Thursday, October 17, 2013

It's A Night At The Movies With MY GOAT

It's a NIGHT AT THE MOVIES with MY GOAT

MOVIE REVIEW: "M.A.C. AND ME" (1988, dir: Stewart Raffill)

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"Get Dwyer out of here." - Jim Jones, heard on the FBI archive tape recordings of the Jonestown Massacre

The 1988 American science fiction film "Mac And Me" is perhaps best known to modern audiences as one of the worst films of all time. It is infamous for many of its attributes, including constant product placement, most significantly (but not limited to) those of Coca-Cola and McDonalds. A particular aspect of the film that has come under criticism is the derivative nature of the plot, which clearly parallel the events and characters of Steven Spielberg's popular 1980 film "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial." In Steven Spielberg's film, a small meat-like puppet is used to convey a sense of fragility and pathos that is sympathetic to most viewers on a deep, subconscious level. The effect of the strange and somewhat ugly appearance of the creature is outweighed by his sensitive nature. In this way, Spielberg effectively conveys emotions that go beyond disgust and alienation, seeking to genuinely resonate emotionally with viewers.
In contrast, when one compares the alien creature "M.A.C.*" to E.T., M.A.C.'s delirious and comical nature is more akin to Speilberg's peer Robert Zemeckis' "Roger Rabbit" character, itself influenced directly by the slapstick violence of Looney Tunes. The character's physical form is abused thoroughly, resulting in M.A.C. being barely perceivable as a living thing subject to the laws of physics. M.A.C. and his kin's physical forms take on a malleable property, throughout the film the character goes through bouts of horrific warping of material shape that seem intended to be comical.
His appearance is quite different from E.T. in several important ways. Instead of a large cranium that suggests a comparable intellect, M.A.C.'s tiny pointed head more resembles that of an anemic Yoda, and his skin (and the skin and bodies of his family) seems to be a rubbery substance filled with perhaps some form of artificial sand. Also, whereas in "E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial," the audience's view of the other members of the main character's race is quite brief, in "M.A.C. And Me" we spend quite a bit of time with M.A.C.'s immediate family. The alien family in the film is constructed as a traditional nuclear family: mother, father, two children. The alien beings' movements are exaggerated and somewhat horrific, often resembling that of the Japanese cathartic dancing/performance art known as Butoh.
The race that M.A.C. comes from has mouths that are shaped in a small "o" shape, as opposed to the flatter, more humanoid mouth of E.T. In the Raffill film, the shape of the mouth has a practical purpose in that it facilitates the ingestion of liquids through a straw, a method that the beings use to mine some sort of liquid ore from their home planet. It also is a very convenient shape for drinking Coca-Cola through a straw, a pastime that becomes one the family's favorite once they come to visit Earth. The character designers seem to have misunderstood the aspects of the E.T.'s appearance that work, cynically attempting to create a cute-looking creature that ends up appearing like a hybrid union of an Egyptian hairless cat and Tweety Bird. The unpleasant appearance of the main characters was likely a major factor in the large-scale audience rejection of the film... much like "New Coke" before it, the familiarity ends with the first sip, and leaves a bad taste in one's mouth soon afterwards.

ALTERNATE

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"M.A.C. And Me" is not unique in it's knock-off status of Speilberg's popular 1982 film. Notable motion pictures spawned by the success of "E.T." include gems such as Turkey's "Badi," the American summer camp sequel "Meatballs 2," and the horrfic "Xtro" from the United Kingdom. "Badi" (also known as "Turkish E.T.") falls short of the beloved Spielberg classic as well, but (in its defense) it is at least superior to "Turkish Star Wars." I have not yet seen "Turkish Wizard Of Oz" but I am willing to bet that "Badi" is better than that also. It is of course the funny story of a boy who becomes friends with a small alien, but unlike E.T., Badi has a taste for racy humor and cruder situations than his American counterpart. Badi seems to have terrible gastro-intestinal issues that form the majority of the humor in the film, as clips found on Youtube will verify. The character is roughly the same height as E.T., but with a physical resemblance to both John Merrick's character in "The Elephant Man" as well as the H.R. Giger-designed xenomorph from Ridley Scott's film "Alien." Unlike E.T., Badi has a noticeable appetite for Earth pornography.
"Meatballs 2" is a Hollywood sequel that deviates from the original Bill Murray vehicle in order to include a rubbery blue alien that takes part in the hijinks that occur naturally at a summer camp. A significant scene in this picture involves our interstellar hero enjoying the pleasures of the Earth-bound marijuana plant. Several of the attendees at the Summer camp depicted in the film peer-pressure the foreign ambassador into partaking in this rite, which causes the little guy's eyes to glow red as he floats around.
Finally, "Xtro" is actually a completely non-sentimental horror film but, like the other three mentioned, it was released and titled with the express purpose of gaining cross-over support from fans of the Spielberg effort. This terrifying motion picture involves alien impregnation, as well an innocent child befriending a creature of great malice from outer space. Interestingly, this is similar to an early concept of E.T., where the main protagonist was a friendly alien who was trying to warn people on Earth of a predatory, flesh-eating species that was on its way for a quick bite. This idea was scrapped and the project was united with a more personal film that Speilberg was working on titled "A Boy's Life," about children growing up with a single mother. An early version of "E.T." that Spielberg approached Tobe Hooper to direct was an almost straightforward horror/sci-fi type of story, but Hooper declined at the time, later collaborating with Spielberg for "Poltergeist." The completely non-sinister aspect of the alien race was a concept that was somewhat unique to Spielberg's movies (an idea started in "Close Encounters Of The Third Kind"). "Xtro" presents a take on the genre that is perhaps a bit closer to classic alien invasion lore, combined with the realism and modernity of Speilberg's effort.
It is not unusual for such a popular film to create so many imitations. Many of Steven Spielberg's movies have had the effect of generating small genres of their own in terms of rip-offs and re-creations. "Gremlins," produced by the 'Berg and directed by Joe Dante (who himself started out as a director of the Jaws parody/riff "Piranha") itself created a huge industry of "tiny creatures wreaking havoc" films, including "Critters" and Charles Band's highly enjoyable "Ghoulies" series. Together, the popularity of both "Gremlins" and "E.T." ensured that for many years to come there would be a significant glut of films featuring often somewhat demonic-looking small rubber puppets interacting with human beings.
Back to "M.A.C. And Me." The creatures themselves, and their awkward appearance, are probably one of the hugest setbacks to audience enjoyment and comfort. The design is a far cry from the excellent sculpture work of "E.T."'s Carlo Rimbaldi (who also designed the organic nightmare puppet head for Ridley Scott's "Alien," based, of course, on an original concept by Swedish surrealist H.R. Giger).
The shockingly naked appearance of the alien beings, their gangly and erratic movements, their googly eyes, these were surely the source of worry and discomfort for many a child and parent who viewed the film in theatres (of which there were few) or on home video (more so on this front). Unlike "E.T.", rather than opening the film with the human protagonists of the saga (in order to establish a relationship between the viewing audience and the human cast), the film opens up with a stark view into the existence of film's alien race on an unspecified rocky satellite, either of another planet or perhaps of our own sun.

FAMILY

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During the opening of the film, the four creatures walk along a desert surface from which a ringed planet (Uranus?) can be seen. A mother (her identity within the family structure is indicated early on in the film when she seems to "nag" the male adult), a father (whose gait and facial expressions are particularly goofy and off-putting), a young son (M.A.C.), and a baby alien (sister?).
The director seems to intend for the audience to relate to the alien entities as a kind of proto-humanoid or ancestral spirit, beings that we would want to invite into our world, because of our shared empathy and desire to get along with one another. They do not seem to have any natural predators, and their primary form of sustenance comes in the form of some sort of soda-like liquid that is extracted with a straw-like device from the surface of their floating planetoid. Oddly, the males of the family are completely naked, with an arbitrary cloth covering the nudity of the females.
Their bodies are not exactly flesh toned, more of an orange colour, with the adults of the race having visible liver spots. For the most part they look like a claymation parody of both the 1950s conception of "space aliens" as well as that of the classic nuclear family ideal. This opening scene with M.A.C.'s family is in many ways one of the most extraordinary in the film. The visuals proceeding the appearance of the family unit are actually quite beautiful, visually rivalling the opening space landscapes of "Alien" or "Prometheus." It is clear that the movie intends to make some sort of commentary on this concept of the human family, and how we might relate to extraterrestrial creatures from another planet. Before long, a NASA land rover appears on the planet and horrifically sucks up our family through a small tube, mirroring their use of straws to gain their sustenance. The contortions of their bodies as they are stretched and distorted is intended to be comedic, but instead is horrific and painful looking. The small craft makes its way back to the Earth next, where our unsuspecting space family will encounter an inevitable culture clash with the citizens of our humble planet.

