiteface role of Baron Samedi, involving bunny costumes and living burials, perhaps some rite death and rebirth that has become grotesquely distorted by years of isolation. Mary breaks free and makes a run for it.
Otis: Huntin’ humans ain’t nothin’ but nothin’. They all run like scared little rabbits. RUN, RABBIT, RUN! 
Baby finally gets to use her knife on Mary, a dozen or so times, and chants what seems like some drug-addled remembrance of traditional murder ballad, the sort an earlier generation of kids traveled the back country to collect and bring back to the local coffee house:
Baby: There once was a woman who lived with her daughter in a cabbage garden; along came a rabbit and ate up all the cabbages; the woman said, “Go into the garden and drive out the rabbit.” . . . ‘Shoo, shoo,’ said the maiden. [laughs maniacally]
Really, at this point I have no idea what’s going on. There’s underground passages with undead ghouls, endless tunnels lined with bones, suggesting the centuries old underground cannibal world in Lovecraft’s “The Rats in the Walls,” an underground operating theater complete with waiting room, and finally Dr. Satan, who seems to have mutated into something resembling Cthulhu. The final girl escapes, then doesn’t. Whatever. I’m still wondering about the Fireflys’ back above ground, and Zombie’s next film suggests he too is more interested in the family than the plot.
What we’ve seen suggests, in line with René Guénon, that Tradition, though repressed and distorted, survives in folklore — “This blood lasts forever” –  and that, as Trevor Lynch adds, we are only allowed to hear it in the rantings of madmen, psychopaths, and clowns.
But what is the White Wisdom?
The Road Picture to, and from, Hell 
“It seems to us that it is more moral to lose oneself and let oneself be ruined than to save oneself. The great moralists have never been especially virtuous, but rather adventurers in evil, in vice, great sinners. You must find that all very repugnant” — Clavdia Chauchat to Hans Castorp during the Walpurgisnacht revels in Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain [New York: Vintage, 1996, p. 334]
In the sequel, Zombie, having demonstrated his mastery of the horror genre, discards this rickety structure — in the commentary track, he notes that he had planned to show “Dr. Satan” being carried out at the beginning but just decided to drop the whole thing — and produces a sort of road picture, if Easy Rider or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas were written by Jim Thompson.
The looser structure of the road picture, and its implicit role as the cinematic equivalent of the Bildungsroman, gives Zombie room to concentrate on the Firefly family and their interesting, though psychotic, ideology. Zombie signals his intentions by bookending his film with two Southern anthems. The early morning police raid on the Firefly estate is choreographed to the languid FM strains of Greg Allman’s “Midnight Rider,” while boldly using the entirety of “Freebird” at the end as the surviving clan members suicidal drive into a police roadblock in a blaze of gunfire.
Although the soundtrack tells us that the rider won’t be caught, the bird is always free, we know that doom is just part of these characters lifestyle; it’s not a question of evading it as of making sure it’s as cool as possible.
The Fireflys’ do less teaching this time around. Baby explains to the female motel hostages how easily she controls them, and perhaps delivers a subliminal critique of the liberal’s gun control fetish:
“Stupid c**t, ain’t no bullets in this thing. It’s all about fucking mind power.”
Which might also serve as an excellent riposte to the idea that the White man’s colonial power was merely a matter of gun, as if giving Africans machine guns and powdered wigs would allow them to produce a parliamentary democracy; while Otis reveals to their male companions, who have seen too many “ordinary Joe reveals his heroism” movies, that he is the Devil, and is here to do the Devil‘s work.
Instead, it is the film maker is implicitly instructing the viewers through his narrative, and he has two remaining lessons: the cops, and other forces of “the good” are in fact just as bad, or worse, than the “bad guys;” and second, the art of choosing a noble, or at least, bad-ass, death.
Given what we’ve already seen, the first will be a hard task, but Zombie can rely on the audience’s love of the underdog — and although the Fireflys are murderous psychopaths, once driven out of their home base, they operate with the same “disadvantages” that granted Will Graham the chance to capture the brilliant Dr. Lecter.
We’ve already seen a hint, so subtle it might take several viewings to pick up on it, towards the end of House when one of the minor Fireflys appropriates the shirt and shiny name badge of one of the dead cops. The cops we’ve already seen are pretty dumb: Here’s a couple walking into an ambush:
Lt. George Wydell: I myself always favored for the Hulk.
Deputy Steve Naish: The Hulk was dumb as s**t! 
And in the sequel, enormous efforts are expended to figure out the significance of all the people running around town with names like Spaulding, Firefly, and Driftwood. They finally have to call in a film geek to explain it to them, and then, rather than expressing gratitude, they threaten him for not reverencing Elvis.
