Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Burning Hell, Part Two

It's Sunday morning, and time for another visit to the video collection of New Albany Mississippi's Reverend Estus Pirkle.
Every weekend I'm posting a clip from "The Burning Hell", Reverend Pirkle's early 1970's masterpiece. The film depicts the eternal consequences of disagreeing with Brother Pirkle's theology.

But first, a review of last week's offering. This is from my college dorm mate, Scott M, who now lives in Memphis, Tennessee:

OMG, when I saw your link, I got so excited! I have told so many people about that movie, as an example of what is was like to grow up in a Baptist church in MS. I never thought to look on YouTube. My personal faves, that have always stuck with me, were the decapitated head from the motorcycle accident, and the worms gnawing at the faces. Like it did with you, this movie scared the holy crap out of me when I saw it at a lock-in. It is now the funniest thing I have ever seen in my life!

Scott, the best is yet to come. You don't remember the stuff toward the end of the film, where it looks like a Tupelo community theatre production of "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof" was dumped onto the set of a Clive Barker movie.

I followed the link to your rant on Hell -- loved it. I couldn't agree more. I never thought about the irony of Jesus becoming a sacrifice, when that's the very system he railed against.

(Please read that link before disagreeing with anything Scott says below.)

I have often thought of how it seems he really wanted to reform Judaism, and was a Jew himself, but now most Christians think the Jews are the enemy (they killed Jesus! Um, ok -- I guess the Romans didn't really have anything to do with that.).
Loved the Vonnegut/Tom Robbins reference. Sounds like we have had very similar journeys in the last twenty-five years. (Except for the political thing ;-)

Scott has left the nurturing bosom of The Libertarian Party, most likely as a result of becoming a thug for The Musicians' Union.

Thanks again for making my freakin' week! We so need to get together sometime. I'll see when the Red Sox are in Arlington, maybe then.

And one day soon, we will get together. It is now destined.

Last week's episode of The Burning Hell ended with some disobedient Israelites being swallowed by the desert because they disobeyed Santa Claus Moses. If you find my commentary helpful, it's below the YouTube clip.
(P.S. - No Jewish people were harmed in the production of this video. )
(P.S.S. - I don't think any Jewish people were involved in the production of this video.)

:15 Are we to believe that Brother Pirkle has been standing by indifferently while the yawning-earth fire pit swallows half the tribe of Israel?

:45 Pirkle's wife has allowed two hippies into the preacher's office. The one on the left is nervously clutching a blue book. The one on the right says "Like, man, we come to talk to ya 'bout Jeeee-sus". I think the background music is someone playing a melody on an autoharp, which is more difficult than it sounds, since they're designed for chords only. Mother Maybelle Carter (Johnny Cash's mother-in-law) could do it, and I once heard Mike Seeger, Pete Seeger's brother, play some autoharp melodies at a book/CD signing.
If you're wondering why I'm going on and on with this digression about the soundtrack instead of focusing on the dialogue, its because at this point the script is lame. The two hippies are setting up theological straw men for Estus Pirkle to kick over.

1:50 Tim explains that his blue book is by a Dr. Long, whose church teaches "a new thing, in keeping with the trends of today's world." Well, Tim, that's what happens when you allow preachers to get doctorates.

2:07 Pirkle rises from his chair to retrieve the only book that matters. "This Bible talks about a literal hell where sinners burn forever and forever". Tim responds that according to Dr. Long, "God would never condemn anyone to a burning hell."

2:30 This section doesn't portray any beheadings, fiery punishments, or Mississippians in the afterlife, but it's still one of my favorite moments in Pirkledom. Tim, who up to this point has been portrayed as a confused hippie seeking meaning, betrays some knowledge of Greek, the King James Bible, hermeneutics, and if pressed he could probably knock out a quick commentary on what Paul really meant in 2nd Corinthians.

2:55 Listen closely.... You'll hear a clock striking four times. But everything in the plot is structured around the hippies going into the preacher's study one morning immediately before the church services begin. Whoops.

3:20 This section lets you know Ken deserves what's coming to him.

4:30 I still own some of these clothes, but don't have as much of the hair.

4:45 You may have asked yourself how many people go to hell per hour, and sometime this morning I might post the question on Yahoo! Answers, just to see how many people get it wrong.
The Pirkle Principle Of Perishing Persons is as follows: The Bible says that more people are going to hell than heaven. Statistics prove that 6,000 people die every hour. That means that every hour over 3,000 people go to hell.
Let's see Disneyworld beat those numbers.

5:20 Foreshadowing. Pirkle says "at this precise minute, someone is headed to a burning hell."

Cut to Ken riding down the highway on his motorcyle, his helmet shaking around like he's a Bobble-Head doll. (Now that I've typed that sentence, the business with Ken's head bobbling around in the helmet is intentional, and acts as a sophisticated foreshadowing device.)

6:50 If internet discussion boards are to be trusted, a staggering number of children who saw this movie in church have remembered this scene for the rest of their lives. Tim rides over the hill to see that Ken has had an accident. Ken's body is off in the woods, the motorcyle is on its side with blood on the muffler, and Ken's head is about 10 feet away from his body. Inside the helmet.

7:00 Tim's friend has died. Does Tim go somewhere to call the police? Does he wait on the ambulance to show up and take Ken's body to the morgue? Or does he abandon Ken's corpse in the woods so he can have more discussions with Reverend Pirkle about the exegetical nuances between "hell" and "hades" in the original Greek?
The ending of this YouTube clip gives us a tantalizing hint, but no more than that.

Please come back next week for episode 3.

If you think I'm beating a dead horse with these weekly rants about a bad 1970's horror film, check out these quotes from a Christian message board.

It was a very good tool and helped win untold thousands and thousands to the Lord.

Can you imagine the agony of perpetually falling with molten hot flames roaring through every part of your body, excruciating agony with no relief, pain that horrible even our worst nightmares couldn't prepare us for, pain so bad you would weep for eternity, pain so gruesome that teeth would be gnashed in an agonising frenzy, consciously aware of those deeds we have done in the flesh those we have hurt, tormented by our WORST fears and more for all eternity

I think our churches are failing people by preaching all Love and don't get around to explain the consequences of Rejecting Jesus. Hell!I like you,know where i am going and am very thankfull to God for Sending his Son to take my place on that Cross,and shed his Blood for Me, so i will be in Heaven with the rest of you and will not be in everlasting torment.

Thanks for posting that. I enjoyed watching it.

The Burning Hell is a favorite and has been used in many evangelistic meetings since I was a child.


Dr Ralph said...

No wonder you've turned out the way you did. I blame this for screwing me up.

TarrantLibertyGuy said...

Dr. Ralph... Ironic. The girl at 5:25 on your video talks about how with a pure democracy the majority rules with the minority overrun. This is in Searcy, AR, where just down the road, all hell breaks loose when a few black kids try to attend the 'wrong' high school.

Dr Ralph said...

TLG -- Wikipedia has a short but interesting entry about George S. Benson, who introduces the film. Among old educational films, irony seems to rule the day. If you've never checked it out, the Moving Image section of is a fascinating place.

WS - apologies for hijacking the comments section. You should check out as well -- you'd find it a rich lode of funk for future posts.

TarrantLibertyGuy said...

By the way, is "The Burning Hell" a continuation of your reports on the DMV?

Dr Ralph said...

TLG -- I believe the DMV film is called "Burning Rubber."