'Certain films seem to transcend simple genre classification. I think of The Thing From Another World (1951), most often referred to as simply The Thing, as one such film. While the horror aspects of the film are obvious - oversized humanoid impervious to bullets or conventional weapons comes after the crew of an Artic research station on his way to destroying the world - there is also obviously the sci-fi connection - invasion of the unknown from outer space. But then there is a third genre here as well, the politics of the Cold War. The Thing was a thinly disguised warning to "watch the skies," as the reporter character says in the end of the film, and watching the skies was about being prepared for the Red Invasion from Russia. How I transpose this triple scenario onto the poem is by the central figure in all of it: me. At 11 years old, the film became for me a moment of extraterrestrial possibility, and it was larger in that aspect than New Jersey, where I lived. It stayed with me because of a simple technique, perhaps accidental, now repeated in many sci-fi films from Alien on, that of the mystery (origin) which is never solved. This kept the film a part of a future world, one in which I might go beyond where no man had gone before. The second film, El Topo (1970), might also be a horror film, but it was meant, I think, to be a film about mystical enlightenment in a violent time, a film about regeneration through violence (to borrow a phrase from Richard Slotkin). But it too is also about my encounter with it at 20, not simply my use of it. My experience of it was profound, not because of the over-stylized symbolism of El Topo's voyage toward discovery, but because I was looking for something beyond still, as with The Thing, some hint that this existential reality I was quickly coming to accept as ours, mine, everyone's, was not the final limit. The Wild Angels (1966) is not a horror or a sci-fi film, and might only be classified in the rarified genre of "biker film" of the 1960s. But it is much about the same thing as the others, about the search for some existential meaning, self-generated perhaps, that can somehow justify the life. Peter Fonda rides off into the sunset at the end, but forget the western genre; he is riding the contemporary world. Fortunately or unfortunately, as a young man of 16 or 20, even as a boy of 11, I was realizing the limits of the world described through traditional religious and/or ethnical belief systems. I was searching for something more basic than God. Maybe something that was around before the Transcendental Signifier made "His" appearance (Beckett asks in Molloy, "What was God doing with himself before the creation?" - I was asking the same thing by the time The Thing appeared). The films therefore transposed here are more than cinema, they follow me as moments of an existential awareness, when I found someone else out there was looking for the same thing.' GM
Late night black and white.
There in the basement without a sound
or so low the vibrations from the tube
would not disturb the sleeping house,
dead air sucking in the terror
of the coming invasion,
under pillows and blankets
and with the bluish light giving out
transcendence, the shift in molecules
that might open up another
hole in the ice.
It was the speechlessness of
that thing, that unnamable
nightmare, not the less than subtle
metaphor for a Russian invasion
that kept me awake. What a waste
of real understanding those
commies must have had I thought
to brutalize the poor doctor like that
and then he had to be burnt
down to the ground
like capitalism does but without
the smell, only the cinders, only
remnants of humans
chewed up and spit out.
And when the dogs pulled off
his vegetable arm, I winced not for them,
slaughtered dead around the snow,
but for the creature whose body
duplicated itself like the Slavic hordes
rushing over the Chinese wall,
I couldn't tell. I was ten after all.
I was the perfect subject of the film.
I took up my gun at eighteen
and went searching the ice
for the empty hole.
My friend got up
and left the theater
about the time
the street ran with the blood
of a hundred virgins
and later said he
couldn't take it. Peace
after all, was in the
mouth of the year.
I sat there wondering
after the mystic quest
And was torn between
my three bucks and
that friendship soured
by the taste of blood.
It was Sinatra getting pissed
when Fonda got up zipping up his pants
ad-lib that made that movie more than another
hell bent band of mauraders on their
way to death on the road
and it kept us going when we thought
no one was looking anymore, the deaths
at Altamont, the west coast drug cartels,
hired assassinations in Quebec.
It came back to haunt us
like wheelies down the streets
of peaceful American towns,
like tattooed bandits with greasy hair
throwing beers. We drove ourselves
down roads that looked like that,
replicas of the wild west.
But underneath we dreamed
of nothing but escape. The road out
of town ran into endless wildnerness,
and while Corman had the boys
from the real club ride
pig bikes and play the game
we never believed the ends of the earth
were the California stateline.