Deep in the deepest deep bit of the Interwebs, where the nice people don’t go, 50 people in anoraks with awful social lives called The Really Very Serious Alan Moore Scholars’ Group meet to compare notes. Sometimes, if the planets align correctly, they get to ask questions. Not just about what terrible thing happened to their lives, but about how the object of their fan devotion feels about things. This time around, the selection from the 25 Sacred Answers is about films and related matters.
Unworthy Supplicant #7: After the fab DVD box set, is there anything happening with The Show as a TV series? (Sorry if this is already common knowledge but I am not really paying attention).
US #8: I want to know when Jerusalem and the Magic Book are due! But figured everyone would ask that and it’s a boring question (and has probably been answered somewhere else).
Alan Moore: Addressing [US#7]’s inquiry first for purely alphabetical reasons, the release of Showpieces was always seen as the first step in a potentially three-step process, to be followed by a feature film, and then possibly by a TV series. We’ve had a lot of enthusiasm from a lot of major concerns, but at the moment the situation is as follows: I’ve written the screenplay for the feature film, The Show, and although we did give some thought to splitting this into the first two episodes of a projected six-part BBC series, we found that couldn’t be done without serious editing and rewriting, neither of which could be done without compromising our ideas for the project. While we’d initially been offered something like £1½ million to make the first two episodes, which was equivalent to what we’d been looking for with the feature film, me and Mitch [Jenkins] have decided that it would be much more fun and much truer to our strategy of “Fellini at Ed Wood prices” if we just went ahead and made the feature film ourselves for around £300,000. So, we’re about to begin casting and hoping to kick off with the actual filming around late spring or early summer next year . Basically, all of the events contained in the five Showpieces films took place on the night of Friday, November 2nd, 2012. The Show opens on the morning of Saturday, November 3rd, and we proceed from there. We’ll see how that goes, and how British film and television goes, and then if it still seems like a good idea we’ll approach the notion of a television series after that.
As for [US#8]’s query, I finished integrating Donna Bond’s excellent edits for the third and final section a week or two ago, so now it remains for the writers Ali Fruish and John Higgs to read it looking for large-scale errors of theme or continuity, and otherwise its already with the publishers and only waiting for me to finish my cover illustration, which I may hopefully be getting to work on over the Christmas period. Regarding The Moon & Serpent Bumper Book of Magic, me and Steve had just finished the last of our “Old Moores’ Lives of the Great Enchanters” entries and were within a week or two of finishing our preliminary notes on the final concluding essay, “A Grand Egyptian Finale in the Theatre of Marvels”, when the moon swanned out of the building and left the serpent to do all the donkey work. Since then I’ve finished the essay, and also written the final instalment, episode six, of our decadent / occult / pulp fiction adventure “The Soul”. At the moment, artists are being assigned to various aspects of the book’s component parts, and all I have left to do is to properly get to grips with the book’s more visual aspects – the tarot deck, the kabbalah board-game, the pop-up temple and so on – which I shall probably be focussing on once Jerusalem is out of the way. So, in brief, Jerusalem next year definitely, and The Bumper Book next year if at all possible.
US #9: I’ve noticed throughout your work’s history you seem to have a bit of affection for Godzilla. Do you still like those movies, and do they still have a deeper appeal beyond two guys in rubber suits clobbering each other in cardboard cities?
