Heimlich Maneuvers: On a Certain Tendency of Horror and Speculative Cinema
by Harvey Greenberg
September 7, 2001
Movie monsters first appear as terrifying, destructive, and often malevolent creatures. In sequels, however, they regularly reappear as (1) figures of fun; (2) mascot-like friends of children; or (3) omnipotently benevolent protectors, often under the guidance of children. Many monsters over many decades under widely varying cultural circumstances undergo this mellowing, rooted in fairy tale and folklore. There are the humorous sequels to the classic 1940s Frankenstein, Dracula, and Wolf Man movies that introduce Abbott and Costello or the Three Stooges. In the 1950s Godzilla/Toho Studio films, a kinder, gentler Godzilla saves the world from destruction, supervised by the inevitable boy with a baseball cap. Terminator II recasts Schwartzenegger's malevolent juggernaut as the protector of a child. Using psychoanalytic understanding of child development and insights derived from anthropology and narrative theory, I offer an interpretation of this phenomenon.
"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe . . . attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion . . . I've watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate . . . all those moments will be lost in time . . . like tears in rain. "
|Roy Batty in Blade Runner (1982)|
Dissatisfaction with the psychoanalytic study of horror cinema1 echoes earlier complaints about the naive reductionism of applied psychoanalysis. I have elsewhere stated that analytically oriented film criticism should ideally encompass knowledge of the medium's history, technology, and aesthetics; mastery of other critical strategies; and renunciation of the illusion of definitive interpretation through psychoanalytic means alone.2 The psychoanalytic film scholar does best illuminating: "The text, the characters, and the subtext of a film as well as the way in which an audience experiences it . . . aims are to be psychoanalytically valid and internally consistent."3 Pace Carroll et al., I believe this genuinely `applied analysis' enriches rather than vitiates one's appreciation of the horror film's often oneiric beauty.
An abundant literature4 has probed horror cinema's evocation of those mysterious creeps prized by hopeless buffs who cheerfully disrupt hectic schedules to catch a Corman cheapie at some distant fleapit, or awaken a dismayed spouse to the dubious pleasures of an hour-of-the-wolf TV viewing of Caltiki, Immortal Monsters (1959).
The stuff which spurs the idiosyncratic frissons of the uncanny is conventionally perceived as gothic -- nocturnal graveyards, haunted castles, and so forth. However, the genre is especially adept at exploiting a latent eeriness in prosaic locales and objects (e.g., the huge carnivorous ants of Them! [l954]; the homicidal roadster of Christine [l983]; the demonically possessed Chucky doll of the Child's Play series.)
The dread lurking within the quotidian evokes Freud's well-known observation that intimations of the Uncanny always arise from known quanta.5 This essay interrogates an intriguing reversal of the trope, a metamorphosis of "unheimlich" (Freud's "uncanny") into "heimlich" (the intimate, comfortable, or, closest to "heimlich," homely). Movie monsters are transformed into 1) figures of fun; 2) friends and/or protectors of children, their relatives, friends, et cetera; 3) recipients of concern or protection by children, to whom monsters relate in a mascot-like fashion; 4) omnipotent protectors/rescuers of humanity at large. The rehabilitated creature may reflect one, some, or all of these "heimlich" maneuvers.
Jeffrey Cohen states that "the monster is a genus too large to be encapsulated in any conceptual system"6. Monsters are sui generis polysemic, ambivalent figures: liminal, defying boundaries and categories, generating an infinite regress of contestation and interpretation -- e.g., the creature as agent of social oppression (THX 11138's [l97l] Oscar-like robocops; the creature as Byronic rebel against tyrannical authority (Blade Runner's [l982] defiant replicants). One is therefore even warier of simplistic hypotheses about the highly overdetermined psychological and cultural underpinning of the monster's heimlich transformations.
Antecedent Heimlich Maneuvers in Oral Traditions and Literature
The movie monster is only the latest in the long procession of ogres, demons, werewolves, vampires and other children of the night who haunt spoken and written tales from every tribe and nation, time and place. Chronicles of monstrous deeds are countered by the fewer stories in which the creature is neutralized or converted to respectable behavior. Space permits only a brief overview of "heimlich" maneuvers in myth, folklore, and fairy tale. In most heimlich transformations of folklore, an unredeemed monster is rendered impotent and ridiculous through bluff, boast, deception, or magic. Adult heroes of these narratives possess scant power or prestige; alternately, the protagonist is a child or youth usually of poor degree.
In a Baltic variant of numerous "stupid ogre" tales, the hero tells an ogre that gilding his beard will make him irresistibly beautiful. After giving his name as "nobody", "anybody", or "such-a-one", the hero dips the creature's beard in tar and escapes, leaving his opponent glued to the tar-kettle. The enraged ogre wanders the land, still stuck to his kettle, provoking scornful laughter when he asks the whereabouts of -- "nobody."7
In other stories the villain is Death, the Devil, or a similar demonic figure. He is as obtuse as the ogre, and he is likewise gulled to general merriment. A common tale of this type describes a blacksmith who sells his soul in return for becoming a master at his trade. A heavenly character (Jesus, Gabriel, and so forth) gives the smith a magic tree and bench to which people will stick, and a knapsack that swallows up anyone in the vicinity. The smith persuades his demonic adversary to sit on the bench or touch the tree, then flees. Alternately, the magic knapsack swallows up the demon; the smith pounds the sack on an anvil until his howling opponent promises to void their contract.8
Tales in which monstrous beings permanently surrender their evil powers to do good are uncommon. The Devil can sometimes be a cunning helper or ally, but his evil nature remains unchanged. A witchlike figure of Teutonic mythology travels the night punishing lazy women. In Grimm's version she becomes an ugly crone, "Frau Holle", who rewards a scapegoated stepchild with a shower of gold after the girl industriously cares for her house. The heroine's indolent sister, dispatched by an envious mother to duplicate the "good" stepsister's fortune, shirks her domestic chores. Frau Holle rewards her with a shower of pitch, which clings to her forever.9 A demon's unambivalent heimlich transformation occurs in various "Robert the Devil" narratives popular during the medieval period. In the essential tale, a woman appeals to Satan after petition to heaven brings no relief from barrenness. The Devil impregnates her with a monstrous infant, Robert, who promptly slays his nurses. After numerous nefarious adult crimes he is finally freed from his father's evil influence by conversion to Christianity, accompanied by stringent acts of repentance.10
The "Wild Man", another staple character of eldritch folklore and subsequent written tales, is the ogre's worthier cousin. An early prototype is Enkidu of the Gilgamesh ur-myth, a savage berserker who befriends the hero after a titanic battle. The Wild Man's appearance is frightening; exuberant hairiness is a stigmata of his feral quasi-human condition. His speech is as uncouth as his demeanor; sometimes he's incapable of language. Although his actions can be threatening, dangerous, even lethal, he is not fundamentally evil -- simply untutored in civilized deportment like the Frankenstein creature.
