Hypnolounge

The G-Men Smash The Professor’s Gang (1937)

William Engle 
Grosset & Dunlap

As the title suggests, this book dates from an era when professors could still inspire fear and respect by threatening to use their superior intellect to terrorize the city, nation, or world.  There’s a great scene toward the end of the new Sherlock Holmes movie where Holmes, summarizing his various deductions, reveals that his next adventure will be against the dreaded Professor Moriarty—whom he identifies by  chalk dust on the lapel.  Ah, to diagram sentences in the morning, take lunch at the faculty club, and then hold London hostage in the afternoon with some manner of death ray.  That’s living, my friend.  Today, sadly, even professors who know how to do really scary stuff, like re-sequence your genome or trick you into studying anthropology, are generally figures of ridicule—best known for their tweed patches, constantly misplaced car keys, and complete lack of interest in Brad and Jen’s impending reconciliation.   

Obviously, the title here reveals that this particular professor and his gang will be “smashed” in the end…but still, the fantasy of a Ph.D. having a “gang” and temporarily sticking it to Johnny Law was a strong lure.   Expectations diminished quickly, however, when Engle introduces the professor as “little, twisted, and gnome-like.”  Oh well. 




Hollywood famously caught a lot of flak after Little Caesar (1931) and Public Enemy (1931) made the gangster life look—if not necessarily viable—at least noble and heroic.  Aimed at younger readers, this book—like the film G-Men (1935)-- appears to be part of the era’s larger campaign to de-glamorize criminal life and force impressionable kids to identify with the police.  Lots of emphasis here on all the cool gadgets and neat-o techniques G-Men have at their disposal.  And yes, the professor and his gang end up well and truly smashed.   

Combat Shooting For Police (1960)


Paul B. Weston
Thomas Books

"The objective of combat shooting is to deliver directed or aimed fire at an armed opponent as rapidly as possible while offering minimum target area for return fire." Thus begins Combat Shooting for Police, a comprehensive guide to loading, aiming, discharging, holstering, and cleaning a police firearm. Most of the advice is what you would expect, but a chapter on "Aimed Fire" (as opposed to "Defensive Shooting" --which means basically spraying bullets until you can find cover) features a shooting stance that seems to have disappeared from the combat arsenal. 
Illustrated here  is "The California Highway Patrol Sitting Position." I'm pretty sure this style was never used on CHiPs (unless maybe Baker or "Ponch" first took a bullet to the kiester). The advantages in steadying one's aim should be obvious, but no doubt this position has been abandoned for the same reason no one shoots the "granny shot" in the NBA anymore--it just doesn't look cool (even though several physicists have opined that the "granny" shot is statistically more accurate).

Tennis Sluts

Fernanda (1976)

Victor B. Miller
Pocket Books

May well be the most poorly written, amateurish, and utterly ridiculous book I've yet to encounter in life. Makes one realize Ed Wood's 
Killer in Drag is actually not all that bad. "Fernanda" is a smokin' hot ex-cop who specializes in tracking down rapists in the Big Apple. For her troubles, she becomes the target of a serial killer determined to murder her in the most brutal manner possible. Fernanda must also negotiate two boyfriends and her interest in Reichean therapy, which though it might sound interesting is most assuredly not. Author creates "atmosphere" by making frequent reference to the songs on Fernanda's stereo--Elton John gets two spins. The fact that this appeared under the Pocket Books imprint suggests blackmail or a dare was involved somehow. Just horrible.

Futurecaster: The Secrets to Foretelling Your Own Future (1969)

Maurice Woodruff
Times Mirror



Ridiculous hybrid of Astrology and dream analysis, with additional hokum on phrenology, handwriting analysis and assorted other soft-brained sciences added for good measure. Primarily of interest for its dictionary of dream symbols, which like all such guides to the hard interpretation of manifest content, is particularly hilarious. Some examples:

A Crab: When you see a crab in a dream, this is a warning that you have to take great care, for you could be found out in something that you are doing which is not quite legal. 


