Sunday, February 20, 2011

First Saw

I was at Robeson Elementary in Champaign, Illinois when this was first shown to the music class I was in around Halloween of 1975 or 1976 (I've yet to confirm).

As I recall it we watched it once all the way through, then were asked to act out what was shown on the screen on several subsequent listenings.  I don't recall it beeping to signal the frame advance.  I do remember getting the chance to play the fiddler part on one of the rounds - and actually going through the motions of getting up and out of a grave and hiking a leg up onto a nearby chair as I mimed my fiddle as the piece played through and the other kids did their swirling and twirling thing about the room.  I got involved in the school plays around this time; playing the fiddler may very well have been my first role.

Without a doubt, beyond the music itself, though, what made the thing linger was that front-on illustration of the face of the fiddler himself.  This ghastly glowing orbed spectre from beyond which suddenly had personality and intent and which had been, swear to god, just a moment before, a harmless splotch of gray fuzz with a stringed something or other unequivocally terrified us right out of our own little Charlie Brown skulls.

This current retouch doesn't do the glowing red eyes justice,
but the form is there. This thing suddenly had personality; a face. With intent.

It was one of those things where you couldn't bear looking at it because it freaked you out so much.  Seriously.  You would have to make a devoted, concerted effort to stare at the thing. And talk yourself into it. And get set when you knew it was coming up maybe in the next frame.  And you knew that it occurred twice, too, so you'd have to stay on the guard for the second one after you somehow miraculously survived the first.

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