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A Kitten for Hitler
January 25, 2009 12:21 PM   Subscribe

'Ten years ago, while working on The South Bank Show, Melvyn Bragg and I had a heated discussion on the pros and cons of film censorship. Broadly speaking, Melvyn was against it, while I, much to his surprise, was absolutely for it. He then dared me to write a script that I thought should be banned. I accepted the challenge and a month or so later sent him a short subject entitled A Kitten for Hitler. “Ken,” he said, “if ever you make this film and it is shown, you will be lynched.'
That film has been made. The story behind it.
posted by fearfulsymmetry (69 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
From the linked article: Next we had the Hitler auditions. Most of the actors brought their own uniform, and not only did we get a fine Führer, but one of the Hitler rejects turned out to be a terrific Truman.

...
posted by joe lisboa at 12:34 PM on January 25, 2009


I don't really see what was so outrageously offensive; Hitler jokes are about 40% of the entire Internet nowadays. It was also fucking boring.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 12:40 PM on January 25, 2009 [4 favorites]


If anyone can make a Christmas movie involving kittens, Hitler and the Holocaust it's Ken Russell.

Because, really, who else would even try?
posted by tommasz at 12:41 PM on January 25, 2009


Excellent troll.
posted by jaduncan at 12:44 PM on January 25, 2009


I've seen more offensive things on South Park. Also, 10,000 pounds seems like a lot to spend on this. It seems like something you could have done in a couple of weekends with some friends and History Channel footage. I guess if you don't have the gear and want to hire real actors, but you're making A Kitten for Hitler...
posted by jeffkramer at 12:45 PM on January 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Hitler jokes are about 40% of the entire Internet nowadays"

And as we all know our culture has neither standards nor content beyond what is to be found on the web.
posted by oddman at 12:50 PM on January 25, 2009


Funny how there's still some censorship involved -- to view the film you have to click a box that says you're over 18.
posted by grounded at 12:53 PM on January 25, 2009


Yeah, the actual finished product is a hell of a let down from that backstory. This cost ten grand? This was lynch-worthy? This was worth Ken Russell putting his name on?
posted by cortex at 12:53 PM on January 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


So I take it they've never heard of the play-within-a-film-based-on-a-play-based-on-a-film-about-a-play that is Springtime for Hitler?
posted by Sys Rq at 12:57 PM on January 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


And as we all know our culture has neither standards nor content beyond what is to be found on the web.

My point is that it wasn't offensive, not that Internet culture is the nexus of human achievement.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 1:00 PM on January 25, 2009


Err pinnacle. Pinnacle of human achievement. Ugh!
posted by synaesthetichaze at 1:00 PM on January 25, 2009


Do they lynch people for making boring movies?
posted by empath at 1:05 PM on January 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know who else wanted a kitten?
posted by logicpunk at 1:07 PM on January 25, 2009 [4 favorites]


That's right. PETA.
posted by niles at 1:10 PM on January 25, 2009


Well, it was better than The Fall of the Louse of Usher anyway.

Seriousl,y what the fuck happened to Ken Russell? He was always outre for the sake of it, often to an annoying degree, but he used to at least be technically competent.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:11 PM on January 25, 2009


Okay, final comment in this thread, hopefully... I don't know why, but I read oddman's comment incorrectly the first time. I see now that he was in fact talking about social mores and not just rating the film. Sorry about that... anyway, the film is itself on the internet, so talking about internet cultural standards is perfectly valid when evaluating whether it's so unbelievably offensive that the man would be lynched for making it. And furthermore, like it not, a lot of people spend a lot of time online, and it influences the way they perceive boundaries in other media.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 1:12 PM on January 25, 2009


I don't think this counts as a "film."
posted by Curry at 1:12 PM on January 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


This makes me think of a censorship seminar I attended recently at the school where I teach. All the liberal, art department faculty and administration struck the pose that censorship is wrong. I'm generally against censorship, but when I looked at the people around, I kept thinking "I'll bet I could come up with something you'd sensor". I think I'll wait until after I'm tenured...
posted by Drab_Parts at 1:19 PM on January 25, 2009


Holy fuck, that was bad. Yeah, I know, just ignore and dont shit in the thread, etc.

But that was like the worst thing I've ever seen on the internet.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:23 PM on January 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


I come back to a working metafilter, and this is what greets me? Ugh.

Metafilter: About 40% Hitler jokes
posted by buriednexttoyou at 1:30 PM on January 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


Shenanigans! Not a film.
posted by uni verse at 1:33 PM on January 25, 2009


From the linked article: Next we had the Hitler auditions. Most of the actors brought their own uniform...

Am I the only one that is fully creeped out by London being filled with out-of-work b-actors that apparently have their own Hitler costumes laying around?

Also, imagine you show up for an audition for Hitler and everyone else has brought their own costumes. Would you think you missed a memo, or think that more sinister force were at work?

