Thursday, 2 January 2014
Devil's Triangle, The (1974)
The seventies! Something weird happened. It was as if there were a metaphorical tear in the fabric of reality on the eve of The Age of Aquarius. This opening of the dimensions inspired, within a generation of proggy, post-hippy, brown-acid casualties, the exploration of crypto-zoology, ley line divination and Chakra balancing. Indeed pseudoscience and mysticism was bread and butter for this motley bunch of hairy, bargain bin, suburban, would-be Shamans. Anyone who doubts that this period was, in fact, the work of the devil, or at least a malevolent spirit, would be advised to look at the big fuck-off collars, the ever-present flowery blue wallpaper that would invariably be contrasted with bright orange curtains and even, at times, lime green paisley sofas, or even listen to an eighteen minute gong solo on one of countless awful, noodly, double albums from the beardy bands of the period. Rest assured, none of this could have possibly been the work of anything that meant humanity well. Anyhow, tempted by the fertile soil within the frazzled brains of those who believed, contrary to the laws of common sense, that if you remembered a period then you could not have possibly experienced it, all sorts of fantastical creatures tumbled through this portal into our world. Bigfoot was one such creature. For a brief period, before punk was able to give this platform shoed world a much needed brothel creeper enclosed boot up the arse, Bigfoot actually existed. That's right! For a couple of years this groovy cat of a hairy dude was being a bummer for “the man”! It all had something to with the pyramids, or possibly Stonehenge or even the Bermuda triangle. This is all a matter of record. It is in the newspapers of the time, it is in scientifically robust books such as Chariots of the Gods and it was even the subject of a number of episodes of the Six Million Dollar Man. Of course, there are some who may remember the period differently. Except, of course, if they remember it, then they weren't there or, erm, something. So, anyhow, we can discount these unreliable witnesses. What has been established as fact, though, is that the Bermuda Triangle is a pretty big area off the coast of Florida. It extends into the Atlantic and way off to the east of Cuba. It's mostly sea, save for a few small islands that will never, in a million years, trouble the latter stages of the football World Cup. Things happen at sea and over a long period a lot of things have happened in this particular bit of the oceans. Spooky things! For a start, people go missing at sea. Or even, to fit the narrative of The Devil's Triangle, on land. For example, the mysterious disappearance of two lighthouse keepers. A plane goes missing, it's the Devil's Triangle! A mutiny on a boat, Devil's Triangle! Lighthouse keepers? Why, The Triangle of course! So on and so on.... All it took was for someone to join the dots. That someone would be Richard Winer. Winer wrote books about the Bermuda Triangle. He also co-wrote this documentary, The Devil's Triangle. Winer even, here, produced and directed the thing. His co-writer on this project was, appropriately, a writer on Star Trek and Fantasy Island. It is not that there is "nothing to see here" in the whole Bermuda Triangle thing. After all, ships and planes do disappear. But, that said, since there is no actual,established, definition of what actually constitutes the triangle, the boundaries are fuzzy at best. This, of course, does not deter Winer. So, the film continues in its fantastical course. It relishes in the little details. Every important person is named. We are told who the ship captains are. But, in the antithesis of Brecht's Questions From a Worker Who Reads, everyone else who vanishes becomes a statistic as we are informed how many are on board each vessel. Indeed, for the sake of sensationalism, this is a film that relishes body counts and ends up balls-deep in such grim detail. But, anyhow, all these matters of facts, and stuff, are neither here nor there. Because this documentary is all about the fantastic. Echo effects are used on voices, there is even a trippy light show and a theme song for King Crimson. The film is, in essence, "factual" filmmaking for post-spacecake Woodstock casualties. It lays on a lot of heavy vibes to titillate and amuse. Indeed, its lack of peer-review becomes clear when, in the later stages, an anthropologist talks into camera about his pet-theory involving magnets and space aliens. By that point it should become clear to even the most decorated cadet of the space academy that Winer is, in fact, taking the piss. Luckily however, this is all worth seeing. Because, the saving grace comes in the form of the narration. For here, the one and only Vincent Price provides the voice-over. This is a man that could recite the ingredients of a risotto and it would still sound compelling. Besides, despite the laughable subject matter, the wooden talking heads and the use of recycled film throughout, the writing has all the charm of the romantic poets. It is delightful. Most of the time, though, we get to look at old footage of planes and boats. Interestingly, there is a scrap of film of a ship captain who carries a cane, is dressed all in white, and with a black bowler hat resembles one of the droogs from A Clockwork Orange. But, on the flipside, some of the footage appears to be of a toy boat. Not that any of this detracts from Price's distinctive, melodramatic mutterings.