December 15, 2012
Marianne Faithfull: The Faerie Queene Of The Sixties
Chaps. 3, 4,5
Of all the performers of the Rock era Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney have been the most successful while I would give the nod of most successful to Jagger. One must admire the way he learned the ropes and then used them to strangle others as he had been strangled. Mick in his own way was the Midnight Rambler and the Street Fighting Man. Don’t think I blame him; you either rule or are ruled. But, one does have to live with the reputation one creates.
Mick began cultivating his image from the beginning. As this story concerns Mick’s relationship to Marianne I will concentrate on aspects of their sexuality. Andrew Loog Oldham made a movie of the Stones’ January 1965 Irish tour. Unfortunately he sold the rights to it along with the Stones 1963-70 master recordings to Allen Klein along with, by the way, the first Marianne Faithfull masters. Klein then became the Stones’ manager.
The movie disappeared into Klein’s archives to surface in November 2012 when the Klein estate released it to DVD. It can now be purchased as I did. The DVD features both the Abkco edit and Oldham’s original Director’s Cut.
Mainly a concert film it also features group member interviews and Richards and Jagger cutting up. While they were horsing around they appear to improvise a song with the lyric: I’d rather be with the boys than here with a stupid girl like you.
While Jagger has always cultivated an ambiguous image he has also announced a record of having had sex with four thousand or more different girls. That’s only eighty per annum over fifty years so I imagine that shows an admirable restraint. Yet, at the same time Mick has always been misogynistic while always seeking to emasculate or squash his closer women under his thumb. In fact Mick probably has a domination or emasculation complex. He may have rather been with the boys but in his competition with them he sought to emasculate or squash them too. One of the favorite forms of emasculation and domination is to take other men’s women from them.
Thus when he took Jerry Hall from Bryan Ferry he quipped he had to do it to save her from going through life as Jerry Ferry. One winces when one reads of Eric Clapton begging Mick not to take Carla Bruni from him. Mick even took one of Eric’s temps, Catherine James from him.
Mick And Chrissie
When Mick first enters the scene for Andrew Oldham he is in an alley fighting it out with Chrissie Shrimpton, the model Jean Shrimpton’s younger sister. If one reads more deeply into that situation it shows a very cruel sadistic streak in Mick, quite shameful in a celebrity of Mick’s first magnitude of brightness.
Chrissie began the relationship as a strong willed girl battered by and battering Mick. In that day before the change in sexual mores girls weren’t quite so sexually open so Chrissie didn’t want her parents to know she was shacking up with Mick. They insisted to Mick that they not. As a humiliation tactic to break the girl down he let it be known to her parents that in his eyes she was little more than a common whore and she and they should see it that way too as he was in fact shacking with her.
Gradually the monster beat her down completely destroying her self-respect then, more than publicly, he broadcast his triumph on records and over the radio with such songs as Stupid Girl and Under My Thumb which their whole circle knew referred to her. Dylan would later use the same tactic against Edie Sedgwick when he wrote Like A Rolling Stone to break her down.
Both Chrissie and her parents believed Mick and she were to marry but having crushed her beneath his thumb, as it were, with a toss of his curly locks Mick sneeringly walked away adding insult to injury. Cruel in this instance it became psychotic with repeated use.
Years after word got back to Mick that Chrissie had a bundle of his letters, and, now this is unforgivable, without a word to her he immediately set his attorneys on her threatening an expensive law suit while demanding she return his letters. Even though Chrissie had not intended to publish them, still shaking this long after Mick’s brutal treatment, Chrissie without delay forwarded her letters from Mick to him. Shameful.
Mick And Marianne
Mick then turned his attentions to the Guinevere, the Ophelia, the Faerie Queene of pop music, our own Marianne. While I’m sure Mick was somewhat enamored with Marianne I’m also sure he had a couple ulterior motives. Marianne was married to John Dunbar at the time while living with Mick so Mick had the pleasure of emasculating and humiliating Dunbar.
