This is my press release from a film series I did early in 2004. I guess I should have waited until Karl Rove was a little better known. It sure didn’t draw a crowd. I did it again in Seattle a month later to similar results.
Dennis Nyback and The Clinton Street Theater Present The Karl Rove Paranoia Film Festival
We live in a paranoid age. This festival is dedicated to Karl Rove king of the fear mongers. The often used phrase The War On Terror could also be called The Campaign For Fear. President Roosevelt addressed the problem when he said “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Karl Rove would tell GWH “The only thing we have to sell is fear itself.” The opening program will be I Know Why You’re Afraid. It will feature eight educational films that should have never been shown to children. Could it be that our climate of fear was fostered by injudicious educational films being shown to children at an impressionable age, warping them for life? Fear is sold in this country like any other commodity. It is used to sell home security systems, car alarms, guns, and most of all, right wing politicians. The last program in the festival will be Fuck the Republican Party: Secrets from Their Own Propaganda Films. The first film in that program was made in 1940 to promote Wendell Wilkie against Franklin Roosevelt. All of the ideas in it were used by George W Bush in 2000. They warned America that the Democrats had failed to fund the military, thus weakening our defense against attack; claimed that eight years was enough for the current administration which had lead America down the wrong road; and used imagery of thirty percent of a poor woman’s bread being seized by a monster’s hand to illustrate taxes on the poor. Have there been no new ideas in the last sixty years? Who needs new ideas when fear can be used to better effect. A few years ago Ken Smith wrote the book Mental Hygiene. He toured the country with educational films and did a show at the Guild. His show was on a video. Several films he showed on Video are in my film shows. This will be the real deal with films shown as they should be. The educational film maker Sid Davis will be featured. With funding from John Wayne he decided to revolutionize educational films by terrifying school kids to keep them safe. I’m sure Karl Rove saw his films when he was growing up. Sid is still active. Selling fear made him multi-millionaire. Friday March 12 I Know Why Your’re AfraidDeath Zones (1974); I’m Feeling Scared 1978); Strangers by Sid Davis (1959); The Story of Menstruation (1946); Head Lice (1970); Girls Beware by Sid Davis (1968); Live and Learn by Sid Davis (1951); Mechanized Death (Excerpt 1961); Caught In A Rip-Off (1974). When I first showed this program a woman thanked me for including The Story of Menstruation. She said it had terrified her when she saw it in sixth grade. It is possibly the most seen educational ever made, being shown from 1946 into the early 70’s. Jack Stevenson told me that seeing Mechanized Death in driver training class did not make it want to be a safe driver, it made him never want to get into an automobile again. Death Zones has to be seen to be believed. Sid Davis used his own daughter as a victim in Live and Learn. She learns not to run with scissors. When I showed Caught in a Rip-off in Seattle a guy told me he would bring thirty friends to see it if I ever showed it again. I wish I had his phone number. Saturday March 13 The Parallax View (1974)A comment about this film on the Internet Movie Data Base says “Movies like this are really scary, because they seem so plausible, and not ridiculous like some guy in a hockey mask that can’t be killed. This film is very convincing in the way it shows that sinister powers may be at work in society, without anyone being able to uncover them. The film sequence, part of the testing to see if Beatty is fit to join Parallax, is really SCARY, and to my memory, is more effective than the similar film sequences in ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and ‘The Game’. An excellent political/thriller which surpasses the classic ‘Manchurian Candidate’.” It was made by Alan J Pakula in 1974 starring Warren Beatty. It was shot in Seattle and uses the Space Needle to great effect. Sunday March 14 Drug and Booze Educationals LSD Trip or Trap Sid Davis (1968); PCP You Never Know (1978); Drugs and Booze (1974); All My Tomorrows (1969); The Day I Died (1966); The Last Date (1949). All My Tomorrows is one of the most creepy educationals ever made. The Day I Died is an all time classic. The Last Date stars Dick York as a doomed hot rod high schooler many years before he became Samantha’s husband on Bewitched. LSD Trip or Trap is the greatest LSD film ever made. All of the other LSD classics (Trip To Where, Insight or Insanity, LSD-25, etc. ) feature white coated MDs who lecture about chromosome damage and deformed babies. Sid doesn’t stop there. He actually shows deformed dead babies and claims LSD was the cause. I am including an essay at the bottom of this by a person who saw Trip or Trap in the classroom. Monday March 15 Little Murders 1971This film was way ahead of its time. It was written by Jules Feiffer and directed by Alan Arkin. It shows a paranoid society so afraid that every one has a gun and all homes are barricaded fortresses. People kill people randomly. Alan Arkin, Donald Sutherland, and Elliott Gould are the stars. It is a comedy. Tuesday March 16 The Day the Fish Came OutThis is being shown on thrifty Tuesday (all seats four bucks) because it really isn’t worth six. That said, it has its fans and this will be the only time anyone will ever be able to see it on the big screen. Here is a comment from the IMDB: “I’ve even tried to contact Candice Bergen to get this movie. It was the dancing scene that did me in. Everybody was dancing in sandals, Leather Roman type with one strap around the big toe types. The dance, the beat to the music, it seemed so futuristic. Who can I contact to set the wheels in motion to get this motion picture? I’ll even take 8 mm.” Wednesday March 17 Is that a Bomb in Your Pants, Or are You Just Glad to See Me?This program could also be called Terrorism Light and Dark, or even Terrorism Can Be Fun. Three of the films in the program use terrorism as a joke. Two more are meant to be serious but one comes off as laughable and the other makes valid points. One of them is truly sobering. The sobering one is Japanese Relocation. It was made by the US Government in 1942 to explain to the public how American citizens can be rounded up and put in concentration camps without being charged with a crime. The successful serious one is What You Need to Know about Biological Warfare (1952). The laughable serious one is The Challenge of Ideas (1960). They were both made by the US Government when Communism was the big menace. The others are: Cops (1919), featuring Buster Keaton as a man mistakenly believed to be a terrorist who is then chased by every cop in New York City; The Blow Out (1936), Porky Pig gets the better of a mad bomber who is terrorizing a city; and Ali Baba Bound (1937), again with Porky Pig, but this time battling Arabs including one suicide bomber. Thursday March 18 Fuck the Republican Party: Secrets from their own propaganda filmsWhat is curious about these films is how little the ideas have changed from 1940 till today. The final film in the program is Attack On America (1980). It was made to put forth the idea that Jimmy Carter had allowed Fidel Castro to arm all of Central America and that only Ronald Reagan could stop them from being invading us. The first film is from 1940. The 1974 film The Day Business Died is a masterpiece of paranoia. It is about a man who wakes up one morning to find there is no electricity, water, television or radio. The only thing that works is his car and that is because it runs on gas. This is too great a film for me to tell you anything more. You have to come to the Clinton to find out the rest of the story. The Clinton Street Theater7:00 and 9:00Standard admission $6.00 Tuesday $4.00 Fred’s Dreams
Trip or Trap?
