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 The winner of 10 international film awards, the short film has been archived in the Goethe Institut.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: 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?
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.
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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.
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
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.
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!
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.