A STORY ABOUT AMERICA

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It's important to look at things in context. America in the 1950s was an optimistic and exciting place. The post war economy was booming, and the threat of the atomic bomb was a consistent reminder of imminent holocaust. Drills to practice what one would do in the event of nuclear attack were not uncommon, and conformity was the rule of the day. After the events of World War II, our country seemed both united and indebted to a sense of uniformity, with the frighteningly strict conformity of suburbia strangely similar to that of the feared and reviled Communist U.S.S.R. Rock and roll was a beacon of cultural change, as were horror and science fiction movies (often dealing with giant monsters, often enlarged to dangerous proportions because of the adverse effects of radiation). Another brand of sci-fi classic had aliens from space invading Earth and destroying everything that we hold dear... killing women and children, and their little dogs too. The skull-headed aliens of Topps series of "Mars Attacks" chewing gum cards depicted the mass horrors of war coming to the idyllic American landscape via a despicable alien menace that was indisputably frightening. It was a new kind of horror, the horror of events occurring in foreign lands coming back home, bringing along ghosts of a faraway chaos.
The fear of monsters and space aliens stood in for what was an over-arching uncertainty and sense of mortality in America, the aftershocks of war. Life had been simultaneously simplified and made more complex. Food came from supermarkets rather than hunting trips or laborious farming. Plan for your career, retirement, and even financially plan out death, setting aside money for funeral and deciding where the leftovers go via inheritance. The American family was mapped out in a nice pleasant grid that left little room for error or individuality. As always, there was dissent... even as early as the 1950s, American biker gangs, beatniks, and menacing greasers were synonymous with chaos writ upon the Suburban environment. Street crime and violence, rape and alcoholism, and the horrors of "reefer madness" and jazz music were all there to terrify the average citizen from leaving the comfortable confines of their couch. Television was of course a major contributor to the change in the social landscape, for example it was through the television and cinemas the American public was first exposed to Rock and Roll music.
From a modern viewpoint, it can be difficult to fully comprehend the effect that this new style of music had on culture... the world of the 1950s was a world that existed before "cool" was something "squares" could get "hip to," all of that language being strange and alien new concepts. Words that are now an ordinary part of our existence, that shape the framework of the world that we are in today, were feared by the average citizen.
Most of all, the rock and roll music was considered by many conservative caucasian Americans to be associated with what was deemed to be the depravity and low cultural standards of the African American population. With the current era of political correctness dominating discourse, it is easy to forget the significance of racism within American culture at this critical juncture... one can imagine that the fear of the "other" depicted in monster and alien movies reflecting this rather poignantly. Called "black people," descendants of the African slaves brought over to America survived in ghettos and were legally prohibited from eating in the same establishments as "whites" (caucasians). The tension of two groups of people living side-by-side, but with one group so clearly in a situation advantageous over the other, was an explosive scenario.
To those who feared rock and roll music, it was the return of Babylonian and Dionysian revelry to a nation still comforting itself with classical music revues and the hokey Big Band tunes of the previous era. It is hard to believe that something that has become so sterile and ubiquitous as rock and roll was at one point considered a dangerous threat to culture. The most conservative opponents of Rock music indeed felt that they were facing the direct influence of Satan Himself. However, the drumbeat of rock and roll music was instead ushering in a new era of cultural understanding in America, and by the following decade the civil rights movement was in full swing.

"I HAVE A DREAM"

“If you look back, many things that we thought were accidents turned out were not accidents. The entire LSD movement itself was sponsored originally by the CIA, to whom I give great credit. I would not be here today if it had not been for the foresight and prestige of the CIA psychologists, so give the CIA credit for being truly an intelligence agency. ”-Timothy Leary interview February 1978

The social upheaval of the early 1960s was peppered with marches, riots, and assassinations. A prominent supporter of the civil rights movement, President John F. Kennedy, was publicly executed in a ritualistic manner that shocked the entire nation and fostered a distrust for the Government and the typical 'official story' that continues to this day. In this new era of chaos came a musical phenomenon (from America's former foe Great Britain) in the form of four gently sarcastic young men with identical haircuts called The Beatles. The previous decade, the performer Elvis Presley had been used to sell a safe version of Rock and Roll to the masses, but his oeuvre could hardly be considered subversive. The strangely beautiful and eerily catchy melodies of these four young men caught the attention of the world and formed the oddly peace-oriented soundtrack to a decade of turmoil. For a man named Charles Manson, the Beatles represented the harbingers of the apocalypse, four long-haired youths with "breastplates of fire" (a Biblical reference that Manson took to refer to their electric guitars) that emitted music that was to enact an unusual and rather specific social change. As a young man of twenty-nine, Manson was already incarcerated in the United States Penitentiary at McNeil Island during the Beatles first visit to the United States. Upon his first encounter with their music via the radio, he became deeply fascinated with what he had deemed a fiery and rebellious sound, which inspired him to take up the guitar. The alleged misinterpretation of the Beatles' ideas by Manson (and the ensuing media circus that would accompany the related trial) would prove to be one of the cornerstone events defining the emerging gap of generational values going into the next decade.
The invention of LSD is an important event in US History for a variety of reasons, and the 1960s just would not have been the same without it. It is possible that both the Beatles' primary songwriters (John Lennon and Paul McCartney), as well as Mr. Charles Manson, were exposed to LSD at roughly the same time, somewhere in the year 1965.
During the time of Manson's initial incarceration, the United States Government (via the C.I.A.) were performing experiments involving the testing the drug on prisoners in locations that included the Vacaville facility where Manson was housed. Lennon and McCartney, for their part, on record have both stated that they were administered LSD against their knowledge by their dentist around the same period of time. They duo had both been invited to the man's house for dinner and were both dosed via their coffee, leading to a traumatic experience that Lennon himself said took over a month to recover from. Upon his release from prison, Manson would go on to use the drug's mind altering properties to show his followers another world of possibility, not unlike the legendary Hashish cult of assassin trainer Hassan-I-Sabbah. Similar to Sabbah, Manson lived on a property in the desert and exposed his associates to a combination of sensory deprivation, rhetoric, and drugs in order to initiate them to his view of life.
By this point, Manson and a group of young people from the San Francisco area were living together on the ranch of an 80-year-old nearly blind man named George Spahn. In exchange for sexual favors from the female members of the Family, Spahn allowed the group to live on the ranch for free. It was Spahn, not Manson, who actually gave the ex-convict's followers many of the colorful nicknames so closely associated with the Family: "Squeaky", "Tex", "Sadie", and so forth. By the time that the Family encountered the Paul McCartney composition "Helter Skelter," Manson's mission was already in full swing. Somewhere across the pond that winter, John Lennon was smoking a spliff and trying to shake a bad, bad feeling.
John himself was not a stranger to bad vibes. Associates of Lennon often recalled his anger, recounting a man who was at times quick to put others down and always insisted on getting the last word. His spontaneity manifested in a multitude of ways, and he was known for violent outbursts such as the beating about of the head and torso of his friend and former bandmate Stu Sutcliffe (the Beatles bassist before Paul McCartney joined the group). Upon hearing the news of Sutcliffe's death, Lennon burst out in a hysterical laughing fit in front of his bandmates. The death of his good friend Stu (who ended up as part of the collage cover image for the groups famous "Sgt. Pepper" album) was an event that would haunt him throughout the rest of his life, but was by no means the last of his violent outbursts.
Lennon had told several friends in confidence that he believed that he would be murdered because of the karmic response to his violent tendencies. His public connections to transcendental meditation (which he later rejected) and the anti-war and protest movements seem to be efforts to make up for the cynical and angry person that fame had made him. Lennon often made his lyrics intentionally obscure so as to confuse interpretation, and this willfully obscure style seems to have wrought vast and oddly specific misinterpretation from the youth culture that was shelling out money for Beatles records. His desire to trick the audience into accepting something beyond their usual moral standards was a calling card throughout Lennon's career as an artist, for example the drug anthems "Dr. Robert" and "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds."
Despite the fact that the title of the latter song clearly references LSD, Lennon himself put forth that it was simply a songwriting choice based on a child's drawing, although his other bandmates have publically dismissed the innocence of this claim. By the time that their 1968 LP "The Beatles" (aka the White Album) was released, the protest movement in America was in full swing.The youth of America marched and protested in an attempt to have their voices heard by what they perceived as an out-of-touch and out of line government. America was in a silent arms race with Russia that manifested publicly in the competition for dominance in space, culminating in America's highly publicized trip to the Moon. The assassinations of John F. Kennedy and civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, combined with growing disapproval among the youth of the country's war in Vietnam, led to large scale protests and riots that had to be quelled by the police. A commonality between the Beatles live appearances in America as well as Dr. King's marches for freedom is that, in both instances, police felt the need to use high-pressure water hoses on the unruly crowd.

