Cinema Purgatorio CP18

Cinema Purgatorio #18 regular cover, art by Kevin O’Neill

Annotations for “One Hell of a girl!” 8 pages in Cinema Purgatorio #18

Writer: Alan Moore, Artist: Kevin O’Neill

>Go to overall Cinema Purgatorio annotations index
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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 final chapter features the unnamed narrator watching a film depicting her own life.

Cover

  • This appears to depict a woman falling into successive parts of a nightmare. This resonates somewhat with the oft-Moore-referenced comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland, which always ended with a final panel of the protagonist (Nemo) falling out of his bed and waking up. In this final installment, our protagonist “wakes” in some senses, but in other senses, keeps falling.

panel 1

  • The woman may be actress Janet Leigh (see P2,p5). She initially appears to be in a featureless, yet claustrophobic black space.

panel 2

  • The white bed sheets here morph into the England’s White Cliffs of Dover in the next panel.
  • The white space above the doorway is sharply angled like a guillotine blade. The blade seems to threaten to execute both the falling woman and the small outline of a girl (apparently Geraldine) in the doorway.
  • The teddy bear is missing an eye. It is either quite large, or quite close to the “camera.” The one-eye teddy bear is a somewhat common trope – though it’s unclear what this one might reference – suggest??

panel 3

  • The man is the American silent film star Buster Keaton. (This is likely a coincidence, but Keaton appears with a teddy bear in the 1929 film Spite Marriage where he is also at sea – any readers able to shed light on this – suggest??)
  • Keaton and Dover in the same panel may allude to the narrator questioning whether the film-within-a-comic is American or British – see P2,p8 below.

panel 4

  • Despite having hit the water, there is an astronomical distance remaining to fall.

Page 1

panel 1

  • “Oh, for…” appears to be a reference to god – as it would typically be completed “for God’s sake” or “for Christ’s sake.” As the phrase is not completed, it refers to the absence of god in this purgatory (though two captions later the narrator does say “Thank god.”)
  • On the surface, “everything’s going to hell” means that things are dilapidated, but it continues references to this purgatory as hell.
  • The boarded-up “RADIO” building perhaps alludes to the film-industry horrors depicted in Purgatorio not necessarily being a new phenomenon, but replacing earlier celebrity-producing technologies/methods.

panel 2

  • This is the recurring Bugsy Siegel couch – see CP17 P8,p5. The bloodstain appears to have been washed out.

panel 3

  • In this panel and the next, the reader learns that the other recurring Purgatorio characters are there as punishment for their sins. Notably, they are both here for crimes victimizing children.
  • The ticket-taker’s speech has been very partially heard several times before:
    • CP#2 P1,p3, the ticket seller says “something about adults and children, muffled”.
    • CP#3 P1,p2, “for adults and children there are different… She mumbles the last word, it could be tariffs, or duties. Something like that.”
    • CP#9 P1,p3, “different charges for minors”.
    • CP#11 P1p2: “Different conditions […] for children”. P8p4: “something about children”.

panel 5

  • “One Hell of a girl!” appears to be a movie invented by Moore and O’Neill to tell the background story of the narrator. The invented movie uses various plot tropes common in noir/detective movies – so it bears some resemblance to various films, including The Bad Seed (1956) and Carnival of Souls (1962.)
  • Hell of a…” is slang for emphasis (positive or negative); here it also reinforces that the narrator is in purgatory/hell.
  • The “stupid woman in the row in front” was seen in CP#17 P1p4 and P8p1. And, as will become apparent on P5, earlier as well.
  • “Noir… French for black” of course references Film Noir.

