Veliki režiser horora, Stjuart Gordon, umro je pre nekoliko dana (tačnije, 24. marta). Tužno je znati da nikada nećemo videti novi film ovog originalnog, divnog čoveka, najpoznatijeg po filmu RE-ANIMATOR. Povodom tog filma svojevremeno sam napisao: „Gordon nas podseća koliko neukus i smrt i perverzija mogu da budu smešni! Više memorabilnih replika i upečatljivih set pisova nego ijedna druga zombi komedija! Džefri Kombs u jednoj od antologijskih uloga vascelog žanra.“
Srećan sam što sam ga imao priliku upoznati i intervjuisati na festivalu Fantazija u Montrealu 2010. Tada sam se i naživo uverio koliko je on jedna topla, inteligentna, talentovana, ljubazna, duhovita, divna osoba.
Iza sebe je ostavio klasike koji će se s uživanjem gledati i u decenijama koje dolaze – pod uslovom da opstane neko čovečanstvo, da neko preživi ovu, i predstojeće apokalipse. Gledaće se, što se mene tiče, pre svega i iznad svih sledeći: RE-ANIMATOR. FROM BEYOND. DOLLS. DAGON. STUCK...
|pa odmah za njima i ovaj...|
Baš pre neki dan, razgovarajući sa Acom Radivojevićem o trenutnom njanjavo-poludupastom stanju u horor filmu (mačku o rep okačite te žvake o „renesansi“ koje vam pedluju horor sajtovi!), prizvao sam primer Gordona kao reditelja vrste filmova kakvi danas nedostaju. I još, umetnika čiji su horori, čak i kad su snimani sa jezivo niskim budžetima, IZGLEDALI lepo, jasno, dopadljivo, za razliku od traljave digitalne neosvetljene tmuše u koju imamo da škiljimo danas.
Sticajem okolnosti, više sam o ovom značajnom, uticajnom i talentovanom reditelju pisao na engleskom nego na srpskom, pa da ne bih prepričavao i prevodio samog sebe, radije ću da od tih mojih tekstova za Rue Morgue i drugde načinim jedan smisleni omaž ovom velikanu.
Dakle, sve ovo dole, (c) Dejan Ognjanović za Ghoul Inc.
In his rich career of a B-movie maverick, Stuart Gordon fought with censors, producers and financiers, constantly struggling to preserve integrity of his vision. Interestingly, almost all of his best horror films are inspired by works of the two giants of horror fiction – Edgar Allan Poe (The Pit and the Pendulum, 1991; Masters of Horror: The Black Cat, 2007) and H. P. Lovecraft (Re-Animator, 1985; From Beyond, 1986; Castle Freak, 1995; Dagon, 2001; Masters of Horror: Dreams in the Witch-House, 2005).
I met him at Fantasia, Montreal, where he presented The Raven, a play about E. A. Poe which he directed and co-wrote with his old friend and collaborator, Dennis Paoli.
Stuart Gordon has a unique talent to unite the things which are either considered too disparate (like sex and horror) or those which are rarely blended with such an unmitigated success (like horror and humor). Nowhere is this mixture so successful as in his debut, Re-Animator, a timeless classic which is at once sick, depraved, hilarious and utterly what-the-funny. Many directors aimed for that particular rainbow, but only a few (like The Return of the Living Dead, 1985, and Braindead, 1992) can parallel the insanity and unpredictability of Re-Animator's inspired splattstick.
Unity of opposites? Hell, yeah! Rooted in literature and theater (where his productions were nominated for many important awards), Gordon mastered B-movie entertainment of the horrific and provocative kind. The same man who concieved the gleefully sadistic The Dentist (1996) also wrote the kiddy fantasy hit Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989). With equal wit he adapts Lovecraft and Mamet (in Edmond, 2005); he is as inspired by the most outrageous fantasy of From Beyond (1986) as he is by the gritty reality of Stuck, 2007 (based on a true event). From the depths of the Charles Band and Brian Yuzna produced exploitation he is struggling to be political, socially conscious and subversive.
