SPOOKSTERS OF MAGIC PAST AND PRESENT
Grand Guignol of 1963
by Bob Nelson
Ghost show entrepreneurs seeking 'something new' might well seriously study the 65 year old horrific history of La Thestre due Grand Guidol of Paris, France...where horror, sadism and sex reigned supreme.
The Grand Guidol was dedicated to the presentation and reenactment of nearly all the worst sex crimes ever committed. Its single purpose was to present orgies or eroticism and sadism, which delight or disgust, but always horrify with startling realism.
Patrons, which include a goodly number of American tourists each year, were treated to such experiences of seeing beautiful women nailed to a cross and carved to pieces; thrown in acid vats; having chunks of flesh ripped from their bodies with hooks for hands; burned alive and abused in every conceivable manner.
Nothing but sheer horror! Stark, naked realism, literally and figuratively speaking. Out of a repertoire of more than a thousand thrillers, on of the favorites was called "The Laboratory of Hallucinations." Briefly the theme - a surgeon operates on the brain of his wifes lover, pinching here, clamping there, until he has drive the man utterly mad. The patient arises from the operation table and drives a chisel thru the doctor's forehead. CURTAIN.
In another bloodcurdling sequence entitled "The Orgy in the Lighthouse" two young men persuade a couple of girls to join them in a room atop a lighthouse on the coast of France. There is much drinking, singing, et cetera. In the midst of the revelry is heard the sound of an approaching ship, headed for the rocks below. The young men discover the beacon light is out and disaster is eminent. Believing the women to be some kind of witches and that they have jinxed the lighthouse, the boys throw one of the girls onto the jagged cliffs below. The ship approaches the rocks (no beacon light), so our two heroes drag the remaining girl on to the lighthouse cat-walk and hang her from the hooks. They douse her body with gasoline and throw a match at her. Amidst screams, shrieks, oaths and prayers the great light brightens the portholes, and the semi-nude figure of the girl can be seen in the flames, lighting the way home for the wayward ship. At this terrifying climax, the curtain slowly descends.
As a relief to these gruesome shenanigans, the Grand Guidol varies its programs with the bed-room farces, hilarious bits of nonsense, nudity and more sex. It's old fashion American burlesque with the French interpretation.
It is amazing to note that La Theatre due Grand Guidol has prospered for more than three decades, presenting nightly its combinations of abstract horror, sadism, and sex. But alas the Grand Guidol no longer exists - but not for the lack of patronage. The old church that housed the theatre is being razed and a brand new theatre for avant-garde plays will rise in its place, just of Rue Pigalle in the Montmarte section of Paris, France. An American producer-director is endeavoring to establish a Grand Guidol Theatre in America. Whether he will succeed is questionable, for in America our sadism is usually well disguised and our brawdiness usually takes the form of cuteness.
The American ghost or horror show advertises to 'scare the yell out of you', yet invariably falls short of the mark. What is needed in our horror shows is plot, continuity, realism and drama instead of a hodge podge of magic, sickly comedy, and frightless blackouts. Perhaps these short comings can be attributed to the lack of stage facilities and space, of dirty theatres back stage, lack of manager cooperation and the monopoly held by noisy, ill behaved teenagers in the audience, who discourage adult attendance.
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