Forgiving Crimes: Hitchcock, Lovecraft, Landis, and Salva

HP Lovecraft was a racist. But he also created the Cthulhu Mythos. John Landis was careless and contributed to the deaths of 3 people (2 of them children), but also gave us an historic werewolf film that showed us how amazing special effects could be, as well as a music video that is still as chilling as it was in the 80s. Alfred Hitchcock treated his leading ladies like garbage (including sexually harassing at least one of them), but also gave us an iconic shower scene that scared an entire generation. Victor Salva molested a boy on his movie Clownhouse, but created a monster that has become as beloved as Michael, Jason, and Freddy.

How do you separate the art from the artist? Is the Cthulhu Mythos less enjoyable because the author believed horrific things about black people? Is Psycho less of a masterpiece because its director treated his female actors like cattle? Is American Werewolf in London less historic because the director went on to contribute to a devastating tragedy? Is the Creeper a less interesting monster because of the monster who created him?

And there are others: the late Dominick Brascia is alleged to have molested actor Corey Haim. Max Landis, the son of John Landis, has been accused of sexual assault. Roman Polanski, director of the classic Rosemary’s Baby was convicted of raping a 13-year old girl and fled the country.

While the entertainment world has been rocked by the accusations from the #MeToo movement, the horror community has been relatively untouched by it. That’s to not say we’re all perfect and nothing has ever happened. But we have some skeletons in our past that we’ve ignored for a long time.

Lovecraft hated black people. Victor Salva molested a 12-year old boy. Yes, he served time, but should he be forgiven for that heinous crime? Tippi Hedren revealed to the world Hitchcock’s amorous ways and his horrible treatment of her after she refused to sleep with him. And while I’m sure many believed her, many insisted she was trying to destroy his legacy to benefit herself. While John Landis filmed a harrowing sequence of his segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie, a tragic accident occurred. A helicopter used in the sequence crashed and killed actor Vic Morrow and two children, aged 6 and 7. The little girl was crushed. The boy and Morrow were decapitated. Landis and others involved in the filming, including Warner Bros., were acquitted of involuntary manslaughter and settled civil suits with substantial cash payments to the families of those who died.

While the horrible things these men did and thought should not be ignored, I don’t think enjoying their creations means we support the negative things. No one is perfect. We’ve all made mistakes and done things we regret. Very little of Hollywood is untouched by controversy in one form or another. We all have friends and family who’ve done and said things we disagree with. It doesn’t mean we support or excuse their behavior. It doesn’t mean we stop loving them. Sometimes the brain doesn’t work in a logical way. We know our grandfather was racist, but we remember the moments he tucked us into bed and read us a story. Should the negative things he believed alter the good feelings those memories give us?

I believe it comes down to a personal choice. While I can still enjoy An American Werewolf in London, it does turn my stomach to enjoy a movie like Jeepers Creepers. That one, for me, is still a bitter pill to swallow. Whenever I watch The Birds I send Tippi Hedren good thoughts, thanking her for giving me something I enjoy watching despite the torturous things she had to go through to film the movie. Whatever decision you make, it’s up to you and no one else.

Let me know when you think.

HP Lovevcraft
Alfred Hitchcock
Victor Salva
John Landis