Gordon represents the true spirit of the independents which reigned in the bygone (?) days. His ability to join the unjoinable and make it enjoyable is all but forgotten in this day and age where young horror directors can barely concoct a story worth telling – far from imbuing it with wit, energy and subtext like Gordon so effortlessly could. As such, he is both a relic from the past and a lasting inspiration to all those who can see beneath the surface right into the bloody beating heart of B-moviemaking.
Top 5 reasons to love & respect Stuart Gordon
1. No one mixes sex, horror and humour quite like him! Case in point: the legendary, much-censored scene from Re-Animator in which decapitated and reanimated Dr. Hill is "giving head" to naked and strapped Barbara Crampton.
2. No one does the body horror quite so fleshy, gory and gooey. Just think of the unrestrained insanity of From Beyond: the flying creatures, the mutated lecherous doctor, the protruding pineal gland, the sadomasochism, the eels from beyond… all that, and more, in one single movie!
3. No one ever used Jeffrey Combs to his full potential the way Gordon has – inspiring not only his comic genius (in career-defining Re-Animator) but also his drama potential, first in Castle Freak, then as Poe himself in The Black Cat, and ultimately (and even more seriously) as Poe in the theater production of The Raven, directed and co-written by Gordon with Dennis Paoli.
4. No one honors Lovecraft with so much freedom, yet respecting his spirit and subtext the way Gordon does. Case in point: Dagon (inspired by "The Shadow over Innsmouth"), the closest anyone has approached a proper HPL adaptation so far, capturing both the decaying seaside town atmosphere and the implied sexuality + sadism from between Lovecraft's lines.
5. No director from the 1980s has retained the true spirit of the independents quite so consistently and subversively the way Gordon has. This is obvious both in the films he's made (King of the Ants; Stuck) and the one he was not allowed to, because of the touchy politics (The House of Re-Animator).
U opširnom intervjuu koji sam uradio sa Brajanom Juznom – producentom prvog Re-animatora (i rediteljem drugog i trećeg dela) – on mi je sledeće imao kazati o saradnji sa Gordonom.
Brian Yuzna: I think that Stuart Gordon is an incredibly talented director, started as a theater director, and RE-ANIMATOR was the first movie for both of us. The budget was very small, under one million dollars. He always does what he wants, but we’ve always had a lot of fun working together. Our ideas are very similar in the sense that we both like excess. With RE-ANIMATOR we went with a number of versions of the script, based on how extreme it was, did it go far enough. I thought that if the movie was not good, then at least it would be shocking. But since Stuart is so talented the movie turned out very good as well.
When we moved to FROM BEYOND, that’s still a pre-digital age, and it was very difficult to do monsters. In fact, when we decided on that story, we thought that it had this machine in it that would sell it. We basically used the Lovecraft story by the main titles. The whole Lovecraft’s story takes place in the prologue to that movie, and then it becomes a kind of action movie with explorers into this other dimension. For example, the great monster at the end was our attempt to present a shoggoth from Lovecraft’s stories, based on the drawings of Bernie Wrightson. Today you can really realize his visions. Back then everything had to be plastic, and was very clumsy, but we had a lot of fun doing it.
I co-wrote the story adaptation with Stuart Gordon and Dennis Paoli, but only Dennis Paoli wrote the screenplay. They came with this Dr Pretorius, who is taken from THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN and who inaugurates the new world of gods and monsters. This character was not in the short story, but he exemplified the theme of a man for whom the senses are not enough, who must go further - this became the theme of that movie. And we took from the short story the idea of the pineal gland as something which enables one to see another dimension. And the gimmick is, if you can see them, they can see you, and they’re hungry.
I think it was a great writing done by the screenwriters. Today when you watch it, the effects seem clumsy. We had to make giant lamprey worms. Today you could do it digitally and it’d look really great. We had to actually build it, and it doesn’t move very much. These types of effects tend to be tricky.
The idea of pineal gland coming out of Jeffrey Combs’s forehead – he always complained that we’re giving him a “dog dick” in his forehead, and we assured him that it wasn’t that. This kind of thing would also be much easier today; we had to put him a kind of helmet on his head with a mechanism to move the “gland”. I think those movies work more because of the good writing and directing than because of the effects. In BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR we had to make the small fingers-creature with stop-motion, today you could easily do it digitally. But I think there is a kind of charm in puppetry.