HELTER SKELTER

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At the height of their fame, many of the Beatles fans viewed them as prophets of a new age. When the group released their self-titled double LP that became known as "The White Album," a collection of sardonic and largely comedic music of an astounding variety of styles, an assortment of interpretations developed. Although the sound and delivery of the music is ostensibly cheery in nature, the lyrics and themes, as well as the stark colorless artwork, reflect a bleak and oddly Communistic viewpoint. The opening track "Back In The U.S.S.R." takes Chuck Berry's pro-U.S.A. tune and turns it on its head, making a bizarre appeal to the glory of Russian Communism (complete with Beach Boys-style harmonized vocals praising the women of Russia). Puzzling to say the least, it was an ultra-inflammatory and outright strange opening for the pop group's newest LP. A track by George Harrison titled "Piggies" spoke of bourgeois pigs cannibalizing the less-fortunate. Although presented in a baroque style and performed on harpsichord, it puts nightmarish visions into the minds of young listeners not unlike those of the film "Porcile" by director Pier Paolo Pasolini (another artist with strong Communist leanings).
Other songs seem to cynically address world affairs through metaphor, culminating in a leitmotif of revolution on the final side of the album. The first of the revolution-themed tracks, "Revolution No.1," is a mid-tempo blues rock song where the singer openly expresses disdain for followers of Chairman Mao Zedong, an interesting opinion in light of their opinion espoused earlier regarding the supposed glory of the U.S.S.R. The double LP is rounded out with the infamous "Revolution 9," an eight minute piece of avant garde tape manipulation that was a major dividing point for both fans and critics of the group.
The track features a collage of music and sounds, including the sounds of crying babies, machine gun fire, and protests. Although there are comedic aspects to it, like the rest of the album, the overall feeling given by "Revolution 9" is that of a bleak and un-escapable violence. The weirdly saccahrine easy-listening closing album track "Good Night" comes off like a joke on the listener after the barrage of surrealist discomfort contained in the song preceding it. The obscure and convoluted nature of "Revolution 9" has inspired a variety of interpretations. Elements of the "Paul Is Dead" urban legend relate specifically to this track, spread widely by radio disc jockeys during the late phases of Beatlemania. The meaning of the philosophy of revolution espoused by the boys was somewhat hazy. In fact, on the recorded LP version of the song "Revolution" (as opposed to the more up-tempo single version), after stating "If you talk about destruction.../you can count me out," Lennon can be clearly heard stating "in," which is also noted in parenthesis in the accompanying lyric booklet. Many listeners interpreted this to be a coded endorsement of violent revolution.
One song in particular from this record would be closely associated with the aforementioned Charles Manson and his friends for all time. The official story of the "Helter Skelter" program as documented in Vincent Bugliosi's book of that title consists of half-truths and outright lies, based largely on the testimony of Family member Paul Watkins. These were presented before the court of law and later written as the "official story" by prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi during the trials for the murders that the Family committed. This prosecution angle became the popular view of the Manson story, but members of the Family (including Lynnette FRomme) dispute the oversimplification and misrepresentation presented by Bugliosi's ham-fisted research. In the song itself, McCartney bellows lyrics about the up-and-down nature of a famous roller coaster in the UK:

"When I get to the bottom/

I go back to the top of the slide/

Where I stop and I turn/

And I go for a ride/

till I get to the bottom/

and I see you again/

Yeah yeah yeah"

- Lyrics from Paul McCartney's "Helter Skelter"

According to Bugliosi, Manson read very deeply into this, deciding it was a harbinger for an impending race war which was imminently facing America. Theoretically, a deep-seated racism, probably stemming from his poverty-stricken upbringing, informed Manson's vision of an inevitable battle between the "white" and "black" citizens of the United States. Bugliosi claims Manson went so far as to interpret the title "The White Album" as being further evidence of a racially-derived message contained within the album, despite the fact that the album is actually self-titled. Further aspects of the Bugliosi "Helter Skelter" story owe more to esoteric Nazi philosophy rather than psychedelic pop-rock music.
According to Bugliosi, once the race war commenced, Manson and his "Family" would hide far underground, in tunnels underneath Death Valley that he believed led to an underground world. Here, the Family would use their survival skills to hide out while on the surface level, the white race would be inevitably wiped out by the African-American uprising. Upon the finale of this spectacular urban battle, The Manson Family would emerge from the depths, dramatically rescuing the remaining white children and carrying them back to safety on dune buggies. From their underground lair, Manson and his followers would somehow order around their African conquerors and be treated as kings on the Earth. For his part, McCartney offered that the song does indeed reference the ideas of social upheaval and the changing forces of power, but the post-apocalyptic racial warfare envisioned by Manson in Bugliosi's famous written account seems more in line with a damaged interpretation of the "Planet Of The Apes" series of films rather than any of the "Fab Four"'s notoriously peace-oriented output.
In reality, Manson's unique world-view was already in place by 1968... however, the album was released at a pivotal time in the escalation of the Family's desperation and descent into violent behavior. During his murder trial, Manson stated to the court that he believed that the Beatles were subliminally in touch with the revolutionary spiritual current that Charlie and the family were reacting to. Although the Beatles themselves may not have been totally aware, there was an influence just beneath the surface of their music that was of great significance to Charles Manson in particular. The response within him is somewhat akin to that of the programmed killer in Richard Condon's novel "The Manchurian Candidate," when he is instructed to play a game of solitaire. The novel itself is based on information that Condon was privy to regarding Project ARTICHOKE (and other government programs), which attempted to create intricate triggers that would lead an individual to enter into a "kill or be killed" programmed alter in order to carry out dirty tasks without awareness of their own actions**. In any case, the Family was lying in wait, and 1968 (the year of "The White Album") provided many triggers to violence.
There was certainly much more at hand here than racial tension, simple misinterpretation of lyrics, or government mind control for that matter. The Family (as Manson's community became known) had a shared set of ideals that had little to do with the lyrical content of the Beatles, or racial prejudice for that matter. Much of this lives on the the words and thoughts of former associates Lynette Fromme and Sandra Good, who carry on Charlie's message of A.T.W.A. (alternately Air-Trees-Water-Animals and All The Way Alive) under the names given to them by Charlie, "Red" and "Blue." Fromme and Good's position is quite different from that of other residents of Manson's commune. They believe that all of the activity that occurred at Spahn Ranch was always about sharing a message of drastic action that must be taken for the defense of the environment. In this way, the actions of the individual Family members could be taken as an extreme form of social protest on a certain level from a peculiar position that sits outside of either the left or the right. Manson, Fromme, and Good saw an overly industrialized world before them that consisted of a piercing madness... to them "Helter Skelter" was already upon us.

"MANSON AND ME"