At the same time I’m sure he was envious of Marianne’s fame which was probably greater than his at the time. No room in the spotlight for two. He couldn’t stand that Marianne was getting even more press than himself. Thus he undertook to destroy her career. In the process he emasculated her and humiliated her to an astounding degree.
Marianne and Mick were playing with psychologies in a very destructive manner. The events I am going to describe did incalculable damage to their psyches while altering the direction of their subsequent lives dramatically, especially Marianne’s. Of course, few people seem to realize they have a psychology or how it was formed, what expectations they devised. Those hopes and dreams were more especially dashed when they turned to drugs. That was certainly the case with Marianne.
I don’t know how seriously Marianne took her Medieval interest and reading but she was influenced by her Arthurian studies. Like the most or possibly rest of the generation she was also influenced quite heavily by Alice In Wonderland and Peter Pan, probably both books and movies.
The key for the generation in Peter Pan was his refusal to grow up or accept adulthood. It was quite fashionable at the time to pretend that you would always be young, keep in contact with your ‘inner child.’ I was a victim of the psychosis myself.
At any rate Marianne was influenced by all three. Thus, when she and Mick met she quizzed him extensively on his knowledge of King Arthur to see how much he knew as though that litmus test would seal his fate. Mick passed and Marianne moved in still married to John Dunbar. Thus her life clashed with her Catholic upbringing. At first Marianne had royalties coming in from her records enabling her to maintain a certain independence but gradually the royalty checks decreased making Marianne financially dependent on Mick.
At the same time Mick was under no obligations to Marianne and observed none. How this clashed with Marianne’s Arthurian expectations in an atmosphere of Peter Pan and Alice she doesn’t go into but there must have been a severe disappointment as Mick treated her as a mere possession.
While in California he was the object of desire for all the groupies including the doyenne Miss Pamela- Pamela Des Barres nee Miller- of Frank Zappa’s girl group the GTOs (Girls Totally Ornery or else in reference to the hottest car of the period, the GTO). Miss Pamela as well as the rest of the California groupies studied to come up with better and better more outrageous sexual thrills with which to astonish the boys in the band which easily surpassed the imaginations of the boys in the band including Mick.
Mick returned home and demanded of Marianne that she perform these tricks which astonished Marianne no less than Mick had been astonished. However she believed the tricks degrading. Marianne quite rightly refused to perform them.
But the repertoire of the boys in the band kept expanding so that the home girls were led to view new horizons. Group sex and that sort of thing became the norm.
As with all loosely knit movements or phenomena this sort of reputation brought more and more of the sado-masochistic libertine drug oriented element gradually forcing out the less inclined to sexual erotica just as bad money drives out good money. Rock and Roll became progressively more degenerate from 1964-65 on until it was disgraceful to be associated with it.
Mick and the Stones were leaders of this degeneration whether the Stones embraced sexual sado-masochism personally their public persona was based on it making them leading corruptors of youth and society in general. They did as much or more to change the sexual mores of the present than anyone. Their LP cover for Black and Blue was the apex of this very sado-masochistic misogynistic persona. The cover caused me all kinds of trouble in running my record store.
As one presents oneself so must one be.
The Redlands Bust.
Many psychologically devastating events happened to Marianne in the years from 1967-70. It is very difficult from this perspective to evaluate some of them. One can’t tell how Marianne’s renunciation of her career affected her mind. After all in 1964-65 and 66 she went from just another teenager to superb success far beyond her expectations financially, while becoming the female idol of the youth of England and a phenom in the US- ultimately the Faerie Queen of rock and roll. That’s really only two short years until the Redlands bust.
In those two years she passed through several sexual transmogrifications. She went from virgin to the most outre of sexual practices. Its all very well to say that this was her decision but as Paul McCartney said of his own experience in Miles’ biography it was impossible for him to resist peer pressure, especially in the use of drugs. He was ‘forced’ to try heroin even though he was dead set against.
