Sunday, March 1, 2009

"Fuck You!" Filmmaking

I'm uncomfortable and somewhat uneasy discussing my own work here, but since this blog is autobiographical by design, perhaps my discomfort is unjustified.

Afterall, my exposure to exploitation (sex and violence) at a very early age, and subsequent addiction, is part of what compelled me to make some films of my own, as minor as they are.

Is necrophilia still rape when a corpse can't consent?

"PULP AS A WAY OF LIFE", my description of this blog, ought to cover how pulp has affected my life, and my work. If it doesn't, it's derelict in its duty.

One's passion for literature and film and illustration (and variations thereof) permeates our everyday lives.

Not an hour goes by that is not colored by a thought, a memory, a recollection, or a recreation (in our minds) of something fantastique that has moved us.

It is always there.

It lives and grows and mutates inside us, giving rise to a fresh, new synthesis of its purest elements

Until very recently, Australia was a heavily censored country. The theatrical releases of The Hills Have Eyes, Dawn of the Dead, Maniac and Zombie Flesh Eaters were all cut.

Last House on the Left
was banned for almost thirty years.

When I was a young boy, even a teenager, I could only imagine the true extent of the grisliest, most violent content released overseas. I could only dream of and speculate about what I was missing.

Or maybe I could create it myself... within the walls of censorship? .

In the late 70's, I got hold of an American X-rated film periodical called Adult Cinema Review.

In it, a film called Weekend Fantasy ('84) was reviewed. The film starred a bloke named Bill Margold as the leader of a gang of miscreants (male and female) who kidnap and sexually enslave various women as part of a secret sex club. According to the review, the film's standout scene of degeneracy featured a rape by Margold in a chicken coop. During the scene, Margold's penis really got bitten and blood spurted out of it. Like a trooper, he continued with the scene through to its conclusion.

Imminent castration by garden shears

After reading this account, I felt like I'd been tapped on the shoulder and anointed with a mission to create a Weekend Fantasy of my own, a home-grown strike against Australia's draconian censorship laws.

The descriptions of the film's sexual anarchy touched a nerve in me. They lit a wicked fire.

All X-rated films were banned in Australia at the time. There wasn't any possibility that I would get to see Weekend Fantasy or its ilk anytime soon. How far these films really pushed the envelope I didn't know. I only had stills to go on, and stills can be deceptive.

Very weak cover art

But these images of long ago (which I have no access to now) inspired me to take a crack at creating my only sexually violent hell on Earth... on Super-8!

Simple-set up: Three friends on a cross-country walk stop to relax in the ruins of an old house.

The weary travelers take a break

Almost immediately, they are attacked and raped by two savages who reside in the ruins. In the process of destroying the bodies of their victims (who are predominantly male), the savages gain great physical power and an extension on their mortality.

Most importantly, the victims who are witness to the destruction of their friends, begin to enjoy what they are witness to, and become reluctantly "infected" by the sexual violence, as if it is some kind of contagion.

The victims become the voyeurs...

... and the voyeurs become the new aggressors, embracing their primal natures.

Perversion can be contagious.

None of this is explicitly stated in dialog (there is no dialog), and the film has no hardcore sex, but this theme of submitting to perversion's power is what drove the concept.

When my brother and I screened these films at a well known community film festival in Melbourne's St. Kilda area, we were shown the door. Although we had been accepted into the festival, nobody had watched the films themselves. Screened beside meaningful lesbian love stories and accounts of community do-gooding, our poems to sexual anarchy got no respect (and rightly so).

My brother Colin as the face of the Beyond the Pale films.

Because the festival was government subsidized, there were complaints to government administrators about the single screening of these films with complainants arguing that such "rubbish" had no business being screened at a tax payer-funded festival.

Although I had made close to forty Super-8 shorts before these two, these were the most satisfying of my experiences in filmmaking.

The simple scenario permitted total creative freedom.

At the time I was obsessing about contrast and juxtaposition in art, so here was a great opportunity to experiment with the beauty/brutality mix that was firing my passion; finally I was stepping beyond simple depictions of aesthetically satisfying mayhem (not that there's anything wrong with that!)

When the films were screened at various festivals, my brother and I were always asked by audience members why the film's sexual violence was mostly homosexual. Surely there were complex, deeply considered reasons?

Not really.

Whether you're male or female, rape is a terrible, invasive act, even if only imagined.

If I wanted to depict it, gender wasn't especially relevant to me.

The fact is, as a Melbourne teenager, I simple didn't know any girls who would agree to participate in such a film.

The guys I knew didn't have a problem doing anything. They just loved making movies.

They turned up and did their part.

End of discussion.

What are friends for?

Interestingly, whenever these films were screened, males either loved them or got mad at me for making them.

The male/male rapes bothered some men a lot.

