All Writing & Content © Nick Kushner Unless Noted Otherwise
In composing The Golden Age Of Grotesque, one of the most important influences Manson cited was that of film. One objective in composing the album was to create the inverse of a silent movie; a movie with sound but no picture that can be understood in any language, the story told not by images but by the cadence of voice or the dynamic in the music, as well as other sonic elements. Some of these films which were influential and fit in thematically to different elements of The Golden Age Of Grotesque, as well as throughout Manson's entire body of work, are listed here.
L'AGE D'OR (THE GOLDEN AGE) | QUILLS | SALO: THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM
EL TOPO, HOLY MOUNTAIN & SANTE SANGRE | THE HAUNTED STRANGLER | BEGOTTEN
PHANTOM OF PARADISE | CABARET | SWING KIDS | FELLINI'S 8 ½
MOULIN ROUGE | THE BLUE ANGEL | SEVEN SINNERS | FROM HELL
|Marilyn Manson (left) during The Golden Age of Grotesque. The ever-versatile Gary Oldman (right) as Dracula, 1992|
The 1992 version of Brahm Stokers Dracula has proved to be a long standing influence on Manson, which began predominantly in Manson and Floria Sigismondi's video collaborations in The Beautiful People and Tourniquet and up to present day with The Golden Age of Grotesque. Both aesthetic and imagery evocations from the film's bizarre, sometimes surrealist, portrayal of Nineteenth Century Europe has been a mechanism which Manson has utilized in his own performance. As well as Dita's for that matter in similarity to the elegance of Victorian era London adorned by Winona Ryder.
Probably one of the most starkly similar comparisons from the film to Manson is that of the Carfax Abbey asylum scenes, aspects of which, are done so with a treatment and visuals which very closely parallel to many elements of the Tourniquet video.
The above is a frame capture from the aforementioned asylum scene, here depicting the lunatic mental patient R.M. Renfield. Preceeding Jonathan Harker, Renfield was the first English businessman who ventured to Transylvania, at the behest of Count Dracula, for the purpose of acquiring properties throughout the London area on the Count's behalf. Upon arriving home to London after his visit to East, Renfield returned completely insane, speaking of nothing but his servitude to his now infernal master, Dracula, awaiting his arrival and their reunion.
After viewing the film it is readily apparent of the similarity and inspiration within the Tourniquet video which range from the dark, decayed environment, the bizarre and insane character throughout both, and most importantly to Renfield, his appearance, medical apparatuses on his hands (which Manson has adorned the similar on many occasions throughout the Antichrist Svperstar era and in the Beautiful People and Tourniquet videos) to the eating of worms and other creatures who crawl upon their bellies.
It is worthy of note here that the man who play R.M. Renfield is none other than Tom Waits, who Manson has cited very recently as of 2004 / 2005 as one of his favourite musical icons.
Also very applicable is that the 1992 Dracula is one of the first major, big screen movies of this era to feature the erotically insidious Green Goddess of ABSINTHE, in the tryst scene between Mina Harker and the young, transformed Dracula.
The Night Porter (1974), one of the more obvious of Manson related/inspirational films, The Night Porter is about a concentration camp survivor, Charlotte Rampling, who is reunited with her former SS lover and torturer whom she finds working as a Night Porter in a Vienese hotel. The film is very dark and erotic in dealing with the sadomasochistic relationship of the former captive and capture which they renew, both to the dismay and reluctance of both, upon their reunion. The film also explores the sexual decadence of the 1930's and that surrounded by and in Nazi Germany. In Madonna's controversial Justify My Love video, one of the characters within it can be seen with a poorly devised reproduction of Charlotte Rampling's outfit on the cover, but more specifically and the interest of my readers it should be quite obvious that Manson donned this outfit many time throughout 2001 specifically, on tour and in The Fight Song video.
The Naked Kiss (1964) is the film noir in which the now famous "Mommy Dear" or bluebird song is featured, that Manson sung a portion of on his December 15, 1999 webcast, now commonly referred to and search queried as 'The Mercury Webcast.' This webcast is the one in which Manson revealed the title of the new album as In The Shadow Of The Valley Of Death and featured song clips of Disposable Teens, The Love Song and Little Child, as well as revealed Manson's new identification with the symbol of Mercury and the other underlying occult references on Holy Wood. The song itself, also known to be also recorded in French as Mon Enfant, has had renditions done by many artists including Wes Montgomery and Cab Calloway, whom Manson noted as being an influence, at least thematically, on The Golden Age Of Grotesque. The film is about Constance Towers, who plays a reformed prostitute starting anew as a nurse's aid in a children's hospital. She sings Little Child to a room full of crippled and unwanted children, The Nobodies, as a message of hope and inspiration to those who were beaten down by the world and trying their most earnest to recover.
Freaks (1932) "A favorite film of mine and Anton LaVey was responsible for it being re-released. Yes, a hint at my intentions." A dark film about circus sideshow freaks, which the line "One Of Us", from Doll-Dagga Buzz-Buzz Ziggety-Zag derives from, as well as one of the parallels of the siamese twins Violet and Daisy Hilton which Manson evoked in the live performance of Para-noir. See the Art & The Golden Age of Grotesque section of The NACHTKABARETT.