Page 2

panel 1

  • Panelwise, pages 2-4 utilize an 8-panel grid. In other issues (CP8 and CP16) this represented a television screen. In this issue, it might represent just the interior of the cinema (the issue breaks out of just the interior screen on page 5) – or perhaps it could represent the low-budget of Film Noir as it proliferated circa the 1950s.

panel 2

  • This character is Purgatorio’s unnamed narrator.
  • The off-panel/off-screen voice is the narrator’s 10-year-old daughter Geraldine – mentioned or alluded to several times in earlier issues:
    • CP#5, P2,p5: “it could have been [happy] with Richard… if a certain person hadn’t gotten in the way.”
    • CP#6, P8,p3: “some people, for all you know, they could be plotting against you, trying to ruin your life… put her out of your mind.”
    • CP#9 P8p5: “you’re thinking about Geraldine.”
    • CP#10 P1p4: “When you think about visiting the cinema with Geraldine, how she’d talk all the way through, annoying you on purpose…” (Notably, this was the issue about children’s film.)
    • CP#11 P1p3-4: “Everyone must have had someone like that in their lives, where at first you like them but then they start taking over. They’re living in your house, they’re demanding that you take care of everything for them. They don’t lift a finger. On the rare occasions that you invite somebody home, they want all his attention, like they want everybody’s. Invariably, you never see him again.”
    • CP#12 P1p4: “like when Geraldine was living at your place, never cleaning up after herself, never taking hints.” P1p5: “She never so much as lifted a finger.”
    • CP#13 P1p3: “your increasing suspicion that whatever this is, it’s all — as usual — because of her, because of Geraldine. Well, she ruined everything else for you, didn’t she?” P8p2: “It seemed to be saying that the daughter or whoever she was had been mistreating her mother. But that’s a serious issue, children bullying their parents. You shouldn’t make fun of it. P8p4: “Geraldine’s eyes, and that betrayed look she put on to try and make you feel bad.”
    • CP#14 P1p4: “it’s something to do with her, with that needy, clingy little tart Geraldine. That last quarrel, where she provoked you… Fucking Geraldine.” P8p1-2: “that last argument… You screaming, Geraldine screaming. You did get quite rough with her… Which you were entitled to do. She’d just turned up unannounced, she was sponging off you, demanding you do everything for her.”
    • CP#15 P8,p3: “Geraldine, though, she was real. All that was real. Real to the touch. You hurt your hand, remember?”
    • CP#16 P1p3-4: “…or Geraldine. And yes, she was being selfish again, demanding you keep her company instead of going out to the pictures, shouting, crying… You still shouldn’t have hit her. Not that hard.”
    • CP#17 P1p2-4: “But then Geraldine was all “Don’t leave me, you mustn’t leave me”, and you’d had enough. You’d had enough. Anybody would have done what you did. Anybody. And afterwards, well, that rug was a disgrace, so wrapping her in it was the best…” P8p4-5: “When you killed Geraldine… Well, it was more of an accident, and she’d driven you to it, but when Geraldine had her accident, what happened then? […] When you killed Geraldine…”
  • The mirror shot that only later reveals itself as a mirror is a common filmmaking trope.
  • Panels 2 and 3 form a fixed-camera sequence.

panel 3

  • Go to the pictures [movies]” The narrator later mentions (P3,p1) that this is a British phrase.
  • “I still feel poorly” may be from the narrator abusing Geraldine on some earlier occasion. While not specifically documented here, child abuse usually doesn’t start at murder.

panel 4

  • Panels 4, 5, and 6 form a fixed-camera sequence.

panel 5

panel 7

Actor Janet Leigh with director Alfred Hitchcock on the set of the movie Psycho. Photo via Wikimedia
  • Alfred Hitchcock was an English film director, best known for his mastery of suspense. Despite making films during the height of the Film Production Code and its puritanical restrictions, he frequently got considerable violence (and sex) into his films precisely by cutting away at the crucial moment, thus making the audience imagine the most extreme possible scene.
  • Hitchcock worked with Janet Leigh on Psycho (1960).

panel 8

  • “Can’t really tell if this is happening in England or America” (a subject which the narrator continues to explore) points to the ambiguity of Purgatorio’s setting. Various indications (currency values, British movies) place the CP movie house in England. Most earlier issues’ film-within-a-comic onscreen action is from America. For this film, it appears that the unnamed narrator (a Brit) is envisioning her own life story as an American film.
  • The actor’s hand appears to be dripping blood.