One guy threatened to hit me at a New Year's Eve bash when a friend suggested I screen the films in a lead-up to the the Witching Hour. I did try to explain that the films weren't really an appropriate entree into the New Year, but the ears of my friend (God bless him) were clearly painted on that night.

Richard Wolstencroft, creator of the infamous Melbourne
Underground Film Festival (MUFF), rebels against
draconian censorship.

I don't like a lot of what I've done. I'm very, very critical. Much of it feels compromised and uneven.

I do like the Beyond The Pale flicks , though, which I made with my brother.

They're my example of Fuck You! Filmmaking, a type of filmmaking that the worship of the almighty dollar has virtually destroyed.

But, you know what? It's coming back! It's coming back because the old distribution ways for indie films are no longer working.

The dolls from my collection find employment.

Our beloved classics of pulp in film, literature, and illustration (and variations thereof) were forged with a Fuck You! attitude and no concessions to mediocrity.

For anything truly original, no other approach will do.

You'll only have to kowtow to the mediocre when the mediocre are funding you.

I was inspired by the "idea" of Weekend Fantasy, but what I ended up with was something entirely different, a pure synthesis of personal perspective and diverse influences.

Calm before the carnal storm

I met Bill Margold, the man in the chicken coop, a couple of years ago, and I related to him my story of how he lit a wicked fire inside me.

He smiled, walked me to his office, and introduced me to his collection of Garfield-like stuffed cats. He called me "Kid" a lot, and talked about Viper, the love of his life, a woman (now gone) for whom he still carries a flaming torch nothing will ever extinguish.

I have caught up with Bill on several occasions and am always so impressed with his brutal honesty and capacity for tenderness and humor.

Bill with actress Drea

These are traits I find often in most true apostles of pulp.

I must confess, however, that it can be hard sometimes to reconcile Bill with the chicken coop of my teen dreams.

My brother as the savage rapist of the Beyond The Pale films


  1. Great post to a great story. Thanks for sharing.

  2. the stills looks great...where can we watch your film?

  3. Wow! Thanks for sharing that with us. What a fascinating story.

  4. Mattson -- you're welcome.

    Kotto -- the film is not available; I could possibly post it somewhere for you to see; let me look into that

    Keith -- Thanks, Keith.

  5. The image if the rape in all that green grass is really striking. It is just a really powerful image.

    Considering everything you have blogged about concerning censorship in Australia, it really amazes me how you had the balls to make something like this.

  6. Shon -- Thank you for your comment. I'm actually planning a 'Beyond The Pale' feature. Financing will come from Asia. It's been a slow process getting it cranking, but I'm confident it will start soon.

    I admit that these films did give me some sleepless nights.

    We felt very alone making these. Ironically, when I discovered Yasuharu Hasebe's films almost fifteen years later, I realized that similar subject matter was being embraced in Japan.

    I'd personally love to resurrect this genre for international on-line and DVD sale.

  7. Certainly let us know if you end up posting this up somewhere- along with the story of making it, I find the whole thing very compelling as a filmmaker...

  8. Bill Margold seems like a real peach of a guy. I'd never heard the chicken coop story before. The fact that a guy who has had sex with so many women still holds a candle for one lost love speaks volumes about what's really important.

    ...or he has really misplaced priorities.

    It's sad that your Beyond the Pale films were not included with Subversive Cinema's boxset. I really would've liked to see them.

  9. Bill is a really decent, honest guy.

    It never ceases to anger me that people like him are considered immoral and scum, while our lying, immoral leaders are given a pass.

    I was discussing this issue with my girlfriend yesterday. I equate "blatant, intentional dishonesty for gain" with immorality. Anybody who does that is scum.

    If you want to have sex with animals, 500 lepers, 2000 hookers, or 10,000,000 sex dolls, that doesn't make you scum or immoral in my book. It makes you human.

    The scum who run the banking systems in all the 1st World Nations are scum. The politicians are scum. The religious assholes who prescribe how others should live so that they may wild power over them are scum.

    Give a country of Bill Margolds any day.

    Bill's priorities are clearly in the right place.

    He is hated by many in the industry because he tells it like it is.

    Truth-sayers are never popular because the majority are deluded imbeciles who need a constant stream of lies to keep their deluded lives afloat.

    As for BYP, it was, ultimately, my call not to include them in the box set.

  10. It's a terrible malaise over the entire world. And it's not just idiots--it's folks who should know better and those who are fearful not of being literally burned at the stake but of simply being viewed as "that guy who stupidly spoke up." Everyone's suffering from the flu, jacked up and distorted on Nyquil jerking off under a blanket and willing to swallow any old bullshit... and that's just what they get. True, our leaders are rapists, but the vast majority of us are apathetically "asking for it."

  11. d -- "jacked up and distorted on Nyquil and jerking off under a blanket..."
    Potent image.