A woman moves from NYC to LA after a murder, in which she is implicated. She is followed by what is apparently her evil alter- ego. She moves into a room for rent by a writer, and he begins having an affair with her, but after some strange things happen, he's not so sure if the affair is with her or her doppelganger.
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Breaking Badge:Touch of Evil through the Lens of Breaking Bad
(”Doppelganger” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Breaking Bad (AMC)
Created and produced by Vince Gilligan.
January 20, 2008 – September 29, 2013 (62 episodes)
Touch of Evil(Universal)
Written, directed, and starring Orson Welles
“Preview” version (108 min., released on DVD 1993); Theatrical release, 1958 (93 min.)
“Restored” version, 1998 (112 min.)
Based on the novel Badge of Evil by Whit Masterson
“Bad” to the Bone; “Breaking Bad” Creator Vince Gilligan Brings More Than a Touch of Evil to a New Season.
“I’m the man who killed Gus Fring.” He wears his conquering of Fring like a badge, as the one thing that should strike fear in their hearts more than any other.
Lead actor Bryan Cranston stated in an interview that: “The term ‘breaking bad’ is a southern colloquialism and it means when someone who has taken a turn off the path of the straight and narrow, when they’ve gone wrong. And that could be for that day or for a lifetime.”
Mad Men and Breaking Bad are sort of the Beatles vs. Stones of the AMC network universe. Constant Readers will recall that I’ve described the Youth Whitopia (or White Youtopia) of Detroit in the ’60s as involving such things a sovereign independence from coastal media driven trends such as Beatlemania and a preference for such working class acts as the Stones or the Who.
Now you might think that this would incline me to Breaking Bad, but you’d be wrong. First, MadMen’s story arc lead up into and through that very period (making Don’s oldest son my Doppelgänger), while Breaking Bad is all too contemporary. Moreover, I found the whole “White guy proves his manhood by shaving his head and becoming murderous drug dealer” motif to be to be far too “negro” to be of any positive interest.
Recently, however, I obtained the 50th Anniversary release of Touch of Evil circumstantially with AMC broadcasting a multi-week marathon of Breaking Bad, and actually sitting down to watch the latter with the former still in mind, I experienced a sense of imaginal déjà vu.
Having previously suggested that The Gilmore Girls is a seven season long TV version of Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons, I may be forgiven for imagining that Breaking Bad is a 5 season long TV version of Welles’ Touch of Evil.
Walter White is a loser of a high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. Not only is the treatment unaffordable, his inevitable death will leave his family destitute. Walt decides to make lots of money, fast, by turning his skills to the manufacture of meth, and it turns out he’s pretty good at it — both the manufacture itself as well as the related distribution and, inevitably, enforcement. He revels in being good at something, but periodically expresses some concern about his transformation into the criminal genius known only as “Heisenberg.”
I suspect this is what interests the alt-Right; as Jack Donovan would say, Walt was a good man who was bad at being a man, while “Heisenberg” is a bad man, who is good at being a man.
“This is a love-affair story of Walt and his love of science, and [“Blue Sky” meth] was his greatest product — his greatest triumph as a chemist. It wasn’t about Walter White as a criminal or a murderer or an awful person. It was him ending on his own terms. It felt creatively right.”
Walt may love science, but it hasn’t loved him, and that’s why he has no money, and his family will be left destitute:
Once a promising chemist who greatly contributed to the breakthrough of a multi-billion dollar company Gray Matter Technologies, Walt abruptly left the company and sold his financial interest for $5,000. The founders of the company Elliott Schwartz and Gretchen Schwartz later married and made a fortune. Walt harbors animosity and blames Elliot and Gretchen for stealing his hard labor and contributions to become a highly successful foundation, without giving Walt any credit. Walt then bitterly blames Gretchen for his financial problems and his lot in life.
Watching and listening to Walt repeatedly returning to this aspect of his situation, I began to hear another voice: Orson Welles’ Hank Quinlan, justifying himself as, unknown to him, the end is near:
Quinlan: “Don’t you think I could have been rich? A cop in my position. What do I have . . . after thirty years, a little turkey ranch — that’s all I got. A couple of acres.”
One difference, since this, as I said, is a movie, not a series, is that Breaking Bad, luxuriating in the kind of time and budget and studio regard Welles could only dream of, presents us with the full transformation of Walter White, while Hank Quinlan, when we meet him, has already become the local Heisenberg:
Adair: “Vargas, you’ve heard of Hank Quinlan, our local police celebrity.”
Vargas: “I’d like to meet him.”
Coroner: “That’s what you think.”
But I see I’ve started talking about Touch of Evil without cluing some of you in. Here’s a neat summary from DVD Verdict:
A car crossing the border from Mexico into the U.S. blows up, killing the driver, a wealthy older man, and his passenger, a blonde stripper. Witnessing this are Mexican narcotics investigator Mike Vargas (Charlton Heston) and his American wife, Susie (Janet Leigh). Soon, the “legendary” local police captain, Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles), arrives on the scene and commences the investigation.
Vargas has been running an investigation of his own, bringing down the Grandi family, drug-dealing gangsters headed up by Uncle Joe Grandi (Akim Tamiroff). The trial of Joe’s brother is about to start, and the Grandis want Vargas to call it off. . . . Uncle Joe has [an] idea of how to persuade Vargas, and it involves terrorizing Susie. When she goes to an out-of-the-way motel to wait for her husband, the Grandis get their chance.
Meanwhile, Vargas is tagging along on the murder investigation. Quinlan’s fabled instincts tell him that the killer is the Mexican boyfriend of the dead man’s daughter. During an interrogation at the man’s home, some incriminating evidence turns up in a shoebox—but Vargas had seen the shoebox before, and it was empty.
Now, Vargas realizes that Quinlan is corrupt and that his “legend” has been built from planting evidence and framing possibly innocent suspects. But Vargas has bigger problems: the police found his wife passed out and reeking of drugs in a strange hotel room—with a dead [Joe Grandi].
Already we see a metamorphosis: “local police celebrity.” Walt becomes Heisenberg, but Hank is already the Bad Captain.
Pete Menzies: You’re a killer.
Hank Quinlan: Partly. I’m a cop.
Now, talking about “bad,” what I want to be suggesting here is that in both works we find an idea that I’ve called Passing the Buck. It’s the notion, disconcerting to many, that the Enlightened or Realized Man is not necessarily — or perhaps necessarily not — the Good Man. Since the goal of enlightenment is usually thought of as being “beyond the contraries,” including those of good and bad, why should we imagine that the path involves conventional “goodness”? More particularly, perhaps the way to reach the state of freedom from karma is to dump it on some poor sucker and just keep moving.
You could say that this is a metaphysical version of Jack Donovan’s thesis: the (conventional-morally) good man versus the man good at being (the Realized or Universal) Man. Thus, any really compelling dramatic work — as opposed to some “morality tale” — will involve men who are mad, bad, and dangerous to know.
The men of Walt’s world are killers and kingpins and assassins — but at least they are still men. One of the larger philosophical issues raised by this series — too large for me to explore here — is the tension that sometimes exists between masculinity and law and order; or: between primal masculine virtue and the virtues necessary to sustain civilization.
Hence, the curious ambivalence audiences — and creators — feel towards characters like Walter White and Hank Quinlan.
Walt ends up saving the day by beating the big bad neo-Nazis with ingenuity. He goes on to avenge his brother-in-law’s death, releases “old yeller” from captivity so he can personally kill that “Opie dead-eyed piece of shit,” poisons the (other) crazy “bitch” that dared to challenged his potency, gives the original emasculating bitch a get out of jail free card and gets all that money to his estranged son via payback to the couple that wronged him in the first place. Instead of emerging as a defeated anti-hero, Walter White’s evil alter ego somehow rises from the ashes like a superhero.
Again, as music supervisor Thomas Golubić said about the finale:
It wasn’t about Walter White as a criminal or a murderer or an awful person. It was him ending on his own terms. It felt creatively right.
But let’s get back to how this all plays out in the film and TV series under review. Since Sr. Vargas, the “Good Cop,” has implicitly pushed his way into our reflections, just as he pushes his way into Quinlan’s sweet little setup, let’s look him over. Vargas is our nominal hero, not only a gang-busting cop (he’s just put the head of the Grandi gang in jail, a kind of south of the border Tom Dewey) but a romantic leading man, escorting his new, American wife over the border for an ice-cream soda. Everything about him exudes smug rectitude (his “I’m a Latin Lover” moustache actually recalls Tom Dewey), but the first problem is that he’s played by Charlton Heston.
Now, this is a faux pas so legendary that it’s become a pop culture reference point:
Ed Wood, Jr.: Do you know that I’ve even had producers re-cut my movies?
Orson Welles: I hate when that happens.
Ed Wood, Jr.: And they always want to cast their buddies. It doesn’t even matter if they’re right for the part.
Orson Welles: Tell me about it. I’m supposed to do a thriller for Universal. They want Charlton Heston as a Mexican.
Like many such pop cultural memes, it’s more about what pleases current dogmas than historical truth. We “know” that studios are philistines; we “know” that Whites should never play non-white roles (though the opposite is just fine). But in reality, Heston was already cast, and it was Heston who used his star power to force Welles on Universal as director instead of just actor. And that star power is important to the film as well, since, as we’ll see, our nominal hero proves to be so lame, so paper-thin, as written, that only an actor with the screen presence of a Heston could prevent him from fading away entirely, lost in the malignant shadow of Welles’ monstrous Hank Quinlan. And there simply weren’t any Hispanic actors in Hollywood who could act alongside Orson Welles — Caesar Romero, you think?
As for his Spanish, it sounds pretty good to me, although I don’t, like Quinlan, “speak Mexican.” I’m not an expert, just an ordinary movie-goer, and isn’t it all about creating an illusion?
Quinlan: I don’t speak Mexican. Let’s keep it in English, Vargas.
Vargas: That’s all right with me. I’m sure he’s just as unpleasant in any language.
Sanchez: Unpleasant? Strange. I’ve been told I have a very winning personality. The very best shoe clerk the store ever had.
Oddly enough, Heston’s supposedly fractured Spanglish provides yet another link to Breaking Bad, in the person of Gus Fring. For some reason Fring seemed to get most of the supposedly Spanish lines, and I remember trying to follow along, as I usually do, especially with the Spanish cable channels, to try and pick up some of the lingo and test my knowledge thereof. Apparently, Gus was doing the same, earning the show an entry at TV Tropes, right alongside Touch of Evil, for
Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Many people singled out the show Breaking Bad, and the character Gustavo “Gus” Fring, for falling flat on language. Tamara Vallejos writes, “Gus’ Spanish and accent were so painful to listen to, and it made me super angry that such a pivotal and fantastic character would have such a giant, noticeable, nails-on-a-chalkboard flaw.”
Well, I would think that such a delicate flower shouldn’t be watching such a violent show in the first place. And here too Gus provides a link to the film. Another way Touch of Evil reminds one of Breaking Bad is that both, for their own time, are remarkably violent; in fact, even the movie, from 1958, has moments that can match anything in the cable show.
Adair: An hour ago, Rudi Linnekar had this town in his pocket.
Coroner: Now you can strain him through a sieve.
Quinlan: An old lady on Main Street last night picked up a shoe. The shoe had a foot in it. We’re gonna make you pay for that mess.
There’s even that B-movie staple, “acid to the face”:
In an alley outside the club, Vargas is attacked by one of the Grandi gang members who throws acid at Vargas’s face. In Welles’ original script, the acid misses Vargas and hits a cat asleep in the trash. This was changed in the film and the acid instead explodes in a smoky hiss against the poster of the dead stripper.
Speaking of faces, even the TV show’s most infamous scene, where Walt kills Gus Fring with a bomb that leaves him staggering out of Uncle Tio’s room with half his face gone, is matched by this quick shot of another dead uncle, Uncle Joe Grandi:
Lending perhaps a new significance to Uncle Joe’s earlier speech, leading Quinlan into the scheme that will, unknown to Uncle Joe, lead to his own death:
Uncle Joe Grandi: “We are both after the same exact thing, Captain. If Vargas goes on like this, shooting his face off . . . Somebody’s reputation has got to be ruined. Why shouldn’t it be Vargas’s?”
Welles was quite aware of how much he was pushing the envelope:
As Welles said in conversations with Peter Bogdanovich (This Is Orson Welles by Orson Welles and Peter Bogdanovich) “It was perverse and morbid . . . one of those go-as-far-as-you-can-go–in that kind of dirty department . . . when [Tamiroff] looked at the gun, it was every cock in the world. It was awful, the way he looked at it–made the whole scene possible.” Make no mistake about it, this is an ugly scene. Tamiroff is a much smaller man than Welles, and is just about consumed by Welles. Tamiroff’s character is dragged around the room, his shirt torn at the chest, his toupee knocked off. Eventually Quinlan strangles him with one of Susan’s stockings, leaving Uncle Joe’s face hanging over the bed, eyes bulging out by a nice effect of using painted contact lenses. Welles wanted the shot of the bulging eyes short enough so it would be almost subliminal — something people wouldn’t be quite sure they saw — but the studio added extra frames to that shot.
While we’re on the face, let’s talk about hair. Walt sports the aforementioned iconic chrome dome, first due to chemo, then presumably to cement his “gangsta” image. Is Quinlan bald? Like most men of his era, he wears a hat. But if you stop and think about it, he always wears a hat — that is, we literally never see him without it, from the first time we see him, getting out of his car, to the last, as he floats dead in the river.
We do on one occasion see the hat without him — we see it at Tana’s whorehouse, where Quinlan is presumably off-screen, passed out from his drinking binge; even here, it’s that hat that tells us he’s there somewhere. The hat is effectively the same icon, depriving or at least hiding his hair, a symbolic castration. Uncle Joe is an inept stand-in for the real Grandi boss, whom Vargas has on trial in Mexico, as shown by his constantly lost or misplaced toupee.
The same with his candy bars, which he supposedly gnaws on to avoid drinking, as some people do for smoking. The whole scene is chock-full of sexual defeat:
Quinlan: Have you forgotten your old friend, hmm?
Tanya: I told you we were closed.
Quinlan: I’m Hank Quinlan.
Tanya: I didn’t recognize you. You should lay off those candy bars.
Quinlan: It’s either the candy or the hooch. I must say, I wish it was your chili I was gettin’ fat on. Anyway, you’re sure lookin’ good.
Tanya: You’re a mess, honey.
Quinlan might also seem symbolically un-manned by his cane, but Quinlan, like Ahab, has turned it into a source of strength. He needs it not due to old age but from a heroic act, stopping a bullet aimed for his partner/stooge, Menzies.
Most importantly, the cane/wound gives Hank his power, his “famous intuition,” a twinge that supposedly tells him who’s guilty, which he then “proves” by planting evidence. And when Vargas first suggests that Quinlan planted the dynamite in the shoe clerk’s apartment, Quinlan raises his cane between them as if to strike him dead. One might indeed compare it to Wotan’s spear, and Quinlan’s one mistake is to leave it behind, symbolic of a temporary loss of wits, thus implicating himself as Uncle Joe’s murderer.
So, back to Vargas. As Heston and Welles agreed, Vargas is only the Hero by genre conventions. He’s actually quite inept: no competent cop, certainly not one of Vargas’ supposed importance, would poke his nose into some hick town murder, on the other side of the border, even, and certainly would not have done so with his new bride by his side. When Susie is kidnapped, his only tactic is to go around the bars beating up random people, and when he speeds out to confront Quinlan he roars right past the hotel where his wife is hanging out the window, screaming for help.
In fact, so inept is Vargas that I was reminded of the disgusted crew of the Satellite of Love, faced with the continuing, irritating ineptness of the protagonist of Manos: The Hands of Fate, generally agreed to be one of the Top Five candidates for the worst movie ever made:
“When is this guy going to demonstrate some simple competence!?” – MST3k
The resemblances start with the fractured Spanish title (manos means, as even I know, “hands,” so the title amounts to Hands: The Hands of Fate. Wow, how long did they take to dream that up?) and the Southwest background (the director was a fertilizer salesman in El Paso and shot it on weekends in nearby locales, as Welles did in Venice, California; the main action was filmed at a judge’s decrepit ranch, not unlike Quinlan’s I suppose). In both movies, the supposed “hero” (here played by the director, again like Welles), also named “Mike,” (Heston plays Ramon Miguel ‘Mike’ Vargas) takes his wife (and child, here) on a pleasure trip that turns into a nightmare. Along the way she’s groped in a motel-like room, like Susie, there’s a creepy, oddly gaited “night manager” (here, the immortal Torgo), gunplay at the end, etc.
The two most important similarities, however, are that along the way, our “hero” proves to be immensely incompetent, and, at the “twist” ending, he is apparently (the film is too badly made to make any sense) reincarnated as . . . the new keeper. Both these themes can be found in Touch of Evil, and may help us better understand the Breaking Bad finale.
Vargas, then, is our “good man” who is far from “good at being a man.” Even if we grant that he’s a good cop (he does, at least, have the head of the Grandi gang locked up) he’s a pretty piss-poor husband, either romantically or as a protector. If Menzies hadn’t killed him, Quinlan likely would have succeeded in framing Vargas, and he seems genuinely surprised that Quinlan doesn’t care when he points out that he can’t arrest him in Mexico (if only Vargas had been so wise in the first place!), since he plans to shoot him anyway.
Vargas doesn’t prove himself when he decides Quinlan is corrupt and goes after him (that’s more Ned Flanders bein’ a busy-body and all) but precisely when he realizes Susie has been kidnapped.