Page 3

panel 1

  • Panels 1 and 2 form a fixed-camera sequence.

panel 3

  • “Better to show… than to… tell” is common advice given to comics creators.

panel 4

  • The narrator’s captions here “why would anybody want or need a commentary droning on and on” and in panel 6 “excess verbiage is just distracting you…” are self-deprecating.
    To an extent, Moore’s commentary here echoes some of his criticism of the 1960s comics excess verbiage (including scene transitions with the phrase “meanwhile”) which Moore parodied/homaged in 1963.

panels 7-8

  • “everything’s implied. If you just pay attention, you can see exactly what’s happening.” This is, of course, true about Cinema Purgatorio as a whole.

panel 8

  • This repeats the setting of P2,p7.

Page 4

panel 1

  • Panels 1 and 2 form a fixed-camera sequence.

panel 2

  • “The plot seems familiar” as this is the narrator’s life story.

panel 3

  • Panels 3 and 4 form a fixed-camera sequence.

panel 6

  • The courtroom is British, based on the wigs.

panel 8

  • This scene is a homage to Janet Leigh’s famous shower scene in the 1960 Hitchcock film Psycho. Also to many “women in prison” exploitation movies.

Page 5

panel 1

  • Panelwise the frame widens, showing the movie theater setting. This is the first/only time that Moore and O’Neill break away from Purgatorio’s film-within-a-comic before the film concludes.
  • Panels 1-3 form a fixed-camera sequence.

panel 2

  • The woman in front is stretching her arms exactly as the narrator did in CP#11 P8p2.

panel 3

  • “Gera…” is Geraldine.
  • The narrator’s dialogue here is as it appeared in CP#11, P8p2. The narrator is the woman in front. She now realizes that time loops in upon itself eternally in this place, and she is forever trapped. Though note that, apart from each other, the narrators here and in #11 perceive entirely different scenes.

Page 6

panel 1

  • These are all characters from earlier issues.
  • Upper half, left to right are:
    – Kitty McShane/Kitty Riley with bow in hair – see CP#13
    – Old Mother Riley with tied hat – see CP#13
    – Fatal Officer – see CP#1
    – Fatal Officer – see CP1# (note his helmet reads “DIE”)
    – Giant hair caught in projector – see CP#10
    – the burning man and woman are the aging couple that appeared in CP#5, though they (and an officer) are burning because the film is caught in the projector with the hair from CP#10
  • Lower half, left to right are:
    – hand of the narrator (?? – missing wedding ring??)
    – Otz the Cat – see CP#8 (He sits on a crate of TNT, no doubt destined to explode amusingly)
    – Harro/Chico (shown as pickpocket, as Chico’s characters often were) – see CP#6. the giant scissors reference several Marx Brothers photos – for example.
    – Jacko/Groucho – see CP#6
    – Albo/Harpo – see CP#6
    – Sammo/Zeppo – see CP#6

panel 2

  • More earlier characters, left to right are:
    – masked man? plate of Hughes’ nuts?
    – Howard Hughes – see CP#17
    – giant hand with eraser – see CP#8
    – Bugsy Siegel (and the couch he was shot to death on) appeared in various earlier issues, including CP#17

panel 3

  • More earlier characters, left to right are:
    – Old Mother Riley (??) with large hat – see CP#13
    – Upper half of Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia – see CP#11
    – Minnie Woolsey/Koo-koo – see CP#14
    – Pat the Dog – see CP#8
    – Victor Mature/Doc Holliday – see CP#7
    – man with mustache – suggest??
    – Henry Victor/Hercules the strongman – see CP#14
    – Johnny Eck/Half Boy (CP#14) held above the lower half of Elizabeth Short (CP#11)
    – George Reeves (CP#16) with Norma Desmond’ cigarette holder (CP#15)
    – Victor Mature (in roman centurion armor) – from CP#2

panel 4

  • These are the Bat (CP#9) and the morgue from CP#15.

