Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Look at Some Vintage Issues of Cinefantastique

If you are a child of the American eighties like me, and if you are also (like me) obsessed with sci-fi/fantasy movies and television and whatnot, then odds are good that you are familiar with the magazine Cinefantastique.
  
In the actual decade of the eighties, I myself was always more of a Starlog kid. In fact, I don't recall ever buying an issue of Cinefantastique until 1990, when an issue devoted to Star Trek caught my eye.  I bought the issue, and then bought the mag on a regular basis for the next few years, until my magazine-buying phase sort of died out in general.

Among the highlights of the Cinefantastique collection I built was a trio of issues that had cover stories devoted to Stephen King: on the movie version of Misery, and then the television versions of The Stand and The Shining.

Sadly, those three -- along with a later issue devoted to Babylon 5 -- were the only copies that survived my move from one apartment to another in 2003.  That was a hellish move, beset with all sorts of personal strife and such, and there were numerous boxes of things that accidentally got thrown away rather than moved.  I didn't realize this until I finished unpacking several days later, at which point in time, it was too late to do anything about.  Luckily, my Stephen King collection was 100% intact, which explains how I still have those three issues.  (As for the Babylon 5, issue, I have no idea how that one survived -- every single one of my Starlogs was lost, as were all of my Star Trek magazines and comics, as well as most of the novels, and all my Premieres, most of my Entertainment Weeklys, et cetera.  Ugh . . . just thinking about it makes me ill.)

Jump-cut about a decade into the future, and I found myself looking at the Misery issue.  As I am wont to do, I began getting nostalgic about all those old magazines that I lost, and so I determined that I'd start trying to reacquire them.  In the process of doing so, it made sense to also go back and start getting older issues from before the time I began collecting the magazine.

Since I would probably call myself a bigger Stephen King fan than I am a fan of anything else, it made sense to begin by tracking down the other King-related cover issues.  From there, I did a little research and found out what issues contained King-related articles, and started working on those as well.  While I did this, I also picked up a few issues that had promising cover stories about other things I am passionate about (or, in some cases, that were too cheap to pass up).  I've even picked up a few Starlogs, though only a few.

Here's the upshot: I figured it would be fun to write a (probably very lengthy) post about it, replete with images and fun quotes and the like.  Some of this will not be King-specific, but much of it will, and anyways, I think it'll be fun.  So let's get to it, starting with:


 
 
The superb cover art here is courtesy of Roger Stine, and boy, I'd love to own a poster-size version of that.  I mean, it's horrifying (the image of Carrie drenched in blood is one that I saw as a child, and was kinda wrecked by), but I love it.


One of the best things about a magazine like Cinefantastique, for me, is the extent to which it serves as a time-capsule.  There is a considerable amount of weight to time, when it comes to movies and books and television shows and popular music, and so forth; time itself isn't the weight, but instead the collective energies that go into our collective cultural opinions about the movie (or book, or what have you).  Brian DePalma's Carrie was released in late 1976, and we are approaching its fortieth anniversary.  The collective opinion on that film is more or less crystallized at this point; it is unlikely to change to any significant degree in my lifetime.

But in 1977, when this issue of Cinefantastique came out, that crystallization had barely even begun.  The people involved -- and the audience, including press members -- were still able to look at it with a fresh eye.  Reading articles like these allows us to do a sort of time-travel, and go back several decades.  In doing so, we gain a fresh -- or, at least, a freshened -- pair of eyes.

We'll encounter thoughts along those lines numerous times in the course of looking at these issues, and for me, that was a real joy.


Brian DePalma on the set of Carrie

Here, DePalma responds to a question about a "direct lift" from Bernard Herrmann's score for Psycho in Pino Donaggio's score for Carrie:

The flexing sound is very Psycho.  I put in a temporary track and for all the flexes I put in a Psycho violin.  We couldn't find the right sound, but anyway, it worked.  Bernard came up with it, and Bernard, I'm glad we used it again!  [Bryant's note: Hermann had passed away in 1975]  He'll probably be very unhappy -- he hated listening to his music being played against other films.