Vargas: Listen, I’m no cop now. I’m a husband! What did you do with her? Where’s my wife? My wife! (Grabbing and slapping people around left and right)
But what’s interesting here is that Vargas doesn’t, say, figure out how to use his cop skills to rescue his wife; instead, the only way he knows how to go about rescuing her is to stop being a cop. What he really means, is, stop being a Good Cop and become a Bad Cop. To be good at being a man, and save his wife, he must become Quinlan.
Vargas: Why not? Quinlan doesn’t have a monopoly on hunches.
What’s happened is that our two themes have coalesced: Vargas, a (morally) good cop, to become good as a man (find the killer, stop Quinlan’s reign, save his wife), must become a bad cop, like Quinlan himself.
Schwartz: Well, Hank was a great detective all right.
Tanya: And a lousy cop.
And thereby Quinlan is able to escape his karma, passing it off to the perfect sucker: Sr. Vargas. 
Like all genre films that last and become objects of fascination (“cult” films) there’s more going on here than meets the eye, or even than the “auteurs” know. We have at least three levels here:
There’s the superficial plot, which satisfies the studios and the audience, seeking either pastime or reassurance in a cruel world: the Good Guy (Vargas) wins, the Bad Guy (Quinlan) vanquished.
At a more profound level, the audience must get the masculinist message that to be good at being a man may require becoming, however briefly, a Bad Man.
Menzies: You didn’t have to make it dirty.
Quinlan: I don’t call it dirty. Look at the record . . . All those convictions.
Menzies: Convictions, sure. How many did you frame?
Menzies: Come on, Hank. How many did you frame?
Quinlan: “No one — nobody that wasn’t guilty, guilty, guilty. Every last one of them — guilty.” (And indeed, “the last one,” Sanchez the shoe clerk, does confess, off screen).
Vargas and Quinlan are more alike than either (one anti-Mexican, the other anti-corruption) would like to admit. Vargas is famous enough to be recognized by the border guards, and almost immediately he meets “our local police celebrity.”
More particularly, both men’s metamorphoses are tied to their wives (as Walt’s, at least officially, is to his family). At the start of his police career, Quinlan’s wife was murdered — supposedly strangled by a Mexican whom he was never able to bring to justice.
In fact, although I can’t find many critics explicitly making this inference, it seems clear to me that Quinlan was the murderer, and the Mexican, who conveniently died in WWI, is simply a racially-charged alibi. He has dealt with his guilt by a life-long, obsessive pursuit of “justice,” finding and punishing the guilty by whatever means necessary.
All his murder cases have become a replay of his own psychodrama, wherein he plays judge and executioner in the unproven affair of his dead wife and her lover. He strangled his wife . . . and now he hunts the shadows of the border town Los Robles for the surrogates who must pay the price for his ancient trauma.
Menzies: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Drunk and crazy as you must have been when you strangled him. I guess you were somehow thinking of your wife, the way she was strangled.
Quinlan: Always thinking of her, drunk or sober. What else is there to think about? — Except for my job, my dirty job.
Menzies: You didn’t have to make it dirty.
Quinlan: I don’t call it dirty. Look at the record . . . All those convictions.
Menzies: Convictions, sure. How many did you frame?
Menzies: Come on, Hank. How many did you frame?
Welles’ genius was such as to allow him to view his characters objectively. Though Welles was a hard line com-symp, Quinlan gets more than enough sympathy as portrayed by Welles himself. The eye-rolling he gives Vargas’s little speech about a police state is intensely funny (Welles the ham is in his element) but it also meets the audience’s eyes, thus implicating them as well — “Can you believe this guy?”
And finally, at the most profound level, it is insinuated that to reach Realization, one must find a way to offload one’s karmic attachments, and given a demonstration of just how to do it.
Now, I mentioned just now (see note 35) Vargas use of a wire to entrap Quinlan, and that reminds me that I should give some attention to the Other Hank, TV’s Hank, Walt’s brother-in-law, and half-witted Holmes to Walt’s Prof. Heisenberg.
Is Walt White Hank Quinlan? The most natural doubling is Hank Quinlan/Hank Schrader. Both are Southwestern border-town lawmen, named Hank — duh! Hank matches Welles’s bulk, and like Welles speaks no Spanish (or rather, “I don’t speak Mexican”). Unlike Welles, he’s a basically honest cop, but not above roughing up a suspect — his beating of Jesse matches up with Welles’ “third degree” of the shoe store clerk (but smarter — Welles knows how to not leave a mark, while Hank’s beating of Jessie gets him in some hot water).
Quinlan (off camera): What’re you scared of? I’d only slap you again if you got hysterical. Wouldn’t be brutal. Even in the old days, we never hurt people in the face. It marks ’em up. We gave it to ’em like this. [Blow landing, Sanchez grunting]
Movie Hank walks with a cane, the result of a bullet intended for Menzies:
Quinlan: That’s the second bullet I stopped for you, Pete.
TV Hank is also crippled, temporarily, by a bullet. Movie Hank’s cane will betray his presence at Grandi’s murder. TV Hank’s medical bills are secretly paid by Walt, which enables Walt to stymie Hank’s subsequent investigation.
Most interestingly, Hank delivers the line that most directly links the two works:
While wiring Jesse for audio surveillance in the scene at the plaza, Hank instructs him, “Don’t cross your arms, if you can help it.” In Touch of Evil (1958), Charlton Heston as Vargas delivers a similar line, “Now remember, don’t cross your arms,” while wiring Sgt. Menzies to record Orson Welles’ character Hank Quinlan.
The line is Vargas’, though; this emphasizes that TV Hank stands for a generalized notion of the Good Cop, what Movie Hank was but now can only perceive as a threat. Movie Hank is both TV Hank and Walt; by making Movie Hank himself a cop the film helps fit Walt’s story arc into 100 minutes, and intensify the story, by absorbing TV Hank’s story as well. Movie Hank shows the corruption of TV’s Hank/Walt combo.
It’s at the end, appropriately enough, that we witness the transfer of karma, and find the clearest similarities between the two works.
Touch of Evil, of course, opens with a legendary three-minute uninterrupted crane tracking shot, that covers four blocks from start to finish. But it is implicitly connected to the end, where Vargas crossing the Mexican border on foot with his wife is echoed by Vargas running over the bridge from Mexico and jumping into Susie’s car and then roaring off, forgotten by the action and ignored by the camera.
Breaking Bad ends with a crane shot, frequently discussed not so much for its technique, which is run of the mill today, as its emotional implications.
“But in came the dailies, with that wonderful crane shot moving over Walter White, and once we played the song, [we thought], ‘Oh, I get it now,'” Golubić continues. “This is a love-affair story of Walt and his love of science, and this was his greatest product — his greatest triumph as a chemist. It wasn’t about Walter White as a criminal or a murderer or an awful person. It was him ending on his own terms. It felt creatively right.”
I’m not sure if a crane was used at the end of Touch of Evil, but Welles is now being shot from above, rather than the previous shots from below that emphasized Quinlan’s menacing bulk. These shots show the similarity of their ends:
Conventional movie grammar has these kinds of shots symbolizing the defeat of the Bad Guy, his “fall” if you will. As I’ve suggested many times, this can also be given a positive meaning, at least esoterically. The body falls horizontally, resolved into the elements, (with Quinlan, water) while the spirit is released, upwards, freed from the burden of karma.
Tanya: Isn’t anybody going to come and take him [the corpse] away?
Quinlan, thanks to Menzies’ betrayal, can now find rest; his karmic burden has been passed on to the naïve, inane Vargas, who happily speeds away:
Vargas: It’s all over, Susie; I’m taking you home.
Of course it isn’t; Vargas has changed, and will likely spend the rest of his career enjoying the application of the third degree in Mexico’s notorious jails.
But who, then, is Walt’s sucker? His partner, Jesse.
Like Menzies, Hank Quinlan’s apprentice sucker, Walt takes a bullet for him and, like the second bullet Hank Schrader takes, it kills him. Like Vargas, the ultimate sucker, he jumps in his car and roars away, laughing with glee.
At least one fan has put his figure on exactly why this denouement fails to satisfy:
I thought the ending sucked. What the fuck was Jesse so happy about? He was still destined to be a miserable (and now broke) fuck having to live with his shitty life choices.
Both endings also have music which is “non-diagetic,” as the critics say, meaning it is not natural but presumably conveys a character’s POV. Quinlan’s corpse is eulogized by the gypsy/madam Tanya (Marlene Dietrich!) as the sentimental pianola music from his brothel is, through the magic of the movies, somehow audible way out by the bridge. Tanya had already clued us in on its archeofuturistic significance:
Tanya: The customers go for it — it’s so old, it’s new.
And indeed, Hank — or his karma — is now Vargas.
Also “so old it’s new” is the music of Breaking Bad’s finale, “Baby Blue” by Badfinger. The first line, “Guess I got what I deserved,” is clearly ironic in this context; in terms of the threefold analysis I proposed earlier, Walt has I suppose received his conventional comeuppance, but we know that on the levels of manhood and metaphysics, he has found both true manhood and transcendence.
To those of us of Walt’s generation (I admit to being somewhat creeped out by the realization that I’ve outlived him), Badfinger’s song irresistibly recalls an even older tune, Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” which not only seems appropriate enough for a finale, but also literally recalls Vargas’ valediction:
Vargas: It’s all over now, Susie.
As we’ve said, nothing could be more false than Vargas’ naïve happy ending. But if we’re looking for the proper epitaph for both Quinlan and Hank, nothing can beat Tanya’s famous line:
Schwartz: Is that all you have to say for him?
Tanya: He was some kind of man . . .
 There’s no room here to even attempt to sort out the deliriously proto-postmodern production history of the film: “It was taken away from Welles during the editing process, and though he submitted an infamous 58-page memo of suggestions after seeing a later rough cut, only some were followed in the version ultimately released. Time has brought change, however, and there are now multiple versions of Touch of Evil for the viewer to choose from; but whereas history often resolves one version of a film to be the definitive article, it’s hard to know which that is in this case. Indeed, it’s so contentious that Masters of Cinema went so far as to include five versions on their 2011 Blu-ray (it would’ve been six, but Universal couldn’t/wouldn’t supply the final one in HD).” There is literally no “director’s cut” since Welles, in his memo, actually agrees with and accepts several of the changes made by the studio, and would have incorporated them into his own “final” version, if there ever had been one. I will avail myself of any shot that seems significant for this essay.
 Of course, Don Draper doesn’t “dig” the psychedelic Beatles, unlike his younger second wife. She leaves a copy of Revolver around and suggest Don listen to “side one, last track” — i.e., “Tomorrow Never Knows” — but Don turns it off after a few measures. (Season 5, Episode 8) Like James Bond, he thinks that “some things just aren’t done . . . like listening to the Beatles without earmuffs”(Goldfinger); Don returns to compliment by listening to the theme to “You Only Live Twice“ on a barroom jukebox (Season 5, Episode 13)..
 See my review of Dave McGowan’s Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon: Laurel Canyon, Covert Ops & the Dark Heart of the Hippie Dream, here.
 See, of course, the title essay of The Homo and the Negro (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2012).
 An “outrageously good re-release: Two discs, all three versions of the film, four commentaries, two featurettes — and a print version of the infamous memo, so you don’t have to squint at your screen to read it.” — DVD Verdict.
 “The Gilmore Girls Occupy Wall Street,” reprinted in The Homo and the Negro.
 “He develops a skill set.” — Bryan Cranston on his character, “Walter White,” interviewed during AMC’s 2014 “Breaking Bad Binge.”
 The turkey ranch, we later realize, is the first thing we hear about Quinlan, right at the start — “Where’s Captain Quinlan? Got him out of bed at his ranch. He’s on his way,” providing a neat cyclicality.
 “Vince Gilligan, who had spent years writing the series The X-Files, expressed interest in creating a series in which the protagonist of the story became the antagonist. Gilligan has stated numerous times that his goal was to turn the protagonist, Walter White from Mr. Chips into Scarface.” — ibid.
 “You clearly don’t know who you’re talking to, so let me clue you in: I am not in danger, Skyler. I am the danger. A guy opens his door and gets shot, and you think that of me? No! I am the one who knocks!” ―Walter White
 The Christian might object here, and this indeed divides Christianity, in its original or “purest” form, from the other (or the real) Wisdom traditions. This is why the “good Christian” presents such a sorry spectacle: a goody-goody like Ned Flanders, Hell seems so much more interesting than Heaven, and the Devil has all the good tunes. The pagan notion survives or intrudes into Mediaeval Europe in the form of chivalry and knighthood; the hermit wonders at Parzival: “Never has the Grail been won by violence [until now].” Even Protestantism, rejecting “good works” as a path to salvation, still finds itself obsessed with worldly morality. (“The Church has become a moral regulation society” — Alan Watts). We see the same notion in the Greek mysteries, where the philosophical conundrum arose at why a great criminal, if initiated, could merit a better posthumous fate than a “good man,” and of course in Tantrism. See Evola’s Introduction to Magic (Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, 2001) for the former, his The Yoga of Power: Tantra, Shakti and the Secret Way (originally titled The Man of Power; translated by Guido Stucco; Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, 1992) for the latter. “Rascal gurus” (Watts) like Gurdjieff follow the “Way of the Clever Man” and regard their disciples as “Idiots.” Uncle Joe: “Why should I be tailing him [Menzies], he’s an idiot.”
 Jef Costello, “Breaking Bad: A Celebration,” here.
 After filming wrapped, Heston told Welles he had only made one mistake: there were several scenes that were only there to show Vargas was the hero, but really, “The film is about the fall of Hank Quinlan.” Welles said “I know. So we won’t have any problem with the cutting, will we?” – DVD commentary.
 The liberal elite “knows” Heston must be a bad actor, since like Reagan, he’s a “conservative”; asked about his politics, people will say “gun nut” rather than, say, “marched in Washington arm in arm with Martin Luther King” or “gave jobs to blacklisted actors.”
 Welles crafted a whole backstory about Vargas coming from a wealthy family, attending Stanford, etc., making him more Anglo than your standard illegal. Mexico, like most Third World countries, is ruled by a caste of light-skinned, European natives, as a look at the last few Mexican presidents would confirm. Speaking of Universal, I understand that when Edgar Bronfman, the Seagram’s heir who “always wanted to own a movie studio,” if I may paraphrase Kane, put together the Seagram’s/Universal/Vivendi deal, he was easily outsmarted by his French counterparts since, though a native of Quebec, he understood French not at all, having, like the rest of the Jewish elite, spent his life entirely among the anglophonic; French was for the peasants.
 These are the people who sneer that “wrestling is fake, man”; sure, isn’t Selma too? And I bet Spielberg didn’t “really” kill anyone on Schindler’s List either.
 Everyone knows the Negro has the worst hair of any race; hence the plethora of “Black Hair” magazines — corresponding to the White man’s self-help literature — the obsession with wigs and barbershops, extensions and weaves (always Asian hair, recognized as the best) and ultimately, for many males and even some females, application of the razor to eliminate the problem altogether. The free, proud White man wears his hair long and wild — the cavalier, cowboy, Gen. Custer, etc. The hair is shorn for boot camp or prison, and hence, like baggy (no belts!) pants, appeals to those degenerate Whites who ape the supposedly “manly” Negro, from skinheads to whiggers. And hence, my aforementioned aversion to Heisenberg as a role model for White men.
 Audiences today need to remind themselves that Welles, though no longer exactly boyish, was still a handsome enough Hollywood leading man, not the bloated, shambling talk-show clown he later became. The fat-suit and fake nose are far more convincing than the “old Kane” makeup (although at times, like while thrashing Grandi around in the tiny hotel room, his he recalls middle-aged Kane smashing up Susan’s room — here, it’s Vargas’ wife, Susie), and audiences in 1958 would have been genuinely shocked by his appearance. In a classic Hollywood story, Welles attended a party right after a day of filming, without time to clean himself up. He hadn’t been in Hollywood for a few years, and was created with cries of “Orson, you haven’t changed a bit! What’s your secret, you old dog?” and the like.
 Menzies, as befits his stooge role, is truly unmanned when Quinlan finally shoots him at the end: unlike Quinlan, he loses his hat, and even after shooting Quinlan he drops his gun as well, as Quinlan sneers “That’s the second bullet I’ve stopped for you, partner.”
 Is “raising Cain” related to “breaking bad”?
 Menizies had been, as he himself says, Quinlan’s “sucker” all along, unknowingly helping to plant evidence and build Quinlan’s reputation, but, as Uncle Joe says, he’s too much of an “idiot” to replace him. Instead, like Judas, his role is to betray Quinlan. He switches sides, and when he shows up at the whorehouse, after Vargas wires him up, the drunken Quinlan says “I thought you were Vargas.” After discovering the bug, he shouts “I’m talking to you, now, Vargas, through this walking microphone [Mike-rophone] that used to be my partner.” Menzies is, at best, what Jack Donovan would call a “runt”; see my use of this concept in my review of De Palma’s The Untouchables, reprinted in The Homo and the Negro.
 As we quoted Cranston at the start, to “break bad” means to “turn off the path of the straight and narrow, when they’ve gone wrong. And that could be for that day or for a lifetime.”
 “He mother never really love him / He crimefighting covers up a basic insecurity” is one of the lines in MST3k’s English “translation” of the Jet Jaguar theme song’s Japanese lyrics in “Episode 212: Godzilla versus Megalon.”
Vargas: It’s supposed to be. It has to be tough. A policeman’s job is only easy in a police state. That’s the whole point, Captain — who’s the boss, the cop or the law?