Even under torture, Capt. Spalding can’t summon up any enthusiasm for the intelligence of Wydell’s dead brother, the source of his quest for revenge:
Yeah I remember him. Stupid f**k just like you. All I had to do was point him in a direction and there he went. Officer Wy-fuckin’-dell to the rescue.
This also introduces the further stupidity of the “heroism” of the ordinary Joe, who thinks he is morally superior but is really only someone who has read too many comic books:
Otis: Ha, that’s what they all say, “F**k you.” Well it ain’t gonna save you. It don’t scare me none. And it certainly doesn’t make you a fuckin’ hero!
Wydell by contrast is portrayed as a man so crazed with Old Testament style vengeance that he becomes less sympathetic than the psychopaths he is pursuing.
Wydell: It’s time to do what the good Lord would refer to as a “cleansing of the wicked”, and what my brother George . . . God rest his soul, used to call a 100% Alabama ass-kicking.
Gentlemen, let’s do what God made us to do!
As God is my witness, I have only just begun.
From the illusion lead me to truth. From darkness lead me to light. From death lead me to eternal life. [He nails Otis’ hands into the arms of a chair] Hallelujah! Are you feeling it brother?!
Lord I am your arm of justice. Lord I am your arm of justice. Lord I am your arm of justice. Your righteous sword of vengeance. Let my blows be true.
In short, unlike the cliché TV cop, the vengeful surviving Wydell brother is crusty but … un-likeable.
Zombie is presenting a worldview in which good and evil are ultimately perceived as merely conventional, mere names, arbitrary designations which only the ignorant take seriously. Is such antinomianism Aryan? Are we not a moral people?
Perhaps Aldous Huxley, well acquainted with the wisdom traditions of the East and West, summed it up best:
If we accept the universe we must accept it for its divinely appalling and divinely beautiful inhumanity, or, in other words, because by our standards it is utterly unacceptable. — Music at Night (Penguin, 1950), p. 66.
Huxley is right to refer this nondual viewpoint to Job, who has been tortured as much as any of the Fireflys’ victims — remember, Otis is “the Devil and [is] here to do the Devil’s work” — yet fails to get any answer out of JHVH acceptable to Judaic moralism. Instead, he gets . . . monsters.
God is justified, not by His goodness, not by the reasonableness of what He ordains, but because, as His strange, enigmatic, and often sinister creations attest, He is powerful and dangerous and gloriously inventive beyond all human conception; because He is at once so appalling and so admirable, that we cannot sufficiently love or fear Him, because, in the last resort, He is absolutely incomprehensible. . . . Behemoth and Leviathan are more convincing than the most flawless syllogisms. Job is overwhelmed, flattened out; the divine logic moves on the feet of elephants. [ibid., p. 61]
Behemoth, Leviathan, Firefly . . . the nondual perspective, whether in morality — virtue vs. “antinomianism” — or metaphysics — groveling worship of the personal deity vs. “pagan pantheism” — is always perceived by the dualist as monstrous, or as itself a monster.
From Arjuna’s terrifying vision of Krishna’s true form — “I am become Death, destroyer of worlds,” as Oppenheimer intones at Los Alamos — to Lovecraft’s hapless narrators confronted by “trans-dimensional horrors” — wisdom is only vouchsafed to those with the courage to step beyond conventional morality.
The Jewish scriptures are, of course, a mixed bag of genuine Tradition and post-Exilic dualism — even apart from modern textual criticism, the Torah actually describes itself being cobbled together by the returning exiles — and fundamentally, if you will, this wisdom is profoundly non-Judaic. The post-Exilic Jew, as Evola suggests, having seen his temple razed and his kingdom destroyed, and having absorbed Zoroastrian dualism during his Babylonian Captivity, was broken in spirit, and thus too weak to accept the world, and so embarked on a “prophetic mission” to “mend the world” [tikkun olam] and regain his dominion by serving as a — compulsory — “light unto the nations.” And to the extent that America, and the South, have been colonized by the Judaic mindset through a particularly virulent Protestantism, even the State and Authority are alien forces imposing a compulsory black and white form of morality and vengeance.
As Otis said to the cheerleaders: “. . . you and your sentimental minds are doing me no good.”
In the face of such wisdom, how is death prepared for? Surely not a triumph over evil, which is both conventionally defined and unlikely to happen. If we turn to the great Aryan works, from the Gita to the Iliad to the Song of Roland, the answer is clear: to do one’s duty, even if, like Paris or Antigone, one is “wrong,” and die gloriously.
Unlike the drug dealing hippie bikers of Easy Rider, these outlaws will not just be blown off the highway in some quick, meaningless encounter with nameless rednecks. Zombie will appropriate the entire length of “Freebird” for a slow motion Ragnarök between our protagonists, a heavily armed bullet-riddled Cadillac convertible — white, of course, and reminding us of the White Whale driven by Thompson and his Samoan attorney in Fear and Loathing — and a massive police road block, the high velocity violence of which may top the ending of Bonnie and Clyde — whose Michael J. Pollard appeared in the first scene of House, thus implicitly book-ending the two films.