So peer pressure on Marianne and any young girl to be sexual ‘free spirits’ was impossible unless you were prepared to accept group rejection. The same with drugs that couldn’t be resisted so that when depression set in she ended up addicted to the greatest depression drug available- heroin. It was up to Mick to give what protection he could. Regardless of current sexual nonsense it us up to the man to guide his woman.
Now, the era began in relatively clean-cut innocence . It was never quite so white bread as it is depicted, trying to escape the sleaziness, even then, was no easy matter. Then as the decade wore on it all got worse, then it got disgusting. First pot, pills and amphetamines, then LSD that came on like a hurricane. LSD more than anything else conditioned you for cocaine that in at the end of the decade, at least on the West Coast where I was. Remember that there was no national consensus in the US
In 1964 or so when the ‘counter-culture’ hit in the Bay Area it was a very local manifestation not shared by the East Coast the Mid-West or even for that matter LA. LA was never hip in the way the Bay Area was. While the Beatles are credited with introducing long hair, when the Charlatans came down from Virginia City they had hair and they must have been growing it long before the Mop Tops showed up.
The West Coast could not tolerate New York groups. Mafia outfits like the Rascals nee Young Rascals and Vanilla Fudge made the West Coast puke. There really wasn’t any place for The Velvet Underground either. Of course the British groups that had their own sound that really couldn’t compete with that of say, The Doors, an LA group. The LA groups being more commercially oriented pretty much shoved the Bay Area groups aside, although were a couple of real successes. I don’t include freak groups like the Grateful Dead as commercial successes. Cults are cults.
But to the point, boy, LSD. Owsley Stanley kept the West supplied and how. By the time of Altamont and Stonewall the atmosphere was really foul. And then it got worse still.
About the time of the Redlands bust society and the police were losing their patience. Kesey and Leary had them terrified. The drug thing kept growing. When one says that marijuana was generational it is true only to the extent that a significant minority of the generation smoked it. The hippies were only a small and despised part of the generation but they, we, made a lot of noise and got a lot of notice. Without the radio, rock and corrupt record companies the Movement probably wouldn’t have broken the bounds of Bohemia. But, the time was ripe for the Bohemian conquest of America. That was led from New York, principally by Andy Warhol.
The records made the Bohemian life seem very glamorous. Thus the cops focused on groups where actually the greatest drug activity was located and the propaganda the strongest. As the groups began to make good and even big, very big, money they were the natural prey of the drug dealers. And don’t underestimate the role of LSD. The groups also chose to flaunt their drug use- ‘I’ve got to be free to put anything into my body and life I want to’, disdaining the law, the police and actually common decency. This was the case with the Stones and it’s the flaunting, not the use, that got them in trouble.
In 1967 they naturally were set up. Brian Jones in an interview, barroom chat actually, with News Of The World reporters boasted of his drug use. The journalists then attributed the statements to Mick, whether from ignorance or design I leave to your imagination.
When Mick read the article he was indignant. As I said, while Mick and the rockers thought they were big because of records, radio and TV they were actually socially marginal and not particularly appreciated. Musicians get no respect outside their own circle.
Rather than evaluate his situation, considering that he was doing drugs and everyone knew it thus making him an obvious target, he foolishly brought suit against the newspaper. You don’t have to be brilliant to know News Of The World wasn’t going to let that one fly. Hey! Hey! What’d I say! Mick was sleeping or day dreaming.
The police wanted to get England’s bad boys anyway. There may or may not have been collusion between the News Of The World and the police but the way the raid was conducted indicates there was.
Shortly before the bust some guy named Schneiderman drops from the sky with a brief case reportedly filled with whatever you required. Mick, Marianne and Keith and a couple others, I will mention in the next section, were having an LSD weekend at Keith’s house, the Redlands. Schneiderman insinuated himself into the party with his briefcase while probably being in the employ of the News informed them and they in turn notified the police.
For Schneiderman allegedly having a briefcase full of drugs there were remarkably few drugs in evidence at the bust. Jagger was booked only for possession of four pep pills bought legally in Italy, while Keith had no drug charges at all except for being charged with ‘knowingly’ providing a place where pot was smoked. Robert Fraser actually had heroin jacks of his own on him but Schneiderman produced nothing from his briefcase and indeed no drugs were visible in it when the police required him to open it. No drugs were seen only packaging that were assumed to contain drugs by the Bohemians. In any event he hopped the first flight to elsewhere.