The Wild Man may be delineated as a thoroughgoing Caliban. But his terrifying exterior more often conceals a sensitive, compassionate disposition, especially in the "Beauty and the Beast" narratives of Indo-European origin, as popular today as centuries ago (e.g. the underground beast-man of the l976 TV series; James Bond's Jaws. The Beast's noble nature is matched by high birth and handsome form, both constrained by enchantment. A pure maiden's love is required to break the spell and liberate the heimlich inner man.
Companionship between monster and child is rare in folklore and old fairy tales. Hansel and Gretel's Wicked Witch or Jack and the Beanstalk's giant treat youngsters as fodder rather than friend. One of the few mutually beneficial child/monster affiliations, involving another Wild Man, occurs in an Iron Hans body of tales from German and Slavic folklore (inter alia).
The Grimms' Iron Hans story is curiously evocative of Terminator II's plotline: for years, huntsmen and dogs vanish from the forest near a king's castle. The king discovers they are being slaughtered by a Wild Man living at the bottom of a pond. He is captured; taken to the castle and confined in an iron cage. The king's small son liberates him, and the two leave. "Iron Hans" promises to be the prince's surrogate parent and omnipotent benefactor. The grown Prince survives a series of picaresque adventures with Iron Hans' secret help; wins the hand of a lovely princess. The wedding festivities are interrupted by the arrival of a mighty monarch with his retinue. He embraces the prince, reveals he was transformed into Iron Hans through an evil spell. Now released, he pledges to give the Prince "all the treasures that I possess".11
Compared with their predecessors, monsters of contemporary fairy tales are usually loving towards children. Their heimlich transformation betokens the modern writer's rejection of that summary cruelty which scholars believe may have reflected the actual harsh treatment meted out to children within and outside their families in earlier times. An egregious sadism towards the vulnerable young also pervades numerous cautionary stories by Grimm, Anderson and subsequent Victorian authors towards the construction of `a pedagogy of fear'.12
A charming heimlich conversion occurs in There's a Nightmare in My Closet, by Mercer Mayer.13 A little boy decides to confront his bedtime anxiety, personified by a gruesome apparition lurking in his closet. The monster turns out to be a timorous hulk reminiscent of Bert Lahr's Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz (1939). The boy ends up consoling his nightmare and taking it to bed.
Maurice Sendak's oeuvre is informed by a profound psychological savvy about the vicissitudes of childhood aggression and the healing power of fantasy. Sendak's Where The Wild Things Are14 definitively repudiates the monster as a punitive figure. Little Max, sent to his room because of his "wild" deeds, is identified with the goofy ogres of his imaginary island, whom he tames with a piercing glance and an arresting demand to "Be Still!!". He is promptly appointed chief, and leads them in an uproarious `wild rumpus'. They are prostrate with grief when he sails back to the recuperated comforts of his bedroom, reassured that being "bad" wasn't so bad after all.15
The gruesome families of myth and folklore are no more friendly to child or mankind than solo monsters of yore; Beowulf's Grendel and his merciless beldam are as devoted to each other as the cannibal clan of Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), or the murdering mutant family of The Hills Have Eyes (1978). Their relationship with humans, however, always remains utterly malignant. Unlike the Munsters, Goldilocks' bear family has no desire to share food, home, or lifestyle with the human community. One of the few monstrous families of earlier fiction to have friendly, if occasionally disastrous commerce with humanity because of their Brobdignagian stature is the Gargantua family of Rabelais' satire.
The Sympathetic Monster:
I have previously divided film monsters into "sympathetic" and "unsympathetic" categories. Unsympathetic monsters evoke little if any empathy, because of their repellent inhumanity of form as well as an absolute divorce from human concerns (e.g., Alien's [l979] chimeric metamorph).16 Monsters with heimlich possibilities clearly belong to the sympathetic lineage. Of these, the humanoid majority evokes empathy by virtue of embodying in statu nascendi a familiar stage of human development or constellation of conflict.
The fewer sympathetic animal-like movie monsters with heimlich potential re-invent diverse beasts of folklore or fairy tale who magically display human attributes. Anthropologist Judith Goldstein observes that such figures reflect a unique accessibility of animals for displacement of negative or positive human qualities, particularly in a child's mind. Some "positive" fairy-tale animals are initially benevolent; others -- usually feral hybrids -- relinquish their beastly behavior and appearance when a spell is broken, frequently under the sway of love.17
Humor and the Heimlich Maneuver
Like their fairy-tale predecessors many movie monsters possess innate humorous capability because of a generic excessiveness. Whether heimlich or unrehabilitated, their extravagant size, grotesqueness of shape, awesome energy, and freedom from social constraint articulate variably to energize that boisterous Rabelasian spirit of playfulness which -- according to Bakhtinian theory -- drives the rituals of Carnival.18
Freud argued that humor functions as a reverse zoom from harsh reality -- enabling the mind to master external mishap by facilitating healthy objectivity.19 Based on his insight, one theorizes thtat humor in an unheimlich monster movie, as well as humor paradoxically kindled in receptive viewers by the monster's onslaughts, helps master inner psychological trauma. One further conjectures that the spectator's traumatic anxiety is related to the arousal of those once surmounted early beliefs which, according to Freud, underpin intimations of the uncanny.20
Thus, from a comfortable seat one mocks and gibes, in a brief illusory triumph over distorted infantile or primitive or collective concepts about the origins of life and death `processed' by the horror scenario; ultimately, over the grim truth of mortality itself. And, one laughs at atrocities being inflicted onscreen by the monster upon others, not oneself.21
Besides betokening the endeavor to master resurrected fears, the peculiar mirth-amidst-screaming of horror movie viewers may also arise from satisfaction of the audience's childhood delight in wreaking pure havoc,22 as well as gratification of darker unconscious desires. Quotidian horror fare's exuberant, grotesque Bakhtinian thrust (e.g. the hilarious, lethal hijinks of the eponymous Gremlins [l984]) is raised exponentially by the "gross-out" film so favored by teen-age audiences, with its bloody celebration of perverse fantasy.23
A common type of wit expressed by characters of films with unheimlich creatures is ironic, essentially peripheral to the chief business of showing the monster's threat and elimination. The protagonists' humor allows them (and viewers by proxy) to step back from the horrors at hand, mitigating fear before the creature's attack (e.g., the pervasive banter of the intrepid airmen and their colleagues, while fighting off the vampiristic Carrot-man of The Thing From Another World (1951).
