Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

Colorful Moments in Early Black-and-White Horror

Lon Chaney in Phantom of the Opera, 1925, black-and-white masked ball scene.

Most people think of the silent film version of Phantom of the Opera as a black-and-white film but, in reality, there were a number of color scenes in the movie.

As early as 1895, methods had been invented to inject color into scenes, but these “additive color systems” used processes that were tedious and time-consuming: hand-coloring, stenciling, tinting, and toning. They were only used on a limited basis. Tinting and toning gave the best results and were used by D.W. Griffith. Prismacolor and the Handschiegel Process fall into this category.

In 1915, the Technicolor Corporation invented a two-strip process, and this was incorporated into select scenes in Phantom of the Opera, 1925.

Lon Chaney in Phantom of the Opera, 1925, in technicolor.

Whether the black-and-white scenes or the color scenes are more frightening depends on the individual viewer. I personally like the light and dark contrasts of black-and-white film in horror movies because it feels moodier, creepier, and more akin to the darkness of evil. (Think about the original Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, and The Wolfman and how different they would look in color.)

Color films, in fact, did not really take off until the late 1930s due to the expense. And producers expected big returns on their money. It wasn’t until the 1960s that color became the norm. Now, watching a black-and-white film seems to be a treat reserved for film buffs alone!

The Unmasking Scene, Phantom of the Opera, 1925, in black-and-white.
Masked Ball Scene, Phantom of the Opera, 1925, in early technicolor.

Which do YOU prefer?

Dawn Pisturino

October 5, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Barsam, Richard, and Dave Monahan. Looking at Movies, 5th ed. New York: Norton, 2016.

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Godzilla Rules

After the bombing of Hiroshima, filmmakers became obsessed with sci fi movies that exposed and speculated about the harmful effects of radiation poisoning on humans and the environment. Giant, monstrous creatures produced from radiation exposure became a popular theme, particularly in Japan, where the original Godzilla was born in 1954. A whole series of movies featuring Godzilla and sundry other monsters followed. Even today, remakes of the Japanese originals remain popular. And merchandise sales of T-shirts, toys, and other items remain strong. Godzilla even earned his own pop song:

Blue Oyster Cult – Godzilla
Godzilla original movie theme, 1954.

Godzilla Rules!

Dawn Pisturino

October 2, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA, (866) 706-4826.

All photos by Dawn Pisturino.

The owners of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery had a vision to turn a sad, quiet place of rest into a thriving cultural and visitor center. Built in 1899, the cemetery is home to numerous Hollywood stars, directors, and other dignitaries. Visitors flock to the site to view the final resting places of famous people and walk among the beautiful gardens. At the south end of the cemetery can be seen the historic Paramount Studios on the other side of the wall.

During the summer, the cemetery features classic film screenings in association with Cinespia. People bring picnics and lawn chairs and hang out on the Fairbanks Lawn after sunset to enjoy the warm California weather. There’s usually a long line to purchase tickets and to get in.

The cemetery also hosts one of the largest Dia de Los Muertos festivals in America.

Every time I have been to Hollywood Forever Cemetery, I have enjoyed myself immensely. And walking among the headstones and mingling with the crowds is a fun experience and not scary at all – even after dark.

Did you notice the lipstick on Rudolph Valentino’s crypt? He still has a big following of swooning female fans!

Dawn Pisturino

October 6, 2021

Copyright 2008-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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My Letter to the National School Boards Association (NSBA)

AP Photo, August 25, 2021.

To the National School Boards Association:

Since NSBA has taken the stance that parents who care about their children should be dubbed “domestic terrorists,” I am calling for a NATIONAL BOYCOTT against the Public School System in EVERY STATE.

NOBODY tells me and my family what to do.

The Federal government is out of line and out of control, and so are the liberal organizations supporting it.

WE WILL NOT BOW DOWN TO TYRANNY, BULLYING, HARASSMENT, AND DICTATORSHIP.

Thank you.