 On the other hand: “Amusingly, Bazin is indeed forced to admit that ‘in the interviews which he gave me . . . Welles challenged this interpretation. He maintains that his moral position is unequivocal and he condemns [Quinlan] absolutely.’ ‘The personal element in the film is the hatred I feel for the way the police abuse their power . . . The things said by Vargas are what I would say myself . . . that’s the angle the film should be seen from; everything Vargas says, I say.’ You can get pretentious about it all you want, and bring to bear political views that the film doesn’t support (after all, within the film Quinlan is punished for his crimes and the ‘mediocre’ [Truffaut’s word] moral hero triumphs), but sometimes a spade is a spade; sometimes a villain is a villain; sometimes your disgusting moral perspective isn’t being covertly supported by a film that seems to condemn it.” Of course, I will argue that Quinlan isn’t “punished” at all (death being a successful release from a realm of material futility), Vargas hardly “triumphs,” and Welles’ second-hand ACLU platitudes are irrelevant to what the film actually presents. Pretentious, moi?
 Not to be confused with TV’s Frank of the MST3k cast.
 Border and bridge are archetypal liminal locations, appropriate to such alchemical procedures; see my De Palma review referenced above.
 As the car chase starts up at the beginning of The Beast of Yucca Flats (another Southwest epic) the camera “incompetently” lingers on the second car while the first roars off-screen. “Off-camera excitement, the Coleman Francis way.” – MST3k, Season 7, Episode 21.
 See note 11, above.
 The finest example of this I know of is the last scene of the last movie of supposedly “bad” director Coleman Francis. Here, in Red Zone Cuba, Francis, like Welles, stars as the, literal, heavy. He runs across a field (the warp and woof of the material universe) and is shot down from a helicopter (a Francis trademark, replacing the crane shot and allied to shamanistic themes of flight); as he falls, he spins around (the whirl of manifestation, symbolized by the polar symbol of the swastika). Is this “the end of Rico” (as in the iconic end of Little Caesar)? No! A narrator suddenly appears for the first time, and it Coleman Francis himself, his character obviously delivering the epitaph — “Griffin. He ran all the way to Hell” — from a higher realm. I intend to explore the entire Shamanistic oeuvre of Coleman Francis in an upcoming essay.
“Somewhere along the line I am going to meet with an arm of this octopus, and when I do it will lead me to a head, and when I find that I shall cut it off.” — John Drake in “You Are Not in Any Trouble, Are You?” (1965)
I recently watched the 1960s English television series Danger Man (1960–1962, 30 mins.; 1964–1968, 1 hour) starring Patrick McGoohan. It was a popular spy show that made McGoohan a star and enabled him to produce his cult television series The Prisoner (UK, 1967–1968). Danger Man is an exceptionally entertaining and well-made show. To my surprise, I had never seen a single episode. Prior to watching them, I thought I had.
I’d confusedly associated McGoohan’s pre-Prisoner television work with two shows, Danger Man and Secret Agent. (Actually, both are Danger Man.) Danger Man was a British television series made and broadcast in the UK. However, it, or portions of it, were also sold into foreign markets. In the US some but not all of the episodes were broadcast on CBS under two different titles several years apart, Danger Man (1961) and Secret Agent (1965–1966) (hence the reason for my confusion), and in other countries as Destination Danger and John Drake.
All three of my reference books about TV, which are US-centric, list it as two programs, and contain two separate entries under the titles mentioned despite the fact that it is really a single series. Moreover, considering the program’s popularity and success, the entries are quite brief; it seems possible that the authors were not personally familiar with it. The online Encyclopedia of Television contains no entry for the show at all. And a DVD release of the first season by A&E Home Video in 2000 erroneously stated on the box that the half-hour episodes were never broadcast in the US.
Curious about all of this, I asked someone who’s a TV addict, but not an expert, whether he was familiar with the show. If typical American TV viewers know anything about it, he should. Yet he drew a blank. Only when I mentioned the Johnny Rivers song “Secret Agent Man,” the theme for the 1965–1966 US broadcasts, did he recognize the song (but not the show). This was my experience as well.
The half-hour British episodes (1960–1962) used “The Danger Man Theme” composed by Edwin Astley, and the later one-hour episodes (1964–1968), which were likewise broadcast in Britain under the Danger Man title, employed instrumental music also written by Astley called “High Wire,” notable for its use of the harpsichord.
Both Danger Man and The Prisoner were produced by Lew Grade’s Independent Television Company (ITC). Grade, a Ukrainian-born Jew whose real name was Lev Winogradsky, was the UK counterpart of Jewish-American TV monopolists William Paley (CBS), David Sarnoff (NBC), and Leonard Goldenson (ABC). Grade’s tentacles reached into every form of entertainment, including British motion pictures, theater, and music (he owned the Lennon-McCartney song catalogue). In 1966 The Sunday Times investigated the interconnected firms controlled by Grade and his two brothers, Bernard Delfont and Leslie Grade. The paper found that the corporations, which constituted a cartel, were agents for most of the major talents in British acting, controlled theaters in London and the rest of the UK, provided television programming through ITC and ATV, and produced motion pictures.
The high-quality series, shot on black and white 35mm film (except for the last two episodes in 1968, which were in color), has a spacious, open feel to it due to frequent outdoor location shooting. Set-up shots were done on-location around the world by second unit crews rather than using stock footage, further contributing to the high production standards. Many episodes open with shots of large passenger jets, usually, but not always, belonging to Pan American Airways, making an approach for a landing in the latest exotic locale. The whiff of late British colonialism, the last days of a white world, still lies heavy on the series, as it did on the first Bond film, Dr. No (1962–British).
The Structure of the Series
It is easiest to divide the program into three parts, although conventionally the show is described as being made up of four series. For a complete list of episodes divided in the conventional manner see List of Danger Man Episodes.
The original Danger Man (UK, 1960–1962) consisted of 39 black and white half-hour episodes. Drake, operating from Washington DC, works as an international intelligence operative for NATO. As McGoohan’s voiceover during the opening sequence explains: “Every government has its secret service branch. America, CIA; France, Deuxième Bureau; England, MI5. [NATO also has its own.] A messy job? Well, that’s when they usually call on me or someone like me. Oh, yes. My name is Drake, John Drake.”
The reference to NATO is not always present. It is interesting, too, that Drake says “England,” rather than “Britain.” The distinctive statement “My name is Drake . . . John Drake,” frequently used within the shows as well, must certainly be the origin of James Bond’s famous reply whenever he’s asked his name: “Bond . . . James Bond.”
The opening credits for the series include the intertitle “Introducing Patrick McGoohan,” indicating that this was his breakthrough role.
The Washington DC title sequence employs a seamless film composite of London’s Castrol Building (today Marathon House, converted from offices to apartments in 1998) in the foreground, from which Drake emerges, and the United States Capitol building in the background. This modern glass office building, brightly lit at night, represents the NATO intelligence agency for which Drake works. In reality, such a building would not be permitted to exist in Washington DC due to its height.
In the US, CBS broadcast a portion of the first series as a summer replacement for Wanted: Dead or Alive (1958–1961), a TV western starring Steve McQueen as a bounty hunter, but did not air even half of the run.
The series was successful in Europe, making McGoohan a star. But after American financing for a second round failed to materialize, the program was cancelled. During the ensuing two years Danger Man was resold around the world, and repeat airings created a clamor for new programs. Several original Danger Man adventure novels and comic books were produced in the United States and Great Britain throughout the 1960s. By this time James Bond had become popular, as had the The Avengers (UK, 1961–1967).
By the time ITC was ready to resume production of the show, Danger Man’s creator and guiding light throughout its run, native Australian Ralph Smart, whose pervasive influence is tangible in virtually every episode as producer, writer, or director, had rethought the concept and made Drake a secret agent for Britain’s external intelligence agency “M9” (= MI6), rather than an American working for NATO. This is what Drake remained for the rest of the series.
This second segment of the show (UK, 1964–1968), also filmed in black and white, aired from 1964 to 1966. It is frequently referred to as “Series 2 and Series 3.” Its 45 episodes were each 50 minutes long (without commercials), and John Drake’s voiceover narration, present in the first series, was eliminated. Another popular television series of the era made a similar format change: the 30-minute Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955–1962) became The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1962–1965).
The 2-year hiatus and accompanying changes did not hurt the show, which had had an assured, mature feel from episode one. From beginning to end it remained a highly unified, seamless series that remains great fun to watch.
Throughout the series Drake’s character occasionally identifies himself as Irish (which McGoohan actually was), despite his Anglo-Saxon surname, appearance, mannerisms, and identification in one episode, “Parallel Lines Sometimes Meet” (1965) (about an attempt to steal the atomic bomb for black Africa), with Drake’s Drum, an icon of English folklore that has mythical overtones: If England is ever threatened, someone is to beat the drum, and Sir Francis Drake will return to defend the land.
After the last black and white episode, “Not So Jolly Roger,” aired in 1966, there was another 2-year hiatus before the appearance of the final two episodes, “Koroshi” and “Shinda Shima,” which received limited release in January 1968. In fact, in the US and some parts of the UK they were not seen until their release on DVD decades later—further contributing to the confusion in people’s minds about the series.
These were the only entries to be shot in color, and were intended to transition the show to color production. Set in Japan, they are about a secret society devoted to the ancient Japanese “art of murder.” For some unexplained reason the secret brotherhood consisted almost entirely of white Europeans living in the Far East.
Then, abruptly, Danger Man was cancelled to make way for the production and broadcast of the star’s new series, The Prisoner. Like Danger Man, The Prisoner was made under the auspices of Lew Grade’s ITC, but with McGoohan as executive producer. As a consequence, “Koroshi” and “Shinda Shima” did not air in the UK until early 1968, when they were broadcast in some areas of the country as fill-ins for The Prisoner, which had fallen behind schedule.
In addition, ITC combined “Koroshi” and “Shinda Shima” with new linking shots and released the unified production as the European feature film Koroshi (1968), which made no reference to Danger Man.
It is often pointed out that McGoohan desired his hero not to use a gun, and this was usually the case. In an interview he stated: “I hardly ever use a gun in the series and any violence is as restrained as possible. I wanted Drake to be in the heroic mold—like a classic Western—which meant he had to be a good man.” Drake is a good man, a hero, which is his appeal. Nevertheless, as one fan humorously noted,
I have to wonder what “restrained violence” actually means, given that in “Koroshi/Shinda Shima” alone, there are deaths by poisonous gas, explosions, shooting with bow and arrows, booby-trapped cars, drowning and stabbing in the back. The hand-to-hand fighting includes every punch, jab and karate-chop you can think of, plus a good deal of kicking in the face, stomach and lumbar regions and not forgetting that good old standby, hurling your opponent through a closed window. Well, thank goodness the violence was restrained, I’d hate to think what mayhem might have ensued if they’d really got nasty!
In fact, one glaring feature of the vigorous fist and hand-to-hand fights that occurred in virtually every episode (the star, who was reportedly a boxer early in life, insisted each new fight be uniquely choreographed so that they would not look repetitive), is how Drake is able to dispose of his formidable foes, often several at one time, with a supposed knock-out punch or by hurling them through the air, after which they conveniently lie motionless, obviating any need for bullets. This detracts from realism, but not the sense of fun.
Ideologically, Danger Man is reasonably conservative. A preponderance of the shows feature Drake battling Communist, East bloc foes. In “The Sanctuary” (1960) he foils the IRA. “The Contessa” (1961) has an anti-cocaine theme. One of the top entries in the series, “A Man to be Trusted” (1964), features a black racist (anti-white)/Communist villain who is also the leader of a sinister West Indian voodoo cult. This episode also has one of the most flamboyant allies Drake ever worked with. If you look closely at the books behind Drake’s head in “Someone is Liable to Get Hurt” (1966), you’ll see English ecologist John Seymour’s autobiography On My Own Terms (1963).
Drake’s miniature tape recorder concealed in the head of an electric shaver
Other entries, though, have Drake assisting “democratic” (implicitly, Left-wing) non-white revolutionaries in Latin America, Africa, and elsewhere. One of the weakest episodes in the series, “Two Birds with One Bullet” (1966), is of this type. It was written by Jesse Lasky, Jr. and his wife Pat Silver. Lasky was the son of the powerful Jewish producer who co-founded Paramount Pictures.
“Fish on the Hook” (1964) has as its villain an evil Arab leader and its surprise “heroine” his wife, a sleeper agent for the Israeli terrorist group Haganah, who works independently with British intelligence whenever it suits Jewish interests. Viewers are expected to admire her for sexually cozying up to her future husband years earlier when he was a college professor and she was his pupil, anticipating that she would eventually be able to weasel her way into the inner circles of power in the hapless Arab country. (No, the writers and producers were not being slyly ironic.)
Another Judeo-centric entry is “Judgement Day” (1965), in which a Jewish death squad, one of whose members is a beautiful woman, sanctimoniously “tries” and executes a hunted German scientist accused of conducting medical experiments in the camps. It is ultimately philo-Semitic, though Drake initially offers weak resistance to the group’s vigilantism.
“Such Men Are Dangerous” (1965) has Drake and the British government battling a sinister group of wealthy right-wingers known as “The Order,” whose members Drake contemptuously describes as “bigoted” men with “dangerous ideas” and “too much money.” The young wife of the leader, who the General has rescued from the Glasgow slums, is played by lovely actress Georgina Ward, a real-life English aristocrat. This was one of many episodes written by series creator Ralph Smart.
“Whatever Happened to George Foster?” (1965) is anti-capitalist.
Rarely, though, is ideological axe-grinding so intrusive as to interfere with the enjoyment of the story. One exceptional entry, again written by series creator Ralph Smart, is “No Marks for Servility” (1964), in which Drake, undercover, must play the part of an impeccable, restrained manservant to a wealthy, frightening, psychologically bullying thug superbly portrayed by Howard Marion Crawford.
John Drake never romanced or kissed any women, as McGoohan was determined to create a family-friendly show. The actor denounced the sexual promiscuity of James Bond and The Saint, roles he was reportedly offered but turned down. Rather than simple Catholic prudery, as is usually implied, his unusual attitude may have reflected an instinctive sense that the delicate human reproductive boundary comprised of sex, marriage, childbearing, and family, is too important to be radically altered by a small band of culture mulchers in control of an overly-centralized and powerful mass medium that daily enters millions of homes worldwide.
Patrick McGoohan was married once, for 58 years, until his death in 2009. He and his wife had three daughters, one of whom, actress Catherine McGoohan, apparently married a Jew.
Danger Man & The Prisoner
The cult TV show The Prisoner (UK, ITV, 1967–1968) was, of course, Patrick McGoohan’s most famous work. He created the series, starred as the unnamed prisoner Number Six, wrote three episodes, and directed two. The highly allegorical program was comprised of 17 50-minute episodes, each self-contained but carrying the overall story forward. It was intentionally designed by McGoohan to last for just a short run.
McGoohan plays a resigned spy similar to John Drake, who is kidnapped, presumably by the government, and held prisoner in what appears to be a resort community called the Village run by a totalitarian administration. He attempts both to escape and bring down the administration, while the mysterious powers-that-be, in turn, are determined to extract “information” from him.
Danger Man and The Prisoner overlap to a certain degree.
At least 56 ITC actors and actresses apart from McGoohan appeared in both Danger Man and The Prisoner. Portmeirion, North Wales, the setting used in the The Prisoner, was originally used for location shooting and second unit footage in six episodes of the first Danger Man series. Indeed, “View from the Villa” (1960), the very first episode of Danger Man, though set fictionally in Italy, was shot on location at Portmeirion.
There is some dispute over the role played by German-born Jew George Markstein in the creation of The Prisoner. He is often described as the series’ co-creator. I think McGoohan’s role was certainly primary and Markstein’s secondary.
Markstein had served as the story editor for the last two episodes of Danger Man. (He had had no involvement with the series prior to that.) During that period, when Danger Man was winding down and McGoohan was developing The Prisoner, Markstein suggested that John Drake suddenly resign and be kidnapped and sent to a resort-like prison modeled loosely on Inverlair Lodge near Inverness, Scotland. McGoohan added Markstein’s suggestion to his own material.
One of the half-hour episodes of Danger Man was titled “The Prisoner” (1960). Far more telling are two episodes that unquestionably anticipate the subsequent series.
The first is “Colony Three” (1964). British intelligence learns that English Communists are disappearing to the East. To find out what is happening, Drake is substituted for a man about to defect. He is taken with a group of English Communists far behind the Iron Curtain to an eerie, picture-perfect replica of an English village called Hamden New Town. There, Russians who learn perfect English are taught to dress, act, and live exactly like Englishmen before being infiltrated into the country with fake IDs to blend into the local populace as long-term sleeper agents. (This seems very similar to the way Jews, consciously or unconsciously, infiltrate and take over Gentile societies.)
The genuine Brits, once having learned of the existence of Colony Three, will never be permitted to leave, though they do not know this beforehand. This premise is alluded to a couple of other times in the series, including in one of the two episodes personally directed by McGoohan, “To Our Best Friend” (1965), in which it is again explicitly referred to as “Colony Three.” (The other McGoohan-directed episode is “Vacation” .)
For then-and-now photos of South Hatfield, the real English town used in exterior location shots to represent Hamden New Town, see here.
The other anticipatory episode is “The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove” (1965). It is the only Danger Man episode that, like The Prisoner, is completely surreal—until the end, for Danger Man always ultimately makes sense. A disappointed contemporary viewer wrote to TV Times magazine: “I must say that I’ve never seen a programme so jumbled and difficult to follow in my life. This episode is far below the standard I normally expect.” My own note on the program read: “Didn’t like as much.” So I guess I agreed!
The door on the apartment here reads “#6”, and Drake owns a paperback copy of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novel From Russia, with Love, which he removes from the shelf and flips through. Desmond Llewellyn, “Q” from the James Bond films, plays the casino door man. Viewers of Danger Man will notice many familiar faces from the early Bond films. Danger Man’s film editor, John Glen, later directed five James Bond movies, more than any other director to date.