Alan Moore: Hmm. I can certainly see how somebody could get that impression: there was that Godzilla illustration I did for Dark Horse (although like the Mr. Monster pin-up page or the cover for Basil Wolverton’s Planet of Terror, that was largely a response to the novelty of being asked to provide a piece of artwork rather than a script), there was obvious Godzilla-a-like Gogra Senior in Top Ten (which arose from thinking about how a city populated by sixty years of comic heroes, villains, pets and supporting characters would have to have somewhere to put all the giant monsters), and most notably “Trampling Tokyo”, co-written with the estimable Jazz Butcher (he gave me the tune amongst a couple of others – one of which became “London” – and I wrote the words over it, if anyone’s interested). There may be other Godzilla references in my work, but then some of you out there would almost certainly know that better than I would. The thing is, that while I briefly owned the Aurora plastic model kit of Godzilla when I was around twelve or so, I could not swear that I have ever seen a Godzilla film all the way through, although of course you only need to see a scene or two to pretty much get the idea. I think my main interest in Godzilla, such as it is, is in the way that the character’s screen history has in many ways mirrored Japan’s changing relationship with nuclear fission and radioactivity, from the city-flattening post-Hiroshima terror of the earliest films, to the benign and conversational protector of Japan in the later ones. And there is certainly something a lot more appealing about the no-budget artlessness of those old rubber suit movies that there is about the expensive pointlessness of more contemporary CGI “re-imaginings”. When I was writing “Trampling Tokyo”, I was amusing myself and perhaps empathising a bit by imagining a huge radioactive monster who’s just bored with it all and looking forward to his retirement from the skyscraper-stamping business, along with a nod to the psychological origins of Godzilla in the concluding verse about Robert Oppenheimer. When I was working on the Gogra sequence in Top Ten, I think I just wanted to see a drunk Godzilla in a “No Fat Chicks” T-shirt. All that said, there is something a bit odd and wonderful about that kind of film. It isn’t directly related, but if you haven’t seen it I’d recommend the movie Big Man Japan, a film with lots of the spectacular CGI that I was castigating only a few lines ago, but that was then and this is now. Anyway, Big Man Japan contextualises this by placing it in opposition to its rubber-suit-and-cardboard-buildings predecessor, at least in its jaw-dropping and initially bewildering final ten minutes when it slides into socio-political metaphor. My favourite sequences, for some reason, were the scraps of 1930s black and white newsreel footage showing the Golden Age 1940s Big Man Japan. I remember having a similar reaction to Alan Arkin and Christopher Lee’s ridiculously camp The Return of Captain Invincible. Maybe these fantastic characters only really work for me these days if they’re in crackly black and white and wearing costumes where you can see the creases in the sensibly thick and warm material.
US #10: I’m interested in your relationship with Iain Sinclair – how did that come about? And how did you end up being cast in The Cardinal and the Corpse?
Alan Moore: As I remember it, I was in the very early slopes of From Hell, probably back around 1989, when somebody – possibly Neil Gaiman – either sent me or recommended to me Iain’s White Chappell Scarlet Tracings and I was immediately smitten by the tremendous burden of meaning that Iain could load into his prose while retaining a kind of weightless elegance, its ethereal quality only somehow enhanced by the gloriously scabrous nature of his twilight content. I recognised immediately that Iain had erected his work on the same Stephen Knight-based site where From Hell was situated, with various overlapping characters, and I subsequently widened my concept of the kind of poetic range and depth it might be possible to conjure from the cracked slabs of Whitechapel. I went on from there to devour his earlier works The Suicide Bridge and, most especially, Lud Heat where I discovered Brian Catling’s map of suggestive London alignments and decided to see if I could meaningfully (or pseudo-meaningfully) extend it into a pentagram with the help of a London A-Z. A journey around all of the projected pentacle points and intersections was undertaken, just to see if all the sites could be visited in a single day (average vehicle speed in London having remained nearly constant since the 17th century.) I remember being puzzled by a point on Brian’s original diagram that seemed to be at the edge of London Fields in Hackney, about which I couldn’t find very much historical or mythical information.
I got Iain’s contact details from somewhere, and sent him what was probably in retrospect a bewildering enquiry from someone he’d never heard of in a field to which his attentions had not previously been drawn. But, Iain being above all a very generous man, we were soon in touch with each other and had found as much mutual understanding as can be achieved with and by somebody from Northampton. I don’t remember the precise chronology of events after that, this being getting on for forty years ago, but I recall attending a reading of Iain’s around the Downriverperiod that was staged in the same Monster Doss House (I think) that Jack London had frequented when he was researching People of the Abyss, and then at some later point both Iain and Brian visited Northampton for a memorable reading at the round Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where the town reacted to unfamiliar language in time-honoured fashion with a near shooting halfway through Catling’s stunning poem The Stumbling Block. I believe it was at some point after the above that Iain roped me in on The Cardinal and the Corpse, which he was then precariously engineering with Chris Petit and a largely-uncomprehending Channel Four.