Dawn Pisturino

October 5, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Ride of the Valkyries

The Ride of the Valkyries is one of Richard Wagner’s most popular pieces. The music has been used as part of the soundtrack in Francis Ford Coppola’s movie, Apocalypse Now, included in Halloween music collections, and hailed as an anthem for strong, courageous women. Everybody loves the iconic image of hefty, solid women dressed in armor, ready to wage battle. The music is rousing, active, and elevating. And the scene, which marks the beginning of Act Three in the opera Die Walkure, appeals to people who appreciate the enduring legacy of Nordic and Teutonic mythology. It is the second opera in the four operas which make up the Der Ring des Nibelungen cycle (The Ring). Many people believe J.R.R. Tolkien derived The Lord of the Rings from Wagner’s Ring, but Tolkien always denied that idea. Still, the similarities cannot be ignored. Wagner’s ring is a symbol of complete and total power that can be wielded against others. Cursed by Alberich, it becomes the cause of all the misery in the world. Sound familiar?

But who and what are the Valkyries?

In Norse mythology, the Valkyries were warrior goddesses associated with the god Odin. Their primary function was to bring back the bodies of slain heroes to Valhalla, where they would feast with Odin. They were called the Einherjar. Some were chosen to fight with Odin at the end of the world, during Ragnarok.

Wagner uses Teutonic mythology in his opera. The Valkyries were the daughters of Wotan who chose which heroes would be slain and then transported their bodies to the halls of Valhalla. Wotan’s daughter, Brunnhilde, embodies the qualities of courage, strength, wisdom, and precognition. It is her sacrifice which finally destroys the cruel, omnipotent power of the ring and saves the world.

The Ride of the Valkyries, from the Metropolitan Opera 2012 production. Enjoy!

Dawn Pisturino

October 4, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Sociopath vs. Psychopath: What’s the Difference?

This explanation of sociopath vs. psychopath comes from a class I took. “Psychopath” is a term used mostly in criminal justice. Many people have fallen prey to sociopaths and psychopaths, which is why it is important to recognize that these types of people exist in society.

Sociopath vs. Psychopath:

“The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), released by the American Psychiatric Association in 2013, lists both sociopathy and psychopathy under the heading of Antisocial Personality Disorders (ASPD). These disorders share many common behavioral traits which lead to the confusion between them. Key traits that sociopaths and psychopaths share include: 

  • A disregard for laws and social mores
  • A disregard for the rights of others
  • A failure to feel remorse or guilt
  • A tendency to display violent behavior”

Sociopaths

“Sociopaths tend to be nervous and easily agitated. They are volatile and prone to emotional outbursts, including fits of rage. They are likely to be uneducated and live on the fringes of society, unable to hold down a steady job or stay in one place for very long. It is difficult but not impossible for sociopaths to form attachments with others.  In the eyes of others, sociopaths will appear to be very disturbed. Any crimes committed by a sociopath, including murder, will tend to be haphazard, disorganized and spontaneous rather than planned.”

Example: O. J. Simpson

Psychopaths

“Psychopaths are unable to form emotional attachments or feel real empathy with others, although they often have disarming or even charming personalities. Psychopaths are very manipulative and can easily gain people‚Äôs trust. They learn to mimic emotions, despite their inability to actually feel them, and will appear normal to unsuspecting people. Psychopaths are often well educated and hold steady jobs. Some are so good at manipulation and mimicry that they have families and other long-term relationships without those around them ever suspecting their true nature.”

Example: Ted Bundy, Charles Manson

NOTE: There is no cure for these disorders, and medication does not work.

Dawn Pisturino, RN

September 21, 2021

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Puttin’ on the Ritz

I’ve read that performer Michael Jackson was a big fan of Fred Astaire and studied his dance techniques. This became obvious in the style of some of his costumes, and in his own dance routines.

One of my favorite dance numbers by Fred Astaire is “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” The song was written by Irving Berlin in 1927 and published in 1929. In 1930, it became the central theme of the musical, Puttin’ on the Ritz. (See video below.)

The phrase “puttin’ on the Ritz” meant dressing fashionably in the slang of that day. The “Ritz” referred to the Ritz Hotel in London, England.

Fred Astaire performed his famous dance routine in the film, Blue Skies (1946). (See video below.)

Mel Brooks included a dance scene using Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle in 1974, in the movie Young Frankenstein.

The song and the dance were revived by the Dutch singer, Taco, in 1982 and became an international hit – MTV even aired the music video.

The music is still catchy, and makes you want to get up and dance!

