"Let's Try And Not Hack This Up"

Why do people watch TV shows like Showtime's "Masters of Horror"? Why don't they just curl up with a good book, like Justine by the Marquis de Sade? Much as I enjoy being scared out of my wits (though preferably not before bedtime when alone in the house), I do not like depictions of savage cruelty. The proper attitude, I know, it to treat this stuff as a campy joke, saying, "It's so over the top, it's funny." But it's not.

Anyway, given the entertainment industry's current contest to see who can induce the most vomiting among viewers, I was amazed to read in the New York Times that Showtime actually cancelled a film, Imprint, by the "deliberately and spectacularly transgressive" Japanese director Takashi Miike. Why, in this post-censorship age, would a feisty cable channel suppress such a hot property? Not for any good reason, I fear. Take a look at Kehr's plot summary:

In mid-19th-century Japan, an American journalist ... goes in search of the prostitute he has fallen in love with but was forced to abandon. The American's quest leads him to a mysterious island zoned exclusively for dimly lighted brothels, where one procurer, a syphilitic midget, introduces him to a relatively sympathetic prostitute ... Hideously deformed, the right side of her face pulled into a permanent rictus, the nameless woman tells the American the terrible story of what happened to his lover, throwing in at no extra charge the story of her own hideous childhood as the daughter of impoverished outcasts. As the woman's story continues, her revelations, scrupulously visualized, become more and more outlandish, and her descriptions of the violence done to the missing prostitute, who was suspected of stealing a ring from the brothel's madam, become more cruelly imaginative and difficult to stomach. But the most shocking imagery is yet to come, as the nameless woman describes her collaboration in her mother's work as an abortionist.

In other words, it's OK to drool over the agony of grown men and women, and a way-cool director like Miike can even toss in a child or two. But fetuses, forget. There are too many reactionaries in high places who get uptight about that sort of thing.

Still, the good people at Showtime have some moral qualms. Asked why he didn't order more cuts in the film, series executive Mike Garris replied, "It is what it is. It really was, let's try and not hack this up." How nice to know that, unlike human beings, horror films are too precious to mutilate.

January 21, 2006 10:24 AM |



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This page contains a single entry by Martha Bayles published on January 21, 2006 10:24 AM.

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