Apr 3, 2019

Suspiria (2018)

When I first learned that guido giallo maestro Dario Argento’s arguable magnum opus Suspiria (1977) was being remade, I was not all that surprised considering even the most idiotic horror films are receiving remakes, at least until I realized that queer Italian auteur Luca Guadagnino—a seemingly constantly evolving arthouse auteur that has never dabbled in horror—of all people would be helming the production. Best known for directing the overrated cocksucking coming-of-age flick Call Me by Your Name (2017) that depicts a lurid love affair between a dorky Jewish teenage (ersatz)twink and a slightly older and more masculine Hebrew in a scenario that is vaguely (but notably enough) similar to underrated artsploitation Italian auteur Salvatore Samperi’s poofter period melodrama Ernesto (1979), Guadagnino seemed a bit ill-equipped to remake a phantasmagorically kaleidoscopic horror classic that was originally directed by a rampantly heterosexual misogynist, yet somehow he didn’t let me down, even if he created a completely different sort of monster that would probably defile the souls of most hardcore Argentophiles. In fact, I would go so far as saying that, in terms of sheer cinematic art that tests the bounds of the medium, Suspiria (2018)—an eccentric estrogen-drenched arthouse epic poorly disguised as bitchy and witchy horror trash—is superior to Argento’s film, though to compare the two is, to borrow an odd Serbian idiom, like comparing grandmothers and toads. Indeed, whereas the original film was a 98-minute orgasm of neo-gothic terror that basks in incoherence and esoteric intrigue and is arguably best remembered for its exaggerated neon colors, Guadagnino’s 153-minute epic in eerie aesthetic eccentricity with multilayered stories and a number of strong themes that is literally dark and lacking in even the use of primary colors. In short, the remake is a sort of almost overtly ambitious anti-Suspiria, as if Guadagnino completely hated the original film and decided to completely deconstruct and reinvent it to his liking without even the slightest consideration for diehard fans of the original. Notably, the auteur does not hate the film, but apparently has wanted to remake it since he was a kid, albeit as a so-called “cover version” as opposed to a sort shot-for-shot remake à la Psycho (1998) directed by Gus Van Sant. 

 Undoubtedly its eclectic collection of divas both young and old, fierce and frenetic feminine energy, over-the-top aesthetic decadence and sometimes high-camp tableaux, and lesbianic subtext more than hint at the innate queer character of the film, which is rather fitting considering the film’s time period and setting. Indeed, the film, which is set in 1977—arguably the height of the New German Cinema movement that began in the late-1960s and fizzled out in the early-1980s—was clearly influenced by cocksucking kraut auteur filmmakers, especially Rainer Werner Fassbinder and his dandy compatriot Werner Schroeter. In fact, the film’s co-screenwriter David Kajganich once confessed that, “one of the great wells of inspiration for this film: the work of Rainer Fassbinder. Some of the most potent women on film came out of the crucible of his collaborations with his actresses—including the great Ingrid Caven—and I did my best to construct [Tilda Swinton’s character’s] way of using words and occupying scenes in a Fassbinderian way.” In short, Algerian-blooded guido Guadagnino and his screenwriter were clearly not trying to appease the mostly lowbrow erotophonophiliac tastes of Argento and Fulci fans when they conceived of the film.

Aside from the decadent Teutonic aesthetic influences of the film, the film virtually pays tribute to the entire New German Cinema movement as a whole—or at least the political spirit of it—via its 1977 German Autumn setting and its (rather unfortunate) Vergangenheitsbewältigung theme. In its apparent influence of films ranging from the omnibus piece Deutschland im Herbst (1978) aka Germany In Autumn and classic high-camp Werner Schroeter flicks like Der Tod der Maria Malibran (1972) aka The Death of Maria Malibran (which, notably, stars Suspiria star Ingrid Caven), the film virtually covers both the aesthetic and political extreme of New German Cinema, as if Guadagnino simply used the fact that Argento’s original film was set in Berlin, Germany to pay tribute to a beloved Germanic cinema movement. In its arguably pretentious division into a number of narrative acts that conclude with a somewhat surreal climatic epilogue, the film also vaguely recalls Fassbinder’s magnum opus Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980), which itself is a period piece that is a ‘remake’ of sorts that also covers a rather traumatic period in the Fatherland's past (the Alfred Döblin novel it is based on was previously adapted by commie-turned-Nazi auteur Phil Jutzi in 1931). In fact, as a huge fan of New German Cinema, I cannot imagine someone fully appreciating Guadagnino’s Suspiria without being somewhat familiar with the movement. While New German Cinema only produced a handful of horror flicks, these rather dark and somber cinematic works—which include the Fassbinder-produced sod serial killer flick Tenderness of the Wolves (1973) directed by Ulli Lommel, Niklaus Schilling’s singularly haunting Heimat horror piece Nightshade (1972) aka Nachtschatten, and Hans W. Geissendörfer’s allegorical vampire flick Jonathan (1970)—could have certainly influenced the film due their ominous (and oftentimes cryptic) references to Germany’s past and totally twisted takes on the timeless tradition of German gothic horror.  In fact, despite the majority of these films being fairly unknown, it cannot be ignored that they are certainly more ‘artsy’ than Argento's Suspiria and thus more up Guadagnino's alley.

 As for the film’s brutally baroque Tanz Dance Academy setting, it resembles something in between a somberly lit version of the fascist palace depicted in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s sexually apocalyptic swansong Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) and a lavish château in some obscure Jesús Franco flick like Sinfonía erótica (1980). Of course, despite their more glaring differences, Pasolini, Franco, and Fassbinder certainly had one important thing in common and that was their lifelong dedication to shameless diva-worship, which is certainly strong in Suspiria. Aside from old classic divas like Ingrid Caven—Fassbinder’s one-time wife and criminally-underrated Swiss auteur Daniel Schmid’s main diva that demonstrated an unrivaled talent for morosely melancholic performance in such sickeningly underrated films as Tonight or Never (1972) and La Paloma (1974)—and Paul Verhoeven’s greatest Dutch era diva Renée Soutendijk (Spetters, The Fourth Man), the film features some of the more notable young divas of the modern era, including Chloë Grace Moretz, Mia Goth and—most importantly— Dakota Johnson as the lead. While Argento’s original film certainly features beautiful women, the characters seem largely forgettable compared to Guadagnino’s remake. Naturally, as an extremely operatic film, this somewhat daunting diva-centrism is imperative as the diva was originally the creation of opera and not cinema. While Argento has never been big on character development—diva oriented or otherwise—the remake does pay tribute to the giallo maestro’s legacy by featuring Suspiria heroine Jessica Harper in a somewhat brief yet imperative role that arguably symbolizes, in a somewhat lame way, German post-WWII guilt over the holocaust. In short, in Guadagnino’s film, there is not a single filler character as every single actor makes some sort of impression, whether it be the exceedingly ectomorphic alien-like South Sudanese negress model Alek Wek in a mostly mute role as a low-level witch or German-Hungarian auteur-cum-cinematographer Fred Kelemen (Frost, Abendland)—probably the last filmmaker you would expect to randomly pop up in a horror remake—in a cameo role as a policeman that literally comes under the spell of the witches. 

 In its seemingly intuitive depiction of the dark side of femininity, it is hard for me to imagine anyone aside from a gay man directing such a film and this is arguably what most distinguishes it from Argento’s film, which is hopelessly heterosexual in terms of its very straight scopophiliac approach to the female form; or, in short, it has a glaringly gay gaze as opposed to the stereotypical (heterosexual) male gaze. In fact, aside from a couple exceptions, Argento’s female characters are not much more than aesthetically pleasing ciphers meant to be dispatched in a most marvelously macabre fashion as if the auteur sees the purest poetry in the death of a young dame in her physical prime, hence the arguably dubious claim made by certain film critics that he is a misogynist. To the contrary, aside from depicting rather hot young actresses in rather physically and psychologically grotesque ways that will guaranteed to prevent any hetero audience member's cock from getting hard, the remake features a much more unflattering, if not disturbingly intuitive, depiction of womankind than anything Argento ever directed, as Guadagnino, not unlike many great queer filmmakers including Fassbinder and Schroeter, seems to have an instinctual understanding of the more loathsome and monstrous traits associated with the so-called fairer sex, which could not be any less unfair in the film. Indeed, not unlike popular crypto-cucksucker TV creations like Sex and the City and American Horror Story where the warts-and-all approach to femininity is absurdly glorified and undoubtedly a major selling point, Suspiria is expression of a gay man and thus arguably must be more looked at as an unflattering covert depiction of gay men that, by using them as stand-ins for sassy sods, ultimately makes women seem more sophisticated than they really are, hence the disturbing popularity of such ultimately quite sexually deleterious shows among women. In that regard, I not surprised that Argento has complained that the remake, “betrayed the spirit of the original film.”  Rather revealingly, despite being a film that technically does not feature a single gay male character, Guadagnino apparently regards the remake as his most personal to date, which is somewhat ironic considering the auteur originally optioned the film in 2007 with the intention of having David Gordon Green (who, incidentally, also directed his lackluster Halloween remake in 2018) direct it.