Asked to comment on Variety calling the film camp:

God, they're still using "camp"?  The terminology of ancient persons...  No, I don't think it's camp at all.  It keeps very seriously within the realm of its own world.  It has a very adolescent reality and it's very true to it.

DePalma also discusses his plans to direct a movie based on Alfred Bester's sci-fi novel (one of my favorites) The Demolished Man.  This adaptation obviously never came to pass, which kind of bums me out.

The issue also contains an interview with Sissy Spacek, who talks about her approach to the shower scene, the process of casting, and her opinion on whether Carrie and Tommy might have had a future post-prom.



art by Barclay Shaw


This one obviously has nothing to do with Stephen King, but since Steven Spielberg is arguably my favorite director, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind is inarguably one of my ten favorite movies, I had to have it.  It devotes well over half of its 96 pages to the film, and boy, are there some great photos.  I'll share a few below.

I also adore that wraparound cover; I may eventually buy a second copy just so I can pull the cover off, frame it, and hang it.  Sadly, I lack the photo-editing/collage-making skills to put together a wraparound image.  The interior front cover has a small back-and-white replica, though, so that'll have to do:




I have to confess that I have not read through this issue yet.  This is true of several others we'll encounter, too; there are a few of them that I am saving for a later date, and when that date comes, I will savor them greatly.  Oh yes I will.  That sounded creepy.  Let's move on.







There actually IS King content in the issue: a single page detailing preproduction plans on Kubrick's The Shining, plus a (mostly ecstatic) review of the paperback.


art by Barclay Shaw


That cover art for The Primevals is pretty cool; as you may or may not know, the movie was never completed.

What interests us about this issue, though, is a four-page interview with Stephen King (later reprinted in the 1989 collection Feast of Fear) that touches on topics like the movie version of Carrie, the degree of commercialism of King's work, the author's attitudes toward religion and Christianity, and the prospects for the then-still-in-production movie version of The Shining.

There is some great stuff in the interview; here is an excerpt:

Q:  How would you respond to the comment that the lack of spirituality in society is a turning away from God, and consequently any alternative, which might deal with evil or the devil, is necessarily popular?

A:  I don't think there's any lack of spirituality in today's society; I think there is a lack of focus because so many of the organized religions have begun to crumble in the latter half of the 20th Century . . . the Catholics are the most extreme case in point, of course, but the same is true all the way from Islam to Methodism.  To some degree you can blame this on technology, but the other focus for spirituality these days is the fact that technology is gradually making itself obsolete -- witness the wounded, what-did-we-ever-do-to-anybody attitude of many hard-core SF fans and writers.  (The defense Niven and Pournelle make of nuclear reactors in Lucifer's Hammer is bitterly laughable.)  The same splendid technology that has pushed back the frontiers of "God's province" so rapidly since 1900 is also the technology that has given us the fluorocarbon spray can, CBW, and the threat of nuclear holocaust.  Besides, people's spiritual lives always seem to fall into turmoil and the literature of the supernatural always becomes more prevalent (and more interesting) as the end of the century approaches.  I don't know why it's so, but it is . . . you find your rationalists in the middle of the century, and your real good wars.

Elsewhere in the magazine, there are reviews of George A. Romero's Martin (very positive), the then-new television series Battlestar Galactica (very negative), and Jaws 2 (also very negative).


another fantastic Roger Stine cover

Oh, how I'd love to have a poster of this cover!

In fact, it was this very cover that kicked off my desire to get some of these old Cinefantastiques (and not merely replace the ones I'd once owned).  I'm very fond of the Tobe Hooper miniseries from which the cover is drawn; it was one of the first King movies to really have a big impact on me, and I still watch it every year or two around Halloween.

