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Silent Snow, Secret Snow

March 24th, 2011 by unkle lancifer · 14 Comments

First of all, allow me to suggest that if you are up late at night looking for something to watch, yet you feel you can’t commit yourself to an entire film, then the answer to your dilemma is NIGHT GALLERY on Hulu. So there, THAT possible future problem is solved. I know because that is exactly the position I found myself in the other evening and I wish I had just jumped into GALLERY earlier rather than wasting so much time being indecisive. The episode I viewed contained a segment that was perfect for throwing my brain a bone to gnaw on as it closed up shop for the night. I’m talking about season two, episode five “The Phantom Farmhouse/Silent Snow, Secret Snow.” “Phantom Farmhouse” is fine enough but it’s “Silent Snow” I want to trudge through here.

Actually for more on that NIGHT GALLERY segment, just jump on over to the always necessary HAUNTED CLOSET over HERE ( & watch it HERE!), that way I can focus on an earlier version (‘66) that I found which is of equal interest. It can’t boast an ORSON WELLES narration and the acting may be a bit off but what it lacks in polish it makes up for with sheer creepiness. As it turns out both tellings were directed and adapted by the same guy GENE R. KERNEY so don’t feel you’re stepping on toes if you prefer one to the other. The NIGHT GALLERY version is certainly slicker but who can deny the unquestionable emotional power of black and white? Check it out in two parts below…

NOTE: The end kinda cuts off the final line: “We’ll tell you the last most beautiful and secret story. A story that gets smaller and smaller, that comes inward, instead of opening like a flower. It is a flower that becomes a seed, a little cold seed. Do you hear? We are leaning closer to you…”

How about that? It’s like an after school special directed by DAVID LYNCH with a casting assist from JOHN WATERS. It’s wild how closely it resembles the later version yet has a distinguishable vibe all it’s own. After viewing both renditions I thought I’d read the original 1934 CONRAD AIKEN story too (find that HERE). The story ends with this even more provocative line: “The hiss was now becoming a roar-the whole world was a vast moving screen of snow-but even now it said peace, it said remoteness, it said cold, it said sleep.” Like the snow it speaks about, I couldn’t get the story itself out of my head. What is going on here? Is the kid going crazy and if so, why does crazy sound so fucking great to me? I sense that I should be feeling a dread that the protagonist is slipping away from reality and yet the words used are so exuberant that I can’t help mentally congratulating the child on successfully adopting the fine art of escape.

I’ll blame the world for my reaction, disasters both natural and man-made, a twisted soulless culture that worships the blatantly superficial, pure hate masquerading as morality …VICTORIA JACKSON. Ah, the snow, is the snow really so bad in comparison? The snow truly is beautiful and clean and it washes it all away. Some folks rashly believe that the kid in the story is buckling under advancing schizophrenia (or autism), but I just see a good ol’ fashioned dissociative disorder galloping up to save the day. School sucks and that child wasn’t born to entertain his parents, why not take a little snowy holiday in his brain? Am I just playing Devil’s advocate when I say that there’s not much wrong here and what a lucky dude for finding a trap door? If you ask me, it’s as beautiful as a Tommy Ross poem. O.K. so there’s a scary PINK FLOYD “Comfortably Numb” element as well, but did someone say sleep? Sleep sounds nice. Maybe it’s me but I detect a valiant rejection of the mundane, a refusal to accept the norm and the understandable desire to commission beauty to counteract an ugly world. Reality shmeality I always say. No, serious I do always say that.

Truth told I had my own “secret snow” as a kid. On a trip to Universal Studios I discovered a machine that when activated with a quarter poured hot red wax into a mold and after a couple minutes of cooling, dispensed a too fragile, wax Frankenstein figurine. Now this was in grade school when horrible children brattier than even myself would call me Frankenstein because I had a scar on my forehead so this figurine doubled as an identity totem. Whenever a situation got scary or worse, lethally boring, I simply imagined a hole on the top of my head and red wax being poured into my body. It would start in my toes and rise until it started spilling out of the crown of my head. Another problem solved! While filled with my imaginary wax I could bare just about anything and the problems of the day would Calgon blur away. Oh, Frankenstein figure why’d you have to go and break into pieces? I guess I could have survived without my secret but is there anything more important than finding something in life that allows you to forge a private alliance with yourself? It’s entirely possible that I am missing the whole point of the story, on the other hand the snow falling on my keyboard is encouraging me to think whatever I like.

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Tags: Book Reports · Caution: I break for geniuses! · My own personal Jesus · The Seventies mushed my head · Tykes in Trouble




14 responses so far ↓

  • 1 TaylorNo Gravatar // Mar 24, 2011 at 9:56 am

    Great write-up. I’m a big fan of the Night Gallery version…I’m going to watch the older one as soon as I’m not at work.

  • 2 Brother BillNo Gravatar // Mar 24, 2011 at 9:56 am

    Wow! Had no idea the Night Gallery version (which I adore) was a second draft of sorts… “Silent Snow, Secret Snow” is one of many scary and/or Twilight-Zoney stories that I was introduced to in English Lit class in jr. high or high school…(and it was a bit of a relevation to find these kinds of cool stories were considered important enough to study in school.) I’m thinking of stuff like “Turn of the Screw”, “The Yellow Wallpaper”, “A Rose for Emily”, “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, “Where are you going, where have you been”, “The Rocking Horse Winner”, “The Lottery”, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”, “The Ones who Walk Away from Omelas”, “The Tell-Tale Heart”, etc.