Fred Astaire version (1946), courtesy of Drive-In Movie History on You Tube (includes a short clip from Young Frankenstein):

Taco version, courtesy of Taco on YouTube:

Harry Richman version (1930), courtesy of Addehiovy on YouTube:

Ritz Hotel, London, England

Dawn Pisturino

September 29, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Our UFO Experiences

Illustration from History.com. Learn more here: Black Triangle UFOs

My husband is a dedicated Star Trek and Star Wars fan, so I didn’t think much about it when he told me he saw a UFO over our house one night. He described it as triangular with lights, like the above photo, and told me how disappointed he was that the craft didn’t try to beam him up, like Scotty in Star Trek. I told him he was probably too heavy a load. The whole incident turned into a private joke, and we didn’t talk about it much after that conversation.

I didn’t really believe in UFOs then, and I’m not even sure about it now. After all, we only live about a three or four hour drive south of Area 51, and I assumed that any strange things we saw in the sky originated from there. We’ve occasionally seen small objects in the sky that suddenly shot up straight into the air and disappeared. But this always seems to happen around sunset, so maybe it’s the angle of the sun as it goes down that gives us that impression. (I’m trying to be a realist here.)

We’ve watched numerous documentaries about aliens and UFOs, including the recent Skinwalker Ranch series on History Vault. Some sound rational and logical, while others just seem like a lot of hype. If I ever saw one of the mushroom creatures described in Whitley Strieber’s book, Communion, I think I would die on the spot of a heart attack.

The one credible story I’ve seen was the movie, Fire in the Sky. Made in 1993, the movie was based on Travis Walton’s book, The Walton Experience. In it, he tells the story of his abduction by an alien spacecraft on November 5, 1975 in Snowflake, Arizona while logging with his co-workers in the White Mountains. He disappeared for days, and when he returned, people didn’t know how to react to his story. He and his co-workers underwent lie detector tests and passed.

When I worked in Flagstaff, Arizona, I met people who know Travis Walton. They told me he is a down-to-earth, straight up guy who wouldn’t lie about something like that. Snowflake is a small, tightly-knit Mormon town where everybody knows each other, so I believe what they told me. Since then, I have watched several interviews with Mr. Walton, and he comes across as an honest guy.

But, it wasn’t until I had my own strange experience that I began to believe.

A few years ago, my husband was working odd hours and left for work at 02:30 in the morning. I was standing on the front porch saying good-bye to him, and all of a sudden, I saw two red lights hovering above the barbed wire fence across the road. We live in a rural area, and there’s nothing across the road except miles and miles of BLM land. There is no road on the other side of the fence. I took a closer look. The two red lights were fairly close together and looked like the tail lights on an old classic car. As I watched, one went out, and then the other. This all happened very quickly, but as I thought about it, I realized there was no sound and no body attached to the lights. The lights were hovering above the horizon, several feet above the fence, so they could not belong to any kind of vehicle sitting on the other side of the fence. It seemed to me that whatever had been hovering there was invisible except for the lights. And when they went out, all I saw in the distance were stars and the lights of houses, all miles away on the main highway.

My first impulse was to blame it on a drone. I couldn’t explain it otherwise. However, I have never seen anything written about invisible drones. And the pictures I’ve seen do not match what I saw.

So, I’m stumped. What could it have been? And since then, when I asked my husband to describe in detail what he saw, he told me that the triangle-shaped craft was hovering over our house. My daughter and I were asleep, and he had just gotten home from work. It was the middle of the night, and the craft took off as soon as he got home.

Were my daughter and I going to be abducted and my husband’s sudden appearance changed their minds? That idea continues to haunt me to this day.

Or, were they after the cat?

Please share your thoughts!

Dawn Pisturino

September 30, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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For James Dean

Rest in Peace
September 30, 2021 marks the 66th anniversary of his death


For James Dean 
Welcome me, if you will,
as the ambassador of a hatred
who knows its cause
and does not envy you your whim
of ending him.
 
For a young actor I am begging
peace, gods. Alone
in the empty streets of New York
I am its dirty feet and head
and he is dead.
 
He has banged into your wail
of air, your hubris, racing
towards your heights and you
have cut him from your table
which is built, how unfairly
for us l not on trees, but on clouds.
 
I speak as one whose filth
is like his own, of pride
and speed and your terrible
example nearer than the siren’s speech,
a spirit eager for the punishment
which is your only recognition.
 
