Saturday, February 28, 2015

Theory & Conjecture

Leonard Nimoy was a constant presence in my life as a child. I never missed an episode of his famous TV series, in which he explored worlds unseen by most, came face to face with myths and legends and attempted to educate us lesser creatures about science, history and philosophy. Nimoy was my ultimate teacher, and I looked forward to those half hour slices of knowledge, sitting cross-legged on my living room floor in front of the TV, whose channels could only be changed by physically getting up and twisting the dial on the front, and whose reception depended upon a pair of silver antennae sprouting from the back of the antiquated device.

And no, I'm not talking about Star Trek. I'm not a Star Trek fan. Never have been, never will be, couldn't possibly give a big fat shit about Borgs and/or Klingons. Sure I've seen a handful of episodes. I even saw the first two films, but the mythos itself never appealed to me. And quite frankly, the film Trekkies made me feel sad and a slight bit dirty, as though some pathetic little Nerd Fairy came along and sprinkled me with Cheeto dust and wank-sweat.

No, I speak of In Search Of, an exploratory television series which spanned the years of 1976 through 1982 and which had been originally intended as a vehicle for Rod Serling. Serling died before the series could officially begin, so Leonard Nimoy was called upon to fill his shoes.

Along with Carl Sagan's Cosmos, this program was Mandatory Viewing in my household growing up. My mother, older sister and I never missed an episode. I was always partial to the more paranormal subjects: Bigfoot, The Lochness Monster, Ghosts, The Amityville Horror, Psychic Detectives, The Bermuda Triangle. There was no shortage of episodes on the possibility of extraterrestrial life either, from UFO cover-ups to the dark star worshipping African tribe of the Dogon, who knew a lot more about black holes and astronomy than an isolated tribe in Africa should have known.


I received the bulk of my retained education from this program - again, along with Cosmos. Thanks to Carl Sagan, I knew the definition of the noun google before it became a common verb in 21st century lexicon. And thanks to Leonard Nimoy, I learned all about the life and times of Amelia Earhart and Vincent Van Gogh, the discovery of North America by Vikings and the Chinese long before Columbus was even conceived, the science behind natural disasters and various and sundry archaeological discoveries, unsolved murder mysteries, spy stories and covert military maneuvers.

In Search Of paved the way for many future investigative programs such as Unsolved Mysteries, Unexplained Mysteries, Psychic Detectives, even Ghost Hunters and Paranormal State. In 2002, it was briefly revived for one season with X-Files star Mitch Pileggi taking over for Nimoy. It was, in fact, an episode of In Search Of about Jack The Ripper which partially inspired the film version of From Hell, starring Johnny Depp...much to the displeasure of graphic novelist Alan Moore.


So, thank you Mr. Nimoy, for the education, the inspiration, for being the catalyst for my own fascination with the macabre and the mysterious. You were my first and greatest teacher, you and Carl, and I am sincerely grateful for prying open my eyes and mind at just the right impressionable age. If not for you, my growth may have been stunted by reruns of CHiPs and Three's Company.


Friday, February 27, 2015

Horror Express - guest article by Bryan Perryman


Horror Express...to Awesomeness

by Bryan Perryman

Late one night, while watching television, I was jonesing for a horror fix and only three men could hook me up. The first of that noble trio is the always pleasing, scene-stealing Vincent Price, the second being the intensely spectacular Christopher Lee, and the third, Mr. Peter Cushing. Oh yes, Mr. Cushing. A man, to paraphrase one of his accolades, whose mere presence could rescue even the most shit-tacular of movies. I will fanboy gush about him a bit later. That particular evening, Vincent Price's only offering was The House on Haunted Hill. Haunted Hill is a very enjoyable movie and Price gives one of his most subtle, creepy performances (see the Abominable Dr. Phibes for his not subtle but intensely creepy performances) but not what I was needing. Searching Hulu and Netflex, I came across The Horror Express starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. I had not seen this movie before and giggled in a slightly maniacal fashion.