panel 5

Page 7

panel 1

  • The couple are the Flame of Remorse and his unnamed companion, from CP#3.
  • The path to the bathroom is stretched, referencing a cinematic zoom lens trick, called a “dolly zoom” or “the Vertigo effect” from its use in Hitchcock’s Vertigo.
  • Note that the shadows still have visible eyes, as well as the Flame’s lightning bolt.

panel 2

  • These are again characters featured earlier, left to right are:
    Top:
    – stuntmant Clarence Brokebody with striped tie – see CP#12
    – Pat the Dog – see CP#8
    Middle:
    – James Garner/Wyatt Earp (?) – see CP#7
    – Fatal Officer – see CP#1
    – Johnny Eck/Half Boy (CP#14) above the lower half of Elizabeth Short (CP#11)
    – Upper half of Elizabeth Short (CP#11)
    Front:
    – Jacko/Groucho – see CP#6
    – Kitty McShane/Kitty Riley – see CP#13
    – George Reeves (CP#16) whose eye is now bleeding like the Fatal Officer and Bugsy Siegel
  • The narrator’s hand (lower right) is holding the stairs’ rail.

panel 3

  • Perspective is once again distorted here, perhaps reminiscent of German Expressionist film.
  • Hanging from the light is flypaper, which serves as an analogy for the narrator being drawn to the light (to the glamour of Hollywood) then getting trapped in purgatory.
  • The ribbon-thing on the steps appears to be a strip of film (?)
  • (Nitpick – the ring on the narrator’s ring finger is inconsistent – compare panels 2 and 3 on this page – also panels 1 and 5 on the facing page.)

panel 4

Page 8

panel 1

  • The projector’s Egyptian motifs, the skull-faces, and watching machines were seen earlier in CP8# p8,p2.

panel 2

Planarian worms in Swamp Thing #21 – art by Totleben and Bissette
  • “Flatworm strip” echoes Moore’s early Swamp Thing mentions of planarian worms passing along memories.
    Here Moore is perhaps alluding to this issue’s film having restored the narrator’s memory – as well as cinema’s broader cultural influence on peoples thoughts and ideas.

panel 3

  • “Neverending” is true of a mythical hell, but (as alluded to in the next panel) early film stock is not as permanent as it seemed.
  • “F.W. Murnau – They done him wr[ong]” references the revered early director F.W. Murnau. Murnau made films in Germany, the emigrated to Hollywood, where he was an artistic success, with limited financial success. Perhaps also to the 1933 Mae West film She Done Him Wrong.
  • “Hell’s Angle[s]” – see CP#17.
  • “Roscoe is Innoce[nt]” refers to the rape trial of actor Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle.
  • “Welles of Lonle[?]” is apparently a mash-up of film director Orson Wells and the controversial lesbian novel The Well of Loneliness. (Nitpick – should probably read “Lonli…” but perhaps explainable as some hasty fictional scribe having mistakenly labeled it incorrectly.)
  • “Hushed Up” may be a reference to a specific film (suggest??) or could just generally refer to countless Hollywood scandals, largely kept out of the public view by studios.
  • “House of the Ghost of the Invisible Ma[n]” may refer to the 1908 film The House of Ghosts and the 1933 film The Invisible Man. Likely Moore is spoofing Hollywood’s insatiable appetite for sequels, whose titles sometimes become more and more baroque. (For what it’s worth, Moore and O’Neill portrayed the film’s source material – the titular character of H.G. Wells’ novel – in the first two volumes of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.)
  • “One Hell of a Girl” is the title of this issue’s film-within-a-comic.
  • “Horrorwood U.S.A.” is a take-off on the Los Angeles neighborhood ‘Hollywood’ whose name is a stand-in for the film industry.

panel 4

  • The “nitrate” and the smoke hint at the flammability and impermanence of old films – as well as the flames of hell. Early films were distributed on nitrate stock.
  • No exit” is the title of Sartre’s play about hell. The term is a translation oft the French legal term ‘huis clos‘ which essentially means sequestered away – from cameras.
    Among the ironies here is that the next word is “exit” – which represents the exit sign located in a movie theater.

