Cinema Purgatorio CP02

Cinema Purgatorio #2, regular cover, art by Kevin O’Neill
Cinema Purgatorio #2, regular cover, art by Kevin O’Neill

Below are annotations for “Untitled (some sort of epic* – see P1,p4)” 8 pages in Cinema Purgatorio #2

Writer: Alan Moore, Artist: Kevin O’Neill

>Go to overall Cinema Purgatorio annotations index
Go to Moore-O’Neill Cinema Purgatorio stories annotations index

Note: Some of this is obvious, but you never know who’s reading and what their exposure is. If there’s anything we missed or got wrong, let us know in comments.

General: The dream film viewer re-enters Cinema Purgtorio to catch the end of a Greek-Roman saga film. The film’s characters gain awareness of their locale as a film set. One begs the other to kill him, which the other does with his bare hands. In an unpublished interview, Alan Moore describes the genesis of this issue as “Kevin [O’Neill] suggested we could maybe find some way to tackle inadvertent anachronisms in movies, like the 1970s cars reflected in a turn-of-the-century window in The Great Waldo Pepper.”


  • The sword cutting the director’s arm contrasts with the unusable painted wood sword that appears on P5-6.

Page 1

panel 1

  • As with issue #1 P1,p1, Cinema Purgatorio is never fully spelled out. (This is similar to Watchmen‘s “who watches the watchmen” phrase which is repeatedly shown but never in its entirety.

panels 2-3

  • “The Crawling Heart” – suggest?
  • Screen Regrets is a fictitious magazine created by Moore and O’Neill. The Marilyn Monroe Screen Regrets image appears before page 1 of each issue of Purgatorio. Who is the person pictured on the cover?? suggest??

panel 4

Partial views of Victor Mature “Rome” film poster from Cinema Purgatorio #10. Art by Kevin O’Neill
  • CP#2 is the only issue that does not offer a clear title for the film-within-a-comic. There is a later movie poster on pages 2-3 of CP#10 that hints that this film title begins with “Rome” though the rest of the title is not clear. Based on CP#1, P1,p3 the film title could be “Ben Him.” For now these annotations go by the title “Some sort of epic.”
Victor Mature. Image via Wikipedia
Victor Mature. Image via Wikipedia

panel 5

  • Victor Mature” (1913-1999) was an American actor popular in the 1940s-1950s.

Page 2

panels 1-2

  • These form a fixed-camera sequence. The high number of fixed sequences may indicate a fairly low-budget movie.

panel 3

  • The eagle (Aquila) is Roman military symbol. It grasps fasces, also a roman military symbol. (Though, overall this version looks somewhat more contemporary.)
  • The mask appears to be a Greek theater mask.
  • The lack of diagonal lines connecting the lower steps may deliberate to contribute to a sense of unreality.

Page 3

panel 1

panel 2

  • “Spyglasses in iron boxes” are a movie camera.
  • “Barbaric finery” is 20th Century clothing.

panels 3-8

  • These form a fixed-camera sequence.
  • “Metalwork behind” and “everything is flat and held up by pipes” describe a movie set.

Page 4

panel 1

  • The “hot black water” is presumably coffee.
  • “Styx” is the Greek mythological River Styx one crosses to get to hell.
  • Simultaneously seeing the late Emperor and the Emperor “as a child” is evocative of the classic joke about multiple relics of the same saint.
  • “A monstrous furry grub they hold upon a pole” describes a movie set shotgun microphone held on a boom pole.
Movie sound boom aparatus. Image via Youtube Sound Recording Tutorial
Movie sound boom aparatus. Image via Youtube Sound Recording Tutorial
Cover of German book Filmfehler by Alan Smithee (apparently a scene from the film Son of Sheik)
Cover of German book Filmfehler by Alan Smithee (apparently a scene from the 1926 film The Son of the Sheik)

panels 2-5

  • These form a fixed-camera sequence.
  • The “bracelet” is, of course, a wristwatch. In this classical setting a modern watch is an anachronism. There are a handful of stories/rumors/myths about contemporary wristwatches in period cinema:
    – An extra forgot to take his watch in the 1959 film Ben Hur (source)
    – Soldiers and Tony Curtis are said to be wearing watches in the 1960 film Spartacus (source)

Page 5

panels 1-3, 4-6, and 7-8

panel 2

  • The blank scroll is a prop, perhaps symbolizing the emptiness of film in terms of wisdom.

panel 5

  • The beard is, of course, make-up.

Page 6

panel 1

  • The sword of “painted wood” and “not true stones” are merely movie props.

panels 3-5

Page 7

panel 1

  • “It grows so dark” repeated sounds like the lighting person may have missed their cue.

panels 2-5

Page 8

panel 2

panels 4-5

  • “You’d know, wouldn’t you? If you were dead and in hell, you’d know.” Combined with the title of the series, and the final line, “You never know”, there is a strong suggestion that the narrator is, in fact, dead, and the Cinema Purgatorio is some sort of afterlife.

>Go to Purgatorio Annotations Index
>Go to Cinema Purgatorio #3 Moore and O’Neill annotations

One thought on “Cinema Purgatorio CP02

  1. I assumed that the film being watched in this issue was the “Ben Him” hinted at in the previous issue – particularly as the “Ben Him” poster is next to one for “Confessions of a Nude” which is also mentioned again here. If “Ben-Hur” is being referenced, (and bearing in mind Moore’s use of Hollywood rumours in other instalments), the rumour of a stuntman’s death during the filming of “Ben-Hur” may have influenced the plot of this story. And according to wikipedia, there is also an urban legend that Charlton Heston wore a wristwatch in the same chariot race. And going by google images I think the Centurion here resembles Victor Mature in “The Robe” and its sequel “Demetrius and the Gladiators”. “Rome” could be Moore’s stand-in title for “The Robe”.


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