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Jacob's Ladder & Sgt. Bales

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Jeff Morley's article on Sgt. Bales, the soldier who shot upthe Afghans talks about the reports of more than one guy was responsible. I think itwas one guy – it is after all an - Army of One – but the conspiracy theory I have heard but have notyet read about is the possibility he was part of a MKULTRA type experiment.

Did Sgt. Bales have help? - Salon.com

From the USmilitary report – Use of Humans inChemical Agent Research – they used soldiers, prisoners and students as theprimary subjects of the MKULTRA research with LSD and other such experimentaldrugs, and this guy certainly qualifies on that count.

And just as Tom Clancey wrote about Japanese suicideairplane hijackers years before 9/11, Jacob's Ladder is a sci-fi-movie about anAmerican soldier who they experiment on who goes nuts – and it begs thequestion of whether or not this guy was one of those test subjects.

If you want I will dig out my old files on the military'sexperiments, a story that I did in 1977 with Bill Vitka, now with CBS Newsradio in NYC and John Judge. Using the military report Judge obtained, Vitkaexposed University of Pennprofessor Dr. Albert Kligman as one of the research scientists who experimentedwith Dixon, mainly on prisoners,but also students and soldiers.

I later met one of Kligman's patients who I am still incontact with, and he told me some horror stories, all kept secret because ofnational security.


Jacob's Ladder is a 1990 American psychological thriller/horror film directedby AdrianLyne, based on a screenplay by BruceJoel Rubin.


Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins)is a U.S. soldier deployed in the MekongDelta during the Vietnam War. When the story begins, in 1971,helicopters are passing overhead, carrying supplies for what seems to bepreparations for a Viet Cong offensive. Without any warning, Jacob'sunit comes under heavy fire. The soldiers try to take cover but begin toexhibit strange behavior for no apparent reason. Jacob attempts to escape theunexplained insanity, only to be stabbed with a bayonet byan unseen attacker.

The film then shifts back and forth from Vietnam toJacob's memories (and

hallucinations) of his son Gabe (MacaulayCulkin) and former wife Sarah (PatriciaKalember), and to his present (set in 1975) relationship with a woman namedJezzie (Elizabeth Peña) while working as a mailman in Brooklyn, NewYork City. During this latter period, Jacob faces several threats to hislife and experiences grotesque hallucinations. It is also revealed that his sonGabe was hit by a car and killed before Jacob went to Vietnam.

At a key moment, Jacob's friend and chiropractor,Louis (DannyAiello), cites the 14th century Christian mystic MeisterEckhart:

Eckhart saw Hell too. He said: "The only thing that burns in Hellis the part of you that won't let go of life, your memories, your attachments.They burn them all away. But they're not punishing you," he said."They're freeing your soul. So, if you're frightened of dying and...you'reholding on, you'll see devils tearing your life away. But if you've made yourpeace, then the devils are really angels, freeing youfrom the earth."

As the hallucinations become increasingly bizarre, Paul (Pruitt Taylor Vince), one of his old Armyfriends, contacts Jacob to tell him about his hallucinations and is laterkilled when his car explodes. At the funeral, his surviving platoon-matesconfess to Jacob they too have been seeing horrible hallucinations.

Jacob is then approached by a man named Michael Newman (Matt Craven),who claims to have been a chemist working with theArmy's chemical warfare division in Saigon, where heworked on creating a drug that would increase aggression.The drug was code named "The Ladder" because it took people straightto their most primal urges. The drug was first tested on monkeys and then on agroup of enemy POWs, with gruesome results.

Later, small doses of "The Ladder" were secretlygiven to Jacob's battalion via their C-rations.Instead of targeting the enemy, however, the men in Jacob's unit attacked eachother indiscriminately. This revelation insinuates that Jacob was stabbed byone of his fellow soldiers.

The last scenes of the movie have Jacob returning to theapartment building he once lived in with Sarah. He enters and begins lookingthrough an old shoe box, containing his memories and the pain he's beenclinging to, things like his dog tags and a picture of Gabe. Jacob then issurprised to see Gabe at the foot of the stairwell. Gabe takes Jacob by thehand and together the two of them ascend the stairwell and disappear into abright light.

At the dénouement,we learn Jacob never made it out of Vietnam;his body is shown in an Army triage tent with two surgeons just after he expired, witha now peaceful look on his face. Apparently, the entire series of events washis dying hallucination.Before the film credits, an on-screen title card states that reports of BZ testing by the U.S. Army on its soldiers during theVietnam War were denied by the Pentagon.

