Film ID: YFA 2335 Video of YFA 2335 And So To Hell AND SO TO HELL 1956 Visitor TabsDescription This is one of a number of fictional films made by amateur filmmaker Bill Edgar, receiving a 4 Star award in the Amateur Cine World Ten Best Competition. It is a moral, yet comedic tale of a man who dreams that he goes to hell as a result of his wrongdoings under the influence of alcohol. Title: 'B Vincent Edgar in, and so to Hell' With: Roland Wright, June Millward, Douglas J Cumming, David J Wild Cameraman: Trevor Walley, Produced by Frank Sykes, Directed by B Vincent Edgar Narration written by Trevor Walley, spoken by B Vincent Edgar, impromptu music by Harry Gibson The film begins with a man walking drunkenly passed a row of terraced houses at night, with the words spoken: "Take care my friends and heed the tale I tell, that which begins in joy may pave the way to hell". He reaches his house and staggers through the front door. Inside he is confronted by his angry wife who pushes him knocking him onto the floor. As he lays there unconscious, he dreams that he is walking along a path through a misty wood. He stops at the gate of a large house. On the front, there is a sign which reads, 'Ring twice for Gabriel.' He does so, and he is let in by a man dressed as the angel Gabriel. Inside the house there are drawers for, 'Halo polish', 'stardust' and 'harp resin.' Gabriel hangs up his halo, and at a table in an office, they sit down together and look through a large old book. Gabriel makes a phone call, and the narrator states: "This strange new world, clad in a mist, hath no place for me upon its list." Gabriel then escorts the man back out through the gates. The man continues on his way along the path and down some steps, seeing a sign that states: 'Nearly there now.' He carries on down the long flight of steps until he reaches another sign: 'You are now entering the red sector,' with the narrator saying, 'Down and down to the Erath's bottom-most bed, now the light changes to death's bright red.' At this, the light in the film changes to red. The man meets a red figure with horns, looking like the devil, who beckons him over. The man picks up a tablet, 'the Devil's Command', and swears an oath on it. One of the Devil's servants shows him a block with 'Exhibit A' written on it. The devil makes an accusation, and the man shakes his head in denial. The door to hell opens. Then comes, 'Exhibit B', which is the figure of a beautiful woman. Again he shakes his head, and the door to hell opens a bit wider. The Devil's servant places a black cap on his head and he sentences the man. As he is about to go into the flames, his wife wakes him up. The narrator states, 'Take care my friends heed my tale of drink, it began in joy and ends on Hell's brink.' The End Context This is one of a number of films made by local amateur filmmaker Bill Edgar. Bill bought his first cine camera in 1954, a second hand Ditmar, and a brand new Eumig P8 projector. This film was made in collaboration with the Barnsley-based UNIT VIII film group, with members as credited, which Bill instigated. The following year he made another film with them, The Price of Honour, about a woman escaping from a man through woods. Bill also instigated the Vixen Film Club, as part of the Stocksbridge Works Social Services Club, making one film with them, The Empty Dams (1959), before moving away from the area. He also made a number of short fictional films on his own, held with the YFA, including Run (1955), Detail (1959), and Short Stop (1960), the last in collaboration with John Hoyland, all under Bill’s initials BVE. Short Stop also won a Three Star Award in the 1960 Amateur Cine World Ten Best competition to go with the 4 Star award that And So to Hell received in the same Competition four years previously – see also the Context for Short Stop. As noted in the Context for Short Stop, both this film and And So to Hell are about the dangers of excessive drinking. In fact several of the films have a man posing a threat to a woman – not unusual within film noir at the time, as with the drunken violent character of Vince Stone (played by Lee Marvin) in Fritz Lang’s The Big Heat (1953). As a fan of Alfred Hitchcock, Bill may well have got the idea of basing the film on a dream sequence from Hitchcock’s 1945 Spellbound. Short Stop was made in the same year, 1960, that it became an offence to drive while ‘unfit to drive through drink or drugs’. Although it wasn’t until the Road Safety Act of 1967 that a definite legal maximum limit of blood alcohol was set. It isn’t clear whether 1956 has any similar connections with the dangers of alcohol! But anyone who has lived with an alcoholic knows that it can, indeed, be hell for all those connected with him or her. At its worse it can lead to domestic violence, and often does. Fortunately this doesn’t seem