The ending is far from despairing, any more than the ending of the NS-era film Opfergang . Having literally overcome and killed the Judaic spirit of vengeance and ressentiment personified by Sheriff Wydell, Capt. Spaulding and the surviving younger generation of Fireflies have, like the heroine of the German film, become Übermenschen, for whom life and death are a matter of indifference.
In the Kali Yuga, in the Twilight of the West, in the wake of the loss of the regular opportunities for initiation provided by Traditionally structured societies, this may be the message we most need.
1. Zombie wrote and directed his first film, House of 1000 Corpses, according to Wikipedia, “the tale of a group of unlucky young adults who stumble upon the Firefly Family, a family of sadistic and vicious murderers,” between 1999 and 2003, and did the same for his second, The Devil’s Rejects, in which, as Wikipeida again says, we find “the Firefly Family on the run from the law and a particularly vengeful sheriff whose brother had been murdered by them in the first film.”
Zombie later also wrote and directed a “re-imagining” of John Carpenter’s Halloween, which I don’t find interesting at all, since it doesn’t seem to have any particularly “white” content, implicit or otherwise, other than the casting, as the child Meyers, of the eerily Aryan Danish-Canadian child actor Daeg Faerch.
2. See “The Shifting Other” at http://mauryk2.com/2010/09/19/the-shifting-other-american-hysteria/ 
3. In House, Mayberry’s loveably dopey gas station attendant, Goober, reappears as “G. Ober,” the clerk at Tarrantino-esque Red Hot Pussy Liquors.
4. See his review of The Dark Knight . With Heath Leger’s Joker in mind, it’s perhaps interesting to note that not only is Capt. Spaulding in John Wayne Gacy clown makeup in most of the first film, Otis is in “whiteface” to suggest not very well an albino. In the second film, Spaulding is mostly out of makeup, while Zombie decided to ditch Otis’s makeup altogether, since it appeared “cartoonish” outside the house.
5. There’s a shot of Jerry with his hand on Mother Firefly thigh that exactly reproduces a shot of Dennis Hopper and the prostitute played by Karen Black (who plays Mother in the first film) in Easy Rider, right down to Jerry’s 70s porn mustache although I suspect this is coincidence.
6. This calls to mind John Updike, chronicler of WASP “angst” and, according to Gore Vidal, one of the “OK goys” acceptable to the Judaic literary establishment. The kids’ situation suggests that “Rabbit” Angstrom’s midlife crisis would seem a pretty minor thing right now.
7. As Evola puts it: “In most cases, savage tribes should not be considered as precivilized states of mankind, but rather as extremely degenerated forms of remnants of very ancient races and civilizations. Even though the above mentioned particulars are found among savage tribes and are expressed in materialistic, dark, and shamanic forms, this should not prevent us from recognizing the meaning and the importance they assume once they are brought back to their true origins. . .. These forms coincide with what I have called the ‘spiritual virility’ of the world of Tradition” (Revolt Against the Modern World, p. 46).
8. The “special edition” DVD includes a “making of” bonus disc called “30 Days in Hell.”
9. It’s probably the most Southern horror movie since the man-eating electrified worm epic Squirm, where Mystery Science Theater’s Tom Servo sneered “That’s way over-Southerning.” The use of “Freebird” in particular raised the ire of fans and especially the more PC Southerners who model themselves on Atticus Finch. See, for example, Tony Lazlos’s “Redneck Pride: Why Rob Zombie Sucks ”; of course, “redneck pride” is a bad thing.
Hannibal Lecter: Then how did you catch me?
Will Graham: You had . . . disadvantages.
Hannibal Lecter: What disadvantages?
Will Graham: You’re insane.
However, as Lecter will go on to point out, Graham also has the unwanted advantage of being “just like [Lecter]” just as the White audience is, on some level, just like the Fireflys.
11. We recall that Otis “ain’t readin’ no funny books, mama” and Grandpa sneering about Jimmy Olsen of the Daily A*****e.
12. The Marx Brothers, of course, epitomize the Judaic technique of hiding behind assumed names, the more ridiculous the better to mock the stupid goyim.
