spider-baby 2   spider_baby 1


“Maybe you’ve seen her: a girl-child in a heavily soiled nightdress, creepy-crawling on her belly through a garden of toadstools in the yard beside an old dark house. She is ‘The Sixties’–in all its promise and eventual deformity–coming into being, coming up from underneath.”

  — the opening paragraph of “A Child’s Garden of Flies: Jill Banner’s Deadly Spider Baby”, an essay by CHUCK STEPHENS about B-movie actress Jill Banner, best known for Jack Hill’s 1964 creep-fest “Spider Baby”  (written for the magazine “Film Comment” [Jan/Feb 1915, Volume 51, Number 1])

Writer and essayist Chuck Stephens is a Contributing Editor to Film Comment magazine, former West Coast Editor of Filmmaker, and has written for the Village Voice, Cinema Scope, San Francisco Bay Guardian, Interview, and numerous publications around the world. He is also a longtime contributor to projects, and has authored numerous essays for laser discs and DVDs in The Criterion Collection.


The man who fell to earth 1




The man who fell to earth 2

“Somewhere in the sky, possibly directly
Where he was looking, was his home planet of Anthea.
A cold place, dying, but one for which he could still
Be homesick; a place where there were people whom
He loved, people whom he would not see again for a
Very long time…”

– from the novel “The Man Who Fell To Earth“, by Walter Tevis

Landscape with the fall of Icarus

“…In Breughel’s ‘Icarus’, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.”

— an excerpt from the poem “Musee des Beaux Arts”, by W.H. Auden
(inspired by the painting “The Fall of Icarus” by Peter Bruegel)


In 1975, when Screenwriter Paul Mayersberg and filmmaker Nicholas Roeg adapted Walter Tevis’ Science Fiction novel “The Man Who Fell To Earth” to the screen, they often deviated from the novel in order to bring out certain nuances to the characters.

There is one scene in particular, a small but beautiful little sequence that used both Auden’s poem and Bruegel’s painting to foreshadow the main character–an alien who has come to Earth in order to save his own planet from a devastating drought–and his noble but doomed attempt to design a spaceship that would be able to bring enough of Earth’s abundant water supply back to his own decimated world  and rejuvenate it back to health.

I wish I had a clip to tie everything together, but unfortunately you’ll have to see the film. For me, it’s definitely worth checking out.


Donald Cammell, a little-known but brilliant filmmaker, achieved legendary cult status as the screenwriter and co-director (with Nicholas Roeg) of the film masterpiece “PERFORMANCE”, starring James Fox, Mick Jagger and Anita Pallenberg. While none of his other films ever equaled the same legendary status, each of them displayed the marks of a true visionary.

The son of poet and writer Charles Richard Cammell, he initially came to predominance as a remarkable portrait artist. He made a substantial living (and became a renowned character of the Swinging London Scene of the 1960’s) painting portraits of the top echelon of London Society. 

It was around this time that he became bored with painting and found a new obsession: the cinema. After having several screenplays of his made into very mediocre films, he vowed only to direct his own work. This led him on a lifelong whirlwind of up’s and down’s. Not unlike the career of one of his idols, Orson Welles, he spent the remainder of his life battling studios and producers, who always managed to take his films away from him and re-cut his unique vision into Swiss-cheese pulp.

Besides ¨Performance¨, his other films include¨The Demon Seed¨ (starring Julie Christie), ¨White of the Eye¨ (featuring David Keith and Cathy Moriarty), and ¨The Wild Side¨ (with Christopher Walken and Anne Heche). He also directed the ¨Pride (In the Name of Love)” video for U2.

In 1996, fed-up and suicidal, he shot himself in the head (not unlike the main character of his sole masterpiece, “Performance”). The world would never see another film of his that showcased his unique cinematic gifts.

Before his death, he submitted to SIGHT & SOUND magazine a list of his favorite films:


“The Conformist” (1969 – Bernardo Bertolucci)
“Ivan The Terrible¨ (1942 – Sergei Eisenstein)
“Naked” (1993 – Mike Leigh)
“Dr. Strangelove” (1963 – Stanley Kubrick)
“Nouvelle Vague” (1990 – Jean-Luc Godard)
“Tokyo Decadance” (1991 – Ryu Murakami)
“Blade Runner” (1992 – Ridley Scott)
“Throne of Blood” (1952 – Akira Kurosawa)
“The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” (1972 – Luis Bunuel)