 Whereas Argento’s film takes a largely esoteric approach and basks in the unexplained and mysterious, Guadagnino’s film is considerably more exoteric and provides the viewer with various hints as to how to read the (sub)text. Arguably, most fundamentally, Suspiria is an unconventional tale of historically-charged post-holocaust Jungian individuation where a young and naïve yet talented budding dancer named Susanna ‘Susie’ Bannion (Dakota Johnson)—an American from a strict Ohio Mennonite background that feels like she has been virtually summoned to Berlin to dance shortly after the death of her mother—eventually discovers that she is, in a striking twist, the sort of bodily reincarnation of alpha-witch ‘Mater Suspiriorum, Our Lady of Sighs.’ While Argento’s film was also partially based on opium-addled English essayist Thomas De Quincey's essay Suspiria de Profundis (1845) aka Sighs from the Depths, this source was undoubtedly a much more crucial influence on Guadagnino’s film. Unlike the heroine in Argento’s film, Susie is no mere stupid innocent American, although she initially seems as such, and the only real good guy is an elderly psychiatrist named Dr. Josef Klemperer (Tilda Swinton in old fart drag as ‘Lutz Ebersdorf’) who is not even in the original film. In a morbidly matriarchal cinematic work consumed with sinister (and arguably Sapphic) feminine energy, it is only fitting that the (arguable true) protagonist is a patriarchal character that provides fatherly help to young dancers in trouble, even if he is somewhat weak and ineffectual.  Of course, the good doctor's guilt and weakness are no coincidence as they are surely symbolic of the spiritually castrated state of post-WWII Deutschland.  After all, as Guadagnino has stated himself, a main theme of the film is, “the uncompromising force of motherhood,” so it is no surprise that patriarchy would be allegorically personified in the patently pathetic form of a nearly mummified childless intellectual that still hasn't gotten over the fact that he lacked the strength to keep his wife alive over thirty years ago.

As can be expected in such a film, Dr. Klemperer finds it somewhat questionable when some of his patients, including Patricia Hingle (Chloë Grace Moretz) and Sara Simms (Mia Goth), begin complaining about the witchy tendencies of their teachers at the Tanz Dance Academy, so naturally he gets deeply involved when the girls eventually disappear under dubious circumstances. Undoubtedly, Dr. Klemperer’s failure and inadequacy when it comes to saving both his Jewish wife Anke Meier (Jessica Harper) during WWII and his female patients can be seen as symbolic of the hopelessly emasculated and guilt-ridden state of post-WWII Europa.  Just like his Jewess wife and her warnings of the Nazis, the good doctor fails to act soon enough when he patients warn of the very imminent danger that waits them. Even though Dr. Klemperer is the only character that manages to uncover the secret witch coven operating at the dance studio, he lacks the strength and youthful exuberance and will-to-power to even truly challenge such fiercely feminine and malevolently matriarchal evil, just as German authorities were not prepared for the untamed nihilistic terrorism of the largely estrogen-driven Red Army Faction (RAF) whose aberrant actions fittingly act as a hauntingly ethno-masochistic backdrop to the film. In short, Dr. Klemperer is both literally and figuratively the sick old man of Europe and he and his Jungian theories seem like an absurd anachronism in a decadent West German world that is being terrorized by hyper hedonistic neo-Marxist would-be-rock-stars that want to castrate the cock of the Fatherland.  Needless to say, it is not by sheer coincidence that Mater Suspiriorum makes her great reappearance during this weak and decadent point in Germany history.

 In a world of virtual demonic divas where there is not a single male dancer and a system of covert unspoken misandry reigns, masculinity is naturally undermined the handful of times it makes an appearance at the academy.  For example, when a couple police detectives show up at Tanz Dance Academy to investigate the disappearance of one of the girls, the witches amuse themselves by engaging in termagant terror as they put the two men under some sort of spell, force one of them to strip off his pants and underwear, and then collectively mock the unconscious cop’s cock by playfully pointing at it, laughing, and calling it “kitty” as if it is a ‘pussy’ of some sort. At the end of the film, they use a similar form of sexual humiliation against Dr. Klemperer—an elderly man that seems especially debased by such experiences, as if he is a concentration camp prisoner that is about to be gassed by the all-the-more-sinister sister of Satan himself—by stripping him completely naked while he is somewhat incapacitated and forcing him to endure their big finale ritual since they need a ‘witness’ while he lies on the ground in a fetal position and babbles hysterically about his innocence during the National Socialist era (which, of course, he was also a sort of pathetic passive ‘witness’ to, hence his seemingly perennial guilt). Of course, these witches have certain Sapphic tendencies, as Madame Blanc (also Tilda Swinton)—arguably the fairest and least insufferable of the two head (competing) witches, which also includes a grotesque rotting beastess named ‘Mother Helena Markos’ that literally lurks in the dark for most of the movie—clearly has an almost immediate deep affection for her young blonde nubile American protégé Susie Bannion (whereas Markos simply sees the little lady as a body she can use has her new earthly vessel). The sadomasochistic lesbian nature of the dance academy is also hinted at when Patricia Hingle states at the beginning of the film with a strange combination of fear and fascination in regard to the witches that she fears, “They'll hollow me out and have my cunt on a plate.” All of this adds up to a sick and twisted realm of staunch gynocentrism that is so innately irrationally destructive and cannibalistic that it eventually leads to the deaths of about half the witches; or, more specifically, a sick Sapphic Götterdämmerung.  In the end, the power struggle between Madame Blanc and Mother Markos ultimately leads to both women being destroying and the extermination of the latter's followers, which one could certainly argue is symbolic of the ‘spiritual’ war between Germans (and Germanic people in general) and World Jewry during WWII.

Undoubtedly, it is quite fitting that a film about a power struggle between pernicious witches is set in 1970s Germany as it depicts an era reflecting the first generations of krauts, who inherited the supposed sins of their Nazi parents and grandparents, to collectively embrace feminism, which was arguably most glaring and idiotically represented by the psychotic cunts in the Baader-Meinhof Gang like Ulrike Meinhof and Gudrun Ensslin. The same era also produced the first generation of prominent German feminist and/or lesbian filmmakers, including Margarethe von Trotta, UIrike Ottinger, Helma Sanders-Brahms, Doris Dörrie, Helke Sander, and Elfi Mikesch (who is best known for shooting the films of Werner Schroeter and probably the greatest female cinematographer of all-time), among various others. One should also probably mention Austrian performance artist turned auteur Valie Export who, as her more aberrant-garde films like Unsichtbare Gegner (1977) aka Invisible Adversaries demonstrate, would have been perfectly at home at the witch dance coven. To watch films by some of these female filmmakers, one might assume they were either witches or demonically possessed as they feature sympathetic portrayals of the Baader-Meinhof Gang and tend to depict largely soulless (pseudo)intellectual women lack any sort of maternal instincts and see men as either an oppressive pestilence and/or insufferably arrogant fuck-toys. Indubitably, Chancellor of Germany of Angela Merkel—a childless (ex)communist—is surely symbolic of this generation (despite being from Eastern Germany) and I do not think that it is any coincidence that she has single-handedly caused more long-term damage to the Father(less)land than any American or British firebombers caused during WWII by opening the flood gates to a virtually apocalyptic deluge of innately hostile phony refugees from the global south. Like many modern European politicians, Merkel has no children and thus has no need to take heed of Germany’s rather dubious future.  At least figuratively, Merkel is the kraut witch par excellence, but I digress.

 Of course, Suspiria is a film that obsesses over mothers—both literal and speech—albeit in a largely sinister, ungodly, and hardly totally literal fashion. I don’t think it is a coincidence that Mother Suspiriorum is a sort of goddess of death and that she randomly appears in 1970s West Germany as it is a country that has since been plagued with a suicidal drop in the birth rate of the indigenous white population as at least partly inspired by (the at-least-partly-Hollywood-induced sham of) Vergangenheitsbewältigung, which undoubtedly gave birth to metaphysically sick miscreations like the feminist movement and self-destructive commie movements like the RAF. Mother Suspiriorum is hardly the sort of mother that enjoys pregnancy and breastfeeding, but instead the witch equivalent of a wicked whacked-out bitch that engages in Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP). In fact, Suspiriorum demonstrates her maternal qualities by literally summoning death to kill her enemies and reveals her idea of mercy by allowing the undead corpse-like victims of Markos to finally kick the bucket.  In short, she takes a little bit too much pride in providing mercy to the singularly suffering.  Most of the motherly displays by the witches is glaringly phony aside from Madame Blanc how Susan, though she is clearly her ‘favorite’ (which mother's aren't supposed to have) and, of course, is, not coincidentally, ultimately revealed to be the great Mother Suspiriorum.

It is notable that, in a flashback scene, Susie’s mother—notably a strict Mennonite and thus someone of German descent—complains, “My daughter. My last one. She’s my sin. She’s what I smeared on the world.” Indeed, it is surely fitting that Susie compulsively travels to Berlin after the death of her mother as if being compelled by some ominous unseen force where she is reborn as the ‘Mother of Sighs,’ as post-WWII Germany and especially New German Cinema has enough sighs and mothers to go around. As films ranging from Sanders-Brahms's Deutschland bleiche Mutter (1980) aka Germany, Pale Mother to Edgar Reitz's Heimat (1984) reveal, the mother is the (rather desperate) backbone of post-WWII Germany and the father is either physically or emotionally completely absent. Undoubtedly, Thomas De Quincey could have been speaking of the titular heroines of Schroter’s The Death of Maria Malibran (1972), Fassbinder’s The Marriage of Maria Braun (1978), and Ottinger’s Freak Orlando (1981) when he once wrote in regard to Mother Suspiriorum, “Her eyes, if they were ever seen, would be neither sweet nor subtle; no man could read their story; they would be found filled with perishing dreams, and with wrecks of forgotten delirium.” In short, much of New German Cinema reveals a largely male-less world full of damaged dames and Suspiria also depicts an unhinged world where damaged dames are also in control. Of course, as virtually all of European history demonstrates, a gynocentric Europe is no Europe at all; or, to be more precise, there is no ‘Fatherland’ without a father. 

