“Artists to my mind are the real architects of change.” — William S. Burroughs.
In 1989, the iconic Beat writer William S. Burroughs created The Junky’s Christmas, a short story that originally appeared in the collection Interzone. It’s a piece of work that not only alludes to the festive period in a way that only, the Beat bastion, Burroughs could but also showcases the beating soul of his artistry.
Four years later, the story appeared on the 1993 album Spare Ass Annie and Other Tales and, following that success, it was later adapted into a short claymation film. Given Burroughs’ friendship with Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, alongside countless other artists like Jimmy Page and David Bowie, he performed a spoken word version of the story as a duet and an alternative cult status was confirmed.
The film adaptation, which was co-directed by Nick Donkin and Melodie McDaniel, involved a collaboration with the great Francis Ford Coppola, director of such works as The Godfather and Apocalypse Now who oversaw the project as a producer.
According to the film’s official synopsis, the picture tells the story of “a teen girl in 1970’s Berlin becomes addicted to heroin. Everything in her life slowly begins to distort and disappear as she befriends a small crew of junkies and falls in love with a drug-abusing male prostitute”—so not exactly your classic festive tale.
The film is set on on Christmas day as Danny, who is poor and suffering from the brutal effects of withdrawing from opiates, is released from prison after being held for over three days. Feeling horrendous and in a state of desperation to find enough money for his next hit of heroin, Danny is on the prowl in order to find something valuable enough to steal. However, Danny’s desperation would soon land him in hot water after the discovery of an abandoned suitcase.
After thinking he has hit the jackpot, the drug addict makes away with the loot. However, once he found a safe spot to check its contents, Danny opens the case to find two human legs. undeterred, he continues on his mission to find a buyer for the two severed limbs.
The film would eventually be was released by Koch Vision on DVD in 2006 and, as an additional bonus, featured audio of Burroughs’ reading of the story which was originally recorded for Spare Ass Annie. That recording, incidentally, acted as a new narration of the film.
See the film, below.