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The Taxidermy of Memory: “Castle of the Living Dead”

A NEW essay, equal parts philosophical investigation (of memory, time, and museum vitrines) and memoir (mem-noir?): “Castle of the Living Dead: Time, Embalmed.”


Keywords: Taxidermy, photography as taxidermy, Christopher Lee, the uncanniness of natural-history museum vitrines, the suburban horror of nature, the author’s fossilized childhood.


Why do passing encounters with the inconsequential lodge themselves in our long-term memory, sometimes forever? What makes seemingly throwaway images get stuck in the hippocampus and stay there, for a lifetime? Castle of the Living Dead (1964) is, by universal consensus, not high art. An especially forgettable example of the spaghetti-gothic thrillers turned out by Italian moviemakers in the ’60s, it’s a low-budget affair, badly dubbed, creaky with clichés, marred by hammy performances. Yet, for all its staginess, the film settled to the bottom of my unconscious the day I saw it, at the age of eight or nine, and has lain there ever since, submerged but still visible, like the drowned death car in Night of the Hunter.


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