While Marianne had no drugs concealed on her person her situation was the most tragic of all. The Faerie Queen would lose her official status.
When the cops came calling the crowd was of course flipped out on LSD but then that was always the danger; the cops would come calling when you’re least prepared to deal with them. Come on, this was just one of the hazards of using illegal substances. And naturally, you tend to be flippant, wise cracking and mocking. Very bad behavior in such a situation when maximum seriousness is the order of the moment. It’s not like everyone didn’t live in fear of being busted. They used to call it deep paranoia.
Marianne whose clothes had become wet from walking in the rain laid them out to dry dressing in nothing more than some sort of rug wrapped around her. Well, what is one to think of a nude woman amongst a bunch of men; what is this Dejeuner Sur L’herbe redux? Even if two thirds of them were screaming fairies as they were, how is one to know that and what to think?
It was said that Marianne let her wrap slip giving the coppers an eyeful. Of course the cops were square and the gang was hip but squares outnumber hips by a very large margin while as Roger Miller sings: Squares make the world go round. And a good thing too. Roger said that hips have too much water for their land; this was a gathering of pretty watery people. Oh, OK, my people, but folks you have to be realistic. That’s what hip means in my book.
And then someone probably at News Of The World concocted the story that Marianne had a Mars bar slipped between her legs and that Mick was grazing away at it. Preposterous, wouldn’t you think? Boy, now that was a blow that will getcha and you’ll be down for a long time too. As might be expected Marianne was devastated. Boy, that opened a lot of anfractuosities in her brain. A hit like two trains running in opposite directions at top speed on the same tracks over a two hundred foot high trestle. That’s a big crash and a long way to tumble, buddy.
It ended any hope Marianne may have had of appearing on a stage. Can you imagine stepping up to the microphone and being showered with Mars bars. Oh no, no,no, better to board a rocket ship for…oops…Mars.
Marianne and Mick may have thought they were handling it well but the bile and psycho-somatic reactions entering the sub-conscious aren’t so easily dismissed. This horror was merely added to their childhood fixations.
In the turmoil of the months succeeding this mind wrenching event fixations would only worsen. Of course the intent of the establishment was not so much to succeed in jailing them but making an example of them while hopefully destroying their careers. The bust should have been career destroying but for the generational gap. When a teacher chastises a student the other students smirk but don’t disown him. After busting Mick and Keith the establishment then went after the more fragile Brian Jones, the guy who got this whole thing rolling by shooting off his mouth. If the three could have been jailed they wouldn’t subsequently have been allowed to enter the US or so it seemed. No one could have forecast the incredible changes that were about to occur that essentially placed the Stones above the law.
Enter Donald Cammell And His Movie Performance
One reads many amusing reasons for the incredible social disintegration of the sixties. One of the most preposterous to come to my attention is the notion that it was caused by lead poisoning.. There’s a hobby horse for you. While I couldn’t rule it out I think lead poisoning would be among the most obscure of reasons. No, the sixties was no more an aberration than was Hitler’s Germany; like the latter it was the result of long historical development, a part of psychological history.
If one reads a good deal with the purpose of understanding the historical background of the sixties things begin to take form. Then if one tries to make one’s intellect rise and float over the information gleaned from that reading patterns will form, a map of the past will appear. Then of course one notes nodes and axons, connections that require further reading and rereading what’s already been read so that a fair approximation of what happened can be more or less confidently stated. Much of it will be subterranean history that doesn’t make it to the history books.
Such is the psycho-sexual mind set that began to develop oh, say, about from 1890 on which a key node was from 1900 to 1920. Western understanding of the human mind developed fairly rapidly from the mid-eighteenth century rapidly gaining momentum after say 1860 and the spectacular doings at Paris’ Salpetriere mental hospital under the tutelage of the amazing Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot.