13. Tarantino gets a similar effect in Inglourious Basterds, where the Nazis are more likeable than even Brad Pitt, to say nothing of the grotesque Bear Jew, played by Eli Roth, the pioneer of the aforementioned “torture porn.” The actual torture scene in Rejects could have come from Basterds, including the climactic building fire. The scene in House where Baby dances around while scalping Jerry, complete with the funky song on the radio taking over the soundtrack, seems a homage to the ear scene from Reservoir Dogs, while Zombie would return the favor by contributing a faux trailer called Werewolf Women of the S.S. to Tarantino’s Grindhouse in 2007. While frequently been condemned by moralists, his muse, Uma Thurman, whose father is a noted authority on Tibetan Buddhism, is able to give a more favorable view: “Quentin’s not a moralist, and he’s freed himself from that traditional blanket distinction where there’s a good guy and a bad guy and each must behave according to his role. I think it’s exciting to see something that’s morally unpredictable, and in this twisted way you can feel the humanity somewhere inside a caricature-ish kind of storytelling” (W Magazine, May, 2004).
14. Tom Servo again, reacting to a pompous Air Force general in The Starfighters.
15. “This explains why the first generation of Egyptologists was led by devotional religion to recognize in the features of pharaonic regality those of the Antichrist or of the princeps huius mundi” (Revolt, p. 43, n. 8).
16. Arjuna, the Templars — whose “secret” was a monstrous head — the “greater holy war” of the Sufis, warriors all. This is Evola’s reason for disputing Guénon’s privileging of contemplation over action: wisdom is an achievement, an activity, not a passive state.
17. It is also not to be confused with the nihilistic relativism of the “deconstructionist” college professor or his hipster students, though Zombie’s audience may be full of them. In Ken Wilber’s terms, it is trans-moral, not pre-moral.
18. See Chapter 31 of Revolt, “Syncope of the Western Tradition,” for his discussion of the “desperate” and “divided” Jewish soul and its negative influence on the Aryan spirit.
19. While vengeance seems to have some purchase in Nordic culture, it is ultimately tempered by the ultimate fate of the gods themselves: Ragnarök. So ends Rejects as well.
20. See Derek Hawthorne’s “Opfergang: Masterpiece of National Socialist Cinema .”
21. For Evola, the only opportunity for self-overcoming, for “spiritual virility,” open to modern man is the resolute concentration on the transcendent, so that, in extreme moments, such as the risk of death, a “rupture of levels” may occur corresponding to what would occur in the death mimicking trials of traditional initiation rituals; we recall the degenerate versions of initiatory trials at the end of House. See the last chapter of Ride the Tiger or the essay “The Concept of Initiation.” Evola himself put this into practice during the Second World War (or Second European Civil War) by walking the streets of Vienna during Allied air raids, during one of which he sustained the injuries that crippled him for the remainder of his life.
The 2009 French film A Prophet, directed by Jacques Audiard, is one of the best prison/crime films (it contains elements of both) I have seen in a long time. In its gritty realism, it is a throwback to the greatest prison films of bygone eras. I’m thinking of classics like A Man Escaped, Escape from Alcatraz, Papillon, or even the 1985 Runaway Train.
These disappeared after the Tarantino age was ushered in with Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, and after that, prison and crime films, with their slick, fast-paced cinematography, jumbled morality and glamorous characters, came to resemble long music videos more than dramas. (The 2004 British film Layer Cake is a prime example of this type of film.)
A Prophet, however, shows criminals and prison life as I imagine they are really like: dirty, ugly and unpleasant, inhabited by people who have to be both brutal and cunning just to survive from one day to the next. In this sense, the film is a great success, and that alone would make it worth viewing. Many other people have sung its praises as well, and it won the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009.
There is another layer to A Prophet, however, and that is primarily what I would like to discuss here. It is also the story of the rise of a criminal mastermind from nothingness to absolute power, similar to the paradigm we’ve seen before in The Godfather films and Scarface. Mixed with this is a none-too-subtle parable about the position of immigrants in France, and, by extension, Europe, in both the present and the future.
Alarm bells should immediately ring when Wikipedia quotes a French interview with director Audiard about the film in which he said that he was “creating icons, images for people who don’t have images in movies, like the Arabs in France,” even though he added to this that it “has nothing to do with [his] vision of society.” I’m sorry, Monsieur Audiard, but I don’t believe that you simply wanted to make a movie about Parisian criminals.
My discussion requires that I give a quick summary of the film’s plot, so if you haven’t seen the film and don’t want to know the story before doing so, turn back now. The film begins as 19-year-old Arab Malik El Djebena is being thrown into a prison in Paris. The prison is run by two gangs of inmates: one consisting of the Muslims; and the other, which is much more successful and wealthy, run by Cesar Luciani, a Corsican crime boss who is still running his empire from inside the prison, along with his Corsican cohorts.
Malik, weak and defenseless, is at first easy prey, and he is attacked and robbed by fellow Muslims shortly after his arrival. Typically, the Corsicans will have nothing to do with the Arabs, but an Arab prisoner arrives who they know intends to testify against them. Not having any allies in the Muslim section of the prison, they recruit Malik by offering to give him protection in exchange for murdering the witness.