>Go to Purgatorio Annotations Index

 

13 thoughts on “Cinema Purgatorio CP18

  1. So. The final issue. And that’s a pretty enigmatic cover illustration. Is that Buster Keaton? And the blond woman: Is she our mystery protagonist? The child we see at a distance in the 2nd ‘panel’: Is that the oft-mentioned Geraldine?

    Does anyone know when we’ll actually be seeing this? Or issue 17, for that matter?

    Like

    1. Buster Keaton was in the “Sunset Boulevard” episode a few months back. Our protagonist, though, we’ve seen, if only as a reflection, in issues 9 and 14. She’s brunette and has a thinner face than Marilyn, as well as looking older, or just really unwell.

      I don’t think she’s literally Marilyn, but certainly there could be parallels, that’s who I’d say the cover picture looks like. Although it’s not Kev’s best work, not a great likeness.

      I’ve no idea really, there doesn’t *seem* to be a strong connection between the stories so far. Apart from, y’know, cinema, obviously.

      Issue 18 will arrive sometime between December and Doomsday, going by form. I don’t get how Alan’s comics are so utterly pisstakingly late. They manage to churn out dozens of superhero comics every month. The Beano used to come out once a week for the best part of a century. How hard can it be, for people who’s career is making comics, to make comics?

      Like

      1. Many people are creating disposable entertainment, to corporate specifications. Moore is (at least attempting to be) making Art for the ages. A decade from now, few will even remember what was late, much less care that it was.

        Like

  2. …so the narrator isn’t a real life person? That seems odd, given that all the other issues have been rooted in reality.

    Like

      1. There’s seemingly no background to Geraldine’s murder. It’s just a reason to put our protagonist in Hell. The strip after all is about a horrible cinema showing horrible films about evil. So the cinema itself turning out to be evil makes sense. And our viewer would have to be evil to end up there. It’s only logical!

        Actually to use a real child murder, a tragic and horrible event, would be exploitative and ghoulish, for what’s basically a variation on The Twilight Zone. A very good variation, admittedly, and TZ is still after 60 years one of the best things ever on television. And nice that Alan’s returned to his roots in an anthology.

        A real child murder of anything less than 100 years old would be in very poor taste. But even one from the Bible or something, you’d have to address it’s gravity if you were retelling it as modern.

        So if he did base it on a real child murder, he’d be horribly callous to use the event just as a motive to send a woman to Kreepy Kinema. So I very much doubt he did. Would be needless, and horribly insensitive, and that’s not his style at all.

        Like

    1. The early issues were a lot less specifically about real people. It’s possible that the idea evolved considerably along the way, but that he never thought to change the frame story to match the more specific paradigm.

      Then again, perhaps he just didn’t want to. Making the frame story be about an ordinary person who goes to the movies a lot seems much more of a universal experience than that of being a star. (And the “horror fo being a star” angle was already well explored in the inner stories.)

      Like

  3. Actually one criticism, is that the little girl was a little bit too pathetic, lispy, and helpless. “I’d like to cap her molars with a gravity wrench!”. And some of the stuff our protagonist called her towards the end was pretty hateful for a mother on her own daughter.

    I realise she actually murdered her, but it was an accident. Although I’m sure the idea is it wasn’t the first beating, that the woman was in general horrible, selfish, and vicious. Although that’s not the image she put across in the first 17 comics. There she seemed more passive and liable to end up where the wind blew her. Her shagging Mr Flicker seemed as much like something she felt she ought to do, than raw lust. She seemed something of a victim herself.

    Sure, you could point out that she IS in Hell and it’s not nice. But she didn’t realise that. She was nervous, and unnerved, off-balance. And the type whose indulgence is more to feel sorry for herself, than proudly lustful and violent. Of course self-sympathy is a deadly sin too, I just can’t remember which one it comes under.