While his investigations were of a psycho-sexual nature they were not perceived as such except perhaps by a transient student by the name of Sigmund Freud. Sometime after Charcot’s studies toward the nineties people calling themselves sexologists, sex therapists and sex magicians began to appear.
Along with Freud who might be called a sex therapist two leading figures slightly earlier than he were the German Richard von Krafft-Ebing (1840-1902) and the Englishman Havelock Ellis (1859-1939). In the academic scientific or pseudo-scientific manner all three made their contributions although Freud managed to incorporate their discoveries or understandings into his system acquiring preeminence in the field.
Goerg Groddeck and Wilhelm Reich, two of Freud’s disciples also gained prominence in the sex therapist field.
On the religious or supernatural side the most prominent and influential of the sex magicians was the so-called Magus Aleister Crowley and his organization of the Golden Dawn.
With the exception of Krafft-Ebing all were out to overturn European sexual mores, designated disparagingly as Victorian. Of course there was never a time when men and women didn’t behave sexually because…well, how could they? The real goal then was to disturb prevailing sexual mores and replace them with sexual license. This essentially came to fruition in the 1960s when the influence of Freud and Crowley were at their peak. The two principal cultural nodes of the US, New York and Los Angeles, were flooded with European Jewish émigrés of the Freudian school while Aleister Crowley had established himself and his Golden Dawn in Los Angeles.
The corrosive sexual mores of Freud and Crowley were aided and abetted by the rise of the equally corrosive drug use and, of course, ‘lead poisoning.’
Our next object then is to discover who Donald Cammel might be.
Searching For Donald
Cammell is the central figure in this little drama so we will begin with him although even though the Stones biographers don’t delve into these other characters they are integral to the social scene of Mick, Marianne and Keith. It appears that Brian Jones, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts served a peripherals to Mick primarily and Mick and Keith secondarily. Oldham tried to make himself a third but apparently was incompatible or other interests pulled him in a different direction. By ‘67 he would be out of the picture.
In Marianne’s biography she makes it sound like Cammell was a stranger to the group while actually he was well known to Bob Fraser, and Chrissie Gibbs who were at the Redlands bust and quite familiar with Mick, Keith and Marianne. They all knew each other before the movie began to be filmed.
Cammell was older than the three being contemporary with the first generations of rockers; he was born in 1934 in Scotland. He came from a well to do family immersed in the occult; his father actually knew Aleister Crowley and wrote a biography of him. One may then assume that his father was something of a sex magician as Marianne’s father was a sexologist. It was impossible to escape Freudian influences from at least 1920 through the fifties. So some reference to repression and the unconscious is inevitable.
Cammell’s father was likely familiar with Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis with its emphasis on psychotic sexual practices. All the sexologists and magicians immersed themselves in bizarre sexual practices. If a reader counters that all sex is legitimate it shows how perverted he or she is. No argument from me, we know where each other stands.
As Cammell was born in ‘34, in ‘44 he would have been 10 and 20 in 1954. Thus he would have been aware of the war between the ages of 4, 5, 6, or so and 10 but perhaps in a muddled and uncomprehending manner but in ‘44 and ‘45 he would have been aware enough to partially comprehend. Certainly when the Big Baby turned Hiroshima to ashes in August of ‘45 something would have registered affecting his mind and outlook.
I was 7 in ‘45 and while I have a clear remembrance of VE Day I don’t have any recollection at all of the Bomb or if I do it had little or no significance to me. I have never had a horror of the A-bomb.
Obviously something other than lead poisoning affected the psyches of the crop of kids from ‘33-’34 to 1942-43. It may have had something to do with the total destruction of the world capped by the Bomb. What a terrific exclamation mark to the end of hostilities. What Cammell’s reaction to this destruction was isn’t clear to me while it probably wasn’t clear to himself.
After the war he experienced rationing during the whole of his teen years. He was probably less affected than others as he became prosperous in his teens on his own as a painter. He was successful as a portrait painter. From the pictures I’ve seen he was more than talented while possibly possessing genius. His mind already exhibited an extreme darkness with sexual confusion easily perceived.
