In Greek mythology, the Sirens were dangerous and beautiful creatures, portrayed as femme fatales who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island. Roman poets placed them on some small islands called Sirenum scopuli. In some later, rationalized traditions, the literal geography of the “flowery” island of Anthemoessa, or Anthemusa, is fixed: sometimes on Cape Pelorum and at others in the islands known as the Sirenuse, near Paestum, or in Capreae. All such locations were surrounded by cliffs and rocks.
When the Sirens were given a name of their own they were considered the daughters of the river god Achelous, fathered upon Terpsichore, Melpomene, Sterope, or Chthon. Although they lured mariners, for the Greeks the Sirens in their “meadow starred with flowers” were not sea deities. Roman writers linked the Sirens more closely to the sea, as daughters of Phorcys. Sirens are found in many Greek stories, particularly in Homer’s Odyssey.
According to Ovid, the Sirens were the companions of young Persephone and were given wings by Demeter to search for Persephone when she was abducted. However, the Fabulae of Hyginus has Demeter cursing the Sirens for failing to intervene in the abduction of Persephone.
The Sirens might be called the Muses of the lower world, Walter Copland Perry observed: “Their song, though irresistibly sweet, was no less sad than sweet, and lapped both body and soul in a fatal lethargy, the forerunner of death and corruption.” Their song is continually calling on Persephone. The term “siren song” refers to an appeal that is hard to resist but that, if heeded, will lead to a bad conclusion. Later writers have implied that the Sirens were anthropophagous, based on Circe’s description of them “lolling there in their meadow, round them heaps of corpses rotting away, rags of skin shriveling on their bones.” As Jane Ellen Harrison notes of “The Ker as siren:” “It is strange and beautiful that Homer should make the Sirens appeal to the spirit, not to the flesh.”
“They are mantic creatures like the Sphinx with whom they have much in common, knowing both the past and the future,” Harrison observed. “Their song takes effect at midday, in a windless calm. The end of that song is death.” That the sailors’ flesh is rotting away, though, would suggest it has not been eaten. It has been suggested that, with their feathers stolen, their divine nature kept them alive, but unable to feed for their visitors, who starved to death by refusing to leave.
According to Hyginus, sirens were fated to live only until the mortals who heard their songs were able to pass by them.
A group of Anglican nuns travel to a remote location in the Himalayas (the Palace of Mopu, near Darjeeling) to set up a school and hospital for the local people, only to find themselves increasingly seduced by the sensuality of their surroundings in a converted seraglio high up in the mountains, and by the local British agent Mr Dean (David Farrar). Clodagh (Deborah Kerr), the Sister Superior, is attempting to forget a failed romance at home in Ireland. Tensions mount as Dean’s laid-back charm makes an impression on Clodagh, but also attracts the mentally unstable Sister Ruth (Kathleen Byron), who becomes pathologically jealous of Clodagh, resulting in a nervous breakdown and a violent climax. In a subplot, ‘the Young General’ (Sabu), heir to the throne of a princely Indian state who has come to the convent for his education, becomes infatuated with Kanchi, a lower caste dancing girl (Jean Simmons).
Black Narcissus achieved acclaim for its pioneering technical mastery and shocked audiences at the time of release with its vibrant colour and the themes of the film. Audiences gasped at some of the scenes, notably the shot of the vibrant pink flowers, which shown on the big screen was a spectacle at the time. The film’s clever use of lighting and techniques have had a profound impact on later film makers, notably Martin Scorsese who used the extreme close ups technique of the nuns for Tom Cruise’s character around the pool table in Color of Money. Martin Scorsese has said that the film is one of the earliest erotic films, in the last quarter of the film in particular, which caused controversy given its Roman Catholic content. The film was one of his favourites as a boy, and Scorsese has stated that one of the greatest experiences he has had with film is viewing Black Narcissus projected on a massive screen at the Director’s Guild in 1983. In Michael Powell’s own view this was the most erotic film he ever made. “It is all done by suggestion, but eroticism is in every frame and image from beginning to end. It is a film full of wonderful performances and passion just below the surface, which finally, at the end of the film, erupts”.
The story concerns a quiet insurance agent and Vietnam War veteran named Bobby Thompson (Tim O’Kelly) who murders his young wife, his mother and a grocery delivery boy at home and then initiates an afternoon shooting rampage from atop a Los Angeles area oil refinery. Several motorists and passengers are wounded or killed on the nearby freeway. When the police respond and start to close in on him he flees and resumes his shootings at a Reseda drive-in theater where an aging horror film icon, Byron Orlok (Boris Karloff) is making a final promotional appearance before retirement. Orlok slaps the murderer into submission and the police arrive and affect an arrest. Thompson wonders aloud about the exact number of victims.
