Thursday, 10 September 2015

Around the World in 80 Gays : Part 18 - A Bloodbath

Last Time : 51) Giordano Bruno (1548-1600), who was prevented from becoming a professor through the influence of 52) Cardinal Francisco del Monte (1549-1627), was himself embroiled in political machinations as part of the same spy-ring as 53) Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593) and 54) Anthony Bacon (1558-1601). Marlowe, the alleged real writer of Shakespeare’s plays, wrote a play which influenced Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus”, a form of revenge play that developed into the modern slasher film, the first gay example being written by 55) Paul Etheredge.
When 55) Paul Etheredge (also known as Paul Etheredge-Ouzts) was approached by film producers to write and direct a slasher film about and for gay men. He hadn’t written or directed a film before. Pal came up with a film that was very typical of the genre, with the stock characters and plot, though with gay victims and murderer. However, the most difficult part of the process was coming up with a title. His solution was to organise an online contest to let the public suggest a title.

Some of the suggested titles were truly awful! “A Fagulously Bloody Night Out” is particularly awful and sounds like something I’d come up with as a title for one of my articles! Paul decided on the simple title “Hellbent”.

“Hellbent” was released in 2004 and was shown on the lgbt film circuit before going on general release in 2005. It was well received by its intended audience, but mainstream audiences weren’t quite ready for a fully gay-themed slasher film where the last survivor was gay. It probably did well with lgbt audiences because of an unconscious link to a previous slasher film written by another gay man, “Clive Barker’s Hellraiser”.

56) Clive Barker (b.1952) is one of the greatest masters of horror in our time. He is a leading exponent of the literary version of the slasher film called splatterpunk. The “Hellraiser” film franchise grew out of Clive’s 1986 novel “The Hellbound Heart”. Made on a relatively small budget “Clive Barker’s Hellraiser” realised his words with remarkable effect, giving it a cult status before it was acknowledged by other as a classic of the genre. The film owes more to the Grand Guignol legacy than the established splatter/slasher film format.

Grand Guignol was a form of theatre pioneered in France in the 19th century in which graphic horror and gore was the centrepiece. Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus”, as performed by The Globe company recently, was firmly created in the Grand Guignol style. Clive Barker wrote several plays in the Grand Guignol style in his early years.

The slasher/splatter film can be regarded as a sort of parody of the Grand Guignol, and the genre itself has found success in parodying itself (e.g. in the “Scream” series). The genre is easy to parody and sometimes film makers don’t know the difference.

One case in mind is the 1982 slasher film “The Slumber Party Massacre”. Deliberately written as a parody its producers made it as a serious film, with the inevitable consequence that it was unintentionally funny and helped to create the clich├ęs that slasher parodies would later exploit.

The screenwriter of “The Slumber Party massacre” was 57) Rita Mae Brown (b.1944), a writer better known for her more serious novels and her activism. The original script for “Slumber Party” was written in the mid 1970s under the title “Sleepless Nights”, one of two screenplays Rita Mae was commissioned to write by the well-known film director Roger Corman. Neither screenplay was filmed, but it was picked up in 1982 and made into the slasher film.

Rite Mae Brown’s most famous work is her 1973 novel “Rubyfruit Jungle”, a lesbian that was quite explicit for the time.  Her most prolific output had been in the mystery novel genre. The slasher film she wrote was released in between the publications of two of her other novels, the letter of which was called “Sudden Death” and was set in the world of tennis.

Rita Mae is no stranger to tennis. She played on her college team, and for the two years prior to writing the final script for “The Slumber Party Massacre” she was in a relationship with the great tennis star 58) Martina Navratilova (b.1956).

We’ll have another bloodbath in December near the end of our “80 Gays”, but before then we’ll battle our way into space.

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