Malik carries out the assassination, and thereafter becomes a servant to the Corsicans, who protect him but treat him with contempt and hold him at a distance. At the same time, the other Muslims regard Malik as a traitor for working with them, and as a result he is kept safe but isolated.
This situation continues for some time until most of the Corsicans are freed, leaving Cesar with only a handful of followers. After this he is forced to rely to a much greater extent on Malik, but gives him occasional, brutal reminders not to think that he can live without Cesar’s continued protection. Still, Malik’s life begins to improve considerably, and he is able to have many goods brought to his cell from the outside, including White prostitutes. Eventually, because of his good behavior in the eyes of the prison authorities, he is allowed to begin taking day-long leaves out of the prison, and Cesar uses him as a messenger to negotiate deals with his own bosses in Paris, becoming even more indispensable to him.
Meanwhile, Malik finally befriends one of the Muslim prisoners, Ryad, who finishes his sentence and helps Malik, in spite of Cesar’s threats, to set up a hashish smuggling operation which begins to win Malik contacts among the Muslim inmates. We later learn that Ryad is dying of cancer, but he continues to help Malik to build his network in return for Malik’s promise that he will care for Ryad’s wife and family after he dies.
Malik continues to become more and more important to Cesar’s operations, and simultaneously begins to win the respect of the Muslim gang leaders both inside and outside the prison, as they recognize that Malik occupies a unique position, being the only person to straddle both sides of the underworld. Things come to a climax when Cesar, suspecting that his Italian boss is plotting against him, asks Malik to arrange for the Don’s assassination during one of his leaves outside the prison.
Malik agrees, and initially the Arabs and the Corsicans plan to carry out the attack together, but the two groups despise each other and cannot cooperate. On the day of the attack, Malik deserts the Corsicans, and he and Ryad successfully carry out the hit on their own. Knowing that the remaining Corsicans in the prison will now turn on each other, Malik deliberately returns from his leave late and is thrown into solitary confinement – for forty days and forty nights. By the time he emerges, all of the Corsicans apart from Cesar himself have either been killed or sent to other prisons.
In the last part of the film, Malik is returned to the prison population, and we see him come out into the yard, which has traditionally been split between the Corsicans and the Muslims, only now, Cesar sits by himself. Malik is welcomed by the Muslims as their new leader, and he takes his place at the center of their group.
Cesar signals for Malik to come and speak with him, but Malik ignores him. Getting desperate, Cesar finally attempts to cross over to the Muslim side, but some of them stop him and beat him up before he can reach Malik. Realizing he has lost, Cesar staggers back to his side of the yard.
Shortly thereafter, Malik completes his sentence, and on the day he is released, he is met by Ryad’s wife and children. As he walks home with them, we see several vehicles pull up behind them, discreetly keeping their distance, and we realize that it is Malik’s new security detail. The film ends, the transfer of power now complete.
The subtext of this story should be easy to read without much analysis. If we view the prison as a microcosm of Europe, Cesar and the Corsicans represent the White European establishment, while Malik and the other Muslims represent the disenfranchised immigrants. Malik suffers repeated humiliation at the hands of the Whites, and even does their dirty work, but he is really just biding his time. He slowly builds his power base, and after he gains their trust, he uses it against them, and manages to displace them in the prison that formerly belonged to them.
There is even a giveaway line in the middle of the film, when Cesar remarks to Malik that at one time the Whites were in the majority in the prison, but that they are rapidly becoming outnumbered by the Muslims. Indeed, if present trends continue, the story of A Prophet is very likely going to be the story of Europe in the twenty-first century. Muslim immigrants will tolerate the system as long as they have to, but as soon as they have the strength and are in a position to do so, they will surely shove their hosts aside and suck whatever remains of Europe dry, leaving the descendants of the original inhabitants of Europe to simply watch and mourn while it happens – those who don’t switch sides, that is.
As Greg Johnson has expressed it, the new masters of Islamic Europe will be like teenagers who steal a car: they’ll take it for a joy ride, drive it until it crashes, and then move on to the next car. Why? Because, fundamentally, it’s not theirs. Why should they be concerned with what happens to the culture of Homer, Goethe, and Baudelaire?
While it is very possible that this tale was born from the imaginations of ethnomasochistic French liberals, I don’t find much in this parable with which to disagree. Whatever their motivations, the filmmakers have caught the essential truth of what is happening in Europe today.
It is worth noting that one of the measures of Malik’s success is his screwing of White whores, and there is also a quick shot of a White woman embracing a Black man on a Paris street during one of Malik’s leaves. The ability of non-Whites to dominate White women through sex, thus robbing us of future progeny which we can call our own, is among the trophies of their success, as we’ve been seeing for a long time in our own country.