“The Swimmer” a short story by American author John Cheever, was originally published in The New Yorker on July 18, 1964, and then in the 1964 short story collection, The Brigadier and the Golf Widow. Originally conceived as a novel and pared down from over 150 pages of notes, it is probably Cheever’s most famous and frequently anthologized story. At one point Cheever wanted to parallel the tale of Narcissus, a character in Greek mythology who died while staring at his own reflection in a pool of water, which Cheever dismissed as too restrictive. As published, the story is highly praised for its blend of realism and surrealism, the thematic exploration of suburban America, especially the relationship between wealth and happiness, as well as his use of myth and symbolism.
In 1968, “The Swimmer” was adapted into a film with the same name, starring Burt Lancaster.
The story begins with Neddy Merrill and his wife lounging at a friend’s pool on a mid-summer’s day. On a whim, Neddy decides to get home by swimming across all the pools in the county, and starts off enthusiastically and full of youthful energy. In the early stops on his journey, he is enthusiastically greeted by friends, who welcome him with drinks. It is readily apparent that he is well-regarded and from an upper-class social standing.
Midway through his journey, things gradually take on a darker and ultimately surreal tone. Despite everything taking place over just one afternoon, it becomes unclear how much time has passed. At the beginning of the story, it was clearly mid-summer, but by the end all natural signs point to the season being autumn. Different people Neddy encounters mention misfortune and money troubles he doesn’t remember, and he is outright unwelcome at several houses which should’ve certainly been beneath him. His earlier, youthful energy leaves him, and it becomes increasingly painful and difficult for him to swim on. Finally, he staggers back home, only to find his house decrepit, empty, and abandoned.
“Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy; he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs? Your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar?”
Rhapsody: A Dream Novel, also known as Dream Story, (original German title: Traumnovelle) is a 1926 novella by the Austrian writer Arthur Schnitzler. The book deals with the thoughts and psychological transformations of Doctor Fridolin over a two-day period after his wife confesses having had sexual fantasies involving another man. In this short time, he meets many people who give a clue to the world Schnitzler is creating for us. This culminates in the masquerade ball, a wondrous event of masked individualism, sex, and danger for Fridolin the outsider.
It was first published in instalments in the magazine Die Dame between December 1925 and March 1926. The first book edition appeared in 1926 in S. Fischer Verlag and was adapted in 1999 into the film Eyes Wide Shut by director, screenwriter Stanley Kubrick and co-screenwriter Frederic Raphael.
The book belongs to the period of Viennese decadence after the turn of the 20th century.
L’Age d’or, The Golden Age (1930) is a French surrealist comedy directed by Luis Buñuel about the insanities of modern life, the hypocrisy of the sexual mores of bourgeois society and the value system of the Roman Catholic Church. The screenplay is by Salvador Dalí and Buñuel. It was one of the first sound films made in France.
In a series of thematically-linked vignettes, a couple’s attempts at a fulfilling and consummated romantic relationship are continually thwarted by the bourgeois values and sexual mores of Family, Church, and Society. In the course of seeking sexual release and satisfaction, the woman sublimates her sexual passion by fellating the toe of a religious statue.
The final vignette is an allusion to the Marquis de Sade’s novel 120 Days of Sodom; the intertitle reads: 120 Days of Depraved Acts, about an orgy in a castle, wherein the surviving orgiasts are ready to emerge to the light of mainstream society. From the castle door emerges the bearded and berobed Duc de Blangis (a character from de Sade’s novel) who greatly resembles Jesus, the Christ, who comforts a young woman who has run out from the castle, before he takes her back inside. Afterwards, a woman’s scream is heard, and only the Duc re-emerges; and he is beardless. The concluding image is a crucifix festooned with the scalps of women; to the accompaniment of jovial music, the scalps sway in the wind.
Cube is a 1997 Canadian science fiction psychological horror film, directed by Vincenzo Natali. The film was a successful product of the Canadian Film Centre’s First Feature Project.
The movie received a cult status for its surreal, Kafkaesque settings; it is set in identical cube-like rooms (hence the name) with each room being a different color (white, blue, green, amber and red), and no background story is revealed for the characters or the reason they were left in the Cube. The film also doesn’t demonstrate any clear plot regarding the Cube’s background, creation, purpose and its location. The timeframe of the story is also left unknown.