Ceo ovaj moj intervju sa Juznom možete čitati OVDE.
A kad smo kod intervjua, rekoh već, uradio sam veoma opširan razgovor i sa Gordonom, pre 10 godina. Njegov veći deo, mada ne u celini celosti, izašao je u knjižici intervjua HORROR HEROES, spec. izdanju RUE MORGUE magazina. Za ovu priliku, u znak sećanja na njega, za blog sam izdvojio njegove odgovore na nekolicinu mojih pitanja.
(Uncut verziju ovog intervjua, kao i moje razgovore sa desetinama drugih svetskih majstora filmskog i književnog horora čitaćete, jednog dana, kad budem rešio da je vreme da podvučem crtu, u knjizi STRAŠNE PRIČE...)
if you can think it, you should express it
A Stuart Gordon interview
by Dejan Ognjanović
Horror is still perceived by the media as a second-grade genre, immature, perhaps even dangerous...
- I don't believe it. I like what Stephen King says about it. He says that it's the reverse spiral of death. We all think about death, and that's what horror is all about.
So, you have no problem being called a horror director? You don't feel ghettoed?
- Sometimes I do, but I think that people who despise horror are snobs, those who try to put it down. My feeling is that it may not be for everyone, just like not everyone likes eating escargots, but that doesn't mean it's bad. All it means is that it's not for them. What I think is funny, if you look at all the greatest films of all time, the films that people remember, that are the most popular, that made the most money, they're either science fiction or horror.
They're certainly among the most memorable, thanks to the striking imagery that they use.
- Brian Yuzna had a very good point when he said that, if you had to pick one image from all the movies of all times, the most popular image, he believes it would be Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's monster. Everybody knows who that is. So, horror leaves a lasting impression. What I think is really interesting about horror is that people who scare us the most – we love the most. Which is kind of strange because you'd think that people who scare you, you wouldn't want to have anything to do with them, but it's the opposite, you want them to scare you.
What do you think about the notion of going too far in terms of movie violence?
- I don't think you should ever censor yourself. That's a lesson that I learned when I was working on From Beyond. I'd say to myself: "Audiences are not gonna be able to handle this. This is too much." There was a scene that was shot, edited, that existed in a couple of cuts. It was a scene, right at the beginning of the movie, where Jeffrey Combs's character is trying to call the scientist guy, and he opens the door, and he's got a naked woman, all tied up, you know, and she has a nail pounded through her tongue, and Jeffrey's character unties her and lets her go. I thought a woman with a nail through her tongue was too much, and now every other woman has a pierced tongue. (Laughter) So that taught me a lot: never ever censor yourself. My feeling is: if you can think it, you should express it.
What about a director's responsibility? Could you damage minds, hurt people?
- I don't think that's really the case. It works the opposite way. I think you help people. When I worked in theatre I used to read Artaud, about his notion of "The Theater of Cruelty", and his idea was that all theater should be acts of violence, crimes committed onstage, because he felt that it's a way for people to get these ideas out of their system, that it's a way to purge these ideas, that it was a healthy thing, a cleansing. And I think that's true. We all have very dark thoughts, and we think about murdering people, or torturing someone or whatever, and to express that through a movie, which doesn't really harm anyone, I think it's healthy.
When you were making Re-Animator, were you aware that you're pushing the envelope?
- I wanted it to have something to set it apart from other films. And Brian Yuzna, who produced the movie, had a film festival in his house, which went for a couple of weeks, and each day he'd show me some movies. He wanted me to be aware of the movies that were being made at that time. As the matter of fact, it was Rosemary's Baby that had the greatest effect on me. I read Roman Polanski's autobiography, and he talks a lot in that book about how people see things, about vision and how the eye works. And watching how he shot Rosemary's Baby, how he made everything look subjective…
|Gordon sa Denisom Paolijem|
What is it that affects you most in horror films: is it violence, gore, chills, suspense...?