And, interestingly, it is not any of the Muslims who deliver the death blow to the White power base in the prison. Rather, the Whites do themselves in, rather as we have seen continuously among the European nations over the past century. Non-Whites will just need to step in once the Whites have finished killing themselves off.
Similarly, in the film, the process begins when Cesar admits an outsider to serve his own purposes, believing that he can keep him under control, just as the elites of the United States and Europe began to admit non-White immigrants in large numbers out of economic expediency and with little thought that the future might bring something altogether different from what they imagined. So, again, I challenge Audiard’s claim that his film has nothing to say about European society. Furthermore, this film could easily be remade in America with a Latino in the main role, and the message would remain the same.
One criticism the film has received from some quarters is in its treatment of Islam, and in particular the references to Malik as a prophet. I myself, given the film’s title, had assumed that eventually, Malik was going to undergo some sort of religious awakening, but it never happens. At no point in the film does he evince any interest whatsoever in his Muslim heritage.
We get occasional glimpses of more devout Muslim inmates in the background, and at one point Malik brings some of his hashish profits to a mosque (only because he didn’t think it was worth the risk to keep it himself, we learn). On another occasion, high on heroin, he sees another inmate spinning in the style of the whirling dervishes and chanting the names of Allah, and imitates him, working himself into ecstasy. But it never goes beyond this, and Malik’s actions could hardly be described as those of a good Muslim.
Still, the film draws a number of deliberate parallels between Malik and the lives of the Prophets of Islam. Malik, we learn, is illiterate, just as Muhammad was. Malik is kept in solitary confinement for forty days and nights, just as Moses and Jesus had fasted and prayed for the same length of time in isolation before being granted divine revelations. Muhammad also received many revelations through dreams, and Malik himself has a dream of deer running across a road. When he is in a car driving through a forest with a Muslim gang leader, he recognizes the area from his dream and warns the driver seconds before he hits a deer, henceforth becoming known as “a prophet.”
But if he’s not a religious leader, in what way is Malik a prophet? Is it really just a tasteless joke, as some critics have claimed?
I would say no, and the reasons for this have to do with my own views on Muslim immigration into Europe, and not Muslim immigration into the United States, I hasten to add, which I do not view as a threat of the same order. Many Rightists conflate Muslim immigration into Europe and America as if they are the same thing, but the fact is, they are not. The truth is that Muslims in the United States comprise less than 1% of the population, while Hispanics account for over 16%, and they are coming into the country at a much faster rate, both legally and illegally, than Muslim immigrants are. This is beside the fact that the majority of Muslims in Europe are poor and uneducated, while Muslims generally come to the United States to receive education and enter the middle class. The situations are simply not comparable. So, personally, I think those who believe that we have to protect ourselves from shariah law before it overtakes America, and who are trying to pass legislation to this effect, are wasting their time. The threat of immigration to America is real, but comes from different sources.
As a traditionalist, I respect Islam in its genuine forms, primarily Sufism, as a manifestation of the supreme, metaphysical truth. Unlike many of my political colleagues, my own problem with Muslim immigration has little to do with the religion itself, and I think A Prophet successfully illustrates my own thoughts on the matter.
There are some traditionalists, particularly followers of the teachings of René Guénon or Frithjof Schuon who have converted to Islam themselves, who view Muslim immigration into Europe as a positive thing, since they believe that Europe, having lost its own sacred traditions, will be resacralized by being reintegrated into a spiritual culture, regardless of the fact that it is a foreign tradition.
Even Ahmed Huber, the Swiss German banker who, rather like Malik, occupied a unique place where the worlds of Islamic fundamentalism and the European Right met, contended that, eventually, Muslim immigration into Europe would give rise to a unique form of “European Islam.” Muslim scholars, including the Scots convert Shaykh Abdalqadir as-Sufi and the Swiss Egyptian Tariq Ramadan, have likewise predicted the rise of such a thing.
On the surface, this might seem like a good idea, since it is undeniable that Europe is in desperate need of a return to spirituality. Unlike Guénon or Schuon, however, I believe that a religion has to be connected to one’s racial and cultural makeup, and the mere fact of a system of beliefs being associated with the Primordial Tradition is insufficient by itself. A “European” Islam would remain as inherently anti-European, no matter how many concessions it makes, as Christianity has always been, and surely its impact would be just as destructive as the last attempt to alter the spiritual foundations of our people was.
However, even this is not the main issue for me. The fact is, as we see in A Prophet, the culture of the majority of Muslims in Europe is not the high-minded Sufi Islam of Martin Lings or Seyyed Hossein Nasr (two prominent contemporary traditionalists). Mostly, it does not even rise to the purely exoteric, black-and-white level of political Islamism.
