13 Satanic Screen Questions For Nikolas Schreck Interview by Leon Wild, The Ninth Night, Australia
1. How did this book project come about?
I suppose its initial impetus was my realization now and again through the past decades of my involvement in the Black Arts, that the hypostasic figure known as "the Devil" has primarily been shaped by the cinema in this past century. In fact, many of the high points of the modern occult revival have been decisively influenced by popular movies, rather than by serious literature or arcane occult texts, as in centuries past. At the same time, I've always been interested in how "real" magicians have influenced film. For instance, the British magician Aleister Crowley became the prototype for the cinema Satanist in many films in the past seventy years or so, just as the 1960s Satanic renaissance was given form by the film ROSEMARY'S BABY. Most occultists are too self-important to look into the borderline between pop culture and magic, and most film scholars are too uninformed about Satanic subjects to do the job justice, so it seemed that my own peculiar background could supply a unique angle on this unexplored topic.
Although the idea for The Satanic Screen was floating around in my head for a while, it didn't really come into focus until I walked past a film bookstore in my neighborhood in Berlin. For some reason, looking at the titles on display in the shop window, I had a very clear vision of the exact form and direction the book should take - a flash of inspiration - and I started writing it immediately. A year later, I saw the newly published The Satanic Screen in that same bookshop window, which brought idea and reality full circle in a tidy manner that seldom occurs.
2. The still photos really bring this book alive. Were they hard to track down?
Many of them I had already gathered in my private collection previous to the research phase, but my publisher, Creation Books, was instrumental in hunting down some very specific images I couldn't locate myself. The images were chosen very carefully to illustrate key points in the text, and are every bit as important to the total effect of the book as the verbal aspect.
3. Did you mainly work through personal contacts with film makers or through archives?
I would say both were equally necessary.
4. Some of these films have never seen the light(!) of day in Australia. Can you recommend any sources to try and track copies down on video or DVD?
Actually, I adopted the perverse but rewarding policy of doing my best to see as many of the films covered in the book as possible projected on film, rather than on video or DVD. Many of the rarest films were shown to me from private collections and archives. Although I don't doubt the convenience of video and DVD, I consider the proper watching of a film to be a ritual act, best conducted by projecting light on a screen.
5. One element of the book I really liked was the historical interest of the interaction of Satanists and Black Magicians in some of the films. Were these connections hard to track down?
Not particularly, as my life-long involvement with Black Arts circles in America and Europe had already provided me with a wealth of information.
6. Have you been involved with other film projects besides Charles Manson Superstar?
I've been floating around through the film world for most of my adult life, but I must admit that as much as I am drawn to cinema as an art form I am also somewhat repelled by the motion picture "industry" and the kinds of people that one bumps into within that milieu. So it's definitely a love/hate relationship. The various theatrical and documentary films I've begun work on since CHARLES MANSON SUPERSTAR have never come to fruition - sometimes because of reservations on my part, sometimes because of odd mishaps that have occurred. For instance, a film I had scripted and was preparing to direct in 1996 fell through when Tiny Tim, the actor who was cast in the lead part, died. Shortly thereafter, other actors involved in the production, mostly elderly character actors, became ill or died. Finally, the composer I had engaged to write the soundtrack, the veteran musician Les Baxter, suffered a fatal heart attack. By then, I assumed that this film was not meant to happen! The superstitious might take note that the film's proposed title was THIRTEEN. I recently appeared as a Catholic Priest, Father Hubbard, in Curtis Harrington's updated adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's ”The Fall of the House of Usher”, which is simply entitled USHER.
7. What elements make a great "devil film"?
I think that making a judgment of greatness concerning any film is entirely subjective. This couldn't possibly be broken down into a formula. Although I certainly provide my opinion in regard to the various films treated in _The Satanic Screen_, I don't suggest that these are anything but personal opinions, based on my own idiosyncratic tastes.
8. Why does the Devil have all the best films?
I'm not sure I would agree with that statement. Having had to sit through most of the Satanic cinema's product, it seems to me that the lion's share of films about the Devil are mediocre at best. When film-makers have created some of the rare masterpieces on the Satanic theme, this seems to happen because they manage to connect to the archetypal core of the Satanic mythos.
9. Did you have to leave any films out?
I made every attempt to be as complete as possible. but when it came to documenting the tidal wave of diabolic movies produced during the 1970s, for instance, there were so many Satanic films made internationally that it would have been impossible and immensely repetitive to chronicle them all. However, I will try to add some of those films in the expanded second edition, as well as a few obscure films that I only learned of since the book's publication.
10. Do you have any strange stories from meeting some of the people in the book?
I'm probably a really bad judge of what "strange" would be, as I would imagine that my entire existence might strike the majority of people as strange. Suffice it to say that the research phase of the book, which involved interviews with many of the alternately colorful, wonderful, insane and irredeemably vile figures that played a part in the history of the Satanic cinema was nothing less than a long-term magical working, the effects of which are still reverberating in the most peculiar and unexpected ways.
11. What advice would you give to budding "Satanic" film-makers?
I'm not sure there are any budding Satanic film-makers, but if there are, I reckon they need exactly the same skills as any other kind of film-maker. And I would add to that: avoid cliches at all costs.
12. How does this book relate to your recently published book "Flowers from Hell"?
I consider them to be companion pieces in what will eventually be a trilogy of Luciferian gnosis in film, literature, and finally, in history. Just as The Satanic Screen provides a guide to the most important turning points in the Devil's development in the cinematic imagination, Flowers from Hell: A Satanic Reader traces the progress of the literary Lucifer, beginning with selections from Dante's "Inferno" and ending with Michael Aquino's "Diabolicon". Although they can both be read from a strictly cinematic and literary perspective, like all of my work in various media, both books are informed by a magical intention that transcends the outwardly rational, linear presentation.
13. What future directions do you think the role of the Devil in cinema will take?
That depends entirely on world events, and the approach to "Evil" that these events might generate in the masses that make up film audiences. When I wrote the book, I rather optimistically expected that the breakdown of the Christian worldview would lead to more positive, liberating visions of the Devil in films, as suggested by Polanski's THE NINTH GATE, for example. However, since the little incident in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001 CE, public discourse has returned to traditional, simplistic ideas of "Good vs. Evil" in a big way. As I point out in my book, the cinema Devil often takes the form of whatever socially perceived "Evil" is most prevalent at the time. Thus, in the silent era, Hollywood films presented Satan as a suave seductive foreigner - the opposite of All-American puritanism. During World War I, a few films depicted Kaiser Wilhelm II as the Devil, just as Hitler was demonized during World War II and after. In the 1960s, hippies were routinely shown to be Satanists, but in the 1980s and 1990s big business and corporate power was portrayed as a diabolical power. So I wouldn't be surprised if the next wave of cinema devils sport swarthy complexions, long beards and speak with an Arabic accent.