At Maltese festival, climbing the greasy pole is part of the fun

ST JULIAN’S, Malta (Reuters) – For more than a century, locals in the small Maltese town of St Julian’s have celebrated their patron saint by running up a steeply angled log, smeared with lard, protruding over the sea.

The goal is to grab increasingly difficult-to-reach flags.

The unconventional form of worship is the centerpiece of the Feast of St. Julian, which takes place in late August, and dates back to the 1800s.

Men, women and children take part in the contest, running up a 30-foot-long pole, known as the gostra, suspended over the town’s harbor. Whether they win or lose however, the competitors all ultimately end up in the water.

Competitor Carden Mizzi tries to grab a flag as he falls off the “gostra”, a wooden pole covered in lard, during the main competition, part of the celebrations on the religious feast day of St Julian, patron of the town of St Julian’s, Malta, August 27, 2017.Darrin Zammit Lupi

“While I stand there right before I go up, I have a bad feeling in my gut that something might go wrong — which is very common — but the adrenaline rush overcomes that bad feeling, which pushes me to go,” said competitor Ivan Bartoli, 21.

The choice facing competitors is clear — when traction fails them, do they dive forward for glory, or try to make a soft landing? At events in the run up to Sunday’s festival tactics ranging from dives to clinging to the pole have been seen.

Slideshow (9 Images)

Though the festival’s official date is Aug 26, celebrations including several pole-climbing competitions have been taking place in the week running up to the event’s climax.

The prizes on offer for those who manage to grab one of the flags are nominal. Carden Mizzi, 29, who has been taking part in the competition for 10 years, said that victory was rewarded with “trophies or just a bruise”.

“It is hard, depending on your run” Mizzi added, “If you’re afraid from the first few steps, you’d better jump off.”

Reporting by Darrin Zammit Lupi; Writing by Mark Hanrahan in London Editing by Jeremy Gaunt

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Tobe Hooper, Director Of 'Chain Saw Massacre,' Dies At 74

Tobe Hooper arrives at the premiere of New Line’s Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Beginning at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in 2006 in Los Angeles, Calif.

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Tobe Hooper, who directed the influential horror movie The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, died on Saturday in Los Angeles.

The LA County coroner’s office confirmed the death to NPR, but did not provide a cause.

Hooper was a little-known, barely-funded filmmaker when he made the movie that echoed through the horror genre for years to come.

In 2004, Texas Monthly magazine reported on the movie’s improbable production (and lasting financial woes.) The production crew was astonishingly green — it was the cinematographer’s first feature film. There was precisely one chainsaw in the prop collection. The cast members were starving, exhausted and bruised, surrounded by rotting animal parts in the middle of a meltingly hot Texas summer. And Hooper was driving them crazy with his direction.

“There’s reason to believe that Hooper was manipulating many of the details, to an almost obsessive degree,” the magazine wrote. “He wanted the actors to feel irritable and off-balance.”

Hooper got want he wanted. The film felt real in a way that audiences found both unsettling and deeply compelling. It was even marketed (falsely) as being based on a “true story.”

The movie’s premise is distinctly grisly: a cannibalistic family that kills, skins and eats human beings, turning them into sausages. They live in an isolated house stacked high with bits of corpses. The most infamous character, Leatherface, wears human faces as masks.

But despite the subject matter, there’s very little blood, guts or gore. In fact, Hooper once told NPR’s Terry Gross that he was aiming for a PG rating — seriously.

During production, as he was deciding how to frame various shots, he’d ask the Motion Picture Association of America, for tips on what would factor in his favor as they picked a rating.

“I called the MPAA and told them what I was doing and said, ‘Now, how can I make this PG? I know the concept is rough but let’s hypothetically talk about a sequence … for instance where, uh, a big guy hangs a girl up on a meathook. And if you don’t see penetration, and you see the girl hanging on the meathook, and you’ve suggested penetration in a kind of Hitchcock way, you know. what will I get? Does that get an R? Does that get an X? Or how about PG?’ “

The movie ultimately received an R rating. “Had I not sincerely tried to go for a PG, the picture may have been an X,” Hooper told Gross.

