“What a sad era when it is easier to smash an atom than a prejudice.”
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Martin Luther King Jr.
Elie Wiesel, the Nobel laureate, and author of Night, his memoir of being a prisoner in the Holocaust, died this weekend. Mr. Wiesel, besides being an extraordinary writer, whose work brought the experience of the evil of the Holocaust to the forefront of many readers, was also one of the most powerful moral voices of our time.
I read Mr. Wiesel’s book Night as a teenager, and I was deeply struck by the power and the messages it contains. I made a connection with the horror of the Holocaust and the hope of humanity through this text. I will keep the discussion of my personal impact of this book short, because it is so deep and so complex that I could write forever on it. But, it was another lesson that we are all connected and must remember this joint humanity–always.
Mr. Wiesel argued powerfully that it is not enough to simply not do evil, but that it is the moral responsibility of people to oppose it wherever it exists. He said, “Whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation, we must always take sides.” and “As long as one dissident is in prison, our freedom will not be true. As long as one child is hungry, our lives will be filled with anguish and shame. What all these victims need above all is to know that they are not alone; that we are not forgetting them, that when their voices are stifled we shall lend them ours, that while their freedom depends on ours, the quality of our freedom depends on theirs. (From his Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech.)
President Obama, in speaking of him, said of Mr. Wiesel, “Elie Wiesel was one of the great moral voices of our time, and in many ways, the conscience of the world.”
We should honor his work and commitment to justice, and we should remember, especially in our turbulent times, often filled with hatred and bigotry, that we are morally compelled to oppose injustice and bigotry.
Rest In Peace, Elie Wiesel. The world will miss you.
My thoughts and prayers are to the victims, the friends and families, and to the larger community of Orlando. Once again, an unthinkable mass shooting has happened in America. I am almost incapable of words–the horror is again too much.
But I will say this–I stand with Orlando, and I stand with the LGBT community.
I have focused on this theme before, but I believe it is always important.
While today, we would say people instead of men, the importance of the message remains. When evil or the potential for it exists, it must be opposed.
Both men from very different times and different political and social backgrounds give a moral imperative to people to stand up to evil, that it cannot and should not be ignored.
The decade of the 1960s saw the production of many horror films, some fairly standard offerings and some innovative. In 1961, Hammer Studios continued the re-imagining of classic horror characters, which they had begun with The Curse of Frankenstein and The Horror of Dracula, in the release of The Curse of the Werewolf.
Movie audiences in 1961 were still very aware of the image of Universal Studios’ The Wolfman and its assorted sequels with Lon Chaney Jr. as Larry Talbot, the unfortunate and reluctant lycanthrope. Talbot, a good man, was cursed to become a killing monster after having been bitten by a werewolf while attempting, unsuccessfully, to save a girl from its attack. This cinematic image was one that would be very difficult to alter for the horror viewing audience.
While not making viewers forget Lon Chaney Jr. and Larry Talbot, The Curse of the Werewolf, directed by Terence Fisher, did establish new cinematic territory in this often overlooked, but important, film. This film, unlike its Universal predecessors, which were made primarily in black and white and influenced heavily by German Expressionism, is shot in color and features an almost blond werewolf in an extremely effective makeup and, for the time, a great deal of blood.
The star of this film, in his first movie, is Oliver Reed, who would go on to have a long and productive career as a film actor. Set in 18th Century Spain, the film bases its lycanthropy on the juxtaposition of two events: Leon is the result of a peasant girl being raped, and he is born on Christmas Day, which was considered a very unlucky event. Leon is raised by a kindly man, but when puberty hits, besides the normal changes in his body, he becomes literally a monster. What would Freud have to say about that?
Just as religion plays a part in his curse, so does it in his death. His step-father, a kindly man becomes the agent of his release. His step-father has a silver bullet made from a cross. He shoots Leon with it, while his step-son is in the form of the monster; thus, he destroys the werewolf and release’s Leon’s soul, but it also fills his step-father with deep grief.
Like the previous Hammer productions, this film continues with its exploration of sex and violence, going further than that which had been seen in the Universal films. While tame in sexual depictions by our contemporary standards, it was shocking to many audiences of the time.
From a critical perspective, this film also introduces an element of class critique. The young woman who is raped at the beginning of the film comes from abject poverty at the lowest level of the class structure, and the man who puts her in the cell, setting up the circumstances for the attack, is a Marques, a Spanish nobleman. Clearly, the film indicts the abuse of power and the class inequity of that time. If this were an academic paper, I would focus heavily on the class critique, but I simply wanted to draw attention to it briefly in this post.
The Curse of the Werewolf was another successful entry in Hammer Studios’ new cycle of horror films, although unlike the Dracula and Frankenstein movies, it would not generate a run of sequels. On its own, however, it rates as a film of importance in the horror genre.
Overall, if you have not seen this film, I give it a very strong recommendation.
I am continuing the series I began about what I consider to be the best TV shows of the 1950s and 1960s and representative example episodes of those shows. For this post, I am going to talk about Star Trek, the original version, which ran from 1966-1969. I will be dating myself, but this show ran when I had just become a young teenager, and it had huge influence on me.
I remember looking forward all week to the next episode and wondering what that week’s episode would be about. Star Trek was filled with what were, at the time, wonderful special effects, but much more than that, great stories and deeply developed characters.
I have many episodes that I think were very good, but one, in particular, stands out as excellent: “City On The Edge Of Forever.” It was written by the noted science-fiction author Harlan Ellison and ran towards the end of the first season. It dealt with time travel and insanity, which were always good themes for science-fiction, but it also dealt with an issue that continues to confront our society: what does someone do when seeing the existence of evil? Do they act at the risk of enormous sacrifice, or ignore it? Other questions also emerge from the show: what matters more—the fate of an individual or of society? How do we judge what is necessary to do in a difficult ethical situation? And where is the place of love in our world? These are very heady issues for a young teenager to struggle with; in fact, they continue to influence my thinking and my writing. It was also a series that infused hope, optimism, and humanism in its message, the idea that humanity can improve itself but always with struggle.
I am wondering: did you like the original Star Trek series, and if so, what episode was your favorite?
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