Wednesday, October 20, 2010

[11] COUNTDOWN to HALLOWEEN: Zombie Walk of Fame

On October 30, 1938, Mercury Theater on the Air caused a national panic with their production of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds for their Halloween broadcast directed and narrated by Orson Welles. More than the first half of their show was presented as a news bulletin that aliens had landed and were invading the United States.

Orson Welles Zombie Sketch
from my upcoming Zombie Walk of Fame series.

It is estimated that around 30% of the six million listeners of this radio show believed what they heard and panicked. Some people fled their towns at sights of lightning and others claimed to smell poison gases in their homes. Ordinary folks armed themselves to the teeth and put themselves on lock-down all over Main St and Little Town, America. The public's reaction was the exemplification of mass hysteria. It's also the reason for tonight's selection from my 101 Zombie Walk of Fame sketches... Orson Welles.

Orson Welles Zombie Linework
(done tonight)

I can only think of how stunningly revealing our reaction was to this broadcast so long ago. Seventy years later, we believe what we're told by all our new gods of media via all our new modes of jacking into the mainstream. I can only laugh with Welles as he later admitted they "weren't as innocent" as they let on back in '38. They wanted to make a statement about the power of their medium and did so with a thunderous backlash. A pre-WWII Hitler is even quoted as citing the panic as proof of the downfall of democratic society. Seventy years later, how much of what we hear and see on these boxes do we still believe?

If I've turned you on to our subject tonight, please consider my recommendation also of F is for Fake. This "documentary" is in my opinion Welles' best work. It's about an art forger and his biographer (who also wrote the famous fake Howard Hughes bio). It is a film about truth (or the lack thereof).

Gonna guard the homestead on the balcony with my shotgun in my lap tonight... I thought I saw some lightning in the distance. Tune in for another dose of healthy paranoia tomorrow as your jaunt down the Zombie Walk of Fame proceeds.

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