by Fred Siegel
On the day the drug film was to be shown in Mr. Britchkow’s science class, I took my assigned seat at the rear center cluster of desks, directly across from a girl named Eileen. She was at least a head taller than me, with a few freckles, and long brown hair that covered most of her face. Like all the girls in my seventh grade class, she wore skirts or casual dresses over a contrasting leotard. She was not especially pretty or popular, not that I had any right to evaluate her. She never smiled, and for however many months she sat directly across from me I don’t remember us ever speaking. Her face seemed to be in a permanent scowl, and like most girls, she looked at me with pure hatred.
But as scary as Eileen was, she was nothing compared to the drug film. Even the opening credits made me nervous. The screen was filled with psychedelic colors that bubbled and whirled into each other, as if a rainbow were being cooked in a beaker atop a Bunsen burner. Then, the title of the film, LSD: Trip or Trap? appeared luridly across the screen in bold, slanted letters. Maybe it was the colors, or the typography, or perhaps the serious-looking announcer in the doctor coat, but it was clear to me that I was not going to pass this bravery test. I didn’t turn away when the young man who “thought he was God,” jumped in front of the moving car, but I did wince and look away when the doctor carved up the “LSD damaged brain” as if it were my grandmother’s pot roast.
As the carving continued, I noticed I was not the only person who found the film disturbing. Eileen, too, turned away in disgust, and even though I didn’t especially like her, it felt good to have a partner in cowardice. But the feelings of camaraderie didn’t reach their peak until the deformed babies made their appearance. Those babies made Frankenstein and the Wolf-Man look like Bambi and Thumper by comparison. As soon as I saw them, posed on a clinical-looking, white porcelain counter, I let out a feeble moan. Eileen whimpered “Oh, Jesus Christ!” and in perfect unison we turned away from the screen. In that chaotic instant, I glanced over and noticed that her nastiness had been replaced by a much more sympathetic vulnerability.
And then, in all the recoiling and flinching, our ankles touched.
My immediate impulse was to pull my foot back, but I maintained my original position. After all, the warmth of her ankle felt good through her leotard, and touching a girl was exciting, even though I didn’t especially like her. I tried to keep the touch subtle, as if it might be unintentional. If she rolled her eyes and kicked my shins, I could act indignant and pretend I wasn’t even aware of our contact. After a few seconds without an objection, however, I felt bold and I slowly rested more of my ankle upon hers. I didn’t dare to look at her directly, but I could see in my peripheral vision an ever so slight widening of her eyes as the full gravity of what was happening became clear to her. There was a moment of tension, but soon I felt her ankle surrender to mine. While infant gargoyles flickered on the screen, the ankles of two children melted together beneath cold, metal desks.
It would be nice if I could report that our passion blossomed, that we became puppy-lovers, that we have been married now for twenty years, and that our children are now in seventh grade and making their own marvelous discoveries. The truth, however, is weirder than that. Above the desks, my relationship with Eileen did not improve. She never smiled and we never spoke. Above the desks, Eileen’s hatred for me seemed as if it would bubble for eternity, like psychedelic rainbows with aneurisms.
But below the desks, it was prom night. For the remainder of seventh grade, whenever Mr. Britchkow turned out the lights to show a film about the rotation of the planets or the many uses of seaweed, two twelve year old pairs of feet escaped from their shoes to touch and dance and explore. If he had found out, Mr. Britchkow might have felt that our activities were outside of the curriculum. I would argue that we were studying anatomy. We learned that while the human foot can be surprisingly expressive, the most extraordinary organ is the human heart, a fist-sized muscle, capable of pumping blood and containing, simultaneously, the purest hatred and love.
Fred Siegel teaches in Drexel’s Department of English and Philosophy. He performs improvisational comedy with Comedysportz and does magic shows with his own gang, Fred’s Magic World.