 Out of all the filmmakers associated with New German Cinema, Hans-Jürgen Syberberg—an auteur that dared to combine the aesthetic theories of proto-NS Romantic composer Richard Wagner with the audience-alienating dramaturgy of bolshie bastard Bertolt Brecht—was pretty much the only one that did not fetishize and/or sympathize with leftist terrorist groups like the RAF. In fact, Syberberg who probably not coincidentally, spent his youth in East Germany before eventually moving to Bavaria in the early-1950s, was really the only filmmaker to seriously acknowledge and critique the culturally apocalyptic Americanization of German culture and uprooting of great German traditions that naturally occurred in West Germany. I would also argue that, to a somewhat lesser extent, Suspiria attempts to aesthetically do what Syberberg did with his films in terms of being one of the closet examples of a horror film attempting to be a ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ (aka ‘total work of art’) in terms of its utilization of a number of artistic mediums (e.g. dance, opera, performance art, literature/mythology, etc.), but of course it would be a sort of political liability for Guadagnino to even mention the cinematic neo-Wagnerian as he is more or less unofficially blacklisted in his homeland due to some of his less than kosher political statements in regards to Jews and left-wingers. Among other things, Syberberg was one of the few filmmakers to actually attempt to not only acknowledge, but also honestly diagnose the spiritual sickness and metaphysical malaise that plagues post-WWII Germany, thus making his cinematic work worth seeing for anyone that wants a deeper understanding of some of the more implicitly Teutonic themes touched on in Suspiria. Indeed, whereas Fassbinder and most of the other directors associated with New German Cinema were part of said sickness, Syberberg fought it in terms of both art and deeds while criticizing his contemporaries, hence his lack of popularity among his peers despite being revered by important cineastes ranging from Henri Langlois to Susan Sontag. 

 Notably, not long after the release of an omnibus film co-directed by Fassbinder, Alexander Kluge, Volker Schlöndorff, Edgar Reitz, and various other filmmakers, Syberberg once wrote in regard to what he perceived as the post-shoah cultural cuckoldry and innate cluelessness of his leftist peers, “Now a film was made on this topic, entitled GERMANY IN AUTUMN, by filmmakers of my generation, about the guilt that went back to a different generation. But how are we to depict guilt without a concept? Without aesthetic, metaphysical control and responsibility? I heard from them about anxiety fits—surely small ones compared with mine—in the face of our generation’s representation-compulsion thirty years ago. But without this labor, cinema as a genre will surrender its possibilities. Too many things so far remain unreflected upon, tied to reality, action, goal-oriented, a part of the entertainment and propaganda industry. A profound impotence of means strikes us before the question of how to depict all this—namely, just why all this? This terror, this eruption? Is it not something like the explosion of repressed German irrationalism? The dull, unconscious shriek of a diseased nation without an identity? So much suppression of its own tradition and its nature was bound to evoke aggressions, in the German manner, radical and fanatic. But the decay of methods is dismal. An entire generation in Germany was simply not trained to understand and manipulate the things lying beyond the rational. . . .” Of course, Syberberg rightly considered irrationalism to be an innate and imperative ingredient of Teutonic kultur ranging from fairy-tales to Wagner and one could certainly argue that Suspiria represents a sinister, albeit bastardized, example of this Teutonic tradition that is so ingrained in the Aryan collective unconscious that it is most strongly unleashed in an American Mennonite girl, who becomes what can be seen as being like a sort of spiritually deathly dyke sister of the old German pagan deity Wotan.  In fact, considering both the physical and cultural colonization of West Germany following the capitulation of the Third Reich, it is only natural that Susie is American.

 If there is one individual that is a sort of link between old school German irrationalism and New German Cinema, it is the late great auteur Christoph Schlingensief who, on top of proclaiming to be a maternal relative of Joseph Goebbels, once dared to remake National Socialist auteur Veit Harlan’s morbid melodrama Opfergang (1944) as a savagely sardonic satire. Aside from his obsession with (mostly recent) German history, Schlingensief has a small connection of sorts to Suspiria in that he and Tilda Swinton were once lovers and she even played the heroine of his obscenely underrated film Egomania - Insel ohne Hoffnung (1986) aka Egomania: Island Without Hope (which, incidentally, also stars Udo Kier who also starred in Argento’s original film). Despite its use of unnerving dark humor, including Kier as a demonic baron in drag, Egomania, in many ways, feels like a bad dream about German history of the past century or so, as if it is a depiction of one of the worst nightmares from one of the older witches from Suspiria, but I digress. All of these things got me thinking how that, despite its mischling Italian director and international cast, Guadagnino’s film feels more like a piece of German cinema history than anything else, which says a lot considering the same cannot be said of the films of many contemporary German directors. 

In its various overt (e.g. shots of books) and subtextual references to Jung, Suspiria naturally hints at the collective unconscious and it can be argued that heroine’s Susie’s climatic transformation into Mater Suspiriorum is simply a phantasmagoric depiction of Jungian Individuation, which involves the personal and collective unconscious being brought into the consciousness and ultimately assimilated into the whole personality. In fact, just as Jung indicated, Susie finally achieves this transformation via dreams, artistic expression, and free association, among other things, but I would argue that the arrival of the fiercely feminine Mater Suspiriorum is also symbolic of the demise of the masculine Wotan archetype that Jung once notably wrote about in reference to Hitler and the Third Reich. Indeed, in his controversial 1936 essay Wotan, Jung argued, “We are always convinced that the modern world is a reasonable world, basing our opinion on economic, political, and psychological factors. But if we may forget for a moment that we are living in the year of Our Lord 1936, and, laying aside our well-meaning, all-too human reasonableness, may burden God or the gods with the responsibility for contemporary events instead of man, we would find Wotan quite suitable as a causal hypothesis. In fact, I venture the heretical suggestion that the unfathomable depths of Wotan’s character explain more of National Socialism than all three reasonable factors put together. There is no doubt that each of these factors explains an important aspect of what is going on in Germany, but Wotan explains yet more. He is particularly enlightening in regard to a general phenomenon, which is so strange to anybody not a German that it remains incomprehensible, even after the deepest reflection.” While Mater Suspiriorum might be a fictional invention of Guadagnino and, in turn, Argento and De Quincey, she is certainly is an archetype that symbolizes something very real as personified in a quite suicidal Germany that refuses to reproduce, allows itself to by colonized by ancient perennial alien invaders, and cares not for what arguably matters most—its ancient art, culture, and traditions. In short, without the return of Wotan and demise of what Mater Suspiriorum really represents, Germany might disappear from history just like the Romans that the Germanic tribes once conquered after the people became too decadent and averse to reproduction, among other things.

Of course, like tons of films and TV shows created by gay men ranging from Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) to American Horror Story, Suspiria is arguably first and foremost the expression of a literal art fag projecting his own group's arcane homosocial tendencies onto a group of women, thereupon making women seem more sophisticated and cleverly vicious than they actually are (not that women aren't known for being particularly vicious) while giving the auteur the opportunity to live vicariously through stylish and exotic female characters.  After all, despite the themes of the ostensibly classic lesbian-themed film Mädchen in Uniform (1931), the oppressive hierarchical structure depicted in the film is more typical of gay men than woman, or as Camille Paglia once noted in her magnum opus Sexual Personae (1990), “I notice that the Wildean-style homosexual still speaks of race and class with the same breezy daring. Oppressed groups tend to oppress other subgroups. But lesbians do not talk this way. On the contrary, lesbians, in my experience, are relentlessly populist—possibly a function of their repressed maternalism. Male homosexuals have an instinct for hierarchy unparalleled in contemporary culture, outside of Roman Catholicism. Hierarchism explains their cult of the Hollywood star, in whom so many are dazzlingly learned.”  Notably, the film's major cinematic influence, Fassbinder, accomplished something similar in his early classic chamber piece Die bitteren Tränen der Petra von Kant (1972) aka The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant where Margit Carstensen and Hanna Schygulla act as stand-ins in terms of depicting the disastrous one-sided romance of the filmmaker and his black Bavarian ex-lover Günther Kaufmann.  Notably, Werner Schroeter, who I would argue had an even bigger aesthetic influence on Suspiria than Fassbinder, went even further and had Isabelle Huppert act as his stand-in in the curious form of identical twin sisters(!) in his insanely nonlinear autobiographical penultimate film Deux (2002) aka Two. In fact, out of all the films I can think of, Schroeter's Tag der Idioten (1981) aka Day of the Idiots—a film starring model and one-time Bond Carole Bouquet that is set in a mental hospital that is plagued by Sapphic surrealism and the obscenely gorgeously grotesque (including a uniquely unhinged urolagnia scenario)—is the one that most reminds me of Guadagnino's film. Needless to say, I don't think it is a coincidence that Ingrid Caven appears in both films, just as I don't think it is a coincidence that there seems to be a coincidence that there is very little difference between the dance academy and mental hospital as both surely represent the insanely incendiary irrationalism and deep black bottomless abyss that is the feminine psyche, especially one that has been left unchecked and completely neglected to be penetrated by a true patriarchal influence.   