Much of the following information comes from web sites such as the fabulous Another Nickel In The Machine that records the history of London, Sam Umland’s 60X50 and many others. I have not read Umland’s biography of Cammell as yet.
Cammell divorced his first wife and then married a very successful model, the American Deborah Dixon, moving to Paris where they both lived. Cammell apparently was supported by his wife.
Bored with painting, not unlike Andy Warhol, he began to take an interest in film. There is nothing like a movie to exhibit one’s sexual fantasies in real life; indeed a movie is a record of the unconscious. Cammell and Dixon were sexually compatible taking an interest in anything remotely copulatory. Cammell’s first few attempts at filmmaking were not successful or, at least, lacked box office magic.
Along with his lack of interest in painting and his attraction to the movies Cammell gravitated toward the pop world of rock and roll seeking out Jagger. Where was a sexual degenerate to turn? The bad boys of Rock, the Rolling Stones, Mick, Keith and Marianne at least. He found Mick and Marianne’s talked about sexual escapades irresistible. He was undoubtedly attracted by Mick’s dope legend also. Mick claims not to have been an excessive user of drugs, which may be true but I doubt there was anyone at the time who didn’t think he was a heroin addict and druggie par excellence.
As an artist Cammell was acquainted with Bob Fraser and that pop art crowd. Both he and Fraser were known to the infamous crime lords, the Kray Brothers. The Krays, of course, were homosexuals as were Fraser and Gibbs. Mick’s legend is that he is bi-sexual, at least, so there is no reason that he wasn’t sexually involved with the bunch in some manner.
Cammell and Fraser also knew the Satanist and sex magician, the American experimental film maker, Kenneth Anger, as did Mick and Marianne. Fraser introduced Anger to the underground film crowd.
In addition Anita Pallenberg knew Cammell from her pre-Brian Jones, Keith Richard days. She was shown the script in the south of France the year before filming began. So, unless I have seriously misread Marianne’s first auto-biography, Cammell didn’t just show up one day with a movie proposal; it was actually old home week.
Cammell did go on to make an additional three or four movies of which I have seen two, Demon Seed and Wild Side. The last movie has escaped my vigilance so far. Wild Side is a virtual remake or variation of Performance. Demon Seed that I will review in an addendum to Chapter 5 is actually a great movie handling a major sci-fi them to perfection.
Just prior to the beginning of filming in 1968 Mick impregnated Marianne. This is 1968 and if Marianne hadn’t been on the Pill she would have had a number of children now in addition to Nicholas her child by John Dunbar. The question then is why she allowed herself to get pregnant at this time. She was still married to Dunbar so one must think he must have suffered humiliation and emasculation to have another man impregnate his wife. Perhaps Mick’s emasculation genes or maybe just a drug haze.
At any rate Marianne was exiled to Ireland while filming was going on. One can only imagine the anxiety she felt separated from her lover in her condition. One doesn’t have to imagine; she suffered a miscarriage.
In 1967 the English director John Boorman had filmed a movie that took
Cammell’s mind by storm. The movie was Point Blank starring Lee Marvin as the protagonist Walker. Cammell recommended that all the cast see the move and bear it in mind. It might be advantageous to review the movie here.
Point Blank was only Boorman’s second effort. Unsuccessful on release it has apparently become a cult classic. His movie is obviously a dream sequence or nightmare. Nothing is real. This indicated by the hero’s name of Walker. He has only one name, no first. No one even knows what his first name could be. The name seemed significant to me but I hadn’t a clue as to what it could mean. Well, you know, when the student is ready the teacher will appear. While writing this piece I was also reading Denis Machail’s 1941 biography of J.M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan. There on page 190 was the explanation of Walker. Barrie had written a play titled Walker, London. That was a telegraphic address. Quote:
Two impudent jokes in one, the second even more mysterious then as it is now. For the word ‘Walker’ is still in the dictionary- “interjection (slang) expressing incredulity and suspicion of being hoaxed” but when was it last used? Not during the present century, one would say; yet before that there was a time when it was the very crystalization of Cockney humor. “Walker!” you said, to show that you could never be caught with chaff. It was the standard answer to the attempted leg pull. It was also one of those blessed with with which any comedian could bring down the house.