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On August 8, 1969 a new attraction opened up in Disneyland, California, called "The Haunted Mansion." It offered the chance for visitors to have the experience of being personally subjected to a stylized depiction paranormal phenomena, not unlike the film "Poltergeist." The audience enters an artificially aged mansion of vast proportions, which transforms in front of the viewer not unlike the experience of a room unfolding or spinning in one's perception during an acid trip. Walls grow twice their normal height in a concerted effort to make the person experiencing the "ride" feel smaller (just like Charles Dodgeson's 'Alice' after drinking her magic potion). After this, one rides a moving chair through a series of vignettes in the mansion regarding dancing ghosts, spurned lovers, and the unruly deceased... holograms, lasers, smoke, and mirrors are utilized to create the effect. It must have been quite an enthralling experience for those first visitors, unlike anything ever seen before.
Later that night, not very far away, another kind of haunting occurred, but in a swank Hollywood mansion on Cielo Drive. Drug dealer and pornographer (aka 'noted hairdresser') Jay Sebring, actress Sharon Tate {pregnant with the unborn child of her husband Roman Polanski}, screenwriter Wojciech Frykowski, the young Abigail Folger (heiress to the Folger's coffee fortune), and a young man named Stephen Parent were all murdered by several members of the Family.
The murders were particularly grisly, with most of the victims stabbed far beyond the amount of times necessary to kill them. Left behind for the public was a grisly set of nightmare images tailor-made for the press to repeat ad nauseum, including the word "pig" prominently written in the blood of the victims on the front door. Inside the house, bodies were strung up like in a medieval torture room. The methodology of the crimes brings to mind the descriptions of operations in Vietnam that existed under the Phoenix Program. [For those who haven't heard of it, the Phoenix Program was an effort on the part of the US military to create terror in foreign soldiers during the Vietnam War. In order to have a greater impact on those who discovered the bodies, soldiers would leave behind the dead in the most horrific arrangements possible for the purposes of shocking the local population. Recordings of demonic sounds (playing on local villagers' fear of demonic beings from the afterlife) were played to further this effect as well.] In many ways, the actions of the killers who visited Cielo Drive on August 8th and murdered all who passed their way were a direct recreation of events occurring under official sanction acted out against enemy combatants in Vietnam. For bourgeoisie Americans, when the news of the murders got out, it was as if the Phoenix Programming had been enacted upon them psychologically as well.
Manson's group of friends were not adverse to breaking and entering before this incident. Manson had created the term "creepy crawl" for the act of breaking into someone's house and rearranging their furniture. One famous creepy crawl recipient responded to this somewhat dadaist harassment by making a tombstone with Manson's name on it, with the date of death left blank, which he placed in his front yard next time Manson came around his house. He no longer had any problems from the Family, who were eager to move on to easier prey. For the most part, Manson's invasive living style was driven supposedly by a desire to break past societal structures and mores, but in fact worked as an intense programming tool of its own.
By asking his followers to live without possessions (or clocks), without any connection to the outside world, he asked them also to exit any pretense of safety. The distance from death that is afforded by a suburban bourgeois lifestyle was the enemy... the acts of the Family were in determination with an almost Situationist-like desire to confuse and discomfort the padded, conformist lives of the elite, an attempt to invite those living in ivory towers to experience the terror that was Manson's own existence. The obscurity of the reasoning behind the murders is the cause for Vincent Bugliosi's confused interpretations for the motives behind these crimes.
The ideological threshold that Manson and his friends had breached was simply not in any way relatable to the well-to-do prosecutor's outlook on reality. It was a worldview that was not completely dissimilar to the rest of the radical Leftist movements... property was something that they believed distanced human beings from the Earth, and pollution and human inequality were the primary evils facing our existence. Manson's true concept of "Helter Skelter" was more akin to a simple awareness of the chaos of modern Industrialized society: sweatshops, factory farming, deforestation, slaughterhouses, oil refineries, pollution, toxic waste, and so forth. He believed that humans had become completely disassociated from death with the comforts of modern society, allowing the world to crumble outside of them. The idea of striking out against the elite through these murders was justified for ideological reasons, as these actions were considered a way to bring death into the homes of those that would try to escape it.
Manson himself was quite displeased with the initial assault of the Cielo Drive residence, declaring it messy, and tagged along for the next night's events. The next target was a married couple who were seemingly picked at random, a grocery store owner and a lady who ran a dress shop. The duo were dispatched quickly, giving the crew of would-be detourners the opportunity to leave more bloody quotes on the walls, this time including such slogans as "Rise," "Death To Pigs," and "Healter Skelter" (that's right, 'Helter Skelter' was actually spelled incorrectly at the scene of the crime). The idea of framing the murders on the Black Panthers was from the viewpoint of a very simple motive, one explained by Family member Susan Atkins in her personal testimony of the crimes... apparently Manson himself had crossed an African American militant in a drug deal gone wrong, and was trying to frame the murders on him in order to throw off the police. It was not the first of such enemies that Manson had made, and the escalating financial woes of the Family led to a multitude of drug rip-offs and petty robberies, resulting in a build-up of quite a few enemies of the family.
According to Atkins, the murders were ultimately the result of a misunderstanding that occurred over the telephone. A man had called up the ranch's phone looking for Family member Charles "Tex" Watson, saying that he was looking for "Charles." Since Watson went by the name Tex among his friends, this man calling for "Charles" was instead directed to Manson. Not knowing whom he was talking to, Manson was shocked to hear the voice of an African American person threatening his life on the other end of the phone. Although the misunderstanding was later understood, it triggered a fear and paranoia within Manson that fed into a sense of urgency within him. Armed with a handgun, Charles Manson arrived to meet with the gentleman who had called, hoping to alleviate his concerns. Manson found himself in front of an angry man who was upset about being burned on a drug deal (a common source of problems for Manson and his friends). In front of many of the offended party's associates (including a cadre of Black Panthers), Manson shot him several times in the chest and fled the scene with an accomplice. Assuming that he had killed the guy, Manson prepared for immediate reprisal from the Black Panthers, and the attempts to link the murders to the organization were a confused and paranoid effort on the part of Manson to get the heat off of himself.
In fact, the actual home invasions had a lot to do with the fact that Manson owed a lot of people (including members of dangerous biker gangs) a lot of money, and that he was under intense pressure to pay up. Although the idea that they were trying to "freak out the normal people" by committing such horrific murders fits in with the groups apocalyptic ideology, in truth every crime scene associated with the Family was looted of money and valuables, hardly the actions of those participating in a strictly ideological crime. The murders were an act of desperation and fury for a group of people who had been at their boiling point for some time already. Whether or not they were really looking for Agartha, when arrested, the various members of the "Family" were indeed scattered across Death Valley in various tunnels. Members of the group had been arrested (and released) shortly before their final arrests for an unrelated crime, the theft of a large number of dune buggies. It was only after the prosecution of Bobby Beausoleil in conjunction with a related murder that investigators accepted the possibility that this strange group of hippies in the desert might have something to do with the Hollywood killings.
The Manson Family murder trial would become one of the most publicized events in media since man landed on the moon several years previous, and the story would provide a blueprint for the coverage of future incendiary "trials of the century" to come (O.J. Simpson, Casey Anthony, et al). In the cases of both Charles Manson and the Beatles, essentially both represented different aspects of the Acid mindset coming into the forefront of the American consciousness. The "British Invasion" that the Beatles brought upon America in the early 1960s (not long after the assassination of John F. Kennedy) quickly gave way to a drug revolution that the group was eager to subject their easily influenced young audience to. During the height of "Sgt. Pepper" mania (possibly the Beatles' most influential record in terms of cultural impact), the group's music had become identified almost exclusively with the emerging drug culture.
The Beatles albums "Magical Mystery Tour" and "Yellow Submarine" (along with the accompanying films associated with those records) take the group away from the mod trappings of their earlier rock and roll, and introduce concepts taken from both Eastern philosophy and the emerging psychedelic movement. It was after a trip to the United States that the group re-emerged with such a different set of standards than before... in fact, during the early part of the 60s, the Beatles spent time in California in the very neighborhoods that Manson and his friends were stalking several years later. The Liverpudlian quartet spent time with the nascent hippie culture developing in the California scene at the time, including such luminaries as supposed Druid priestess Tuesday Weld (perhaps the inspiration for the "stupid bloody Tuesday" lyric in the cryptic "I Am The Walrus"). George Harrison owned a residence on Blue Jay Way in Hollywood during the mid-60s, making it likely that the fellows could have partied with many of the luminaries who were later murdered at Cielo Drive. Manson himself was a prominent figure in the Hollywood scene at this time, and his friendship with Dennis Wilson and subsequent experiences spending time with the Beach Boys during this time is a matter of public record.
Lennon was shot to death years later in front of the Dakota Building in New York, the place where Roman Polanski's Satanic thriller "Rosemary's Baby" was filmed (co-incidentally, around the time of the Cielo Drive massacre). One wonders exactly what Lennon was going on about when, during a drunken and drug-fueled rage shortly before his death, he began screaming "It's all Roman Polanski's fault!" over and over again in front of his confused and distressed lover May Pang while destroying a rented condominium. She had met Polanski several times during social events, and the two men seemed cordial and friendly to one another. To watch Lennon become so unhinged, destroying almost the entire house that the two of them were staying in, and screaming that the prize-winning director was somehow at fault, May Pang could not imagine what John could have been going on about. Lennon's murder in front of the Dakota building would ensure that no one would ever quite know what Lennon was going on about during that particular violent episode.

"Mark David Chapman is in many ways as much the victim of those who wanted to kill John Lennon as Lennon himself." - Fenton Bresler

The Charles Manson murder trial essentially coincides with the breakup of the Beatles. Although the two events are not directly connected, several members of the Beatles admitted in interviews that the "Helter Skelter" phenomenon, and the association of their music with violent murders gave them each quite a bit of pause. Both events, the Manson trial and the career of the Beatles, represent a proverbial double-barrelled shotgun blast through the facade of safety and "family values" within the American consciousness. The prosecutor's version of the events served the purposes of promoting the ideas of revolution and race war, as well as the dangerous effect of drug culture and rock and roll on the youth. While many young people were getting high and staging protests for the elusive notion of world peace, dramatic headlines (accompanied by photographs of the leering Charles Manson) provided a glimpse into the dark side of the "flower power" counter-culture for mainstream Americans. Armed with a personal philosophy of peace and love, as well as a strict adherence to tenets that would later be shared by the Earth First movement, Manson sought to shock the existing culture into understanding the inherent flaws within the bourgeoisie American family structure. The family unit and the suburban infrastructure was enabled and given life by the authority of the United States military victory of World War II, and as American society grew more homogeneous, the counterculture grew more extreme.

"In the course of our inquiry, we uncovered CIA documents describing experiments in sensory deprivation, sleep teaching, ESP, subliminal projection, electronic brain stimulation, and many other methods that might have applications for behavior modification. One project was designed to turn people into programmed assassins who would kill on automatic command." - Martin A. Lee and Bruce Schlain, from the introduction to their book Acid Dreams.

Many misunderstandings abound in relation to Manson and his followers. Although there was a musical group that was called "The Family Jams," it was not the group themselves that dubbed themselves "Family" so much as the press who tied them forever to the moniker of "The Manson Family." In effect, the moniker of "Manson Family" provides a vision for the reader of an "anti" family unit, a nightmare impression of the popular commune lifestyle that was sweeping the nation. A group of dissatisfied runaways teaming up with ex-cons, in a drug and sex-filled mockery of the family unit. This was the worst fear of the conservative mother and father, that fear of all the repression of sexuality and freedom snapping back in their face like a rubber band, stretched to its limit. The willingness to kill, and the view of human life as transient and animalistic was a side project of the LSD that the group was taking. One of the effects that LSD has is a distancing from sentimentality over human life, opening the mind up to the idea of taking the life of another. The drug was, of course, developed initially as a military tool.
In the latter days of the group, shortly before their arrest, Manson took several of the girls out to cut the throats of pigs on the farm, teaching them how to kill. When it was time to commit the acts of home invasion, the lack of any sympathy for the murder victims (represented as pigs) was apparent in the brutality of the crimes. Because of their support of bourgeois values, they were not viewed as human, and instead displaced in the minds of the killers as "piggies." The ideological divide is what allowed for the brutality of the crimes, but Bugliosi did not seem to fathom this completely during the trial. When the group went on trial, the saintly and beautiful Lynette Fromme (aka "Red" or Squeaky) said that they had expected the judgement of a wise man "like Solomon," but instead were faced with a circus where Manson and his friends treated like enemies of the state. Their foolish idealism, combined with a strange murderous outside influence, created a shocking incident that the media and prosecutors attempted to frame in a particular manner, suggesting the reality of an impending race war.

