Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Talking Out of Turn #38 (Podcast): Clive Barker (1987)

Author and filmmaker Clive Barker, circa 1987.

From 1981 to 1989, I was assistant producer and co-host of the radio show On the Arts at CJRT-FM in Toronto. With the late Tom Fulton, who was the show's prime host and producer, we did a half-hour interview program where we talked to artists from all fields. In 1994, after I had gone to CBC, I had an idea to collate an interview anthology from some of the more interesting discussions I'd had with guests from that period. Since they all took place during the eighties, I thought I could edit the collection into an oral history of the decade from some of its most outspoken participants. The book was assembled from interview transcripts and organized thematically. I titled it Talking Out of Turn: Revisiting the '80s.

With financial help from the Canada Council, I shaped the individual pieces into a number of pertinent themes relevant to the decade. By the time I began to contact publishers, though, the industry was starting to change. At one time, editorial controlled marketing. Now the reverse was taking place. Acquisition editors, who once responded to an interesting idea for a book, were soon following marketing divisions concerned with whether the person doing it was hot enough to sell it.

Tom Fulton, host and producer of On the Arts
For a few years, I flogged the proposal to various publishers but many were worried that there were too many people from different backgrounds (i.e. Margaret Atwood sitting alongside Oliver Stone). Another publisher curiously chose to reject it because, to them, it appeared to be a book about me promoting my interviews (as if I was trying to be a low-rent Larry King) rather than seeing it as a commentary on the decade through the eyes of the guests. All told, the book soon faded away and I turned to other projects. However, when recently uncovering the original proposal and sample interviews, I felt that maybe some of them could find a new life on Critics at Large.

The horror film genre in the eighties had grown significantly more popular because horror writers, like Stephen King, were pumping out books that were already infused with a film sensibility. But the success of thrillers like Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street also brought on a deluge of dread-inducing suspense pictures that were essentially about people bent on, what my friend Alex Patterson once called, head-pulling rampages. Although these films and their imitators were often lauded for their subversiveness, they were actually quite morally conservative, fitting snugly into the Reagan era. After all, in those movies, why was it the sexually active teenagers who always got snuffed out and it was the virgin who became the hero that vanquished the killer? Many of these horror movies did more to re-enforce our fears and prejudices than help us come to terms with transgression.

One of those writers and filmmakers who explored the ambiguous dynamic of the contemporary horror film was Clive Barker, and in this interview he sets out to parse through the barbed evolution of the genre. When I sat down with Barker in 1987, he had just directed Hellraiser and published the novel Weaveworld.

– Kevin Courrier.

Here is the full interview with Clive Barker as it aired on CJRT-FM in 1987.

Kevin Courrier is a freelance writer/broadcaster, film critic and author (Dangerous Kitchen: The Subversive World of Zappa, Randy Newman's American Dreams33 1/3 Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask ReplicaArtificial Paradise: The Dark Side of The Beatles Utopian Dream). Courrier teaches part-time film courses to seniors through the LIFE Institute at Ryerson University in Toronto and other venues. His forthcoming book is Reflections in the Hall of Mirrors: American Movies and the Politics of Idealism.  

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