DARK STARS RISING: CONVERSATIONS FROM THE OUTER REALMS

For those who frequent the festival circuit, spend dark days in NYC’s numerous rep houses, or find their comfort in extreme, thanatological literature, the name Shade Rupe is all too familiar. A boisterous, effervescent film fanatic in the truest sense of the word – his eternal optimism often belying the dark subject matter with which he is routinely obsessed – Rupe’s meticulous knowledge of the margins of pop culture has led him into acquaintances with some of its most unique proponents.

First recognized on the scene with the two volumes of his self-published Funeral Party journals in the late 90s – which featured articles, interviews, fiction and artwork with/from the likes of Peter Sotos, HR Giger, Jack Ketchum, the Kuchar Brothers, Jack Stevenson and more – Rupe went on to contribute to the mammoth Scarecrow Video Guide and a host of international genre publications as well as being an interview subject for Bravo’s series of “Scariest Movie Moments” TV docos. His latest book Dark Stars Rising, which comes to us from David Kerekes’ Headpress Publications is the fruit of nearly 25 years of collected interviews.

Shade Rupe with Divine, 1986

His salacious choice of interview subjects is enough to provide the adventurous pop culture connoisseur with integral insight into some of the most distinct and uncompromising artistic voices of the last several decades, and enough to provide any genre day-tripper with a mind-altering smorgasbord of weirdness.

Subjects range from controversial authors Dennis Cooper and Peter Sotos (whose book Special Rupe published in 1998) to showmen Zamora the Torture King, Teller and Brother Theodore, scatological performance artists Herman Nitsch (most famous from his work with the Vienna Actionists) and Johanna Went, comic book artists Dame Darcy and Arnold Drake, film icons Divine, Udo Kier, Crispin Glover and Tura Satana and visionary filmmakers Richard Stanley, Jim Van Bebber, Buddy Giovinazzo, Alejandro Jodorowsky and Richard Kern, among others. With few exceptions, most of the interviews are lengthy and at times deeply imploring and philosophical.

There were a number of interviews here I couldn’t wait to dive into, but most fascinating for me was the interview with Dennis Cooper, who I was only familiar with from Todd Verow’s adaptation of Cooper’s book Frisk, which – as Cooper admits here – was a muddled and disappointing interpretation of his Sadeian adolescent fantasy novel. The interview is illustrated with disturbing images of young boys that straddle an uncomfortable line between teen idol pinups and missing children notices, adorned with hand-written text like:

Fuck us totally over, strangle us and bury us together in a deep dark hole. That’s all we ask. Otherwise, we’re yours. Really. Where’s your sense of danger. Prove you’re a man. We’ll put our hands there. Don’t be shy. Take them.

Rupe invites his subjects to talk through their darkest dreams with enthusiasm rather than judgment. But what runs through these interviews most impressively is a lack of fear or trepidation, the kind that might trip up other interviewers when in conversation with notoriously intimidating subjects. There’s something about Rupe’s personality that clearly disarms people. Somehow he can get away with remarking to Genesis Breyer P-Orridge that she has “just as many outfits as Cher”.

The book also features 30 pages of film and book reviews, and while the reviews themselves are insightful, this section seems almost tacked-on considering the book’s broader scope. Primarily black and white with a few color plates at the book’s front and back, the tome is nonetheless lavishly illustrated and designed, with an eye-catching texture that matches its diverse subjects. Always fascinating and often disturbing, this is an essential collection that is bound to become a fixture on counterculture bookshelves for decades to come.

- Kier-La Janisse

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To buy Dark Stars Rising, go directly to Headpress HERE.

Rupe’s book is nicely complemented by Gene Gregorits’ Midnight Mavericks: Report from the Underground, Gregorits being another legendary, if anarchic, fixture on the underground film scene who also has exceptional taste in interview subjects. Buy Gregorits’ book from publisher FAB Press HERE.

Also Adam Parfrey’s Apocalypse Culture (1987) should go without saying, but just in case, pick it up directly from Feral House Publishing HERE.

About the author:

Kier-La Janisse

Kier-La Janisse is a film writer and programmer, Owner/Artistic Director of Spectacular Optical Publications and founder of The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies. She has been a programmer for the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, co-founded Montreal microcinema Blue Sunshine, founded the CineMuerte Horror Film Festival (1999-2005) in Vancouver, was the Festival Director of Monster Fest in Melbourne, Australia and was the subject of the documentary Celluloid Horror (2005). She is the author of A Violent Professional: The Films of Luciano Rossi (FAB Press, 2007) and House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films (FAB Press, 2012) and contributed to Destroy All Movies!! The Complete Guide to Punks on Film (Fantagraphics, 2011), Recovering 1940s Horror: Traces of a Lost Decade (Lexington, 2014) The Canadian Horror Film: Terror of the Soul (University of Toronto Press, 2015) and We Are the Martians: The Legacy of Nigel Kneale (PS Press, 2017). She co-edited and published the anthology books KID POWER! (Spectacular Optical, 2014), Satanic Panic: Pop-Cultural Paranoia in the 1980s (Spectacular Optical, 2015) and Lost Girls: The Phantasmagorical Cinema of Jean Rollin (2017), and is co-editing Yuletide Terror: Christmas Horror on Film and Television for release in late 2017. She is currently writing A Song From the Heart Beats the Devil Every Time: Children’s Programming and the Counterculture, 1965-1985, monographs about Monte Hellman’s Cockfighter and Patricia Birch’s Grease 2, and is in development on a TV series based on her book House of Psychotic Women with Rook Films.

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