    Ultimately the woman’s relationship with men, her keeping losing them, and her seeming desperation to please them, seems more like a mentally ill woman with a severely damaged ego. Bad self-image. Yes, ultimately, we should overcome those, we should have discipline and inner strength, but some don’t. And however many thousand years of women’s oppression is partly where the blame lies.

    Sure I suppose Hermetics don’t believe in sexism, or something, and that we’re all self-created supermen. But we don’t live in a vacuum. Halo Jones or Roxy O’Rourke were much better observed women by Moore. Although interestingly they were both young. And perhaps more defiant of an outside world attacking, than internally strong, fortified even against inner weakness. Halo had plenty of inner weakness, which was shown well, and sympathetically.

    So yes, she (the nameless cineaste) was a bit of a bitch. And probably abused her child, and did actually murder her. And since the child has little power of her own, the buck has to stop somewhere, and women who abuse or allow abuse have failed as humans and deserve punishment. Though punishment in itself won’t do too much good to someone who already suffers too much. The issue of the suffering she inflicts herself is separate from this.

    I dunno. Perhaps all women who collaborate in abuse by men should be vilified and visibly strongly punished. And every last one of them. You’d need big jails, for a while. Or society could do it for them, we could load a few new messages into the propaganda machines. That it’s NOT OK to stand by, colluding passively or actively, in abuse. Be a big task, cos all of society is about the strong shitting on the weak, and the weak spreading the shit to those weaker, plus some extra of their own as well. The weakest can only take it, then grow into abusers later. So all of this is just symptomatic and I dunno what sort of beings or society we’d need to stop it at the root.

    So yes, she’s evil. But her motives aren’t those of pure malice. Perhaps that makes it worse? Being abused often gives one more empathy and patience with others.

    Hard to do stories about women altogether. Harder when they’re child murderers. Shame Alan isn’t likely to do interviews about the series. I think this is a rare fail on his part, though.

    Like

  4. Actually the constantly masturbating usher and the horrible paedophile colluder in the ticket booth are probably more disturbing than Our Girl is. “Different charges for children” though was a nice touch!

    I wonder why the usher is even there? Embezzling isn’t THAT bad. And it was a library not an intensive care unit. She didn’t cost lives. It’s a harsh old god that sends you there for that! Aiding child rape, and actually murdering them, I can see as deserving a job in a shitty old cinema, although none of the staff seem to suffer much. The place is merely grim. Once they realise where they are, they might actually be grateful they got off lightly, considering Hell apparently exists and they’ve committed some of the worst acts possible. I wonder where the late-library-book returners go?

    Actually that’s obvious…

    Sure the usher masturbates over murder scenes (or maybe she just liked all that female flesh in the shower, nothing wrong with being a lesbian). But since the staff have been confessing their sins all along, she would have confessed to anything worse too.

    Maybe her slitching over murder is just an effect of being in Hell so long, stuck watching horrible films. That or go mad(der). Even if she was always like that, she didn’t mention actually killing people, which she would have. I just don’t get why she’s there. It can’t be the mild end of Hell with child killer and rapists there. Story weak point, and Alan’s normally flawless!

    I’d like to know what Flicker and his Assistant are in there for too. And the Icy Love lady, or is that the usherette’s job again? They’ll work that girl to death! Shame there wasn’t more time in the the story, but the big secret (that we’d all guessed from the start!) had to come out at the end.

    The films weren’t just films about evil though. Also decay, and metaphysics, were big themes. Regret, too. Powerlessness and an uncaring Universe, like the one with the new couple in the new house. Shall we chat about all the themes, now we’re not busy? While we’re waiting out the end of our lives now Alan’s retired, assuming nobody wants to see him dragged up as Widow Twankey.

    [Americans: that’s a reference to washed-up actors doing pantomime!]

    We don’t have to go utterly Nevins over it, but there’s greater themes over the whole series we can see now it’s closed, and stuff in each episode we can notice re-reading. You get value for money with Uncle Alan, new stuff appears even at the tenth reading of Watchmen! And V!

    Liked by 1 person

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