The following summaries recount benchmark recuperations of the monster in mainstream film and television over the past sixty years. Readers doubtless will free associate to others.
Classic Universal Studio Monsters
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) is seminal to the movie monster's rehabilitation. After the independently produced The Noose Hangs High (1948) did poorly at box offices, the slapstick duo returned to Universal Studio, site of their greatest hits. Searching for new material, producer Robert Arthur realized that Universal still owned rights to the Frankenstein story. Arthur set about reinventing the l93l gothic classic in a comedic vein. Dracula and the Wolf Man were added later to the plotline, since the studio also held rights to these creatures.
A convoluted screenplay devolves around the unwitting resurrection of Dracula and the Frankenstein monster by a pair of nitwit shipping clerks, despite warnings from incipient wolfman Lawrence Talbot. Since the creature can no longer be easily manipulated by Dracula, the Count conspires to transplant Lou's more biddable brain. He uses a seductive accomplice to lure Lou to his castle. The operation is kiboshed when a transformed Talbot attacks Dracula at full moon; Frankenstein joins the fray; all the monsters are eventually eliminated.
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein cleverly articulates signature tropes of Universal's three renowned bogeymen24 with signature shticks of the day's most popular film funnymen. No significant bloodshed occurs. Set against A&C's clowning, the monsters' usual depredations register as more antic than terrifying.
The film was a tremendous hit, and several profitable re-releases followed. Universal replicated the lucrative blend of comedy and horror using its other familiars in (Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man [l95l]; Abbot and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde [l954]; Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy [l955]). The series' success, while not consistent, nevertheless underscored the commercial and aesthetic viability of a monstrous mise-en-scene which encouraged viewers to laugh even as they shuddered.25
Mel Brooks' hilarious and unexpectedly poignant Young Frankenstein (1974) cleverly recapitulates the monster's trajectory from uncanny fearfulness to uxorious domesticity. The film sends up memorable scenes of the original, while touching upon major psychological themes related to monstrosity.
The popularity of My Favorite Martian in l963 prompted a migration of the major networks into stranger sitcom territory. In l964, CBS presented The Munsters and a major heimlich maneuver -- an attractive monster family, living comfortably in a generic suburbia.
Father Herman, Dr. Frankenstein's last model, works at the local mortuary. His wife Lily is a 400-year-old Dracula clan member. Their part-werewolf son, Eddie, sleeps in a casket. Other relations include Lily's Draculoid Grandpa and Uncle Gilbert, arguably the resurrected Creature from the Black Lagoon. Much of the series' pleasures derive from an unwavering inability of the characters -- Fred in particular -- to view themselves as particularly different from their neighbors.26
Dracula has proven more resistant to rehabilitation than the Frankenstein monster. The vampire is spawned by the powers of evil rather than scientific hubris, and he glories in his foul deeds. Contrasted with the Frankenstein monster's few impulsive, chiefly off-camera murders during its short life, Dracula slays incessantly and remorselessly over centuries, while dominating the undead lives of chosen victims towards the propagation of his unwholesome kind. His sexual sizzle is substantial. However, the Count's availibity for domesticity is compromised by his peculiar nutritional requirements and excruciating photophobia: both dictate a modus vivendi only a partner working a bloodbank nightshift could tolerate.
Mel Brooks' Dracula: Dead And Loving It (1995) performs a satiric close reading of the Tod Browning/Bela Lugosi classic, in which the essential story line and Dracula's corruption remain unchanged. For the delightful humanization of the Dracula mythos, Brooks practiced upon the Frankenstein narrative, one turns to Stan Dragoti's Love At First Bite (1979) -- and George Hamilton's marvelous impersonation of the Count as a Carpathian lounge lizard. Dracula is driven from his castle because of his dynastic politics rather than oral sadism. After settling into Manhattan's Hotel Plaza, he visits a disco and charms Cindy, a pixillated model, to the strains of "I Love The Night Life". His opponent for Cindy's hand is her feckless psychoanalyst, a Van Helsing descendant who changed his name to Rosenberg "for professional reasons". Pursued by Dr. Rosenberg and the police to Kennedy Airport, the lovers change into bats. As they wing it towards Bermuda, the Count explains that henceforth Cindy must sleep during the day. "That's OK," she replies, "I never could get my s . . . t together before 7:00 anyhow."
The Werewolf's recuperation is rather problematic, since his human half is already heimlich. The hapless hero/victims of the Universal original (1941), An American Werewolf in London (1981) and An American Werewolf In Paris (1997), remain thoroughly decent between monstrous metamorphosis -- likewise the mildly rebellious adolescent treated by mad school doctor Whit Bissell in I Was A Teenage Werewolf (1957), whose "regression therapy" with wolf-serum produces predictably hairy results. Teen Wolf (1985) elegantly devises a completely heimlich Wolfman. The hero's lupine metamorphosis produces an improved version of his attractive, if conflicted adolescent humanity. His self-confidence blossoms as a teen wolf. His enhanced athletic ability combines with his weirdly attractive hairstyling to make him the school idol.
The Godzilla Canon
Godzilla debuted in l954 as Gojira (the name is a portmanteau meld of `gorilla' and `whale'). The gigantic prehistoric creature, mutated by hydrogen bomb testing in the Pacific, reduces Tokyo to rubble. A reclusive scientist, whose body and mind are scarred from World War II service, invents an "Oxygen Destroyer"; then he fears his discovery will be as dangerous to the world as Godzilla. In a somber conclusion the scientist descends to Godzilla's ocean lair; annihilates the creature, his device and himself.
Gojira became world renowned through its l956 Hollywood revision, Godzilla, King of the Monsters. The original film possesses a stark documentary power, and has acquired the status of a genre masterpiece. Its allusions to nuclear holocaust and the depravity of war are unmistakable. But, like many genre classics, it stirs more profound primal echoes. Gojira's essential thrust is tragic: the brilliant Dr. Serizawa's desolate alienation resonates with the monster's `outsider' identity.
When Godzilla was first released, atomic horror, the shame of national defeat and occupation were unknown to many Japanese children -- or were dim memories. Youngsters were even more captivated by Godzilla than their parents; Toho Studios was quick to exploit this appeal. Over the next fifty years, the Toho team and its successors produced more than a score of highly profitable Godzilla features. Godzilla grew less frightful in form; became primum inter pares of a bizarrely engaging monster pantheon -- Mothra, Rodan, Ghidra, et cetera. In diversity of powers, if not sentience the Toho creature clan intriguingly mirrored superhero and supervillain cadres which proliferated in American comic books during the Fifties and Sixties.27
Over the years, the Japanese have come to view Godzilla as a curious national treasure, admired by intellectuals like Yukio Mishima; a protector of the environment and symbolic defender of the nation against Western encroachment. Godzilla pictures also regularly matched up the colossal hero with children as a shambling buddy, tutor -- and unlikely family guy.