George Markstein served as story editor for the first 13 episodes of The Prisoner, an influential position in any television series, co-wrote the first episode, and made a fleeting appearance in the opening credits of virtually every show as the balding, bespectacled “man behind the desk” to whom McGoohan angrily tenders his resignation. Markstein played the same non-speaking role in the episode “Many Happy Returns.”
Markstein’s view of The Prisoner was for a more-or-less conventional action/espionage story. However, because McGoohan, whose vision was radically different, controlled the series as Executive Producer and owner of Everyman Films, Markstein became increasingly dissatisfied and ultimately left the program. McGoohan and Markstein ended up with tremendous bad blood between them. Anyone interested in The Prisoner should read the online transcript of a television interview Markstein gave in 1984. He is very iconoclastic and perceptive, and by no means devoid of humor:
My feeling is that McGoohan wasn’t really very keen on doing any other series [after Danger Man]. What he really wanted to do I think was to play Brand. He’d had an enormous success some years previously on the stage with Ibsen’s “Brand” and Brand personifies everything I think McGoohan would like to be: God! He was very good as God, so he wanted to play Brand . . . again. He was very very keen to set up “Brand” as a film and I think that was really what he wanted to do.
I agree with many of Markstein’s observations, but not with his key notion of what the “deep” meaning of The Prisoner was: that “we’re all prisoners” in the sense he suggests, which is merely trite. The exploration of totalitarian themes that Markstein disparages is in fact the point of the series.
Nevertheless, Markstein was doubtless a steadying influence on McGoohan, keeping the allegorical series grounded. It is extremely easy for an experimental program like that to float off into space, buoyed by its own gas. It was after Markstein’s departure that McGoohan took the series to its most surreal levels in the final four episodes, including the bizarre and unsatisfying finale, “Fall Out.” Markstein contemptuously referred to later episodes as “the rubbish that happened later on.”
Also disputed is whether Number 6 is really John Drake of Danger Man. If the producers had explicitly used the Drake character they would have had to pay series creator Ralph Smart royalties, which they were loath to do. Given the different objectives of the two series, there is a sense in which Number Six clearly is not John Drake. On the other hand, it is not credible to suggest that there is no relationship whatsoever. At the very least Number Six is a Drake Doppelgänger. Indeed, as far as Danger Man and Prisoner story editor George Markstein was concerned, Number Six was John Drake. He said so explicitly.
Jane Merrow (real name Meirowsky, the daughter of a Jewish father and English mother), an actress who played a cute, dedicated Communist in two Danger Man episodes, assessed The Prisoneron her blog in 2009 as “a completely mystical series” that was “to a large extent incomprehensible.” “Patrick never fully explained the series and left it to so many ‘intellectuals’ to explain it. But they never did.”
Insofar as Danger Man is concerned, McGoohan was pleased with the result. During its run he told an interviewer:
I enjoy playing the role, though when it was put to me I was a little worried about doing it. It is very difficult on a TV series to maintain a high standard of production. But I’m sure we have done so. Teamwork is so obviously important in a series, and we do have a marvelous team. The scripts are of a very high standard. I think the impression we give is that we enjoy ourselves. Well, we do! Each story is filmed in fourteen days. The pressures are great, but we’ve survived!
And two months before his death in January 2009 he summed up his feelings in a letter to a fan: “In old age (80), there are many happy memories of those years with a wonderful crew working together on a series that turned out quite well.”
“I’ve often wondered what happens to people when they get out of prison. People like you, I mean. Can they get jobs, do old friends rally around them? What if they never had any friends?” – Dial ‘M’ for Murder
No sooner had I hit “send” on my review of Only Lovers Left Alive, than a new release from Ann Sterzinger’s estimable Hopeless Books appeared in my inbox. What seemed coincident was that in the former I briefly reminisced about the old days of EPs, one of those cheap, small time formats where serendipity often meets economy, such as the swapped cassettes of the noise and metal undergrounds.
And here, I was faced with something calling itself a “split single,” like a 45 shared by two different bands, comprising a short story by Emril Krestle and a novella by Paul Bingham. There were also instructions, as if it had arrived from the Impossible Mission Force or perhaps Cigarette Smoking Man, suggesting, with an air of extreme prejudice, that I forgo the prompting of nature and “read the novella first.”
How perverse! How à rebours! And yet, how appropriate, for a devotee of my fellow Detroiter, and sometime Doppelgänger, Thomas Ligotti, and one of the leading voices of the anti-natalist movement. I hear, and obey!
And so, first, the largest part of this “split kindle single,” a new story from Paul Bingham, whose collection Down Where the Devil Don’t Go was reviewed here last year. In that review I stated my opinion that
The longer stories being the more successful, one wishes Bingham would . . . devote himself more to the pleasures of what Henry James called “the dear, the blessed nouvelle” [and thereby] giving the author more time to get us into and interested in these dark worlds and their less welcome inhabitants.
Someone, surely not God, was listening, and so we now have Bingham’s novella, Save the Last Bullet for Me, which does indeed take the time to really get us into those dark worlds and less welcome inhabitants.
Hence, my quote from Dial ‘M’ for Murder. I have, indeed, wondered what happens to people when they get out of prison; people like that. Bingham asks a slightly different question, which I think is almost entirely new, at least to me: what happens to people before they get into prison? I mean, in that curious period between conviction and actual slamming of the door.
So we are introduced to one Jackson, a hereditary loser even among the white trash class.
He was the product of two characters out of a drinking song, and life, growing up, had been about keeping breath inside him, while they were haunting bars across the county line or sweeping out jail cells.
“Remember, you’re never gonna amount to anything, anyhow – so don’t be blamin’ the bottle on that and thinkin’ Alcoholics Anonymous is gonna improve you. You just kill yourself with the bottle like a real man. The scared fellows are the ones who die of breathing.”
We meet him just after his conviction for child molestation, which of course he had nothing to do with; he says. Does Jackson have friends? Do they rally around? Well, he has friends like these:
“You think I fucked those boys in the ass, don’t you?”
“No. See, I was there in the courtroom. Jason said you fucked him in the ass and blew his brother. That’s fucked, and I know you ain’t that fucked.”
With such an outstanding reputation, it’s no surprise that the pre-prison Jackson begins to get . . . offers, shall we say, of various little jobs he could help take care of, from the FBI itselfon down, since he has nothing better to do or hope for.
They all came around eventually. Friendly, insinuating, speaking in hushed reverent voices of the future souls they wanted elsewhere.
Even Jackson is a bit taken aback:
“You want me to do what? Why would you offer me that? Why would I do that? The authorities are gonna wanna know why, right?”
In fact, though, he’s all up for it; well, as Burroughs would say, “Wouldn’t you?”
“I’m gonna kill you so I can go to the pen knowin’ I was guilty of something.”
“Tomorrow you’ll be burnin’ in hell and I’ll be in that fucking jail cell, without air conditioning, again. Lotta shit to look forward to. I’ll know why they wanna kill me now, or fell okay with it at least.”
In Dial ‘M’, Wendice (Ray Milland) is going to blackmail Swan (Anthony Dawson) into murdering Mrs. Wendice (Grace Kelly). Here, the blackmail has already been applied, by the State. As I’ve characterized the theme common to both Lovecraft and Evola, the worst has already happened, and there’s nothing you can do about it. 
Jackson finally gets an offer he can’t refuse: an old benefactor wants him to kill a fellow dirtbag, female class– the mentally deficient Leeann — so as to bring her to justice after evading jail for killing his son, Bailey: 
“Justice, I figure, is somethin’ you gotta take. It ain’t bein’ handed out on silver plates, no more. Never was probly.”
But while dealing with what Tarrantino would call The Leeann Situation, circumstances – which I’ll let the reader discover for himself, but suffice to say the community seems overstocked with inter-related child molesters, even for Redneckville – lead Jackson to decide there’s more justice needing to be meted out, and he heads back to town.
Or does he?
Nobody seemed to notice a guy with two rifles, limping down the highway. Jackson began to wonder if he was really there.
At this point, it seems like Bingham has been reading Andy Nowicki, or else Hopeless Books now has a house style. Up pops The Watcher, another wraith-like character à la the lucidly dreaming loser of Nowicki’s Beauty and the Least.
The Watcher may, in fact, be William Burroughs:
“Who are you, man?”
“Man, yeah. An errant junkie, just passing through. You may have heard of me. I majored in symbolism at Harvard. Then I got a grant and popularized burning down libraries across the country as art for the safe of art, until they caught on.”
Jackson’s ensuing adventures are a kind of blood-drenched Magic Theater, a tour of the Western Lands under the guidance of el hombre invisible himself. I must confess, I rather missed our grittier, down-home visit with Jackson and his fellow small town glue huffers, but Bingham’s way with language keeps you going on.
Some lines are worthy of Chandler himself:
“He likes to live in a nutshell. All complete, but can’t hit back, when the world starts cracking.”
A politician, mouthing lines fed to him from an earpiece, praises mass immigration:
“That’s the future. It’s promising, hopeful, and black.”
The “new model A3 anchorette” delivers the TV news:
This one had [eyes] of a purposeful reptile – a serpent with foregone conclusions.
Read after Bingham, Kestle’s “short story” — I’ll explain the scare quotes in a moment — “Twilights” does have a curious effect. As the plural might indicate, it’s less a short story than a series of prose poems. I think some bad guys are wandering in some kind of posthumous vampiric fate, what with all the bats and blood and such, but I may be wrong. If read beforehand, I’m not sure what one would make of it. If read after, it seems to indeed function, retrospectively, as a kind of impressionistic overture to the novella. If that seems too vertiginous, then consider it as a kind of dessert, or a palate-cleansing slice of ginger after the nihilistic meat of Bingham’s novella.
This “split single” is recommended for anyone who wants to see if the abyss really will stare back.
 “Wild in the Streets of Sleepy London Town,” here.
 When Burroughs’ Junky was first published (as Junkie) by Ace Books, the publisher hedged its bets, financially and legally, by publishing it back-to-front (“69’d, so to speak” recalled Ginsberg) with the memoirs of a drug agent. Burroughs was “appalled,” but years later admitted that the latter book was actually pretty interesting. See Junky: 50th Anniversary Definitive Edition (New York: Penguin, 2003), pp. xxviii, 157.
 See “A final attempt to get my braincrush on Ligotti out of my system,” here.
 See “Anti-Life Fiction: Ann Sterzinger’s NVSQVAM (nowhere) by Andy Nowicki, here.
 In Junky, one of Burroughs pals gets busted and asks him for bail money; Burroughs gives him cigarettes to use in prison: “If a man’s going to do time, he might as well started toing it.”
 “Suddenly, we’re dropped into a cringe-comedy story about getting arrested for dropping a deuce on the unsuspecting heads of Cub Scouts through the open roof of their father’s fancy car. ‘That’s where it all went off the rails,’ McGill hollers, ‘and I’ve been paying for it ever since!’” Recap of the season finale of Better Call Saul, Rolling Stone, here.
 “All the way to the F….B…..IIIIII” – Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Silence of the Lambs. One also recalls the government spook in Andy Nowicki’s Under The Nihil, reviewed here and in The Eldritch Evola … & Others (San Francisco: Counter-currents, 2014).
 I am reminded of the half-assed plan concocted by criminal “mastermind” Mr. Tucker (Ed Platt) in equally half-assed B picture The Rebel Set (1959). As he explains to his stooge, Sidney (Ned Glass), by employing down and out losers (“you’re not beat, your beaten!”) he “excites [their] sleeping ambition,” making them more loyal and dedicated than hired hands. Needless to say, things fail spectacularly. Platt and Glass would reappear (though not in the same scene) that same year in the big budget Technicolor of North by Northwest, directed by Dial ‘M’ ’s Hitchcock. Grant’s performance in North is arguably the model for the film Bond; Anthony Dawson, Dial ‘M’ ’s Swan, will reappear as the assassin that Bond shoots in the back in Dr. No, establishing his “ruthlessness,” and also will be the hands and voice of the unseen Blofeld in the series, until the producers decided on the iconic Dr. Evil look. As for Platt, he’s more familiar for another role: the Chief on Get Smart.
 See the title essay collected in The Eldritch Evola.
 One can’t help but think of Bailey Chastain (or “Corporal Justine” to the MST3k boys), left for dead at the Bay of Pigs, whose uranium mine is final, doomed goal of the three murderous hoboes in Red Zone Cuba (Coleman Francis, 1964); I guess I don’t hang out with many white trash types. The FBI stakeout reminds the MST3k boys of Max and Hymie from Get Smart.
 “That’s what the niggers don’t realize. If I got one thing against the black chappies, it’s this – no one gives it to you. You have to take it.” – Frank Costello (Jack [Nichol]son), The Departed, here; a movie I found to be a useful key to Nowicki’s Nihil, loc. cit.
 The SPLC lawyer says it’s “Utterly weird shit . . . But you know, it’s pretty much business as usual for white trash.”
 Hopeless Books, 2014; see my review here.
 “Why are we here? We are here to go.” – Brion Gysin
 Though the protagonist of The Da Vinci Code purports to be a “Professor of Symbology” at Harvard, there is of course no such thing. Burroughs, describing his stay at Harvard in the Prologue to Junky, says he met “some rich homosexuals, of the international queer set who cruise around the world, bumping into each other in queer joints from New York to Cairo. I saw a way of life, a vocabulary, references, a whole symbol system, as the sociologists say.”
 This Joycean strategy seems increasingly common in alt-Right literature; in my review of Rachel Haywire’s The New Reaction that in the first chapter “terse becomes deliberately poetic and allusive, a sort of overture in the spirit of the Blazes Boylan section of Ulysses, and it will make more (any) sense after the more prosaic parts.” See “It’s Trad, Dad!” here.
“Have you been hearing some weird stories recently? About telepathy, the fourth dimension, or GHOSTS?”
NYRB Classics started off seeming like a nice little boutique imprint that would “rescue” lost classics that proudly never stood a chance at best-seller status, like the works of Frederick Rolfe (Hadrian the Seventh), J. R. Ackerley (My Dog Tulip), or Raymond Roussell, as selected by individual die-hard fans of taste and equal eccentricity.
As the backlist has grown, it seems like it’s become just another publisher of paperback reprints. Among the New York-promoted PC-slush and unreadably massive Cold War-era novels by no doubt worthy East Europeans with unknown and unpronounceable names, there’s still much to thank them for preserving in print, such as the novels of Kingsley Amis, Ernst Jünger’s The Glass Bees, or 1950s PC-confounding Catholic curmudgeon J. F. Powers.
Along the way, they’ve produced at least one somewhat half-hearted anthology of “weird fiction,” The Color out of Space: Tales of Cosmic Horror by Lovecraft, Blackwood, Machen, Poe, and Other Masters of the Weird (2002, with cover by Charles Burns) — to their credit, long before the “King in Yellow” fad — and now comes this collection of two novellas (as readers know, my favorite format) of “cosmic horror” by William Sloane.
Sloane’s name seemed hard to place but somewhat familiar, but on prompting I did recall him as an editor and indeed a publisher himself. Along the way, early in his career, he published these short novels, To Walk the Night (1937) and The Edge of Running Water (1939). In addition to Stephen King, who provides the Introduction here, fans have included Robert Bloch, who put To Walk the Night among his top ten favorite horror novels, and Michael Moorcock, who put the same title in his Fantasy: The Best 100 Books.
Here’s NYRB’s own rather lame synopsis:
In the 1930s, William Sloane wrote two brilliant novels that gave a whole new meaning to cosmic horror. In To Walk the Night, Bark Jones and his college buddy Jerry Lister, a science whiz, head back to their alma mater to visit a cherished professor of astronomy. They discover his body, consumed by fire, in his laboratory, and an uncannily beautiful young widow in his house — but nothing compares to the revelation that Jerry and Bark encounter in the deserts of Arizona at the end of the book. In The Edge of Running Water, Julian Blair, a brilliant electrophysicist, has retired to a small town in remotest Maine after the death of his wife. His latest experiments threaten to shake up the town, not to mention the universe itself.
The first seems to promise some kind of Tom Swift adventure, while the second suggests a Universal horror film — and indeed, Edge was made into a Boris Karloff vehicle, The Devil Commands (1941), complete with deformed servant.
Walk certainly starts off very Tom Swifty, with two old college pals driving to the homecoming game and stopping off for a pre-PC picnic that involves Mad Man era amounts of alcohol before setting off on the road again. I couldn’t help but think of a rather similar scene early in Brideshead Revisited, and the same note of old time, “two swell chaps” kind of homoeroticism continues in the next chapter, when we find our boys have set up housekeeping in Greenwich Village.
After the Big Game, they decide to look in on their old Professor Lenormand, whose natural proclivities are relentlessly described:
He wasn’t the sort of man who gets married ordinarily.
Many a time Jerry had commented on the fact that LeNormand had utterly no use for women.
I can’t think of a thing that would make him want to surrender his . . . his freedom.
He had no more use for women than the Sultan’s right-hand man.
Alas, the Professor is not only now married, but has been reduced to a hideously and inexplicably charred corpse. These very un-Bridesheadian turn of events only leads me to associate the boys, who of course are initially suspects, with the jaunty, murderous college pals of Rope, who provide a better fit with the Long Island estate setting of the narrative.
For we learn that one of the pals, “Bark,” has been semi-adopted by the rich father of the other, Jerry, thus providing the wealthy backdrop authors find so convenient. Not that Bark is an orphan, really, just that is mother is the sort of Auntie Mame character that has no time for children, being, well, so “gay.”
Grace is a wonderful woman who was simply not designed by God to be a mother. She is gay and charming, still looks only about thirty, dances superbly, dresses in the most flawless taste, has a notable flair for interior decoration, reads a lot more books than you’d suspect, and lives the ideal life for her with [second husband, Fred, who never appears in the narrative].
