Episode 183: Dr. Syn

night_creatures_poster_04Oh, to encounter an integrated minister! We all want to be integrated — to be ourselves in the pulpit and also out of it. But it’s tricky to pull off. Pharisaical elements in the church — usually one or two individuals in the parish, who are present — unconsciously — in order to hide out themselves in some way or another — can’t long abide a minister who is himself or herself.

Most of your listeners love it. But there are one or two who, well, have an allergy. (They are the ones that can get you every time.)

But then along comes someone like ‘Mr. Tryan’ in George Eliot’s Scenes of Clerical Life. He breaks the mold.

Or, somewhat spectacularly, Dr. Syn. Dr. Syn, who was known in the movies as ‘Dr. Bliss’, is just about the most thoroughly integrated Anglican clergyman in history. Could any of us be like him? Dr. Syn is a brilliant swordsman, an agile swinger from church chandeliers, a powerful preacher, a rousing music leader, a crafty smuggler, a loving father, a wily impeder of the taxation and revenue service, and a kindly pastor to his entire flock. He is Robin Hood and ‘Fletcher of Madeley’ rolled into one. Dr. Syn makes one wish to keep on going.

Hope you like him. Maybe we can do a breakout in his honor at Mockingbird. But everyone who comes will need to bring preaching bands, and
a phosphorescent mask.

Episode 184: Hysteria

HysteriaDbThis is about the Godzillas in your life. By “Godzillas”, I mean the giant entities and persons who have taken advantage of you.

Well, hopefully not you, but maybe someone you know.

A writer named Jimmy Sangster (d. 2011) wrote some scripts for Hammer Films that seem to all turn, or almost all turn, on the following premise: Two people who are doing something they shouldn’t be doing conspire to use a third party, an innocent but one who has bumbled into their path, to get rid of a fourth party. It’s an old idea — and ancient situation — but Sangster developed it to perfection. Movies like Scream of Fear (1961), Nightmare (1964), and Crescendo (1970) embody Sangster’s basic idea. Almost my favorite is the one called Hysteria, which came out in 1965.

Hysteria, which pushes the envelope pretty far — and Crescendo, too — sheds light on my life. Movies like Hysteria take “everyday” manipulation and plotting, which you can see in almost every office in the land, and push it to the limit of imagination. Sangster’s movies illuminate daily life, and it’s a shock. Like Hamlet is, when you begin to take in King Claudius’ machinations. Unwitting people are used all the time and without having the slightest idea what’s going on. When they finally do see what’s going on, it’s horrifying. It can actually make you go mad. Like poor ‘Janet’ in Nightmare.

The point of Podcast 184 is to cast some light on a couple of things. But I caution you not to listen to it. You may end up like Janet, or the Stefanie Powers character in Crescendo, bounding down those endless seafront steps in her pumps.