So now the viewer knows he is being hoaxed and can suspend belief. The plot involves Lee Marvin as Walker who takes part in a heist then is shot by his partner who runs off with Walker’s share or 93,000 and adding insult to injury Walker’s wife. The rest of the story involves Walker trying to retrieve his money forget the wife. The story is told through a series of frustrations to a paranoid Walker. So, we have a dream study of a frustrated paranoid.
The opening and closing settings are the same; the walking or exercise area inside Alcatraz prison. The joke seemingly being that one walks around and around, never getting anywhere while returning to the same place. Cry “Walker” and then start laughing like a Cockney at the joke.
Alcatraz, the Rock, is of course a small island in the middle of San Francisco Bay between the Golden Gate and the Bay Bridge. Established in 1934 it was closed in 1963, so the filming was done in a closed facility and before the Indians occupied the island claiming it as their heritage. The filming was done, then, in vacated premises.
As a dream story it concerns the psychic life of Walker. It’s all going on inside his head. The prison, castle or house represents the psychic the self so that Walker lives a bleak, barren, paranoid inner life.
A helicopter lands in the enclosure, picks up a package and leaves a bundle of money. Walker and his pal Mal (mal, French for bad) kill the messenger while robbing him. Walker is then examining an empty cell signifying his empty life when Mal with Walker’s wife looking on puts a couple bullets in him leaving him for dead while appropriating Walker’s share of the money and his wife. Thus we have some basic paranoia that, of course, might possibly be true. As his wife would say later, Walker just kind of left her cold.
Left for dead Walker somehow recovers while being compelled to take the only way off the island available to him- swim for it. Another grim joke as legend has it that no one who tried ever succeeded.
The rest of the story concerns surmounting the treachery and double crosses Walker encounters in trying to recover his money. He finds his wife, abandons her and takes up with her sister. While he seems a little obsessive-compulsive in the matter, the money in fact represents his lost identity, purpose in life or masculinity. The recovery of the money is central for his personality.
As in the Cockney joke whenever he shows up people exclaim “Walker!” If you’re in on the joke it might be funny. Angie Dickenson makes up the sex interest as Chris as there is no love interest. Just a four letter word in this movie. The three kingpins Walker must knock down are Carter, Brewster and Fairfax. Ironically Carter and Brewster are disposed of by their own team when Walker’s paranoia protects him while the others take the hit meant for him.
The actual climax takes place in Brewster’s house when Walker and Chris have spent the night together, the only consummated sex in the movie. As Walker is walking out the door Chris asks what her last name is. Walker doesn’t know and neither do we. Walker counters, seemingly weakly, does she know his first name. Either check mate or an uproarious joke to Cockneys. But as Walker in joke is a hoax or a put on then it doesn’t matter anyway. Dreams are like that, they follow a different logic than the waking mind.
The denouement returns to the opening at Alcatraz but now Walker is more canny staying out if sight. The drop is made, Brewster calls to him to come get the money. But, as when Walker was supposed to get the money from Carter, after he survived the assassination attempt, the bundle proved to be waste paper, Walker’s paranoia saves him again. A shot rings out and Brewster takes a long walk off a short pier never to return again. Now enter Fairfax who is the head man and the assassin who shot Carter and Brewster and would have shot Walker. Fairfax shouts Walker several times that in another century would have brought the house down.
Walker’s paranoia prevents him from taking what might be money in the bundle but is probably waste paper so that as the bundle of funny paper represents his ego he is left stranded in the haunted empty house of Alcatraz representing his mind for one presumes the rest of his life.
The movie was a box office failure, except for the few like Cammell but holds up well as a psychological thriller. That is what Cammell saw. So, now, he’s basing his own movie ‘Performance’ directly on Point Blank.