to be the case with the main protagonist in this film, although simply coming home drunk frequently can be bad enough. Although alcoholism is a treatable disease, it is an addictive disorder for which most experts claim there is no complete cure. For the self-help group Alcoholics Anonymous, once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic. Nevertheless, they maintain that, “it can be arrested through total abstinence from alcohol in any form.” The best way to obtain this is through their own twelve step recovery programme – with better results, one would imagine, than a dream of going to hell! The figure of the Devil, and the many cognate names, has a complicated history. The name of Satan goes back to the Hebrew word in the Old Testament of ha-satan, meaning "the adversary"; and not referring to a supernatural being. Another name in the Old Testament is Asmodeus. The name of Satan also appears in the Apocrypha, and in the New Testament, alongside Beelzebub, Lucifer, The Wicked One, Prince of this World and The Tempter; among other related figures, such as Belial. But it wasn’t until the 12th century that the Devil really comes onto the scene in an important way in Christianity – the Lateral Council of 1215 set out the doctrine of perpetual punishment – and only later in the Middle Ages does this figure take on the great symbolic value that became such a central part of Western civilization. The whole worldview was connected to maintaining the power of the Church, as well as combatting heresy, through terror. This is seen in the witchcraft trials in the 14th century, and later in the late 16th and 17th centuries, where women became the focal point for a mass campaign of demonization. The artistic images of the Devil and hell that emerged in 14th century Italy, taken up by Dante in The Divine Comedy, had a huge impact on the popular imagination. This was taken much further in the graphic depictions of Hieronymus Bosch – with Michelangelo’s Last Judgment not far behind. Dante provides a more hierarchical and balanced description of hell, with limbo and purgatory. Even so, he famously places above the door to hell, “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.” For some potent images see the website Danteworlds (References). It was St Augustine, in the 5th century, who developed the idea of sin as being a structural aspect of the world, a necessary evil for the correction of human wrong, and allowing for conversion. But this did not lead to an image of the Devil as a terrifying figure: that came much later. In fact the Devil had very many different forms and attributes, many of them deriving from pagan societies finding their way into Christianity. The idea of hell as an inward phenomenon is seen with Milton’s Paradise Lost, where Satan is a protester who wins over converts through his persuasive powers. Similarly in Blake hell is a place that we have created and chosen, and where we have gone beyond any forgiveness – rather like Rodin’s unfinished sculpture, The Gates of Hell. The idea of the angel Gabriel guarding the gate of heaven, as seen in the film, is taken from Milton’s Paradise Lost, where Gabriel is the chief of the angelic guards placed over Paradise –there are no Biblical references to this, where Gabriel is usually a messenger. Since the 18th century Enlightenment, literal belief in an actually existing Devil has greatly declined. The Devil reverted back to a more Augustinian symbol for a human inner propensity to evil, especially within the Gothic writings of the Romantics, and this has continued to this day. Yet far from going away, the Devil has often been transmogrified into a symbol for hedonism; now given a more positive valuation in our consumer society (a Devil figure often turning up in advertisements). Allied to this he (almost invariably portrayed as male) has become more a figure of fun and mocking stuffiness. Although this is not entirely new: “Satan was always a hero in the theatre, in medieval mystery plays and in the baroque dramas of the seventeenth century; tragedies, tragi-comedies, pastorals, and ballets regularly featured devilish goings-on of a frivolous nature, which primarily reveal a taste for metamorphosis.” (Muchembled, p 190) There is a similar story for hell. Within the Christian tradition (as opposed to the earlier Egyptian one) the word derives from the Hebrew word "Gehinnom", which means landfill – a place for the dead (there was no conception of a soul surviving death for the ancient Hebrews). The Hebrew Sheol was translated in the Septuagint as 'Hades', another name for the underworld taken from the Iliad; both translated as ‘hell’, despite their different meanings. The New Testament uses this word, but it also uses the word 'Gehenna', from the valley of Ge-Hinnom, a valley near Jerusalem in which in ancient times