The Living Dead
The Living Dead: Three Films About The Power Of The Past

Directed by

Adam Curtis





No. of episodes



Part 1Part 2Part 3

The Living Dead: Three Films About The Power Of The Past was the second documentary series by Adam Curtis. Specifically, it concerns memory/the past and how efforts and attempts were made by politicians and scientists to control or manipulate it.

Episodes Edit

Part 1: On The Desperate Edge Of Now Edit

This episode highlights how there was a need on the Allies' behalf to create a Just War myth. Because of this, the Nuremburg trials were biased in the Allies' favour.

At the trials, a Hollywood production video entitled 'The Nazi Master Plan' was shown - a revisionist video of Germany's transformation under the Nazi regime. Attempts were made to prevent Hermann Goering from offering any rational argument for what they had done. Prosecuting lower-ranked Nazi officials was forgotten about when the Cold War was ignited and there was a need of maintaining West Germany as an ally.

The memory of the veterans who had actually done the fighting conflicted with the myth that the Allies had concocted - that World War II was a fight between pure good and evil. In this episode, they recall how they needlessly slaughtered dozens of innocent Germans in the name of 'properly utilizing' the machinery. Many of them had trouble re-integrating into society when they came home.

The Germans, too, had trouble picking up their lives after the fall of the Nazi regime. The generation at the time conveniently chose to forget about it and live in the now. It was generally accepted convention that it was a part of their history they rather not talk about. This silence would come back to haunt on them when their children during the '60s demanded to know from their parents why they didn't oppose Hitler, resulting in several riots and violent conflicts.

Featured footage Edit

  • Clips from 'Nosferatu' (1922) are shown, the FW Murnau classic based on Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Part 2: You Have Used Me As A Fish Long Enough Edit


A military simulator running a re-enactment of Operation Desert Storm.

During the height of the Cold War, the CIA began to suspect that the Soviets had been successful in the art of brainwashing and mind control. This fear began to take firm root after the assassination of John F. Kennedy - with intelligence agencies suspecting Lee Harvey Oswald was a Soviet mind control agent with the sole intent of killing the president. This led to the agency indirectly funding Ewen Cameron's research on mind control.

Cameron's work - known as Project 'MKULTRA' - involved the use of electroshock therapy and heavy dosage of LSD to rid the mind of any existing memories. This would produce a 'blank slate' (tabula rasa) on which the mind control programmer (ie. Ewen Cameron) could then imprint new memories and thus recondition the subject's behaviour. Many experiments were performed on unwitting subjects in over nearly 30 universities and institutions in Canada.

The experiments were mostly a failure. While the process of creating a 'blank slate' was mostly successful, implanting new memories proved difficult. The CIA capitalized on the successful part of the experiments - the erasing of the mind - and implemented it during the interrogation session of one particular Soviet dissident, Yuri Nosenko, whose brain the CIA suspected of containing valuable information on Lee Harvey Oswald and his possible Soviet ties.

In the second part of the episode, it is explained that neuroscientists held the theory that the brain was a sophisticated computer, which led neuroscientists to the pursuit of artificial intelligence. In a particularly bizarre experiment, known as Acoustic Kitty, an attempt was made by the CIA to use a domesticated cat in spy missions. This involved the implanting of a battery and a microphone into the cat and an antenna into its tail. To avoid distraction, the cat's sense of hunger had to be curtailed. In total, the surgical and training expenses amounted to $20 million.[1][2][3]

Its first mission was spying on the Soviet Compound in Wisconsin Avenue, Washington. The cat was released nearby but was hit and killed by a taxi almost immediately. The project, considered a failure, was abandoned shortly thereafter.

Featured footage Edit

  • Clips from 'The Manchurian Candidate' (1962) are shown, a Hollywood production from the '60s playing on the fears surrounding mind control assassins.

References Edit