L'Age D'Or or The Golden Age (1930), by Luis Bunuel. When this film debuted in Paris in 1930 it caused riots on the street and was subsequently banned for 50 years because of its viscious attacks against The Church and upper classes. Many are familiar with Bunuel via his 1928 film collaboration with Salvador Dali, Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog), made famous for it's opening sequence which parallels the live slicing of a woman's eye with a straight razor to clouds passing across the night lit moon. The is another very inspiration film on The Golden Age Of Grotesque which Manson has also mentioned by name in his Journal.
Quills (2000), a well made bio-pic of the last years of Donatien Alphonse Francois de Sade, better known as the Marquis de Sade spent imprisoned within the walls of the asylum of Charenton. For the uninitiated, the word 'sadism' is derived from de Sade's name, whose writings embody this disposition quite often and extreme. Whether utterly consciously or not, Manson has emulated de Sade in many respects; being a man who has been villified for his creations and would endure suffering unto death for his art. During the preliminary recording of The Golden Age Of Grotesque, Manson described the new direction and tone of the band as sounding like "The Marquis de Sade with a drum machine". Further representation of ways in which Manson's art has been evocative of de Sade, aside from Manson's very disposition and role in the 20th/21st century, can be seen in his film DOPPELHERZ. See the DOPPELHERZ section of The NACHTKABARETT.
SALO : The 120 Days Of Sodom (1975) by Pier Paolo Pasolini. The film is an adaptation of the Marquis de Sade's 120 Days Of Sodom only juxtaposed in 1930's Fascist Italy in which a group of Libertines, consisting of the rich and upper classes, isolate a group of 12 teenage girls and 12 teenage boys in a remote chateau to use them as slaves to their crescendoing sexual desires. The three stages of the film consist of The Circle Of Lust, consisting of their domination and lustful desires enacted, The Circle Of Shit, consisting of scatology and coprophilia, and The Circle of Blood in which the perversities climax into an orgy of torture and murder, with the use of 'circles' inspired in part by Dante's mapping of Hell in The Divine Comedy. The film was made in 37 days, the same amount of time de Sade took in writing it secretly in the Bastille. Subsequently the film was banned in much of the civilized world and remains difficult to obtain legitimate copies today. Pasolini was also assassinated shortly after the film's release amidst political implications which many believe to have stemmed from his making the film, so he literally was a martyr for his art. Of course this theme alone is significant and inspiring to most artists, including Manson who has made several semi-veiled references to the film in his Journal, but also because its attacks on the upper classes were so poignant and incendiary enough to cause physical retribution for his work, it illustrates art being a physical and tangible element in the world and something which can yield a tremendous amount of power when directed with such efficacy. Many of the themes dealt with in the film are very mush evocative of the grotesqueness of the culture, which many artists specifically, in the context of Manson and The Golden Age Of The Grotesque, the artists of Weimar Germany in the 1930's such as Otto Dix and George Grosz, and also specifically such depictions they created such as the Sex Murder fascination which also reflected the grotesqueness and degradation of the culture (For more see the Art & The Golden Age of Grotesque section on The NACHTKABARETT). And in this category also includes de Sade, another martyr for his own art, imprisoned for much of his life because of it. Certain elements and the flow of Manson's film DOPPELHERZ are very much evocative of SALO, and it's these myriad of reasons why the film acted as such an inspiration.
Much more on Alejandro Jodorowsky's influence on Marilyn Manson coming soon.
El Topo (1970), The Holy Mountain (1973) and Santa Sangre (1990), 3 films by the controversial director Alexandro Jodorowsky. For years Manson has cited Jodorowsky as an influence in his own art and even sought him out to direct the film version of this novel Holy Wood, a project which still remains untouched. The inclusion of these movies is befitting as many of the thematic elements parallel much of Manson's own, particularly throughout Holy Wood (In The Shadow Of The Valley Of Death). Today these films remain difficult to obtain because, much like SALO, the individual or individuals who own the rights to them have refused to allow their release or distribution due to their controversial nature. Jodorowksy himself has been quoted as encouraging the purchase of bootleg copies of his films so that his celluloid art will live on.
Contribution from Maxim Marusenkov
Grip of the Strangler aka The Haunted Strangler (1958). The Judas Hole is the name of the strip club in the film Grip of the Strangler (aka The Haunted Strangler) (1958). The main character of that film, a writer, investigates the execution of a serial killer, who was hanged 20 years ago (compare: "I've got my villain necktie"; also: 1958-20=1938, i.e. the end of the 30s). However, when he finds a scalpel used by the murderer he finds himself possessed by the killer's spirit and begins committing similar murders. The writer starts to slash strippers from the Judas Hole: "...so sharp, I'm bleeding / From my Judas Hole". So the dark theme of Lustmord, which has begun in Spade, continues in The Bright Young Things.