Suspiria may be an Italian remake of an Italian film directed by an Italian director, but it owes its broken black heart and deathly despondent soul to the degenerate generation of kraut filmmakers that beat the La Nouvelle Vague at their own game in terms of unbridled iconoclasm and reinventing the cinematic language.  In that sense, Guadagnino is inordinately cinematically literate and demonstrates a grand eclecticism in his virtually celestial synchronization of Italian horror and New German Cinema that puts pathologically posturing pop cineastes like Tarantino and Nicolas Winding Refn to abject shame.  Undoubtedly, one of the things that makes Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's 1791 opera The Magic Flute (and especially Ingmar Bergman's 1975 cinematic adaptation Trollflöjten), such a joyous experience in the end is that it depicts a honorable patriarchy destroying a malefic martiarchal force.  Needless to say, horror makes a suitable genre for depicting the triumphing of the martiarchal spirit, hence the true visceral power of a film like Suspiria where one learns the real reason as to why certain women—usually the worst sort of women—were suspected of being witches in the past.  Of course, the film also teaches us that it takes a gay man—or, more specifically, a guido cocksucker with a feminine spirit—to teach heterosexual men the true nuances of misogyny, henceforth confirming that Guadagnino's hero Fassbinder taught him well.

-Ty E

Feb 21, 2019


Out of all the filmmakers I can think of, no other has probably made a more successful transition from the European arthouse world to Hollywood than Dutch auteur Paul Verhoeven (Total Recall, Basic Instinct). In fact, Verhoeven has even been able to maintain his distinctly Dutch, subtly yet scathingly sardonic sense of humor as demonstrated by the fact that the satire of Showgirls (1995) flew over the heads of so many American viewers, including the NYC intellectuals, and it was wrongly labeled one of the worst movies ever made. Admittedly, I still prefer the auteur’s early Dutch classics like Turkish Delight (1973), Spetters (1980), and The Fourth Man (1983 to most of his Hollywood films, so naturally I was initially excited when he returned to European filmmaking after almost two decades. Unfortunately, Black Book (2006)—a Zionist-friendly turd that has too much of a shallow Hollywood polish for my tastes—was quite inferior to Verhoeven’s previous German occupation themed WWII flick Soldier of Orange (1977), which quite rightly focuses on the Dutch instead of the Jews. Luckily, Verhoeven did finally return to his true roots with the French-German co-production Elle (2016) starring redheaded mischling diva Isabelle Huppert in a role that feels like she was born to play, as if she is portraying the less autistic and more aggressive Paris sister of her character from Michael Haneke's The Piano Teacher (2001). While the film is provocatively entertaining as one would expect from a Verhoeven flick, it is far from a feel-good flick and, quite unlike Robocop (1987), not something I feel the need to revisit anytime seen, especially after watching it twice. Indeed, while on the superficial level it is a sort of unconventional rape-revenge dramedy where a supremely fucked up bourgeois bitch refuses to be a victim after suffering a rather violent episode of sexual rapine and ultimately demonstrates that it takes an insanely impenetrable ice queen to accomplish that task when rape and murder are involved, the film is also a sort of borderline absurdist allegory for the death of Europe, especially the culturally and spiritually senile European bourgeoisie.

 Set in a decidedly dysfunctional and decadent world of mostly disgustingly weak and emasculated men and soulless sex-obsessed women, the film effortlessly critiques everything that is innately repugnant and insufferably pathetic about modern Europe, especially France. Undoubtedly, Jean Cocteau might as well have been speaking about Elle when he once wrote in regard to his masterpiece Orpheus (1950), “Our age is becoming dried out with ideas. It is the child of the Encyclopedists. But having an idea is not enough: the idea must have us, haunt us, obsess us, become unbearable to us.” While maintaining a mirthfully cynical and darkly humorous tone, the film is unequivocally haunting, as if Verhoeven wanted to make sure the price of admission for experiencing Isabelle Huppert being raped is nothing less than the perpetual rape of the viewer’s soul. Based on the novel Oh... (2012) by Philippe Djian—a Parisian racial outsider of mixed Algerian Jewish stock that is probably best known among cinephiles for writing the novel that acted as the basis for Jean-Jacques Beineix’s hardly-female-friendly 37° 2 le matin (1986) aka Betty Blue—the film also takes a somewhat subtle yet thankfully pleasantly politically correct approach to race relations. Indeed, aside from the heroine’s son being literally cuckolded by his negro friend in an absurdly nightmarish manner that results in the Huppert's character becoming the stunned ‘grandmother’ of a mulatto baby, the rapist villain—a suave and successful yet seemingly sociopathic banker—is ambiguously Jewish (in fact, English subtitles were curiously changed to obscure this fact in European releases of the film). 

 Undoubtedly, the somewhat annoying brilliance of Elle is that the (anti)heroine Michèle Leblanc (Isabelle Huppert) is a uniquely unlikable ice queen that is so insanely impenetrable that it is hard to feel sorry for her when she is raped, especially considering that her cunt is so cold it is hard to imagine any man, no matter how aggressively virile and assertive, could violently shove his member in her seemingly frosty flesh cave. In fact, Verhoeven cleverly opens the film with the rape before we even get to know her character, as if the auteur wanted to deconstruct the viewer's sympathy for Michèle as the film progresses.  In many ways, the film feels like a sort of post-feminist female fantasy as Michèle is a totally ‘independent’ woman that not only dictates over a ‘hip’ and ‘sexy’ videogame company staffed with largely attractive young men, but she also wields power over her adult son and even ex-husband, thereupon making the rape the one single instance in her life where she did not have total control over a male. Also, rather revealing, the heroine is shocked to eventually discover after chasing various red herrings that the married neighbor she lusts after (she even diddles herself while voyeuristically gazing at him via an upstairs window), Patrick (Laurent Lafitte)—a swarthy yet handsome young banker—is actually her rapist. Notably, instead of turning Patrick into the police, Michèle begins a somewhat short-lived sadomasochistic sexual relationship with him where violent rape is ‘simulated,’ at least until her cuckold son Vincent (Jonas Bloquet) bashes his brains in upon unwittingly walking in on one of their aberrant erotic episodes. As to whether or not Michèle intentionally gets Patrick killed is questionable (after all, she knew her son was home and also threatened to turn the rapist in), but she certainly does not shed a tear for her lunatic lover after he croaks under rather brutal circumstances.

As can be expected from a seriously screwed up broad that regularly nonchalantly uses men as emotional punching bags because she has strategically acquired the monetary means to do so, Michèle has virtually demonic daddy issues due to the fact that she played a not-all-that-passive role at the mere age of ten in a massacre that her father carried out in the neighborhood that resulted in the death of no less than 27 children and adults and various cats and dogs. Needless to say, when Michèle’s elderly imprisoned father is in news headlines again because he faces the possibility of parole, it adds an extra layer of paranoia to her life (after all, she even suspects her rape might be related to this). Luckily for her, by the end of Elle the titular twat has every single man in her life exactly where she wants them, including both her father and rapist dead. Needless to say, Michèle has an unspoken innate disgust of the patriarchy, but her matriarchal world is a morbid and morose mess of emasculated manginas, familial degeneration, and all-around emotionally-excruciating estrogen-driven dysfunction.  Aside from the loser males in her family, Michèle is especially ashamed of her mother Irène (Judith Magre), who is a deeply narcissistic wanton old whore that proudly flaunts around a quasi-gigolo (Raphaël Lenglet) boyfriend that is young enough to be her grandson.  In fact, the heroine hates her mother so much that when the old lady suffers a major stroke and goes into a deep coma, Michèle refuses to believe it and even asks a doctor if there is some way that her slutty old slag mommy might be faking it.  Seemingly both jealous and disgusted by her mother's antics and arguably attracted to a rapist because of childhood traumas related to her father, Michèle suffers from what might be best described as the most warped (anti)Electra complex ever depicted in cinema history.

Of course, as the film hints throughout, Michèle’s strength is nothing more than an impenetrable shield that was put up long ago when she learned to distrust men after her father’s murder spree and was forced to fend for herself. Undoubtedly, the film certainly demonstrates that the heroine has more than a little curiosity when it comes to a man that—for the first time in her fucked up life—completely physically dominates her and then takes her by force sexually. Needless to say, as a woman that refuses to defer power to any man, including an ex-husband that she still seems to love, she cannot let it last forever. 

 Notably, in a 1995 essay entitled Showgirls: Portrait of a Film, Verhoeven wrote, “This theme of redemption is part of American mythology. American movies are filled with these fairly tales in which everything comes out right and everybody goes to the seashore. It is an illusion that is supported by the whole culture, and is probably part of the larger unwillingness to look at unpleasant realities.” While maintaining a savagely charming sort of addictively digestible cynicism, Elle not only basks in the unpleasant realities of the sexual dysfunction and cultural senility that plagues modern-day France in a manner that is oftentimes Rabelaisian, but it also makes a mockery out of the very idea of redemption, even if the film ends in a fashion that some misguided (feminist) types might interpret as redemptive as the heroine as she is irredeemably damaged and learns nothing from her exceedingly nightmarish experiences aside from further embracing her own warped form of gynocentrism where she figuratively carries around her son and ex-husband’s testicles around in her purse via economic dependence. Instead of finding the security of a man in the end that saves her life and/or avenges her honor as one might expect from a film with similar themes, Michèle leads her already psychologically feeble son into becoming a murderer by going on a decidedly dangerous path that involves a ‘voluntery’ sexual relationship with the very man that brutally raped her.