A Duck: To dream of a duck is an extremely fortunate omen, but if the duck pecks at you in the dream, this indicates slight deceit where your working life is concerned. 


Fat: This is not a lucky thing to dream about, especially for a female.


Mustard: To dream that you are putting mustard on food or even tasting it is not good, for it means that you must keep your own counsel and try to avoid chatter.


Trousers: To dream of trousers indicates a great deal of fun in a fickle manner, but, if you are not married, this is a slight warning that you could have an argument with someone you love.

The Ghost of James Dean

Former KABC late-night horror host Vampira (Maila Nurmi) recounts a paranormal encounter with the spirit of James Dean.  From Borderline 1:4 (January 1964) click pages to read if so inclined










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Depressed Dog

The Schizophrenias: Yours and Mine (1970)

Schizophrenia Foundation of New Jersey
Pyramid Books

An introduction to speculation as to the cause and most effective treatments for schizophrenia circa 1970--a moment when the "illness" appeared to be spreading like wildfire. A harrowing Foucauldian read as the text wanders through various etiologies and therapies in search of an object that can't ever be found. My copy features marginalia on the cover where a previous owner took the book's "are you in danger of becoming a schizophrenic" test. Happily, he or she appears to have "passed."

Dream Walker

HuffPo Primate Psychology

Gonadal hormones regulate the ability to copulate in most mammalian species, but not in primates because copulatory ability has been emancipated from hormonal control. Instead, gonadal hormones primarily influence sexual motivation. This separation of mating ability from hormonally modulated mating interest allows social experience and context to powerfully influence the expression of sexual behavior in nonhuman primates, both developmentally and in adulthood. For example, male rhesus monkeys mount males and females equally as juveniles, but mount females almost exclusively as adults. Having ejaculated with a female better predicted this transition to female mounting partners than did increased pubertal testosterone (T). It is proposed that increased pubertal T stimulates male sexual motivation, increasing the male's probability of sexual experience with females, ultimately producing a sexual preference for females. Eliminating T in adulthood reduces male sexual motivation in both humans and rhesus monkeys, but does not eliminate the capacity to engage in sex. In male rhesus monkeys the effects of reduced androgens on sexual behavior vary with social status and sexual experience. Human sexual behavior also varies with hormonal state, social context, and cultural conventions. Ovarian hormones influence female sexual desire, but the specific sexual behaviors engaged in are affected by perceived pregnancy risk, suggesting that cognition plays an important role in human sexual behavior. How the physical capacity to mate became emancipated from hormonal regulation in primates is not understood. This emancipation, however, increases the importance of motivational systems and results in primate sexual behavior being strongly influenced by social context.
It is suggested that sex differentials in the probable nature of hostile threats from conspecifics in the human ancestral environment may be reflected in the content of persecutory delusions, especially the identity of persecutors and the nature of threats. If the necessary assumptions hold, men would tend to identify physically violent gangs of strangers as their persecutors, while women would tend to identify their persecutors as being familiar females whose persecution took the form of social exclusion and verbal aggression. Predictions concerning identity were confirmed in a sample of 11 female and 13 male cases identified by retrospective analysis of several hundred case note summaries: 73% of women identified familiar people as their persecutors while 85% of men identified strangers. Information was inadequate to evaluate the nature of persecutory threats.

These preliminary findings invite replication and further exploration in larger, prospective, more extensive and more rigorously-controlled studies.

Sources:
Sex and Context: Hormones and Primate Sexual Motivation by Kim Wallen

Sex Differences in the Content of Persecutory Delusions: A Reflection of Hostile Threats in the Ancestral Environment?  by Florence Walstona, Anthony S. Davidb, Bruce G. Charlton

Anorexibrat

Sinners

Murder Hands

Baby Face

Shit Americans Believe

The results were compiled from telephone and online interviews with 1,546 adults in April. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points, according to Pew.

