The 39 Steps (1935), is often considered one of the best films from his early period. This film was also one of the first to introduce the concept of the “Macguffin“, a plot device around which a whole story seems to revolve, but ultimately has nothing to do with the true meaning or ending of the story. In The 39 Steps, the Macguffin is a stolen set of design plans. (Hitchcock told French director François Truffaut: “There are two men sitting in a train going to Scotland and one man says to the other, ‘Excuse me, sir, but what is that strange parcel you have on the luggage rack above you?’ ‘Oh,’ says the other, ‘that’s a Macguffin.’ ‘Well,’ says the first man, ‘what’s a Macguffin?’ The other answers, ‘It’s an apparatus for trapping lions in the Scottish Highlands.’ ‘But,’ says the first man, ‘there are no lions in the Scottish Highlands.’ ‘Well,’ says the other, ‘then that’s no Macguffin.’”)
Ok so Hitchcock meant I guess that the Macguffin ended up being irrelevant to the story, hence the silly name. These days, however the Macguffin has come to mean THE thing that drives the story, but also turns out to be really important in and of itself –and that’s how I mean it. So I guess I’m more in the George Lucas camp. But it’s really not enough that it just drive the story; A good Mcguffin has to have something mysterious, something aspirational, something metaphysical, something mind-blowing. It’s the thing that everyone wants, but oh my Lord what’s going to happen once it’s gotten! The story is defined by the not having, the not seeing, the anticipation. I’m not film theorist or historian, just a person who loves movies and appreciates metaphysical plot devices. I guess strictly speaking, there is a difference between the Unexposed contents plot device and the MacGuffin, but Able Danger blurs the distinction and is stylistically referential to both, so you’ll have to excuse me when I conflate the two terms. For me, the coollest Macguffin’s are…
Repo Man’s alien the trunk;
Pulp Fiction’s glowing suitcase
And, of course, the Maltese Falcon
Thus, the challenge for me was how to make a real object that could really exist that we could touch and feel and see, with authentic Heideggerian Dasein -like the Maltese Falcon (if it were really real -because we can easily imagine that there could be a Maltese Falcon in the real world), and give it metaphysical mind blowing importance like the glowing suitcase in Pulp Fiction or the glowing trunk in Repo Man. What if there was one real tangible Rosetta Stone like object for the modern age that could redefine everything?
As every Neocon will tell you, “We live in a post 9/11 world.” It’s like the difference between BC and AD. There is one thing, one event that lives in the minds of mankind more than any other that defines our time. Given this as our context, the ultimate Macguffin would be the thing that could flip that script. If we redefine how we understand the event, then, and only then, can we redefine our era.
So, what if there was a smoking gun that proved the identities and methods of the true architects of 9/11 ? I mean what do I know? But why would Cheney and Rumsfeld force the Able Danger program to destroy 2.5 terrabytes of data except to hide something incriminating? Able Danger makes the leap into fiction in supposing not only that the real Able Danger data still exists, but that the data could serve as the irrefutable proof of a Zeitgeist manufactured by the neocon media oligarchy. I won’t bore you with the details of conspiracy theories here. This blog section is about Macguffins and Thrillers! If you want to find out about Able Danger get started. The truth is out there. You should probably start with PNAC.
ABLE DANGER is playing in DC at a 911 Film Series at the Busboys and Poets Venue. Sander Hicks will be speaking after the film. Sander, who wrote who grew up in the DC area and who has served as inspiration for the film Able Danger, runs the world famous cafe/bookstore in Brooklyn VOX POP and is the author of the triumph of gonzo journalism, “The Big Wedding.”
VOX POP has since taken over the Bowery Poetry Club. While the Bowery Poetry Club still functions in many of the great ways it did, it is now the VOX POP of Manhattan as well.
From what I can tell from the website, Busboys and Poets in DC feels a lot like Vox Pop. Should be a perfect venue for the film. It’s the kind of place where you can get an organic hamburger, surf the net on your laptop, listen to performance artists of all kinds change the world, drink free trade coffee that will make your neurons stand up on end while you browse for books that, if you dare to read, will send you down the rabbit hole. Like this one;
DETAILED INFO ON THE WASHINGTON DC SCREENING OF ABLE DANGER ON 9/11/08 AT 9:11 PM
Description: 9:11pm : Washington DC premiere of ABLE DANGER The truth is darker than you think. A Brooklyn 9/11 Truther falls into a noir pastiche when a mysterious Eastern European beauty arrives at his bookstore-café with irrefutable proof of American secret intelligence involvement in the planning and execution of 9/11. Special guest: SANDER HICKS, founder of VoxPop café on which the film is based, and author of The Big Wedding: 9/11, The Whistleblowers, and the Cover-Up. http://www.abledangerthemovie.com/ Free and open to all. ($5 suggested donation to support DC 9/11 Education Fund) Sponsored by Alliance for Global Justice /DC911truth.org
How many times did you have to watch this movie to follow everything Bogart was saying? Isn’t that what makes it great? That it’s right there in front of you, but it’s so hard to follow. A shudder still goes up my spine every time he gives it to her. Every line out of his mouth is a gem. What’s so important about the Maltese Falcon thematically to 9/11 you might ask? The concept of the fall guy, the sap, going over for it. I had hoped to make the point that, yes, it’s true that the 19 hijackers may have hated the US and indeed flew planes into the buildings. But also that they were set up. They were recruited, indoctrinated, trained and facilitated by an iran-contra like secret government agency. Perhaps that secret government agency was called Able Danger. We’ll never know. They destroyed all the data relevant to their program in March 2001. 2.5 terabytes of data, supposedly equal to 1/4 of the printed books in the library of congress, according to Webster Tarpley.
Of course I always loved the Maltese Falcon, but for me as a modern viewer, I never liked Mary Astor. I never found her attractive personally and in that sense she failed as a femme fatale. I just didn’t get why Bogart fell under her spell. It wasn’t until I found out that she was the sexpot of the day, the Paris Hilton of her time, that her understated sexuality in the film made sense.
Able Danger is fiction, but was inspired in large part Vox Pop. First and foremost Vox Pop is a place to bring your laptop, surf the internet, drink insanely strong fair trade coffee, peruse the bookshelves for books that didn’t seem to appear anywhere else that posed and answered questions I had been wondering why weren’t be answered in the mainstream media, and ultimately where I could meet the community I lived in. Vox Pop is one of those rare businesses with soul.
When I discovered that the owner of the store, Sander Hicks, wrote a 9/11 conspiracy book called ‘The Big Wedding,” my initial reaction was, the same as I imagine most of America’s would still be, I thought, ‘What a kook! He’s wasting his time writing about conspiracy theories?’ It was only because I was such a fan of the cafe itself that I read his book. And that’s when I fell down the rabbit hole. It’s a short book, and it’s entertaining, but it’s a dense big-picture-read chock full of political and personal intrigue. ‘Gonzo Journalism’ is how I first heard it described, It was so well written and well documented that I spent the next year reading and researching 9/11.
Once again, the movie is fiction. The Able Danger story line is right out of a Dashiell Hammett novel. But the Vox Pop Cafe/Bookstore is real. The Big Wedding is a real book. The idea was to make a hero out of the man I initially considered a cook, to place his maverick investigative journalism into the context of a Sam Spade adventure. He is the modern day Don Quixote taking on windmill-dragon of our collective understanding of truth as determined by the corporate oligarchies that control mainstream media. If there was a Vox Pop in every community, I think things would be a bit different ’round here.