- This is how it works for me. Number one, it has to be a well-directed film. There are tons of movies that are really bloody, but they're so badly made – they couldn't scare anybody. So, yeah, it can be about the imagery, but it's even more about the acting, caring about the characters, and if you care about them and you get involved in the movie then you feel as if something's being done to you. And that really is upsetting. For example, one of my favorite movies is Cronenberg's Dead Ringers. By the end of that movie I was on the floor, under my seat, I was creeping out. Then I saw it again on the American television, and they cut out all the blood out of it... at the end, when they're killing each other. None of that was in the movie, and I was still getting upset because the acting was so good. Jeremy Irons is so great in that movie. That's what was making me squeamish, really; it was him.
What exactly were your intentions with Re-Animator: was it to shock people, to gross them out, to entertain them...?
- Well, all of the above. What I think Brian was trying to get across to me was that you had to have something in the movie that would set it apart from all the others. That's when Dennis Paoli and I came up with the idea that the dead people in this movie, and especially Dr. Hill, want to have sex with a living person. That's something you don't ever see in horror films. Zombies always wanted to eat people, but we thought: how about if they want to fuck people? It was the sexuality of Re-Animator that I think really set it apart. And when we wrote it, Dennis asked: "How is he going to have sex with her if he has hid head cut off?" – and then he answered his own question.
O tome kako sam upoznao Gordona, kakav je bio uživo i naživo, možete detaljnije čitati u mom slikovitom izveštaju sa Fantazije, OVDE.
A evo ga i tekst o RE-ANIMATORU koji sam pisao za moj nekadašnji blog na engleskom, THE TEMPLE OF GHOUL. Izvorno izašlo OVDE.
Director: Stuart Gordon
Screenplay: S. Gordon, Dennis Paoli, William J. Norris
Music: Richard Band
Director of Photography: Mac Ahlberg
Special make-up effects: David Allen, John Naulin, Anthony Doublin, John Carl Buechler....
Starring: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, David Gale, Barbara Crampton,...
Running time: 87' (cut from 90' -also available on 97' but with less gore)
Stuart Gordon began his career with unusual stage productions in his Organic Theatre in Chicago, where the audience was treated with a weird mixture of art and Grand Guignol. The latter is very much obvious in his first feature, RE-ANIMATOR, which was originally conceived as a TV series. Nothing strange there, since it's based on a series of short stories by the great H.P. Lovecraft, published under the title HERBERT WEST - REANIMATOR.
Luckily, Brian Yuzna (the producer at the time; later also a famed horror director) wanted to make a feature: only the big screen could do the justice to a story that the British author James Havoc called "one of the most gratuitously sick exercises in human dismemberment and degradation that I have ever read". And rightly so. Lovecraft was not very proud of this early effort (written in 1922), but the story remains one of his better achievements, notable not only for its gruesomeness, but also for an element so rare in his fiction - humor. Pitch black, cynical, but humor nonetheless.
With a first-time director and a cast of unknowns, Yuzna could rely only on Lovecraft's name attached to the title and – gratuitous amounts of carnage and blood. He was so uncompromising about it that he refused to submit the film to the Ratings Board: RE-ANIMATOR came to the cinemas unrated - and took the audience by storm. The cult status was immediate and, surprisingly for this kind of film, even the reviews were mostly favorable.
The plot is simple and, by now, very familiar: a young student from Zurich, Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs – in a career-defining debut role) improves the serum to resurrect the newly dead, invented by his deceased mentor, and comes to the Miscatonic University in Arkham, Massachusetts (fictional university in a fictional town, both Lovecraft's inventions). He continues his experiments, using the reluctant help from a fellow student (Bruce Abbott) whose apartment (or, rather, basement) he's sharing. Things are complicated by the unscrupulous and lecherous Dr Hill (the late David Gale), who would like to usurp the discovery. It will cost him his head, but that's exactly when he becomes even more dangerous...
