Jul 10, 2011
When it comes to the history of Hollywood, the behind-the-scenes antics of its participants and stars has always intrigued me more than the actual films they produce. Sure, Rudolph Valentino may have been the first male heartthrob in cinema history, but the facts regarding his magical rise and rather pathetic fall have always interested me more than his actual movie roles. Even German expressionist director F.W. Murnau – who is arguably the greatest filmmaker to have ever worked in Hollywood – had quite an interesting personal life whilst working in the foreign world of Tinseltown, as not many people can say they died as a result of an unruly mix including an underage quasi-slave Filipino boy, a blowjob mishap, and a moving motor vehicle. Of course, some of these purported historical facts are somewhat dubious yet the libertine mystique of Hollyweird and its past live on. In Satanic documentarian auteur Larry Wessel’s Sex, Death & The Hollywood Mystique, a number of forgotten Hollywood entertainers and suave pseudo-historians give you the inside dirt on Sunset Boulevard’s most depraved, perverted, and downright degenerate stars and its equally unethical business practices. During the early days of Hollywood, actors/actresses were essentially the prostitutes of the pimp-like producers and sexually barbaric businessmen who virtually owned them. Although Austrian born Hollywood director Billy Wilder exposed some of the ostentatious oddities of Follywood (in the form of an ungracefully aged silent screen queen) with his masterpiece Sunset Boulevard and absurdo auteur David Lynch would later make films of a similar nature (albeit, in a more ambiguous, ambitious, stark, gritty, and exceedingly grotesque manner), few films have seriously examined the creepy cryptic history of the L.A. worldwide entertainment epicenter, especially from a strictly fact-based (or as close to fact as one can get for such a mysterious underbelly of sin masquerading as a saintly promoter of moral and ethical progress) and documentarian perspective. Thus, those who have found themselves more addicted to Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon than internet porn will find Sex, Death & The Hollywood Mystique to be a lucid piece of uncensored film history gold of the most glimmering and rewarding kind. It also doesn't hurt that the documentary features a complimentary video aesthetic that echoes back to porn flicks of the 1980s, as Sex, Death & The Hollywood Mystique makes such sex flicks seem like wholesome and banal Sunday morning programming.
One aspect of Sex, Death & The Hollywood Mystique that especially intrigued me was when I found out that John Gilmore – a man who has made a career out of exposing controversial Hollywood based crimes and serial killers – is one of the main subjects of the documentary. As someone who has read many of his books for the mere pleasure, I knew that Gilmore would provide a certain charisma to the documentary that is quite rare and underappreciated nowadays. After all, no other true crime author has been able to uncover such odd and obsessive facts like Bobby Beausoleil’s pre-murderer interest in American Neo-Splengarian philosopher and political activist Francis Parker Yockey’s tome Imperium. In Sex, Death & The Hollywood Mystique, Gilmore reveals the cunning criminal tactics of semen-slurping Hollywood pimp-producers and the revolting facts behind his friend James Dean’s painful rise to post-life stardom. According to Gilmore, Dean became the sex slave of various Hollywood producers before making his way to the silverscreen. Knowing that Dean subjected himself to sexual torture yet never got to reap its rewards just makes his life seem all the more tragic. In early Hollywood, it was not uncommon for up-and-coming actors of both genders (but especially males) to use and abuse their body as a rite of passage in Tinseltown. Apparently, James Dean was sub-literate but he had a keen knack getting what he wanted via his sometimes charming antics and his ability to perfectly mimic other people's behavior. As John Gilmore explains in Sex, Death & The Hollywood Mystique, very few people in Hollywood gave Dean the time of day before his godlike and quasi-mythical success, but when he died, these disingenuous individuals (including Maila Nurmi aka Ms. Vampira) claimed to be his best friend. Naturally, the documentary also covers a variety of iconic L.A.-based serial killers and murderers, including Charles "The Pied Piper of Tucson" Schmid, the Manson Family, and the unsolved Black Dahlia murder. As someone who has read various books on these subjects/individuals, I must admit that Sex, Death & The Hollywood Mystique does an excellent job in "cutting the fat" in regard to providing only the most unconventional and naked facts about the murderers and their victims, and not merely regurgitating the same kind of cheat-sheet and beat-to-death yellow journalism facts you find on television programs like 60 Minutes or in books written by Vincent Bugliosi.
Personally, I see it as no sort of revelation that Hollywood has a genocide worth of skeletons in its many closets as the contrived and artificial nature of its films gives evidence that its owners have something to hide; or, at the very least, they do not want to reveal the true nature of their characters. After all, it is no mere coincidence that some of Hollywood best films, including Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard and David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, have been set in the fey and cryptic criminal underworld of Tinsletown. To my knowledge there is not another documentary like Sex, Death & The Hollywood Mystique; where the devil’s whorehouse of showbiz is showcased in a most pleasantly uncensored way. Of course, the documentary is undoubtedly a continuation of its star John Gilmore’s lifelong work, as well as Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon series, but Sex, Death & The Hollywood Mystique is much easier to digest for those that loathe literature (myself, not included). For me, the documentary was like revisiting Gilmore and Anger’s work, minus hours of reading. If you’re a friend, foe, or fan of Hollywood, you will certainly find Sex, Death & The Hollywood Mystique to be a stimulating affair where the seedy sex, exploding stars, and sinister business of Hollywood is displayed on a sparkling dimestore platter. For more info on this film, checkout: www.wesselmania.net
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 7:50 PM
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