And a mouth of hi-fi
So sharp, I'm bleeding
From my Judas Hole
Begotten (1989), another very dark and controversial film directed by the same individual who directed Shadow Of The Vampire. This film is where the movie footage which makes up the Cryptorchid video derives from, which Manson enacting the role of one of the representational characters in an abstract manner.
Phantom Of Paradise (1974), a 1970's rock opera version of The Phantom Of The Opera. Another movie long considered to be ahead of its time and it's inclusion here is a bit more self explanatory, given the facial expressions and metal teeth which are quite easily seen as Manson inspiring.
Swing Kids (1993), a film that portrays the rebellious Swing culture of 1930's Germany and its conflict with the rising Nazi insurgence. The rising Nazi party took control over virtually all aspects of life which Hitler felt wasn't a dignified representation of the pure German disposition. Progressive works of art were confiscated, burned or auctioned, deemed as "degenerate". Jazz and Swing music were also deemed as such, demonized as "Nigger Kike" music. This film chronicles the lives of four Swing Kids, each of whom are affected differently by this dichotomy of polar opposite influences. The term 'Swing Heil', which is chanted by the Swing Kids in the film was a mantra used by the Swing Kids of the 30's, and sung by Manson in the title track of The Golden Age Of Grotesque, to belittle and mock the Nazi Party's 'Sieg Heil' salute.
For more see the "Degenerate" Art section of The NACHTKABARETT.
Cabaret (1972), very similar to Swing Kids in that it portrays the life of a young American cabaret dancer in one of Germany's decadent night clubs, The Kit Kat Klub, whose life and those whom she loved are thrown into disarray with the Nazi uprising, and their vilification and raids on such nightclubs and attacks on their performers.
Federico Fellini's 8½ (1963), long considered to be one of the first and best of the surrealist filmmakers, 8½ stands to be Fellini's signature film. It deals with a frustrated film writer who, through his frustration, writes himself into his own film. In creating the film himself, Fellini did just that. Most recently the Nicholas Cage film Adaptation is themed verbatim from 8½, as a movie about a frustrated filmmaker, who writes himself into his won movie which in turn is actually autobiographical in chronically the filmmaker's creation of the movie. It's been long considered ahead of its time and very esoteric, and Fellini's best known work. Manson has also cited Fellini often as an influence on The Golden Age Of Grotesque, in face 14 seconds into the album's introduction, THAETER, the squeaking noise that is heard is a sample from 8½s very famous surrealist opening sequence, considered to be one of the greatest opening scenes in film history.
Moulin Rouge (2001), while not entirely a related film, Manson did record vocals for the medley version of Smells Like Teen Spirit featured early in the film. The film portrays the decadence of the late Nineteenth Century French nightlife popularized by Toulouse-Lautrec, whom John Leguizamo plays something of a composite of. The film is actually quite accurate to the time period and the Moulin Rouge, there are also several underlying Absinthe themes that can be noted if you're in the know. The entire Green Fairy element is an Absinthe reference, as 'releasing the Green Fairy' was a slang for the specific inebriating effects of Absinthe. Again, a film showing the grotesque and the decadent and very well made at that which makes it worth a viewing.
Moulin Rouge (1952), see above for the purpose of its inclusion. This first version is entirely about Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec as opposed to the Moulin Rouge itself. It does show the decadent French nightlife as well as Toulouse-Lautrec's own debaucherous, artistic, and melancholic disposition as he spent his company with prostitutes and was a slave to the creation his art.
The Blue Angel (1931), a tragically ending film in which Marlene Dietrich plays one of her most famous roles as Lola the seductive young traveling club singer who falls in love and marries a college professor at a prestigious German academy, only to eventually leave him along, disgraced and in ruins for another man. The atmosphere portrayed in this film, the allure and decadence of the seedy German nightlife was an influence on The Golden Age Of Grotesque, which parallels very closely to that of the Parisian nightlife of the Nineteenth century which Manson's performance has been evocative of on the Grotesk Burlesk.
Seven Sinners (1941), Marlene Dietrich starring side-by-side with John Wayne. A very famous scene within this movie is one which Manson has used as influence in his new aesthetic where Marlene Dietrich performs the song The Man's in the Navy in a cabaret-esque manner dressed in full Navy Officer's regalia, which Manson donned in his LOW ART GLOOMINATI Officer's outfit for The Golden Age Of Grotesque.
For more see the Art & The Golden Age of Grotesque section on The NACHTKABARETT
From Hell (2001), a rather grotesque portrayal of late 19th Century London, centering around Johnny Depp, one of Manson's personal friends, who plays a detective in pursuit of Jack The Ripper. Aside from Manson scoring the film (but which none of his pieces were actually used) and his contribution to the soundtrack, From Hell deals with a number of esoteric elements such as the underlying occult/masonic motivation for Jack The Ripper's killings, as well as very artful portrayals of the methods Johnny Depp's character uses to obtain clairvoyant visions which aid him as a detective. These methods include frequently a dark and sordid opium den and using the inebriating effects of Absinthe, The Green Fairy.