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October 28

Houghton at 75 - Altered States

As the final piece in the HFA’s tribute to Harvard’s Houghton Library on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of its founding, we present two very special films that typify the spirit of one of Harvard’s most unusual special collections: the Ludlow-Santo Domingo (LSD) Library, which collects books, manuscripts and images about psychoactive drugs and the many cultural and countercultural products inspired by the altered states of mind such drugs produce, with major holdings of erotica and underground comix.
David Pendleton

An exhibit highlighting the LSD Library, entitled “Altered States: Sex, Drugs, and Transcendence in the Ludlow-Santo Domingo Library” is on display at Houghton from September 5 through December 16. The exhibition will be open for a special viewing on Saturday, October 28 from 5:45 to 6:45, as well as the normal hours of 9am to 5pm.

Film descriptions by Brittany Gravely and Haden Guest.

Introduction by Leslie A. Morris, Curator of Modern Books and Manuscripts, Houghton Library
Saturday October 28 at 7pm


Directed by Roger Vadim. With Jane Fonda, John Phillip Law, Anita Pallenberg
US 1968, 35mm, color, 98 min

Based on Jean-Claude Forest’s adult French comic, Barbarella giddily imagines a pop, flower-powered space age where sexuality isn’t considered prurient or even provocative. Campy and over-the-top in every respect—from the catchy, loungey TV-era theme song to its surreal and oversexed imagery reminiscent of Italian Gothic horror films, Barbarella is both an idealistic and cynical view of modern culture, but does not take itself very seriously. Director Vadim emphasized that star Jane Fonda would not “be a science fiction character, nor will she play Barbarella tongue in cheek. She is just a lovely, average girl with a terrific space record and a lovely body.” Barbarella remains incorruptible even as she awakens to her primary power—sex—and the concept of evil. She is flexible though, sometimes fighting fire with fire, but does so with a positive resourcefulness as she encounters all manner of attempts on her life: marching robots, animatronic vampire dolls, a highly stimulating electric organ, a transparent bubble filled with pretty—and lethal—parakeets, and the lava-lamp-like liquid “Mathmos” that surrounds and sustains the dystopian Sogo, the city of night.

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Saturday October 28 at 9pm

Monkey on my Back

Directed by Andre De Toth. With Cameron Mitchell, Dianne Foster, Paul Richards
US 1957, 35mm, b/w, 94 min

Andre De Toth's gripping character study was among the first Hollywood films to realistically depict drug addition, a topic considered taboo by the studios since the imposition of the Production Code. Based on the real-life struggle of former Marine and boxing champion Barney Ross and his descent into addiction after being treated with morphine as a wounded soldier, Monkey on my Back offers its story not as an aberrant story of lurid vice but as a cautionary tale that could happen to even the most outstanding citizen. The feverish exploration of the back alleys and seedy clubs where drugs and addicts were forced into hiding gives rich dimension to the dark underworld setting central to De Toth's cinema. In the lead role—rumored to have been offered to Marlon Brando—Cameron Mitchell brings pathos and raw vulnerability to the suffering ex-fighter forced into another and more punishing kind of ring.

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