"(The C.I.A. is) a sinkhole of Communism." - Senator Joseph McCarthy

OTHER ATTEMPTS

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As complex as the Manson scenario was, it was not the only seemingly planned racially-themed terrorist event going on in California in the late 60s and early 70s. A fellow inmate at Vacaville prison (and likely a fellow recipient of LSD experimentation) named Donald DeFreeze went on to fame as the leader of the "Symbionese Liberation Front." The name referred not to any country, but some deviated concept of "symbiosis" that Defreeze wished to compare modern American life to. A militant radical African American with unconventional beliefs regarding the origin of the races, DeFreeze's organization became famous when he kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst and indoctrinated her into his organization. She was seen on camera during a bank robbery wielding a machine-gun and leering at the camera, but later said that she was subjected to brainwashing techniques using LSD and rape in order to coerce her into participating in the group.
This is not unlike what some have said about Manson's group, where sometimes girls would be dosed with LSD and gang-raped in order to intimidate them into falling into line. Susan Atkins claims that Manson's method of mind control was as simple as constant beatings, but it seems that her experience may not have been entirely universal. When the SLA made headlines locally and nationally for their actions, noted San Francisco serial killer "Zodiac" mentioned in a letter to police that the word "SLA" means to kill in the ancient Norse language.
It is easy to forget, but LSD was a brand new substance that was not at the time of its creation considered a recreational drug. It was developed by the United States government as a mind control substance, and any suppliers of LSD from the early days had some manner of direct or second-party connection to individuals involved in the world of intelligence. Systematically creating militant participants of acts of shocking violence is in the jurisdiction of military officials, not street-level hippies. There were many political organizations going around in the 1960s and 1970s, and there were even more "free love" communes of young people passing herpes around to each other and smoking dope. The Zebra murders hit the San Francisco Bay several years after the famous Manson trial, and shifted things around into another perspective, still within a dualistic "black and white" framework. The murders purportedly were the result of militant Black Muslims who were wishing to instigate a race war through a series of brutal murders, not unlike the alleged goal of Charles Manson in the famous "Helter Skelter" version of events. The shoe was on the other foot, but still no dice for the cheerleaders of the "imminent race war" theory.

STEVEN SPIELBERG

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Through all of this, people kept going to the movies. Going from a time of segregation and strict family units, to a time of higher divorce rates and more children growing up in single parent or foster parent homes, the cinematic family unit adapted and mutated over time. Distrust in the government was more prevalent than before, and citizens grew deeply divided over the Vietnam war during the course of the 1960s in a way that implanted an awareness of horror in all who listened to either side's arguments. The 1960s was also an explosive decade for advancement of technology, and more than any other factor the development of computers began to open up the idea of creating a matrix-like level of virtual reality through technology.
The first video game machines were simplified "sports simulators" usually involving some rectangles moving back and forth and bouncing a square around ala "Pong." Pioneers like Nolan Bushnell (who went on to found the Atari company as well as the Chuck E Cheese pizza franchise, both of which were extremely successful businesses that inducted the idea of constant stimulation into the suburban sphere) devoted their effort into creating environmental simulation that, albeit primitively, excited the imaginations of the youth. Bushnell was not the only techno-genius working in the field of video games, in fact one of his early hires at Atari was a young Steve Jobs, who helped engineer the classic Atari 2600 game "Breakout."
Due to the success of Francis Ford Coppola's film "The Godfather" (a veritable cultural phenomena, making Paramount Pictures' owners Gulf & Western rise in stock three points upon its release), Hollywood began to take more chances on films that had the controlling hand of the 'auteur' in the 1970s. This opened the door for more personal films to be made with a higher amount of control from the director, and entering into this playing field was a young man named Steven Spielberg.
An idealistic and talented young man, Spielberg seemed realistic and determined in his early days, scoring a massive hit with the famous shark drama "Jaws," which became an international sensation. His next film, "Close Encounters Of The Third Kind," was by all accounts an extremely personal work that deeply reflected Spielberg's hopes and dreams for the future. It is about a man who leaves behind his wife and children to live with child-abducting space aliens. The motion picture essentially depicts the destruction of the family unit and the emerging of an intuitive sort of man of the future, who would leave behind his wife and children in order to travel the stars with small rubbery alien beings.
Visually, many aspects of the movie recreate the psychedelic experience much like the "stargate" sequence of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey." Flashing colors of all shades emit from impossible machinery, but when seen close-up the alien craft seems to be just that, a transportation ship made out of some metal ore with a bunch of shining, multicolored lights arranged mathematically. And unlike their cinematic ancestors who attacked tiny scale models of the White House, these aliens were here to share some sort of message of peace and love (as well as break up human families... during the course of the film they lead a man to leave behind his wife and children, as well as outright kidnapping the child of a terrified single mother). Another astounding aspect of the film is blatant logo placement within it of companies that were at the time becoming ubiquitous throughout the world, such as McDonalds and Shell Oil, among others. The film was released at a pivotal juncture in American history for the destruction of the small business ideal and the transformation of America into a corporate state.
Steven Spielberg's friend George Lucas had a huge hit during the same period of time with a film called "Star Wars" (as well as its sequels) depicting a rebel insurrection against an oppressive and one-dimensional evil empire on the part of a multi-species ensemble of humanoid beings and robots. Both directors seemed influenced by the positive messages of the psychedelic movement, the promises of a world dedicated to love were underlying elements to both films in ways that were alien to science fiction films of the previous eras. The promise of space had become a part of the soul's journey, moving on past the trappings of fear and terror represented by the idea of an alien visitation in previous cinematic eras. "Star Wars" in particular was so popular that it spawned the concept of the action film franchise as it exists today, glutting the market with products and tiny plastic artifacts even over thirty years later. "Star Wars" also influenced the video game market heavily, which soon saw an influx of space-oriented shooting games such as "Space Invaders" and "Defender" shortly after the immense popularity of the initial film.

JONESTOWN

"...A wagon consists of a collection of wheels, spokes, a pole and so forth... (a) house consists of a frame made of beams, of rafters, of a roof and so forth. But the wagon in itself, the house in itself, where are they? In the same way, if from a man you take away the physical form, sensation, perception, mental activity and consciousness, what remains? Where will you find the man existing in himself outside the corporality and mentality?" - Alexandra David Neel and Lama Yongden, from "The Secret Oral Teachings In Tibetan Bhuddist Sects"

Although widely remembered as a mass suicide, the deaths that occurred on November 18, 1978 in Jonestown, Guyana were a part of the largest concentration of murdered American citizens until the events of September 11, 2001. There is a famous image of Jim Jones wearing his priestly robe, surrounded by eleven children... of those eleven children, eight were killed on that day. Initial reports were disseminated in the American press that the large group of people all committed suicide from drinking poisoned Kool-Aid (it was actually Flavor-Ade), for purposes of escaping the sinful world that they were born into. It was an amazingly diverse cross-section of people involved in the conspiracy of "suicide," with a large amount of African-American members of the congregation and many elderly constituents. They were all members of The People's Temple, a Christian Socialist church that resided in Ukiah, California until it's leader, Jim Jones, decided to move the entire operation to the South American country of Guyana. The church members regularly visited San Francisco to court for new recruits, not unlike other nascent cult organizations such as the recently developed Hare Krishna movement. The new church members would be picked up in a large bus and brought to the grounds, where a socialist-oriented lifestyle of prayer, hard work, and religious song and dance is forced upon/enjoyed by the devout participants. Jones was very serious about communist and socialist philosophy, tying it into a political interpretation of the teachings of Jesus Christ. He was extremely derisive of what he referred to as "white" Christianity, and viewed communism/socialism as a radical enacting of the ideals of Jesus. To this end he even idolized the communities of Cuba and the U.S.S.R. to his church, maintaining those places as havens against the Satanic evil empire of the United States. He believed that the Jesus Christ of the Bible was a revolutionary agent who wished for people to fight against the evil men in charge and those who would befoul and demean the temple of his Father.

"In spite of the beauty of China, what it’s done domestically, getting rid of the rats, the flies... nothing justifies this kind of uh, inexcusable behavior. That’s why we’re pro-Soviet. That’s why we stand by the Soviet Union as the avant-garde, because this is a hellish thing to do, to support one of the most brutal fascist regimes, who has tortured dark members— the black members of its population..." - Jim Jones on the differences between China and Russia, taken from an FBI recording

Jones began his church in 1953 in Indianapolis, Indiana. His integrationist policies were highly unusual, and he was enthusiastic to include any willing person as a member of his church, outside of any consideration other than the fact that they were looking to be saved. He was known for his fiery sermons that often alluded to an end-times philosophy. He preached that the wicked were in charge of the world, and that God's chosen people (conveniently consisting mostly of people within his own congregation, as well as well-connected politicians and business owners who could assist Jones in his aims) must be vigilant and alert for the coming persecution that was to take place from an impending Antichrist. This philosophy still permeates today, well outside of cults such as Jones' and into the teachings of mainstream religion. Regardless of the fallacy of his philosophy, many were keen to heed his teachings and were convinced to hand over much of their time and money to the People's Temple. Taking his teachings to an extreme of paranoia, in 1965 he begins to warn his congregation of an impending nuclear holocaust that would strike the United States, presumably from the Communist forces. He used the liberal mixed-race congregation's resentment toward the U.S. Government and their segregationist policies as evidence of the evil of the United States. He began convincing his congregation that God himself was angry with the the USA and would destroy it within their lifetime. With this in mind, he told his flock of a prophecy that he received in a dream, stating that they needed to move to Ukiah, California, a place that would be spared from the impending nuclear destruction. Death was always impending, hovering over the People's Temple even before their dramatic move to California.