Here are some other findings of the poll:

• 71 per cent believe cancer will be cured by 2050.
• 81 per cent believe computers will be able to converse like humans.












• 68 per cent of those under 30 predict a world war by 2050.
• 53 per cent say ordinary people will travel in space
• Nearly three-quarters, or 74 per cent, of those polled believe it likely that "most of our energy will come from sources other than coal, oil, and gas".
• Yet 72 per cent believe the world is likely to experience a major worldwide energy crisis by 2050.
• 66 per cent say the Earth will definitely or probably get warmer but it breaks down strongly along political lines, with just 48 per cent of Republicans saying so and 83 per cent of Democrats.
• 42 per cent say it is likely that scientists will be able to tell what people are thinking by scanning their brains but 55 say this will definitely or probably not happen.
• 89 per cent believe a woman will be elected US president by 2050.
• 86 per cent say it is at least probable that most Americans will have to work into their 70s before retiring.
• 41 per cent say Jesus Christ will return within the next 40 years while 46 per cent say this will definitely or probably not happen.
• 63 per cent anticipate the demise of paper money
• 61 per cent say almost no one will send letters by 2050.
• 31 per cent expect the planet will be struck by an asteroid.

Jay's Journal (1978)

Anonymous (ed. by Beatrice Sparks)
Pocket Books

Purportedly the diary of a teenage Mormon who became involved in witchcraft and the occult before committing suicide at 16, but most assuredly a steaming pile of made-up horseshit. Therapist Beatrice Sparks came to fame in 1971 as the editor of Go Ask Alice, still read in many high schools as a cautionary tale about drug abuse. Apparently attempting to recapture that publishing magic, Sparks has since made a career happening upon other "real" diaries of troubled teens, including It Happened to Nancy (1994: raped/HIV); Almost Lost (1996: rap/occult/drugs); Annie's Baby (1998: domestic violence/rape/pregnancy); Treacherous Love (2000: sex with teacher); Kim (2002: bulimia): Finding Katie (2005: sexual abuse/foster care). There was apparently a real "Jay," but his family claims that Sparks wildly distorted his story to make it more marketable, so much so that Jay's brother later wrote his own book, A Place in the Sun: The Truth Behind Jay's Journal. Anyone who was actually ever a teenage boy will recognize almost immediately that this is a work of fiction. The occult angle is laughable, and the texture of teen boy consciousness is absurd. At one point, for example, Jay dreads getting up early the next morning to meet a cute potential girlfriend for an Egg McMuffin at McDonalds. As if any 15-year-old boy would dread pursuing an opportunity to get laid AND eat a delicious breakfast sandwich.

Reformatory Girls (1960)

Ray Morrison 
Avon Books

17-year-old Laura has ‘been around,’ which is Eisenhower-speak for a total slut. She takes the rap for her stupid boyfriend Earl and ends up at Ferndale—a home for wayward, insane, and otherwise delinquent girls.  There she meets the 30-something Miss Edwards, a reform-minded counselor who thinks bad girls can be saved if adults will just listen to their problems and take them seriously.  Miss Edwards tries to show Laura that Earl is a jerk and she should move on with her life. Convention would dictate this to be the beginning of a lesbian affair conveyed through euphemism and innuendo.

But Reformatory Girls has other plans. One night Laura tries to escape through an air vent to go meet Earl in town.  On the way she crawls under Miss Edwards’ apartment and overhears the creepy warden trying to seduce her. A few nights later in another vent crawl, she overhears the warden on the phone and learns he is a liar and a cheat. As eavesdropping from an air vent proves to be such a convenient device for revealing narrative information, Laura sneaks out a third time--discovering on this trip that Miss Edwards is a virgin!   This significantly changes their counselor/counselee relationship, which so far had been based on the fiction that the older Miss Edwards knew more about life than Laura.