The culture of Muslims in Europe is a ghetto culture, a culture of the lowest form of materialism, which is the only thing that can emerge from generation after generation of poverty, ignorance, resentment, and petty violence, all the while being encouraged in this by their cheerleaders among the ethnomasochistic liberal elites. It is no more “Islamic” in the true sense than the culture of urban Blacks in America is reflective of African culture.
There will be no restoration of spirituality or traditional values, European or Muslim. What I imagine would emerge from their triumph would be something like the city of Detroit over the past half-century, in which the underclass came to power only to set about stripping down and selling off anything of value with no thought for the future, quickly reducing the entire area into a depressing wasteland that is beyond recovery, and bearing only the faintest traces of having once been something better.
This is the true prophecy that Malik offers us: a vision of the brutal rise of a criminal-minded underclass which is interested in nothing but its own survival and material enrichment, and one which will have little regard for the welfare of its former overlords. I do not blame immigrant populations for being this way. They come to the West to seek a better life, which is only natural, and it cannot be denied that their lives here have been rough and humiliating.
However, we cannot let understanding of their plight to any degree lessen our resolve to protect what is rightfully ours. As John Michell once wrote, every people is given a space in which to realize itself. Europe, at least for the time being, still has its space, and the Muslims have theirs (apart from Palestine). There should be no shame in asserting ourselves, even though many of us, under the influence of negative and culture-destroying ideologies, have come to feel shame about it.
Therefore it remains to be seen if Europe will actually resign itself to having reached the end of its natural life cycle, or if it still retains enough vitality to bring about a restoration of some sort. But the hour is getting late, and there is much to be done. And Malik and his cohorts are already dreaming of their prophecy with their eyes wide open.
Kill Bill: Vol. 1 is a martial arts movie, a Samurai movie. Its music and style also pay homage to (or shamelessly rip off) Sergio Leone’s great Spaghetti Westerns. Kill Bill is also, we are told from the very beginning, the fourth opus by director Quentin Tarrantino.
Tarrantino’s Pulp Fiction is a truly great film. Jackie Brown is likeable and entertaining but too damn long. I’ll reserve judgment on Reservoir Dogs, since I have only seen it once, years ago, and I just can’t force myself to watch it again. But if I did watch it again, I would probably think it is a good film, just not an enjoyable one.
Kill Bill is, from a purely technical point of view, a remarkable achievement. But I do not recommend it to anyone but fanatical film buffs. I saw this film the day it opened in October, but I am only now getting around to reviewing it. That fact alone, I think, could stand as a review.
Kill Bill is a simple revenge story told in the complex, non-linear Tarrantino style. The main character, “The Bride,” played by the very beautiful, blue-eyed blonde Uma Thurman, was a member of group of freelance killers called the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. Now that alone suffices to make her an unsympathetic character in my book, but she is the heroine of this movie.
She decides to quit the squad and get married. But the squad leader, Bill, wants her dead, so the killers descend on the small wedding chapel in El Paso and murder everyone inside. But “The Bride”—who was quite pregnant at the time—survives.
After four years in a coma, she wakes up and decides to get her revenge. In Vol. 1, we see her kill two squad members, a Negress played by Vivica Fox and an Oriental woman played by Lucy Liu. In Vol. 2, presumably, she will go after the white members of the squad, played by Darryl Hanna and Michael Madsen, as well as Bill himself, played by David Carradine.
Some of the greatest dramas of all time are revenge stories, and there are scenes in Kill Bill that are genuinely powerful and moving. But just when you find yourself caught up in the film, just when you are starting to take it seriously, Tarrantino douses your enthusiasm with a bucket of cold irony.
By “irony,” I do not mean the literary trope whereby one intends the opposite of what one literally says. Nor do I mean the perverse “law” of human action by which one brings about the opposite of what intends.
Instead, by “irony” I mean a refusal to take serious things seriously, specifically a refusal of respect or allegiance to ideals, a refusal of their demand that we must elevate and transform our lives in their image, or even sacrifice our lives for their greater glory and continued sway.
By “irony,” I mean the cynical pretense of having seen through the emptiness and vanity of all ideals.
Now, ironic detachment from small and silly things is healthy. But ironic detachment from great and serious things is a sign of decadence, because a healthy soul and a healthy society need ideals. Ideals are the only things that raise the human soul above the brute animality of our carnal desires.
The desires for food, security, sexual gratification, and continued existence do not set us apart from the animals. What sets us apart is our ability to give these things up for something higher. The desire to conform to a social hierarchy to ensure the satisfaction of our desires does not set us apart from wolves, apes, or even insects like ants and bees. What sets us apart is the ability to rebel in the name of ideals like liberty and justice.
