Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Mise-en-Scene Crypt is about Movies.

We all have our favorites, and perhaps a preferred genre, be it romance or horror, science fiction or fantasy, gore or exploitation, or some slipstream flavor between. Studios spend millions every year on movies. Some are released with much hype only to sizzle at the box office while others, like the savages of some prehistoric era, disappear into the dust never to be seen or heard from again. One truism of filmmaking has been that for every blockbuster there is at least a dozen low budget, often independent, knock-offs rushed into production in a effort to cash in on the fickle, and ever so short, interest of audiences. Yet there is a class of film that few talk about. For there are epics and then there are anti-epics. Gor and Outlaw of Gor are prime examples of anti-epics.When the original Mise-en-scene Crypt launched the tone was set from the start by briefly discussing these classic anti-epics. And, now with the demise of the old Mise-en-scene Crypt, let us return to where it all began.

In short the movies are about professor John Cabot, a magic ring (that it's never clear how came into his possession), and Cabot's cross-dimension adventures on counter Earth. A desolate desert world where men are men and women are nubile, scantily clad, and love to wear hats. It's the sort of pulp fiction world that would have appealed to the chauvinistic male fantasies of a time before feminism, a time when women couldn't yet vote and (so those chauvanistic males thought) knew their place; which was wherever men told them it was.

Sound good so far?


It might have been but, sadly, it is not. The Gor movies are universally reviled as, if you're being kind, wastes of celluloid; cinematic abortions if you're not. These are the kind of movies that probably inspired the likes of Uwe Boll to go into filmmaking. Movie making may seem like a bloody feeding frenzy as producers make mad grabs for that piece of the market pie that will gain them acclaim, but is money truly the sole driving force behind movies?

Saying it is seems shallow, but to deny money is the driving influence of studios would be equally ludicrous. It may baffle us, because we all know that if all someone wants is to make a quick buck there are far better ways to do it. Like, say, investing in a manure farm. Farmers will always need fertilizer after all. And if that's all you're going to end up making anyway. . .

But I digress.

It all started with John Norman's "Tarnsman of Gor" (1966) and the series of novels which followed. This strange, and often controversial, sub-genre of fantasy exists in a black hole nexus of moral ambiguity. Gorean Fantasy is typified by the ideal that men are men and women exist solely to be submissively in service to them.

In other words it's the sort of backdrop that seems custom designed for low budget exploitation filmmakers. Add to this the popularity and cult status the novels have acquired over the years and it's a no-brainer that these novels were ripe for the picking. Alas even a "sure thing" can be ruined in incompetent hands, which seems to be the best way to sum up how the Gor properties were handled.

To be blunt in the world of Gor women are portrayed as submissive chattels whose role in Gorean society is essentially that of eager sex slave. This premise alone is a exploitation filmmakers wet dream. Alas neither the producers or director seemed to grasp the fantasy vision of John Norman, or perhaps they were just not comfortable with it, either way they pissed away a golden opportunity to create an enduring cult classic on par with The Perils of Gwendoline or the infamous nazisploitation Ilsa trilogy.

Curiously producer, director, and general b-movie glutton Roger Corman has presented visions of Gorean Fantasy in his Deathstalker movies that are far better than what the Gor movies presents. While the Gor movies do have scantily clad females and dancing girls there's no nudity, no sex scenes, no bondage, no slave girls or hint of Norman's novels to be found therein. Which some may count as a small blessing. However to fans of novels that get less than stellar adaptations this is yet another in a long line of disappointments. It's easy to bemoan the "suits", meaning studio executives, equate them with loan sharks high on the smell of money who seek to mine popular trends in a effort to make a quick buck while never once delving deeper into the problem; much less caring about the "audience" beyond how to get their money. It's silly to do so ye, when novels like Gor get turned into PG rated pablum, they're perhaps the easy targets at whom to vent.

Expect a lot of venting in the blog. Some of it good, some of it bad, most of it will be clearly labelled as a "rant" but sometimes a few barbs may loosed in reviews. And that's what this blog will mostly be about. Reviews of movies, movies like Gor and Outlaw of Gor and Deathstalker and all kinds of rarefied b-movies. Sometimes my comments may be critical. For instance the excerpts I've read of the Gor novels aren't grand examples of the literary tradition. I've no qualms in pointing such facts out. Nor do I have a problem noted that, while it is understandable, if not logical, why changes were made to the core story what the producers created in their attempt to appeal to the mainstream the end result falls flat. You just can't expect to take a property with a niche cult following, and a cult following in the BDSM community at that, and do what they did here and expect anything other than an Uwe Boll quality tax write off. But I wont bore you further. Expect to see fresh reviews of Gor and Outlaw of Gor appear here soon. Until then thanks for visiting!


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Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan

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