My introduction to Cushing and Lee was Hammer's The Horror of Dracula and to this day, my favorite incarnation of Van Helsing is Cushing's. The pair of actors, both of which were very close friends in real life, played well off of each other and I think their best films happened when they shared the screen and worked for Hammer Productions. Since Horror Express was listed as coming out in 1972, I figured that I was getting ready to watch a Hammer film with Lee and Cushing as rivals and heading toward a final showdown. So, as a warning, what follows has some spoilers. Horror Express went sideways and crushed all my expectations. That is a good thing and this film is one more people should know about. First, this wasn't a Hammer Production. It was a joint production between Benmar Productions and Granada Films. Vincent Price, for several years, had worked under an exclusive contract with American International Pictures forbidding him from making horror movies with any other studio. Lee and Cushing had no such arrangement with Hammer and thus other studios would hire them, individually or as a pair, and make a Gothic horror film. Horror Express is an example of this but was no simple knock off.
The movie starts with Professor Saxton (Lee) discovering a fossil in China, that he believes is a missing link in Human evolution. Said fossil is creepy, horrifying, obviously evil and Saxton has that shit crated up to get it to England post-haste. The movie then cuts to a Chinese train station where the crate waits on the loading platform and Saxton, being a very stereotypical uptight British science type, is taking the piss from an officious ticket manager and unable to get a ticket to board the train. In walks the amicable, charming, and gracious Dr. Wells (Cushing). From this point on, we get a deviation from the typical Hammer formula. Instead of being enemies, both men seem to be friendly, respectful rivals, almost friends in fact. While we get to know everyone in the office, we get scenes on the loading platform where a local thief tries to break into the crate and, of course, dies in an unseen but gruesome fashion. We then get to meet the Rasputin-like priest Pujardov giving last rites and claiming whatever is in the crate is 'EVIL', yes 'EVIL'. This role was played by the Alberto Mendoza and, even though its over the top, his performance is really good. Finally, we get on the train and things go south for our passengers. I won't go any further with this story because you really need to watch it and the 'EVIL' has a neat plot twist. It is a fun little movie and the acting is as good as anything you see with Hammer Production. If I may, I would like to conclude this review with a few tidbits of information. Peter Cushing had a long and prolific acting career but by the 1970's, he acted less and less. Now, there are some unkind people out there that say this was because Cushing was no longer the box office draw he once was. To those individuals, I would say you are an idiot.
Peter & Violet
In 1971, Peter Cushings's wife, Violet, passed away. Peter's one true love and the only woman he had married, Peter was left utterly devastated. Many contemporaries of Cushing said that if it hadn’t been for his good friend Christopher Lee, Cushing would have never finished Horror Express. Cushing returned the following year to Hammer with Dracula A.D. 1972 and was to have played the father of the female heroine of that story. However, Cushing had so visibly aged that his part was rewritten to be her grandfather. His interest in acting declined and his last major role was that of Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars. I could go on about his role in Star Wars but I will save it for another day. However, it is interesting to note that George Lucas had considered Cushing for the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Given what a prick Alec Guinness turned into about the role and the whole Star Wars experience, perhaps we have a foreshadowing of the bad decisions Lucas would eventually make and the loss of what could have Cushings's most memorable and enduring role. The last little fact I have will also blow the neat twist for the 'EVIL', so you may want to stop reading. It is claimed that Horror Express is, in fact, a rather loose adaption of John Campbell's 'Who goes there?'. I have read there is some controversy on whether that is true but, if accurate, it would join the ranks of the 1951 'The Thing from Another World', and John Carpenter's 'The Thing'.

Anyway, go see this movie now.

Ix

Ford Prefect's real name, given to him by his father, has its origins in the obscure and difficult-to-pronounce language of Betelgeuse Seven. Ford Prefect's father, the sole survivor of an event he has never been able to fully explain called The Great Collapsing Hrung Disaster.
In the native language of his childhood home on Betelgeuse, it means "boy who is not able to satisfactorily explain what a Hrung is, nor why it should have chosen to collapse on Betelgeuse Seven".
~ Douglas Adams, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy



The Best Songs... 
about having your fucking heart ripped out by some cowardly bastard who can't even be bothered then to tell you why - nope, just disappears from your life and never looks back, never apologizes, just leaves you sitting there like yesterdays trash and goes on with his pathetic little life.

Not that I'm bitter or anything.


Honestly though, it's been a year and I am over it now. But just because I've completed the stages of grief and arrived at acceptance, it doesn't mean I have to forgive. No forgiveness was ever asked of me, therefore none shall be offered. However, on this day I would like to offer him a gift: all of the sorrow, all of the loneliness and crippling self doubt, all of the pain he left with me. Take back all of your scornful words and dismissive blanket statements. Wear them all like armor and see how much good it does you. I will be here, right where you left me, loving myself and knowing I am enough. 