 In short, Michèle is arguably just as hopelessly unhinged and sexually sick as her rapist who, like herself, is a successful professional that largely gets by in life by wearing a mask of sanity. The daughter of a sociopathic mass murder, she seems to see her rape as less of a traumatic event than a great challenge where she can test her (both literal and figurative) pussy prowess against a man that is, quite unlike her ex-husband, a worthy adversary, thereupon going from prey to the ultimate predator. In that sense, it is no coincidence that a cat watches on with a soulless stare as Michèle is raped at the very beginning of the film as if the feline is the heroine herself coldly sizing up the strength of her enemy so as to adequately dispose of him later. While it is insinuated in the film that Michèle does not report the rape to the police because of the embarrassment that goes with being the daughter of an infamous mass murderer, it is really probably so that she can bide her time until she can eventually take matters into her own hands without getting in trouble with the law (after all, when the police question her after Patrick is killed, Michèle neglects to mention the previous rape or anything else related to it). Like a textbook sociopath, Michèle lacks empathy and merely sees people as things to be manipulated for personal gain. In the end, she even manages to manipulate her rapist—the one man that was able to control her, at least for a couple minutes—into complete and eternal submission.   Notably, in a rather telling scene in the film, Michèle randomly acknowledges to a black nurse that she lacks any sort of maternal instincts, even stating in regard to her own son, “Sometimes I look at Vincent, the big lout with nothing special about him that came out of my belly, and I have to admit I don’t know him.”  Of course, it is arguable as to whether or not Michèle really knows anyone, though it does seem that her rapist is a sort of kindred spirit as a fellow member of the cryptically unhinged bourgeoisie.

 While it is easy to criticize (anti)heroine Michèle since she is a soulless bitch that, among other things, carries on a totally pointless one-sided affair with the husband of her sole true friend Anna (Anne Consigny)—a woman with a heart of gold that acts more like a mother to the heroine's son than the heroine—she cannot be completely blamed for the sick emasculated world that has led to her professional success and the abject failure of all the men in her life.  Indeed, as French New Right theorist Guillaume Faye argues in his book Sexe et Dévoiement (2011) aka Sex and Deviance, “But in reality, women are in no way responsible for the emasculation of men. One may suppose instead that feminism (which appeared at the beginning of the twentieth century) is not only a reaction to the traditional devaluing and inferiorising of women but, today above all, a response to this emasculation of men […] The emasculation of young men of European origin is flagrant in France. What is more, since the 1970s, girls have been performing better in school, working harder, and taking their studies more seriously than boys. Zemmour rightly critizes the effeminancy of social values, centered on protection, assistance, mothering, humanitarianism—ideals which, moreover, serve to compensate for the reality of a society increasingly shaken by a new pauperism, and by constantly rising criminality and insecurity, by barbarization, and by neo-primitivism. But things cannot be decreed: if men (and with them, social values) are emasculated, it is their own fault. Women are merely filling the vacuum, taking the place men have abdicated. Besides, many historical episodes (that of Joan of Arc being the most famous) show that women always tend to make up for the failures of men, replacing them.” I do not think it is a mere coincidence that Michèle’s father’s massacre was, according to the protagonist herself, sparked by his neighbors rebuking him for having their children take part in a Catholic ritual. Undoubtedly, this monstrous mass murder spree, which took place in 1976—almost a decade after the so-called May 1968 events and counterculture movement inspired a complete social and sexual change in France—is symbolic of a sort of apocalyptic Last Gasp of traditional French Catholic values. While true patriarchy is what led France to becoming one of the greatest civilizations and empires in all of human history, most people have amnesia when it comes to history and can only associate it with radnom negative things like Michèle’s father’s murder (just as leftists and feminists associate it with only slavery, misogyny, and war today). Of course, without patriarchy, society produces weak males like Michèle’s son and ex-husband and I doubt anyone truly believes such ‘men’ are superior to those of the past. While he’s not exactly my sort of writer, I think most people can agree that G. Michael Hopf was quite right when he wrote, “Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And, weak men create hard times.” 

 While rape-and-revenge films are certainly nothing new, Elle is so much different from such films that it would largely be a grave disservice to associate it with the (largely exploitation oriented) sub-genre. Indeed, instead of being a film where a chick gets raped, temporarily mentally deteriorates, and then somehow magically becomes a ‘bad ass’ killing machine that literally and/or figuratively castrates her attackers, Verhoeven’s film features a cold and calculated cunt who is sharp enough that she need not even bother to even kill her rapist herself as ‘consensual’ sex with him seems to be her greatest award in terms of her warped sense of female empowerment. While she might be living the feminist dream, Michèle does not feel the need to advertise her feministic tendencies like that total twat Lisbeth Salander from the absolutely atrocious crypto-commie The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo franchise. Additionally, despite buying a gun and other weapons, Michèle does not become homicidally hysterical in a self-destructive fashion like Zoë Tamerlis Lund’s iconic titular character in Abel Ferrara’s cult classic Ms .45 (1981). Rather brilliantly, Verhoeven deprives the viewer of the sort of visceral animalistic satisfaction that is so typical of rape-and-revenge films, as if to point out the innate stupidity, phoniness, and hypocrisy of the sub-genre. While the rapist is indeed killed, his death is almost as shockingly brutal as the rape he committed, thereupon leaving the viewer defiled (or ‘raped’) in both instances in what can be interpreted as some sort of ironical anti-violence message. In a soulless world where people tend to get shocked by very little of anything, it is no surprise such inhumane savagery is approached in such a ‘nonchalant’ fashion, as if Verhoeven resolved to have the viewer question their own (in)humanity without even necessarily being completely conscious of it. Either way, there is no question that the rape is a metaphor for a bigger and more important theme. 

 While it is not exactly a subtle example of symbolism, it is surely fitting, especially considering contemporary events, that the rapist is an unrepentant banker that seems rather cynicism about his wife's strict devotion to Catholicism. In short, he represents everything that is corrupt, degenerative, and ultimately necrotic about the multiculti farce that is modern France. Indeed, it is no coincidence that French Republican politician Fabien Di Filippo referred to corrupt President of France Emmanuel Macron as “President Rothschild” in late 2018 as he is symptom of such decay that originates centuries ago with the Jewish Rothschild banking dynasty. It also seems fitting that the film was made shortly after International Monetary Fund (IMF) head Dominique Strauss-Kahn—a Ashkenazi-Sephardi Jewish hybrid and socialist politician that was originally considered to be a leading candidate for the 2012 French Presidency—was accused of sexual assault and attempted rape against a black maid. Interestingly, in an article at the Jewish news website The Forward, Jewess Phoebe Maltz Bovy noted at the end of her review of Elle, “Oh, and one more pressing question: Is Patrick Jewish? Michèle briefly suspects a coworker of the assault, and asks him to drop trou, explaining that she’d assumed this coworker was Jewish (he’s not) and that the man she’s trying to locate is circumcised. We don’t know much about Patrick other than that he’s a banker and that he, unlike his wife, isn’t a devout Catholic. Is the evil sadistic rapist banker – like so many bankers in French literature, for example – a Jew? If so, if that’s even ambiguous, this would just add another whole layer of problematic-fave.” I’m going to wager that Patrick is Jewish and that the film cannot be fully appreciated without this being taken into consideration, especially considering recent historical events in France (e.g. Strauss-Kahn) and the western world in generation (e.g. Harvey Weinstein, who was a well known sexual predator long before he was ever officially busted). After all, as Larry David (in)famously stated during a 2017 SNL monologue, “A lot of sexual harassment stuff in the news, and I couldn't help but notice a very disturbing pattern emerging, which is that many of the predators, not all, but many of them are Jews.” Also, I don’t know much about the film’s source writer Philippe Djian as English-language material on him is very limited, but his schizophrenic lineage as the son of a rootless Algerian Jewish father and a reactionary Catholic mother and early love of great antisemitic novelist Louis-Ferdinand Céline is certainly keeping within the greater themes of Verhoeven's film.  It should also be noted that Djian found the May 1968 events in France as something he was not particularly impressed with as he even went so far as to describe it as simply a time where “there were many girls in the streets” and “everyone seemed a little crazy.”  Clearly, Elle depicts the longtime societal rotten fruits of May 1968, though not a single film critic seems willing to even consider that.

 Undoubtedly, the connection between Jewishness and decline of the sexes as depicted in Elle was surely highlighted over a century ago by Otto Weininger, who felt Jewishness and femininity were one and the same, in his classic text Geschlecht und Charakter (1903) aka Sex and Character where he argued, “Our age is not only Jewish, but also the most ‘feminine’; an age in which art represents only a sudarium of its humors; the age of the most gullible anarchism, without any understanding of the State and of justice; the age of the collectivist ethics of the species; the age in which history is viewed with the most astonishing lack of seriousness [historical materialism]; the age of capitalism and of Marxism; the age in which history, life, and science no longer mean anything, apart from economics and technology; the age when genius could be declared a form of madness, while it no longer possesses even one great artist or philosopher; the age of the least originality and its greatest pursuit; the age which can boast of being the first to have exalted eroticism, but not in order to forget oneself, the way the Romans or the Greeks did in their Bacchanalia, but in order to have the illusion of rediscovering oneself and giving substance to one’s vanity.” Interestingly, the lack of originality that Weininger speaks of is brought up by Michèle’s ex-husband Richard, himself a failed writer and exceedingly emasculated man, who soundly argues, “People don’t realize the art muscle needs training. Or else culture collapses, goes flabby. That’s what we’ve got now. Flabby culture. Originality or singularity used to be valued and sought after. Or even an end in itself. Now it’s a liability. I’m not talking about novelty.” In that sense, Elle is not just an entertaining and expertly executed film, but also a cinematic attack against modernity, even if it is also somewhat contaminated with the metaphysical affliction. 

