Watch William S. Burroughs’ Ah Pook is Here as an Animated Film, with Music By John Cale

The work of William S. Bur­roughs can be by turns hilar­i­ous, opaque and pro­fane – filled with images of drugs, insects and oth­er odd­i­ties. Though it might be fas­ci­nat­ing, if dif­fi­cult, on the page, his work real­ly comes alive when read aloud, prefer­ably in Burroughs’s sig­na­ture dead­pan drawl. And if it’s accom­pa­nied by some trip­py visu­als, then, all the bet­ter.

The above video is exact­ly that. In 1994, ani­ma­tor Peter Hunt made this appro­pri­ate­ly grotesque stop motion ani­mat­ed film, Ah Pook is Here, with audio tak­en from Burroughs’s 1990 album Dead City Radio. (You can read along to the video below.) John Cale pro­vides the music. The win­ner of 10 inter­na­tion­al film awards, the short film has been archived in the Goethe Insti­tut.

Ah Pook is Here start­ed in 1970 as a col­lab­o­ra­tion with artist Mal­colm McNeil. Orig­i­nal­ly it was slat­ed to be a mag­a­zine com­ic strip but when the pub­li­ca­tion fold­ed, Bur­roughs and McNeil decid­ed to turn it into a book. Ah Pook is Here and Oth­er Texts was final­ly pub­lished in 1979, though with­out McNeil’s illus­tra­tions. You can see them here.

When I become Death, Death is the seed from which I grow…

Itza­ma, spir­it of ear­ly mist and show­ers.
Ixtaub, god­dess of ropes and snares.
Ixchel, the spi­der web, catch­er of morn­ing dew.
Zooheekock, vir­gin fire patroness of infants.
Adz­iz, the mas­ter of cold.
Kock­upock­et, who works in fire.
Ixtah­doom, she who spits out pre­cious stones.
Ixchun­chan, the dan­ger­ous one.
Ah Pook, the destroy­er.

Hiroshi­ma, 1945, August 6, six­teen min­utes past 8 AM.

Who real­ly gave that order?

Answer: Con­trol.

Answer: The Ugly Amer­i­can.

Answer: The instru­ment of Con­trol.

Ques­tion: If Control’s con­trol is absolute, why does Con­trol need to con­trol?

Answer: Con­trol… needs time.

Ques­tion: Is Con­trol con­trolled by its need to con­trol?

Answer: Yes.

Why does Con­trol need humans, as you call them?

Answer: Wait… wait! Time, a land­ing field. Death needs time like a junkie needs junk.

And what does Death need time for?

Answer: The answer is sooo sim­ple. Death needs time for what it kills to grow in, for Ah Pook’s sake.

Death needs time for what it kills to grow in, for Ah Pook’s sweet sake, you stu­pid vul­gar greedy ugly Amer­i­can death-suck­er.

Death needs time for what it kills to grow in, for Ah Pook’s sweet sake, you stu­pid vul­gar greedy ugly Amer­i­can death-suck­er… Like this.

We have a new type of rule now. Not one man rule, or rule of aris­toc­ra­cy, or plu­toc­ra­cy, but of small groups ele­vat­ed to posi­tions of absolute pow­er by ran­dom pres­sures and sub­ject to polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic fac­tors that leave lit­tle room for deci­sion. They are rep­re­sen­ta­tives of abstract forces who’ve reached pow­er through sur­ren­der of self. The iron-willed dic­ta­tor is a thing of the past. There will be no more Stal­ins, no more Hitlers. The rulers of this most inse­cure of all worlds are rulers by acci­dent inept, fright­ened pilots at the con­trols of a vast machine they can­not under­stand, call­ing in experts to tell them which but­tons to push.

You can find Ah Pook is Here in the Ani­ma­tion sec­tion of our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Junky’s Christ­mas: William S. Burrough’s Clay­ma­tion Christ­mas Film

William S. Bur­roughs on Sat­ur­day Night Live, 1981

William S. Bur­roughs Reads Naked Lunch, His Con­tro­ver­sial 1959 Nov­el

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow.


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Comments (4)
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  • nancy ryan says:

    thank you so much! i was there when Mal­colm and William were mak­ing Ah Pook and have had no idea what hap­pened to it. Where is, if is, Mal­colm? Again, thank you Also laughed and remem­bered William watch­ing D.E. by Gus Van Zant. Keen long mem­o­ries. nan­cy

  • eyevocal says:

    Here are the Eng­lish spellings of the Mayan deities’ names, accord­ing to the ded­i­ca­tion in the book Cities of the Red Night. The descrip­tions are as they appear there:
    Itzam­na, Spir­it of Ear­ly Mists and Show­ers.
    Ix Chel, the Spi­der-Web-that-Catch­es-the-Dew-of-Morn­ing.
    Zuhuy Kak, Vir­gin Fire.
    Ah Dziz, the Mas­ter of Cold.
    Kak U Pacat, who works in fire.
    Ix Tab, God­dess of Ropes and Snares, patroness of those who hang them­selves.
    Ix Tub Tun, she who spits out pre­cious stones. [From the book Myths of Pre-Columbian Amer­i­ca.]
    Hex Chun Chan, the Dan­ger­ous One.
    Ah Pook, the Destroy­er.

  • Cheryl Berube says:

    Seems to me I remem­ber the record­ing end­ing with a quote about Bryan Gyson’s all-pur­pose bed time sto­ry.. like this. One day a slop­py dirty giant flicked grease from his fin­gers. One of those globs of grease was our uin­verse on its way to the floor. SPLAT!

  • Matthew Alexander says:

    That is def­i­nite­ly how the orig­i­nal the­atri­cal edit went… I am unsure why Hunt decid­ed to change it, but I keep hop­ing to find the oth­er ver­sion.

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