In regards to censorship, my favorite kind is self-censorship - I'm not watching this film.
posted by el io at 1:49 PM on January 25, 2009


I have said significantly more offensive and elaborate things out loud at restaurants.
posted by cthuljew at 1:53 PM on January 25, 2009


Well. I thought the title was funny, anyway.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:57 PM on January 25, 2009


You know who else wanted a kitten?

Yes.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:59 PM on January 25, 2009 [7 favorites]


Next we had the Hitler auditions. Most of the actors brought their own uniform, and not only did we get a fine Führer, but one of the Hitler rejects turned out to be a terrific Truman.

Five of the Hitlers were Michael Sheard.
posted by Artw at 1:59 PM on January 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


previously, a properly offensive kitten video
posted by ryanrs at 2:03 PM on January 25, 2009


You know who else wanted a kitten?

MORBO!

Even though they give Morbo gas.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:03 PM on January 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sys Rq: So I take it they've never heard of the play-within-a-film-based-on-a-play-based-on-a-film-about-a-play that is Springtime for Hitler?

Russell namechecked it in the "story behind it all" article.
posted by Pronoiac at 2:15 PM on January 25, 2009


The only thing I admire here is such follow through on a stupid idea.
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 2:16 PM on January 25, 2009


I'm in favor of censoring lousy video.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:21 PM on January 25, 2009


Man, Russell's star has really faded since Escape from New York.
posted by zippy at 2:23 PM on January 25, 2009


This is precisely what the expression lame was coined for.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 2:27 PM on January 25, 2009


ryanrs: Oh wow... In for a penny, in for a pound, huh?
posted by cthuljew at 2:28 PM on January 25, 2009


previously, a properly offensive kitten video

My offensive kitten video post tops that, but as it was deleted I can't find it now. But here is the original source material (NSF anybody).
posted by Meatbomb at 2:30 PM on January 25, 2009


In comparison to, say, the Whitest Kids U Know doing Hitler Rap (which was totally hilarious and offensive), this was a letdown, and pretty damn weak.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:31 PM on January 25, 2009


I dunno, Meatbomb. It looks like your kitten probably survived.
posted by ryanrs at 2:53 PM on January 25, 2009


If you want to prove censorship you need to do something beyond just being offensive. I want to see something dangerous, something that would make governments tremble.
posted by kanewai at 2:58 PM on January 25, 2009



Seriousl,y what the fuck happened to Ken Russell?.
posted by Sparx at 3:03 PM on January 25, 2009


About as offensive as this.
posted by strawberryviagra at 3:04 PM on January 25, 2009


Oddly, my partner and I have been batting around this topic all week, then it crops up on MeFi, what are the chances?

How about cats that look like Hitler? Is that in bad taste? Worthy of censorship? I mean some of them just have those markings, is that so wrong? Or are they still cute?

"Springtime for Hitler" from the film The Producers (both the original 1968 version and the 2005 remake) is absolutely hilarious. Should that have been censored?

In order to make my images searches I am constantly forced by Google Images to change the default setting of "moderate safe search" to "do not filter my results". This annoys me no end, as I feel we experience quite enough censorship in our day to day lives without it being the default setting on our search engine.

The internet has in the past been the one place that has been the closest medium to a true reflection of the human condition; the good, the bad AND the ugly. I for one don't want that to change. Anything less would just be a lie we told ourselves.

{/rant}

Mefi: Godwin's Law gone mad?
posted by Don't_deceive_with_belief at 3:13 PM on January 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


[...]Springtime for Hitler?

Russell namechecked it in the "story behind it all" article.


So he did. Funnily enough, I quit just one line prior to the Springtime mention, where he writes, "People do not make jokes about the Holocaust."

My eyes rolled so hard I couldn't continue reading. No one jokes about the Holocaust. Uh-huh. Sure.

Except for, you know, every single Jewish comedian since, and plenty of gentile ones too.

And "Porn-Again Christian"? Dude, it's been done.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:15 PM on January 25, 2009


Touchee strawberryviagra.
posted by Don't_deceive_with_belief at 3:17 PM on January 25, 2009


Speaking of offensive videos about kittens...

(And now it can't be a FPP because it'd be a double. Whew!)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:55 PM on January 25, 2009


I think what persuades Russell that this is so shocking is the whole lampshade part, and admittedly that's a lot further than Mel Brooks went and is presumably what raised Melvyn Bragg's eyebrow when he saw it in written form. But the fact that that bit is over most mainstream comedians' line is sort of lost because of how the article oversells it. By the time you get there your sensibilities are deadened by how fantastically dumb it's been up to that point. And I guess having the kid played by a midget in late middle age was supposed to be offensive too, though to whom I'm not sure.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:56 PM on January 25, 2009


I think what persuades Russell that this is so shocking is the whole lampshade part, and admittedly that's a lot further than Mel Brooks went and is presumably what raised Melvyn Bragg's eyebrow when he saw it in written form. ...And I guess having the kid played by a midget in late middle age was supposed to be offensive too, though to whom I'm not sure.