Once it was released, the movie made its way into the canon of great horror films — eventually. The Associated Press describes the decidedly mixed initial reaction:

“The film was controversial. Several countries banned it, though the independent film — aided by its gory reputation and lightning fast word-of-mouth — grossed $30.8 million, playing for eight years in drive-ins and theaters. Still, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre wasn’t as explicitly grisly as it was reputed to be; much of its humor-sprinkled horror was summoned by the filmmaking and the buzz of one terrifying power tool.

“[John] Carpenter, the Halloween director, on Sunday called it ‘a seminal work in horror cinema.’ William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist, recalled Hooper as “a kind, warm-hearted man who made the most terrifying film ever.”

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre wasn’t received too kindly by critics. Harper’s, for one, called it ‘a vile little piece of sick crap.’ Roger Ebert said it was ‘without any apparent purpose, unless the creation of disgust and fright is a purpose.’ But its renown steadily grew, and many appreciated its harrowing craft, comparing it to Alfred Hitchcock’s Pyscho … The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was selected to the Director’s Fortnight of the 1975 Cannes Film Festival. Later, it would become part of the permanent collection at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.”

Leatherface has lived on in a number of spinoffs; the franchise is still going. Hooper himself went on to direct Steven Spielberg’s Poltergeist, another horror classic. He also directed a TV adaptation of Stephen King’s Salems Lot.

Variety writes that Hooper continued to work on TV and film until just a few years ago, although “none of the films had the impact of his early works.”

But Massacre — credited as one of the founding films of the slasher genre — had a lasting effect on horror movies and filmmakers. That wasn’t intentional, the director said.

“I don’t think I set out to change the genre consciously,” Hooper told Gross in 1988. “I simply made a film that I wanted to see.”

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PHOTOS: Houston Flood Caused By Harvey Sends Residents Scrambling For Safety

The remnants of now-Tropical Storm Harvey have all but parked over south Texas and the storm is inundating the region around Houston with “unprecedented” rain, according to the National Weather Service.

Houstonians have been stranded in their homes, and some of those who were on the roads were in need of rescue as areas of Houston received as much as two feet of rain with no immediate end in sight.

Then-Hurricane Harvey made landfall late Friday evening near Corpus Christi, Texas, as a Category 4 hurricane, one of the strongest storms to make landfall in recent history.

Two people walk down a flooded section of Interstate 610 in floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey on Sunday.

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Vincente Navas (left) and Alma Barrientos stand outside their home in the Cottage Grove neighborhood in Houston.

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Moses Juarez, left, and Anselmo Padilla wade through floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey on Sunday in Houston.

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The city’s 911 services were overwhelmed with calls for service and rescues, said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. He said that while some people were having to wait, the system was working, and he asked people to only call 911 if they had life-threatening emergencies.

A military truck navigates along Interstate 10 which has been inundated with flooding from Harvey which, is expected to dump upwards to 40 inches of rain in Texas over the next couple of days.

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People walk through flooded streets during the aftermath. Harvey left a trail of devastation Saturday after the most powerful storm to hit the U.S. mainland in over a decade slammed into Texas, destroying homes, severing power supplies and forcing tens of thousands of residents to flee.

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“It’s like a river, the water is all the way up to the embankment and you can’t even see if there’s any vehicles down there right now,” said Gail Delaughter of Houston Public Media. “Once the water drains out, who knows what they are going to find down there.”

An abandoned Hummer is covered in floodwaters on Interstate 610 after now-Tropical Storm Harvey hit Houston.

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Residents wade through floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey Sunday in Houston, Texas.

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Turner warned residents to not be lulled by pauses in the rain. The National Weather Service said Sunday afternoon it expected up to 50 inches of rain in some areas of the region. That much rain would be the highest rainfall ever recorded in Texas, according to The Associated Press.

People push a disabled car during the aftermath.

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An abandoned vehicle is covered by flood waters on Interstate 610 after Hurricane Harvey inundated the Texas Gulf coast with rain, in Houston, Texas.

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