Nine Days Before. Evening Tele
Now on BBC2 we begin a new weekly series called... Moviedrome.
“My name’s Alex Cox and welcome to the Moviedrome. What is a cult film? A cult film is one that has a passionate following, but does not appeal to everyone. James Bond movies are not cult films, but chainsaw movies are. Just because a film has become a cult movie does not automatically guarantee quality. Some are very bad; others are very, very good. Some make an awful lot of money at the box office; others make no money at all. Some are considered quality film, others are exploitation movies.
“One thing cult movies do have in common is that they are all genre films. For example gangster films, or westerns. They also have a tendency to slosh from one genre into another, so that a science fiction film might also be a detective movie, or vice versa. They share common themes as well, themes that are found in all drama: love, murder and greed.
“Tonight’s first film is Andy Warhol’s Nicely Pink In The Middle. Originally an attempt to film the Antony Burgess novel A Clockwork Orange it predates Stanley Kubricks considerably more successful 1971 version. Originally under the working title Vinyl, the movie is always strange, often challenging. Most interesting are the changes made, most obviously that Alex, the violent and pitiless protagonist is here a woman, not a man. Cut to twenty-three minutes, what is perhaps most intriguing thing is not the story at all, so much as Alex herself. Or her casting. Because the actress, noted only as ‘Roux’ and about whom very little has ever been known, bears a startling, some might say identical appearance, to Alexandre in Milies Le Voyageur De Temps from the early part of the century. One of the earliest science-fiction movies, Le Voyageur De Temps is certainly the first exploration of the time-travel genre, however briefly. The name and the appearance have led many to believe that Nicely Pink In The Middle whilst not explicitly saying so, is at least a homage to Le Voyageur De Temps, and in many ways, albeit hardly sequentially, a sequel. Or about the same character at least. It is fitting then that our second film tonight is... Le Voyageur De Temps.”
Mme Roux sat in a stranger’s chair watched the tele with growing realisation. In her hand the envelope Artie West had handed her. Inside the envelope and headed today, at this time, on this channel the words ‘And you will die’. Whoever’s house this was had not been home for some days. The heating was off. There was nothing fresh in the kitchen. Not that Mme Roux would have cooked. Near to hand she had a plate of microwaved Findus crispy pancakes and a similarly zapped potato waffle. She loved microwaves. They perfectly suited her level of interest in cooking with her abject and artful laziness. She took out her notebook and under the much covered and almost as often crossed-out she wrote, Warhol.
Soho, 1991. All My Droogs
“I adore chestnuts,” said Mme Roux. In the back of the old Bentley she ate from the bag to give herself the strength to change outfits. She was excited, ambitious, a little angry even. A traditionalist at heart who was happy for anyone, anywhere, state, prince or paintbrush to take charge, being executed by a scion of all that was decent was apt to put one towards the dirty. She remembered it, vaguely, like a scene from a film or a play she could not otherwise recall. She peeled another chestnut, delicious. “And Alf, thank you very much.”
The ugly-striking man with his hair and face a little too long asked Mr Susan in the front to drive on, adding to Mme Roux, “That place,” he pointed with his thumb out the back window. “That place’ll show any old shit. Only cost me a double Remy Martin to see you put on. Trick was finding copies of the films. They were under a collection of famous-people’s bicycle bells as it happens.”
“No, for the chestnuts,” she held up the bag but did not offer to share.
“Get the cash?”
Mme Roux had been revealed as a dago-type. Had been executed by Aunt Minerva. Had been revived in an unexpected art house sequel she had set up herself, and stepped from the screen reborn and ready for round two. And Alf wanted his money. She said, “I’ll get it...”
“No, you’ll owe me is what you’ll do, Mrs. Treasure I got.”
“I’d rather not.”
“Then you should’ve paid at the till and not taken on tick, Mrs. And for a start, I’ll call you ‘Mrs’, Mrs.”
Mme Roux shuddered. Then smiled, it was Christmas and she had presents to give. In a bag were clothes more to her style. Dressed still for Nicely Pink In The Middle other dago-types might follow their cinematic theme but Mme Roux had made herself Mme Roux, and Mme Roux did not appear in any films. She said, “Any reason not to just drop me off at Hampstead?”
Alf shook his head, paused, and admitted there was one thing. “Message from that lowlife Artie West,” he said. “Urgent, desperate, important... wants to meet you.”
“Oh, couple of years back now. Bishopsgate way.”
The Hampstead Temple, 1991. Aunt Minerva You Spoil Me
The motorcycle had been parked at the kerb. Kim the valet had been bound, gagged and left in the larder. Mme Roux showed herself into Lord Rockingham’s study. The tree was different and parcels now made a tidy foot about its base. The air was port and oranges. In a cardigan and good corduroy Henry Lord Rockingham had not looked surprised to see her. He smiled his faint smile, a man of good health, still with his youth about him though at a pinch early forties?
“I’ve brought your gift, Henry,” said Mme Roux.
“You’re always so very generous, my darling.”
“And I just love that extra level of superiority that comes from knowing that no harm can come to you, because you know that ultimately it is you that kills me.”
