PROMETHEUS’ GARDEN (DVD)

5 Stars
Year Released: 1988
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 28 minutes
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Imagine if Ray Harryhausen could have been completely uncensored. Ramp that up to a hallucinatory-fueled paradise corrupted by machine-gunning gringo cowboys who morph into mythical beasts while naked woman frolic and eviscerations are lovingly detailed—all in GLORIOUS claymation—and this gives the first tickles of Bruce Bickford’s work.

Bickford is best known for his collaborations with Frank Zappa in the 70s and 80s. These include Baby Snakes and The Amazing Mr. Bickford among other things. Though the confines of a small budget sometimes show, his imagination and craftsmanship are stunning. I’m amazed he’s not as internationally renowned as Nick Park.

Prometheus’ Garden was released on video for the first time ever last year. It’s so obscure that, as of this writing, it doesn’t even have an entry on IMDb. Fortunately it’s available through Amazon.com.

The story is loose, to say the least, and swims with intuitive dreamy logic. The titular garden is invaded by the aforementioned cowboys and Norse pirates who want to enslave the inhabitants. Rebellion and fights erupt. Some of the fourth wall crumbles with a film editing station manifesting, people popping through the editing screen, and an apparent Bickford stand-in molding people to life. The score is 80s synthesizer funky peppered with overdubbed voices. An alternative score is also on the DVD.

Metamorphosis is a chief motif/theme. Almost everything stretches, flows, and reforms. The camera tracks into a man’s head that fluidly molds into several things before becoming a blue sea. It’s one of the few instances in cinema I know where the elasticity of the mind and flowing thoughts are seemingly illustrated. One could argue that the cyclic transformation from death to life and perhaps beyond is the underlying foundation for all that transpires. Plants immediately grow where people are slaughtered. Myth parades with the everyday. Pizza literally becomes a painter’s palette. Any clunky technical or story elements are compensated by the fact I was visually transfixed in multiple viewings. More details pop out each time. There’s more creativity packed into 28 minutes than in a dozen average Hollywood releases.

Also on the DVD, the 28 minute “Luck of a Foghorn” featurette, directed by Brett Ingram, has footage of Bickford working in his studio. One amazing shot shows Bickford molding little legs. It is no exaggeration saying he has “brains in his hands”. Talent like Bickford’s cannot be taught.



Posted on March 1, 2009 in Reviews by
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