Thursday, February 18, 2010

Deep sea horrors and the Noble Savage

Sometimes a movie grabs you in an indefinable way and, even when it is noticeably flawed, you still can't help but have enjoyed it. This was my experience with Dagon. Based on two of Lovecraft's short stories (Dagon and The Shadow Over Innsmouth), the movie is about two couples on a boating vacation when, as one could only hope for and expect, things go terribly awry.

The acting was, excepting a few of the minor roles, terrible. The main character in particular was obnoxious in a way that few have ever been. I don't wish this on very many people, but I sincerely hope the gentleman never gets another acting job. I believe the world would be better served if he applied his talents elsewhere. What impressed me about this movie was the atmosphere. From start to finish, I was creeped the hell out. Sound was well-applied, the sets and environment were consistently dreary (and wet), the pacing made sense and kept my interest. Violence and gore were there, but I was not beaten senselessly over the head with it. On that note, the movie made the expert choice to keep the creature effects to a minimum. There was something horrible going on in that quaint little Spanish town, terrible things happening to its citizens, but the particulars of the mutations were not lingered upon. A flash here, a glimpse there. The Jaws and Alien method. Let my imagine scare me, because it is a significantly more powerful tool than any effects crew.

Onward to the written word. On the anniversary of the later great Phil Farmer's death, I reread Lord Tyger, a fast-paced, adventurous, graphic and strange book. Ras Tyger is the Noble Savage, but not in any idealistic sense. This is a realistic savage, a true innocent, a murderous, fornicating trickster uncorrupted by the social constrictions and taboos of society. His adventures as a psuedo-Tarzan are fun, soaked with blood and semen, and presented through the eyes of an intelligent savage who has known no other world than his jungle. "My mother was an ape; my father is god. I come from the land of ghosts," he says as he prepares to engage in a joyous romp of raining misery down upon a tribe of native blacks. This is not the only novel Farmer has written regarding the Tarzan character- the other, Tarzan Lives, is perhaps my favorite of all his books. Rest in peace, Phil. I'll see you along the River when I get there.

There is a scene near the middle of the book in which our innocent hero has decided to seduce the unfortunate heroine by means of inserting a beating crocodile heart into her vagina. Perhaps I'm a bit of a morbid fellow, but this and the graphic descriptions of intercourse which followed were, shall we say, exciting. I was at a friend's house at the time, taking a bath in fact, while I read this scene. At an awkward moment, she burst in to inform me that the pipes were leaking and filling the downstairs ceiling with water. My life at this point became an R-rated scene from a slapstick silent comedy; echoes of exactly the kind of humor Farmer likes to insert in his own works. Thanks universe. That one was fun.

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