Both eyebrows rose. He did not look towards the long since cleaned rug, nor to the cigar box. She rather admired the old lady’s control. He said and as if in some concern, “Has someone been spreading naughty tales?”
“Henry, please. You killed me. In this room, I remember it. I was there. I’m a dago-type. I had a sequel after all. I am the clever one.”
“Oh dear,” said Henry.
“I would not so insult you. We are adversaries after all, you and I. Aunt Minerva and the scratch. I regret its necessity but no, I would do it again my darling.”
The Little Tramp entered. Still in his folded leathers he had added sunglasses. Over one shoulder he now carried Henry’s golf bag. In it a good selection of brollies, walking sticks and canes. At his appearance Lord Rockingham closed his eyes. He opened them again still thoroughly composed. Mme Roux said, “There is no need for Aunt Minerva, if ever it was anything more than your own invention, a myth to excite and recruit, control and manipulate people. Film and photography won’t last. The dago-types will be rarer, and they will dwindle and be gone. A passing thing, an interesting myth, a ticklish legend. And so very few are like The Little Tramp, or Norvell, or Arthur. Most are bit parts. Kitchen-sink lonelies and one-liners. A few, a very few, have more purpose. I suppose as much, I don’t really know. None of us do. We don’t call it the scratch and we don’t know what we are. But most of us, them, are just frightened, fading little images. So I’m going to take the mirror from you Henry,” said Mme Henry. “And all the quiet lift men and char ladies, the nodding hole-diggers and bus drivers, they can have their little bit of mirror this Christmas. And as times and technology change, they’ll have that little bit of themselves, and perhaps they won’t fade.”
“I see,” said Henry. “You expect me to just give it to you?”
“No Henry, I shall take it. I don’t want it as a gift. It is important to me that it is yours. You were given it, it was handed to you. You used it and concerned yourself with the scratch. You elected yourself the Prefect of the Chevalier Dammes Blanche by consequence. You are the last of them, the last hermit-knight. Tell me, how long is it since you last left the house?”
“A number of years...” he admitted.
“I thought so. I’m sure it rather appeals to you, the hermit-knight. The implication of duty. Repentance, perhaps absolution.”
“I see, how lovely of you. You are not then going to kill me?”
“I most certainly am not. What sort of a person do you think I am? A murderer indeed!”
“And your friend The Little Tramp who if memory serves is not so particular?”
“Is going to find them for me, over all the many Christmas eves. A piece of mirror in a stocking, or a sock, and probably with a hole in it for the toe. If you attempt to interfere with my fetching of the mirror pieces he will cripple you, unman you I believe would be his preference?”
Henry Lord Rockingham went to where amongst the decanters he had a rather special seventy-year malt. He did not offer to share, but did raise his glass. “I’ll get all old and horrid you know, my darling” he said.
“I doubt that very much. You are likely to have a very bad Christmas.” Returning to the door she opened it, turned back, and said, “I’ll see you again Henry. Sadly for you this is where we part. Good night to you Prefect of the Chevalier Dammes Blanche. It’s all been rather lovely.”
“I rather think so too, my darling.”
“And Henry?” said Mme Roux.”
Christmas Morning, 1991. From Bode With Love
He ate his egg, three and a half minutes, in the cup with the thin blue band. His affairs were in order. He had thanked Kim for his loyal service and paid him off handsomely into retirement. He had bathed and shaved early. He had dressed with care. He had ignored the knocking on the door, so too the sound of its breaking. He set aside his spoon and reached for the napkin. The only light other than the fire in the grate and the bulbs on the tree were three red spots that fidgeted about his chest. Three masked men in one-piece black and armoured vests stood about him. Henry did not move other than to raise both hands, in surprise or surrender.
So they remained to the ticking of the clock. At length a mummy was delivered by wheelchair. The eyes bright, his one hand pressed to the chin. He smiled. He was ghastly. One of the men in black let his gun fall on a sling as he stepped behind Henry. There was a rustle and then darkness as a bag was drawn tight about Lord Rockingham’s head.
The Graf Imric Von Bode said, “You were the Prefect all along, in Berlin. After.”
Henry just about able to speak supposed that he was. He simply could not be bothered to deny it to someone who would believe nothing otherwise. He dabbed at his covered mouth with his napkin, the action earning him a terrible few moments of suffocation. He said when he could, “You... resent that?”
“His name was Karl. He was a loyal retainer of Bode. Because of you Bode has lost many such loyal followers. You are the Prefect of the Chevalier de Dammes Blanche. You carry the blood on your hands of my grandfather, the old Graf. But more than that, you should not have set your Finns on my man.”
I Lied About The Dinosaur
They sang carols about the tree in Trafalgar Square, a voice hundreds strong and somewhere between the tune and the singing it all evened out. Mme Roux hidden in flared coat and a vast hat tapped a toe both in time and irritation.
Close by Alf Bittersweet checked the time, an hour to go. He said, “You like all this, Mrs? All these people, all this singing, god, angels, little babies?”
Mme Roux chuckled. “I could eat,” she said.