Grace’s lightly gay efforts (most of her efforts were lightly gay, but generally they were effective) . . .
Grace’s light, gay voice . . .
One really thinks this is a perhaps unconscious attempt to divert attention from the ambiguously gay protagonists.
But it was all very gay — gayer than any time I spent with Selena either before or afterward.
Of course, I know it “didn’t mean that back then” but it is interesting to see how naturally the author falls into the word; and a rebuke those curmudgeons who insist “They ruined a perfectly good word” — well, why was the word “gay” rather than, say, “jolly” or “neat-o”?
Another such word is “alien,” which gets us to another slight problem here. Between the “alien visitors” meme, and the SJW’s relegation of “alien” to the PC scrapheap, the modern reader won’t really find Sloane’s occasional use of the word to be “clue” so much as confirmation of what he already suspects. There’s no real point in talking about “spoilers” here because the modern reader is apt to figure things out right quick.
Moreover, Constant Readers of our own work will pick up a number of additional clues that derive from an archetypal or at least genre-dependent tradition. Most emphatically, there is the constant reference to Selena’s beauty, which is, however, of such perfection as to be, well, alien, and even downright frightening, and not just to the ambiguously gay.
I am afraid of beautiful women.
“If it were perfect,” I said to her quickly, “it would not be beautiful.”
A small imperfection of tone or accent that would have made it the voice of a person.
She was standing at the curb in the electric twilight of a New York street at night, straight, tall, and beautiful, so that it made my throat ache to look at her, and I hated her and was afraid of her.
An even more telling clue is her smile: 
She seldom laughed, but she did have a silent sense of humor of some sort. At intervals she would give a silent, almost secret smile that told me she was relishing something to herself.
. . . smiled that odd smile of hers.
. . . smiled that odd smile of hers [again].
And finally, and most remarkably, for someone whose walk “seemed to me heavy and slipshod, as though she did not care how clumsily she placed her feet, she, like gay old Grace, “dances superbly.”
I had not danced with Selena before, and the moment I began I knew it was going to be an experience. My expectation had been that we’d have a difficult time together on a dance floor. There was too much constraint between us and an antagonism of character we both recognized. In addition, she was very tall, and yet, she danced as no woman I have ever met. . . . I could not think of her any longer as a woman. Instead, it seemed to me that my arm was around the moving shape of the music itself. . . . I remember thinking that this was the first time dancing had ever seemed to me an art. . . . When the music stopped there were scattered hand claps from the spectators and I discovered that we had been left almost alone on the floor. . . . “Fella,” I told [Jerry], “this girl of yours can dance.
Wherever she came from, she had been educated in an atmosphere of objective intellectuality, and her interests molded in ways unlike those of most other women. Then I would remember the way she danced, and not be so sure.
Why dancing should be such an identifying feature will be clear to Constant Readers who recall our discussion of Clifton Webb’s character Mr. Belvedere as an avatar of Krishna:
“Mr. Belvedere, you dance divinely!”
“Yes, yes I do.”
Making your female protagonist an autistic/alien/time-traveler/freak of nature is certainly one way to overcome one of the main strikes against the genre, or boys’ story, writer: how to portrait a female character. Lovecraft, whose ideas of romance make Sheldon Cooper seem like Casanova, simply avoided the issue altogether.
“This is what my people lack.”
Her mind was learning from her body. It takes mind and body both to make a soul. Living with Jerry taught her something of what it means to be a human being.
Although this kind of thing would become a staple of Star Trek and sub-Star Trek sci-fi, but it hints at an important point about the necessarily embodied nature of intelligence that Heidegger and phenomenologists in general would make, with only a little success, against the Sheldon Coopers of “hard AI” research.
Speaking of “my people,” this is the closest we get to a clue about where Selena comes from. We never do learn the exact nature of Selena — alien visitor, human time-traveler, freak of nature? — or her mission, if any, despite a last minute appearance to confront and confirm the narrator’s suspicions; she just walks away, and we later learn that her idiot Doppelgänger has simply taken up where she left off. I suppose this is in the service of the inexplicability that evokes “cosmic horror” but the reader feels a bit gypped. Lovecraft, who was second to none in denouncing “all too human” attempts to portray alien civilizations and cosmic forces, was no slouch in providing fascinating faux-histories and lineages for his “inconceivably other” races; perhaps that’s why his work stayed in print.
Perhaps this is the point to address a typically dopey remark by King in his Introduction: what Joshi calls “the long-held belief that Lovecraft was wholly lacking in humour.” Joshi long ago refuted this idea, pointing out that while Lovecraft did say “I don’t care for humour as an ingredient of the weird tale—in fact, I think it is a definitely diluting element.”
It is clear that the type of humour to which Lovecraft refers is certainly not the “sardonic comedy and graveyard humour” (“Supernatural Horror in Literature”) that he obviously enjoyed in Ambrose Bierce, but the humour where the author is merely laughing genially at his horrors rather than taking them seriously—the type of humour encountered in Wilde’s “The Canterville Ghost.” One gets the impression that Lovecraft regarded such humour as disrespectful of the dignity of the weird tale—an unseemly kind of mockery. He himself certainly used humour; but his humour is neither genial nor that of the grave—it is that of the abyss.
Having reached the abyss, let’s turn back to Sloane and the second novella, Edge of Running Water. It’s more of the same, so if you liked the first novella, you’ll feel you’re getting your money’s worth; if not, then ennui may set in. Having, perhaps, taken Grantland Rice as his model, Sloane uses his thesaurus to vary the “gay” language with “queer” this time:
“The inside of your mind must be a queer place.”
“No wonder,” she said slowly, “that he’s so queer now.”
One word struck me sharply. “Queer?” I said. “What do you mean by queer?”
“That there’s something queer about Elora, too?
“It seems kinda queer to me . . .”
“They seem like kinda queer people to us here in Barsham.”
“They bein’ queer, let’s say, and it bein’ queer that Elora Marcy would walk into the river off her own field, there’s some will make a connection.”
Sure and be nothing as queer as folks, now is there? Just as in the first novella our narrator feels the need to distance he and his buddy from Leopold and Loeb, here the narrator avers “Not that I have the tender sensibilities of an interior decorator.”
We get all kinds here: queer brainy types, like our smarty pants protagonists, queer inbred types like the hostile townsfolk, and queer-looking ladies as well.
Like last time, there’s the disturbing looking woman, this time with the emphasis on repulsion rather than beauty, and definitely the villain.
I told myself that all she amounted to was a fat hulk of a woman, no longer young, in a shapeless sack of a dress and with a ruin of a face.
And yet, the trouble was that here was something not quite normal—a woman with an old, sagging, lined face who deliberately let the hard harshness of morning daylight play on her face.
The nub of the matter was that she ought to have been ridiculous and she wasn’t.
And yet, there was something about her that was close to magnificence.
But we also get an unpleasant note of what I’ve called liberal psychogeography; a very early example of the switch from the urban/evil and rural/pure polarity to urban/smart and rural/crude. Sloane extends the Lovecraftian meme of a pocket of degeneracy hidden way from sturdy Nordic normality to the entirety of the Maine countryside, implicitly inverting the Lovecratian/Jeffersonian sturdy yeoman to inbred hick:
This was not the city, I reminded myself.
Those eyes were not logical or reasonable. There was intelligence behind them—plenty of it, perhaps—but not the kind of intelligence to which I was accustomed.
“We ain’t so int’rested as all that in city people,” he observed. “I wouldn’t mind a particle if I never seen another.”
“That’s the way they are around here,” she observed. “They don’t like strangers. At least, they don’t like us.” “It’s just the old New England reticence.” She looked doubtful. “Probably. Only . . . well, let’s not talk about that now.”
“I loathe the people in the town, and the way they look at us. You’d think we were gangsters in a hide-out.”
“I can see you’re not from this part of the world,” she said and then added, “either of you.”
“But I should be careful if I were you, all of you. The people here are different from the ones you’re probably accustomed to. They’ll blame you for what’s happened.”
They wouldn’t be easy to reason with.
In thinking it would simplify things at all I was reasoning from an abysmal ignorance of Barsham Harbor and the way its people thought and felt.
A local cab driver, like the station agent in The Shadow over Innsmouth, serves to introduce the simmering evil of The Locals:
The scorn and contempt he managed to make vocal in that short noise drove me to Julian’s defense.
“And the others might not take kindly to the idea of havin’ one of those things in these parts, anyhow.”
I called this an early example, because the shift, of course, is part of the increasing urbanization of postwar America, as well as the entirely coincidental rise to dominance of a Certain Tribe, which has striven mightily to remake Nordic Yeoman America into something more heimlich:
Never, in the most unfamiliar parts of Europe, had I felt so alien as I did there in that Maine courtroom.
Here even the sheriff, unlike the noir-ish detective of Walks, is more of a dangerous rural buffoon as found in all those post-Texas Chainsaw rural danger films, epitomized by Capt. Spaulding in House of a 1000 Corpses.
But the real problem here is that Sloane’s object of horror is the now rather dated idea of a radio to talk with the dead. Worse, no sooner had the idea started to be hinted at than I cold not help but recall the dreadful Z-movie The Dead Talk Back, especially as it opens with the unforgettably awful monologue of Dr. Henry Krasker:
The . . . real showcase in The Dead Talk Back, however, is Aldo Farnese’s turn as the showy paranormal criminologist. . . . Instead of The Amazing Criswell’s zealous vigilance over a UFO cover up, Farnese delivers a full retread of Victorian era spiritualism, complete with a demonstration of a modern take on the 19th Century safety coffin and a “scientific” radio that can tune into the voices of spirits!
Krasker’s radio to the dead, however, looks like a crumpled ball of tinfoil glued onto a skillet. This is connected to an electric stove top mounted on a wall. Impressive technology, but I wouldn’t advise the otherworldly equivalent of holding one’s breath waiting for this thing to work.
To be fair, the device here is much more interesting; though it’s still a kind of electronic version of a séance table, it does have the creepy feature of copper wire twisted into human shapes and sitting along the table.
“Good God, Julian,” I said, “When you duplicate a séance, you duplicate it. This looks like a Black Mass in a futurist play.”
Nevertheless, just as with Edge of Running Water,
[Though f]ilmed just two years before both Plan 9’s release and The Twilight Zone hitting the air, it’s hard to tell if Krasker’s smug talk is due to an outdated script, too late for its 1930s spiritualist audience, or if it’s brilliantly prescient of the “scientific” paranormal film trend that would begin exactly two decades later with Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) and end with Prince of Darkness (1987).
And therein lies the problem. “Spoilers” aside, once the reader cons to the to-be-revealed “horror” and shrugs his shoulders, all the piling up of detail, especially sans the unique Lovecraft vocabulary (also mocked in King’s Introduction) and backstory, fails to increase the sense of dread and only becomes, well, piling up of detail. Both novellas seem over-written for the meagre punch they deliver.
King correctly notes that Sloane is attempting to combine — or transcend — several genres, one of which is the detractive story. Both stories, in fact, provide us with unusual defective characters — one a hard boiled investigator worthy of Raymond Chandler, the other a Miss Marple-ish spinster-sister of the town sheriff who “just” helps out with the notes but otherwise works as a secretary in the Psychology department “at Cambridge” (not sure if that’s the British university or the way a downeasterner would refer to Harvard); both are by far the most interesting things on offer, and one wonders if Sloane would have been better off writing just the stories as detective yarns.
Sloane’s ambition though was larger, as Burke notes:
[T]hese are works of cosmic horror, but they’re certainly more than that. They’re mysteries wrapped in the garments of science fiction with well-placed dashes of the fantastical that challenge the kind of positivism that would generally confine a science fiction piece. Sloane is concerned largely with exploring the nature of our limits of knowledge and mining terror from the edges at which the weird threatens to intrude.
Using the Weird to challenge the positivist limits imposed on us by the elites, scientific and otherwise, is certainly right up my alley. Indeed, there are hints of some of my favorite Traditionalist themes, such as the puppet:
I thought how puppetlike we had all been, moving around at the ends of our strings while Mrs. Walters pulled them.
And the Guénonian fabric of the universe:
A mechanical, arbitrary rent in the warp and woof of the fabric of the physical universe.
Alas, Time itself, like gin, rum and destiny, has played its own funny trick,  and Sloane’s work — at least, these two examples — seems less terrifying now than cozily nostalgic.
[T]hey’re also wonderful period pieces, written for an age when local sheriffs could employ their spinster sister to take notes longhand while they interrogated suspects, and well-to-do families had the means to employ manservants to help them dress for dinner.
It would be wrong to leave the impression that Sloane isn’t capable of some great local prose effects: here we find a couple hints of a kind of hauntology:
By a sort of casual introspection I tried to find out what, specifically, it was that bothered me. The house, for one thing, I decided— if you are not used to dark, cold rooms with a single candle for light the experience is a strange one, belonging to our ancestors’ ordinary routine of life, perhaps, but not to that of a modern city dweller. And Mrs. Walters. I did not like her, or the dark that had settled over the house—Julian ought not to have such a woman around and why hadn’t he put electric lights into the rooms since he had wired in the power? The lamp in the kitchen and the candle in this room were separate islands of light and there were too many shadows between them. I thought of the hall outside my door and it seemed to me that there might be someone in it, but when I looked out it was empty and silent. I thought of the shadowy living room, of the river water noiselessly running and running, almost under the sills of its windows. A hundred years and more this house had stood here, alone on the Point. A hundred years of sun and storm, of winters and summers, of dark and light. It was old, but it was not its age that gave me the tight feeling I had in the pit of my stomach.
Perhaps, if I had been superstitious, I would have been inclined to give more weight to that project of his. The house would have been “haunted” by its presence and the potential presence of the myriads of voices that were supposed to speak through it. But they weren’t there. Of that I felt sure. Just as it was self-evident that a physical machine could not be expected to produce a nonphysical result.
Or this, a meditation on the personal psychology of fear that Raymond Chandler might have put into the mind of Philip Marlowe (without that “substratum” bit):
[L]ike a man walking down an unfamiliar street in a strange city, late at night, with a vague substratum of uneasiness in his mind. He does not say to himself, “Maybe I am going to get held up and beaten in this place.” He simply feels uneasy. But if he sees the shadow of a man shouldered back in a doorway his fear rushes together like wind to the heart of a cyclone. It fastens itself on that figure and embodies itself with its image. My fear seemed to have no such focal point; it colored the rest of my thoughts but it had no shape of its own.
Nevertheless, the overall effect is that of a period piece; and while that was hardly Sloane’s intention, these two novellas are still worthy of the attention of those, like many readers of Counter-Currents, who feel more at home in the past; even, perhaps especially, what we might call the Weird Past.
1. Dr. Henry Krasker, The Dead Talk Back (Merle Gould, 1957; released 1996), the relevance of which shall soon be revealed.
2. For more on Rolfe, see my “E-Caviar for the Masses!” here.
3. “The NYRB Classics series is dedicated to publishing an eclectic mix of fiction and non-fiction from different eras and times and of various sorts. The series includes nineteenth century novels and experimental novels, reportage and belles lettres, tell-all memoirs and learned studies, established classics and cult favorites, literature high, low, unsuspected, and unheard of. NYRB Classics are, to a large degree, discoveries, the kind of books that people typically run into outside of the classroom and then remember for life.” Publisher’s website, here.
4. In fairness, another county heard from: ““Overall the collection is faultless. Once you have discovered the series it’s as if you’ve just gained an incredibly well-read friend who consistently lends you obscure yet highly enjoyable books…. Collecting them can become compulsive.” —Vogue, although I’m not sure when; this and more good press here.
5. Morte D’Urban is a delightful dip back into the lost world of pre-Vatican II American Catholicism, when Chicago was the center or the universe, and celebrity priests rode luxury trains throughout the Midwest, stayed in luxury hotels, and wined and dined – and were wined and dined by – high rolling potential donors and converts, while treating the indigenous Protestant masses with aristocratic contempt. In Powers’ final irony, when God humbles high-rolling Fr. Urban – with an arrant golf ball, he acquires spiritual wisdom but become useless to the Church.
6. Which did not stop them from printing a new version with the Biercean title Shadows of Carcosa: Tales of Cosmic Horror by Lovecraft, Chambers, Machen, Poe, and Other Masters of the Weird (2015). For more on the Carcosa Cult, see Christopher Pankhurst’s “True Detective & The Conspiracy Against the Human Race,” here.
7. The way the scene is depicted on the cover of a not too vintage paperback, here, reminds me of the way Freddy Lounds is delivered by the Tooth Fairy in Michael Mann’s Manhunter, here.
8. As the murder investigation starts, Bark needs to point out that “neither of us has any Leopold and Loeb tendencies,” which of course only prompts the reader to ask: Any?
9. James Woods delivers a narrative about a charred corpse from his Long Island estate in Segrio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America; see my “Essential Films … & Others,” here.
10. From Berkeley, which the butler (of course there’s a butler) “pronounces in the English manner.” The author of Rope, Patrick Hamilton, also wrote Berkeley Square. “Bark” suggests “Fido,” the nickname given to the similar human narrator of Odd John, whose titular character resembles, as we’ll see, Selena ; see “The Wild Boys Smile: Reflections on Olaf Stapledon’s Odd John” and “From Odd John to Strangelove” reprinted in my Green Nazis In Space! (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2015).
11. See my “Anti-Mame: Communist Camp Classic Unmasked,” here.
12. Superman, the “strange visitor from another world,” would make his debut in 1938, right between the two novellas.
13. For some meditations on beauty so unearthly as to be ugly, and vice versa, as well as the uncanny smile, see “The Wild Boys Smile: Reflections on Olaf Stapledon’s Odd John” and “From Odd John to Strangelove,” op. cit.
