Feeling that the story of the Silent European Horror film was left incomplete, Jack “The Agnostic” Garcia chronicles the arrival of talking pictures or sound on film. An event that would unleash unforeseen forces that would rock the foundations of the international film industry with a period of chaos and instability. When sound horror films arrive in Europe nobody was more horrified than the film censors who cut and butchered them to pieces. Major film studios were put off by the limitation of patrons and distribution , the result being that with the exception of Britain, the horror film in Europe all but died. Jack examines the birth of the British horror film , an art form ignited by the Victorian taste for theatrical blood and melodrama and linked to a famous murder case with a supernatural ending that caught the imagination of the public and was filmed again and again. Then its the work of Boris Karloff in his native England, movies that would try and capture the look, manner and feel of his Universal films. And where goes Karloff, so goes Bela Lugosi but to lesser studios and budgets of course. Up next, the little known British fright film star , Todd Slaughter – who was the last in the line of Old School Victorian villains , Slaughter was an extraordinary cinematic presence – totally stylized in word and gesture and gleefully contemplated his evil deeds with sheer utter delight. With bigger studio support and larger budgets he could have been an international rival to Karloff and Lugosi. And last but not least , its some of the few European horror films produced during the 1930’s – including such classics as Carl Theodore Dreyer’s – moody atmospheric , disturbing and dream like Vampyr (1931) & Frank Wisbar’s – little known gem – Death & The Maiden – an enchanting and haunting story based on an ancient Nordic folk-tale.
With the Halloween specials now under his belt, Jack “The Agnostic” Garcia returns to GRR’s highly acclaimed mini series , this time examining the role of the divine in the altered state of consciousness that we all experience and share-Dreaming. First up, its the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians who believed that dreams were coded messages sent by the Gods to sleeping minds and that those nocturnal images were a pathway to another dimension and another reality. Utterly fascinated with unlocking the mysteries of their dreams they established the act of dream interpretation. Then its – the ancient Hebrews and the role of dreams in the Old and New Testaments – where dream interpretation as viewed as a God given gift , and the dream expert was chosen to solve the symbolic and allegorical features of the dream. While in the New Testament , dreams illustrate divine intervention and guidance in the lives of Christ and his apostles. Next up, its ancient Greece and Rome – where dreams were believed to be phantoms that could assume different shapes at night. They visited sleeping mortals and projected the dream images into the mind’s eye. Signs and symbols that may be of divine origin. Then its the ancient Near East – where in India the Hindu/Vedics equated dreams with waking life and even believed that creation itself was the divine dream of a God. Chinese literature is overflowing with speculation about the nature of dreams and it was thought that waking and dreaming coexisted and were the same being. Next stop, the Native Americans who cherished and depended on their dreams , and used them to shape many aspects of tribal life – dreams and visions were the source function of their spirituality. Then its the Aborigines of Australia – who believe that all life is spiritually connected and that humanity originated in the Dream-Time. A different land , a different dimension and a different spiritual plane. The Dream Time is both an epoch of history and a state of being that remain accessible to those that participate in the ancient rituals. And last but not least – Jack recites The Momentous Dream journey of Mohammed. The sacred story in which the Prophet of Islam embarks on a mystical dream voyage that will take him to some of the Holiest places on Earth , a whirlwind tour of the universe , the Throne of God, Paradise and even Hell itself.