This issue contains fourteen pages of Salem's Lot coverage, including interviews with director Tobe Hooper and producer Richard Kobritz, plus a fairly candid history of how the project developed from feature film into television miniseries.  This latter is spiced up with numerous quotes from King. "It was a mess," he says of the project's march through development hell.  "Every director in Hollywood who's ever been involved with horror wanted to do it, but nobody could come up with a script.  I finally gave up trying to keep a scorecard."

Here is Hooper on the subject of the film's look: "This piece was not made with a lot of concessions to TV, beyond the obvious limiting of the use of violence.  There has been some second unit shooting, about five days I think, for some of the special effects.  These are physical effects, as you called them before, not opticals -- there are no cheap opticals designed for the TV screen.  The photography is very good, Mort Rabinowitz's art direction is just remarkable; Salem's Lot will look like a feature."  I'd say time has proven Hooper's assessment here to be completely accurate.


Tobe Hooper (l) and Richard Kobritz (r)


Here, Richard Kobritz speaks on the subject of why he purposely looked for a director who was inexperienced when it came to working with unionized film crews (a practice that also led him to hire John Carpenter to direct Someone Is Watching Me): "Because I'm looking for somebody who is visual, who isn't wasting his time worrying about the politics of what the unions are doing -- that's my job.  More than anything else I want a director who is visual, who knows how to tell it in terms of camera, not in terms of dialogue, or not in terms of conventional camera coverage.  There are two rules I always tress, amd in both John and Tobe's case, they not only embraced what I said, but that's the way they would have done it anyway.  I don't want a zoom lens on that camera . . . and I want to keep that camera moving."

Kobritz was also asked whose idea it was to have Barlow's look be reminiscent of Max Schreck in Nosferatu:  "Mine," he answers.  "We brought the concept to the make-up artist, and he made a few sketches.  We'd say, 'No, we want the eyes darker' . . . and it was hit and miss, trial and error.  It went like that until we had what we wanted."

The issue also includes coverage of The Black Hole and Clash of the Titans, both of which were formative movies for me.  Even better, there are eight pages devoted to the then-upcoming Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which remains my favorite Trek movie to this day.



Another be-YOO-tee-full wraparound cover, this one by David Mattingly

I bought this issue because I am a Disney fan (and still have a love for The Black Hole, to which some seventy pages of this issue are devoted).  So you'd think there'd be no King content to speak of.  But you'd be wrong, because there is a fairly lengthy review of the television adaptation of Salem's Lot.

It's a negative review, sadly, and it's also one that I mostly disagree with.  If you want an example of the tone of the piece, here's a quote: "The score (by Harry Sukman) is a shameless rehash of Bernard Herrmann's shrill violin motif for Psycho."

Now, kids . . . here's a lesson from which we can all learn.  In reviewing art (of whatever medium) one's opinions and biases always come into play.  For that reason, calling a review "wrong" is typically erroneous.  It's opinion; "wrong" doesn't compute.  Which is why I am not merely shouting WRONG like Phil Hartman as John McLaughlin here.

However, saying that Harry Sukman's Salem's Lot score is a "shameless rehash" of Bernard Herrman's Psycho IS wrong.  That's a simple fact.  The two sound alike only in terms of instrumentation and/or orchestration.  Sukman's score is a very good one, and seeing it dismissed here so cavalierly is galling.

The wrong-headedness regarding musical scores does not stop there, either.  In a three-page negative review of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, here is what the reviewer says about Jerry Goldsmith's score for that film: it "has some lovely moments (especially during the journey through the cloud) but also relentlessly hypes the action."  Huh?  What does that even mean?

But wait...!  There's more!  Of John Barry's lush score for The Black Hole, the reviewer says that "Barry should have stuck with James Bond -- the music" [...] "sounds precisely like the theme from Star Wars!"  Those italics on "precisely" are the reviewer's, not mine; so's the exclamation mark.  Both of which mean that not only did he think he was right, he hella thought so.
 