Laura busts out, gets caught, is sent to “real” jail for a week, and then returns to Ferndale just in time for the mandatory prison riot.  And then the twist ending: Laura breaks up with Earl, realizing he really is a creep.  But Miss Edwards—big on college smarts and yet stupid about men and their ways—has decided to marry the creepy warden.  In the final scene, Laura and Miss Edwards embrace and have a good cry.   Says Laura to herself: I cried because I was back at last after a long, long trip down nowhere road, and because she was taking that same lousy road.  I cried because I didn’t have the power to stop her, and because I wasn’t sure she’d make it back.  So, basically, Reformatory Girls bills itself as “the shocking story of untamed she-cats in a jungle behind bars,” but then turns out to be more a generational meditation on what constitutes emotional/sexual/intellectual maturity.  Didn’t see that coming from the cover.

Scissor Fight

Loverboys

The Ice Cream Man (1995)

Any true cinephile has to really feel for Clint Howard.   His older brother Ron has become a national icon—twice—first by playing Opie Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show and then Richie Cunningham on Happy Days.  After his years in front of the camera were over, Ron Howard went on to become perhaps the most extraordinarily competent director in Hollywood, churning out a highly successful run of Oscar bait for almost 25 years now.   To the extent that anyone recognizes Clint Howard, meanwhile, it is most likely as Balok the uncanny MOS space baby from the original Star Trek. 

Which is really too bad, because any objective observer would have to agree that Clint Howard has pursued a much more interesting career.  Ron Howard has given us Cocoon (1985), Far and Away (1992), and The Da Vinci Code (2006).  Ask yourself, what would it take to compel you to see any of those films a second time?  Meanwhile, Clint Howard has appeared in Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1979), The Wraith (1986), Carnosaur (1993), Ticks (1994), Leprechaun 2 (1994), Barb Wire (1996), Santa with Muscles (1996), The Dentist 2: Brace Yourself (1998), Little Nicky (2000), House of the Dead (2003), and the upcoming crime against both cinema and nature, Bloodrayne: The Third Reich (2010).  Not only that, he’s been in just about every one of his more famous brother’s movies, including a made-for-TV flick inexplicably shot at my high school in Dallas (Cotton Candy—1978).  

One of Clint Howard’s more memorable films is The Ice Cream Man (1995), a probing drama of confectionary psychosis directed by Paul Norman.  If that name isn’t familiar, it’s because you’re not watching enough pornography, or perhaps skipping the credits of whatever pornography you may or may not be watching.  Before directing Howard in The Ice Cream Man, Norman’s oeuvre included Edward Penishands (1991), Transitions: An Anal Adventure (1993), and Intercourse with the Vampire (1994).  After The Ice Cream Man failed to launch a horror franchise, Norman returned to more familiar territory with Fetish (1997), Hungry Holes (2000), and a writing credit for Bitches in Heat: Pt. 1 Locked in a Basement (1995).  The Ice Cream Man appears to have been Norman’s lone bid for a “legit” non-X feature.  IMDB lists his last directing credit as Sperm Bitches (2001).  Sperm Bitches.  Few titles so perfectly encapsulate the history and politics of their parent genre.  If I had had the honor of bringing the Sperm Bitches screenplay to life , I think I would retire from the director’s chair as well.  Where else is there to go in the genre?   

Of its many merits, The Ice Cream Man is particularly notable for its oddly unstable tone.  How “tone” manifests in any film is one of the great mysteries of cinematic poetics, an ineffable alchemy that becomes even more profoundly enigmatic when tone is slightly “off.”  Sometimes artful filmmakers mismatch tone and subject intentionally for a particular effect, like the recently brilliant Observe and Report (2009).  At other times, for whatever reason, a film simply “misses” the tone it sets out to capture, making the movie either tediously insufferable (Interiors—1978) or unintentionally sublime (The Apple-1980).