I think it was Brian Catling who noticed that Iain was down on the schedule notes as “freak wrangler” which, like a lot of Iain’s work, is blindingly incisive and accurate in its insight but, y’know, a bit hurtful. I can only imagine that Petit and Sinclair chose me for the film only on the shallow and superficial basis of my looks, and my resemblance to a young Montgomery Clift who’d possibly been marooned on an island for years. Anyway, I remember travelling down to the first of two days shooting and then staying over at Iain and Anna’s house in Hackney. When we drove out for a meal with Brian Catling, I recall Iain pointing out to me the unearthly ectoplasm-like plume of condensation smouldering from the obelisk-point of Canary Wharf. The shooting itself was fantastic in the most hallucinatory sense of the word. One minute I was being asked by the Lambrianou brothers if Catling was “the money man” on the project, the next I was listening to John Latham croaking about how a book represented Time in three or four different aspects (giving me a key idea for Jerusalem), and then at some point I was crammed with Gerry and Pat Goldstein in an old fashioned red phone-box outside Hawksmoor’s Christ Church Spitalfields during a torrential downpour. Those boxes weren’t really built for three adults, and it felt like an impromptu meeting of Agoraphobics Anonymous.
When I’d first encountered Tony Lambrianou earlier, he’d blanched a bit on meeting me, then later apologised and explained that I looked exactly like a Hell’s Angel that he’d once helped tarmac the driveway of one of the prisons he’d been in over the last couple of decades: “’E was a murderer.” It was a couple of days in a wonderfully funny and sinister parallel London, that I feel honoured to have been a part of. As to the matter of my casting, I thought that was rather prescient. Unlike most of the other characters, mine was not actually a straightforward representation of me at that time (in the way that Driffield was decidedly Driffield, for example), in that I was called upon to stretch to my full thespian range and portray a kind of wild-eyed occult tramp barging rudely around Spitalfields and looking for a copy of Francis Barrett’s The Magus. This was based upon the odd incident of Brian Catling discovering the aforesaid grimoire in the British Library, photocopying the whole thing and giving it to Iain, only to be told on his return to the library that the book didn’t exist. According to his later account, Iain felt that having a photocopy of a shadowy text that had just seemingly popped out of existence was a bit like owning an occult unexploded bomb, so he decided to leave it scattered in the gutters of Whitechapel where I was filmed picking it up as part of my character’s deranged quest, and then later allowed to take it home with me. Then, long story short, a year or two later I turned out to actually be a kind of wild-eyed occult tramp, barging rudely around the capital and acquiring a nice copy of Barrett’s The Magus, which had apparently re-materialised in the meantime. Everything about the production was barely real, including the launch party at The Carpenter’s Arms. I remember Driffield in a red cummerbund going through some kind of Casablanca fugue as a self-appointed official greeter, I remember the incredulously happy look in Robin Cook’s lovely sunken sockets when I told him that in the enchanted land of Northampton Kronenberg lager was on tap, and I remember raising a glass to Manny Litvinoff, down at the other end of the bar and too far away to talk to. I think there’s a picture in the fine Sinclair/Atkins collection Liquid City, showing everybody in a Bergman conga-line outside the Carpenter’s Arms on the night in question. A literally unbelievable experience and a production I shall never forget, but as I was remarking to Iain when he showed the film as part of his 70 X 70 birthday celebrations, it’s a film which to date has turned out absolutely no cardinals, although it’s certainly living up to the other half of its remit.
Anne M Kletcha, the author of this piece, is currently resting between parts. Casting directors should contact her agents, Maguire & Paterson.