14. Appropriately, Webb himself starred as a dancer on Broadway before coming to Hollywood to portray the ambiguously gay Waldo in Laura; on the dance as the symbol of the avatar, see “The Babysitiing Bachelor as Aryan Avatar: Clifton Webb in Sitting Pretty,” here. In Rope, Mrs. Kently, an amateur astrologer (unlike the incinerated astronomer of our tale), debates the merits of some of Hitchcock’s actors: “I didn’t like the new girl much. Definitely Scorpio.” “No, I didn’t like her either, but her clothes were fabulous.” “Simply divine!” “Absolute heaven!” “But I have a confession to make. Do you know, I think I like Mason as much as Errol Flynn?” “I’ll take Cary Grant, myself.” “Oh, so will I. Capricorn, the goat. He leaps, divine!”
15. Arthur Case: You’re so profoundly sad. Betty Draper: No. It’s just my people are Nordic.” (Mad Men: “The Benefactor”(#2.3; 2008). Cf. my recent collection End of An Era: Mad Men and the Ordeal of Civility (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2015), where this occurs as a epigraph to the collection.
16. “He learned almost too late that man is a feeling creature… and because of it, the greatest in the universe.” – Dr. Paul Nelson, It Conquered the World (Roger Croman, 1956; TVTropes suggests a better title would have been “It Duped A Bitter Idiot, Conquered Something Like Five People, And Knocked Out The Power For A While.”) This is known as a Patrick Stewart Speech, also known as a Kirk Summation, “World of Cardboard” Speech, and Intrigued by Humanity. Contrast Shut Up, Kirk! and Shaming the Mob. Compare So Bad, It’s Good. Astro-Zombies may top them all; as Jabootu remarks: “And really, that about says it. Oh, except for the Hero’s Obligatory Final Philosophical Declaration on the Meaning of It All. And thus the film ends with Porter musing, ‘There’s one basic element of human life that can never be removed: emotions.’ Dude, you have just officially blown my mind.”
17. See Hubert Dreyfus, What Computers Still Can’t Do. John A. Schumacher (D. Phil, Oxon), one of my teachers at Rensselaer Polytechnic, once observed that “I don’t care if computers can think, I want to know if they can fuck.”
18. In addition to Odd John, she also recalls, of course, the female idiot/savant in Theodore Sturgeon’s More than Human.
19. The notion of a blow to the head causing an “idiot” to regain not just normal but supernormal cognitive functions recalls Wild World of Batwoman, where in the climactic explosion the idiot lab assistant Healthcliff recovers his faculties, revealing that he was the original scientific genius, who became an idiot only when his assistant knocked him on the head; in line with the “humor” of the film, at the very end, said assistant swats a fly on his head, and Heathcliff immediately reverts to idiocy. For more on this atrocious film, see my “Essential Films … & Others,” here.
20. The ending, right down to the apparent “return to [sub]normal” of the “monster,” resembles the Gainax Ending of Monster a Go Go: “at the end, the monster suddenly never existed, and the astronaut who everyone thought had turned into said monster turns up alive in the North Atlantic. It leaves a number of questions unanswered, starting with ‘then why did you have footage of the monster wandering around killing people?’, moving through ‘why did we get to see, in graphic detail, every preparation the military made to hunt this monster that doesn’t exist?’, and finish up somewhere around ‘what the flying rat heck?!?’” For more on the curious genesis of what the MST3k gang voted “the worst movie we’ve ever seen,” see my “Essential Films … & Others,” here. Sometimes, in the right hands, the Gainax Ending can work, sort of: “I wanted controversy, arguments, fights, discussions, people in anger waving fists in my face saying, ‘how dare you?’“ — Patrick McGoohan on the intentionally confusing ending he created for The Prisoner. See Collin Cleary’s classic essay on Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner in his Summoning the Gods: Essays on Paganism in a God-Forsaken World, ed. Greg Johnson (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2011).
21. “Humour and Satire in Lovecraft,” reprinted in Lovecraft and a World in Transition (New York: Hippocampus, 2014).
22. Christopher Burke notes that “It is perhaps a minor detail but noteworthy nonetheless that the two individual titles are both suggestive of constant movement forward, and the title chosen for the containing volume (originally used in a 1964 edition) perfectly sums up the sensations created at the disquieting borderland between the known and unknown.” Here.
23. “Even a sports editor, for instance, might notice something wrong with a lead that said: “The precision-jack-hammer attack of the Miami Dolphins stomped the balls off the Washington Redskins today by stomping and hammering with one precise jack-thrust after another up the middle, mixed with pinpoint-precision passes into the flat and numerous hammer-jack stomps around both ends . . .” Right. And there was the genius of Grantland Rice. He carried a pocket thesaurus, so that “The thundering hoofbeats of the Four Horsemen” never echoed more than once in the same paragraph, and the “Granite-grey sky” in his lead was a “cold dark dusk” in the last lonely line of his heart-rending, nerve-ripping stories. . . . “Fear And Loathing At The Superbowl: No Rest for the Wretched,” by Hunter S. Thompson; Rolling Stone, February 15, 1973; online here.
24. And not that there’s anything wrong with that, either.
25. See “The Gilmore Girls Occupy Wall St.” in my collection The Homo and the Negro (San Francisco: Coutner-Currents, 2014).
26. Sloane may not use the purple prose that “modern” critics mock, but he does continue the tradition of laboriously transcribing supposed “hick” speech.
27. By contrast, as Greg Johnson has documented, the inbred/crossbred monsters of Lovecraft’s Innsmouth are pretty clearly Semites, or based thereon; see his analysis here. Along the same lines, you’ll note how the official narrative of WWII has changed from “heroic democracies crush fascism” to “White nations have genocide in their DNA and must be kept on a tight lease.” In Walks, a key plot point is conveyed by a crowd that sounds “like a lynch mob” as if he’d ever heard one.
28. Captain Spaulding: “Ya’ll think us folk from the country’s real funny-like, dontcha? Yeah, well saddle up the mule, ma. Slide me some grits, I’s got to get me some edu-cation, uh hu hu hu. You asshole!” See my essay “More Aryan than Human: The Return of Repressed White Wisdom in Rob Zombie’s Firefly Family Films” here.
29. Constant Readers will recall my reflections on this and other “Essential Films … & Others” here.
30. Cinedome, Jan. 24, 2015, here. In a final irony, Gould out-Woods Ed Wood by having his film sit unclaimed at a film laboratory until found in 1993 and immediately sent to be publicly mocked by MST3k; thus, the film itself missed the paranormal fad of the 70s-80s.
31. Although here, I am reminded of a remarkable surrealistic touch in Ed Wood’s Night of the Ghouls (another late 50s film that sat in a film lab for 20 or so years), where an actual séance table has three skeletons sitting facing the three guests, and no one notices.
32. Cinedome, op. cit. Edge also shares, with both The Dead Talk Back and Walk, the non-ending ending; despite the cover blurb of the Bantam Edge paperback, “the dead come to call on the living,” the reader will be as disappointed as Tom Servo: “Hey, the dead never talked back!”
33. “It may seem that I am including a great deal in this narrative which has no real bearing on the story of Julian Blair and the thing that happened in the house on Setauket Point.” “My evidence will be more valuable for being presented in its setting, and every detail seems to me important.”
34. Someone at Penguin had the bright idea in 1944 of marketing To Walk with a cover where the dead astronomer’s body is flanked by a telescope which, by trick of perspective, seems rather like a gun; see the cover here.
35. See, for example, the essays on Lovecraft and Stapledon collected as The Eldritch Evola … & Others (San Francisco: Coutner-Currents, 2014) and Green Nazis in Space! (San Francisco: Coutner0Currents, 2016).
36. See “The Corner at the Center of the Universe” in The Eldritch Evola … and Others.
39. See “The Presence of the Past: From Ancestor Worship to Hauntology” by Christopher Pankhurst, here.
40. As is the previously quoted bit from the first novella, “She was standing at the curb in the electric twilight of a New York street at night, straight, tall, and beautiful, so that it made my throat ache to look at her, and I hated her and was afraid of her.”
41. See Jef Costello, “Why I Live in the Past,” here, and reprinted in The Importance of James Bond (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2016).
42. Cf. the “Old Weird America,” “a term coined by Marcus to describe the often eerie country, blues, and folk music featured on the Anthology of American Folk Music (1927-1932; released 1952). In his opinion, the sensibility of Anthology is reflected by the Basement Tapes recordings [of Bob Dylan]. The term has been revived via the musical genre called New Weird America.” – Wikipedia, here.
The following text is transcript by V. S. of a lecture by Jonathan Bowden given at the 7th New Right meeting in London on April 8, 2006 entitled “Bill Hopkins: An Anti-Humanist Life.” Unintelligible passages are marked as such. Please post a comment below if you have corrections or can fill in the gaps. Unfortunately, the tape breaks off in mid-sentence. If anyone has a complete recording, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’d like to talk about Bill Hopkins, who is obviously not a household name, although he was one of the Angry Young Men in the 1950s, which was one of the major cultural groups, or sort of explosions, that occurred in this society after the Second World War. They weren’t a coherent group. They didn’t come together. They weren’t like the Continental intellectuals who form a group and then publish a manifesto where each of them makes a declaration that achieves some kind of a solemn and combined purpose. They were a disparate group of youngish men who were corralled into the designation of the Angry Young Men by the media in the early 1950s. Indeed, they were one of the first stunts or cultural creations of the post-war mass media, because they all seemed to be against the system of sort of Tory-consensual Britain in the early to mid-1950s.
The most famous of them, of course, was John Osborne the playwright who wrote Look Back in Anger. Technically on the Left, who moved in a sort of crotchety, slightly ultra-Tory and Rightwards direction as he got older and ended up denouncing immigration when he’d actually been a pro-CND [Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament] progressive at the beginning. So, he has a certain sort of trajectory across the cultural horizon.
Another member of the Angry Young Men who’s forgotten now but he made a very considerable film was the film maker Lindsay Anderson who made a film called If . . ., which is an extraordinary film about public school life. He also made a very Left-wing film—because he was a fellow-traveler of the Communist Party to a certain extent, but he was also a culturally independently minded Leftist up to a degree—called Britannia Hospital. This was a film from the early 1980s which, because it was released with great fanfare the moment the Falklands War was happening, died a critical and public death almost instantly. This sort of anti-System film from a Leftist perspective went straight down the plug. He had great problems making any films because of the amounts of money that needed to be raised. Indeed, one subtext to all of the Angry Young Men and how they were treated by the society and its culture, was that in the end nearly all of them were broken or pushed to one side or didn’t fulfill their potential or partly weren’t allowed to fulfill their potential in various ways.
Another member of this group, who disassociated himself pretty quickly from it, was Kingsley Amis. And Kingsley Amis was, as is widely known now partly through the literary architecture of his son after his father’s death, a Communist fellow-traveler and more than a Communist fellow-traveler in his early years. He’s another of these ones who has a blue “road to Damascus” conversion and becomes something like an ultra-Tory later in life. You know, he’s a progressive Leftist who’s against the post-war consensus, and even Attlee’s administration, and then switch forward 50 years he’s in the Garrick Club drinking whiskey moaning about immigration and writing to the Spectator saying how dreadful it is. So, there is a sort of progression with a lot of these people.
Another of them was John Braine, who although he wasn’t technically in the inner group that was known as both angry, young and male, there was also a degree to which he really was morally part of that group. Came down from the North, of course, wrote Room at the Top and all sorts of spin-offs, became a bit of a Surrealist in some ways afterwards, wrote slightly surreal, sort of aesthetically projected novels, The Vodi and other things. Nearly all of Braine’s work is about the morality and personal philosophy of sexual relations between men and women, in one form or another.
Braine was an old friend of Bill’s. Braine was another sort of Communist, who later ended up in the Monday Club on the Right-wing of the Tory Party. In fact, when I joined the Monday Club when I was 18, and I was later to be expelled from the Monday Club twice (they invited me back and then expelled me again, just for the hell of it); I still keep the ’70s clip-on Monday Club tie, the big blue one with “MC” on it which people think is the “Magic Circle” or they think it’s “Master of Ceremonies,” but it’s actually “Monday Club.” I keep that because they expelled me twice. John Braine joined the Monday Club and wrote a pamphlet for them called “John Braine: From the Communist Party of Great Britain to the Monday Club, an Essay” [This appears to have been called Goodbye to the Left.—Ed.] So, you see a certain progression with these sorts of people, although some of their opponents and former collaborators, comrades, and associates would doubtless not have perceived it as a progression.
Let’s go down the list of other AYM’s as they were sometimes called. There was Colin Wilson, and Colin Wilson is interesting in certain respects because Wilson now—despite the many, many millions he’s made from writing what might be called popular or middlebrow literature which contains an intellectual element—is despised by the intelligentsia and is despised by the mass culture, even after sort of four hundred books translated into nine languages. And yet, he’s unbelievably productive. Unbelievably. Almost to a logorrheic degree. It’s sort of churned out of him.
Now, when he was younger he was very influenced by Bill and very influenced by his ideas. His first novel, Ritual in the Dark, was dedicated to Bill, and although The Outsider was written in the British Museum’s reading room, but then British Library, when it was based over in the center of Bloomsbury where Karl Marx wrote Capital, of course, he used to sleep on Hampstead Heath in the summer (it was a different era then) because Wilson came down from Leicester. One of 9, 10, 11, 12 children from a very poor working class background, went to work in a bicycle factory when he was 14, had no educational qualifications at all, and genuinely was an outsider which is why his first book was called The Outsider.
Angus Wilson, who was then the chief librarian at the British Library, noticed him scribbling every day between the hours when you come in the morning and leave in the evening and said “What are you writing?” He gave him the first draft of The Outsider, and he went to a publisher and indirectly, through [Angus] Wilson’s advice, it was published.
Now, Wilson was taken up by the cultural glitterati of the time, was praised as a new genius by the Sitwells and this sort of thing and then dumped and trashed for his next book as a working class upstart and arriviste who can’t write a sentence and he’s exceeded his brief and doesn’t know what he’s talking about. So, he was brought forward, embraced, and then slapped and sort of disappeared. But didn’t disappear to the degree that he didn’t write anymore, because he actually became, in Bill’s view (and Colin is one of his oldest friends), a compulsive over-producer who’s churned out an enormous mass of material. Whereas Bill, when he hit a wall around this time, has produced virtually nothing since that has been widely disseminated. So, you have two contrary reactions.
But if we actually look at Wilson’s career, Wilson has been open to the dissemination of far Right views, even though he may not particularly agree with them himself. He wrote for Lodestar, which was a sort of literary and mildly theoretical journal that was put out by Jeffrey Hamm the ex-Mosleyite and continuing Mosleyite for many years. Wilson also defended causes which were ideologically anti-system, illiberal, and very unfashionable.
When somebody using the mild pseudonym Richard Harwood, whose real name is Richard Verrall, wrote a pamphlet called Did Six Million Really Die? Colin Wilson wrote a review, a reasonably neutral review but a totally unhysterical review, in Books and Bookmen which then was probably a much more important publication in that particular era than it is now. This was the internal journal within the book industry that was widely used to target particular books and post-manuscripts that would then get mass distribution in the major chains that existed. Now, Wilson said that this is an important thesis and may cause hysteria in certain areas but needs to be looked at. And for this, he alone became a little marked or a little smelly or was considered to have something about him that wasn’t quite nice or quite right and this sort of thing.
In my view, this openness to discourse which is unacceptable is partly Bill Hopkins’ legacy on Colin Wilson. Colin Wilson wrote, when The Leap! or The Divine and the Decay, which is Bill’s only novel, was reissued in the early 1980s, the Foreword to it. Here it is: Foreword by Colin Wilson. “When this book first appeared,” Wilson writes, “in 1957, it was attacked with unprecedented ferocity. Why did it cause such violent reactions?” Now, we’ll come on to this in a bit, because we’re still going through the Angry Young Men.
Now, the Angry Young Men had lots sorts of hangers-on and lesser people involved. There was also a Scots-Italian writer called Alexander Trocchi who used to write sort of pornographic novels; Cain’s Book is the most famous. He died with a heroin overdose. [Unintelligible.] He used to meet Bill in SoHo and describe his latest fights and this sort of thing because he wrote [unintelligible] and mixes in the streets and so on.
They came from an era, these people, that’s slightly unique in Britain because we’ve never had a coherent class intelligentsia in the way that many Continental European societies do. When intellectuals go to salons and this sort of thing, which is very much a Continental thing, although Continental European intellectuals and academics and theorists and people in the media and literati and so on have these things often in London and you’re invited to them sort of by osmosis. People hear you’re somebody of interest, often in the most superficial way imaginable and you’re invited into these circles.
I attended one of these sorts of things when I was about 18, and lots of intellectuals were talking about ordinary people. I don’t know what they’re talking about. And, of course, I suddenly realize that this is their own class structure. There were intellectuals and the others who weren’t intellectually minded. And this, of course, is useful because the vast majority of intellectuals, not all by any means, we’re dealing with people that are quite contrary in this talk, but the vast majority adopt Left Humanist, “lovey,” Left-liberal, Communistic, mildly Marxian ideas. The overwhelming majority do. Often just as lip-service amongst themselves although there are more hardcore ideologues even than that.
Yet, when you go to these salons and they’re talking about intellectuals and ordinary people. So, always the hierarchy exists in the mind even if the theory is contrary to it, because people raise it again in their own consciousness and speech.