"The Ladder"

Jacob is told that the horrific events he experienced on hisfinal day in Vietnamwere the product of an experimental drug called "The Ladder", whichwas used on troops without their knowledge. Jacob is told this by Michael, whois later seen treating his wounds in a Medevac helicopter. He is told that the drug wasnamed for its ability to cause "a fast trip straight down the ladder,right to the primal fear, right to the base anger."

At the end of the film, a message is displayed mentioningthe testing of a drug named BZ, NATO code for a deliriant and hallucinogen knownas 3-quinuclidinyl benzilate that wasrumored to have been administered to U.S. troops by the government in a secretattempt to increase their fighting power. The effects of BZ, however, are differentfrom the effects of the drug depicted in Jacob's Ladder. The film'sdirector Adrian Lyne himself noted that "nothing ... suggests that thedrug BZ—a super-hallucinogen that has a tendency to elicit maniac behavior—wasused on U.S.troops."[2]


The film's title refers to the biblical storyof Jacob's Ladder, or the dream of a meeting placebetween Heaven andEarth (Genesis 28:12). The film was also perceived bymany, including its screenwriter and co-producer BruceJoel Rubin,[2] asa modern interpretation of the LiberationThrough Hearing During The Intermediate State, Tibetan Bookof the Dead.[3] Rubin'soriginal screenplay differs significantly at parts from the film, especiallytowards the ending.[4]

The film's director Adrian Lyne used a famous body horror techniquein which an actor is recorded waving his head around at a low frame rate,resulting in horrific fast motion when played back. In a Special Edition'scommentary track, Lyne said he was inspired by the art of the painter Francis Bacon when developing theeffect.[5]


Critical reception

Reception of the film was quite polarized at the time ofrelease. According to aggregate website RottenTomatoes, 73% of reviews of the film were positive, but the top criticswere split evenly, with 50% giving it a positive review.[6] Accordingto film critic Roger Ebert, "This movie was not a pleasantexperience, but it was exhilarating in the sense that I was able to observefilmmakers working at the edge of their abilities and inspirations."[7]


Jacob's Ladder greatly inspired the horror franchise Silent Hill,including the film adaptation[8]andthe video game Silent Hill Homecoming.[9]

The title of the UNKLE's song "Rabbit in Your Headlights" is aquote from the film. VNV Nation's 1998 track "Forsaken" ends withthe quotation from Eckhart. iVardensphere'strack Devils from the album APOK begins with the quotation from Eckhart.

Home media

The Special Edition DVD was releasedby Artisan Entertainment on July 14, 1998,containing three previously deletedscenes ("Jezzie's Transformation", "The Antidote"and "The Trainstation") along with several other special features,such as a feature-length audiocommentary by director Adrian Lyne anda 26-minute documentary on the making of Building 'Jacob's Ladder'.[10]

See also

"An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"

Divine Comedy

Jacob's Ladder

Project 112

Project SHAD

Vietnam Syndrome


^ Jacob's Ladder at BoxOffice Mojo

^ a b Hartl,John (1990-11-01). "AdrianLyne Met A Metaphysical Challenge".TheSeattle Times. Retrieved 2010-02-06.

^ Golden,Tim (1990-10-28). "FILM;Up 'Jacob's Ladder' And Into the Hell Of a Veteran's Psyche". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-10-22.

^ Jacob's Ladder (1990) movie script -Screenplays for You

^ Jacob's Ladder

^ "Jacob's Ladder(1990)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2010-04-16.

^ Ebert,Roger (1990-11-02). "Jacob'sLadder". Rogerebert.suntimes.com. Retrieved 2010-04-16.

^ Bloody Disgusting -Interview Silent Hill: Director Christophe Gans

^ SilentHill 5 Interview: Jason's Philosophy, Jacob's Ladder, and Pyramid Head

^ Building 'Jacob's Ladder' (Video1990) - IMDb

[edit]External links

Jacob'sLadder at the Internet Movie Database

Jacob'sLadder at AllRovi

Jacob's Ladder at BoxOffice Mojo

Jacob'sLadder at Rotten Tomatoes

Jacob'sLadder at Metacritic

Jacob's Ladder at TV Tropes

Edited by William Kelly
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