 The Jewish angle of Elle also becomes more obvious when one reads the hysterical The New Yorker review written by neo-judeo-bolshevik critic Richard Brody—a Claude ‘Shoah’ Lanzmann fanboy who dedicated a good portion of his bio Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life Of Jean-Luc Godard (2008) to attempting to prove that Godard is an antisemite—where he demonstrates a visceral hatred for Verhoeven by completely misrepresenting the director’s film Black Book and unsoundly arguing, “Let’s imagine a remake of SCHINDLER’S LIST in which a Jewish woman, while in a group herded naked into a gas chamber that turns out to be a shower, notices one S.S. officer, finds him thrillingly handsome, and, when she meets him—oh, wait, something like it already exists. Verhoeven made it in 2006, and it’s called BLACK BOOK.” After attempting to paint Verhoeven as a sort of perverted crypto-antisemite at the beginning of his review despite the fact that Black Book has an obvious pro-Zionist message, Brody—a failed one-time filmmaker that, rather curiously, directed a film that no one has ever seen entitled Liability Crisis (1995) that rather revealingly involves a Jewish female documentarian whose obsession with the holocaust/Hitler spells disaster for her sex life—reveals that he has completely missed any message the film was trying to convey and instead cravenly resorts to accusing Verhoeven of being a sort of poser feminist, arguing, “Throughout the film, Verhoeven gives the impression of laughing up his sleeve at Michèle’s predicament as well as at her predilection, as if he were getting away with telling a sexist joke in a speech at a feminist convention. ELLE is no exploration of a woman’s life or psyche but a macho fantasy adorned with the trappings of liberation.” Of course, as someone that used the most absurd out-of-context circumstantial evidence to try to prove Godard is an evil antisemite, it is hard to imagine that Brody would miss the crucial (anti)kosher elements of Elle, though it could also be argued that he subconsciously became aware of the counter-kosher angle of the film and merely used his review as a means to (poorly) rationalize his potentially instinctual reaction. Either way, Brody’s Elle review reveals he knows nil about women and that the world could really benefit from less male feminists; be they Jewish or otherwise. 

Aside from the obvious symbolic racial-political reasons as to why the rapist in Elle is also a successful banker, the character also represents a sort dichotomous representation of masculinity as underscored by Camille Paglia’s wise words from Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson (1990), “Serial or sex murder, like fetishism, is a perversion of male intelligence. It is a criminal abstraction, masculine in its deranged egoism and orderliness. It is the asocial equivalent of philosophy, mathematics and music. There is no female Mozart because there is no female Jack the Ripper.” In fact, Weininger felt criminality was quite common in great men of history and he even went so far as to argue that France’s most legendary statesman and military leader Napoléon Bonaparte—a man who, incidentally, was the first to emancipate Jews in France and Europe in general—was driven to glory by criminal tendencies, stating, “Napoleon, the greatest of the conquerors, is a sufficient proof that great men of action are criminals, and therefore, not geniuses. One can understand him by thinking of the tremendous intensity with which he tried to escape from himself. There is this element in all the conquerors, great or small. Just because he had great gifts, greater than those of any emperor before him, he had greater difficulty in stifling the disapproving voice within him. The motive of his ambition was the craving to stifle his better self.” It can be argued that the anti-heroine of Elle sees her rapist as her sort of erotic Napoleon as that rare no-bullshit alpha-male that, not unlike her mass murder father and quite unlike her meek beta ex-husband and son, has the gall to take what he wants whilst completing ignoring the laws and conventions of polite society. Of course, this also explains the female obsession with serial killers as exemplified recently by the unending media headlines in regard to the Netflix docu-series Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes (2019) and the Jewish director Joe Berlinger’s accompanying biopic Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile (2019) starring perennial frat-boy mischling Zac Efron as bad boy Bundy. On a more personal level, I used to be friends with a German-American chick that was pen pals with mestizo serial killer Richard Ramirez and it soon became apparent to me after a fleeting sexual excursion that her main interest in me was due to my ‘unconventional’ Weltanschauung, as if it got her wet to know that I sported a Death In June t-shirt and didn’t think the Allies were the good guys during WWII. 

Apparently, New Line Cinema founder Robert Shaye—a man that made himself very rich with the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise—once stated, “A black humor approach to filmmaking helps to diffuse the potential for offensiveness.” Undoubtedly, few other films validate this statement more than Elle where Verhoeven—arguably foremost master to this oftentimes cynical cinematic approach—demonstrates his singular talent for refined Rabelaisian satire where he manages to make the most uniquely uncomfortable of situations endlessly palatable in a manner comparable to disguising rancid maggot-ridden dog shit as Godiva Chocolatier. Indeed, the film does the seemingly impossible by making the European racial-sexual apocalypse seem entertaining, like when great Romanian pessimist Emil Cioran, himself a student of Weininger, once hilariously yet nonchalantly described his adopted hometown of Paris as an “apocalyptic garage” in the documentary Apocalypse According to Cioran (1995) directed by Gabriel Liiceanu.  Undoubtedly, like much of Verhoeven's films, Elle is less a celebration of Occidental decline than a bitingly sassy and sophisticated reminder of it.  In that sense, it is no surprise that the very last scene of the film features the heroine and her best friend Anna walking through a graveyard after bonding over insulting men together, as if to simply let the viewer know that the man-hunting cunts are carelessly walking on the corpse of Western Civilization and that they only have the utmost contempt for the long dead white men that were responsible for building said corpse that they are still unwittingly feeding off of.  After all, whether conscious of it or not, these women blame white men for their current lot and, as they say: “Hell has no fury like a woman scorned.”

As to the value of a film like Elle that criticizes decadence while also curiously embracing it, one must take heed of Cioran's wise words from the nihilistic classic A Short History of Decay (1949), “The mistake of those who apprehend decadence is to try to oppose it whereas it must be encouraged: by developing it exhausts itself and permits the advent of other forms. The true harbinger is not the man who offers a system when no one wants it, but rather the man who precipitates Chaos, its agent and incense-bearer. It is vulgar to trumpet dogmas in extenuated ages when any dream of the future seems a dream or an imposture. To make for the end of time with a flower in one's buttonhole—the sole comportment worthy of us in time's passage. A pity there is no such thing as a Last Judgement, no occasion for a great defiance! Believers: hamfatters of eternity; faith: craving for a timeless stage. . . . But we unbelievers, we die with our decors, and too tired out to deceive ourselves with blazonry promised to our corpses.”

-Ty E

Jan 24, 2019


A couple years ago, I recall an ex-girlfriend and I having a merry conversation about how many holocaust stories—in their innate improbable absurdity—oftentimes resemble Grimms' Fairy Tales, as if Jews were trying to exploit the childhood fears of Germans (and whites in general) against them while injecting them with a sort of ‘reverse of blood libel’ via the shoah mythos (after all, as history surely demonstrates, world Jewry certainly knows a thing or two about blood libel accusations).  In that sense, I was somewhat intrigued when I discovered that a corny kosher conman like William Castle (House on Haunted Hill, 13 Ghosts)—a sort of poor Hebrew huckster’s Hitchcock—concluded his film directing career with a bizarre Grimm-esque filmic fairy tale. Indeed, Castle’s shockingly unforgettable and strikingly singular swansong Shanks (1974)—a film that, not all that surprisingly, was nearly impossible to find for decades until it was released on DVD by OliveFilms in 2013—is arguably the most covertly kosher fairy tale film ever made, as if the auteur was projecting his own perverted (im)moral perspective on the goyim via the timeless myths of the goyim. Indeed, hinting at heeb-on-shiksa pederasty worthy of Der Stürmer and turning the goyim into a sort of herd of morbidly mechanical cattle-cum-golems, the film might be PG-rated but it is unequivocally fucked up and a true testament to Castle’s creepy kosher psyche, which is thankfully not camouflaged by too many tasteless gimmicks. With that being said, I still find it to be Castle’s most rewarding and unforgettable film, if not for oftentimes seemingly unintentional reasons. A clever hack with an unquestionable talent for successful promotions and gimmicks that got people into theaters to watch films that very few sane people actually wanted to endure, Castle not surprisingly had his greatest hit as producer and not as an ‘auteur.’ Indeed, Rosemary's Baby (1968), which features the director-turned-producer in a Hitchcockian cameo, is undoubtedly the most noteworthy film that Castle ever worked on and he was thankfully smart enough to get fellow Israelite Roman Polanski to direct it. Of course, as a film based on a novel by fellow tribesman Ira Levin with both covert and overt Jewish satantists tricking some dumb young shiksa broad into being raped by the Devil and ultimately getting impregnated with the bastard son of Satan as a sort of anti-Mother Mary figure, Rosemary’s Baby ultimately exposed Castle’s sense of racial loyalty and playful contempt for the dumb goyim, albeit in a slightly more sinister fashion than the countless largely worthless schlock films that he actually directed.  With Shanks, Castle not only revealed certain racial hostilities, but also some rather odd, if not downright odious, personal obsessions.

Undoubtedly, it is symbolic of Castle’s talent-for-promotion-over-art and strong Judaic identity that he created publicity for a fake German play entitled Das ist nicht für Kinder (aka Not For Children) ostensibly penned by a fake aristocratic Jewish playwright named Ludwig von Herschfeld (also Castle’s invention) starring self-loathing krautess Ellen Schwanneke (who apparently fled Germany after Uncle Adolf invaded Czechoslovakia) by vandalizing the outside of Stony Creek Theatre, which he just leased from none other than Orson Welles, with painted swastikas to make it seem as if he was being attacked by bloodthirsty National Socialists. In short, not unlike some ADL lawyer, Castle had a seemingly instinctual knack for exploiting persecution for profit, albeit in a vaguely artistic fashion.  Apparently, swastika graffiti charade was a great formative experience for Castle as it taught him the power of publicity and even led to him being hired by much hated Hebraic studio head Harry Cohn of Columbia Pictures where he eventually had the honor of working as an associate producer on his old pal Orson Welles' classic film noir The Lady from Shanghai (1947).  Aside from his early work in theater and brief collaboration with Welles, Castle would not dare to dabble with something resembling real art again until the very end of his career when he produced Rosemary's Baby and directed Shanks.  While I think very little of most of his work, these two films alone warrant Castle being remembered as a notable figure of American cinema.