"Something's got a hold on me... I went to a meeting last night, but my heart wasn't right... something got a hold of me." - lyrics from the song "Something's Got A Hold On Me" by the People's Temple Choir

The move to California was politically fortuitous for Jones, who quickly rose to prominence for his unusually progressive approach to operating a religious structure. In 1971, Jones purchased a building in San Francisco that he moved his business operations to. The People's Temple was watched closely by Jones and close-knit team employed at the higher levels of his operation. The members of the church worked constantly, building up the remote grounds that they all lived on into a handmade socialist paradise. The enthusiastic singing and dancing of the church was legendary, and a record album titled "He's Able" was released by The People's Temple Choir, showing a tight and groovy performance style (not unlike that of Sly And The Family Stone) mixed powerful, rhythmic Gospel songwriting. The record is amazingly tight and well-composed, with eerily powerful and haunting melodies and words that hold double meaning after the events that befell the church. Not all was perfect in the Temple, however. Reports arose of people who left the church and told stories of Jones sodomizing church members, exposing himself privately to members of the congregation, and strange abusive conduct perpetrated on individual members in front of the rest of the church.
Jones was extremely paranoid about spies and those who would betray him within his own organization, and he would hold sadistic displays of power against those who stepped out of line. He engaged in sexual acts with both male and female members of his congregation. Jones claimed to abhor homosexuality, and that his sexual intercourse with the men was for their own good, so that they could be symbolically linked with him. His sermons became increasingly surreal and removed from Biblical scripture, including a divisive incident where he decried the validity of the Bible itself, throwing his copy of it across the room, declaring it tainted by Satanic white influence. Jones maintained that he was an incarnation of the anointed Christ, and that his teachings superceded even that of scripture. He maintained a strange dogma that people born into capitalist societies were born into sin, but that those born into a socialist regime would be born sinless, encouraging members of his congregation to breed within the church. This policy created many children who were born into the People's Temple.
In the shadow of reports of his sexual and sadistic abuses being made public, Jones quickly brought the remaining members of his congregation to the conclusion that the United States government sought to destroy the People's Temple with a constant barrage of propaganda. The decision was made that they must flee to South America, and a mining area formerly owned by Union Carbide was purchased by Jones in the country of Guyana that was to be dubbed "Jonestown."
Gradually, many members of the congregation made a pilgrimage to this new Church, which was built up by hand in much the same manner as the People's Temple back in the United States. However, Jonestown itself had a very different atmosphere than the congregation in Ukiah. Armed guards hired by Jones and his backers were on duty at all times. Similar to the Nazi policy of playing Wagnerian music and propaganda speeches loudly in occupied towns, a loudspeaker constantly blared instructions from Jim Jones, filled with false reports that the United States government was planning to come and kill everyone in Jonestown, and that the end was finally here. Drills were held to prepare for the impending attack, and suicide was constantly suggested as a way to escape to Heaven. A congressman, Leo Ryan, arrived to investigate the alleged abuses occurring at the camp and was surprised to see a singing and dancing congregation of seemingly happy, well-adjusted people. Several of the members, however, met with Ryan and his crew in private and asked to escape the settlement with them.
After an attempted stabbing of Ryan by one of the Jonestown residents, the Congressman and his crew took fifteen defecting church members to an airstrip to escape the country in an airplane that Ryan arrived in. Most of them did not make it out of the area alive, and upon attempting to board his plane back to the United States, members of Jim Jones' private militia opened fire on Ryan, his crew, and those wishing to escape. In fact, as the shooting began, one of the defectors (who obviously was not sincere in his desire to escape) pulled out a gun and began to fire on Ryan and the others as well, clearly an agent planted to prevent Ryan and the defectors from escaping with information about the church. Two people survived the incident to tell the story thanks to some local workers who helped them to escape, even returning home with video footage.
According to eyewitness testimony from survivors, on the morning of November 18, 1978, Jones himself got on the loudspeaker and called everyone in Jonestown into a single spot and told them that the time had come to meet the lord. This is where the residents of the People's Temple in Jonestown were instructed to drink poison at gunpoint. Members argued with his decision, stating that if the government was out to get them, then perhaps sanctuary could be found in the Communist nations that Jones spoke so highly of. Many ran off into the jungle amidst the confusion. People who did not wish to participate were given injections of cyanide or even shot by Jim Jones' private guerrilla squad (referred to as the "Red Brigade") point blank, and arranged in single file rows. Jones himself died from a gunshot wound to the head, and many people attempted to escape into the jungle, only to be killed by armed guards and brought back to be laid alongside the other bodies to keep up the illusion of a mass suicide. The members of his Red Brigade share with those who escaped them the distinction of being the only survivors of one of the single largest massacres of American civilians of all time.

"Dad, I see no way out — I agree with your decision — I fear only that without you the world may not make it to communism — Tish For my part — I am more than tired of this wretched, merciless planet & the hell it holds for the masses of so many beautiful people — thank you for the only life I've known." - Letter from a Temple member to Jim Jones (addressed as "Dad")

CANNIBALISM

"Senior engineer Steve Calfee reflected that Asteroids appeals to some low, primitive drive in the human mind to clean and take control of the environment. Blasting asteroids into rubble until a once-crowded screen turned into a neat black field appealed to people whose lives were nothing but a field of chaos. For them, Asteroids became a metaphor for life." - Paul Schuytema, Microsoft Arcade, The Official Strategy Guide.

By the 1980s, America had come full circle. Conservative American President (and former movie star) Ronald Reagan promised a return to the days of Mayberry, with a highly publicized "War On Drugs" as a major part of his campaign. From what I understand, we lost that one. Home entertainment entered the stage with VHS providing cinematic pleasures in one's own home for the first time outside of broadcast television. Cable channels were starting to appear, providing uncensored content that would not be able to run on the broadcast networks.
Video games were a major sensation in America not just in arcades and gas stations, but also available on home consoles. A new invention called the Walkman enabled people to listen to music cassettes on tiny headphones instead of having to depend on a clunky stereo setup... "boom boxes" had just come on to the scene as well. Lest we forget, these are the primitive ancestors of what can be done now with an ipod, a laptop, the internet, dvd players etc. Entertainment media was first beginning to truly saturate the American home life in ways that it had never before, and the corporations, the providers of content, were struggling to meet the demand. All the sudden, more than ever, Hollywood had become more about the marketing of a product than the product itself. The idea of generating something to sell seemed to be much more important than the overall content within that product, leading to notorious consumer backlash of derivative and widely hated products such as New Coke, "Howard The Duck," and our film of the evening, "Mac And Me."
A good example of this marketing overkill is the shelf life of two of the most notorious video games of the console world, the versions of "Pac-Man" and "E.T.: The Extraterrestrial" for the Atari 2600. In 1980, when the "Space Invaders" cartridge was released for the Atari 2600, sales of the system quadrupled simply because of Space Invaders fanatics wishing to play the repetitive shooter at home. Atari had clearly expected the same kind of reaction to a home version of the popular Pac-Man, a Japanese arcade cabinet machine that had taken America by storm. In order to have the game ready for the holiday season, Atari (which had at this point been purchased by Warner Communications) forced programmer Tod Frye to rush the game out in a very short span of time. Long story short, the game had noticeable flaws that caused great disappointment from fans of the coin-operated version, and when word got out sales quickly declined.
Atari executives did not learn their lesson, however, and put all their eggs in the basket of acquiring the rights to a video game version of Stephen Spielberg's "E.T.: The Extraterrestrial." Pressed for time to make a profit, Atari commissioned programmer Howard Scott Warshaw to create a game based on the film within the laughable span of two months, something completely unheard of at the time. Based on one of the most popular motion pictures of all time***, "E.T.: The Extraterrestrial" was one of the most highly anticipated games for the Atari 2600 system, and one of the system's most publicly reviled disappointments. The concept of a movie-based game was unheard of at the time, with most video game hits being arcade units generally based around shooting space aliens or some sort of puzzle-based franchise (ala Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Q-Bert et al).
The game itself is nice to look at, and contains a charming title screen with the friendly ET looking back at you. The plot involves picking up phone parts and Reese's Pieces in order to build a phone that will allow ET to phone home. Simple enough, but the hellish layout results in players falling into hard-to-escape pits almost unavoidably. Players were shocked to find the existential dilemma of being an alien trapped in a trench with no way out as a repeating cycle within the game. The public backlash was swift, and supposedly a large back supply of copies of the game were buried in a landfill not far from a New Mexico atomic weapons testing site.
There were many incidents such as this in the 1980s, where large corporations underestimated the public's tastes and attempted to present mindless pablum to the usually accepting masses, only to face total rejection (see "New Coke"). In his favor, Howard Scott Warshaw himself was a bit of a genius who did the best he could with the deadline presented to him, and his Atari 2600 title "Yar's Revenge" is often cited as one of the best video games of all time. On meeting Spielberg, Warshaw informed him that he felt the director was an outer-space emmissary who was sent here to evoke good will from humanity about alien races, a notion that Spielberg found very amusing. Steven Spielberg's amazing drive and commitment to fantasy film was like a supernova explosion that changed entertainment, and (like Walt Disney and Ray Kroc before him) his accomplishments caused the competition to have to scramble in order to keep up with his pace. Like the emerging video games, the flashing lights and outer-space concepts brought many of the philosophies of the psychedelic generation into the homes of mainstream Americans. In the 1980s-1990s, the media would continue to be dominated by Steven Spielberg and his friends, and of course a multitude of imitators popped up in order to attempt to cash in to the zeitgeist of fantasy/sci-fi family entertainment.