Who else was associated with the Angry Young Men? When in ’57 several publishers got together they decided because of the media controversy, which reached tabloid proportions, although The Sun wasn’t much of an organ then, the Daily Mirror was essentially its sort of Labourish equivalent, and these people were getting headlines: “Osborne Says He Hates Being English,” because Osborne announced in a party that he didn’t like being English. “I loathe the English!” he said. And therefore, this was . . . so what? A drunken man at a bus stop looks at his reflection and loathes himself and makes a remark, but it’s on the front of a tabloid newspaper the day after. He later said he loves being English, but there’s a difference of 40 years between the two statements, you know what I mean? But then again he was an actor as quite a lot of these people are, in all sorts of wearing of masks and taking them off again in that sort of way.
A publisher called Maschler, who later went on to be head of Penguin UK, in the late ’80s and early ’90s, thought it would be a wheeze to get all these intellectuals who were angry and young and male to write their manifesto. And he called it Declarations: A Statement of Intent from the Angry Young Men. But the first essay’s by a woman! Angry Young Female, you know. And she was Doris Lessing, who also a member of the Communist Party at that time, or at least a fellow traveler to the degree that whether or not she was actually in it didn’t matter. She was only in it because Maschler was having an affair with her at the time. You see how these things work. But all of the other people who were in the volume were angry, were young, were male, and were generically, up to a point, in this group.
The two that I haven’t mentioned who were in this group who have largely been lost sight of—John Wain’s another one who’s largely gone down now—were Bill Hopkins and Stuart Holroyd. There’s a reason why Bill Hopkins and Stuart Holroyd have partly gone down the memory hole. One is that since the ’50s they haven’t really published, although everyone has known who they were. And the reason is that they were open to anger and were essentially youthful, but their politics came from a different direction.
Holroyd wrote an essay and even a book, I believe though I haven’t read this personally, attacking parliamentary democracy. Attacking parliamentary democracy! Which probably is of all things the most heretical thing—certainly in the ’50s, when we’d all fought for democracy of course—that you could possibly do! This really was anger and youth and maleness in a cocktail that wasn’t particularly liked. And he didn’t publish again with a mainstream press beyond his essay in Declarations.
And then there was Bill Hopkins. Bill wrote this essay in Declarations called “Ways Without a Precedent,” which is a Nietzschean sort of manifesto. And he followed it up with this novel, which was reissued in the mid-1980s, called The Leap! This was because prospectively it was to be filmed, and this wasn’t talk. I mean, there were producers signing contracts and so on. But, in the end, as often with these projects, it came to nothing. The real name of the novel is The Divine and the Decay.
This is the original edition actually. I bought it in Hay-on-Wye, where books go to die, for £7, although on the internet they charge up to a £100 for this. It’s a bit smelly, you know. At the front it says, “To Jonathan Bowden, a fellow warrior. From Bill Hopkins.”
This is an interesting book in all sorts of ways, because this is a book which is a fantasy about a man who essentially gets up in the morning and decides that he wants to be dictator of Britain and how will he go about morally, aesthetically, psychologically, intellectually, and ideologically becoming a man who is worthy to be a dictator of Britain. It’s based on the Nietzschean idea that artists of genius should rule, and of course it becomes a little more controversial when you realize that there’s one artist in particular who ruled a particular society at a particular time who was very unfashionable and not especially liked in austerity-ridden post-war ’50s Britain, who might be compared to the ascetic, white-faced, loose-limbed, and black-haired hero of this particular novel.
It’s based upon ideas which are in many ways completely heretical and blasphemous and unacceptable to such a degree as that even many of the partisans of Bill don’t ultimately own up to where they end. Because Bill, who’s been involved in endless shenanigans and scandals throughout his entire life, has lived about—without hero-worshipping him too much, to be frank—6, 7, 8 lives.
The first was as an author. Bill was born in Cardiff in 1928, but as he’ll tell you, “I loathe the Welsh.” He doesn’t like being Welsh, because he associates Welshness with victimhood, and he aligns with the English because they’re the dominant nation within the United Kingdom. He’s like one of these absurd Croats who used to claim that the capital of Serbia was actually in Croatia, you know.
But I know what he means because, being partly Celtic myself, there is at times amongst Celtic people when they gather together a certain whining that we’re minorities. I remember Kenneth Griffith, the actor, once said to me, “It’s all English, you know!” He said, “They’re like jackboots on our throats.” And I said, “Do you really believe that, Kenneth?” And he said, “All my life I’ve been persecuted by these people!” I said, “Why’d you call this house Michael Collins House then, because he’s an Irish nationalist?” And he said, “Why, it’s all the same isn’t it? Those bloody Germans!” By which he means the English. It is a sort of rhetorical nonsense that people get out of themselves when they lose to the Welsh at rugby or whatever.
But he does exist and in a society without mass immigration, actually, it would probably be more prominent as a discourse then it would otherwise. And Bill would say to all these Welsh types coming towards him he’d say, “A rude word. I’m with the English.” And they’d go, “Ooh no, no. Dreadful.”
Adorno, in his theory of fascist psychology, the F-scale as it’s called, has a scale for people who are psychologically fascistically minded. Bill would be off that scale. He’d be so off that scale that the methodology of that scale doesn’t actually apply to him, as an individual. One of the prerequisites, according to Theodor Adorno who was the leading theorist of the Frankfurt group (Western Marxists), says that one of the primary characteristics of “a fascistic mentality” is identification with the violator, which means the victor in any particular consequence. In other words, if you look at the Indian mutiny, the historically normative happening, you side with the British, you side with the English within the British, you even side with Sikh regiments and people who were aligned with the Raj against other groups, you align with that group that wins.
It’s not a very good codex, because everyone would align with Blair, wouldn’t they? If they had that sort of view. Because isn’t he a winner? Isn’t the great peacemaker invading Iraq on a regular basis and making a great mess of it?
But irrespective of all that, this scale would certainly suit Bill, because Bill is an extraordinary example of an intellectual (because he is an intellectual even an ultra-intellectual) who in his own way is highly sensitive and aesthetic. Just like all the people who are characterized as “lovies,” such as in lovies for Labour and so on. But his views are the absolute and totalitarian opposite of those views that convulse the present clerisy.
It’s like coming across a dinosaur or strange fossil or something that’s a spiritual relic from another era because his is the psychology of another era where the West never apologized, was totally proud of what it was, regarded itself as a preeminent civilization, whatever discourse it felt about itself, without any apology whatsoever. At all. All moments of the day. Without the odd bit of liberal hand-wringing and funk and self-denial.
So, in a way, Bill is a sort of shock therapy for many people. He used to go in the ’50s and until the ’80s or ’90s to these salons in West London. I attended a few of them. Run by Jean [unintelligible]. Run by other prominent art dealers and critics and BBC executives and other people. And people would say, “Isn’t the Rwandan genocide terrible?” And Bill would say, “No. I think there’s too many of them anyway.” And people would be horrified. Well, it’s partly a test, of course. He’s doing it because his view is that the liberal Left mind and Zeitgeist is based on an easy and bland sympathy, which is universal, that loves all. But for the concrete individual in front of them they don’t give a damn, and they’ll step over you just like that. What he’s doing is he’s facing them with some of the psychological architecture of their own undignified position.
His other view, of course, is that Western intellectuality is based uponconflict and is based upon dialectic, and all these people who say that thought is free, and we will say anything we want, and if we want to have an article in the Venice Biennale which consists of a crucifix in a large tub of urine and it’s called Piss Christ. And this is an artwork. This is a conceptual, pre-Turner Prize artwork. They wouldn’t say the same about Islam, of course, because they don’t want to get into that, and also they want to live a bit longer, which is something that can’t really be gainsaid can it, really?
But at the same time he is pushing the idea that all this freedom you’re talking about, let’s unpack this freedom. Let’s be Socratic. What is freedom? How far are you prepared to go in order to exclude the possibility of it? What is really a liberal statement where you say, “I will literally die for your right to say anything” while you’re holding your hand over the other chap’s mouth!? Why not push it a bit further and a bit further?
And people will say, “Well, that’s not a very humanist attitude, Mr. Hopkins!” And he’d say, “Well, I’m not a humanist.” And they say, “You’re not a humanist!?” And he says, “No. I don’t believe human life is worthwhile just as an entity, like a slug! And I don’t believe that any life is outside of hierarchy of race, of gender, of civilization, of intellect, of beauty, of spiritual preponderance! Everything is hierarchical.”
He would make a liberal statement, occasionally. He once said, “But then again, even within the superior race, the difference between the higher man and the lower. It’s the difference almost between a near God and a worm!” That’s his concession to liberal, multi-ethnic feeling.
Bill reminds me very much of that essay by Evola which is critical of Fascism and National Socialism from the Right not from the Left and not from the Center. But in a sense it isn’t sort of radical enough. Because his view is essentially—rather like one of these iodine tests—that everything is so weak, so broken down, so syphilitic morally and spiritually that you really need something acidic that is re-barbarative and is repellent. That will repel it. That will appall it. That will confront it. That will break it. Just as in a way his career was partly broken. But then he had another one.
Bill was in the army after the war in occupied Germany. And his wife Carla is German. He’s in Hamburg, and he said during the summer, because they were in the British Occupation Zone, you could hear, feel, and smell the stench of all the corpses under the buildings because all the buildings had been flattened mostly by British Bomber Command activities.
Bill comes from a long line of actors, and his father was a reasonably famous music hall artiste of the period and before. Think Jimmy Tarbuck. Think those sorts of people. They’re well-known in their era, but as soon as they’re gone, almost no one remembers them. But they’re famous names. Pre-televisual, middlebrow, lower middlebrow British comedy names. His father once lived in The Ritz and had endless hangers-on and lay in a bath with his mouth open with people—fellow Welshman, as Bill would say—pouring out liquor down his mouth, and he ended in Streatham with no money at all, in a bedsit, fiddling with a gas heater.
Because these are radical types, you see? It’s all or nothing. You know, one woman, a next, another show, another show, you’re rich, you’re on the floor. They’re radical types. And he grew up in the world of penny-ante carnie and mainstream-to-fringe theater that John Osborne comes out of. Indeed Osborne’s very similar in background to Bill because they’re both Anglo-Welsh in complicated ways.
The second major play that Laurence Olivier played in as a film based upon that sort of world, The Entertainer: that world is incarnated really, that small, slightly enclosed British world of the theater [unintelligible] moment of mock-Shakespearean threnody. When the character of the comedian looks at the audience, and there’s none of them. They’ve all gone! Because they’re watching telly, you see. It’s the ’50s. It’s a dying world. And he says, “Look at these eyes. I’m dead behind the eyes!” And that’s the moment that the entire world shudders to a halt.
Bill came from that world and his mother was a sort of music hall beauty who was paid just to walk along the stage and then walk back again with increasingly less clothing on, as various sorts of blokes’ eyes and goggles misted up, and that sort of thing. So, he comes from that sort of world. He likes a good show. One thing that he would say to me is that it’s all a show. Judges, politicians, royalty: it’s all show business, really! They’re all acting. They’re all performing. Blair’s performing. The judge who sent Irving down is performing. They’re all doing it. It’s how things are run. It’s how things are formatted in front of people who receive power in various circumstances.
The other thing that’s very important about him is that his acting, Bohemian background is, in a way, unique to England and Britain, classless. Because in our very hierarchical society, which of course it obviously still is, although it’s been bent around quite a lot and changed in some of its definitions. But in the era he was born into far, far more so than today and 50 years forward, the beginning of the 20th century even more so even to the degree that it was impossible for many people to move really. That Bohemian aesthetic strand could go right up and down the society. Because one time in his life when Prince Charles (I hope he hasn’t kept these letters and diaries) was quite a close friend of Bill’s, because he knew all of those people at certain times in his life, because somebody has to.
There’s also a degree to which many people used to test themselves against him, because he’s a sort of secret figure in some ways in British post-war history. He is the intellectual, he is the thinker who represents the viewpoint that no one ever mentions. But he’s there, as a nemesis, as a shadow, as a sort of death’s head at the feast in these sorts of parties. The one that people almost sort of test themselves against in argument and dialectic, because it is a position which is disprivileged.
In France after the war, French radical Right-wing intellectuality, of which there was a very large tradition, went underground. And this was after Robert Brasillach was guillotined [He was actually shot by firing squad.—Ed.] for treason to the French Republic. Intellectual treason, because he’d done nothing but publish a magazine called Je suis partout, and he was guillotined for that, and for his collaboration with Otto Abetz, who was the cultural sort of commanding officer of Germany in France. Contrary to certain things, the Germans’ domination of France was in that war very liberal, very mild, extraordinarily civilized actually. But that intellectuality went underground.
In Britain, we’ve always had a far Right intellectuality. Henry Williamson, an old friend of Bill’s, was one of the people that was going to talked about earlier on, and he represents it. Thomas Carlyle in the 19th century represented it. Wyndham Lewis in the beginning of the 20th century represented it. John Buchan to a certain extent represents elements of it. It’s always been there, but it’s always slightly denied, slightly obscured. People slightly deny what they are. They put up certain masks to face off against it. They go slightly underground. They have a history of never joining any groups because that’s their one way of being demonized and corralled.
Bill is completely against my involvement in the British National Party, for example. He just says, “You’re marching around with a totem of slavery!” he said. “They’ll come down on you with their beams, and you’ll be there and they’ll say ‘Nazi! There he is!’” And I said, “Well, they’ve always said that about you, Bill.” And he said, “Have they? Have they, indeed?! I have a writ here for the first man who dares.”
Now, one of Bill’s friends, ironically, in all sorts of ways, because Bill’s a complicated man, was the screenplay writer for nearly all of the early films, and they’re great films as well, by Michael Powell. And his name, of course, was Emeric Pressburger. He sought Bill out in the 1970s, I think. And [Kevin] Macdonald, who’s a grandchild of Pressburger, wrote a book which has a chapter about Bill in it called something like “The Heart of Intellectual Evil,” something like that. “The Heart of Intellectual Evil.” Not the Heart of Darkness, Conrad’s short novel. He said that Pressburger was a masochist who sought Bill out to be abused and enslaved and whipped and that sort of thing, morally and mentally. He said that Bill was an elitist and an anti-humanist and an anti-Semite.
Bill wrote all sorts of expletives in this 426 pages, and he went down to a lawyer, and the lawyer said for the first part get rid of these expletives, so he cut all that bit out. And he sued Faber, because it was quite a mainstream book, and that book’s never been reissued in paperback. And I said, “Bill . . .” He said, “Yes?” I said, “Everything he said about you is true.” He said, “That’s not the point! You must never allow them to say it!”
He said, “Anyway, I have all sorts of Jewish friends who don’t believe Israel should exist.” He said, “As to class and elitism, I believe only in the class of the mind and of mentality! And all can come from that background and surmount the hurdle of the bourgeoisie!” See, he’s always got an answer.
But he would say that’s the way of being an intellectual. You’ve always got an answer for these people. Because in a sense you’re fighting a war with them and you don’t just sort of Ceausescu before the guns at the end just go down. You put up all sorts of screens, and you engage in all sorts of activities which sort of traditionalist British authors would call “pluck.” Not frontal assault. Not the devastation of our young manhood in the First World War, but tunneling under. Going behind. Having a false friendship with somebody, and then collapsing it and going in. I think the present chairman of my party would like that sort of strategy. There’s a degree to which these strategies are dividing people against themselves when they’re enemies, of not going down in a glorious 7th Cavalry frontal assault type thing, particularly when you’re in an isolated position.
I mentioned French intellectuality earlier. After this novel was published, Bill met Sartre and Camus in Paris. And Sartre had a physical reaction when he met Bill. He went, “Eeerrrrgh! Fascist!” He said, “We fought you in the war!” Bill said, “You didn’t do any fighting. You were busy writing a few plays. And anyway, you studied Heidegger in the ’30s in Germany when you didn’t know anything that was going on, and you were keen on essentialist and primordial and Traditionalist theories, which are close to people like Guénon; Heidegger’s secularized them in the 20th century, and they’re actually part of the metaphysical system of your most appalling adversaries!” And Sartre says, “We’re not getting on.”
Camus was there as well, because this was early, and Sartre and Camus who end up hating each other’s guts, although Sartre said he liked him after he had a car crash, which of course he was no longer around to receive the plaudit.
Sartre was there. Simon de Beauvoir was there and her other lover at the time, Algren, who wrote the novel about drug addiction The Man with the Golden Arm, was there. Bill used to say Sartre was there reading a [unintelligible] novel and Algren would be on the job. But they’d all be talking about theory, because they were totally theoretical people.
Sartre’s great project was to marry existentialism and Marxism, and he tried it in Being and Nothingness and Critique of Dialectical Reason, which is based on Kant. He tried in a sense to come up with a system that would justify Stalinism in the second volume of Critique of Dialectical Reason, but he couldn’t finish it, because even he couldn’t get through to that dialectical height.
The interesting thing about Bill is that sort of intellectual purity, where he has been in a zone where he has literally met these people and many others like them. Because one thing that comes out is, why is he an outsider? Why are his ideas partly those of a man alone? Well, if you think about it logically, if we had a powerful and proficient and foregrounded and essentialist civilization in the West, his views, possibly with some of the ruthlessness of the rhetoric hived off, would be the mainstream.
And all of these people who say that the mentally ill are sane, and say that white people are guilty forever, and say that criminals are victims of society and say that the only crime is punishment of those who’ve done one, and all of these ideas which are ultra-Left, anarchistic and culturally Marxian ideas, which are everywhere, which are in the mass media, which are in the tertiary section of education, which are in schools at the intermediate and lower level: these are the hegemonic ideas of this civilization. He is a demon, and these views are central.
