Obsessions, obsessions, obsessions. I have been derelict of duty regarding this... site. Well, I have been busy and obsessed. I'm always obsessed. And yet, I neglected my Three Obsessions column for far too long. Not good for me, as, selfishly, I need to unburden my thoughts. Thinking too long about such things makes me a little crazy... and begins entering my dream state but, alas, as of late, not here. Write it down!
Just too many obsessions, I suppose. But I am back. This time with Losey, Hepburn's sexy slacks and...Oh my... Jenny Rock.
These Are the Damned (1963)
Directed by the great Joseph Losey, the masterful These Are the Damned was made in 1961, hacked up by producers and not released in England until 1963. It finally found its way to America in 1965, thank God (or Satan, whomever). The story is convoluted and... sad. Macdonald Carey plays an American tourist who, while vacationing the English seaside, falls for Shirley Anne Field, a young woman who just happens to be the sister of the great, bad boy sexy Oliver Reed, a tough-ass motorcycle gang leader to a bunch of Teddy Boys. Reed hates Carey and exhibits some decidedly incestuous feelings for sis, but that's just part of the problem. Reed is such a violent hoodlum (wonderfully so -- it's a thrill to see him so young here), the new couples run off, but... to a cave under a nearby military base which is where some incredibly weird kid action starts. In this case, a group of children, who've suffered experiments conducted by a scientist intent on developing a race of humans who can survive an atomic blast.
So, naturally, the kids have all become radioactive and have the power to kill anyone who dares to get near them. What's makes this movie so powerful and poignant, is that rather than recoil from these children, the couple yearns to save them. But alas, life isn't so easy (you can't just adopt a brood of radioactive children) and the picture remains hauntingly grim. I'm not begging for any type of remake -- but this seems like something Cronenberg could accomplish, and with some added layers... of birthing scenes. And too bad Reed, Cronenberg's Shape of Rage guru, couldn't have returned to the scene of the brood...
Katharine Hepburn, Slacks
I generally hate dresses. Not all dresses (I long for anything from the 1930s and, if I could, would walk around, all in white, a la Jean Harlow. But that's not exactly practical.) And then, anything from the 60s -- though those coveted chandelier earrings always manage to dangerously snag on anything... usually my hair. Or a kid's curious hand. But when it gets down to it, I would choose Nico's white pant suits over it all. So, with dresses, I usually, feel like Scout when she's forced to wear her fancy duds on her first day of school -- annoyed, uncomfortable, and wishing I could just cross my legs without issue. So of course, I adore that trouser trail blazer, Katharine Hepburn. She is the queen of the pants. And yet, when it comes to Hepburn's style, it's almost hard to pinpoint a specific movie -- she was so defiantly individual.
There's the wonderfully AC/DC, sexy androgyny of Sylvia Scarlett and of course, Christopher Strong. Unbeknownst to David Bowie (or perhaps he knew full well), Ms. Hepburn was the true Thin White Duke. As the dizzy, madcap rich girl ensnaring Cary Grant in the classic screwball Bringing Up Baby, Kate almost sneaks her pants into the film via a nifty pantsuit while discussing her new leopard. It was perhaps "safer" for her to flaunt more feminine togs in this manner but the image is one indelibly linked to the screen legend and an early look at her then scandalous affinity for menswear as seen on full display in Woman of the Year - where even as she famously shows off her legs, oh my... does she look fantastic in a suit. And fantastically revolutionary - so much that, as the story goes, when RKO heads forced her to wear a skirt, she strolled around the studio lot in her underwear until they returned her beloved slacks. "Stockings are the invention of the devil," Hepburn once stated. She's right.
Jenny Rock "Mal"
Years ago, a friend sent me a VHS copy of Jenny Rock covering Deep Purple's "Hush." I was so blown away by her version, so, well, confused (in a good way) and so suddenly in love with Jenny Rock, I watched that thing about 67 times... or more. Rock, one of the Quebecois Ye Ye singers, enjoyed popular singles, and was named Best Female Ye Ye Singer at Montreal's Festival du Disc award show. And she opened for the Rolling Stones in 1965. Not bad. But I love her later work -- when she went a bit crazy. Case in point is her cover of Deep Purple's "Hush" (written first by Joe South for Billy Joe Royal -- thanks Jaime) called "Mal" (also a cover of Johnny Hallyday's version, "Mal"). The below clip fills me all kinds of conflicted feelings. It's sexy sure, it's intense (I love how she SCREAMS-- almost in torment) and excitedly painful and potently, frightfully erotic. After all, she's singing "Mal!" which means bad or evil in French. Quite different than "Hush." At times, Jenny looks like she's been held hostage and forced to sing to the radical Front de libération du Québec. Or young Kim Jong Il. But she indeed, makes it her own. And in my obsessive fantasy scenario, Ritchie Blackmore breaks in and saves her. And then makes her sing it again. It's that stupendously strange and Ye Ye psychedelic and curiously perverse and sublime. I wonder what Serge Gainsbourg thought of this? I'm thinking he liked it -- a lot.