  • 3 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Mar 24, 2011 at 10:23 am

    Taylor,

    Just in case it ever disappears from Youtube, you can download the 66 version (free & legally) here…

    http://www.archive.org/details/silent_snow_secret_snow

    It’s really interesting comparing the two versions!

    Brother Bill,

    You just named so many of my favorite stories…

    “Turn of the Screw”, “The Yellow Wallpaper”, “Where are you going, where have you been”, “The Rocking Horse Winner”, “The Lottery”, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”, “The Tell-Tale Heart”,

    I have not read these three: “A Good Man is Hard to Find” “The Ones who Walk Away from Omelas”, “A Rose for Emily” but considering the company you put them in they are now musts.

    At first I took SS,SS much like “The Yellow Wallpaper” as sort of a downward spiral but there’s something about it now that I find liberating, like an ecstatic dismissal of the ordinary.

    I think the director did an excellent job on both and I love catching the visuals that he carried from one to the other like the seashell and the chandelier. Beautiful work from the guy who directed “Night of the lepus” !?!

  • 4 cmcmcmcmNo Gravatar // Mar 24, 2011 at 10:47 am

    Unk, I wish I could rent a room inside your brain.

  • 5 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Mar 24, 2011 at 10:51 am

    Cmcmcmcm,

    There’s plenty of empty space! Just ignore the cobwebs and seventies decor!

  • 6 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Mar 24, 2011 at 10:55 am

    BTW, Yesterday I was happy to find a picture of my wax Frankenstein buddy on Flickr…

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/webmikey/22265807/

  • 7 Chuckles72No Gravatar // Mar 24, 2011 at 11:26 am

    Brrrr… Victoria Jackson….

  • 8 Jami JoAnne RussellNo Gravatar // Mar 24, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    The NG version was the first I saw and freaked me out so much I looked it up, then found the book and read it. If I remember correctly the reason why people think the boy is going scizo is because IRL Conrad’s father went nuts, killed his wife, then shot himself.

  • 9 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Mar 24, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    JJR,

    You’re right, I read that too about his father going nuts and killing his wife and then himself. I think that IS why people believe the story may be about his fear of going down the same hole.

    I’m wondering though if maybe after such a tragedy Aiken had to learn a way to shut the world off and the story describes his first hand knowledge of how to voluntary withdrawal from the world when needed?

    I guess my resistance to thinking the kid is schizophrenic is that I found myself relating to the story so much and remember feeling a similar sense of alienation as a kid!

    I’m also swayed by the way the parents and Doctor are presented as sort of hovering and prodding. I almost get the feeling that the kid is being attacked for being too quiet and having an inner life.

    Anyway, I’m glad that like you I went and read the story too because it adds another level of detail and it’s one of those stories, like the others that Brother Bill mentioned, that you can look at from a multitude of angles.

  • 10 knobgobblerNo Gravatar // Mar 24, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    Wow! I’d never seen that B&W version but I much prefer it to the Night Gallery version. It’s more minimal and stark… less like a comfortable TV show with that familiar back-lot scenery… less intrusive music.
    Another great example of why I prefer my horror low-budget and without familiar faces/voices.

    Thanks for pointing that one out!

  • 11 TaylorNo Gravatar // Mar 25, 2011 at 9:06 am

    I was able to watch the older version last night, and I also like it more than the Night Gallery version (nothing against the NG one, nor against Lil’ Kung Fu as the kid).

    The older one makes me think of Night of the Living Dead…Maybe just because that’s the movie of that era and aesthetic that I’ve seen the most so it was bound to pop into my mind while experiencing the cheap (but beautiful) photography and library music of SS,SS.

  • 12 TaylorNo Gravatar // Mar 25, 2011 at 9:13 am

    Oh, and I almost forgot to mention: of the stories that Brother Bill mentioned (that I’ve read), “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” is easily my favorite. It’s so wonderfully weird, and dreamlike without tipping too much that it might actually be a dream. Thinking about it now, though I haven’t read it in years, I’d probably put it in my top ten of short fiction.

  • 13 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Mar 25, 2011 at 9:39 am

    Knob,

    You’re right about that back-lot thing! I never used to notice that before but now I seem to be hyper aware of it.

    It’s like the thunder crack that is used over and over again on shows from that time period. How did I never notice it was the same one over and over again?

    Taylor,

    It really does feel like NOTLD and the contrast of the snow and the darkness is just perfect for B&W. I think the NG version is an upgrade in the acting department and the final “snow-down” is more impressive in scale

    but yeah, there is something more natural and gritty about the earlier version that really works. To me, it almost looks like an old pile of creepy family photos. My mom wore glasses like that!

    BTW, Big fan of “Where are you going, Where have you been?” Me and amanda Reyes spent a bunch of time talking about that story semi recently.

    Have you ever seen “Smooth Talk” with Laura Dern which is based on it?

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090037/

    I think David Lynch just transfered her character from that movie right into Blue Velvet!

  • 14 Michael WilliamsNo Gravatar // Mar 25, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    Thanks for the Night Gallery on HULU tip. I remember this story from when I was a kid and it still creeps me out.

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