Needless to say, Castle’s final film, which naturally features Judaic stars, deals with themes of persecution and radiates a certain (slightly hermetic) Hebraic essence. According to Castle in his own memoir Step Right Up!: I'm Gonna Scare the Pants off America (1976), he initially had no intention to direct Shanks and only decided to when the film’s exceedingly eccentric star Marcel Marceau—a French-Jewish mime famous for his ‘Bip the Clown’ stage persona—talked him into it. Apparently wanting total control over the production, Marceau must have seen Castle as a weak director and exploited him thusly, hence why the film seems quite different from most of the other various entries in the director’s fairly large and eclectic oeuvre (while best known for horror, the director worked in virtually every single genre while working as a for-hire studio hack before going independent in the late-1950s).  Still, the film is pure and unadulterated Castle in terms of its shameless semitic schlock factor.  Indeed, there is certainly a reason that John Waters has an eternal hard-on for Castle.  Either way, Shanks features Castle's most Jewy character as a nebbish schlemiel and pathetic putz of the super schmendrick sort as portrayed by a literal kosher clown with a wild and wiry Jewfro.

In his book Artists of the Right: Resisting Decadence (2012), kiwi political scholar and esotericist Kerry Bolton notes in regard to the metapolitical Weltanschauung of the great American horror writer H.P. Lovecraft that he, “...saw Jewish representation in the arts as responsible for what Francis Parker Yockey would call ‘culture distortion.’ New York City had been ‘completely Semiticized’ and lost to the ‘national fabric.’ The Semitic influence in literature, drama, finance, and advertising created an artificial culture and ideology ‘radically hostile to the virile American attitude.’” Undoubtedly, as both a horror fan and someone that can surely relate to Lovecraft, I must say that Shanks is a somewhat more esoteric expression of semitic culture distortion in celluloid form, so naturally it should be no surprise that it is also the sort of film that Freud might see as a mild masturbation aid due to its odd oneiric wet dream tone and focus on the complete and utter manipulation of other people as puppets. Indeed, if there is any film that more clearly depicts the stereotypical Judaic fantasy of completely controlling and manipulating the goyim like puppets, it is Castle’s curiously, if not creepily, captivating swansong. While featuring outwardly Occidental story conventions of Grimms' Fairy Tales, the film is unequivocally covertly kosher in terms of its dubious sentiments/message and (lack of) morality, which of course is one of the main (yet less obvious) reasons as to why the film is so particularly anomalous.

Aside from the film’s strong covertly kosher character, it is also a sort of aesthetically schizophrenic cinematic artifact that might be best described as seeming like what might happen if the brain-damaged bastard son of Jacques Tati and Vampira directed a playful zombie film sans blood and guts. While the film technically does not feature what is conventionally called zombies, it does include undead beings of the reanimated corpse variety and they can kill. In fact, one might assume by reading the film's promotional material that it was a pro-zombie affair as indicated by the curious description of the film as, “a new concept in the macabre in which the Good come out of the grave and the Evil are sent to fill the vacancy.” From a Hebraic horror angle, these sort of mechanized corpses certainly be seen as a twisted post-religious twist on the Jewish folklore tale of the Kabbalistic anthropomorphic ‘golem’ being (which, of course, is a story that has influenced a variety of films ranging from the German Expressionist classic The Golem: How He Came Into the World (1920) directed by Carl Boese and Paul Wegener to the mostly mediocre Roddy McDowell vehicle It! (1967), among countless other examples‎).

While star Marceau attempted to make Castle promise that Shanks would not be a horror movie like most of his famous films, the film clearly straddles a refreshingly blurry line between horror and fantasy, which is undoubtedly one of its more positive attributes. In fact, it is easily the eeriest and most unsettling Castle film that I have ever seen (which I guess isn't saying much). Likewise, it is also the artiest and most idiosyncratic Castle movie that I have ever seen, as if the filmmaker just caught a Georges Franju marathon and forgot he wanted to be the hokey heeb Hitchcock for a second. In short, Shanks is something resembling art from someone I thought was incapable of art, but then again star Marceau (who notably plays two very different roles), screenwriter Ranald Graham, and Academy Award-winning cinematographer Joseph Biroc (It's a Wonderful Life, Ulzana's Raid) also made serious creative contributions to the film. Interestingly, despite not even being well known when it was released, the film’s musical score by Jewish composer Alex North (A Streetcar Named Desire, Spartacus), which incorporates motifs that were originally commissioned for (but notoriously rejected by Stanley Kubrick) for 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), was actually nominated for Best Music, Original Dramatic Score for the 47th Academy Awards in 1975. 

 Set in a world that, somewhat paradoxically, seems simultaneously anachronistic yet timeless, childish yet senile and perverse yet wholesome, Shanks is somewhat of an admirable failure that has much to interest cinephiles beyond its strange collection of collaborators. Indeed, aside from featuring elements of a trashed Kubrick score and notable performances like a very young and virile Don Calfa of The Return of the Living Dead (1985) fame as a sadistic biker bro, the film seems to be Castle’s curious attempt at making a sort of silent film, which makes sense considering it stars a famous mime in the almost-too-fitting role of a simple-minded deaf-mute. While the film does feature some sparse dialogue, the story is told with the help of simplistic silent era style title cards and the film even features a sepia tone sequence in what is arguably the most ‘darkly poetic’ moment of the entire film. While Castle reveals very little respect for the actual art of filmmaking in his memoir, it seems like he actually had fun making Shanks, as if he knew it would never be any sort of hit and simply used the opportunity to do what he always wanted to do.  Although just speculation, I cannot help but think the film was also largely inspired by Castle's nostalgia for the silent era films of his youth.  After all, in 1963 Castle took the artistic risk of directing a subpar remake of James Whale's pre-Code horror-comedy The Old Dark House (1932).  While directed by legendary gay Englishman Whale, the screenplay was actually penned by British Jewish playwright turned politician and Zionist activist Benn W. Levy, hence the kosher character of the humor that probably appealed to Castle.

As if he assumes the audience are retarded children (his lifelong career of cinematic gimmicks certainly hints at this), Shanks begins with a rather literal inter-title that reads, “William Castle PRESENTS A Grim Fairy Tale.” Of course, the film is certainly Castle’s equivalent to Curtis Harrington’s Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1971) in terms of its Grimm-esque adult fairy tale quality (also, both films are inhabited by quirky Judaic stars). At the very beginning of the film, deaf-mute puppeteer Malcolm Shanks (Marcel Marceau)—an expert lip reader with the spirit of a child who is surely an idiotic savant of sorts—is depicted giving a puppet show using marionettes modeled after friends and family members to happy kids while his beautiful blonde love interest Celia (Cindy Eilbacher) and an eccentric old inventor-cum-dandy named ‘Old Walker’ (also Marceau) watch on in ecstatic delight. While his sadistic sister Mrs. Barton (Jerusalem-born Belgian Jewess Tsilla Chelton, who was part of Marceau's troupe) and alcoholic brother-in-law Mr. Barton (Philippe Clay, who was also part of the troupe) see Malcolm as a loser and mock his peculiar puppeteer talents, Old Walker is so delighted with his puppet show that he takes him under his wing as a lab assistant at his rather quaint gothic mansion where he does morally dubious yet ultimately successful scientific experiments involving the use of electricity to reanimate dead animals, including frogs and chickens. Naturally, when Old Walker unexpectedly croaks, Malcolm decides to use the reanimating method on him, thereupon symbolically becoming the master of the dead master (after all, Malcolm was Old Walker's protege).  As a proud puppet-master, it is not hard for Malcolm to make the transition from fiddling with marionettes to the undead, though it is somewhat creepy how much unexpected joy it brings to his initially rather bleak and stagnant life.  Of course, Old Walker is not the only corpse that Malcolm decides to reanimate as simple bad luck among certain fearsome family members eventually provides him with an entire troupe of completely subservient undead human-puppets.

As the sole breadwinner of his decidedly dysfunctional family, Malcolm naturally comes into trouble when he dares to withhold some money from his savagely stupid dipsomaniacal brother-in-law, who is such a mean-spirited bully bastard that he smashes an Old Walker puppet that hapless protagonist was in the process of making. Luckily, Malcolm gets revenge by (somewhat unintentionally) killing Mr. Barton with a surprisingly deadly zombie chicken in what proves to be an absurdly stupid Castle-esque death scene. Thankfully, Malcolm’s luck doesn’t run out that day as his similarly abusive sister is killed in a ludicrously lackluster suburban hit-in-run accident while she is, rather ironically, attempting to prevent her reanimated husband from getting hit by a car. While Malcolm eventually buries the corpse of Old Walker out of respect for his generous mentor, he takes great joy in cavorting around town with his reanimated sister and brother-in-law while completely controlling them just as they once controlled him.  Not longer a violence dysfunctional family that trades punches and kicks for hugs and kisses, Malcolm even seems to have a lot of fun simply watching TV with his personality-less family members, which was not a privilege he was afforded when they were officially still alive. For whatever reason, Malcolm even thinks it is a good idea to flagrantly flaunt his undead family members and their odd (read: completely unnatural) body contortions to his childlike love interest Celia. Quite predictably, Celia—a seemingly underage little lass that practically radiates virginal purity and untarnished goodness—gets a little freaked out when she eventually realizes that the Bartons are literal dead meat, but she is also extremely excited about a birthday party that Malcolm has planned for her and, like women tend to do, is willing to overlook the dubious complexities of the undead family dynamic. For Celia’s present birthday, Malcolm is preparing a cute marionette modeled after her. Unfortunately, she will not live long enough to properly enjoy it. 