There was once a time, of course, when those views were demonic and other. People used to meet in little Bloomsbury circles and have little funny handshakes because, you know, you needed to trust somebody. You liked things which were regarded as deviant and other, and they were in opposition to everything. Opposition to patriotism, opposition to imperialism, opposition to a sense of race, opposition to family, opposition to military service, opposition to the death penalty, opposition to the absence of taking drugs in public, and all this sort of thing.
Virtually all of these things are now in the mainstream, and that which was contrary is now in the reverse and meet in rooms with young men outside with heavy jackets via redirection points and that sort of thing. It’s been a complete reversal linguistically, morally, emotionally, psychologically, intellectually. An extraordinary reversal when you realize that the Western superstructure is still hegemonic.
When some little Iraqi’s fighting back with his popgun, there’s an enormous flying tank come over the desert sands towards him, which is what these helicopter gunships are, and he’s obliterated before he’s even got worked out how to get the plastic gun off the side of his shoulder, the West is triumphant!
And yet, its ideas are based upon a moral squeamishness about what some liberal imperialists and globalists are actually doing elsewhere in the world. They’ve created a dialectical situation where they’re against the logic of their own behavior outside this country, and these countries internally go to pieces and fracture to bits under their ideas. So, in the Third World it’s a bit of this, but here we love them all! And they can all come and replace us in our own island!
Bill used to live in North Kensington in an area called Notting Hill. In the 1950s, of course, and all sorts of [unintelligible] things go on in Notting Hill . . . One of Bill’s other lives is he links with various other Right-wing groups. In 1974 or ’75, like J. R. R. Tolkien for a year, I believe, he joined the National Front. Bill certainly joined the National Front, because John Tyndall put it on the inside back cover. “I made the inside,” Bill said to me. “A famous writer joins National Front.” I haven’t seen that edition, but I believe there was one. Now, he joined National Front in ’74, ’75 when there was the possibility of an electoral breakthrough at that time. Henry Williamson told him, “Never join a far Right group. It ruined my life.” There we are. But Bill then left after a while because he didn’t think that particular model would work. There’s an entrepreneurial side to Bill. A sort of starter-upper and then drop aside as he goes on to his next project.
When he published The Divine and the Decay, the reaction to it, that this was a novel that was apologetic of inhumanism, that was against the Enlightenment, it was a novel that was not even appeasing but supporting, a post-collaborationist novel, it was called. It’s only a novel, but the idea is that theoretically it is aligning itself with that which we defeated. In fact, there’s a book called The Angry Decade in which it said that Hopkins is a demonic man that people shouldn’t listen to, and he shouldn’t be published either. MacGibbon and Key, who are obscure now but were a tributary . . . Jonathan Cape, is a conference of publishers of which MacGibbon and Key was one, so it’s quite mainstream and then they go to be Penguin as these people buy themselves out.
He wrote a second novel, which was about the concept of the Doppelgänger in German and other literatures, called Time of Totality, I think. He said to me, “Is the title too portentous?” And I said, “It never appeared anyway.” And Bill said, “It hardly matters, does it?”
Another thing I’d like to talk about Bill is his spiritual and intellectual views. Bill came from a generation that appears superficially, even in its own propagandistic terms, to be militantly atheistic. And at one level, Bill is a militant atheist. If a Jehovah’s Witness came to his door—he wouldn’t want to basically; go to the next one.
But in a strange way, as Wilson said in one of his criminological essays commenting on a book by a Bulgarian I think called Progoff, who wrote a history of psychology, a discourse which for many people has replaced theology in the twentieth century. Psychology began with the idea that God was absent from men’s lives. This is my paraphrase of the first line. But as psychological investigation has proceeded during the 19th century, it has come to the conclusion that man is definitely a spiritual being.
And Bill’s view, which is always dialectical, is materialistic and/or atheist in one sense. Because like most moderns . . . And Bill is a modern. Bill is not a Perennialist or a Traditionalist. Bill is a Right-wing modernist who accepts modernity post-Renaissance and later than that. But believes that the modern world can be other than it is. So, if you like, he wants the absolute inverse of the great [unintelligible], Tony Blair world that we now live under and the absolute inverse of all forms of Communism that lie to the Left of that. So, he wants a modernity which is based upon radical, total, and pitiless inequality as he would say.
Because he loves this fury of language. And this is partly in some ways a Protestant inheritance. If you notice, Paisley, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard: they love this Old Testament language, which partly has a pagan element to it. There’s almost a degree to which—it’s a sort of line I’ve invented for my own purposes from the Edda. You can imagine one of the goddesses saying to Odin, “Are you a god of love?” Freya or somebody. And his reply would be, poetically, “No. Fury. Fury is love!” And that’s Bill’s view really.
But in a sense, love is not enough. Christianity, a religion of course he’s always been opposed to, although he’s not opposed to Christian aesthetic culture—it’s language, sculpture, buildings, statuary. But he’s opposed to the ethics of the religion. Because you cannot build a world, as you’re throttling Third Worlders in Iraq and so on, on pity and love. Because you are dishonest at the very core of your being. You can keep the sculpture, but you must be correct about your morals. In his view, of course, a crusader would be a pagan with cross on. You had a rhetoric that said it was different.
But if you look at it, it’s a key dialectic which is explored in this novel which is about the future of Western Civilization because it involves a relationship between a man and a woman on an island, in other words in a magical realm, where the woman represents, broadly speaking, feminist-leaning, liberal-minded, Christian and mildly humanist values. That sort of reflexive mixture of liberal humanism backed with a degree of Christianity. As Irish Murdoch, the novelist who knew Bill well, said, “What we need to do is dump Christianity and keep the liberal ethics.” Which, of course, is what they’ve done.
The other character, the demon, Plowart, is will, power, becoming, intensity of religious process, the will to dominate, the will to structure. They have endless arguments about meaning and purpose. Because Plowart says you can’t base anything on love solely. Love contains, is energy and contains hatred and destruction within it. But you need to sublimate that and go to another level because the purpose of life is transcendence.
That is the moral irony which dialectically and intellectually isn’t really one at all, whereby a man is perceived as an atheist and even perceives himself as one, writes a novel called The Divine and the Decay. Because, of course, in this novel Plowart isn’t a human. He’s a force. He’s coming towards destiny. All the other characters, and because it’s a novel that’s obscure in a way and hasn’t been read by that many people, in the novel are people who are in decay. There’s a cripple in this book (it’s a disablist work) who in some ways signifies post-war Britain. He lives on Vachau, which is his version of Brecqhou, this tiny little island that the Barclay brothers now live on; irony of ironies, which, rather like Sark, had a feudal structure so he can go from Britain as it is now to a sort of idealized Britain that’s narrow and minimalist enough to make intellectual play with.
Because, like all artists, you take reality and you change it, and you transmogrify it. It’s Vulcan. You work on the material. You take people. You put things together. You cut bits off. Because art isn’t about being humane. There’s a strongly objective element to art. The idea that art is a sort of liberal prerequisite when nearly 9 out of 10 artistically-oriented people have liberal ideas is false. A real artist is closer to a surgeon who works upon reality. It’s like the coffee table bourgeois view that some of Michelangelo’s late sculptures are not nice. Not nice!? Who cares whether it’s nice or not! Because it’s about glory and power! And if you don’t like it—this would be Bill’s view and mine—get out of the way! Get out of the way or be trampled under!
But people say, “Well, that’s very inhuman, Mr. Hopkins. What about people who are weak? What about people who want to drink all night? What about people who just want to lie down and have no drive, no push?” He said, “We’ll look after them. I need servants. I need slaves. When I walk along, I want people wafting things behind me to take the sunlight off me. In a hierarchical society, everyone has a place, and everyone has a purpose. When they made the great cathedrals, each craftsmen had his place, signed his bit of a gargoyle with his own image, saying, ‘I was here.’ Now, youth write ‘Kilroy was here’ or some rude word was here. Then in those cathedrals, they wrote ‘somebody contributed to glory.’”
Of course, what he’s really saying is that the liberal humanist idea that you can base all of society on the view that we’re all educated, that we’re all well-balanced, that we’re all refined, that we all think out every decision before we make it, that we contract with society as Rousseau said, and bear upon us obligations and responsibilities, the Blair view; obligation, responsibility, the respect agenda. It totally voids biological reality: that some humans are geniuses, that others are sub-human virtually, that others are in the middle, that most people don’t give a damn about anything.
Remember the Hollywood film Twelve Angry Men? Where they’re deciding a man’s fate, and one says, “Come on, I’ve got a baseball game on the telly. I want to get back for that.” And the liberal is outraged! This is a man’s life you’re talking about! And he says, “Awww, who gives a . . . !” The majority of people in democracies are like this. It’s shopping and something else. They shouldn’t have, in Bill Hopkins’ view, any power, and they shouldn’t even have the vote because they don’t know anything about anything, at all!
He said what you need to do with a democracy is like in Iran. You structure it before you have one, and you allow people to vote for this Monday Club type and this BNP type and this Third Positionist type and this National Democrat type and this Freedom Party type and so on. They’ll all have disputes, and they’ll say, “Oh, I hate him,” and “He scorned me in this meeting,” and that sort of thing. The usual stuff. But in the end, the basis behind it all is patriotic. So it’s censored from the very beginning.
If you have a democracy that says all values can trundle forth: [unintelligible] My candidate says, “I want to marry children” and that sort of thing. Another candidate says, “A European state? No!” Another candidate says, “All class must be abolished.” Another candidate says, “There must be a totally class-based hierarchy.” In other words, just a babble of conflicting voices. In the end, you won’t have that anarchy. What you’ll have is a tendency to the crepuscular middle, whereby in reaction against the possibility of such weird fauna and flora you have a centralization of everything around middlingness, around mediocrity, around that which is unheroic.
If America comes to us and says, “We want you in Iraq.” “Well, uh, do we have to?” It’s like Wilson in Vietnam, “We don’t really want to.” “We want you there.” “Right away.” Because we have an establishment that leans with one wind that comes upon it and then leans with another. It does it culturally. It does it in every other way.
In the National Theatre, I once went to see The Merchant of Venice in which one of the characters, Beatrice, gives an apology for the Holocaust at the end. I don’t remember that in the play, actually, considering its 500 years before. Why did they do that? Because somebody on the committee at the National said that there may be a group or a lobby or even an individual, even an obsessive Guardian reader, who will object. We need to cover ourselves from the prospect out there that somebody might be offended by introducing something that isn’t in the play in the first place so we’re safe. We’re safe! And, of course, they’re not safe at all because they’re frightened of their own shadow from the very beginning.
There are many, many other examples. There are examples from plays by Marlowe and plays by Webster and this sort of thing from our great period, when Bill would say “When we were as great as the Greeks, when we had a theatrical culture here that was equivalent to them.”
Now, somebody will say, “Oh, Beatrice the heart of my whiteness does go out to you.” And he’s a Rastafarian. He’s sort of gently trying to remember his part. And that is what is called multi-racial casting. The idea is that we’re all human. We should be blind to these things. It’s a universal culture that just happens to be placed on an island off Europe. Da de da. You’ll be sacked from a mainstream theater if you say, “This play was written in an all-white period.” “Really!? Really, is that your view, is it?” “Well, the Jacobean period was an all-white period.” “We don’t like that time. We don’t like that attitude.” You see where it goes. It begins there, but it’s out there door pretty bloody quickly.
Richard Eyre, I think, was head of the National when many of these things were going on. He now says he was persecuted by Leftists at the National and was holding the line against decadence by doing what he could and that he banned a play by Edward Bond which makes it alright, you know. Because these people are fighting their own wars, of course, bureaucratically and institutionally.
Certainly, the Workers Revolutionary Party was very powerful at that period. Had no power anywhere else. But inside the state arts institutions, because of the influence of the Redgrave family and elsewhere, they had a lot of influence. This is the sort of minority Left elitism that’s chiseled out many of the cultural monuments of the society from the inside, that people don’t think about. All this croaking about democracy in the street when in actual fact it’s sort of vanguard Left elitism of its own sort deep inside these institutions.
They still do it, actually. They still do put on plays like The Jew of Malta and so on, but wrapped around with endless excuses and endless procrastination. The latest thing is actually to have a white Othello. So, you don’t actually black up the character. Because the play is so irredeemably racist in its language and structure that you admit your guilt and your racism beforehand by having a white actor to foreground your absence of pitilessness and your totalitarian racism. This is the sort of cultural studies beyond Political Correctness view. You basically crucify yourself beforehand, before the show goes on. And then give a fringe white actor a bit of employment in Birmingham Rep or something. It began with a white actor blacked up. Then it began with a black actor. And now it’s back to a White actor, because the theories about it and how you deal with it have changed, perceptively. If somebody makes the wrong decision, say, “I thought that old production was not too bad, actually.” They’re out!
It’s a sort of interesting terrorism in a way, intellectual terrorism. Of course, Bill’s an intellectual terrorist, but the other way around. Because he responds to all of that with a sort of power and intellectual aggression of his own. One thing I’ve noticed about very liberal-minded people is that on the whole that spiritually they’re very weak. There are hardcore Leftists who are real believers. But the bulk of the liberal vanguard, if you go down from the sort of perceived apex, are very flabby, and as soon as something which is contrary is placed before them they will be a recession and a bit of a retreat. Because it’s a force that they haven’t heard.
They particularly haven’t heard the intellectualization of Right-wing ideas. People would say, “Hopkins, that statement was sexist.”
And he said, “Men and women are biologically different. They’re for different purposes in life. Everything is based upon biology. But, out of that comes the mind that soars towards spirituality!”
“You’re admitting the fundamental nature and essentialism of biological difference.”
“Well, I am!”
“Well, that’s a sexist statement!”
He said, “I don’t care! I’m a totalitarian! I’m sexist.”
And they say, “Right,” tugging at their collar a bit, “But, but haven’t you read Andrea Dworkin?”
“Andrea Dworkin is a fat, ugly, obese, obscene, arrogant, ex-hooker, quasi-lesbian, and Jewish nutter that we shouldn’t listen to!”
“But you’re a monster! You’re a monster!”
He’d say, “Well I am a monster!”
They almost have a physical injury.
I met Tony Ben once in some Tory related thing. And Ben had a physical reaction to the prospect of illiberalism. Somebody in the room said, “Well, I don’t like the EU, really.” Ben would go, “Oohh!” Almost like a physical shock, which is odd actually because Ben’s campaigned against the EU because it’s not integrated enough. Because it’s just Europe! We need the whole world together! Skinner once said that to me. He said, “You’re a Nazi. I can’t be on a platform with you.” I said, “I’m in the Tories.” He said, “Don’t give me that. I’m against the EU though, because I want a world proletarian state.” Right. But Skinner will come out with it, so there’s a streak of honesty there.
But in a way, the use of this sort of psychic and moral terrorism, the facing of it down . . . The fact that Bill after he was blocked, because they wouldn’t publish his second novel and so only one appeared, basically. He’s written lots of things himself. He’s never published them since. I tried to get him to do it, but he won’t. You know, pearls before swine and all that.
He then decided, “I need some money.” So, he became a millionaire, which of course sounds just like that.
Bill once had a humiliating experience. He was on a tram. There were trams in London then. And the bloke came down the corridor, and he thought, “Oh, I haven’t got any money.” He’s about 28. And it’s a long way back to Streatham or Avery or wherever the family home was. the bloke said, “Off.” Bill said, “I’m an artist who’s trying to further our civilization.” The bloke said, “Off. Off!” So, he got off and trudged home in the rain.
He said, “I’m an intellectual, and the Daily Mirror is throwing mud at me, but I’ve been shoved off a tram because I haven’t got the fare. This is not how things should be.” So, he decided, “How do we work this out?” So, he noticed that all these beautiful Georgian houses were being wrecked, and all the fireplaces are being ripped out, and the stairways were being demolished. It’s all being chucked in the street. Old Britain? Tat and garbage! Out in the street!
He thought, “Somebody will want to buy this.” So, he bought what today would be called a skip, and he went ’round late at night with a few lads who he gave a bit of money to, and he got all of these things that somebody else despised. BHe realized that in a short while, pre-internet and so on, he could find people who wanted it. Then collectors from the United States used to come over and see him and say, “Oh, I do love that fireplace.” And Bill would say, “Thousand quid.” “Pardon?” “Thousand quid. You know the meaning of money.” And they went, “OK!” That was the start.
Bill is a modernist in many ways because of elements of primitivism and barbarity and fury in it, which essentially accords with his partially demonic nature, and that’s just a fact. He’s a champion of the movement which in a sense would end modernism by proving some of its antecedents. It’s a movement called Art Brut, which technically comes out of André Breton’s surrealist movement.
This is a movement where people like Dubuffet, who founded it, would do an outline of a red child with a big eye. “Oh, I like that.” Then he’d get some pink paint, and he’d throw it on! And he’d get a big blue roller. “This is really good.” Then he’d get a big sponge or maybe some acid or something, and he’d put it on the sponge and chuck it on and have a good scrub ’round. Then he’d stand back and say, “God, a maniac and a child could have done that. It’s marvelous!” They sell for £85,000 each at Sotheby’s. I kid you not. I’ve been at the auctions when they’ve been sold.
Bill thought to himself, “This is interesting, isn’t it? The art of a maniac. The art of the ultimate outsider. Lunatic! Crepuscular. He hasn’t got any arms. He’s lying on the ground, but he can paint with his mouth!” So, what do we do? He’s part of this movement of sort of anti-artists, which is interesting actually because a significant part of modernism is based upon mental interiority. It’s based not on representing that which is outside, which of course cinema has done in the 20th century, but going inside the mind to sexual imagery, to fantasy, to internal discourses, sort of sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-Blake, if you like. And he’s made a fortune from this sort of stuff. And he’s not even that fashionable because there are elements of modernism that [breaks off]
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