But he isn't.  He's wrong, wrong, wrong.  Again, this is a matter of fact, not of opinion.  Just to be sure, I put my DVD of the movie in the player and cued it up to the scene in question.  The Barry score in this scene is in heroic-statement mode, so it's unquestionably music of the same type as what John Williams had done in Star Wars.  This is where the similarity ends.  Saying it is precisely like Williams' theme would be like saying "Judy Is A Punk" by The Ramones is precisely like "I Want to Hold Your Hand" by The Beatles.  Which, friends and neighbors, would be a goddam lie.

Even this series of factual blunders has a certain amount of charm.  Here in the futuristic age of 2014, I am constantly encountering people on the internet who simply do not know what the fuck they are talking about.  (I even manage to not know what the fuck I am talking about on occasion.)  In this, I am hardly alone; it's just as common to find people setting off the Someone Online Is Wrong alarm as it to actually find someone wrong online.  But reading these inane "opinions" about the Harry Sukman and John Barry scores forcefully reminds me that people have been getting things flat-out wrong for eons; the technology of our modern age merely enables them to be wrong more publicly.  People are dumb as corncobs; always have been, and always will be.  Yr humble blogger included.

Sorry; got sidetracked there and nearly forgot to mention that there is another brief King-related piece, a two-column news blurb announcing that the author has teamed with George Romero to make a prospective movie called Creep Show, which "will take a classic approach to horror, although it will use a comic book format."

Says King of the endeavor: "George and I want to see if it's still possible to scare people.  Big Time Fear!"

It's worth noting that this news piece was nearly three years before Creepshow was eventually released.  So waiting an interminable amount of time for a movie to actually get made is also not a thing invented in the internet age; that shit's been happening for quite some time, too.

As for the rest of the issue, I have yet to actually read the copious amounts of Black Hole coverage.  Again, saving-for-a-rainy-day.  But I'll say this: there are some SWEET concept-art reproductions, and some SWEET matte-painting reproductions, all of which I would love to share with you, but won't due to laziness.  Scannin' them images takes time, y'all.

Oh, okay, fine; here's ONE.  It's a Peter Ellenshaw concept painting of an early design for the Palomino:




Ellenshaw is the subject of an article later in the issue, and what the hey, I guess I'll post a couple of matte paintings he did for Disney classics:


this is for Darby O'Gill and the Little People, and while the magazine refers to it as a matte painting, I'm inclined to think it is actually a piece of concept art

this one was for Mary Poppins


This issue is gold, folks.  So is the next, but for very different reasons:



art by Roger Stine

As I've been working on this post, I've been scanning -- and at fairly high resolution -- all of the King-related material for my files.  There is nearly thirty pages of Ghost Story coverage in this issue, so that took . . . well, I'm scanning at 600 dpi, and my scanner takes nearly ninety seconds to complete a page, so that math comes out to something like forty-five minutes just for this one issue.  And that's before taking into consideration the time it takes to rotate, straighten, and crop the images, plus label them and create folders for them.
  
Exhausting!

This issue, by the way, is perhaps the best of all of them we'll be covering.  Or at least, from a certain point of view, it's the best.  There isn't (as far as I am aware) much information out there at all about this particular movie, which has arguably slid into obscurity over the past few decades.  And indeed, Straub himself is no longer as high-profile an author as he once was.  In a way, this issue captures him as he is right on the cusp of making that turn from bestsellerdom into genuine stardom (the way his compatriot Stephen King had done).  It is a turn that never happened, and I would love to somehow be able to peer through the veiled mists of the eternal into the parallel dimension where it did happen, and find out what a world where both Stephen King AND Peter Straub were titanically popular was like.

It wasn't to be.  And for our purposes, maybe that's just fine; Straub seems to be doing perfectly well without all the attention, so all we're missing out on, really, might be a string of movie adaptations, some good, most mediocre, some bad.  Is that such an awful fate to avoid?  Probably not.