He gathers together essentially the ‘gang’ to make his movie. Even Deborah Dixon took part. He already knew and was friends with James Fox as was apparently Mick, cast as the criminal Chas. Cammell had known Anita Pallenberg in Paris where it is said she formed a brief menage a trois with Cammel and Deborah. Chrissie Gibbs was the set designer…Mick was an old friend, a few outsiders and Cammel had his movie.
Mick sent Marianne to Ireland for the duration. Keith who was shacking with Anita was so unhappy about Cammell’s pairing of Anita with Mick that he found it impossible to visit the set. Instead he brooded outside in his car sending Bob Fraser in to keep tabs until Cammell banned him from the set.
I can’t be sure that Cammell understood the Cockney meaning of Walker but he so admired the character that he based Mick’s role on Walker giving Mick the single name of Turner. No first name. Turner is also meant to be significant. A turner is a sort of acrobat. The word could also be used in the sense of changeling, or perhaps in the homosexual sense or turning a man gay. Turner does turn Chas. from a tough guy to a passive fairy, his sort of changeling. Turner changes the tough hoods into faggots. Probably then that is the meaning of the name. So maybe Cammell was in on the Walker joke.
As the movie is permeated by sex magic and sex as a sort of therapy the influence of Krafft-Ebing, Ellis, Freud and especially Aleister Crowley is very apparent. Kenneth Anger was around at the time while being known to all the participants thus reinforcing the Crowley connection.
All the sex therapists were concerned with aberrant sexual practices that the movie concentrates on. Cammell elaborates the sexual implications of Boorman’s Point Blank, while the decaying mansion obviously represent Cammell’s mind. In the end the sex therapy or magick doesn’t seem to work as Turner turns suicidal obsessed with a death wish.
Boorman’s crime angle comes in through Chas. In order for Fox to appear authentic Cammell actually required him to live the criminal life under the tutelage of a mobster, even to the extent of taking part in actual crimes. Of course, madness is the theme of the movie but even madness can go too far.
Chas. has offended the criminal chief, based on the Kray Bros., who has commanded a man hunt to track Chas. down. When he is located he is summoned to his execution. Turner says: Don’t leave me, take me where you’re going. Chas. says ‘You don’t want to go where I’m going.’ Turner: ‘Yes I do.’ Chas. then blows Turner’s head off, gets into the car and the car drives off, as he looks out the window we see Turners face. Thus the turning or change is complete as each becomes the other.
The version now available for purchase or rental is apparently much different from the original. While even the available version is violent and pornographic the original must have anticipated the current pornographic output of Hollywood . While I wouldn’t call Performance tame almost every movie you see today is as or more explicit. At any rate the movie has no redeeming moral value. If you want porn plain and simple, there it is.
The legend has it that the movie changed the lives of the participants. Perhaps so, but perhaps not. Michele Breton was already a lost child and stayed lost. Anita, no stranger to drugs moved into intense familiarity. James Fox, who was criminally mistreated by Cammell, gave up movies for ten years but he says he was already fed up with the seedy side of movie making so perhaps Performance just capped it. Keith? God, what can you say? Who was going to keep him from drugs? If Cammell was already inclined toward suicide he topped himself off in 1996 finally taking Keith’s advice.
But, now, Mick and Marianne. Mick was advised to play himself but Marianne wisely overruled that advice perhaps saving Mick’s sanity but still leaving him off balance. Marianne advised him to adopt some of the fey characteristics of Brian Jones’ character along with some of Keith’s tough guy stance. Not too difficult as that is the way Mick already appeared but it permanently shifted his personality in that skew. Nevertheless Mick has always remained supremely functional.
As to Marianne, how did she relate to Mick’s rejection of her by sending her to Ireland and the subsequent miscarriage of her child. That is a lot of psychological battering. I think that it is certain that as 1968 progressed she was already in a depression and sinking rapidly. While she was able to hold on for another year or so, by 1969 she would be spinning out of control as further events tested the strength of her mind.