"M.A.C. AND ME," A FILM BY STEWART RAFFILL

"Now the end is near, and there's not much time to give to those who need a change of mind. The love they need will help us all to see. So let us give them love, and set them free" - from "Set Them Free" by the People's Temple Choir

Back to "M.A.C. And Me." So the NASA lander comes down and sucks up this little alien family into it, and when they get back to Earth these little potato/monkey-looking guys cause all kinds of havoc. We soon encounter the human family that we are to sympathize with in the film. The family unit in this one consists of two boys (one in a wheelchair) living with a very stressed-out single mother. We are treated in one scene to her having an emotional breakdown regarding the immense stress and unwillingness that she has about going in to her new job at SEARS. The appearance of the creatures themselves is an element of the film that causes a constant re-occurring horror- at times you will find yourself watching the screen in disbelief at what you are seeing and hearing. There is an inordinate amount of child actors screaming and yelling, acting much too excited for what is actually occurring in the film. The excessively poor characterization of the film causes the viewer to wonder if they are possibly watching something that is an intentional parody of the sort of "family movie" dreck that was prevalent at the time. The blank, unmoving and dead googley eyes of the aliens resemble strange tribal masks at times.
At one point M.A.C. "creepy crawls" the young family, bringing foliage (and a stuffed deer?) into the house, which the mother incomprehensibly initially blames on her wheelchair-bound son (as mentioned previously she is under a lot of work related stress). She really flips out on him! When the family eventually begins to interact with little M.A.C., he has an intense attraction/addiction to Coca-Cola. The alien beings in this film seem to represent some sort of manifestation of what corporations wish humans would become, just unthinking naked consumers.
Their "o" shaped mouths are perfectly designed to drink from a straw, and their lack of discernment and good-hearted nature insures a lack of rebellious tendencies. Although chased by the government agents in the film for security reasons, M.A.C. and his family represent ideal humans in some ways from a corporate perspective. There is also a scene where the kids see M.A.C. is almost dying, and they give the little guy vital Coca-Cola so that he can survive. The scene of the creatures whistling to each other across vast distances to the strains of Eno-esque ambient synthesizer music will pull at your proverbial heartstrings. That metaphor ties in with the human person being played like a piano, an apt metaphor for the goals of this sort of consumerist entertainment. Nevertheless, the movie does actually begin to work on a variety of levels once one gets into the rhythm of things. Once you are watching the little boy drive his wheelchair alongside his jogging mom to the strains of sappy 80s easy listening spliced in with a madcap scene of M.A.C. escaping neighborhood dogs by climbing up a tree (to the same soundtrack), the variety of opposing emotions evoked at once is enough to cause one's head to spin.
The little boy in the wheelchair has a next door neighbor that he hangs out with a lot, a little girl that likes to dress up like a Native American. There is a particularly laughable effect at one point where the boy's chair goes over a cliff, and the camera edit quickly shifts to the image of what is clearly a limp dummy in a wheelchair being pushed off of a cliff... M.A.C. saves the boy's life of course. Ok, so anyway, the little girl has a really cool older sister who works at McDonald's, who is often wearing her McDonald's uniform during the movie. The suspense is deadly, the whole time you are watching, you are thinking "When are we going to actually see McDonalds?"
The payoff is definitely worth the wait, however. The greatest part of the movie, its "stargate entrance" or "death star assault" scene if you will, is perhaps the most maligned scene of the picture. The dada-like cornerstone of the film is an extended birthday party that occurs at a McDonalds. In order to sneak him into a friends birthday party, the young boy puts MAC inside the skin of a teddy bear (which is oddly the size of a small child or possibly a very small adult actor). Although hidden under a teddy bear suit, M.A.C.'s appearance is still disturbing. The discomfort is alleviated by the children through the simple explanation that he is some sort of robot bear, which the adults and other bystanders inexplicably accept.
Once we are finally at McDonalds, a team of synchronized multi-ethnic breakdancers is cutting loose outside the restaurant to the hip hop sounds coming out of a large boombox. Kids are joining in on the fun and dancing along. Inside the building, Ronald McDonald (credited in the films credits as being played by "Himself") is there to entertain the children. Mid-tempo pop music starts to play over the intercom and everyone starts dancing and doing backflips and other synchronized moves. Even Ronald McDonald himself gets in on it, and by the time government agents show up they are unable to get through the kickline of Football players who are joining in on the fun.
My main complaint of the film would be that it is filled with time-consuming chase sequences, but then again this is essentially just another factor aped directly from "ET." A scene in a grocery store provides a rather poignant incident that exemplifies the message that the film attempts to get across. The alien family walks into a grocery store naked, greatly alarming the customers and employees within. The awkward gait and nudity is shocking to the sensibilities of the common people, and soon the police are called. A misunderstanding between M.A.C.'s father and a police man ends with the liver-spotted patriarch welding a firearm and causing a massive confrontation with local law enforcement. In an extremely manipulative and unlikely turn of events, police somehow cause an explosion that actually kills the main character, the little boy in the wheelchair. Like Jesus Christ (and "Starman") before him, M.A.C. actually raises the boy from the dead in front of the amazed onlookers (can't do anything about your legs though, I guess, sorry 'bout that). The movie ends with the aliens finally clothed (whew) and becoming naturalized citizens of the United States. As they drive onto the freeway, a word bubble appears on the screen from their car saying "We'll Be Back." If only we could be so lucky.

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* As with E.T., M.A.C.'s name is of course an acronym, this time for "Mysterious Alien Creature."

** See the Mark David Chapman, Sirhan Sirhan, the guy who shot all the people in that theatre in Colorado, etc... A sudden violent act supposedly committed for some alleged and malleable motive, and then once you see the guy in court, boom, no memory of what happened or why, no emotion, just a lost shell with camera flashbulbs going off in their face... Like clockwork.

*** E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL/POLTERGEIST (1982 STEPHEN SPIELBERG/TOBE HOOPER)- E.T. The Extra-terrestrial serves as a cultural rite of indoctrination depicting a tiny man-like big-eyed creature wrought with life who shared with the world the magic of death and resurrection. As a young child I even had a small plush doll of the creature, whose early appearances in the film are accompanied by ominous atonal sounds. In some ways a sequel to "Close Encounters Of The Third Kind," E.T. began life as an alien invasion thriller that Spielberg was interested in making during the late 1970s. He attempted hiring veteran Texas horror director Tobe Hooper to helm the project, but Hooper was not keen on the idea of a sci-fi picture and instead wanted to investigate the concept of ghosts and the afterlife. Hooper had been using the old studio of Hollywood great Robert Wise and found a book that Wise used in his paranormal research (specifically for the film "The Haunting"), and contained very pertinent information regarding the subject of Poltergeist activity. It was on Hooper's insistence that the project transformed into what became a Spielberg production named after that very phenomena. Spielberg transferred his enthusiasm regarding the search for extraterrestrial life into a film that he was already developing, a more realistic drama about a young boy growing up in the 1970's. Some of the menace of the original concept was retained in the mood of parts of the final product, although the overall film has a clearly miraculous and fantastical message towards contact with beings from outer space. The "extra" terrestrial race that E.T. comes from come to the Earth to investigate vegetation, and seem to exist peacefully with local animal life. However, when E.T. is left behind on Earth by his brethren creatures as they flee from humans in trucks who show up to their exploratory mission, he must escape into suburbia for an uncertain fate.
The fact that E.T. so resembles assembly-line packaged meat always mystified me as a child. Steven Spielberg and several other filmmakers were once given a private screening by Stanley Kubrick of his "favorite film," which turned out to be the relatively recent (at the time) avant-garde nightmare "Eraserhead" by David Lynch. This film featured a tiny, dying puppet fetus that moaned and wheezed a tragic existence that in many ways proceeds the tear-jerking appearance and mannerisms of Spielberg's symbolic humanitarian puppet friend. The creature's wheezes and moans evoke a sympathy that comes from a combination of characteristics evocative of both the infantile and the elderly of the human species, along with decidedly non-human, sometimes simian or reptilian, characteristics. The young boy Eliot's detached fragility and sensitive nature are reflected in the creature, most especially in the ritualized death scene of the beloved creature that makes up much of the last third of the film, where he is seemingly killed by a team of doctors.

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Throughout E.T.'s time, from the beginning of the film, there is an indication that he is ill and not going to survive on this planet. His return home becomes more and more important than the characters other concerns within their daily lives due to this. In many ways, the little meat man-puppet represents Eliot's own mortality and flesh and blood essence, perhaps even a connection between early aspects of puberty leading to an eventual awareness of mortality. The hospital scenes in particular (combined with a home invasion sequence highlighted by the frightening appearance of men in suits who seem to be government agents), suggest a nightmarish system of bureaucratic science and technology designed to kill what the space creature (referred to as a "man from outer space" and the "man from the moon") represents. This is perhaps the darkest aspect of the film, with the fear surrounding the creature at the beginning of the film simply being a fear of the unknown which gives way to a shared understanding and awareness. The fear evoked by the government agents suggests a sinister finality that lays outside of the film's mostly childish viewpoint.
More typical of the tone of the film is a scene where Eliot's mother reads to the young Gertie (played by Drew Barrymore, who is seemingly modeled visually after the youngest Brady Bunch daughter) while the creature observes from the vantage point of a curiously-designed closet that links together Gertie and Eliot's rooms. The story is of Peter Pan, the modern Green Man myth warning of the death of the child within. The portion of the story that E.T. hears relates specifically to a wrenching scene regarding the death of Pan's faithful friend Tinkerbell. The fairy is supposedly dependent upon the reader to clap and declare a belief in fairies in order to bring her back to life. This very scene is re-enacted by E.T. himself in the latter part of the film, where the creature is detained in a body bag and Eliot is allowed to tell him goodbye by one of the doctors (played by Peter Coyote). While declaring his love for E.T., the creature (now covered in a strange white dust resembling powdered sugar) miraculously comes back to life. It is coincidentally timed with an apparent call from E.T.'s "people" however, as his heart begins to glow and he indicates to Eliot that they may have succeeded in the creature's insistent quest to "phone home."

