In the first half, Stephen F. Cohen, a Professor of Russian Studies and History Emeritus at NYU, offered analysis of the currently volatile state of US-Russia relations. Starting with the Clinton campaign last summer, Donald Trump has been portrayed as a Putin “puppet,” and these assertions have continued to be made by various powerful groups that seek to de-legitimize and cripple Trump politically. These efforts, Cohen believes, are now out of control and lack any hard evidence. America needs detente with Russia, he declared, adding that he’s concerned if there’s a threat to US national security such as related to situations in the Baltic, Ukraine, or Syria, Trump will be hobbled in his diplomatic efforts if he is seen as “Putin’s stooge.”
I would argue that Vladimir Putin is very unhappy about the crisis that has come over East-West relations, particularly US-Russia relations since 2008, said Cohen, because it’s not compatible with his mission for economic modernization, and integrating the Russian economy on a global level. With the sanctions after the Ukrainian crisis in 2014, he’s had to retreat from Europe and cut deals with China. Regarding the charges that Putin was behind the polonium poisoning of the former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko who was living in London, Cohen said there was no solid evidence pointing to Putin’s culpability.
In the latter half, Chris Alexander, a Canadian-based, writer, filmmaker and editor-in-chief of such magazines as Fangoria, Gorezone, and Delirium, discussed the history of horror films, and their continuing appeal. Our society is built on avoiding the fact that we’re all going to die, and “I think what horror films do…in a safe and benign way, [is to] hammer home these very grim truths about our finite time on this planet,” he observed. They’re empowering for the audience, Alexander continued, who watch people coming to horrible ends on the screen, yet when the lights come up, they emerge unscathed.
He characterized Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film “Psycho” as a landmark in the genre, with its graphic depiction in the shower sequence, bumping off of a main character in the first third, and masterful marketing campaign in which people were not allowed to enter the theater once the film had started. Cohen named Night of the Living Dead, The Exorcist, Texas Chain Massacre, Night of the Hunter, and Bride of Frankenstein as other highly influential films. He also talked about how some horror films seem to have a curse on them, with cast members suffering real life tragedies during or after the production. For instance, in The Omen, the character played by David Warner gets gruesomely decapitated by glass at the end of the film. Shortly after the movie was released, The Omen’s special effects director and his assistant were in a head-on car collision and the assistant was decapitated in a similar fashion as to what was depicted in the movie.
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New segment guests: Robert Zimmerman, Douglas Hagmann