Hegel saw the duel to the death over honor as man’s passage from pre-history to history, from animal-like to human existence. The man who is willing to die for honor conquers his fear of death, which maintains his animal existence, to demand the proper recognition of his sense of honor, which is his idea of himself. There are other ideals besides personal honor, but it was probably the first ideal men were willing to die for. A beautiful symbol of the cult of honor is the Samurai sword.
The Samurai sword plays a prominent role in both Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill. In Pulp Fiction, Bruce Willis’s character, the boxer Butch, is a small time crook. He accepts money from a gangster to throw a fight, leaks that he is going to throw the match and watches the odds of his winning plummet, then bets the payoff on himself, beats the other boxer to death, collects the loot, and is about to leave town . . . when he realizes that his father’s watch, which has deep sentimental value, has been left behind.
He faces a moment of decision. He can leave without the watch and enjoy his loot. Or he can risk his life to go back for the watch. He chooses to go back. It is a matter of honor, and he is willing to risk his life for that. He shows that he is not just a clever animal, but a human being.
Then Butch and the gangster who is pursuing him fall into the hands of Zed and Maynard, a pair of homosexual sadists. Butch escapes. But he has another moment of decision. He can get away but abandon the gangster to rape and torture and probable death. Or he can go back and risk his life again to help the poor bastard. He chooses to go back. It is a matter of honor. Before he returns, however, he chooses his weapon. He rejects a baseball bat and a chainsaw and chooses a Samurai sword. The perfect instrument for a human being, a being who is willing to risk his life over matters of honor.
I love Pulp Fiction, because the movie deals with the power of ideals like personal honor to raise us out of the cultural and spiritual hell created by cynicism and greed. I hate Kill Bill because it takes the Samurai duel to the death over honor and makes a mockery of it.
Irony is the dominant mode of American high- and middlebrow culture today because of our infestation with Jews. Jews are natural ironists because they are wandering parasites that inhabit their host countries but never become a part of them. They maintain their distinctness by sneering at everything their hosts take seriously. And now that they control America’s mass media, they have the power to make us sneer too.
The result is predictable: detached from ideals, Americans and their culture—never too idealistic to begin with—have become ever more debased and enslaved to desires so low that they cannot even be called brutish. Brutes, after all, have natural, healthy desires which are limited and relatively easy to satisfy. There’s not a lot of money to be made in that. (Although now that most of our food is thoroughly adulterated, people are willing to pay more for food that contains fewer ingredients.)
No, the real growth market is in artificial and unnatural tastes.
Now, some of these tastes are admirable. Indeed, they are the very essence of high culture. Sonnets, sculptures, and symphonies do not grow on trees. They are beautiful and, from the perspective of base utilitarianism, utterly useless. From a spiritual point of view, however, they are very useful, because learning to appreciate them elevates and deepens us. But appreciating high culture requires educated and refined tastes, and the higher the levels of education and refinement required, the fewer the people who can attain them.
If you are interested in making money, that is very bad. Since more people have bad taste than good, bad taste is where the money is. And the only things that stand in the way of the endless and profitable creation artificial desires for the tasteless, tacky, and base are high ideals, upright morals, and good taste, i.e., convictions that there are certain acts and certain pleasures that are beneath us. Once these are destroyed, there is nothing beneath us, no bottom, no limit on how low we can go, no end to the empty, trivial, and degrading things we are willing to do and see and consume.
Want a universal cultural solvent? Combine cynical ironism and capitalist greed. To accelerate the dissolution, spike with Jewish malice.
Quentin Tarrantino is not a Jew. But he is the product of a thoroughly Jewed, decadent, cynical popular culture. His education seems to have consisted entirely of television and movies, like a lot of recent filmmakers, such as De Palma, Lucas, and Spielberg. All of them are talented technicians, but their personalities and tastes are shockingly immature, which is exactly what you would expect of people raised on Hollywood movies and television.
From a racial point of view, Tarrantino is a disaster. He thinks Negroes quite clever. (If only they were as clever as the lines he feeds them.) He may be partly non-white, but he is probably just one of those whites so corrupted by anti-white propaganda that he has “ennobled” himself by inventing a Cherokee ancestor. If you can’t overlook such things, then there is no point in seeing his movies at all.
The fact that Pulp Fiction is such a good film may be just a stunning, million-monkeys-banging-on-typewriters-producing-Othello kind of accident, but I think it is a sign of the power of genius to transcend bad education and cultural decadence. Jackie Brown also seemed, in its rambling and unfocused way, to straining for something higher. But with Kill Bill, the culture seems, at last, to have overwhelmed Tarrantino.
One can transcend one’s cultural context through sheer genius, but to maintain that kind of transcendence one needs an alternative worldview, a critical perspective, a foundation to stand upon, and Tarrantino clearly lacks that. A drowning man may break surface once or twice out of sheer self-exertion. But if he does not find something to cling to, the waters will swallow him in the end.
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