garbage was burned. Hence the association with perpetual fire – older traditions represent hell as ice, as the recent ice age must have been. In later Jewish literature Gehenna came to be associated with a place of torment that was to be the punishment for sinners. This was taken up by early Christian teaching which also taught punishment for the damned and reward for the saved. In its first centuries Christianity saw hell as a symbolic place; until the 4th century when it becomes a weapon in the fight against heresy, and hence a really terrible place (as it is seen too in Eastern religion at this time). All the traditions have hell as an underworld, but for Homer and Virgil one can visit Hell and return, often a better person – so too with the Egyptian, Roman and Chinese traditions. For these traditions it was associated with a spiritual or moral journey. In the story of Christ’s Harrowing of Hell, after his death, it was in fact to a place where all who had died went, allowing those who were Just to go to heaven (at least in the Catholic version: the Eastern Orthodox interpretation is rather different). The idea that a fear of hell can lead to possible redemption is equally an old one. In the face of the 16th century Reformation, the Catholic Reform, inaugurated by the Council of Trent (1545 to 1563), led to a greater emphasis on challenging one’s own internal temptations, or ‘demons’. Many aspects of life that were considered natural prior to this become ‘demonised’, such as sex (Robert Muchembled’s book is absorbing on this). The 14th century saw the elaboration of the punishments one could expect to receive in hell – brilliantly described by James Joyce in Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man. Hence also the beginnings of the Faust legend – apparently in Frankfurt-am-Main in 1587 – where the torn and anguished individual confronts Mephistopheles. In fact the Reformation reinforced the worldview of a battle between the forces of good and evil, and increased a fear of the Devil, on both sides of the religious divide. The Catholic Church has continued to reaffirm its doctrine on the Devil, as recently as 1999, when it also issued a new ritual for exorcism and increased the number of priests assigned to this task – albeit an aspect of doctrine that is usually played down. Nevertheless, the Devil remains a potent figure, especially in some societies, such as the US – witness the plethora of Devil inspired films starting with Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and on into the 1970s: The Exorcist (1973), The Omen (1976), Carrie (1976, and their sequels – Robert Muchembled traces this theme in films further back and casts his net much wider (pp 250-262). Satanism too has enjoyed a modern renewal, with many in the alternative culture of the late 1960s falling under the spell of the new occultists like Aleister Crowley, such as Charles Manson (see Gary Lachman’s fascinating account, References). Muchembled includes the spread of Wicca as part of this trend, which may not be entirely fair. The idea of being torn by the temptation of the Devil has also persisted, being resurrected again in the 1960s with the film Bedazzled (1968) – see Newfield School 1969, in which school students enact a similar humorous scenario, and the comical re-working of the Faust story in T 'Batley Faust (1979). The film states that, “that which begins in joy may pave the way to hell” (a variation on the old saying, ‘good intentions pave the way to hell’). This is certainly true of the demon drink. The problem of alcohol abuse goes back a long way though: at least to 10,000 BC, assuming that alcohol dependency goes back as far as its consumption. The long list of factors that can make for dependency include genetic ones, so it is likely that it does. There is little sign that drink related problems are diminishing, with binge-drinking an increasing problem among young people. Excessive alcohol can lead to many medical problems (let alone other personal and social damage). One in sixteen hospital admissions are due to alcohol related illnesses, with alcohol misuse accounting for more than 20,000 premature deaths each year. It seems that the Devil still has all the best tunes – so no real need for sympathy. But of course, our protagonist could always have pardoned the drink, and taken Satre’s line from No Exit instead, that ‘hell is other people’. References Gary Lachman, turn off your mind: the mystic sixties and the dark side of the age of Aquarius, Sidgwick & Jackson, London, 2001. Robert Muchembled, A History of the Devil from the Middle Ages to the Present, trans. Jean Birrell, Polity Press, 2003Alcoholics AnonymousAlcohol IssuesDanteworlds Further Reading Rachel Falconer, Hell in contemporary literature: western descent narratives since 1945, University of Edinburgh Press, 2005.