Godzilla became a father in Son of Godzilla (1967). His son, Minya, hatched with no Mrs G. in sight, is a winsome teddy-bear/saurian hybrid who blows smoke rings when he attempts to belch fire. Godzilla repeatedly comes to his rescue, until the ultimate sacrifice of Godzilla Vs. Destoroyah (1995). Junior is killed by a frightening recombinant of other monsters. Godzilla dispatches it, and then is vaporized into a radioactive mist which eventually reanimates the dead lad into a new, full-grown Godzilla.
"Jaws" of the James Bond Cycle
As the Bond movies evolved, their arch-villains acquired sidekicks with invincible physical prowess. Bond's terminal battle with hypertrophied yeggs and yobbos like Oddjob (Goldfinger [l964]) became a much-anticipated setpiece. The most unheimlich of these formidable opponents -- "Jaws" -- is also the only one to survive combat with 007, appear in a subsequent Bond picture, and undergo a heimlich transformation.
In The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Bond's nemesis is Karl Stromberg, a wealthy marine biologist who plans to incite nuclear global war with kidnapped missiles, then construct an undersea habitat for the surviving elite. His hitman is "Jaws", played by the 7' 4" actor Richard Kiel. A none too bright giant with an unmistakable resemblance to the Frankenstein monster, Jaws sports repellent metal teeth and tears out his victims' throats in a vampire-like embrace. In their final set-to, Bond uses an overhead magnet to snatch Jaws up by his gleaming dentures, and drop him into a pool of killer sharks. Whether the sharks devour Jaws or vice versa is left unclear.
In the next Bond movie, Moonraker (1979) Jaws reappears, this time employed by Hugo Drax, a Stromberg clone who wants to replace humanity with a genetically engineered super-race, after bombarding Earth with nerve gas. Bond and a lovely CIA scientist are caught trying to foil Drax's scheme. Drax launches the Moonraker orbiters, then commands Jaws to kill the captives. But Jaws has become smitten with Dolly, a diminutive blonde Drax employee. Bond mordantly suggests that Drax' brave new eugenic order is unlikely to hold a place for Jaws' questionable genetics. Jaws abruptly shifts sides. He liberates Bond, and Drax is destroyed. Jaws and Dolly are last seen waving happily at 007 and his latest amour.28
In The Terminator's (1984) dystopian near-future, a ragged resistance army has stymied a machine race's attempts to stamp out humanity. The machines dispatch a murderous cyborg into our present. It is tasked to kill Sarah Connor, a young woman destined to bear a son, John, who will become, in the future, the resistance's resourceful leader. From the future, John sends back Kyle, an elite trooper, to protect Sarah. Kyle dies after a night in her arms. She destroys the Terminator; then leaves Los Angeles for rugged mountain territory, where one assumes she will deliver Kyle's baby, and prepare the yet unborn John for battle in the future Armageddon.
The Terminator marked a hallmark role for Arnold Schwartzenegger, conflating the former body builder's already robotic persona with a biker bar's icy homoeroticism. Encased in studded leather, his voice a guttural snarl, Schwartzenegger was a nightmarish icon of remorseless, relentless violence. Grim humor, inflected by his character's utter lack of emotion, informed Schwarzengger's deadpan ripostes ("Ah'll pee pack!!"). But no true sympathy was possible for this post-modern child of the night. The Terminator's uncanniness was cleverly enhanced by burning away what little of the heimlich the creature possessed, revealing an exquisite technological incarnation of the medieval dance of death -- titanium skull beneath the synthetic skin.
The Terminator II's (1991) deft inversion of T1's sinister mission facilitates virtually the entire repertoire of heimlich recuperation. Sarah Connor, now a pumped-up adept at survivalist terrorism, has been institutionalized. Her rebellious preadolescent son has been taken from her and placed in a repressive suburban foster home. Unaware of his future, he believes his mother is mad.
The machine tyrants construct a new Terminator -- an eerie liquid-metal shapeshifter -- and this time dispatch it to kill young John. Future John counters by sending an old Schwarzenneger TI stolen by the resistance, reprogrammed to protect John as tenaciously as its clone once pursued Sarah's destruction. To facilitate its mission, the TI has been given the ability to learn about humanity and, implicitly, to progress towards humanity itself.
From John and the audience's yet uninformed perspective, Schwarzenegger-T1's hulking figure remains grotesquely unheimlich. Schwarzenegger's spectacular rescue of John from the shapeshifter's first attack recapitulates Kyle's rescue of Sarah at the disco, forcefully challenging Schwarzenneger's previous menace. The sequence is followed by other matching rescues, commencing with Sarah's liberation from the asylum by her son and his unlikely sidekick.
An even more unlikely parallel is gradually forged between Kyle and his former nemesis: between the dead, unknown parent and the grim cyborg robot who -- as Sarah muses -- ironically has become the only competent father John has ever known. One notes that Schwarzenneger's physical appearance remains consonant with his newfound heimlichkeit. Although terribly battered by the liquid T2, his deathshead armature is never unmasked.
Star Trek: Voyager's Seven of Nine
Seven of Nine is one of the few female monsters to undergo heimlich rehabilitation. She formerly belonged to the Borg Collective, formidable enemy of Star Trek's United Federation of Planets. An ancient race of unknown origin, the Collective spawns its children by artificial insemination in mechanical wombs. In their eternal pursuit of an elusive "perfection," the Borg "assimilate" members of other races. Their captives are fitted with weird robotic gizmos, their consciousness fused with the native Borg into one enormous, conjoined hive. "Resistance is futile," goes the famous motto of these Draconian Platonists.
Seven was once a human child, Annika Hanson, assimilated as a pre-adolescent along with her scientist parents while they were studying the Collective. Grown into an exemplary "drone," she was assigned to Voyager when its crew temporarily joined forces with the Borg to fight an even more genocidal species. Her vessel was destroyed, leaving Seven stranded. Returning her to the Collective was too hazardous, so Captain Elizabeth Janeway elected to keep Seven aboard, and restore her lost humanity.
Like Schwarzenneger's redeemed cyborg, Seven's physical and psychological make-up facilitates a broad spectrum of heimlich maneuvers. Stripped of her most repulsive external implants, her remaining Borg technology endows her with superhuman intelligence, strength, and special senses. Her prolonged articulation with the Collective also amputated her affect. Her loneliness following amputation from the hive is intolerable. The first emotion that she exhibits is rage at her rescuers.
