ELP’s Karn Evil 9 Becoming Sci-Fi Film

Prog will rock the future in a film adaptation of Emerson, Lake and Palmer's "Karn Evil 9" from the producers of Jumanji.

“Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends. We’re so glad you could attend, come inside, come inside,” Greg Lake opened side 2 of Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s 1973 album Brain Salad Surgery. The song it comes from, “Karn Evil 9,” is being adapted into a science-fiction movie, according to Deadline.

Developed with the full cooperation of ELP and its management, Karn Evil 9 will be executive produced by Radar Pictures, who made the Jumanji film series.

“The visionary world that ELP created with their recording ‘Karn Evil 9’ is much closer to reality today,” Radar’s Ted Field said in a statement. “Our team at Radar looks forward to bringing this vision of where things may be headed to the big screen and beyond.”

The screenplay will be written by New York Times best-selling author Daniel H. Wilson (Robogenesis). He recently adapted his novel Robopocalypse into a screenplay for DreamWorks and Michael Bay.  His latest novel, The Andromeda Evolution, is a stand-alone sequel to The Andromeda Strain, authorized by Michael Crichton’s estate.

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“I’m incredibly excited to partner with Ted and Radar to explore Karn Evil 9 -a unique and thrilling world,” Wilson said in a statement. “I couldn’t ask for better collaborators and I can’t wait to help add the Karn Evil 9 franchise to the Radar family.”

Emerson, Lake & Palmer were a British prog rock supergroup featuring keyboardist Keith Emerson from the Nice, bassist/guitarist Greg Lake from King Crimson, and drummer Carl Palmer from the Crazy World of Arthur Brown. They synthesized classical music into rock form. They inadvertently invented punk rock, which began as a rebellion against bands which had songs that hard to play. Emerson, who scored horror films by Dario Argento, died in March 2016. Lake died in December that year.

Written by Emerson, Lake and lyricist Peter Sinfield, “Karn Evil 9” was the centerpiece of Brain Salad Surgery. H.R. Giger, who helped design Alien (1979), designed the album cover. “Karn Evil 9” was too long to be released as a single, but the second movement was an FM radio staple for years. The lyrics inspired the title of their 1974 live album, Welcome Back, My Friends, to the Show That Never Ends.

read more: Exploring David Bowie’s Sci-Fi Fascination

“Karn Evil 9” is divided into four movements, called “Impressions.” It begins on Side One and takes up all of Side Two, and tells the story of a battle between humans and computers. The piece opens with a warning about “an age of power where no one had an hour to spare.” The seeds have withered, kids shiver in the cold, and their faces are “captured in the lenses of the jackals for gold.” They’ve been betrayed, and are looking for someone to can set them free.

The movie will focus on “a society that has drained all its blood with a dependence on technology” in a world controlled by a pervasive and dictatorial technocracy. The annual “Karn Evil” is a rite of passage where a young person can experience unbridled freedom one time before submitting to the ruling class. The rite pulls Jesus from a hat with a most amazing show at the House of Vaudeville with thrills and shocks, supersonic fighting cocks, rows of Bishop’s heads in jars, a bomb inside a car, a stripper in a till and a real blade of grass. At some point the youths stop coming back, which leads to a revolution which reveals artificial intelligence is running the show. It’s a dynamo. It’s rock and roll.

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Songs have been fodder for films since the silent era. Contradictory as it may seem, it took an Edison to figure it out, which his film company did in 1906 with Edwin S. Porter’s Waiting at the Church. Harper Valley PTA (1978), Alice’s Restaurant (1969), and Ode to Billy Joe (1976), were all based on songs. Even “Purple People Eater” was turned into a film in 1988. The Beatles‘ film Yellow Submarine from (1968) told a fantasy story set in the vessel, differentiating itself from the films named after songs. Most of Elvis Presley’s films were named after songs, but the stories had little to do with the theme. Riders in the Sky starring Singing Cowboy Gene Autry, wasn’t a science fiction film.

No release date has been set yet. There is no word on when the film starts shooting, but it is being produced by Radar Pictures, who brought us the Riddick franchise, Spring BreakersThe Last Samurai and Runaway Bride. Theaters are currently screening their Jumanji: The Next Level, starring Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, and Awkwafina. Radar will next team with Amazon Studios and Sony Pictures Television to adapting Robert Jordan’s fantasy series The Wheel of Time for TV.

Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFKRead more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.