I’m not sure exactly where to put The Ice Cream Man in this respect.  The idea, apparently, was to mix horror and comedy, but in failing to find a dominant one way or the other, the story is haunted by ambiguity and uncertainty.  In the opening act, for example, the film appears to be going for a vibe of dark childhood whimsy.  It’s summer.  A group of pre-teeners thinks the new ice cream man is a little weird, no doubt because he is Clint Howard and he takes their orders from behind what look to be prison bars welded to the side of his “Good Humor” truck.  At this early juncture, the movie could become Stand By Me (1986), Escape to Witch Mountain (1975), The Goonies (1985) or even To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) (Clint Howard would make a great Boo Radley).

But then the bloodletting begins, instantly taking this charming tale of childhood suspicion into the hard-R territory of a splatter film.  Even here, however, the film continues to struggle with its tonal mix.   For example, our initial confirmation that the ice cream man is indeed deranged comes with the first shot revealing the inside of his ice-cream truck.  As the kids queue for their hard-packs, push-ups, and bomb-pops, we see a little white mouse scurrying over what appears to be a tub of raspberry sherbet.   For whatever reason—basic visual legibility perhaps--Norman holds back here on the more obvious choice for signifying psychotic putridity—the Norwegian roof-rat.  The little white mouse is kind of cute, really, even if he is further pelleting the chocolate chip.  The camera then pans over to reveal that the next tub of ice cream is infested with bugs, but even these appear to be more “crickety” than “roachy”—an initial hesitation, perhaps, to cross the line from Nicktoons gross to grindhouse abjection.  
 
And yet, only moments later, the ice cream man takes advantage of a recently dislodged eyeball, dicing it up to make fresh  “marshmallows” for a spontaneously mixed batch of Rocky Road.  Audaciously, he feeds it to a detective looking for a missing kid who, in a rather creepy nod to the pedophilic side of Frankenstein, is a prisoner back at the ice cream man’s ice creamery (they’re both “misfits” observes i.c.m.). Here Norman is not content to simply show the cop eating a cone we know to be full of minced eyeball, but instead cuts to an extreme close-up of his tongue as it extracts and savors a sliver of vitreous humor from the melting vanilla.  Here we have the strongest stylistic evidence of Norman’s training in pornography—it is in effect a “money shot,” only with a very different configuration of vision, tongues, and cream.   

Observant readers may have noted that the “ice cream man” appears to have no other name than “ice cream man,” and this is in fact the case.  He is like “the stranger” in High Plains Drifter (1973) or “the driver” in Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), an abstract emblem of forces operating on the larger field of mythopoesis.  This causes problems, however, in that the film also operates within the more quotidian logics of suburbia and the crime procedural.  This leads to a number of odd dialogue exchanges.  When the cops visit his truck in search of the missing child, for example, the ice cream man asks, “Got any suspects?”  To this the cop responds, “That’s classified, ice cream man.  Classified.”  Whether they are mocking him or paying homage to his symbolic position in the American mythos of summer community remains, like so many other things in the movie, unclear.

Like most modern serial-killing psychos, the ice cream man not only murders people, but does so in a manner that speaks to his particular psychosocial profile as “the ice cream man.”  A serial-killing insurance salesman, for example, might leave behind actuary tables with “time’s up” written in blood, while a murdering podiatrist might harvest feet as type of fetishistic trophy.  Clint Howard already had experience with this genre convention in The Dentist 2: Brace Yourself, where he played an unlucky patient drilled to death by Corbin Bernsen.  How to horrify with ice cream?  As we saw above, one strategy is simply to defile it with gross additives--eyeballs, bugs, dead dogs and such.  One might also imagine drowning victims in large vats of churning cream, or perhaps freezing them to death in a locker full of fudgesicles.  Happily, The Ice Cream Man has more imagination than this.  For example, when the town floozy begins making sexual overtures to the ice cream man, he returns the favor by bringing her a severed head perched atop a specially made waffle cone.