Seven's halting journey towards full humanity, with the help of Janeway and the crew as a surrogate family, is a mainspring of many Voyager narratives. In a heimlich affinity, Naomi Wildman, a scientifically inclined youngster, develops a crush on Seven. Seven also assumes Captain Janeway's maternal mantle in helping three Borg children who had become separated from the Collective work through the trauma of individuation she has endured.
Animated Heimlich Maneuvers
From the late Thirties to the Eighties, the comic potential of Universal's gothic monsters was exploited in the lunatic cosmos of Warner Brothers' Merrie Melodies and Loony Toons.29 Richard Leskosky30 speculates that Warner's worry over possible copyright litigation dictated the Universal creatures' animated depiction as generic stereotypes in brief peripheral appearances. For instance, in Porky's Road Race (1937), the stuttering pig competes with cars driven by Hollywood stars. Boris Karloff and his Frankenstein alter ego are momentarily glimpsed behind the wheel of a passing auto.
A Draculoid vampire appears at greater length in Transylvania 6-5000 (1963). Bugs Bunny discovers a magical word, which defuses the vampire's menace by turning him into a bumbling bat. Always enchanted by wretched excess, Bugs experiments with ever weirder abracadabras, resulting in ever more extravagant vampiric incarnations.
In addition to their free adaptation of Universal's creatures, Chuck Jones, Fritz Freling, and his madcap colleagues constructed their own risible creatures; mad doctors particularly flourished in WarnerWorld. In Hair Raising Hare (1946), Bugs is lured by a robotic lady rabbit into the lab of a Peter Lorre-like scientist, with a yen to perform the usual brain transplant. Bugs neutralizes the mad doc's Igor, a giant hairball, with a manicure he performs in drag-beautician masquerade. In Hyde and Hare (1955), Bugs is transformed into a hulking monstrous version of himself by Mr. Hyde -- alter ego of a kindly doctor who has just adopted him (Loony Toons' creators frequently capitalized on the comic potential of the Jekyll/Hyde duality).
Beginning with the mid-Sixties, other familiar monstrous heimlich characterizations -- as buddy/mascot; protector; family man; so forth -- were substantially elaborated in children's television programming. Companionable versions of the Frankenstein creature appear in Milton the Monster (1965) and Frankenstein Jr. and The Impossibles (1966) (the creature is a giant robot backing up a team of maladroit adolescent super-heroes). During the l980 season of The Flintstones, the stone-age family's jovial new next door neighbors were The Frankenstones -- obvious animated cousins of The Munsters.
Hanna-Barbera ceaselessly recirculated the Godzilla mythos on childrens' television throughout the 70s and 80s, commencing with The Godzilla Power Hour (1978), followed by (inter alia) The Godzilla/Dynomutt Hour, and The Godzilla/Globe Trotters Hour. Paralleling heimlich revisions in the Toho films of that period, the animated Godzilla served as companion/defender to an intrepid band of globetrotting scientists. He also cherished a nephew/sidekick, Godzooky.31
Humor Related to Heimlich Monsters
Freud observes that: "Even a `real' ghost, as in Oscar Wilde's Canterville Ghost, loses all power at arousing . . . any uncanny horror in us as soon as the author begins to amuse himself at its expense and allows liberties to be taken with it."32 In the elementary heimlich maneuver of folklore movies (likewise, the most prevalent heimlich trope of monster folklore), amusement is generated at the creature's expense by its defeat or stalemate. Degraded into an object of ridicule, the monster is powerless as once it was powerful. Its evil or destructive aims remain unchanged: it simply cannot realize them.
The peasant protagonist of folk or fairy tales who renders ogres impotent and laughable reads as the audience's stand-in, owning no special skill beyond pluck and quickness of wit. Much folklore -- monster tales included -- was improvised by just such ordinary people -- laborers at rest in the field, women spinning.
Beyond the unconscious fears symbolized by the ogres of folk narratives, these creatures arguably personified realistic hurtful agencies, natural or human:33 flood, plague, famine, or the menace of capricious human oppressors, cruel rulers or warlords, who crushed, conscripted, or taxed the lowly according to their whim. How entertaining and gratifying to hear stories in which the symbolic substitutes for these actual `giants' were brought low and turned fool in the bargain!
The earliest heimlich maneuver of the horror film similarly depicts the monster's hilarious defeat without altering its sinister or destructive intent. The humble tailor or the indigent orphan hero of folklore are reincarnated as bumbling, feckless Bud Abbott and Lou Costello or sassy Bugs Bunny, perennial gadfly of authority. A victory of these `little guy' heroes over the movie monster, not only amuses us vastly; it also quells our unconscious fears. Such a victory may also indulge fantasies that we, too, can yet defeat contemporary victimizers. They may be less lethal than a medieval warlord, but sufficient unto the day: a new boss showering the office with pink slips; the faceless, relentless IRS.
The pleasure of `elementary' heimlich scenarios is enhanced when a familiar monstrous attack is reprised, then satirically defused. One experiences a frisson of recognition, as well as relief of tension that attends the ridiculous failure of the monster's assault the second time around. For example: in a well known, particularly eerie sequence from Tod Browning's Dracula, the Count/Bela Lugosi transforms himself into a bat, then morphs back to his elegant vampire persona after flapping through his lovely victim's bedroom window. In the scene's send-up from Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Dracula/Leslie Niesen mutates into a wacky chimera, with Nielsen's head pasted onto a bat's body. Just as the Count is about to sail into the heroine's bedroom, its french windows are slammed shut. One hears a ludicrous plonk! and sees Nielsen's tiny face, scrunched excruciatingly against the windowpane, sliding slowly to the ground.
The heimlich transformation of the movie monster's evil or destructive nature goes beyond merely neutralizing the creature. It spurs strong viewer sympathy and produces a radical shift in humorous response. One no longer laughs derisively, or takes sadistic satisfaction at the monster's expense. It is now endearing rather than traumatizing; it provokes affectionate empathy, rather than dreadful repulsion.
When the congenial monster is animal-like, one is diverted by "cute" anthropomorphisms much as one is entertained by pets who ape (or who we believe are aping) human behavior. An example is the exuberant victory dance of Godzilla's son at his father's triumph over `bad' monster adversaries.
When the heimlich monster is humanoid, one smiles at its clumsy attempts to learn human ways. Thus, in Terminator II, the hulking Schwarzenegger is drolly taught a "high-five" by his preadolescent charge. One takes pleasure at the category collisions implicit in the congenial monster's fetching disingenuousness during interactions with alarmed `normals.' One is amused by the glaring discrepancies between the creature's human sensibility, relatedness, observance of human custom, versus its persistent inhuman appearance, physical attributes, or monstrous mores. For instance, Herman and Lilly Munster become entangled in a convoluted O. Henry-ish scheme to secretly earn money for each other's l00th anniversary present; on her first date Seven of Nine, totally unaware of her superior strength, dislocates her partner's shoulder during a tango.