The Start of Something Beautiful - Porcupine Tree
 ...The more I get to know
The less I find that I understand
Innocent, the time we spent
Forgot to mention we're good friends
You thought it was the start of something beautiful?
Well think again.




Bang Bang - Nancy Sinatra


Now he's gone, I don't know why
And 'till this day, sometimes I cry
He didn't even say goodbye
He didn't take the time to lie
Bang bang, he shot me down
Bang bang, I hit the ground
Bang bang, that awful sound

Bang bang, my baby shot me down



3 Libras - A Perfect Circle
Here I am expecting just a little bit too much from the wounded
But I see, see through it all, see through, see you.

'Cause I threw you the obvious, to see what occurs behind the 
Eyes of a fallen angel, eyes of a tragedy, oh well. 

Oh well, apparently nothing. 
Apparently nothing, at all.

Schism - Tool

Cold silence
has a tendency
to atrophy any
sense of compassion
between supposed lovers,
between supposed lovers.







Wildwood Flower - June Carter Cash

But he taught me to love him and promised to love
And to cherish me over all others above
My poor heart is wondering no misery can tell
He left with no warning, no word of farewell.






Hang your head in shame
Every time you break another woman's heart.








Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Dark Fish

Welcome to the cycle of the Pisces. I'm a little late in announcing it as it officially began on February the 19th, but as a Pisces I am expected to procrastinate.

We are the twelfth and final sign of the Zodiac, representing Death and Resurrection. Ruled by Neptune, we are the only true water sign of the Zodiac, never emerging from the water like our Cancer and Scorpio brethren. Pisces are the dreamers, the moody, reclusive poets, and the sad and troubled artists. There is always a palpable sorrow attached to the Pisces. You can see it in their eyes on the rare occasions that they look directly at you. More often it comes out in their art. Pisces don't simply make art, they bleed it. They vomit it out. Piscean souls are very delicate, you see - made out of glass and sea foam. They can't carry around such heavy burdens of empathic sorrow and tragedy for long. They can swim in the dark waters, but with such a heavy rusted anchor attached to them, they will sink in the blackness and drown in the despair. So they release it in furious bursts of music, writing, painting or acting. And when it's out, they don't try to reclaim it or declare ownership of it. It belongs to everyone now, and whether it's appreciated or damned, they simply smile and shrug and move along.

I've always found the months of February and March to be the bleakest and most sorrowful time of year, when everything is cold and silent and fast asleep. Winter is almost over, Spring is on the way, but here we are in the Held Breath season. It was into this pause that I was born, 45 years ago, on an island, on a Monday morning, on the 9th day of March, in a week ending with a Friday the 13th. I was brought into the world by a doctor whose surname was Payne. How fitting.

I've always been very much aware of the darkness and sadness present in the world, even as a very young girl. I disliked adults who baby-talked me, called me "cute" or feigned enthusiasm for my presence. I sensed the dishonesty. I knew they were putting on an act and the insincerity made me sick. I shied away from attention. I was happier painting or writing stories in my bedroom on bright summer days. I hated school. I didn't care about clothes or boys or popularity. In the third grade, I made the mistake of using the word "mysterious" in front of my friends, who looked at me as though I had suddenly offered them a maggot sandwich for lunch. Another time, on the bus to Jr. High, I looked out of the window at a country lane which spooled off into the distant morning mist. I asked the girl next to me: "Have you ever looked down a road and wondered where it goes?" She looked at me, annoyed, and answered "No." in a tone that suggested I was not only a nerd, but that I would most certainly die a virgin with the word "UNCOOL" scrawled upon my headstone. I never voiced another observation like that again. I kept things to myself from that point forward. The people around me were content to dip their toes in the shallow end, but they could venture no deeper without drowning. I, however, had gills. I was a a dreamer. I was a freak.

So here is my birthday gift for you, fellow Fish People. A list of films, books and music that you can appreciate in a way that no other sign of the Zodiac can. They may not have been written by a Pisces, starred any Pisces or even been inspired by a Pisces, but they somehow caught the current that moves dark and mournfully through the Pisces soul at all times.

#1 - Ringu
"Frolic in brine, Goblins be thine."

