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September 30, 2007 2:37 PM   Subscribe

The Adventures of Mark Twain. Some of you may remember this strange film from 1985 , this clip in particular.
posted by nola (45 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Mysterious stranger is pure, pure evil. I saw it in an SA thread a few weeks ago about scary childhood stuff. Freaked me out of me even though I'm 25 and it's the first time I've seen it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:51 PM on September 30, 2007

That's about as creepy a thing as I need to see today, thank you.
posted by Clave at 2:52 PM on September 30, 2007

Only tangentially related, but Joan Gratz, production designer on Twain, won an oscar for Mona Lisa Descending a Staircase.
posted by dersins at 2:59 PM on September 30, 2007

I was fascinated by this movie as a kid. A little weirded out, but I'd read the original story, so it made slightly more sense.
posted by EarBucket at 3:00 PM on September 30, 2007

(and Will Vinton, director of Twain, had won his own Oscar earlier for Closed Mondays.)
posted by dersins at 3:01 PM on September 30, 2007

Thanks dersins, for fleshing out this post with those links. Very interesting. I really enjoyed Mona Lisa Descending a Staircase.
posted by nola at 3:14 PM on September 30, 2007

I still sing the song from this one from time to time.
posted by Captaintripps at 3:14 PM on September 30, 2007

The mysterious stranger is going to give me nightmares. Thanks.
posted by seanyboy at 3:17 PM on September 30, 2007

This was such an awesome movie. I can't remember how I had it...maybe it got copied onto one of our old VHS tapes or something, I'm not sure. I do know that I watched it a number of times when I was young and not-so-young. I found the claymation to be really amazing -- I have to say that this movie really lent itself to the medium -- and it made me think Twain was even more awesome than I'd thought before.

A great movie for anyone who likes claymation, Mark Twain, or movies.
posted by Deathalicious at 3:29 PM on September 30, 2007

Hold the acid.
posted by greenskpr at 3:32 PM on September 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Claymation, Clay Aiken, Clay from Top Chef, Clay Satan. It's all evil.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 3:33 PM on September 30, 2007

ahhh, fuck, help.
posted by greenskpr at 3:34 PM on September 30, 2007

Here's something more familiar by Will Vinton.
posted by Reggie Digest at 3:39 PM on September 30, 2007

The rest of the movie is not as metaphysical or as creepy as that clip, though just as brilliantly (and occasionally even better) animated. I had it on video about fifteen years ago, and would love to track it down on DVD.
posted by Hogshead at 3:42 PM on September 30, 2007

Wow, this movie, and that scene in particular, made a huge impact on 9 year old sklero. Thanks for this.
posted by sklero at 3:45 PM on September 30, 2007

Man that was creepy. Almost as creepy as Gorgon the friendly angel.
posted by vronsky at 3:46 PM on September 30, 2007

It depresses me that my younger relatives have no idea what Claymation is. It seems most of what they watch anymore is cheaply-produced computer animation.
posted by TrialByMedia at 3:47 PM on September 30, 2007

I swear this is a double, but I can't find it, except in a thread where I posted it as a comment.
posted by empath at 3:55 PM on September 30, 2007

Well, Mysterious Stranger on YouTube was front page on Reddit a few days ago.
posted by abcde at 4:14 PM on September 30, 2007

Which version of the real thing is that East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94?
posted by Captaintripps at 4:49 PM on September 30, 2007

It is not. It is but a dream.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 4:52 PM on September 30, 2007

Which version of the real thing is that East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94?

You were just looking for an excuse to say "East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94," weren't you?

I know I always am, so a comment by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94, followed by a reference to East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 is always an occasion of great joy for me.

Do you feel that way too, East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 ?
posted by dersins at 4:55 PM on September 30, 2007

Hah, synchronicity! After having a burst of memory the other day, I decided to google around and see if I could find out what the hell that weird movie was. Lo and behold, it's even on TPB. Yay for piracy!
posted by TheNewWazoo at 5:22 PM on September 30, 2007

I had it on video about fifteen years ago, and would love to track it down on DVD.

There you go. 30+ copies, available used and new starting at around $8.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:40 PM on September 30, 2007

Holy crap. I had heard about this film for years but this is the first time I have seen a clip and now I am scared.
posted by LarryC at 6:04 PM on September 30, 2007


I'm a trained professional. Do you need help? I can help.

I can even call on The Deej if need be.
posted by humannaire at 6:17 PM on September 30, 2007

Toward the end of Mark Twain's life his ailing wife had died, two of his daughters had died, and the third had a restraining order preventing him from talking to her. He was ill himself and was increasingly bitter about the world and humanity. It was in this state that he wrote The Mysterious Stranger, which was published posthumously.