Peace! to be true to a city
of rats and to loved the envy
of the dreary, smudged mouthers
of an arcane dejection
smoldering quietly in the perception
of hopelessness and scandal
at unnatural vigor. Their dreams
are their own, as are the toilets
of a great railway terminal
and the sequins of a very small,
very fat eyelid.
                       I take this
for myself, and you take up
the thread of my life between your teeth
tin thread and tarnished with abuse.
you still shall hear
as long as the beast in me maintains
its taciturn power to close my lids
in tears, and my loins move yet
in the ennobling pursuit of all the worlds
you have left me alone in, and would be
the dolorous distraction from,
while you summon your army of anguishes
which is a million hooting blood vessels
on the eyes and in the ears
at the instant before death.
                                         And
the menus who surrounded him critically,
languorously waiting for a
final impertinence to rebel
and enslave him, starlets and other
glittering things in the hog-wallow,
lunging mireward in their inane
moth-like adoration of niggardly
cares and stagnant respects
paid themselves, you spared,
as a hospital preserves its orderlies.
Are these your latter-day saints
these unctuous starers, muscular
somnambulists, these stages for which
no word’s been written hollow
enough, these exhibitionists in
well veiled booths, these navel-suckers?
 
Is it true that you high ones, celebrated
among amorous flies, hated the
prodigy and invention of his nerves?
To withhold your light
from painstaking paths!
your love
should be difficult; as his was hard.
 
Nostrils of pain dawn avenues
of luminous spit-globes breathe in
the fragrance of his innocent flesh
like smoke, the temporary lift,
the post-cancer excitement
of vile manners and veal-thin lips,
obscure in the carelessness of your scissors,
 
Men cry from the grave while they still live
and now I am this dead man’s voice,
stammering, a little in the earth.
I take up
the nourishment of his pale green eyes,
out of which I shall prevent
flowers from growing, your flowers.
~ Frank O’Hara ~


BIO: James Dean died in a car crash on September 30, 1955. A coroner’s jury determined that he had been speeding at the time of the crash. His death shocked the nation because he had become a familiar face on the Big Screen. His most famous movie, Rebel Without a Cause, made him a Hollywood legend. He is still remembered as the troubled Bad Boy who just couldn’t get a break. Dean started his career in television, then got his big break in the movies. He also enjoyed playing on stage in Broadway and Off Broadway productions. He openly admitted to being bisexual and often used his sexuality to get special favors. He was only 24 years old when he died. 

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Norwegian Black Metal Bands – Satanic or Psychotic?

Mayhem

The 1990s rock-and-roll scene spawned a second generation of black metal music – an offshoot of 1970s heavy metal, 1980s New Wave British Heavy Metal, and punk. This highly elitist genre catered to musicians who wanted to develop their own style and leave a permanent mark on the music industry. (Baddeley)

Bands adopted Satanic themes, and the music became more bizarre and atonal, preferring chaos over organized harmony. Make-up and costumes reflected the fierce competition between bands – the more exotic and dark, the better. The Goth movement was in full swing at this time and became another hallmark of the black metal look and sound. Images of death, suicide, and violence dominated the performance stage and album covers. “Corpse paint” – the distinctive black and white face paint used by many black metal bands – became the standard, inspired by such heavy metal bands as KISS and punk bands like the Misfits. (Baddeley)

Some bands fell under the influence of occultist Aleister Crowley, Anton La Vey – founder of the Church of Satan, – and the iconic imagery from The Lord of the Rings books. Using Satan to create a unique look, sound, and feel became a marketing tool for many bands trying to succeed in the music business. But other bands took Satanism to a far more serious level. (Baddeley)

In the 1980s, in Sweden, the black metal band Bathory began combining images from Norse mythology with neo-Nazi fascism, inventing the gruesome genre called “death metal.” This spelled the end of the group, but the fascination caught on, with other groups taking on the mantle. (Baddeley)

In Norway, an independent record label named Deathlike Silence was started by Oystein Aarseth, who nicknamed himself “Euronymous.” He claimed to be a true Satanist and owned the record shop, Helvete. In 1984, at the height of the first black metal wave, he formed the band, Mayhem, along with bass guitarist Jorn Stubberud (“Necrobutcher”) and drummer Kjetil Manheim. In 1988, Per Ohlin (“Dead”) joined the band as the lead vocalist, and Jan Axel Blomberg (“Hellhammer”) became the band’s drummer. (Baddeley)