Sadako Yamamura, born to a psychic woman on a volcanic island in the middle of a fisherman's domain. Her father? Well, no one is sure. Her mother spent her days sitting on the beach, staring at the sea and whispering to the waves in a language that had never been uttered by any land-bound human. But local legend purported that if one dared to "frolic in brine" the goblins of the sea would either destroy you or claim you as one of their own. Sadako's mother was apparently chosen to be a vessel for the offspring of an ocean god as the result of her frolicking. Sadako, born from the sea and sent to an early watery grave, kills with a thought and leaves a trail of seawater behind her. It is revealed a few sequels later that Sadako was actually a dual entity - a dark fish and a light fish, a good twin and an evil twin - who ultimately combine and gives itself over to her destiny. For all that Sadako is a cold, murdering spirit bent on vengeance, she is also a young girl whose sorrow is apparent when her rotted corpse is pulled from the depths of the well that has become her tomb. Oozing tears, she allows herself to be comforted and mourned, but she cannot and will not change her scales.

#2 - The Drowning Girl 
by Caitlin Kiernan
In the Native American Zodiac, the sign of the Pisces is not a fish, but a wolf. How fitting then that Caitlin Kiernan - herself a Gemini, the only other twin sign of the Zodiac - penned this semi-autobiographical narrative of a schizophrenic young woman who finds herself caught between a mermaid and a wolf girl. Imp, our protagonist, is a lost soul, working in an art store in Providence, Rhode Island and simply existing in the absence of her mother, who succumbed to her own mental torment. Imp, regardless of when her birthday occurs, is a true Pisces - unsure of herself, fragile, dreamy and kind, unwilling to inflict pain on anyone except herself. Torn between fantasy and reality, Imp is unsure whether or not to cling to the life preserver of love with her girlfriend, or drown in the sea of her hopes and fears. This Mortal Coil's Piscean ballad Song to the Siren is referenced throughout this sad tale. It is an absolute must-read for anyone who has ever felt out of place in this cold, stony world, but especially for the wounded Fish people, yanked by cruel hands from our soft waters and left to flop and gasp on the concrete.



#3 - Annwyn, Beneath the Waves
Faith & The Muse

Faith & the Muse's second studio album might well have been recorded in the Sea King's caverns. It has a darkness in its depths, but sends pearls up to the surface, riding the siren song of Monica Richards gorgeous voice. If you listen to nothing else on this album, listen to the track The Sea Angler, based on a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. It's sorrow incarnate, but also a beautifully baited hook, luring you in with a promise and drowning you with a grin.






#4 - Dagon
The Shadow Over Innsmouth by H.P. Lovecraft is a classic tale of alienation, for anyone who has never felt comfortable in their own skin and questions their existence in a world which seems to know them not at all. Brought to the big screen as Dagon, the tale is pitch perfect - dark, waterlogged, soggy and moldy with squamous secrets and eerie inheritances. When you have spent your entire life thus far feeling as though you don't fit in, finding your home - no matter how horrible and monstrous that home may be, or how inbred and mutated your blood family - it's a relief to find the answers at last, even if they lie at the bottom of the ocean in the tentacles of an ancient beast called Dagon by those who fear him, and  "daddy" by those he has spawned.

#5 - Disintegration
The Cure
The Cure's darkest, bleakest, loneliest album was released in 1989, and immediately went into repeat play mode on the turntable of the record store where I worked as a teenager. Standout tracks for Pisces include Prayers For Rain and The Same Deep Water As You. The entire album is a musical equivalent of standing knee deep in the surf on a stormy, overcast day, waiting for the tide to come in and allowing it to slowly suck you under. Not even Mozart could have penned such a majestic Death Mass as this album.








#6 - Ophelia
by Lisa Klein

Pisces women and Shakespearean women have one unfortunate thing in common - they are perceived as weak by the majority of others. Nothing could be further from the truth. We do tend to avoid confrontation and dislike anger, but we are not weak by any means. On the contrary, we are probably better prepared to deal with the worst case scenario, because we have already imagined it. We've been expecting it. And when it arrives, it's no surprise to us. Shakespeare thought that Ophelia was a fragile willow frond who would break beneath the slightest weight. Lisa Klein knows better, redrawing Ophelia as a shrewd, fiercely independent young woman who knows that no man can ever save her, so she saves herself instead, relying on her knowledge rather than her beauty or social standing. Faking her own death by drowning, Ophelia escapes the chaos of the Danish kingdom and journeys to France, and begins a new adventure which makes Hamlet's drama seem like whiny teenage angst by comparison.