Very little remained of the original Lovecraft's story: names of the characters, the basic theme and situation, and a detail or two. Still, RE-ANIMATOR remains the best screen adaptation of a Lovecraft work, for it keeps the gleefully macabre spirit of the original, and manages to be scary, gruesome, funny and entertaining yet never reverts to cheap tricks, low humor or parody. It is a straight-faced horror comedy, and it has found a perfect vehicle in Jeffrey Combs, whose portrayal of Herbert West is simply – excellent. His amoral, Faustian mad doctor sees no limits on the road to triumph, and perceives people around him as merely more or less suitable "specimens". As such, this mad doctor inevitably recalls the classic portrayal of Dr Frankenstein by Udo Kier in similarly outrageous straight-faced black comedy FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN. Even his frail physique and the feverish, fanatical look of his blue eyes remind one of Udo Kier's memorable character.
Similarly accomplished is David Gale's role: this tall, slim actor with a creepy face and high cheekbones becomes even creepier once he's reduced to a severed, bloody head which hisses, screams and, in the end, fondles the naked body of a tied-up co-ed (Barbara Crampton). Unfortunately, the latter scene (lasting some 2,5 minutes) has been cut from most prints of the film. It belongs to the same scene which features the most memorable quotes. "I must say, Dr Hill, I'm VERY disappointed in you. You steal the secret of life and death, and here you are, trysting with a bubble-headed co-ed. You're not even a second-rate scientist!" yells West. A little later, upon Dr Hill's threat that he would steal his serum, West replies: "Who's going to believe a talking head? Get a job in a sideshow!"
The perfect balance of humor and horror and dynamic direction are Stuart Gordon's achievements which can't be overpraised, as well as Mac Ahlberg's excellent photography. Much disputed Richard Band's score, "borrowed" and adapted from the classic Bernard Herrmann's PSYCHO score, is in fact perfectly functional in this context, effectively underlying the grotesquerie of the events. Truth be told, in the last 10 minutes, when all the bodies in the hospital morgue rise from the dead, the grotesquerie attains a level of intense horror and pure delirium as the living-dead intestines start wrapping around the hapless characters...
The great success of RE-ANIMATOR brought about a momentary popularity of HPL in the movies, but the lackluster "adaptations" that followed (FROM BEYOND, also by Gordon, THE UNNAMABLE, THE LURKING FEAR, FOREVER EVIL...) were mostly misguided (in Gordon's case) or shameless and talentless attempts to cash in on a trend, never caring- or being able to- be faithful to the spirit of HPL, present in every inspired frame of RE-ANIMATOR. Much later, Gordon would repay his HPL debt by making the best straight adaptation in DAGON (based on the novella "The Shadow over Innsmuth").
A pretty successful sequel followed (BRIDE OF REANIMATOR, 1990, Brian Yuzna), while the 3rd part, also by Yuzna (BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR) was much cheaper and trashier.
Za kraj ovog mega-omaža Stjuartu Gordonu, evo i mojih osvrta na neke njegove novije filmove koji su bili bacani na jedan forum u vreme pre pokretanja ovog bloga...
KING OF THE ANTS
Najnoviji film Stjuarta Gordona od mene ima jaku trojku. To je ekvivalent vrlo dobrog filma, ali ipak, nekako sam razočaran - očekivao sam više.
U godini u kojoj će dva revenge flicka da zauzmu prvo i drugo mesto moje top liste možda je ipak bilo previše očekivati od jednog Gordona da priđe tako blizu Tarantinu i Čanvuk Parku. Film je iznenađujuće jednostavan i linearan, a svaka mogućnost komplikacije ili inventivnosti regulisana je sa par pažljivo situiranih deus ex machina.
Film pokazuje naznake jakih potencijala u pojedinim momentima (recimo u sceni u kojoj jedan od onih ružnih, debelih Boldvina ubeđuje gl. junaka da se upusti u izvesnu 'amoralnu' akciju), ali ih brzo zaboravlja, napušta, i ne čini bogzna šta od njih. Ključna poenta - kako naizgled ok momak postaje plaćeni ubica - nikako nije obrazložena niti razvijena, a slično prolazi i njegova transformacija u krvoločnog osvetnika, jednom kad ga poslodavci zajebu.
