Film Noir ♥ Transgressions Into the Cultural Cinematic Gutter: From Shadowland to Psychotronic Playground

“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.”
Sigmund Freud

“Ladies and gentlemen- welcome to violence; the word and the act. While violence cloaks itself in a plethora of disguises, its favorite mantle still remains sex.” — Narrator from Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965).

Faster Pussycat
Tura Satana, Haji, and Lori Williams in Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! 1965
Françoise Dorléac and Donald Pleasence in Roman Polanski’s Cul-de-sac 1966.
the Naked kiss
Constance Towers kicks the crap out of her pimp for shaving off her hair in Sam Fuller’s provocative The Naked Kiss 1964.
Shock Corridor
Peter Breck plays a journalist hungry for a story and gets more than a jolt of reality when he goes undercover in a Mental Institution in Sam Fuller’s Shock Corridor 1963.
CapturFiles_3 copy
Bobby Darin is a psychotic racist in Hubert Cornfield and Stanley Kramer’s explosive Pressure Point 1962 starring Sidney Poitier and Peter Falk.

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Constance Towers as Kelly from The Naked Kiss (1964): “I saw a broken down piece of machinery. Nothing but the buck, the bed and the bottle for the rest of my life. That’s what I saw.”

Griff (Anthony Eisley) The Naked Kiss (1964): “Your body is your only passport!”

Catherine Deneuve as Carole Ledoux in Repulsion (1965): “I must get this crack mended.”

Monty Clift Dr. Cukrowicz Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) : “Nature is not made in the image of man’s compassion.”

Patricia Morán as Rita Ugalde: The Exterminating Angel 1962:“I believe the common people, the lower class people, are less sensitive to pain. Haven’t you ever seen a wounded bull? Not a trace of pain.”

Ann Baxter as Teresina Vidaverri Walk on the Wild Side 1962“When People are Kind to each other why do they have to find a dirty word for it.”

The Naked Venus 1959“I repeat she is a gold digger! Europe’s full of them, they’re tramps… they’ll do anything to get a man. They even pose in the NUDE!!!!”

Darren McGavin as Louie–The Man With the Golden Arm (1955): “The monkey is never dead, Dealer. The monkey never dies. When you kick him off, he just hides in a corner, waiting his turn.”

Baby Boy Franky Buono-Blast of Silence (1961) “The targets names is Troiano, you know the type, second string syndicate boss with too much ambition and a mustache to hide the facts he’s got lips like a woman… the kind of face you hate!”

Lorna (1964)- “Thy form is fair to look upon, but thy heart is filled with carcasses and dead man’s bones.”

Peter Fonda as Stephen Evshevsky in Lilith (1964): “How wonderful I feel when I’m happy. Do you think that insanity could be so simple a thing as unhappiness?”

Glen or Glenda (1953)“Give this man satin undies, a dress, a sweater and a skirt, or even a lounging outfit and he’s the happiest individual in the world.”

Glen or Glenda
Ed Wood’s Glen or Glenda 1953

Johnny Cash as Johnny Cabot in Five Minutes to Live (1961):“I like a messy bed.”

Dr. Moreau (Charles Laughton) Island of Lost Souls: “Do you know what it means to feel like God?”

The Curious Dr. Humpp (1969): “Sex dominates the world! And now, I dominate sex!”

The Snake Pit (1948): Jacqueline deWit as Celia Sommerville “And we’re so crowded already. I just don’t know where it’s all gonna end!” Olivia de Havilland as Virginia Stuart Cunningham “I’ll tell you where it’s gonna end, Miss Somerville… When there are more sick ones than well ones, the sick ones will lock the well ones up.”

Delphine Seyrig as Countess Bathory in Daughters of Darkness (1971)“Aren’t those crimes horrifying. And yet -so fascinating!”

Julien Gulomar as Bishop Daisy to the Barber (Michel Serrault) King of Hearts (1966)“I was so young. I already knew that to love the world you have to get away from it.”

The Killing of Sister George (1968) -Suzanna York as Alice ‘CHILDIE’: “Not all women are raving bloody lesbians, you know” Beryl Reid as George: “That is a misfortune I am perfectly well aware of!”

The Killing of Sister George
Susannah York (right) with Beryl Reid in The Killing of Sister George Susannah York and Beryl Reid in Robert Aldrich’s The Killing of Sister George 1960.

The Lickerish Quartet (1970)“You can’t get blood out of an illusion.”

THE SWEET SOUND OF DEATH (1965)Dominique-“I’m attracted” Pablo-” To Bullfights?” Dominique-” No, I meant to death. I’ve always thought it… The state of perfection for all men.”

Peter O’Toole as Sir Charles Ferguson Brotherly Love (1970): “Remember the nice things. Reared in exile by a card-cheating, scandal ruined daddy. A mummy who gave us gin for milk. Ours was such a beautifully disgusting childhood.”