So why did they include it in the Claymation Adventures of Mark Twain, presumably geared toward children? And why did they make Satan much more creepy than the original story?
posted by eye of newt at 6:23 PM on September 30, 2007

Some of those models look like Nick Park's "Morph" character.
posted by Dub at 6:49 PM on September 30, 2007

I saw this somewhere not too long ago...posted in a comment, maybe? I don't know, but I'm always glad to see it again. And by glad I mean gleefully disturbed. People always look at me kinda funny when I say Twain is my favorite writer. I guess most didn't get further than Tom Sawyer painting the fence.
posted by Roman Graves at 7:46 PM on September 30, 2007

Oh man, this led me to the diary of Adam and Eve. What great animation. "Wherever she was, was Eden."


Of course, it totally omits my favorite phrase from Adam's diary: "Pulled through". As in, "Sunday: Pulled through."
posted by A dead Quaker at 8:05 PM on September 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Wow, this is deeply trippy! I'd never heard of this, thanks for the post. I wanna see the whole thing. Those are some of the most expressive facial expressions I've seen in claymation, BTW.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:11 PM on September 30, 2007

Just ordered the DVD. Now to get some acid.
posted by Sangermaine at 8:29 PM on September 30, 2007

Twain was a great student of Medieval history and the Mysterious Stranger swims in medieval iconography. Sadly most artists and audiences today have broken or corrupted that tradition because of its overt Christian themes are not seen as politically correct and/or progressive. Yet it still is powerful - Dante's Divine Comedy was the forerunner of the "trip to hell".
posted by stbalbach at 8:38 PM on September 30, 2007

i do believe i had this movie on tape, but this scene must have been edited out!

thanks for posting this, and bringing back a text formative to my young mind.
posted by eustatic at 8:57 PM on September 30, 2007

yeah, they edited out this scene in some showings.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 9:00 PM on September 30, 2007

I loved this movie and I knew exactly what scene that clip would be. It used to scare the holy living bejesus out of me.
posted by lemuria at 9:03 PM on September 30, 2007

I also knew what the scene would be. But only because the movie didn't animate the Mark Twain story about politicians using parliamentary procedure to decide who to eat when snowed in on a rail car.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:35 PM on September 30, 2007

Samuel Clemens was a Freemason and there seem to be parallels here.
I don't want to go off on a coco-bananas anti-Freemason tangent here, but I'll say so much:

This odd depiction of the fallen Angel not as benevolent nor malicious but instead as a natural and ambivalent force that happens to be sentient has vague parallels to Freemasonry and its allusions to God and Geometry (e.g. the 'G' in the Freemason logo). Geometry, mathematics in general, science and the study of nature and reality are all ultimately disciplines of the mind, that are neither good nor bad.

The mysterious stranger is portrayed as an ambivalent architect on this little island in the coldness of empty space (Eden). Freemasons refer to God as the Grand Architect of the Universe.

This view of a higher sentience is slightly agnostic and has parallels to the masonic requirement to believe in a deity, but not demanding, which one exactly a member believes in: thus there are i.e. Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist Freemasons.

I think eye of newt explained it best, when he said that Twain was bitter and disappointed with the world and humanity.

Aside from the many tragedies in his family, he was was driven into bankruptcy by investing and reinvesting in a new type-setting technology that unfortunately never quite worked: the Paige typesetting machine.
This is BTW the reason why he went on an around-the-world lecture-tour: to pay off his debt. Technically/legally he did not need to pay off his debt, he did that because he felt obliged to do it. (The typesetting technology that finally worked is known as the Linotype machine.)

Obviously Freemasons like to cite Clemens as a member, but I can't figure out what to make of Clemens opinion of Freemasonry was while he was writing this story, it'd be interesting to hear what a literate Freemason would say about this...
posted by umop-apisdn at 8:09 AM on October 1, 2007

A link to the movie in question: LINK
posted by metameme at 9:07 AM on October 1, 2007

Your understanding of Freemasonic cosmology is not accurate.

Freemasons do not equate the architect of the Universe with satan at all, forget that line of reasoning altogether.

Masons with an opinion on this issue would not consider the architect of the universe to be ambivalent in nature, but a being of pure spiritual good. You'll have to take my word for that, as obviously I can't cite sources.

You may find more connections to your line of thought in the Cathar belief system, which posits the god of the Old Testament as an usurper analogous to Satan, who presents himself as god but is in reality malicious and evil, the real God being separate and pure, untainted by the imperfections of the material world.

It would be a grave error in over simplifying Clemens' attitude to this subject and his Mysterious Stranger. The representation and setting of the character in this film is not the same as those in Clemens' writings (he never finished this story and in fact there were several versions). IIRC, there is no reference to this little island in space in the originating stories, so that may be a red herring.