The Heimlich Monster as Recuperated Child, Adolescent, Parent -- and Divinity
Psychoanalytic critics have studied the movie monster's unheimlich representations of childhood, adolescence, and parenthood (any or all identities may be dissected out of the same entity). Childlike or adolescent traits embodied hyperbolically by the creature include clumsiness; messiness; low frustration tolerance; impulsivity; ignorance, disregard or disdain for rules; joy in mischief and disorder; and that curious "unknownness", so unsettling to adults, about what the young are really up to.34
During the horror genres' early decades, filmmakers shied away from portraying actual children or adolescents as monsters, fearing that audiences might be repelled by the repudiation of youthful innocence. The popularity of The Bad Seed (1956), which featured a psychopathic killer child audiences loved to loathe, encouraged the portrayal of monstrous youngsters in mainstream cinema, including Village of the Damned (1960), It's Alive! (1969), The Exorcist (1973), Carrie (l976), Firestarter (1984), Christine (l983). The trend remains highly bankable, as manifested by Chucky of the Child's Play movies and the carnivorous waifs of Screamers (1997).35
The monster's heimlich transformation restores the bright side of its child or pubescent persona, while maintaining a now unthreatening excessiveness. The first unheimlich Godzilla spurred that fascination with dinosaurs which, in my clinical experience, is more prevalent amongst little boys and is partly based on the projection of the youngster's aggression upon the giant lizards. Girls and boys alike were subsequently enchanted by gentler Godzillas, as well as by Toho's loopy monster peer group. The creatures offered children multiple points of identification, because of their many kid- and pet-like qualities. These mascot/companion attributes were developed at length in the Hanna-Barbera animated series.
Besides eliminating the catastrophic potential of the creature's youthful wretched excesses, heimlich transformation also heals the traumata wrought by abusive adults or peers upon the vulnerable monster-as-child-or-adolescent. I have elsewhere analyzed the Universal Frankenstein as an essay on warped pedagogy, in which the creature is a battered child who identifies with his oppressors. He returns in kind the uncharitable treatment first meted out by his laboratory "parents" -- especially Henry's stand-in, Igor -- then by society at large.36
The monster can also be construed as a typical early adolescent, both alarmed and exhilarated by his burgeoning biology, who confronts the resurrected Oedipal striving of childhood in a strapping new physique (one notes that Karloff looks like a teenager bursting out of his clothes). A model for future beasts in the boudoir, the creature snatches Henry's fiancée from her bedroom the night before her marriage. What he would do with her is obscure, reflecting the pubescent male's anxiety about the mechanics of sexuality as well as the Oedipal taboo. The monster's execution by the townspeople interprets as punishment for his illicit Oedipality.37
In Young Frankenstein, Henry's descendent, Victor, explicitly addresses his creation as an abused, misunderstood "good boy." The doctor heals his surrogate son's psychic wounds with unstinting compassion, then boosts his IQ -- and socialization -- with a literal implant of his human identity, receiving an infusion of the monster's exuberant virility in exchange. Victor cheerfully disavows his corner of the Oedipal triangle by giving his fiancée to the civilized monster, then bedding his sexy lab assistant. Everyone is happy, with jouissance aplenty to go around.
Star Trek: Voyager's Seven of Nine is another monster-cum-teenager, whose pubertal conflicts are entertainingly addressed during a prolonged heimlich metamorphosis. When first released from the Collective, Seven behaves like a troubled early adolescent. She displays the alienation, arrogance, and inability to read social cues of a fourteen-year-old computer geek. Her maladroit nerdiness is piquantly counterpoised by an alarming beauty: it is moot whether she is absolutely unaware of her allure, or deems it "irrelevant".
Over several seasons, Seven becomes more receptive to the heimlich qualities of her new environment. Unlike Carrie's tormenting classmates, Seven's peers support and encourage her -- especially the holographic ship's doctor, who has had to overcome his own nerdish hauteur. Seven's central therapeutic identification is with Captain Elizabeth Janeway; she plays a sympathetic but firm parent in the context of Seven's unremitting provocations. Like many adolescents, Seven's questioning of authority can be uncomfortably on the mark, making Janeway keenly aware of her personal foibles, while exposing the inconsistencies of "imperfect" humanity.
Tatar observes that fairy tale monsters often bear the imprint of traumatizing parental authority. While "children need monsters . . . to conserve idealized images of their parents . . . it is coercive sadism on the one hand and forbidding hostility on the other that produce many of the monsters that haunt children's imaginations. And in each case it is parental behavior that creates the `monster crowd'".38 Paul discerns an analogous encryption of hurtful parental authority in the movie monster.39 The literal depiction of monstrous parenthood has escalated since Psycho (1960): think of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), The Brood (1979), The Shining (1980), The Hills Have Eyes (1981), Aliens (1986), Dead Alive (1992), or The People Under The Stairs (1991).
The monster's heimlich conversion from "forbidding hostility" to a benevolent parental role constitutes a significant, winning thrust -- especially for young viewers -- in the evolution of the Godzilla canon beyond Godzilla's original insensate savagery. Godzilla nurtures a human child by proxy in Godzilla's Revenge (1972). The film's vulnerable young hero is Ichiro, a lonely latch-key kid living in a bleak Tokyo suburb. Harassed by local bullies, Ichiro creates a fantasy of "Monster Island," where Godzilla teaches his son how to combat assorted monster tormentors. By drawing upon Godzilla's tutelage, Ichiro acquires new self-respect, and vanquishes his own playground persecutors.40
Another rehabilitated monstrous parent rescues a surrogate child from mortal danger at the end of Terminator II. By now nearly human in sensibility, the T1 saves John (and Sarah) Connor from the shapeshifting T2 by hurling it into a furnace of super-molten metal. The T1 then realizes his brain contains the advanced microchip which -- through one of those tortuous loops of time-travel -- will be used by contemporary scientists to inadvertently create prototypes of the future machine tyrants. He lowers himself into the fiery pool -- his hand raised in poignant farewell to the grieving John and Sarah -- then melts away like Grimm's Loyal Tin Soldier.