#7 - Pan's Labyrinth
Yet again, a girl named Ophelia (or, in this case, Ofelia) rises above the ugliness of her mortal existence and descends into paradise. Notice I said descends, not ascends. Because director del Toro knows that the true safe haven is below, in the dark, where only a certain kind of soul can find beauty and solace. In sacrificing herself to save her infant brother, Ofelia reclaims the throne of the underworld where she rules as Princess, safe in her daydreams of fairies and fauns and shiny new shoes.

#8 - It'll End In Tears
This Mortal Coil

Pure heartbreaking hope from start to finish. Piscean highlights would have to be the aforementioned and legendary Song To The Siren by Elizabeth Fraser and Waves Become Wings by Lisa Gerrard. A perfect soundtrack for those dreary, emotional days when a fish girl just has to hide out in her room with the curtains drawn and the only illumination provided by that dusty string of Christmas lights strung over the bed.









#9 - Something Rich & Strange
Patricia McKillip

Lured by a siren song, a curmudgeonly young artist from a seaside tourist town is drawn beneath the waves by a sea fairy both enchanting and cruel. His girlfriend, half seduced by an ocean creature named Adam Finn, follows him down to an underwater realm of ship wrecks, iridescent shimmering scales and tears turned to pearls. Drawing inspiration from Shakespeare's The Tempest, Patricia McKillip goes the full fathom five and deeper, drawing up a sunken treasure of Piscean gold.













#10 - Valerie & Her Week of Wonders
Though there isn't an ocean or a single fish in sight, Valerie captures the inside of a Piscean's head perfectly - draped in pearls, teeming with flowers, bursting with beauty and seeded with vampires. Valerie herself, a rather Piscean spirit, is making the transition from childhood to maturity and the way is fraught with difficulties. When faced with unpleasantness, Valerie escapes back into her fantasy world of lacy white dresses, velvet ribbons and soft feather beds. Eventually, evil is overcome and Valerie goes to sleep once more, knowing she will wake into a beautiful world of unlimited possibilities.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Top 10 Songs About Death

So my friend Erik over on The Novel Sound came up with a great post: The Ten Best Songs About Death. I liked the idea so much I decided to steal it...with his permission, of course.

As he expressed a desire to see this morph into a conversation rather than remain a strict list, I have decided I am not stealing, but rather adding. That's my story and I'm sticking with it. I can justify anything.


So...what are your Top Ten songs about Death?


#1 - I Am Stretched On Your Grave
Dead Can Dance

Dead Can Dance was not the first or the last group to cover this anonymous 17th century Irish poem, but they did it best, in my humble opinion. I Am Stretched On Your Grave tells the tale of a man so overcome with grief for the death of a girl that he had "loved as a child" that he has been driven most of the way to insanity, spending his nights asleep upon her grave and his days seriously scaring the shit out of the "priest and friars" who "behold him with dread." It hurts to listen to this song, not just because the lyrics are so plaintive and the tune so mercilessly mournful, but also because I seriously doubt anyone will ever love me that much.




#2 - Jackie
Sinead O'Connor

Not only is this a song about a woman who has lost the love of her life; it's sung from the point of view of a dead woman, whose ghost wanders the shores for all eternity, seeking her dead lover. Jackie, apparently a sea captain, was lost at sea over a hundred years ago, but his wife refuses to believe he has died. Even twenty years after her own death, she stubbornly refuses to move on, walking the seas forevermore until she finds her Jackie. You can practically taste the salt water and fog in this ghostly song.







#3 - Gloomy Sunday
Billie Holiday


Also known as The Hungarian Suicide Song, Gloomy Sunday was said to be such a devastating dirge that anyone who dared listen to it would be driven to commit suicide. In fact, upon its initial release, no less than 19 suicides were associated with the songs influence. Billie Holiday's version gives the sorrowful lament an uplifting ending, adding on lyrics that suggest that the death and loss were only a dream, and truly her voice was tailor made for this song, but I much prefer Desmond Carter's lyrics which can be read here.

And if you commit suicide after reading them, don't blame it on me.



#4 - Even Less
Porcupine Tree

In the aftermath of a young man's death, which may have been a suicide, his estranged childhood friend reflects upon their separate paths and their ultimate demises. This bleak, aching eulogy, filled with loss and bitterness, isolates the listener in a stark, gray world of silence and pain. The final moments, in which a robotic female voice intones a series of random shortwave numbers just punctuates the idea of being given The Ultimate Answer, but lacking the key to translate it.