It is an extraordinary image in its own way, and one that brings the film’s overall struggle to achieve appropriate tone to a full-blown crisis.  Is this shot meant to be cleverly funny or unbelievably horrific?  At first glance, it appears the goal is humor.  In his limited romantic vocabulary, the ice cream man has taken the time to fashion a very special treat for his lady friend, one that compels the viewer to ask several questions.  How would one go about making a waffle cone that big?  Does “waffle” possess the tensile strength necessary to support a human head, generally agreed to weigh around 8 pounds?  Is that blood or some form of cherry syrup on the cone and uniform?  The second scoop with a cherry on top only adds to the whimsy of the overall presentation.  

But now look at the image again and imagine that it comes, not from a goofy horror movie with Clint Howard, but from the scrapbook of an actual serial killer.  That is, imagine if you can that this image is “real,” that someone really has severed a head and plopped it atop a waffle cone along with a bonus scoop and a cherry.  Just how sick is that?  Would this not be one of the most harrowing images of the century, right up there with the crime scene photos at 10050 Cielo Drive or that truly disturbing picture of John Wayne Gacy shaking hands with first-lady Rosalyn Carter?  Born of goofy perhaps even parodic genre play, it is an image that with further contemplation actually becomes severly disturbing and/or disturbed.  

How does it all end?  The kids have a club called "The Rocketeers" or some such nonsense, and they end up firing a model rocket into the ice cream truck.  Having abandoned any pretense of securing a PG rating an hour earlier, it’s really a mystery as to why the filmmakers felt a need to return to such rascally shenanigans at the end—perhaps it is a merciful device that helps contain the horror of contemplating a severed head served in a waffle cone.  Who can say?  All I know is I would gladly stare that cone down alone in a room for two hours rather than sit through Frost/Nixon again. 

Handy Branch

The Dame's the Game (1960)

Al Fray
Popular Library


Vegas house-dick Barney Conroy has things pretty good--a legit job rousting card cheats from the casino and a "plush-line" redhead with a taste for bourbon. But all of that changes when a blond bombshell begs him to come to L.A. to investigate a roving craps game that's been fleecing her husband out of thousands of dollars. Soon the husband's dead and Barney and the blond are both suspects. A few fistfights. An errant bomb. Some commies. Basic pulp, neither great nor terrible

The Slave Compulsion (1968)

Jack Carter
Unique Books

The Story of 'O' but featuring a man named "X." What does "X" enjoy? X is known by many names, says a brief introduction, including: "Masochist, Escapist, Transvestite, Fetishist, Infantile, Narcissist, Satyr." But, adds the "editor," the publishers feel "all of these things and none of them are applicable to X, for his needs and desires change as even do his fantasies with the range of the patterns of the clouds in the sky." Most of X's fantasies, though, would appear to involve wearing pink girdles and having an endless stream of Amazonians boss, bind, and beat him. Weirdest detail: When his "Master" drops him off at Bondage Camp, he is wearing pink bloomers and a white blouse. As it is raining, however, Master allows him to wear a man's raincoat to get from the car to the front door without drawing attention to himself. But this leaves his legs naked from the bloomers down. Solution? Master also has brought along two fake trouser-bottoms that can be held up by elastic at mid-calf. Unclear if this is a weird fetish they share, or if author Carter was way over-thinking the whole disguise thin

Kay Realized Too Late

Misandrous Donkey Smoke

Enigma: Who directed She Mob (1968), currently uncredited?

Let us consider the following evidence: 

Exhibit A

Nymphs Anonymous (1968) opens with a close-up on a cigarette-dispensing donkey.  Camera zooms-out to reveal:
Exhibit B
The leader of the "Nymphs," a future political organization that has successfully subjugated all men in the service of women.  Note the enslaved bartenders.
 ___________________

Approximately 20 minutes into She Mob, meanwhile, the eponymous gang of lesbian robbers are playing poker, having tied-up a male gigolo in the next room as a hostage. 

Exhibit C

A hand reaches for a cigarette and we see the very same donkey dispenser found in Nymphs Anonymous (or at least the same model). Match cut to:

Exhibit D

"Stiv," the dyke leader of the gang, retrieves the cigarette from the donkey's rear-end.