In the 1920s Weimar Republic Berlin was the cultural center of Europe and a type of golden age of cinema takes place between 1919-1930 . With many German films of the fantastic and uncanny becoming part of the world cinema cannon – Dr. Caligari , The Golem, Destiny , Nosferatu & Waxworks – etc. etc. etc – enter movie mythology and live on , recycled in parody and pastiche. Jack “The Agnostic” Garcia , a noted film historian and lover of genre movies examines Expressionism , the artistic style of self conscious stylization in art design , acting and lighting with fantasy and/or nightmare visions as evidence of inner torment that would dominate bot only Europe but travel across the Atlantic to Hollywood and filled the screens of American theaters as well. Jack plays ringmaster to a cinematic parade of tyrants, madmen, somnambulists, crazed scientists and beautiful but predatory females as he chronicles the evolution of the Silent Horror film in Europe during the roaring twenties and the amazing writers , actors, technicians and film makers who brought these timeless images to life. People like – Conrad Veidt – whose acting style made him an international fright film star and whose portrayals of dark characters reached far beyond the scope of the usual villain cliches . Veidt would work with many of the best known directors of the time. F.W. Murnau – a gifted artist who as a film director had a unique sense of the supernatural and utilized an unbound , moving camera, art design and the idea that cinematic art could reveal a divine and sometimes disturbing truth. Benjamin Christensen – a danish film maker who not only used remarkable lighting but understood the entire language of film the sophisticated effects he coaxed from the shadows and chiaroscuro, and his remarkable editing seemed at times to be almost other worldly or supernatural just to name a few… Jack also takes an indepth look at forgotten gems, obscurities and important lost films- from Sweden, Italy, France and England during the time of Silent Cinemas maturity (The 1920’s).
A companion to last season’s highly acclaimed and popular mini-series on the history of The Silent Scream (1894-1919) . Jack “The Agnostic” Garcia travels back to Hollywood Land in the bygone days of the roaring twenties and the time of the silent cinema’s maturity. First up , its Lon Chaney – who became a superstar by hiding his face and distorting his body in a cinematic spectacle of suffering. Blessed with a gift for pantomime and an aura of romantic agony he searched for ever more difficult and strange roles that would drive him way beyond the normal call of acting and cinema. Then its director – Tod Browning , who would draw upon his youthful days working in the Carnival universe. He often focused on themes of sex-charged resentment and smoldering revenge melodramas that would push the grotesque to extremes achieving a perverse sexuality and dream like quality that rivaled any European filmmakers. Next up, its an in depth look at the Haunted House cycle of films, comedy chillers influenced by and adapted from Broadway plays. That used horror as a type of cinematic seasoning , while giving the opportunity for filmmakers to raise a few goosebumps and gasps from the audience. Jack examines everything from lost gems , to little known obscurities and genuine classics- oddly enough it was European immigrants who showed themselves to be the Masters of American Silent Horror cinema’s Gothic formulas and haunted house spoofs. Directors like – Paul Leni , who crafted superb expressionistic Gothic melodramas and comedic horrors and – Benjamin Christensen , who turned the haunted house chiller into a cinematic symphony of light and shadow.
In the Middle Ages all over Europe there was a type of Christian rebellion as about one third of the populace sought out alternative versions of Christianity – in a search for spiritual reform and renewal. Jack “The Agnostic” Garcia chronicles this direct challenge to the very existence of the Orthrodox church itself. Heresy took generations and sometimes centuries to define – and the heretic was condemned for refusing to conform at a time when there were no independent intellectual terrain where alternative viewpoints could be brought up and metaphysical, moral and social issues had to always remain within the recognized orthrodox christian framework – or else! Jack examines the main thrusts of the Medieval heretical movement and some of the great minds involved. For example – the concept of poverty which splits the Franciscan order into two opposing factions and give birth to the highly secretive Waldensian church. The need for church reform , a movement within the orthrodox chuch itself led to disillusioned priests who become charismatic wandering preachers whose radical views sometimes sparked off bloody uprisings and whose writings and theories were the precursors to Martin Luther and the Protestant reformers. Then its the role of mysticism in the heretical movement – for example , Meister Eckhart – who formulated the Western version of spiritual detachment and the search for God within the depths of ones own soul. And the Free Spirit movement , spiritual radicals who felt the the indulgence of the senses – especially lots of sexual activity without any limitations was the pathway to the divine. And last but not least – its The Cathars – whose strong Non-Christian tendencies distinguish them from all the other major heretical groups. Quickly growing wealthy and powerful – The Cathars – were considered such a threat to the Orthrodox Church that a Holy War ensued, utterly destroying The Cathars distinctive religion and culture.