In the Slick of the Cricket
By Russell Drumm '69, Pederson Publishing/Graphis Press,
New York, 1996. 313 pp.
by Rick Marsi '69
Before there was Jaws there was "Monster Man" Mundus, the man who brought sharks from the depths into full public view. One shark in particular, the great white, made Frank Mundus a true living legend.
It was Mundus who discovered gigantic great whites could be caught off the coast of Long Island. It also was Mundus who figured out what would attract them: an oily chum slick, made from finely ground fish, ladled steadily off the aft deck of his boat, Cricket II.
That slick, its cantankerous maker, and the sharks it attracted form the backbone of Russell Drumm's recently published book, In The Slick Of The Cricket. Wrapped in the story of a five-day shark hunt, this tale is, in essence, a portrait of Mundus, the Brooklyn-born, New Jersey-raised charter captain, upon whose exploits the writer Peter Benchley based his novel, Jaws. "He took his scissors and cut out every article ever written about me," Mundus says bitterly, in an early chapter of Drumm's book. Benchley has never acknowedged Mundus as the inspiration for Jaws, yet important scenes in the book - and its mid-1970s film adaptation - correspond strikingly to events in Mundus's shark fishing career.
Drumm knows Mundus well. As a senior writer, covering commercial and sport fishing for the East Hampton Star near the tip of Long Island's South Fork, he chronicled the final decade of Mundus's 40-year fishing career, which ended in 1990, when Mundus retired and moved from Montauk, N.Y. to Hawaii. Drumm was watching from the dock in 1986 as Cricket II returned from a particularly successful hunt, groaning into the Montauk Marine Basin, towing a dead great white shark weighing 3,450 pounds.
His account of the event documented not only the weight of the beast, but the insatiable need of large crowds on the dock to set eyes on its tooth-studded maw. Drumm described how each jaw gaped in the human crowd when the shark's giant body was winched from the water and dangled for all to survey.
The author also has written of the "sports" Mundus takes out shark fishing - his "idiots," the Monster Man calls them. What drives them, these cops, millionaires and house painters? What urge motivates them to kill nature's most potent killer?
In The Slick Of The Cricket provides Drumm an opportunity to try and make sense of it all. He has plenty of time during a five-day shark hunting expedition with Mundus. On board with the captain is the trip's lone paying customer, a wealthy Hawaiian developer who has chartered Cricket II to guide him to the great white shark trophy he craves.
For five days they pitch and roll, ladling chum in an unending slick. In between shark events, the Monster Man thinks back on 40 years plying his trade. In a masterful use of extended quotations, Drumm allows Mundus to expound on the world as only an ex-Brooklynite can.
Frank's thems turn to dems and his words end up woids. His sharks, above all, come out shahks. His customers are idiots, he repeats as a mantra, and he is the idiot magnet.
Frank does what the customers want, he tells Drumm. They have the blood lust; he has the boat and the knowledge to hunt down their quarry. That knowledge shines through in Drumm's portrait of Mundus. The captain may come off crass and cold-blooded - his words may be monosyllabic - but his knowledge of oceans, and what makes them tick, is profound.
Each chapter in Drumm's book begins with a black-and-white photo. A number show Mundus in various stages of life as a great white shark hunter. There is Mundus in his prime, belly tight, Indiana Jones hat stained with sweat, prying open the jaws of a vanquished great white on the dock. There he is, walking barefoot on the swollen, pleated belly of a floating, dead whale, watching a great white shark rip off huge chunks from the carcass. There he is, after more than two decades have passed - softer, baggier now - staring up at the jaws in a great white shark head he has hung on his living room wall. Frank stares at the teeth, each as long as a finger, with a stare beyond reverence - more like a supplicant's gaze. A prayer to the beast that gave Monster Man life? Russell Drumm's book does not judge Frank Mundus as a hero or villain. It does cast bright light on the dark side of men, and on one man the sea off Long Island will never forget.
Note: Drumm's book is available by mail from Pederson Publishing/Graphis Press, 141 Lexington Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.
Rick Marsi is a newspaper man, naturalist and author of two books.
A film by Joe Berlinger '83 and Bruce Sinofsky,
a Home Box Office presentation of a Hand-To-Mouth Production,
Creative Thinking International, LTD.
by John Knecht
As the title reference to Milton's text suggests, Paradise Lost looks at America's relationship to God and at the guilt that comes with a fall from grace. The question of just who it is that has fallen keeps reverberating throughout the two-and-one-half-hour length of the film.
Paradise Lost is a dense and complicated work. I always tell my students that "good art intentionally asks more questions than it provides answers for." The questions that Paradise Lost raises within its narrative provoke a dark critique of the values and morals of the heartland of America. On another level the film brings into question, through its point of view, editing strategies and self-reflexivity, the role of the documentary genre itself and the complex nature of non-fiction film. The ultimate answers to these questions are intrinsically related to the values of the viewer and the filmmakers as well as those of the subjects in the film.
The film documents a murder case which took place in rural West Memphis, Arkansas in 1994. The bodies of three young boys were found in a ditch outside of town; brutally murdered, mutilated and sexually abused. The perverse manner of the killings and the relative precision of the mutilation led the fundamentalist Christian community to the conclusion that the murders were committed as an act of Satanic ritual. Three local teenagers, heavy metal music fans, usually seen around town dressed in black, were soon arrested and charged.