Tl's rescue of all humanity touches upon an immense and ambivalent power latent within the monster film, infinitely exceeding the narrow confines of a Freudian parental paradigm. The creature customarily wields it in his guise of Pope's Great Anarch towards uncreation and universal darkness. It is rarely manifested by the heimlich creature through acts of deliverance and redemption, which transcend generic tropes to intimate an ineffable grace. The most moving of these strange theophanies occurs at the end of Blade Runner, when replicant Roy Batty suddenly hauls fallible Reck Deckard from the abyss, then receives his own death with Christ-like serenity.
DECKARD: I don't know why he saved my life. Maybe in those last moments he loved life more than he ever had before. Not just his life. Anybody's life. My life. All it 41 wanted were the same answers the rest of us want -- Where do I come from? Where am I going? How long have I got? . . . All I could do was sit there and watch him die.
One recalls S. S. Prawer's superb characterization of the horror movie as `spilt religion'.42
The unconscious is never visible through the ego's eye; it is recoverable only through its enigmatic conscious residues. From obscure traces -- particularly from dreams -- one gleans the fact that the unconscious thrives on radical reversals and oppositions. Its polarized binaries co-exist unproblematically according to the peculiar logic of the primary process.
Freud's "The Uncanny" famously focuses on an eerie interpenetration, an intimate opposition between heimlich and unheimlich. Beyond the "logical," psychological, or socio-historical grounds one has adduced for monstrous rehabilitation, there looms the mysterious -- indeed, uncanny -- mutual attraction inherent in the heimlich/unheimlich binary. Each category is drawn to its obverse, to become the other's Other, infinitely generative of heimlich and unheimlich maneuvers.
In horror cinema or folklore, the heimlich's very existence invokes the desire for its transformation into richer, stranger, numinous, yet often terrible stuff. Mutatis mutandis, the unheimlich instantiates both ineffable melancholy and hope.
Once upon a time there was a home -- an Eden -- a womb -- from which one was compelled to journey towards terra incognita (arguably, in psychoanalytic terms, towards a necessary but vulnerable individuation). Once there was a way back home, back to the common joys and comforts of a blessed ordinary. Reminiscent of other anguished eternal voyagers, The Flying Dutchman and The Wandering Jew, the movie monster wanders ceaselessly between each contested site, to our enduring fascination and delight.
1. For simplicity, horror, science fiction, and speculative cinema will hereafter be distinguished under a single category of "horror" cinema/movies/films. (Back to Main Text)
2. Harvey Roy Greenberg and Krin Gabbard. "Reel Significations: An Anatomy of Psychoanalytic Film Criticism", in Harvey Roy Greenberg, Screen Memories: Hollywood Cinema on the Psychoanalytic Couch. New York, Columbia University Press, pp. l5-37.(Back to Main Text)
3. Glen O. and Krin Gabbard. Psychiatry and the Cinema. Chicago, University of Illinois Press, l987, p. l87.(Back to Main Text)
4. For recent work see, Special Issue on the Uncanny, Michael A. Amzen, Ed. PARADOXA: Studies in World Literary Genres, 3.3/4 (l997). (Back to Main Text)
5. Sigmund Freud. "The `Uncanny'" (19l9/l959), in Sigmund Freud: Collected Papers, Joan Riviere, Ed. 4: 399, 40l et. seq. (Back to Main Text)
6. Jeffrey Cohen. "Monster Culture (Seven Theses)," in Monster Theory: Reading Culture, Jeffrey Cohen, Ed. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, l996, pp. 2-3. (Back to Main Text)
7. Stith Thompson. The Folktale. New York: The Dryden Press, l95l, p. 20l.(Back to Main Text)
8. Thompson, Folktale (n. 7), p. 45.(Back to Main Text)
9. "Mother Holle" in The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm. Jack Zipes, Trans. New York: Bantam Books, 1987, pp. 96-99.(Back to Main Text)
10. Thompson, Folktale (n. 7), ibid., p. 269.(Back to Main Text)
11. "Iron Hans" Complete Grimm (n. 9), pp. 482-488. Professor Alan Dundes, whose encyclopedic knowledge of folklore was of invaluable help in my research, observes that the authenticity of the Grimms' "Iron Hans" may be questionable. Like other Grimm tales it may conflate earlier material with the Grimm brothers' own writing, creating that recurrent problem in the field with distinguishing between "fakelore" and folklore. For my purposes, it matters chiefly that the same heimlich thrust is encountered both in earlier oral and more sophisticated written Wild Man narratives. (Back to Main Text)
12. Maria Tatar. Off With Their Heads: Fairy Tales and the Culture of Childhood. Princeton: Princeton University Press, l992, p. 30 (Back to Main Text)
13. Mercer Mayer. There's A Nightmare In My Closet. New York: Dial, l968. (Back to Main Text)
14. Maurice Sendak. Where The Wild Things Are. New York: Harper and Row, l963.(Back to Main Text)
15. Ellen Handler Spitz's Inside Picture Books (New Haven: Yale, l998) eloquently elucidates the therapeutic value of modern "heimlich" children's' stories. Spitz argues that these affirm the child's right to exercise its native playfulness, exuberance, and self-assertiveness, which are so regularly and gruesomely chastised in the seventeenth and eighteenth century's `pedagogy of fear'. Tales like Where The Wild Things Are privilege the child's need for mischief and disobedience as parameters to test and expand its world, to revise social and family boundaries, without fear of sadistic retaliation by adults.(Back to Main Text)
16. Harvey Roy Greenberg. "Re-Imagining the Gargoyle: Psychoanalytic Notes on Alien and the Contemporary Horror Film" in Screen Memories: Hollywood Cinema on the Psychoanalytic Couch. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993, p. l56.(Back to Main Text)
17. Judith L. Goldstein. "Realism with a Human Face", in The Spectacles of Realism -- Body, Gender, Medium. Margaret Cohen and Christopher Prendergast, Eds. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, l995, pp. 66-89. (Back to Main Text)
18. Katerina Clark and Michael Holquist. Mikhail Bakhtin. Cambridge: Belknap/Harvard University Press, l984.(Back to Main Text)
19. Sigmund Freud. Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious (1905). Std. Edn. 8: 9-236. (Back to Main Text)
20. Steven Schneider anatomizes the horror creature's concretization of `earlier surmounted beliefs' into reincarnated monsters (the dead return to life); psychic monsters (omnipotence of thought); and dyadic monsters (existence of a double). Schneider then subdivides these categories further. "Monsters as (Uncanny) Metaphors: Freud, Lakoff, and the Representation of Monstrosity in Cinematic Horror", Other Voices, 1.3 (1999): 12-13. Available online at http://www.othorg/1.3/sschneider/monsters.html. (Back to Main Text)
21. Adolescents are perpetual fans of horror movies, and are especially prone to hilarity while watching them -- taking ever greater delight in ever more egregious, repellent displays of gore. Their shrieks and howls in the theater have even been incorporated into self-reflexive pictures such as the Scream cycle.
