The Burroughs Version
In 1968 Antony Balch released an altered version of Witchcraft through the Ages. He added a Jazz score and a voice-over narration by William Burroughs. Its initial reception was quite controversial. Especially Stan Brakhage was very infuriated by it, calling it the “bastardized ‘English’ version”. He asked: “Why did Burroughs participate in this barbarous act? Suppose we begin to mess with his novels, I wonder how he’d feel about it…”
Jack Stevenson makes a point for the altered version by asking in turn: “Can’t a film be re-contextualized and re-interpreted? Must all art be fossilized in its original state? Is any alteration vandalism?”
I think we will have to reconsider the Burroughs/Balch version as not being mere exploitation, but as a venture which very intentionally applied ideas to film that bear relation to the Cut-Up Method.
“Take any poet or writer you fancy… The words have lost meaning and life through years of repetition… Fill a page with excerpts. Now cut the page. You have a new poem… As many Shakespeare Rimbaud poems as you like.” (William S. Burroughs, The Cut-Up Method of Brion Gysin)
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