Nevertheless, Cinefantastique clearly felt that Ghost Story was going to be a triumph, as publisher/editor Frederick S. Clarke's contents-page column attests:

     When we decide to cover a film before it's released, there's always a degree of trepidation that we might be a little red-faced if it turns out to be a turkey.  Sometimes projects with the greatest potential turn out to be the least satisfying, simply because expectations run so high.  The Shining is a perfect example.
     Writer Paul R. Gagne began work more than two years ago on this issue devoted to author Peter Straub and the filming of his best seller, Ghost Story -- long before Stanley Kubrick layed his egg on Stephen King.  But when The Shining bombed, all eyes turned, apprehensively, toward Ghost Story, certainly the most prestigious, eagerly awaited horror film then on the horizon.  And the word was not good.  Changes were being made in Straub's novel, and changes were what made The Shining such a disappointment.  The fact that filmmakers of obvious talent were making the changes hardly matter.  Who, after all, had better credentials than Stanley Kubrick?
     Since I, like most everyone else, let some degree of pessimism cloud my anticipation, I was more than a little thrilled to discover that director John Irvin's version of Ghost Story makes for one of the best ghost stories ever filmed.  Forget that Stanley Kubrick took a few wrong turns in the Overlook Hotel, because John Irvin has been able to see clearly the ghost in Straub's snowstorm.
     The changes made by Irvin, and writer Lawrence D. Cohen, sacrifice many of the supernatural elements and set pieces that made Straub's novel so memorable.  That is regrettable, but the pairing serves to focus Straub's horror tale and give it a deep dramatic resonance that is charged with emotion.  The greatest horror in Irvin's film is the careless drowning of an innocent girl, a tragedy that haunts the men responsible, literally, to their grave.
     Ghost Story demonstrates that there's nothing wrong with changes, especially when they're an improvement.

Other than in nearly every conceivable way, I couldn't have said it better myself.  I don't want to go too far down the road of turning this into a Bryant-complainathon, and won't; but given Clarke's seeming intent of pounding a nail into Kubrick/The Shining's coffin, and having that nail be made out of Ghost Story's steel, I think it's okay to indulge in a bit of complaint.  Let's start by noting that Ghost Story simply isn't a very good movie.  It isn't a bad one (read my review here), but it's certainly not "one of the best ghost stories ever filmed," and probably couldn't plausibly be called that even in 1981.
 
Nor, I would argue, are the changes to Straub's novel (my review of THAT here) "an improvement."  How would one even come to that conclusion?  Beats me.
 
Kubrick's films in general, and The Shining specifically, certainly have their fair share of detractors.  But well before 2014 got here, his reputation -- and the reputation of his film of King's novel -- was secure.  It has only grown since his death, and seems likely to only continue along those lines.

John Irvin, meanwhile, went on to direct Raw Deal and Next of Kin.  This is not to slag on the man; he worked steadily for nearly thirty years after Ghost Story, and that in and of itself is notable in the movie business.  But the work itself has mostly not endured beyond the five-dollar bin at Walmart and late-night programming on cable channels.  Ghost Story is maybe a notch or two above that level, but not to any meaningful degree.  It is, in short, a forgotten film, and mostly with good reason.  Is it of interest to those who are interested in Straub, horror, and the like?  Sure.  But beyond that, its reputation is so far beneath that of Kubrick's The Shining that the comparison is akin to comparing Philip Seymour Hoffman's career to that of Jan Michael Vincent.
 
The tone of most of the issue's Ghost Story/Straub coverage is of being hopeful that the film will end up working . . . but not entirely convinced of it.  There is plenty of frank discussion of the problems encountered in crafting the screenplay, and in cutting the novel's richness down to a usable size.  There is also a significant focus on the editing process, and a final cut had not been arrived at as of the time of the article's completion.
 