As the film centers on the trial of the teenagers it unveils a portrait of the working class community. The film provides access to the families of the murdered boys and of the accused teenagers. We are invited into the mobile homes, take part in the barbecues in the trailer park and hear the hymns in church on Sunday. We watch and listen as fathers of the slain boys blow a pumpkin to Kingdom Come with their handguns, verbally fantasizing about violent revenge in the courtroom as they squeeze off the rounds.
The omniscient camera verite includes the presence of the local media covering the trial. We witness the community as it confronts the horror of the event and the eye of the television camera. We watch as a young mother of one of the slain boys is interviewed by a local television station. There is an unnerving dialectic here that typifies the edginess of the film. The woman rants her sorrow but chooses do so in her best, bright, red dress, clearly relishing her Warholian fifteen minutes of fame.
We are given a privileged point of view inside the judge's chamber and at strategy meetings of both the defense and prosecuting legal teams. The level of subjectivity shifts dramatically when at one point the filmmakers themselves enter the narrative. A knife given to the crew by one of the family members is submitted as evidence as a possible murder weapon, raising new questions of guilt and bringing to light a new suspect. Not only does the knife and its matching DNA blood evidence reposition the question of potential suspects in the trial; but it also repositions the film from the omniscience of verite to a place where the medium turns in on itself and becomes a player in the narrative.
Paradise Lost must be considered within the context of class strata in America. The iconography of the trailer parks, evangelical Christianity, and rural working class values provide signification specific to the parameters of economic structure. Although the HBO broadcast made the film available to a reasonably wide and economically diverse audience, I wonder about the primary viewer. Do the characters in this West Memphis tragedy exist as the "other?" To what extent does the film operate within the spectacle of difference for the HBO subscriber? Certainly a view from the academy allows for a distancing that provides a controlled gaze across cultural boundaries.
In his book Pleasures of the Text, Roland Barthes writes about the various kinds of stimulation that the reader/viewer receives through active participation in the reading/viewing of a text. Paradise Lost's most significant pleasure for the viewer comes only after a dig takes place through the strata of American culture. In the end the film questions the nature of pleasure in cinema.
Paradise Lost is a strong and demanding film. As it asks questions, it moves among the jagged edges of an uneasy system of culture codes; and, like the best art, it rests unnervingly in a space that is in between things. In this case, in between the shards of culture found in the strata of a fragmented American dream: a paradise lost.
John Knecht is professor of Art & Art History
Rielle Music. Ria Curley '81
by Sandi Hemmerlein '97
With dance-oriented grooves taking over modern rock music and multiplying at an extraordinary rate, the music industry has begun to run out of new names for R&B/jazz/pop hybrid recordings. With her new CD Take Me, Ria pushes the limits of traditional adult contemporary music.
Known better to the Colgate community as Maria E. Curley '81, Ria has launched from her hometown of Oneida, N.Y., to stardom in the Big Apple. Besides her various acting, singing, and dancing stints on television and radio, Curley has also worked for Sony, earning an associate executive producer credit for the Frank Sinatra Complete Columbia Years box set.
Ria's keen sense of "the biz" brings Take Me beyond ho-hum mediocrity. With dance tracks like "I'll Help You Find What You're Looking For," Ria proves that she has her finger on the pulse of the music industry, pairing a sweet saxophone with British house drum effects. Her sharp sensibility shines especially through "Introspection," one of two tracks on the disc written solely by Ria. In it, she dabbles in seductive, rappy lyrics and toys with our modern hip-hop stereotypes. Why can't a white woman from Central New York turn phrases like the best of 'em?
Even in "Can't Wait to Get You Alone," Ria adopts a distinctly - and up until now exclusively - R&B flavor. When she sings, "Now let me show you, boo, how you make me feel" to a lovely jazzy backdrop, we want more.
I'd like to see Ria take this even further. Ria seems to have taken the safest road in structuring background vocals - she sings almost all of them herself. Although I kept hoping to hear that delightful hip-hop whistle that's been perfected by Naughty By Nature, I bet Take Me would benefit from some dissonant chords, or perhaps just off-kilter harmonies. Ria borrows so much from Prince already, with song titles like "Ready 4 Luv" and "Baby Do U Mi-is Me?" She should pursue the influence fully. Although "Baby" is catchy, it lacks a genuine aggressiveness both musically and lyrically.
On this recording, Ria's vocals slide along with the synthed-out bass and wrap around your eardrums like a silk scarf. When you hear this track live, on the other hand, it punches you in the gut like an accusation. That is where Ria gets her musical strength.
With Take Me's track selection, though, Ria's loyalties lie in romance, mood, and subtle seduction. In "Can I Bring You Flowers?" she sings, "Can I bring you kisses from my sweet garden," and we can only imagine what that must mean. Even when she blatantly offers herself, as in the title track, she does so quietly, almost in a whisper.
However, music fans' aren't always so finely tuned to the whispered breakthrough. Now that Ria has proven that she's got "what it takes," at least to catch attention amidst piles of one-hit-wonders, she only has to hit audiences hard with it. And we'll love it.
Take Me is available from J & R Music, 1-800-221-8180. For more information about Ria Curley call the Rielle Music Hot Line 212-802-5280.
Sandi Hemmerlein writes about the music scene for the Maroon-News.