Maximillian Schell as Stanislaus Pilgrin in Return From The Ashes 1965: “If there is no God, no devil, no heaven, no hell, and no immortality, then anything is permissible.”

Euripides 425 B.C.“Whom God wishes to destroy… he first makes mad.”

Davis & Crawford What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Bette Davis and Joan Crawford bring to life two of the most outrageously memorable characters in Robert Aldrich’s What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 1962.


psychotronic |ˌsīkəˈtränik| adjective denoting or relating to a genre of movies, typically with a science fiction, horror, or fantasy theme, that were made on a low budget or poorly received by critics. [the 1980s: coined in this sense by Michael Weldon, who edited a weekly New York guide to the best and worst films on local television.] Source: Wikipedia

In the scope of these transitioning often radical films, where once, men and women aspired for the moon and the stars and the whole ball of wax. in the newer scheme of things they aspired for you know… “kicks” Yes that word comes up in every film from the 50s and 60s… I’d like to have a buck for every time a character opines that collective craving… from juvenile delinquent to smarmy jet setter!



I just got myself this collection of goodies from Something Weird!

There’s even this dvd that points to the connection between the two genres – Here it’s labeled WEIRD. I like transgressive… They all sort of have a whiff of noir.
Grayson Hall Satan in High Heels
Grayson Hall -Satan in High Heels 1962.
Gerd Oswald adapts Fredrick Brown’s titillating novel — bringing to the screen the gorgeous Anita Ekberg, Phillip Carey, Gypsy Rose Lee, and Harry Townes in the sensational, obscure, and psycho-sexual thriller Screaming Mimi 1958.
The Strangler 1964 Victor Buono
Victor Buono is a deranged mama’s boy in Burt Topper’s fabulous The Strangler 1964.
Catherine Deneuve is extraordinary as the unhinged nymph in Roman Polanski’s psycho-sexual tale of growing madness in Repulsion 1965.

Just like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, Noir took a journey through an even darker lens… Out of the shadows of 40s Noir cinema, European New Wave, fringe directors, and Hollywood auteurs brought more violent, sexual, transgressive, and socially transformative narratives into the cold light of day with a creeping sense of verité. While Film Noir pushed the boundaries of taboo subject matter and familiar Hollywood archetypes it wasn’t until later that we are able to visualize the advancement of transgressive topics.

Continue reading “Film Noir ♥ Transgressions Into the Cultural Cinematic Gutter: From Shadowland to Psychotronic Playground”

Sunday Nite Surreal: The Mask (1961) “I tried to stop, I can’t, I don’t want to”

The Mask (1961)Canadian director Julian Roffman only made 2 films. The Bloody Brood, starring one of my favorite actors Peter Falk about a gang of psychotic beatniks, and dope dealers who actually feed a delivery boy ground-up glass so they can watch him die!

Then there’s Roffman’s The Mask which is a oneiric trippy experience. The Mask which looks like a tribal bejeweled skull, enables the wearer to see his own Psyche, much like The Cheaters television episode of Boris Karloff’s Thriller. The dream sequences are surreal and quite disturbing for it’s day, just for extra fun, it was originally released in 3D.



And the film’s titles have gone through several incarnations with alternative titles like Face of Fire, Eyes of Hell, and the ridiculous The Spooky Movie Show.

The Mask was scripted by Frank Taubes and Sandy Habner. the film cast is Paul Stevens, Claudette Nevins(another busy television actress), Bill Walker, Anne Collings, and Martin Lavut.

Paul Stevens (soap opera star from Another World and television shows such as The Streets Of San Fransisco and The Rockford Files) plays psychiatrist Allan Barnes who has primal hallucinations whenever he wears the mask, which becomes like an addiction for him. The mask represents a hunger, to wear the mask and indulge in the hallucinations that create a rapturous psycho-sexual urge that lies buried deep in the subconscious part of our minds. Whenever these hallucinations occur, the film utilizes the gimmick of 3D to enhance the visual experience for us. The Mask came out after the 50s craze was over when 3D was causing a stir at movie theaters. The suits in Hollywood realized that 3D was not a powerful enough draw to get people away from the advent of television, so they quickly abandoned its novelty.

Psychiatrist Allan Barnes has a patient that is a challenge for him. Michael Radin is an archeologist played by Martin Lavut, who works for the Museum of Ancient History. Michael is struggling with horrible nightmares in which he is on a murderous rampage killing women. Radin doesn’t believe that these are nightmares he’s having, He thinks that he is being taken over while actually committing these crimes, and has no power to stop.

In addition to this notion, archeologist Radin thinks that it’s an ancient South American mask that belongs to the Museum that is holding sway over his consciousness. Radin’s theory is that wearing the mask puts the person in a deep trance-like state, then causes their most repressed subconscious urges, usually evil ones to become externalized.


