Absolute Bowieginners: The Hunger - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Absolute Bowieginners: The Hunger

Chris Morley drinks the kool aid...

Where do you go after quite literally falling to Earth for your first big film role? Perhaps typically given our subject is a man of many guises, somewhere entirely different! This being David Bowie, and with Halloween approaching, time to look at when the ex-Ziggy Stardust embraced bloodlust in 1983’s The Hunger, playing John Blaylock in an adaptation of Whitley Strieber’s original 1981 novel. Mr Blaylock is a vampire, having been turned around 200 years ago by his partner Miriam, only now realising that her talk of immortality might have been a slight fib in that he will indeed live forever but not stay looking so young, which is brought home when he ages a good few years in mere days.

Understandably alarmed at the thought of losing his looks, he does what no doubt millions of men in his position have tried and reaches out to a scientist studying the effects of rapid aging on primates. One problem, though. Dr Sarah Roberts thinks he’s mad! At least initially, anyway, until she sees just how rapidly he’s deteriorating & actually tries to help only to be rebuffed.

A decent cover story might just provide a solution at least. John & Miriam have set themselves up as classical music teachers, & a visit from a student gives him the opportunity to feed on the unfortunate soul who’d only turned up to say she won’t be able to make it for a lesson scheduled for the next day. With more than a little melodrama he then practically begs Miriam to kill him- only for her to let slip that there is no release from the state they’re both in.

Just to cap off his little flounce, he then faints and is placed into the latest empty coffin in a room full of them! The occupants of the others are Miriam’s former lovers, trapped in a similar state of living death & none too happy about it. Sarah then follows rule one of what not to do in horror, ever, & goes investigating after the police have paid a visit to try & find out what happened to Alice, the poor unfortunate student from earlier, Miriam fobbing them off by saying her husband is in Switzerland & then managing to turn Sarah considerably more dead than she was when she came in through a lesbian encounter.

And yes, you read that right! Soon her work colleagues, including her partner Tom, will have reason to investigate samples of her blood to find out exactly what went on in the three hours she disappeared for, not that Tom will last much longer after the effects of her infection become all too clear & she has a bit of a nibble on him. Suppress those barely disguised sniggers!

For what happens next is possibly even stranger. Having killed the man she loved, she then forces Miriam to take in some of her blood after a fight with an ancient Egyptian knife sculpted into the ankh symbol- meaning life. Which very nearly means she’ll be joining her lover’s past flames in that rather nasty state of terminal boredom until they emerge as mummies just on time to do her a big favour & ensure she takes a rather large tumble over the balcony. Which frees Sarah up to move to London with the now entombed Miriam in tow - as you do.

In perhaps a less obvious nod to Bowie’s influence, Bauhaus - seen performing Bela Lugosi’s Dead in a nightclub during the film’s opening credits - had also covered his Ziggy Stardust the previous year. Their appearance in The Hunger actually contributed to growing resentment against singer Peter Murphy on the part of the rest of the band - bassist David J, drummer Kevin Haskins & guitarist Daniel Ash - as they felt too much attention was placed on him in the final cut! The Hunger director Tony Scott having hand picked the band to open the film as he felt...

“Peter Murphy had this sort of ethereal, vampire quality to him, and I thought that would make an interesting opening title sequence in the movie.”
The same year Bauhaus played a farewell show after a fourth & final album Burning From The Inside, Murphy unable to contribute much thanks to a bout of pneumonia. Though Haskins would later recall the experience of meeting Bowie in Bauhaus Undead...

“One of the most anticipated days in my career was our part in the filming of The Hunger starring David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve. The film was based on Whitley Strieber’s novel of immortal beings and vampirism set in modern-day America.

Although we had the unnatural set time of 7:30 a.m., March 22, 1982, couldn’t arrive soon enough. Bauhaus were contracted to perform “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” in the nightclub scene where Bowie and Deneuve’s vampire characters were hunting for young blood.

Although the scene was set in New York, it was filmed at the London nightclub Heaven, a club where we had previously played. We were all very big fans of Bowie and, like many musicians of the post-punk era, Bowie’s performance of “Starman” on Top Of The Pops, was a significant and profound turning point in our lives. So to say that we were excited was somewhat of an understatement.

Radiating with charisma, and walking with a confident swagger, Bowie arrived on set in green designer army fatigues, appearing a tad shorter than I had imagined him to be. After surveying the set, he disappeared in to hair and makeup, later to emerge, magnificently transformed, sporting a very resplendent black silk suit and jet black pompadour wig…he looked amazing!

We were then ushered on stage to play our part, Peter delivering an electrifying performance, I’m sure spurred on by the knowledge that Bowie was watching from the wings.”
Then, while his stand- in took over filming, the real Bowie led an audience including the band towards...
“...an old Wurlitzer jukebox, housed in an adjacent room of the club. I, along with about 20 extras, regulars of the club and who, one could tell, were also big fans, followed him at a respectful distance. David proceeded to begin selecting records, and so we all moved closer, and eventually, on his invitation, sat down before him.

It was from that point on, for the next two blissful hours, that we were treated to a private audience with the legendary musician! Many of the songs he played were from his LP, Pin Ups and he regaled us with wonderful stories about when he originally saw the bands at the Marquee Club and Eel Pie Island, and why he chose to record each one: Bands such as the Yardbirds, the Who, the Kinks and the Pretty Things, etc.

As this remarkable day was coming to a close, I was looking for a light for my cigarette and asked David’s assistant Coco for one. Unbeknownst to me, Bowie was only one foot away from me, hidden from view, just the other side of a doorway. It was at this moment that he magically appeared before me, presenting a lit lighter! He had a devil of a time actually getting it lit, but eventually succeeded, and so, yes, David Bowie lit my cigarette!”
From lighting a ciggie for a member of Northampton’s premier exponents of goth to Absolute Beginners in a three year jump next time out, plenty of ch-ch-changes still to ch-ch-chart as we plough on, oh you pretty things....

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