#5 - Tomorrow, Wendy
Concrete Blonde

There really was a Wendy, once upon a time. She was a young woman who discovered she had AIDS, and rather than suffer the pain and humiliation of her disease, she chose instead to die by her own hand. This song is the epitome of the anger and sorrow and utter frustration that one throws back into the face of God upon losing a dear friend for no good apparent reason. It's pure and simple, and heartbreaking.




#6 - Then She Did
Jane's Addiction

Perry Farrell's ode to both his mother - an artist who committed suicide when Perry was three years old - and his onetime girlfriend Xiola Blue, a nineteen year old "trust fund bohemian" who died of a drug overdose.










#7 - Sweetness Follows
R.E.M.

Death is the great equalizer, and its impact is never greater than in the wake of an estranged family member. This is a song about remorse for all the things unsaid and undone in life, and how hard and dark that final period at the end of the sentence really is.















#8 - Nettie
Type O Negative
Peter Steele was a mama's boy, and I mean that as a sincere compliment. The enormous Steele, who stood 6 foot 8 and had a voice like a demonic woodchipper grinding flesh, loved his mother Nettie. Her slow, painful death from ...cancer, I think?... was excruciating to witness, and Peter's ode to his mom is excruciating to hear. Despite his myriad problems, addictions and grudges, his love for his mother never wavered, and he wasn't ashamed to profess his worship of her. Nettie did good, and this song is the proof for those who never knew her.







#9 - Fade To Black
Metallica
This was the song back in the early 80s, an unofficial anthem for the metalhead teens misunderstood and left to claw their way out of the cold and impersonal 80s as best they could. A lot of them didn't make it, and this song said everything they couldn't put into words. This song, along with Ozzy's Suicide Solution, came under heavy fire after a rash of teenage suicides sparked a panic not unlike the one that Gloomy Sunday caused back in the 30s. But no song ever causes suicide, only validates a person's existing hopelessness.



#10 - Don't Fear the Reaper
Blue Oyster Cult

I was trying not to repeat any of the songs that Erik listed, but this one is just too perfect. it is the ultimate song about Death personified, romanticized and realized. It has not aged a single day since its release in 1976. It ruled the charts for 20 weeks, was named song of the year in '76, inspired Stephen King to write The Stand, it popped up in John Carpenter's Halloween...and...


it's got cowbell.






Saturday, February 21, 2015

Versus - Lord of the Rings

Lord of the Rings, 1978

Lord of the Rings, 2001
Lord of the Rings
Directed by: Ralph Bakshi
Year released: 1978
Starring: Christopher Guard (Frodo), William Squire (Gandalf), John Hurt (Aragorn), Anthony Daniels (Legolas), Michael Scholes (Sam).

The Elephant Man and C3PO ponder stuff.

Okay, wow - I'll try and be as brief and to-the-point with these two, lest I go off on an epic, geek fueled tangent that runs on longer than all four films combined.

Considering the year was 1978, there's a lot of good things to be said about this film. CGI didn't exist back then so Ralph Bakshi did the absolute best he could with a technique called rotoscoping (look it up, I'm not a dictionary). It sticks very close to the books with only minor deviations, which I will now list because I am Super Nerd:

Malibu Galadriel
* Legolas shows up to help Aragorn and the Hobbits after Frodo is attacked by the Witch King of Angmar. In the book it was some poncey git named Glorfindel, but who cares? At least in this version, Frodo rides Asfaloth alone to the river as he did in the book.

* The passage of time is more clearly apparent in this version. Most fans of the Jackson films are unaware of the fact that between the time that Bilbo left the Shire and the time when Frodo began his own journey, some seventeen years have passed.

The original Balrog - a lion in pants. 
* Arwen is nowhere to be found in this film. She didn't have much of a role in the books either, content to sit on her elven butt all day and wait for the war to be over.

* Bill the pony is left to die outside the Mines of Moria. As the Fellowship runs away, the Watcher in the Water is seen reaching its tentacles towards the hapless pony, and his death takes place off screen. Bill the pony did not die in the book, and does not die in Jackson's version either. Actually, Bill the pony had a bigger role in the books than Arwen did.

* Tom Bombadil doesn't show up in this version either. Which is fine because his role in the book, while important, amounts to very little and moves the plot along not at all.


