Heavy Metal and Punk’s Material Culture

Film still from The Crimson Ghost, 1945

Film still from The Crimson Ghost, 1945

They’ve done an excellent job over at Boing Boing with a post compiling The Best Heavy Metal Movie Posters. The librarian in me was ecstatic to see material culture of this kind get featured. Highlighted are some very cool posters from which famous bands appropriated some imagery; i.e. The Misfits and Black Sabbath.

Of note, was the movie poster for The Crimson Ghost, a 1946 horror movie that was directed by Fred C. Bannon and William Witney. In particular is the poster which features it’s main villain as a skeleton robed madman–exactly the image that Danzig and the Misfits appropriated for all their merchandising needs.

The film centers around an obscure villain who has stolen an atomic death ray type of machine that can short circuit anything electronic, ensuring a healthy dose of havoc in its wake.

The Crimson Ghost, movie poster, 1945

The Crimson Ghost, movie poster, 1945

Another film mentioned in relation to bands was the Italian-French horror movie and name inspiration for Ozzy Osbourne’s Black Sabbath. Released in 1963, Black Sabbath was most famous for Boris Karloff as it’s main commentator. He introduces a trilogy of tales, The Telephone, The Wurdalak, and The Drop of Water, all staring an international cast of actors and actresses.

Black Sabbath, movie poster,

Black Sabbath, movie poster, 1963

In addition to the¬† posters mentioned above was the movie poster for Mark of the Devil, 1970. I especially liked the line it that read, “The Vomit bag and the price of admission will enable you to see….Mark of the Devil!” You can see the horror’s strong influence on Metal here folks. They go on to add text that says, “Due to the horrifying scenes, no one is admitted without a vomit bag“…
Seductive imagery of naked women on stakes looking like witches add to the sexual horror inducing hilarity of this genre. I couldn’t help but this amusing.

Mark of the Devil, movie poster, 1970

Mark of the Devil, movie poster, 1970

As a librarian, I think it would be a dream job to be in charge of a poster collection that included anything obscure and offbeat like these posters. Often times people forget the value of material culture and it’s influence on other genres of creativity. Ironically, with the advent of technology, imagery that was once seen glossing the covers of album records, CDs’ and posters have given way to something less creative and I can’t help get nostalgic for the lost medium.

In any case, I think I found a new hobby.

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Objects – Things – Stuff

Over at NYU’s Material World blog, I couldn’t help falling in love with a recent post that excerpts a letter from Sigmund Freud to his fiancee about objects, meaning, and emotion. He writes:

“Tables and chairs, beds, mirrors, a clock to remind the happy couple of the passage of time, an armchair for an hour’s pleasant daydreaming, carpets to help the housewife keep the floors clean, linen tied with pretty ribbons in the cupboard and dresses of the latest fashion and hats with artificial flowers, pictures on the wall, glasses for everyday and others for wine and festive occasions, plates and dishes, a small larder in case we are suddenly attacked by hunger or a guest, and an enormous bunch of keys–which must make a rattling noise. And there will be so much to enjoy, the books and the sewing table and the cosy lamp, and everything must be kept in good order or else the housewife, who has divided her heart into little bits, one for each piece of furniture, will begin to fret. And this object must bear witness to the serious work that holds the household together, that object to a feeling for beauty, to dear friends one likes to remember, to cities one has visited, to hours one wants to recall. And all this, a small world of happiness, of silent friends and proofs of lofty human values, is as yet only in the future; not even the foundation of the house has been laid, there is nothing but two poor human creatures who love one another to distraction. Are we to hang our hearts on such little things? Yes, and without hesitation.”

It was enlightening for me to see how much material culture fits into our daily lives and how we attribute meaning in a variety of ways to objects. I won’t lie and say that I read this letter and thought of it in completely anthropological terms; ¬†Freud’s letter to his fiancee struck a romanticized chord with me. I think in our daily lives it’s far too easy to forget how objects can embody meaning. In an age where love letters (the old handwritten ones) have been converted to an email here and there, it’s easy to lose the expression of emotions through technology, as much as we use technology to enhance such emotions.
I suppose if I learned anything from this little insightful post, it was that “things, objects, and stuff” can and will evoke memories and ideas that so often one glosses over.