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Thursday, March 11, 2004

Remember: Mel Gibson's the bad guy.

Unable to derail the film (at nearly $220 million and counting), dismissive critics decided to go after the man--call it Plan B, the "Weird Mel" Option. Consider Chris Hitchens, who offers the "Closeted Mel" essay:

The closeted homosexual is a sad figure from the past, and so is the homosexual who tries desperately to "marry" a heterosexual, thus increasing misery and psychic repression all round.

This may seem like an oblique way in which to approach Mel Gibson's ghastly movie The Passion. But it came back to me this week that an associate of his had once told me, in lacerating detail, that an evening with Mel was one long fiesta of boring but graphic jokes about anal sex. I've since had that confirmed by other sources. And, long before he emerged as the spear-carrier for the sort of Catholicism once preached by Gen. Franco and the persecutors of Dreyfus, Mel Gibson attained a brief notoriety for his loud and crude attacks on gays. Now he's become the proud producer of a movie that relies for its effect almost entirely on sadomasochistic male narcissism.

Now, I had to re-read it carefully to make sure if the "sadomasochistic" and "anal sex" references were bad things in Mr. Hitchens' mind. After all, he's been somewhat ambiguous on that point himself, as Time's film critic pointed out:

Leading the attack, Vanity Fair's Christopher Hitchens appropriated rhetorical tactics employed by both political fringes. Like some segments of the Christian right when Last Temptation and Dogma came out, he called for a boycott of a film he apparently had not seen. And he exhumed that favorite old pejorative of the Bolsheviks, fascist: he said the movie is "quite distinctly fascist in intention," adding that it is "an incitement to sadomasochism, in the less attractive sense of the word."

Then we have another "Weird Mel" variant, the PETA Option. This one comes courtesy of Endless Love director Franco Zeffirelli, who worked with Gibson on Hamlet way back in 1990.

The veteran Italian director also recounts his own curious experiences of working with Gibson, recalling one scene in Hamlet where Gibson intervened on the set when British actor Ian Holm (news), playing Polonius, acted out his character's death with his eyes closed.

Zeffirelli recalls Gibson saying: "A wounded animal about to die does not stay with a fixed look, but rolls its eyes in the final spasms, first together, then in the opposite direction, like a cross eyed person. It's almost funny."

"And how would you know?" responded Holm, according to Zeffirelli.

"I've seen plenty die,” replied Gibson, Zeffirelli claims. “When I can, to relax, I go to my farm and kill a lot of calves on the days when they are slaughtered."

Persuasive. I mean, if you can't trust a fourteen year old anecdote from an extremely hostile witness, what can you trust?

There's a two word rebuttal to the character attacks on Gibson: Victor Salva.

Salva, too, is a Hollywood director, with a film due to be released this year: The Watch.

Unlike Gibson, however, Salva has had an unfortunate scrape with the law, one with which Catholics ought to be familiar by now:

Child molestation.

Salva confessed to having oral sex with Nathan Winters in 1987 while directing the then sixth-grader in "Clownhouse," a film about three boys terrorized by circus clowns.

"Clownhouse" won several awards and was the first horror movie released at the acclaimed Sundance Film Festival.

Salva was sentenced to three years in state prison, serving 15 months and completing parole in 1992, according to the state Corrections Department and court records in Contra Costa County. He is a registered sex offender in Los Angeles County, according to state records.

Laws in 46 states, including California, treat sex offenders differently than other convicted criminals in that sex offenders, once released from prison, are required to register with authorities in communities where they take up residence. This is because pedophiles are driven by a psychological compulsion that has typically not been cured by therapy, according to criminologists and prosecutors.

* * *
Winters, who also acted for Salva in the 1986 short film "Something in the Basement," told his mother during the making of "Clownhouse" that Salva had forced sex on him.

When police raided Salva's house, they found two homemade pornographic tapes, one showing Salva having oral sex with Winters.

In April 1988, Salva pleaded guilty to one count of lewd and lascivious conduct, one count of oral copulation with a person under 14 and three counts of procuring a child for pornography. At his sentencing hearing, a prosecutor said Salva appeared to seek jobs where he could work with children. Salva has written children's books and in 1985 worked at the Crawford Village Child Care Center in Concord.

And in another twist familiar to my brethren, approval to film one of his works near an elementary school was granted in 2000 despite the studio's failure to inform school board members about his status as a registered sex offender. Oopsie. Only bad when a bishop does it, I guess.

And how does the higher-budget vision of Mr. Salva translate to the big screen? I'll let Ms. Malkin answer it for me:

Consider the wretched plot of "Jeepers Creepers 2": An ancient demon dubbed "the Creeper" preys on teenage basketball players trapped in a broken-down bus on a rural highway. Convicted child molester Salva's camera lingers on the shirtless torsos of the boys, alive and dead. The boys, all buff and beautiful in that pedophilic Calvin Klein/Abercrombie and Fitch kind of way, sunbathe on the bus roof. The lascivious Creeper stalks and harvests his victims, devouring "certain parts of their anatomy while laminating the rest," in the words of one movie critic. This orgy of bare skin and blood splatter, the sophisticated artistes lecture us, is convicted child molester Salva's redeeming contribution to society.

But, he's paid his debt, right? Cured?

Catholics--all together now:

Sgt. Gary Primavera, the police officer who handled the Winters case, said: "Victor has every characteristic of a pedophile that I know of -- and I've worked with enough of them. There was no remorse. The only sadness on Victor's part was that he got caught."

Don't forget--Salva's got another horror film in the can, and it comes out this year. For some reason, I don't think we'll hear "Weird Vic" stories.

Despite the ample public record and guilty plea.

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