Jedino mi nije jasno da li je Gordon uzeo banalan roman osvete i oplemenio ga svojim neodoljivim exploatatorskim momentima sexa i ultranasilja, ili je predložak bio genijalna analiza osvete od koje su u Gordonovim b-movie-flick rukama ostali samo nepovezani parčići.
U svakom slučaju, da nije gorenavedenih revenge-flickova koji su me razmazili pokazavši kakvi se masterpisovi mogu praviti na tu temu, i moja ocena bi možda bila MALO veća. Ovako, ovo je pristojan, gledljiv, vrrrlo dobar, ali ni po čemu izuzetan film. Zapravo, najzabavniji je po tome što se radi o krimi-trileru koji sve vreme oscilira na granici horora, a nju zapravo nekoliko puta i prelazi, naročito u završnici, gde je osveta izvedena ne u duhu akcionog, već pre horor filma.
Svakako preporučujem onima koji mogu da gledaju mnogo brutalnog nasilja bez zaklanjanja očiju, ali ne očekujte ništa blisko remek delu. U kontextu Gordonove filmografije, ovo bi mu bio treći najbolji film (posle Reanimatora i Dagona). (Update: danas bih na treće mesto ipak stavio From Beyond, a na čestvrto kasnije snimljeni Stuck).
Ovo je strašno predvidiv i jednodimenzionalan film: mogu da pojmim kako i zašto Amerima izgleda mnogo pametniji i relevantniji nego što jeste, ali ne primajte se na priče o 'najinteligentnijem' i štatijaznam Gordonovom filmu. Mejsi je, NARAVNO, odličan, kao stvoren za ulogu, ali ta njegova odiseja je suviše iskonstruisana i zapravo najviše mi je smetalo što sve vreme imam osećaj ne priče koja se logično razvija nego lutke koju puppet master pomera po svom nahođenju da bi mi izručio neku relativno plošnu propoved.
King of the ants je bio 'pametniji' a uz to mnogo uzbudljiviji i edgier film od ovoga, dakle, ok ali ništa više od toga. Nije nemoguće da će na II gledanje, bez velikih očekivanja, da NEZNATNO poraste u mojim očima, ali ne mnogo.
DREAMS IN THE WITCH HOUSE
Ehhh... Gordon je uzeo samo najkonvencionalnije deonice iz inače odlične i groundbreaking HPL priče, i onda ih nakitio sa još više klišea, a izbacio ono najbolje – međudimenzionalna putovanja i bizarne pre-LSD kosmičke vizije i glimpseve neslućenih svetova koje niko pre Lavkrafta nije ni sanjao – za razliku od veštica i banalnih žrtvovanja, koja su opšta mesta žanra. E, sad – kad izbaciš skoro sve te momente vezane za modernu fiziku i baciš se samo na uprošćenu žvaku o veštici – oseti se poveća rupa... Lepo je sve ovo odrađeno, ali previše konvencionalno ne samo za HPL-a nego i za Gordona. Lepo je što beba najebe na kraju, ali to nije dovoljno: od Gordona, naročito posle KING OF THE ANTS, očekivao sam više edge-a, više smelosti, najzad – više Lavkrafta...
Eto, čisto da ne ispadne da sam nekritički hvalio sve što je Gordon ikada napravio, uvrstio sam u ovaj omaž i nekoliko ne baš superpohvalnih rivjua.
Ipak, podsećam: svakog čoveka, a naročito umetnika, treba vrednovati prema njegovim najvećim dometima, a najviši Gordonovi, nažalost, danas su drugima praktično nedohvatljivi. Još gore, onome što je on postizao čak i u svojim polovičnim filmovima niko više danas ne teži. On je uspevao da pravi nepretenciozno pametne filmove koji su pamet držali tamo gde joj je mesto, između redova, a u samim redovima bila je strava, akcija, humor, šok, splater, zabava. Današnje horor zvezde i „majstori“ najčešće odmah grabe metafore, simbole, poruke, propovedi, „pamet“ i to trpaju u prve redove, nauštrb strave i zabave, tako da između svega toga odjekuje šupljina...
Počivaj u miru, dragi Stjuarte Gordone, divni čoveče i reditelju od sorte kakve više nećemo imati...