The Rutles (also known as the Prefab Four) are a band that are known for their visual and aural pastiches and parodies of The Beatles. Originally created by Eric Idle and Neil Innes as a fictional band to be featured as part of various 1970s television programming, the group (remaining a parody of The Beatles) recorded, toured, and released two UK chart hits in reality.
Initially created for a short sketch in Idle’s UK television comedy series Rutland Weekend Television, the Rutles gained international fame after being the focus of the 1978 mockumentary television film, All You Need Is Cash (often referred to as just The Rutles). Having been encouraged by the reaction to the sketch, featuring Beatles’ music pastiches by Neil Innes, the film was written by Idle, who co-directed it with Gary Weis. It featured 20 songs written by Innes, which he performed with three musicians as “The Rutles”. A successful soundtrack album in 1978 was, much later, followed in 1996 by Archaeology, which spoofed the Beatles’ Anthology series which had recently been released. The Rutles pre-date the American parody Spinal Tap by about a year.
A second film, The Rutles 2: Can’t Buy Me Lunch — modelled on the 2000 TV special The Beatles Revolution — was made in 2002 and released in the US on DVD in 2003, but it did not prove as popular as the original film.
Let Him Have It, is a 1991 British film, which was based on the true story of the case against Derek Bentley, who was hanged for murder under controversial circumstances on 28 January 1953. While Bentley did not directly play a role in the murder of PC Sidney Miles, he received the greater punishment than the gunman (who was below the age of 18). It stars Christopher Eccleston as Bentley, with Paul Reynolds, Tom Courtenay and Tom Bell and was directed by Peter Medak.
The title of the film is taken from Bentley’s alleged cry of “Let him have it, Chris!” shortly before Christopher Craig shot and wounded the first policeman on the scene. Crown prosecutors suggested that Bentley meant “Go ahead and shoot him,” whilst Frank Cassells for the defence argued that he meant “Give him the gun” (and thus, surrender).
Craig was sentenced to gaol “at Her Majesty’s pleasure”, and spent ten years there. He has been a law abiding citizen ever since.
Derek Bentley’s father bought an expensive bottle of wine in 1958 to celebrate their victory should Derek be proved innocent. However, Bentley’s parents never got to drink it. His father William Bentley died on 12 July 1974 and his mother died on 10 October 1976.
The film’s end titles state that Bentley’s sister, Iris, was still fighting for his pardon, however seven years after the film was made and after numerous unsuccessful campaigns to get Derek Bentley a full pardon, his conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal on 30 July 1998. However, Bentley’s sister had also died by this point.
Wilson (Stamp), recently released from a British prison, travels to Los Angeles to investigate the death of his daughter Jenny, who is reported to have died in a car accident. While adjusting to the United States, he finds allies in Jenny’s friends Eduardo (Guzmán) and Elaine (Warren) and comes up with a suspect: Jenny’s boyfriend Terry Valentine (Fonda), a record producer. Valentine has connections with drug trafficking through his security consultant Avery (Newman). After locating the warehouse of the drug importer with whom Avery had done business, Wilson is overpowered and beaten by the drug trafficker’s thugs, who also insult his daughter’s name. After he is thrown out, Wilson retrieves a back-up pistol, goes back and kills all but one of the employees, shouting at the last to “Tell him I’m coming!” The employee relays this threat to Avery who reports it to Valentine.
Wilson reminisces with Elaine and Eduardo about his past relationship with his daughter, whom he only remembers as a child. As he recalls, Jenny always threatened to call the police when she found her father had committed crimes. He states she did not because she truly loved him. His criminal life put strain on his wife and child, but they never left him. He ended up in prison after the thieves he was associated with confessed to his involvement in their crimes.
Wilson and Eduardo infiltrate a party at Valentine’s house, where Wilson searches for evidence. He finds and steals a picture of Jenny. Attracting suspicion from Avery, Wilson is accosted by a guard, who Wilson then throws over a ledge, killing him. Wilson and Eduardo flee, and are chased by Avery who shoots at them with a shotgun. Wilson rams Avery’s car into a ditch and he and Eduardo escape, but not before Eduardo makes the mistake of calling out Wilson’s name within Avery’s hearing. Afterward, Avery hires a hit-man named Stacy (Katt), who tracks down Wilson and Elaine. DEA agents prevent the attempted killing, and escort Wilson and Elaine to meet a DEA agent who is investigating Valentine. After the meeting it is clear the agent will not interfere with Wilson. Stacy and his partner then plot a double cross on Avery and Valentine.