In Clemens' day and milieu, membership of the Masons was common and not necessarily associated with any esoteric mindset. Many members probably did not have much to do with the organisation outside of perfunctory meetings and wouldn't have any knowledge of the deeper aspects at all.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 9:12 AM on October 1, 2007

not wendell
posted by humannaire at 11:36 AM on October 1, 2007

Twain also wrote an essay about jerking off.

Some Thoughts on the Science of Onanism
by Mark Twain

posted by vronsky at 1:36 PM on October 1, 2007

My gifted predecessor has warned you against the "social
evil--adultery." In his able paper he exhausted that subject; he
left absolutely nothing more to be said on it. But I will
continue his good work in the cause of morality by cautioning you
against that species of recreation called self-abuse to which I
perceive you are much addicted. All great writers on health and
morals, both ancient and modern, have struggled with this stately
subject; this shows its dignity and importance. Some of these
writers have taken one side, some the other.

Homer, in the second book of the Iliad says with fine
enthusiasm, "Give me masturbation or give me death." Caesar, in
his Commentaries, says, "To the lonely it is company; to the
forsaken it is a friend; to the aged and to the impotent it is a
benefactor. They that are penniless are yet rich, in that they
still have this majestic diversion." In another place this
experienced observer has said, "There are times when I prefer it
to sodomy."

Robinson Crusoe says, "I cannot describe what I owe to this
gentle art." Queen Elizabeth said, "It is the bulwark of
virginity." Cetewayo, the Zulu hero, remarked, "A jerk in the
hand is worth two in the bush." The immortal Franklin has said,
"Masturbation is the best policy."

Michelangelo and all of the other old masters--"old masters,"
I will remark, is an abbreviation, a contraction--have used
similar language. Michelangelo said to Pope Julius II, "Self-
negation is noble, self-culture beneficent, self-possession is
manly, but to the truly great and inspiring soul they are poor and
tame compared with self-abuse." Mr. Brown, here, in one of his
latest and most graceful poems, refers to it in an eloquent line
which is destined to live to the end of time--"None knows it but
to love it; none name it but to praise."

Such are the utterances of the most illustrious of the
masters of this renowned science, and apologists for it. The
name of those who decry it and oppose it is legion; they have made
strong arguments and uttered bitter speeches against it--but there
is not room to repeat them here in much detail. Brigham Young, an
expert of incontestable authority, said, "As compared with the
other thing, it is the difference between the lightning bug and the
lightning." Solomon said, "There is nothing to recommend it but
its cheapness." Galen said, "It is shameful to degrade to such
bestial uses that grand limb, that formidable member, which we
votaries of Science dub the Major Maxillary--when they dub it at
all--which is seldom, It would be better to amputate the os
frontis than to put it to such use."

The great statistician Smith, in his report to Parliament,
says, "In my opinion, more children have been wasted in this way
than any other." It cannot be denied that the high antiquity of
this art entitles it to our respect; but at the same time, I think
its harmfulness demands our condemnation. Mr. Darwin was grieved
to feel obliged to give up his theory that the monkey was the
connecting link between man and the lower animals. I think he was
too hasty. The monkey is the only animal, except man, that
practices this science; hence, he is our brother; there is a bond
of sympathy and relationship between us. Give this ingenuous
animal an audience of the proper kind and he will straightway put
aside his other affairs and take a whet; and you will see by his
contortions and his ecstatic expression that he takes an
intelligent and human interest in his performance.

The signs of excessive indulgence in this destructive pastime
are easily detectable. They are these: a disposition to eat, to
drink, to smoke, to meet together convivially, to laugh, to joke
and tell indelicate stories--and mainly, a yearning to paint
pictures. The results of the habit are: loss of memory, loss of
virility, loss of cheerfulness and loss of progeny.

Of all the various kinds of sexual intercourse, this has the
least to recommend it. As an amusement, it is too fleeting; as an
occupation, it is too wearing; as a public exhibition, there is no
money in it. It is unsuited to the drawing room, and in the most
cultured society it has long been banished from the social board.
It has at last, in our day of progress and improvement, been
degraded to brotherhood with flatulence. Among the best bred,
these two arts are now indulged in only private--though by consent
of the whole company, when only males are present, it is still
permissible, in good society, to remove the embargo on the
fundamental sigh.

My illustrious predecessor has taught you that all forms of
the "social evil" are bad. I would teach you that some of these
forms are more to be avoided than others. So, in concluding, I
say, "If you must gamble your lives sexually, don't play a lone
hand too much." When you feel a revolutionary uprising in your
system, get your Vendome Column down some other way--don't jerk it
posted by vronsky at 1:37 PM on October 1, 2007

I got caught up watching the whole thing tonight. First time I'd seen it. Wild!
posted by carsonb at 9:42 PM on October 17, 2007

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