Euronymous’ record store became a focal point for the second generation of black metal bands to flourish in Norway in the early 1990s. An elitist group of black metal bands formed the Black Metal Circle under the influence of Euronymous and his Satanist theology. His interpretation of the Bible’s story of the war between Heaven and Hell formed the basis of his Satanic beliefs. And he eagerly embraced Satanic ideas about evil, hate, and revenge. (Baddeley)

Other bands in this circle included Burzum, Emperor, Immortal, Enslaved, Arcturus, and Dark Throne. Dark Throne gradually fell apart as members became isolated, anti-social, and sociopathic to the point where they no longer got together to record any music. (Baddeley)

Kristian Vikernes was the leader of Burzum. He went by the stage name “Count Grishnack.” Later, he changed his Christian name to Varg, which is Norwegian for “wolf.” The band’s distinctive sound covered a wide range between sad and deeply emotional to dark, angry, and furious. Grishnack himself believed in the darkness versus light mythology embodied in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and embraced the violent, conquest-driven history of the Norwegian Vikings. It wasn’t long before the Black Metal Circle began to indulge in fantasies of race-based neo-Nazi fascism. (Baddeley)

The darkness that surrounded Mayhem made its presence felt when lead vocalist, Dead, committed suicide in April, 1991. He had been having fantasies about murder, for he said, “I started to imagine a heavy fog lit up by a full moon. This fog oozed up from that place, drifting woefully in silence to extinguish the lives of the local people and bring their souls to Lord Satan” (Rolling Stone). He died by slitting his wrists and throat and then shooting himself in the head with a shotgun (NME). He left a suicide note in which he expressed his alienation from the world and desire to live alone in the forest (Baddeley). He also wrote, “Excuse the blood” (NME).

Euronymous found the body, took photographs, and kept a piece of Dead’s skull, which he wore as a necklace (Baddeley; NME). He also scooped up part of Dead’s brains and, later, ate it in soup. Members of the Black Metal Circle called Dead a hero (Baddeley).

Dead’s suicide led to an international resurgence in black metal music. The Black Metal Circle designated “Norway as the Aryan homeland” (Baddeley), impugning other countries and other bands as inferior, and sparking a war that led to threats and harassment from all sides.

In June 1992, a stave church (medieval wooden church) was burned down in the Norwegian town of Fantoft. Several more churches were burned, and in January 1993, Grishnack was arrested for arson (Baddeley). Months later, on August 10, 1993, Euronymous died from 25 stab wounds to the face and chest. It wasn’t long before Grishnack was arrested for his murder. During the investigation, police found a notebook in Euronymous’ apartment detailing “a merit system whereby status [in the Black Metal Circle] was determined by the number of evil acts perpetrated [for Satan]” (Baddeley). Other members of the circle were arrested on charges of arson, rape, and other horrendous crimes (Baddeley).

Although these crimes brought negative publicity to the group, Mayhem still thrives “as the most unremittingly evil black metal band” (Baddeley), cashing in on the death of Euronymous.

In 2021, we can see the influence of death, darkness, and destruction on young people and their mentors in our schools and universities. While the social justice movement started out with good intentions, it has morphed into a negative force that destroys young people. They will never be able to survive in society except as hate-filled warriors. They will always be looking for trouble and getting themselves into trouble because their heads are filled with delusions of injustice wherever they go. They will never form healthy relationships with others because their hearts are filled with suspicion and hate.

By the same token, rock-and-roll started out as fun music that fostered dancing and socializing. Lyrics were simple and didn’t require too much thinking. Young people could interact without worrying about getting beat up, raped, or murdered. But rock also morphed into something negative and destructive. And our young people are the ones who suffer under its nihilistic influence.

Dawn Pisturino

September 28, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Works Cited

Baddeley, Gavin. Lucifer Rising. London: Plexus, 2006.

Grow, Kory. “Mayhem’s Long, Dark Road to Reviving a Black-Metal Classic.” Rolling Stone. 2017.

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/Mayhems-long-dark-road-to-reviving-a-black-

metal-classic-129097/

Pattison, Louis. “Mayhem: Meet the Band with the Wildest Story Ever Told.” NME. 2016.

Mayhem: Meet The Band With The Wildest Story Ever Told

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