For her big birthday celebration, Malcolm prepares Celia a sort of lavish Victorian dinner where the guest of honor sports a beautiful white gown that was owned by Old Walker’s assumedly-long-dead wife and the zombie Bartons act as both the servants and entertainment. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and the fun and games come to a swift and ugly conclusion when the mansion is quite unexpectedly invaded by a small gang of bikers led by a big buff buffoon named Goliath (Biff Manard). While the bikers initially entered the mansion in a desperate attempt to revive their leader Beethoven (Phil Adams) after he fatally crashed his motorcycle on a road nearby the estate, the outlaws soon forget their dead leader and immediately begin following the lead of Goliath as he encourages them to fulfill stereotypical negative biker stereotypes like raping, pillaging, and even killing. Indeed, despite a noble attempt made by his haggard old lady ‘Mata Hair’ (Helena Kallianiotes) to stop him, Goliath decides to rape assumed virgin Celia. Meanwhile, a biker with the somewhat fitting name ‘Einstein’ (Don Calfa) plays around with Old Walker’s experiments after Malcolm is beaten and tied up. When Malcolm eventually escapes from his bondage, he is greatly dismayed to discover Celia’s corpse lying outside in the yard. While the bikers further demonstrate their affinity for mindless sadism by playing around with the undead Bartons using Malcolm’s remote control, the vengeful protagonist opts to unearth Old Walker and uses him to execute a murderous revenge campaign against the savage biker outlaws. After zombie Old Walker strangles and drowns most of the bikers, Malcolm gets in an epic Rocky-esque fistfight with Goliath on top of the roof of the mansion that eventually results in the latter falling to his death. In a display of poetic necrophilia, Malcolm then reanimates Celia’s corpse and the two begin to dance romantically in what is a literal Danse Macabre moment. Somewhat unfortunately, the film does not end there, but instead comes full-circle and returns to the very beginning, thereupon ultimately revealing that the entire story is bogus and was nothing more than the protagonist’s sick twisted fantasy. In the end, the film concludes with a quote from the great British satirist William Makepeace Thackeray that reads: “Come... let us shut up the box and the puppets = for our play is played out.” Interestingly, while Castle certainly did not know it at the time as he “felt 1975 would be a big year” for him as a filmmaker and he certainly did not plan for Shanks to be his swansong, Thackeray’s quote ultimately proved be a fitting coda to his filmmaking career. 

Notably, in his memoir, Castle claims that Marcel Marceau, who was naively hoping that Shanks would “play forever,” once asked after they finished the film: “Be truthful with me, Bill. Do you think that SHANKS will be better than ROSEMARY’S BABY?” It seems that Castle had a pretty good idea of his talents (or lack thereof) as a filmmaker and was not exactly satisfied with the final result of his film as he apparently replied to Marceau by stating, “I don’t know, Marcel. You were great, but I think I might have failed you. Your world of mime and my world of horror may not mix. Only the audience will tell us.” Unfortunately, after more than four decades, the audience has spoken as Shanks is hardly considered one of Castle’s classic films, let alone any sort of horror classic or otherwise, which is rather unfortunate as, I for one, personally feel it is his most artistically merited film.  Indeed, the film is just too innately idiosyncratic for the masses, including film dork and seemingly most Castle fans.

While Stanley Kubrick was so cryptic and sensitive (?) about his actually quite stereotypical New York City Jewish intellectual background to the point where he would actively erase all Jewish traces from his source material (e.g. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)), British Jewish film scholar Nathan Abrams argues in his insightful text Stanley Kubrick: New York Jewish Intellectual (2018)—a book that is, somewhat ironically, arguably as incriminating as Kevin McDonald's classic The Culture of Critique (1998) in terms of exposing the hermetic motivations of Hebrews—that all of the American auteur’s films are, at the very least, covertly kosher. In fact, Abrams even argues that Kubrick actively sought to destroy all prints of his first feature Fear and Desire (1953) because the film is too overtly personal and, in turn, Jewish as is especially personified by the character Private Sidney (played by fellow Jew and future filmmaker Paul Mazursky)—a sort of implicitly Judaic stand-in for the filmmaker—who is hardly a flattering portrayal of a Hebrew soldier as he is a psychologically feeble intellectual that not only suffers from debilitating paranoia and posttraumatic stress, but he also senselessly murders a young fisherwoman (Virginia Leith) after disturbingly attempting to molest her. Undoubtedly, the titular character of Shanks will probably seem similarly disturbing to most white gentile viewers as his peculiar behavior and questionable motivations are similarly kosherly curious. Surely, it is no great irony that, whereas as a great filmmaker like Kubrick started his career with his most incriminatingly and unflatteringly kosher character, Castle concluded his career with such a character.

 While the Kubrick and Castle had next to nil in common, there is still this glaring perennial Jewish connection and it is impossible to truly understand either filmmaker without taking it into serious consideration.  In fact, just as Kubrick did with his films, Castle opted to drop any mention of Jewishness and antisemitism for his Crusades period action-adventure film The Saracen Blade (1954) despite those racially-charged elements being central themes of American negro Frank Yerby's source novel.  Incidentally, both men also married blonde Aryan women (indeed, while Kubrick curiously married the niece of great Nazi era auteur Veit Harlan, Castle married a Dutch immigrant).  Of course, all the main ingredients of Castle's swansong are completely kosher and, in my less than humble opinion, it is nearly impossible to completely appreciate the film without considering these facts.  Whether it was inspired by ancient Aryan fairy tales or not, there is no way that a goy could have ever directed a film like Shanks.  While I seriously doubt Castle would appreciate it, I cannot help think of the strangely otherworldly Judaic quality of the film and be reminded of Alfred Rosenberg words, “The life of a race does not represent logically developed philosophy nor even the unfolding of a pattern according to natural law, but rather the development of a mystical synthesis, an activity of soul, which cannot be explained rationally, nor can it be conceived through a study of cause and effect.”  Indeed, it is easy to point to perversion and control fantasies when attempting explain the implicit Jewishness of Castle's film, but it is ultimately more of a visceral metaphysical matter when it comes to such a particularly preternatural cinematic work.

Undoubtedly, Abrams’ book is not just helpful in terms of studying Kubrick semi-esoteric Jewishness, but also when it comes to Jewish films and characters in general, especially of the male persuasion. In that sense, it is no coincidence that the worst villains of Shanks are virtual a stereotype for all the things that Ashkenazi Jews have historically loathed about European gentile masculinity.  Indeed, as Abrams explains in regard to the Jewish ‘ethnical’ code of menschlikayt, it, “…rejected goyim naches, a phrase that ‘broadly describes non-Jewish activities and pursuits supposedly antithetical to a Jewish sensibility and temperament.’ Literally meaning ‘pleasure for/of the gentiles,’ […] It can therefore also be interpreted to mean a ‘preoccupation with the body, sensuality, rashness, and ruthless force,’ as manifested in such physical activities as bearing arms, horse riding, dueling, jousting, archery, wrestling, hunting, orgies, and sports in general. Denied the right to participate in such activities, Jews instead denigrated them, consequently also disparaging those very characteristic that in European culture defined a man as manly: physical strength, martial activity, competitive drive, and aggression.” While they might not be completely conscious of this while watching it, white gentile viewers will ultimately find Malcolm Shanks’ exceedingly inexplicable behavior, lack of masculinity, and almost pathological passivity to be the most ‘horrifying’ aspect of the film and not the dumb bikers, who are little more than muscular ciphers. Indeed, just as Henry Frankenstein is the true monster of James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931), so is the eponymous protagonist the real ‘monster’ of Castle’s film, though I seriously double Castle and Marceau—two Jewish outsiders—would agree with that as they surely highly identify with these cinematic creatures.  But then again, the film was advertised with the poster tagline, “Deliciously Grotesque.”

For better or worse, Castle is a sort of classic cult film legend. As demonstrated by his cameos in classic New Hollywood era flicks like Hal Ashby's Shampoo (1975) and John Schlesinger's The Day of the Locust (1975), Castle had already even achieved the respected cult icon status among great director of the era shortly before he died even though his horror films had already become quite passé.  A couple decades later, Joe Dante would pay tribute to the filmmaker with the Castle-esque hero portrayed by John Goodman in Matinee (1993).  Castle certainly earned his star Marcel Marceau's lifelong respect, as the Hebraic frog states in the Jeffrey Schwarz doc Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story (2007) that, “I think he was a wonderful director” and he even describes Shanks as a film where, “Everything was poetic.”  Indeed, in a sick twisted semitic way, like if Bruno Schulz had the spirit of an extroverted businessman, the film is the poetic final word of a shameless schlockmeister that one would assume didn't have a single poetic bone in his entire body.  In short, the film that manages to shatter certain stereotypes while also painfully upholding others.  While I usually would not be able to stomach Judaized Teutonic fairy tales that are blessed with everything from the baroque to bathos, Shanks reminded me that sometimes effectively eerie fantastic horror is possible via cross-cultural mongrelization.

-Ty E