One fascinating bit focuses on a deleted scene that showed Alma in her true form, and used a startling makeup effect to achieve it.  Let's have a look:


Dick Smith's "nightmare apparition" was not used in the final cut of the film

That's a rubber torso, by the way; those are not real boobs, you perverts.  This makeup design is really quite horrifying, and I guess somebody had a good reason for eleminating the thing from the movie entirely, although I'll be damned if I would have done so.  Speaking of horrifying, here's a photo of a cock-n-balls, which I assume IS real manmeat:




Generally speaking, The Truth Inside The Lie tries to avoid running photos of dinguses, scrotes, boobs, beavers, taints, buttholes, and whatever other naughty bits might offend the delicate sensibilities of its readers.  And indeed, when reviewing the movie Ghost Story a while back, we judiciously avoided screencapping Craig Wasson's junk.  When I scanned this page in, though, I decided that since I now have the knowledge of what the penis of the guy who narrated the 11/22/63 audiobook looks like, so should my readers.
 
You're welcome.
 
Another topic I'd like to bring up (perhaps ill-advisedly): the ongoing Woody Allen / Mia Farrow farrago.  I won't get into my opinions on this lamentable case too deeply here, but I can give you the shorthand version: I tend to believe Woody Allen.  My beliefs are irrelevant; no criminal charges were brought against Allen, allegedly either because the investigators found no credible evidence to pursue a conviction or because Dylan Farrow was deemed to be too emotionally fragile to withstand a trial, or some combination of the two.  Of course, she was seven years old, so her fragility would be understandable.  There has been an intervening two decades, though, in which that fragility has presumably lessened; if I were her mother, and believed her to have been abused, there WOULD have been a trial eventually, even if it had to be merely a civil one as opposed to criminal.
 
My point is, Mia Farrow does not strike me as being a stable or credible individual.  I don't want to diminish the possibility that her daughter WAS abused, because lord knows too many kids have to go through that horror.  But being wrongfully accused is a horror, as well, and I also would not wish to diminish THAT possibility.
 
So, how to balance these impulses?  For me, it's simple: stick primarily with the law (which has found Allen to be blameless), and secondarily with my gut (which has found plenty of reason to suspect Mia Farrow's potential motivations).  Put those together, and I'm pretty well encamped on Allen's side.  Evidence could change that; but evidence is what it will take.
 
Why am I mentioning this?  Glad you asked.  Farrow starred in Full Circle (alternatively titled The Haunting of Julia in some countries, including America), which was an adaptation of Peter Straub's novel JuliaCinefantastique here devoted about two and a half pages to the film, which had gotten a brief 1978 release in England and Canada, but had only recently seen a limited American release as of this issue's release in 1981.  They praise it as being considerably better than its release pattern suggested, which I would cautiously agree with.
 
There is an interesting quote about Farrow, however, and it was this that caused me to raise a Vulcan-esque eyebrow and connect it to the current unpleasantness:

But Fetterman's troubles did not end with the refinancing deal.  Next weekend, on the Friday night before Monday's shooting was to begin, Rosemary's Baby was shown on British television.  Late at night, after the movie, Fetterman received a frantic call from Mia Farrow, who had apparently been shaken up at the thought of doing another "occult" film.  "It was hysteria," Fetterman recalled.  "I said, 'What do you mean you can't do the picture?  I've got eighty people committed to start work on Monday!"  Fetterman met with Farrow the following morning and managed to talk her around.  "She was very nervous and very dazed," said Fetterman, "but after the first day of filming she was amazing."

Now, I will grant you that this is unsubstantiated, and that it has no direct bearing on Farrow's daughter's plight.  But the picture it paints, for me, is of an unstable, untrustworthy woman.  For a lead actor to even consider pulling out of a film with that little warning is not entirely unlike a bus driver stopping the bus and getting out while the bus is at a red light.  This is not something a normal person does.  And had Farrow somehow forgotten about Rosemary's Baby prior to that night?  As Short Round might say to Indy, she crazy.  And if so, where does that crazy stop?