Actually, if it had been a kid -- which I imagine was Russell's original intent -- this might have prompted a very different reaction. I'm just guessing, but I think that the midget was probably cast because they thought it'd be a little too wrong to actually have a kid in there. Which...I mean, if they had, then yeah, I think there'd be a much more horrified response to the movie.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:07 PM on January 25, 2009


No one ever jokes about Stalin.
posted by Artw at 4:50 PM on January 25, 2009


Well? Have they lynched him yet?

Stalin should have so totally done the funny mustache thing. That would have cemented his place in internet lore/memes.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:21 PM on January 25, 2009


Doesn't seem offensive to me, but then again I've gotten used to being SILENCED ALL MY LIFE.
posted by hermitosis at 5:41 PM on January 25, 2009


There's offensive and then there's the internet.
posted by DU at 5:43 PM on January 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


No one ever jokes about Stalin.

You don't read enough Russian literature, full of Stalin jokes! Sad, bitter, Stalin jokes layered with irony, but still jokes.


He named himself IRON MAN! He was so short he stood on an apple carton! He had people taller than him airbrushed out?! The Commissar Vanishes is one of the more interesting takes on how deadly and absurd Russia was under Stalin.
posted by The Whelk at 6:24 PM on January 25, 2009


Dr. Who Meets Hitler
posted by The Whelk at 6:26 PM on January 25, 2009


I, for one, am all for banning "comedy" that is boring and not funny.

Okay, not really banning as I value free speech and all that, but this is offensively bad in a way that it wasn't meant to be.
posted by msbrauer at 6:31 PM on January 25, 2009


So, folks, I didn't find the "movie" particularly offensive, in fact I didn't think it was trying very hard at all, so I wrote a long passage about my own offensive (non-existent) movie about Hitler named "Ivory and Ebony in the New World". The narrative got out of hand and was quite long (about two pages), and metatalk is down, so I didn't want to subject everyone to it with no recourse to deal with it. I was curious to see if the post would get deleted (probably) but it would disrupt the thread.

Even though the supposedly offensive movie was tame, I think it does start an interesting conversation about censorship. What I wrote actually made rethink censorship.
posted by fuq at 6:37 PM on January 25, 2009


disappointingly inoffensive
posted by gregr at 6:57 PM on January 25, 2009


I have an idea, how about a movie about a clown in a nazi concentration camp that leads laughing children into the gas chambers.

Oh, it's been done?
posted by empath at 7:17 PM on January 25, 2009


A PUSSY for Hitler.

Now THAT would be offensive.
posted by mazola at 10:51 PM on January 25, 2009


My little Auschwitz pony.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:56 PM on January 25, 2009


Been Done.
posted by empath at 10:59 PM on January 25, 2009


“Ken,” he said, “if ever you make this film and it is shown, you will be lynched.'

Four years ago, Theo van Gogh was lynched for a movie he made.
posted by iviken at 11:29 PM on January 25, 2009


In as much that been shot and stabbed in the street by a mentally ill religious extremist is like being lynched. Me, I'd call that straight up murder.

Anyway, what's with all the bad bluescreen and dwarves? I'd say the makers of this film had already been lynched. DAVID Lynched.
posted by Artw at 11:39 PM on January 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not Even Doom Music..
posted by pyrex at 1:28 AM on January 26, 2009


I object to Ken Russell. I came all the way from Australia to visit the Bronte parsonage museum in Haworth, and I couldn't get any photos of the garden because Ken Russell had taken it over to film something called "Charlotte Bronte Enters the Big Brother House". He owes me.
posted by andraste at 3:07 AM on January 26, 2009


No one ever jokes about Stalin.

Ever hear the one about Pol Pot calling the kettle black?
posted by octobersurprise at 5:46 AM on January 26, 2009


A couple of years ago, watching the History Channel, I had the worrying realization that we wouldn't talk about, reference, watch movies about, read about, delve into the private details of, compare people to, Hitler as much had the fucker won.
posted by ob at 8:01 AM on January 26, 2009


They couldn't even cast a real kitten?
posted by krix at 8:43 AM on January 26, 2009


I'm a lot less impressed by this after finding out that the Ken Russell actually made it.
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:52 PM on January 26, 2009


No one ever jokes about Stalin.

>An old wench waited for two hours to get in a bus. Bus after bus came full and she couldn't squeeze herself in. When she finally managed to crawl in, she wiped her forehead, and said, "Finally, glory to God!"

The driver said, "Mother, you must not say that. You must say 'Glory to comrade Stalin."

"Excuse me, comrade," the woman said. "I'm just a backward old woman. I'll say from now on as you told me."

After a while, she said, "Excuse me, comrade, I am old and stupid. What shall I say if, God forbid, Stalin dies?"

"Oh, mother, then you shall say, "'Glory to God!"


>This is Armenian Radio; our listeners asked us: “Why Lenin wore regular shoes, but Stalin wore boots?”

We’re answering: “At Lenin's time, Russia was still only ankle-high in shit.”
posted by ersatz at 10:34 AM on January 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


And thus the Stalin/Hitler pendulum swings back...
posted by Artw at 11:34 AM on January 27, 2009


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