Gamut Magazine
Issue #1

Anne Gare’s Rare and Import Video Catalogue, October 2022

By: Jonathan Raab

(Originally published in Hymns of Abomination: Secret Songs of Leeds)

“Elephant Subjected to the Predations of a Mentalist”

– Dir. B.S. Stockton, 1921

A harrowing 47 seconds of early black and white motion photography, this film appears, at first, to be a derivation of the popular 1903 silent film short Electrocuting an Elephant, but is in fact something far more grotesque. A simulacrum of a large, grey elephant stands at center frame against a backdrop of a labyrinthine concrete industrial complex. Upon closer inspection, the creature is revealed to be an undetermined number of men, women, and children trapped inside a large costume of grey-painted fabric and bound together with lines of rope, patchwork thread, and cloth billowing in the wind or pressed outwards by hands seeking escape.

Each leg of the human body-assembled beast is composed of two or three tall, muscular men lashed together by pig iron chains to support the weight of the creature’s bulbous body. The elephant’s trunk is likewise a person wrapped in chain and dirty textile, but rail thin and malnourished, face twisted into a painful grimace or the rictus grin of recent death. The elephant’s head is a globe of cloth and floppy fabric ears that bubble and pulse with the struggle of those within. Its painted-on eyes and smile are white and stupid, comical in their cartoonish proportions.

Just as the viewer’s mind begins to accept the horrific contours of the elephant’s construction and its nauseating implications, a black-clad figure enters from the right, movements blurred by missing frames and the degradation of the film stock. The figure raises a cloven-hoofed hand, points at the writhing mass of human suffering trapped beneath fabric and chain, and—

Well, we won’t dare spoil it for you.

Agfa nitrate base film stock, acceptable condition.

Two thousand three hundred dollars.

“Ol’ Will’s Birthday Bash and Dither Family Reunion”

– Dir. Various, 1952

A collection of disjointed, stuttering, handheld shots taken over the course of one afternoon and evening at a birthday party. The image is fuzzy and green, as if the lens were coated with a translucent slime. The film depicts dozens of malformed, asymmetrical faces over the course of its nine-minute runtime, all wearing pained, forced smiles. There are shots of a picnic table, home to open, steaming dishes of discolored, rotting lumps of meat and overcooked vegetables congealing to mush; a dog, hanged by its neck on a leafless tree, its paws still twitching; an interior countertop, home to row upon row of bottles of dark and anxious liquors; children, fleeing into a cornfield of tall, leering stalks and rows that run at angles contrary to all sane and sanitary principles of distance, horizon, and perspective; and a birthday cake, its surface full to the limit of burning candles, brought forward through a line of naked, pale bodies, whose mouths twist and lips slap in mockery of song. At its terminus, the cake reaches an amorphous, fleshy impossibility, all mouths and eyes and chipped teeth and bowels roiling beneath the surface of its repugnant, stained skin. Dare, dare to look upon ol’ Will in the depths of his cups, at the nadir of his descent, within the apotheosis of his transcendent debasement! Dare! Dare! DARE!

16mm film strip on reel and in case, acceptable+.

Two hundred twelve dollars.

Jonathan Raab is the author of Project Vampire KillerThe Haunting of Camp Winter Falcon, and more. He is the editor of Behold the Undead of Dracula: Lurid Tales of Cinematic Gothic HorrorTerror in 16-bits, and others. His short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, including The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Fourteen. He lives in Gothic upstate New York with his wife and son.