Now, if you feel I've overstepped some sort of line by even mentioning this imbroglio, feel free to mention it in the comments.  I'll probably feel free to delete what you say if it annoys me, though, so be forewarned.  Moving on...
 

It was fascinating to read a bit about The Haunting of Julia, which is even more obscure than the movie version of Ghost Story at this point (it has never been released on DVD).  It's not a bad movie, and of the two, I'd say it's handily the better.  It was on YouTube at one point; check it out if you've a mind to.
 
Another interesting tidbit: there was, around this time, talk of filming If You Could See Me Now, Straub's second novel.  Alfred Sole had been linked as the director for producer John Simon, and Brooke Shields was evidently interested in playing Allison.  The movie obviously never came to pass, but I remain convinced that that novel could make for a crackerjack of a film someday.  If someone will write me a check for $10 million, I'll make it happen, and make you a tidy profit while we're at it.  (Disclaimer: I have no idea how to actually do that.  But if you given me the money, I'll hire someone who does!)





I dunno.  Are they?  Even if they're not, they're pretty frickin' cool.  And so is this issue, which devotes twenty pages to Creepshow.

There are any number of great passages I could pull out of these articles, but we're going to restrict ourselves to one, just for brevity's sake:

King's fans may notice a similarity between "Something to Tide You Over" and Night Shift's "The Ledge," in which a jealous husband forces his wife's lover to walk a narrow ledge around a high-rise apartment building.  "I had never thought of that," King laughed.  "As a matter of fact, the script for 'Tide' had some very 'Ledge'-like things in it."  In "Ledge," the protagonist encounters a rather savage bird blocking his way; the script for "Tide" has an equally savage seagull, along with a bloodthirsty sand crab, both of whom figure it's all right to take advantage of poor, helpless Harry.  "They were cut out because the bird was impossible," King said, "and the crabs they got were nasty!  I mean, Ted was in this hole up to his neck, and the crabs were gonna do a number on his face!"

Fascinating!  Those elements did not make it into the film, nor did they make it into the comic-book adaptation; I'd love to read the original screenplay for comparison's sake.

Plenty more goodies where that came from, but like I said, let's skip them; if we don't, I'd end up typing out half the damn issue.  Having deprived you of all that goodness, I offer restitution in the form of a copious sampling of images from the issue.  Enjoy!








Okay, honestly: why would you not wear gloves while doing that?!?  If I was married to that fucker, I'd divorce him immediately.

Tom Savini, looking authentically crazy.



illustration by Chad Draper


The issue also has a few interesting reviews, including one of Blade Runner which declares in its headline that "Ridley Scott must learn that films can't live by design alone."  Well, I guess that's fair enough, but coupled with the comments about The Shining in the last issue we discussed, it suggests to me that the staff at Cinefantastique were simply ill-equipped to deal with movies that pursue their emotions in a chillier than normal manner.

I'm more amused by the headline for the review of Megaforce: "A coldly calculated attempt to tap the massive moron market."  That's all win, right there.  Megaforce -- which I never saw, but must have seen thousands of print advertisements for in comics and magazines of the day -- starred Barry Bostwick and Persis Khambatta, and was directed by Hal "The Cannonball Run" Needham.  Yep.


In the interests of full disclosure, I should admit that this image came not from an issue of Cinefantastique, but instead from the back cover of an issue of The Twilight Magazine.  No matter its provenance, it is righteous.


Elsewhere, there is a very positive review of the Clint Eastwood film Firefox (which I loved as a kid), another very positive review of Poltergeist, a fence-sitting one of Tron ("So what if it's dumb, it's a dazzling light show," insists the headline), and a surprisingly ahead-of-its-time thumbs-up review of John Carpenter's The Thing.  This all makes for fine reading for the genre fan, as do a solid review of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and a near-rapturous one of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.




art by Roger Stine; note that at some point between the previous issue we discussed and this issue, the magazine began putting month/year dates on the cover

This one, obviously, focuses on David Cronenberg's adaptation of The Dead Zone, which remains one of the better movies based on King's work.