Avery moves Valentine and his girlfriend to a safe house in Big Sur, with Wilson following them. That night, Avery’s guards shoot an intruder, who is revealed to be Stacy. Avery and the guards engage in a shootout with Stacy’s partner, resulting in several deaths. Valentine flees to the beach with Wilson in pursuit. After he falls and breaks his ankle on the rocks, Valentine admits that Jenny found out about his drug business and threatened to call the police. Attempting to restrain her, he accidentally broke her neck. Avery then staged her death as a car accident. Wilson is haunted, knowing that Jenny would not have turned him in. Wilson decides to return to London, saying goodbye to Elaine and Eduardo.
The narrative structure of the film is presented in disjointed flashbacks by Wilson during the plane trip home.
Four Atlanta businessmen, Lewis (Burt Reynolds), Ed (Jon Voight), Bobby (Ned Beatty) and Drew (Ronny Cox), decide to canoe down a river in the remote North Georgian wilderness, expecting to have fun and see the glory of nature before the fictional Cahulawassee River valley is flooded by the construction of a dam. Lewis, an experienced outdoorsman, is the leader. Ed is also a veteran of several trips but lacks Lewis’s machismo. Bobby and Drew are novices.
The four are clearly the outsiders in this rural location. The crude locals are unimpressed by the “city boys”; it is also implied that some of the locals are inbred and educationally subnormal. While attempting to secure drivers for their vehicles (to be delivered to the takeout point), Drew briefly connects with a local banjo-playing boy by joining him in an impromptu bluegrass jam by playing Dueling Banjos. When they finish, however, the boy turns away without saying anything, refusing the effusive Drew’s handshake. The four men exhibit a slightly condescending attitude toward the locals; Bobby, in particular, is very patronizing and even derides the locals to his companions for seeming to display genetic defects.
LEON. THE PROFESSIONAL. MATHILDA Who'll I aim at? LEON Whoever. Leon pulled out binoculars. Mathilda looks for a victim by telescope. She passes over playing kids. MATHILDA No women... No kids.... Leon smiles: she learnt the lesson. LEON Begin from a steady target. It's easier. She stops on a man who's reading a newspaper. The man wears a suit, Herald Tribune, fat. MATHILDA The fat man down there, on the bench. LEON Perfect. Mathilda aims at the fat man. One of bench's boards explodes. The fat man turns his head. He doesn't understand what happened and resumes reading. LEON Try again. The same. Second shot. The bench explodes on the opposite side. The man is still curious but doesn't understand. LEON(at binoculars) Too much to the left. Mathilda concentrates again and shoots: nothing happens. Mathilda wonders whether she missed again and prepares for a new shot. LEON Wait... The fat man softly leans down on his side. LEON Bull's-eye. Mathilda is happy but, evidently, she expected death to be more spectacular.
A film by David Lynch
Frederick Treves (Anthony Hopkins), a surgeon at the London Hospital, discovers John Merrick (John Hurt) in a Victorian freak show in London’s East End, where he is managed by the brutish Bytes (Freddie Jones). Merrick is so deformed that he must wear a hood and cap when in public, and Bytes claims he is an imbecile. Treves is professionally intrigued by Merrick’s condition and pays Bytes to bring him to the Hospital so that he can examine him. There, Treves presents Merrick to his colleagues in a lecture theatre, displaying him as a physiological curiosity. Treves draws attention to Merrick’s most life-threatening deformity, his oversized skull, which compels him to sleep with his head resting upon his knees, as the weight of his skull would asphyxiate him if he were to ever lie down. On Merrick’s return, Bytes beats him so severely that a sympathetic apprentice (Dexter Fletcher) alerts Treves, who returns him to the hospital. Bytes accuses Treves of likewise exploiting Merrick for his own ends, leading the surgeon to resolve to do what he can to help the unfortunate man.
Having fled from his home in New Mexico after being jailed for a theft he may not have committed, Billy became a ranch hand and sheepherder in Arizona. In 1877, he was hired on as a teamster at the Camp Grant Army Post, where he attracted the enmity of a burly civilian blacksmith named Frank “Windy” Cahill. Perhaps because Billy was well liked by others in the camp, Cahill enjoyed demeaning the scrawny youngster.
On this day, 17 August in 1877, Cahill apparently went too far when he called Billy a “pimp.” Billy responded by calling Cahill a “son of a bitch,” and the big blacksmith jumped him and easily threw him to the ground. Pinned to the floor by the stronger man, Billy apparently panicked. He pulled his pistol and shot Cahill, who died the next day.