The main problem with Bakshi's Lord of the Rings is that it ends abruptly at the Battle of Helms Deep. And while there was a sequel of sorts released in 1980, directed by the undisputed kings of Christmas puppetry Rankin and Bass, and titled The Return of the King... it was fucking awful. I watched it once and it hurt. It was so saccharinely cartoony and whimsically kiddified that I spent the entirety of it cringing in embarrassment, feeling the way a stoic forty year old must feel upon accidentally wandering into a birthday party for a five year old at Chuck E. Cheese.

Also, the fact that Bakshi wanted Led Zeppelin to provide the soundtrack for his film and wasn't able to pull it off roundly sucks. I mean, shit - the album ZoSo was an unofficial soundtrack for Tolkien's books anyway, so what the hell?

The Lord of the Rings
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Year released: 2001, 2002, 2003
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Elijah Wood, Ian McKellan, Orlando Bloom, Liv Tyler.

Man I love these films, and I don't give a single fuck what anyone thinks of that. Ultimately, thank god for CGI because - when used well - it opens up so many doors.

Again, I'm not going to rehash the plot because duh. Shouldn't you know by now? Instead, I'm going directly to the one thing that has always bothered me the most about this film. One tiny little insignificant thing that nobody cares about but me, apparently.



It's this:

No, not Arwen herself. I had zero problems with Arwen being given a much meatier role in the films, nor did I have a problem with Liv Tyler portraying her. My problem is with that necklace of hers: the Evenstar. In the films, Arwen gives her priceless, magical necklace to Aragorn as a symbol of her undying love for him, a promise that she will wait for him and have no other. Which is fine, unless you've read the books. Arwen - who does nothing and goes nowhere in the books, finally shows up at the end of Return of the King to marry Aragorn and gives her mythical necklace to... drumroll... Frodo! Why?

Grandmother & Granddaughter
Because in giving the Evenstar to Frodo, who has suffered the most and saved them all, she is basically giving up her seat on the ship to the Grey Havens and allowing Frodo to go in her place. She has chosen to stay with Aragorn, which she does, and marry him, which she does, and bear his children, which ended up being one son and "a number of daughters" and die, which she does some hundred years later, approximately one year after Aragorn dies of old age. She chooses to wander into the abandoned ruins of Lothlorien, the home of her grandmother Galadriel, (another relationship that is never clearly defined in the movie) and die there alone. The Evenstar also assists Frodo over the years before he leaves on the last ship, easing the pain that the knife wound from the Witch King of Angmar has inflicted upon him, and which flares up once a year on the anniversary. The necklace was never destroyed and Frodo took it with him to the Grey Havens.

Also, it should also be noted that Sam too went to the Grey Havens: since he'd been a ring bearer for a short amount of time, it was a privilege allowed him by the elves and a single ship was sent back for him after his wife Rosie died. He left behind fourteen children, which should put to rest any rumors that Sam was gay and had a Hobbit Huggle with Frodo. Just shut up about that already, jeez. Sam's eldest daughter Eleanor took over Bag End and became the keeper of the Red Book, a chronicle of Bilbo's, Frodo's and Sam's adventures. Eleanor, by the way, was named by Frodo after a flower that grew in Lothlorien.

Also also, Galadriel did not give Sam a box of fucking salt in the book. She gave him a box with a seed in it. When the Hobbits returned to the Shire and found that the party tree had been cut down and destroyed by Sauraman, Sam planted the seed where it had stood and a mallorn tree grew in its place.
Mallorn trees grew only in Lorien, so it was a mighty big fucking deal that Galadriel gave Sam that seed. Fucking salt - for real? Come on. She may as well have given him a ketchup packet from Denny's.

But hey, while Bakshi might not have been able to get Led Zepelin, Peter Jackson got Scottish Goth Queen Elizabeth Fraser to provide the Lament for Gandalf:


To be fair, I can't compare these two films. They both obviously are infused with an immense love for Tolkien's mythology. They were made in different centuries with the best tools available at the time. Neither is perfect, neither is better. Even the books aren't perfect. Tolkien does tend to ramble on (Led Zep pun definitely intended) and become wearisome with his lengthy pastoral details. Bakshi's version peters out, Jackson's version becomes bogged down in the second and third films by drippy dialogue, but they're both worth watching.

Just for gods sake, whatever you do, stay the hell away from Rankin and Bass's deplorable animated Return of the King.  Christ, I would rather have seen Tolkien interpreted by H. R. Pufnstuf.
"It hurts us, Precious!"

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