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In contrast, the film Poltergeist shows not an urge to reconcile with the demons of suburbia, but instead offers only the bleak solution of futile escape. Opening with a montage of sequences cleverly designed to provoke the viewers ability for abstract thought, we see a distorted and extreme-close-up view of a television set as the closing patriotic montage and national anthem plays, giving way to static. In the days of broadcast television, before cable, there was a time (around 2am or so, around when most bars close) on all stations when no programs aired, simply a static signal or a station identification card appeared in some cases. The family dog, "E. Buzz," goes throughout the house from person to person, seemingly in an effort to wake up each member of the family (although he pilfers some potato chips from the older daughter, played by Dominique Dunne). The youngest child of the family, memorably portrayed by Heather O' Rourke, wakes up in a trance and eerily gravitates toward the static-y televisions set, famously declaring "They're here."

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The question of the movie seems to be who exactly it is that is here, and although an answer is given in the form of a bunch of dead bodies literally buried underneath the house, this simple solution perhaps acts as a larger metaphor for living around the energies and efforts of those who came before us. From this eerie introductory scene, the film cuts to a bright vision of the American landscape. As the day begins in the suburbs, the camera grants us a beautiful panoramic view of the neighborhood, showing house after identical house lined up in a row. A man bikes down the street and children play with remote-controlled cars, disrupting the man's path. The many beers that he was carrying (he is on the way to the specific house that the story is centered around to watch a football game on television) spill out onto the ground, spraying wildly into the air as the remote-controlled cars zoom around them. As the balding and bearded man rushes in through the kitchen door, he disrupts a private moment between Dominique Dunne's character and a pickle, causing her to become very irate in one of the film's first instances of constant eating. He runs into the living room and begins to join in with his friends (including the patriarch of the house, whom we last saw sleeping in front of the TV in a reclining chair the previous night) as they shout wildly at the television screen. Beer continues to spray over all of the men. An alternate signal (of the children's program "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood") comes on the television, disrupting the football game that they were watching. This leads to a remote-control battle of satellite dishes between the male lead (played by Craig T. Nelson) and the head of the family next door. Amidst all of this air-wave frequency jamming (between the remote controlled car signals and the satellite manipulation, as well as the television's clearly powerful effect on the men's behavior, and the beer spraying through the air, and the television's strange hold over the younger daughter the previous night...), we begin to see a visual illustration of the idea of invisible energies, affecting the day to day existence in the lives of these characters.
Amidst all of this energy flying around, death is introduced. The family parakeet is found dead by the mother of the house as she replaces her son's sheets. The sheets are adorned with Stars Wars characters, references to which litter the room along with other real-life sci-fi and children's entertainment iconography. Significantly, this includes an extremely out of place (in a children's room) poster for the R rated film "Alien" as well as a prominently, awkwardly positioned skewed box of the board game CLUE, perhaps the placing of which indicates that many other 'clues' are hidden in the background. The mother attempts to flush the bird down the toilet and is interrupted by the younger daughter, who prompts them to hold a small funeral service for the bird. She insists that the bird (named "Tweety" after that hollow-eyed yellow beast from the Looney Tunes cartoons that adorns many a mudflap) does not like the smell of the box. She makes sure to put several items for the bird's comfort in the cigar box coffin, presumably for the next life, like the Pharoahs of ancient Egypt. Although the bird is clearly no longer alive, the small child does not accept that finality, perhaps because she has an inherent understanding that the spirit lives on, a reality that the latter portion of the film clearly adheres to.
A theme that strongly unifies both films is the notion that children have a deep understanding of the supernatural, as well an intuitive notion of sickness and death. In contrast to this, the adults are fearful and more literally-minded. In order to get his sister Gertie to not speak to anyone about seeing E.T. (referred to at times as a "goblin"), Eliot attempts to persuade her that only children can see the creature. This ties in with E.T.'s later Tinkerbell-like near-death sequence, where he is brought back to life by Eliot's love in a manner that seems to suggest that the love of a child has a magical healing power. After the creature's resurrection, he appears to the other children in a Christ-like manner, robed and with a prominent glowing "sacred heart." Men with shotguns wait to put E.T. to death as the children bike down the hill, yet the kids miraculously fly over the government agents thanks to the power of E.T. (and if you see the men holding walkie-talkies instead of long shotguns, you can gladly return your copy and try to find one of the original green-band VHS copies of this film where the movie wasn't digitally re-manipulated). Each of the two films unfolds quickly... strange and supernatural occurrences exist next to the ordinary and every day, and quickly the characters are pushed to act in ways they never would have expected to due to events beyond their control. In many ways, these two films created a blue-print for the "thrill-ride" style of blockbuster film, with an ensemble cast terrorized and mystified by an outside force that is eventually reconciled or overcome.
For the family of Poltergeist, there is no reconciliation except for an opportunity to escape. A team of landscapers/renovators begin to dig up much of the back yard and leer lecherously inside. In a scene symbolic of violation from outside and a tainting of the shared pool of energy, one of the workers reaches inside the kitchen eats directly from a pot of pasta sauce, putting his tongue and mouth directly onto the spoon, and then putting it right back into the pot. Eating and consumption becomes a major theme, with family members and neighbors constantly stuffing things into their mouths throughout the film. In many ways the family is being fed off of by the entities that plague them, causing fear and manipulating them for their own unknown purposes. A goldfish is purchased for the younger daughter shortly before the family themselves become like fish in a tank themselves, first for the amusement of the workers during the daytime, and later at night by the ghosts that plague them. In one later scene, the mother of the house is dragged around her bedroom in a violent manner that suggests rape by an overpowering invisible entity, as the children threaten to be dragged into a passageway to the netherworld in the next room. Sexuality is obliquely referenced in some visuals, slyly (almost subliminally) suggesting an undercurrent of restless energy throughout the house. There is a literal explanation of the nature of the hauntings given towards the end of the film, that the ghosts are those of a cemetery that the entire neighborhood was built on. Symbolically however, it suggests the nature of ghosts as the energy of the dead, floating amidst us and harnessed by some specific entities that exist right outside of our plane of existence. In this way, the world-view of the film is reflected somewhat in "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me" and the connecting series. In a scene that returns to the kitchen, the mother of the family plays with the spirits for her own amusement, placing chairs and even her daughter in a circle on the ground to watch them move across the room with the joy of teenage girls playing with an ouiji board. Her toying with the spirits is shown to be dangerous however, when they take away her daughter during the middle section of the film, keeping her somehow physically between the land of the dead and our plane of existence.

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The emotional cues of the films from the music are different in their effect, but both were selected by Spielberg. John Williams brings a high-end string-heavy sentimentality to the majority of E.T. that constantly insists that the view feel what the cue is suggesting. Jerry Goldsmith's score for Poltergeist is much more subtle, especially at the beginning with the pleasant lullaby-like suburban theme that accompanies earlier scenes. Both movies do an excellent job of trying to depict to the audience the concept of psychic linking and telepathy, in an intuitive and easy to understand visual method of storytelling. Unlike E.T., Poltergeist is told strictly from the perspective of those dealing with the supernatural on this end, rather than giving the viewer a dual perspective or giving merit to communication with the beyond. The ghosts and the supernatural energy are depicted in a grand light show (similar in effect to the finale of "Close Encounters") that obfuscates the initial realism presented in the comparatively subtle opening sections of the film. Much like E.T., although many incredible sequences abound, the middle and end of both films get built up to a point of hysterical screaming and stylized special effects, with many of the subtle aspects glossed over in favor of bludgeoning the viewer with emotionally-wrenching content (the supernatural abduction of the daughter in Poltergeist, the death of the E.T. creature). In the middle section of Poltergeist, the mother and daughter are "born again" out of a light, covered in afterbirth, after following the instructions of an old lady who makes her take a vow to do whatever she says, even if it goes against her beliefs "as a Christian." This seems to be the main effort of both of these 1982 productions, to get a largely Christian and even puritanical set of American audiences to accept these ideas that are alien and even directly opposed to their own. The end result of the consumption is shown to be humans fate to become rotting meat (both in a gruesome sequence in which a sandwich and chicken leg become infested with maggots and begin to spew gore, as well as the physical appearance of multitudes of dead bodies rising from the Earth at the end of the film). There were rumors that Poltergeist used actual dead bodies on set, and in fact Tobe Hooper did in fact use dead bodies for the set dressing of Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part II (the human corpses were acquired from India). In many ways, this fear represented in Poltergeist is overcome by the other film, in the humanitarian embrace of a child-like alien being who resembles sausages and ham.
In this way the heavy influence of Disney is apparent in these two films, both of which have a strong effort to get "regular" moralistic Americans to identify with the people depicted in the film, as well as capturing the enthusiasm regarding concepts such as alien visitation and supernatural co-habitation. After the enormous success of both films, Spielberg contemplated making a horror-themed sequel to "E.T. The Extraterrestrial" in which a race similar to the E.T. creature comes to the Earth with carnivorous intent. Although it was never made, it shows that the horrific and ominous nature of the creature's visit to Earth was never completely out of the director's mind while making the original landmark film. Both "E.T. The Extra-terrestrial" as well as "Poltergeist" are filled with rich visual storytelling that yield an infinite set of interpretations for years to come. Both films were also widely seen by children, and did much to supplant in the minds of viewers notions of contact with the things outside of our ordinary life. In keeping alive the dreams and nightmares of children, fantasy can be used to grapple with harsh realities as well as the joys of life, and both films bring together avant-garde conceptualization with a post-modern flair that creates a hyper-realization of the fantastic and the "innocent", putting the vast audiences exposed to these films from a young age into a personalized belief in magic and the extraordinary.

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