Orson Welles on Horror Comics/Movies: January 17, 1955

Discovered a video of this program in a semi-private corner of the Internet and thought I’d share; the transcription and copyedit is mine. Press Conference was an early BCC television series that describes itself as a program “in which personalities who make the news answer impromptu questions from the men who write the news.”It’s charming how wholly disinterested the show’s panel of earnest blowhards/eggheads are in the camera and whether or not they’re on it.

This brief exchange, aside from another interesting example of how closely Welles paid attention to comics and other junk culture, is remarkable in how he [thumb]nails the 1960s zeitgeist a decade before it got swinging. — MG

PRESS CONFERENCE: There’s been a certain amount of criticism of the trends of American influence on things like horror comics and films. Do you feel that there is anything  in the suggestion that American influence is towards a spirit of juvenile delinquency through the world?

ORSON WELLES: I don’t think that horror films or horror comics contribute to juvenile delinquency. I think that they may encourage psychotics, and homicidal and other dangerous types — but juvenile delinquency is, I think, a symptom of the illness of our age. It doesn’t come from lack of playgrounds or bad comic books, but a great longing for youth to have something to rebel against.

PC: You wouldn’t say that children are imitative, and that they tend to imitate what they see or read?

WELLES: If they were, they would’ve come from the bear pits and the Globe Theatre to commit some rather extraordinary acts in the Elizabethan days!

PC: You don’t think that the glorification of violence, which is shown even in some of the Westerns, gives them ideas? Make them think that they would like to shoot from the hip or be quick on the draw?

WELLES: Well, you see I think that all vital periods of the drama and of literature are periods of great violence, and that all of our great plays and novels are violent. I don’t like them when they are poor novels or when they’re not works of art; they become shoddy and seem to be pandering. Usually something wicked.

PC: But usually virtue virtue triumphs there, but in the horror comic it doesn’t.

WELLES: Doesn’t it?

PC: No, I don’t think so.

WELLES: It doesn’t in Edgar Allen Poe either.

PC: You were not brought up on horror comics; they didn’t have them when you were a boy in America.

WELLES: No, I don’t suppose so, but I had horror stories and horror films.

I’m not for them; I’m very much against violence and brutality as a popular subject. I think it is overexploited. I quite agree with that.

PC: Would you prohibit horror comics?

WELLES: I wouldn’t prohibit anything; I’m very much against censorship.

PC: Even for children?

WELLES: It’s a very difficult question, but you see I don’t think children were ever hurt by Grimm. I remember that the end of Snow White in Grimm — the real ending, not the Disney one — the Witch is given red-hot iron shoes to dance in until she dies, and everybody’s terribly happy about it. I don’t think it made any delinquents out of it. And children are violent.

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