Conclusion:  Nymphs Anonymous (1968) was directed by Manuel Conde.  Given the similar premise of "imprisoned" men and the parallel exploitation of a cheap donkey novelty for a moment of low comic spectacle, it is my hypthosis that Manuel Conde also directed She Mob (1968).  


Another enigma of film history solved!

Lord Satan (1972)

Louisa Bronte
Avon Books

Many readers of Jane Eyre finish the novel thinking Rochester is pretty much still an asshole and deserves his bum leg and blindness. Bronte tells us he recovers his sight in time to see his first child, but I'm sure many still prefer imagining him wandering around the house befuddled and completely at Jane's mercy.

Men would remain assholes in the twentieth-century, of course, allowing Charlotte Bronte's basic architecture in Jane Eyre (naive young girl + older sophisticated man + mysterious presence in the house = lust/fear/loathing/passion) to inform all manner of popular romances. Jane Eyre was remade about 50 times in the old studio system, from Hitchcock and du Maurier's straight-forward copy in Rebecca (1941) to Val Lewton's horror-inflected I Walked with a Zombie (1943).

The remakes of Jane Eyre often make the Rochester character a bit more sinister--the original's constant brooding amplified into a creepier, more murderous menace. Pictured here is a version that goes for broke, transforming Rochester into what many always believed he was anyway: Satan. Published by Avon press in 1972, Lord Satan does little to disguise its relationship to Jane Eyre, even attributing the manuscript to a "Louisa Bronte," who one assumes the reader is supposed to take as a distant relative of some kind, perhaps even a long-lost fourth sister. All the elements are here for the titillation that comes with fantasizing about courting a mysteriously threatening (and possibily half-goat) man: the 17-year-old Adrienne, "Lord Satan" himself, and the apparent ghost of Lord Satan's mother wandering the halls of "Castle Caudill." As in the original, much of the book would appear to involve Adrienne attempting to understand the mysterious personal and domestic relationships around her. Despite her marriage to a man known as LORD SATAN, Adrienne is unsure if her vivid memories of satanic rituals and black masses are real or only dreams. Eventually she begins to suspect her husband (again, LORD SATAN) might be a witch. Plucky Jane she is not, it would seem.

Perhaps such a bizarre transposition of Jane Eyre was inevitable, especially in the early 1970s when Lucifer was riding high on the popcult terrain. The Exorcist wouldn't be out for another year, but Anton LaVey's Church of Satan in San Francisco had, by 1970, already revived a genre pretty much moribund since Joris-Karl Huysmans' La-Bas (1891). On the other side of the Gothic's softer than softcore romances, Satan was enjoying a spirited revival in the adult film/book industry as well (including such memorable porno-rags as Bitchcraft and Nudity in Witchcraft).

If you look closer at the cover of Lord Satan, however, there is a small logo indicating the book is not a singular offering to the Dark One but is actually part of a series. It is, Avon proudly trumpets with a goat-head stamp, "A Satanic Gothic." I'm not sure exactly how many of these Avon published, but I have found listings for at least three more titles: Island of Fear (1973), The Twisted Tree (1979), and The Mark of the Rope (1972).

Gothics are notorious for the specificity of their branding--but "a Satanic Gothic?" As the current Twilight series demonstrates, fantasizing about vampire sex is now acceptable even among teenagers (as it was in the late 60s' with Dark Shadows). But Satan? Would a mainstream press have the horns to publish such a series today? Probably not--and we are poorer as a culture for the absence of such a possibility. Some regard Studio 54 or Plato's Retreat as the ultimate emblems of sexual excess in the 1970s. But what could be more truly perverse than teen girls and housewives going to the corner drugstore and buying a mass market book to indulge the more occult dimensions of their desire, stories that use the soft-focus plotting of the gothic romance to encode our culture's ultimate master/slave story?

Bodies in Bedlam