As usually is the case in films of the 50s and 60’s the idea of an ancient religious artifact representing a primitive and savage culture was very common in various genre films. To portray another culture as “other” was an ethnocentric ritual of Hollywood. The dark deeds of a people other than white America, with no value system in place, and bizarre rituals were expected. And it’s only because a white American donned the evil foreign mask which was a)taboo, and b)made the wearer completely unaccountable for their heinous actions. The characterization of the savage inside us all, being invaded from without, by a foreign influence or idea. A place where dark gods and goddesses reign.

The mask requires blood sacrifices and the person wearing it is forced to commit these murderous rituals. Again, the other underlying theme of the film is the idea of addiction. The person wearing the mask becomes compelled to wear it, it becomes a compulsion. “I’m like an addict,” Radin tells Barnes.

Barnes tries to convince Radin that the mask has no power over him and that the truth lies in his own mind. Radin becomes infuriated with Barnes and storms out of his office. That night Radin kills himself, but not before he sends the mask to Barnes first.

Barnes is obviously disturbed by the news that his patient has committed suicide, but once he receives the mask he starts to develop a fixation on it. During these times of preoccupation, he/we hear a voice that tells him to “Put the mask on now” and so Dr Barnes does it.

Once Barnes wears the mask, the film begins its journey into the realm of the three-dimensional world. During its theatrical release the audience was actually given cardboard copies of the mask with built-in 3-D glasses, and when Barnes was told to wear the mask, that was our cue to put the mask on as well.

During the 3-D segments, we are taken to a visually nightmarish landscape, complete with sacrificial altars, ritualistic figures who look like macabre Greek choruses in tattered black robes or players from the theater of the absurd., post-modern architecture that mimics ancient Aztec structures or perhaps visions of Hell. Snakes and fireballs would come hurling out of the movie screen at us. Snakes have often represented the sexual, fire often meaning purification which most cultures who’s use of human sacrifices were meant to purify the soul along with being an offering. Does the mask even take us beyond the Id, where women dress in silken black tatters just waiting to embrace us?

In the dream world, there is a man who looks like Barnes in a shredded suit, and Radin who comes in and out of sequence, with one eye horrifically dangling down by his cheek. These segments were very surreal, without much context to them, but were meant to be hallucinatory and primal excursions for the mask wearer and us viewers.

After putting the mask on the first time Barnes is convinced that the mask holds deep secrets into the Human Psyche, “Even deeper than the subconscious” Barnes tells us, just like Timothy Leary and Ram Dass taking an LSD acid trip during the 60’s. Perhaps Roffman, Taubes, and Habner felt that everyone wears a mask in society, and that only by going deeper into the subconscious can we be free to be who we truly are. A bunch of maniacal blood-lusting savages. Or maybe it was just darn fun to hurl fireballs at us from the movie screen. Or both are true. It’s definitely a cautionary tale about the dangers of addiction. When Barnes says ” I tried to stop, I can’t, I don’t want to,” his girlfriend Pam says, “Do you have to take the drug again, Allan?

Barne’s girlfriend Pam Albright played by Claudette Nevins, doesn’t approve of him messing around with something so unnatural, so taboo. But it’s too late because Barnes has fallen under the spell of the mask and is now compelled to wear it as Radin was. Barnes tells Pam that it orders him to pick it up, so Pam grabs it and plans on returning it to the museum. So that it can remain a relic and not a substance that can be abused.

Barnes steals it back, and the urges become even greater, ultimately he gets the craving to kill his secretary Jill Goodrich played by Anne Collings. This scares Barnes and forces him to confront what’s happening to him, so he calls a colleague of his, Dr Quincy,(Norman Ettlinger). Unfortunately, Quincy’s reaction is the same as when Radin came to Barnes. That the mask has no power, that it’s all in Barne’s head. But his friend Dr. Quincy is concerned and tells Pam that he’s worried Barnes is headed for a total breakdown.

Barnes wearing the mask once again, starts to pursue his secretary “I must experience the greatest act of the human mind, to take another human life” But girlfriend Pam gets the cops involved and they wind up arresting Barnes and putting him away.

The last sequence of the film shows us that the mask is back at the museum, and of course, there is another man gazing at it with fascination like Radin, and Barnes. That the evil events are destined to repeat themselves because curiosity is the damnation of human nature.

The Mask was certainly original for its time. The otherworldly dream sequences had disturbing images that weren’t usual for American-made horror films, in particular dealing with drug abuse and repressed sexuality.

Not until later on with the counterculture of the 60s and early 70s with LSD “trip” films like

The Angry Breed 1968 The Trip 1967, Angel Angel Down We Go 1969, and Go Ask Alice 1973

Even back in the days of George Melies with his 1902 classic A Trip to the Moon an iconic piece of film work that blends science fiction with psychedelic aspects that were very ahead of its time.

I’m a big fan of The Mask because it really creates a nightmarish experience for its actors and us, and is an original contribution to the genre of cult horror films.