Studies of adolescent psychological development show that during puberty youngsters are truly able to grasp death as a certain, personal reality. The recognition paradoxically provokes a wide range of counterphobic, even death-defying behavior. Testing one's ability to survive a stalker movie while hooting at its fictive nemesis is clearly less perilous than a helmetless race on a broken-down Harley. (Back to Main Text)
22. Susan Sontag elegantly discourses on the yen for pure havoc gratified by the monster film -- notably Japanese monster cinema -- in "The Imagination of Disaster", in Against Interpretation and Other Essays. New York: Dell, l966, pp. 209-216>. (Back to Main Text)
23. An example would be the oral-cannibalistic urges gaggingly evoked in George Romero's Dead cycle. For more on the comic dimensions of `gross-out' cinema, see William Paul. "The Comic Beat of Never-Terror" in Laughing Screaming. New York: Columbia University Press, l994, pp.409-30.(Back to Main Text)
24. Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney, Jr. reprised their original roles in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Glenn Strange took Karloffs' part as the Frankenstein creature, except for one sequence in which Chaney stood in for Strange after the latter injured his hand during a previous scene. (Back to Main Text)
25. For a discussion of the careers and films of Abbott and Costello, see Jim Mulholland, The Abbott and Costello book, New York: Big Apple Film Series/Popular Library, l975. (Back to Main Text)
26. The Munsters was produced for CBS by Universal Studio's television wing, enabling its creators to update the designs of the classic Universal monsters. The studio also owned the rights to Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954), hence Uncle Gilbert's heimlich reprise of the famous Gill-man. For an overview of the series, including summaries of each episode, see John Peel. The Addams Family and The Munsters Programme Guide. London: Virgin Books, l994. (Back to Main Text)
27. Attempts at resurrecting Godzilla in his original unheimlich corpus (Godzilla ; Godzilla [l998]) have proven curiously unsatisfactory. They never achieved the enduring popularity of the child-oriented Godzilla movies, and are considered outside the canon by many fans. For an overview of Godzilla, his clan, creators, and the entire oeuvre, see Steve Ryfle. Japan's Favorite Mon-Star: The Unauthorized Biography of "The Big G". Ontario: ECW Press, l998. (Back to Main Text)
28. For an overview of The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, and other Bondiana, see Sally Hibbin. The New Official James Bond Movie Book. New York: Crown Publishers, l989.(Back to Main Text)
29. Jerry Beck and Will Friedwald. Loonie Toons and Merrie Melodies: A Complete Guide to the Warner Brothers Cartoons. New York: Henry Holt, l989.(Back to Main Text)
30. Professor Richard Leskosky, private communication.(Back to Main Text)
31. For a reprise of monster series in children's television programming, see George W. Woolery. Children's Television. Metuchen: Scarecrow Press, l983. (Back to Main Text)
32. Freud. "Uncanny" (n. 5), p. 407. (Back to Main Text)
33. Folklore scholars observe that the cruelty and violence endemic to folklore and fairy tales probably reflected brute circumstances of earlier times: war, famine, child abuse and abandonment. Tatar, for instance, views Beauty and the Beast narratives as fantastic elaborations on the vicissitudes of arranged marriages (Off With Their Heads [n. 12], p. l41). It can be imagined that many `actual' arrangements did not have nearly as felicitous an outcome as Beauty's triumph. (Back to Main Text)
34. Paul. Laughing Screaming (n. 23), p. 273. (Back to Main Text)
35. Paul addresses the psycho-social grounding of the post-World War II "evil child" phenomenon in Laughing Screaming (n. 23), pp. 260-86. (Back to Main Text)
36. Harvey Roy Greenberg. "The Sleep of Reason -- II: Drowning the Ceremony of Innocence -- Or, How Not to Raise a Monster" in The Movies On Your Mind: Film Classics On The Couch From Fellini to Frankenstein. New York: E.P. Dutton, Inc./Saturday Review Press, l970, pp. 2l3-2l8.(Back to Main Text)
37. For a further discussion of the monster as love-struck adolescent see: Harvey Roy Greenberg. "The Sleep of Reason -- II: The Beast in the Boudoir -- Or, You Can't Marry That Girl, You're A Gorilla!", in Movies On Your Mind (n. 36), pp. 2l9-23l.(Back to Main Text)
38. Maria Tatar. Off With Their Heads (n. 12), p. 31.(Back to Main Text)
39. William Paul. Laughing Screaming (n. 23), 233. (Back to Main Text)
40. Many scholars have emphasized the importance of illuminating the specific cultural stresses and historical contingencies surrounding the movie monster's creation (inter alia, Andrew Tudor. "Why Horror? The Peculiar Pleasures of a Popular Genre". Cultural Studies, 1.3 (l997): 443-63). Heimlich, no less than unheimlich monsters are inflected by the vicissitudes of their specific time and place.
Godzilla's Revenge (1972), for instance, was produced when the Japanese were concerned with the threat posed by nascent industrialization to the nuclear family. Ichiro's plight as a latchkey child of working parents mirrored the depressing isolation of many real-life youngsters. Godzilla's proxy parenting of Ichiro thus offers a magical solution to a major social problem.
Terminator II's heimlich cyberparent, with his potentially dangerous cerebral computer chip, redresses young John Connor's lack of a reliable father at a time (1991) when America was encountering both a rise in single-parent households, and burgeoning computer technologies. (Back to Main Text)
4l. During his meditation on Batty's death, Deckard calls the replicant leader both "he" and "it". The locution obviously reflects Deckard's persistent, if radically diminished ambivalence about the replicant's humanity. The "he"/"it" opposition may also be construed as a figuration of the crucial unconscious heimlich/unheimlich binary elucidated in the conclusion of this paper. (Back to Main Text)
42. S.S. Prawer. Caligari's Children: The Film as Tale of Terror. Oxford: Oxford University Press, l980, p. l33a. (Back to Main Text)
The author expresses his thanks to Professors Ellen Handler Spitz; Alan Dundes; Steven Schneider; Richard Leskosky; Christopher Sharrett; Dr. Linda Deigh; Ms. Moira Smith; and Ms. Fujami Ogi for their kind assistance in developing this essay. He also thanks Cambridge University Press for permitting the pre-publishing of this essay in PSYART. It will appear in Freud's Worst Nightmares: Psychoanalysis and the Horror Film, ed. Steven Jay Schneider, expected to be published as part of the Cambridge University Press' "Studies in Film" series.
Received: September 7, 2001, Published: September 7, 2001. Copyright © 2001 Harvey Greenberg