Monday, August 27, 2012

Fun with Ventriloquism

I was telling a friend over the weekend about this big ventriloquism post I've been working on. She automatically assumed when I said "ventriloquism" that it was going to be for my Horrors of it All blog. But no, it might be a little bit creepy, but it's definitely more at home here at AEET. It's funny to me how things created for children like dolls, stuffed animals, and clowns can morph into the stuff that nightmares are made of... and I'll agree, most of the art and photos featured in Fun with Ventriloquism by Alexander Van Rensselaer (Garden City Books / 1955, illustrations by John Barron) can indeed be seen as scare material to some; but let's try to venture back with an open mind, to a time when big headed, glassy-eyed puppets were intended to be just a handful of non-horrific, re-animated kiddie fun.
























4 comments:

Mr. Cavin said...

While I obviously love number ten--with its astronaut-suited dummy--the very best, I think if you put four, five, and six together (and flip the middle one) it would make a neat and creepy cartoon strip about both the kid and the dummy giving lessons on how to manipulate each other. Cool relaxed artwork here, too.

I guess this may be a pretty simplistic observation, but I always just attributed the whole clown / doll / toy thing to the fact that children are, for the most part, the humans who develop the most abiding interest in scary stuff. At least the kind of scary we like to entertain ourselves with. Instructive fear. I mean, if you were to ask almost anyone what the scariest moves were, they are probably going to answer you with moves they saw when they were between eight and fifteen, right? They'll maybe even say something about how horror movies nowdays aren't scary at all. Well no shit, unless you happen to be between eight and fifteen--then they can be scary as hell. But any movie can be--watching people make out while sitting right beside mom can be confusing and uncomfortable. At the lower end of that age range any object can be scary. Like toys and clowns and old man Santa's lap. All those weird clandestine learning-curve things that make kids feel looked at or embarrassed or anxious can become monsters when they're still creative enough to paste nebulous fears onto other stuff in the name of familiarizing what’s weird about the world.

Karswell said...

Excellent observations as always, Mr. C. I'll say I never had a fear of ventriloquist dolls my whole life, --even after seeing MAGIC with Anthony Hopkins at the drive-in when I was 10! I will admit though my blood froze solid the first time I finally saw Dead of Night (1945) starring Michael Redgrave-- and I was easily in my mid 20's at that point!

Mr. Cavin said...

Same with Night of the Hunter for me. These anomalies happen, depending on genius, quality, intent, etc. As for ventriloquist dummies: I sense the creepy, but they don't scare me like cattle and those wind-up cymbal monkeys do.

Karswell said...

My mom had the Salem's Lot book when I was a kid, (the black cover variant with the vampire girl's face in blue highlights and red drop of blood on her lips) and after seeing the terrifying '79 version on TV, I spent a few years avoiding all eye contact with even the spine of it from across the room on the bookshelf.