The real draw for King fans is a two-page interview with the man himself, conducted by Paul R. Gagne.  King speaks on numerous subjects, including his considerable (yet still-ascendant) fame.  "I'm a little bit amazed by the whole thing, and I don't really understand it," he says.




One thing I learned from this was that the movie version of Cujo was filmed from a screenplay King himself wrote.  It was rewritten by two other writers (Lauren Currier and Don Carlos Dunaway), but their changes to King's draft were evidently minimal and stayed very much in keeping with his intentions.  King did not receive screen credit due to a decision made by the writer's guild, of which he said that the guild had treated him fairly.  "It's totally objective," King says.  "I was in England at the time, and I just didn't have time to mess with it."

The article also refers to another soon-to-be-produced King screenplay: Children of the Corn, which, as we all know, came out a year later.  But, as with Cujo, King's name was nowhere on the finished film.  Clearly, the project would end up being subject to rewrites, as Cujo had been; but as of this issue's publication, that was all in the future.  On the film's prospects quality-wise, King says the low budget "isn't necessarily a bad sign, but the story itself is not exactly calculated to send you out of the theater with sunshine in your heart.  It depends on what they do with my screenplay."

Prophetic words, indeed.




The Dead Zone coverage has a lot of juicy stuff, including details on why the scene in which John Smith has a vision of a nurse's daughter threatened by a housefire had to be unexpectedly refilmed.  (It was due to someone placing an unlicensed E.T. figure among the girl's toys; evidently it was less expensive to burn the set again than it would have been to license E.T.'s likeness!)

There are also copious details about the journey the screenplay undertook.  King turned in a draft, but Cronenberg apparently found it to be "needlessly brutal" and opted to commission a new draft from a Russian writer named Andrei Konchalavsky.  Cronenberg never even read that draft, which was written in Russian and then translated into English (and into Italian, so that producer Dino DeLaurentiis could read it).

Eventually, Jeffrey Boam became the screenwriter of the project.  Of King's initial draft, he has this to say: "I just didn't think that his job as a screenwriter was as effective and his performance as a novelist; I think he missed the point of his own book -- namely, the conflict of Good and Evil, and the notion that decent people have responsibilities to their fellow man even if they won't admit it and don't like it.  King stuck fairly close to his novel, but he didn't really get any juice out of it.  I don't think he did himself justice."

Someday, maybe we'll get the chance to read some of these rejected King screenplays and judge for ourselves.

One of my favorite pages of the issue is the back cover:




Hey, I love John Carpenter's Christine!  The issue described here was not among my first batch of acquisitions (the Dead Zone issue was), so when I ponied up for the second batch, I made sure to get it.

It looks like this:


art by Andy Probert


The Christine content is limited to a very brief article about the auto effects, plus a review of the film.  The promised interviews are nowhere to be found, which leads one to wonder what happened between issues that caused what seems to have been an extensive slate of features to get scaled back so drastically.

It's a bummer, but such is life.

The King fan can take a quantum of solace from a brief article on the making of Firestarter, which includes some information about what sorts of safety measures the production was taking in the wake of the tragic accident on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie.  The article also reveals a fact I did not know: that Burt Lancaster was originally set to play Martin Sheen's role, but scheduling conflicts intervened and prevented it from happening.

The rest of the issue has some fantastic stuff in it, starting with about twenty pages worth of retrospective on the classic Disney version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  That delights the Disneyphile side of me; the Trekkie side of me also gets a few pages about The Search for Spock, and the all-purpose '80s geek side is favored with articles about Splash and The Last Starfighter.  And hey, even the James Bond geek side gets some love: a two=page article about the 1983 "Bond vs. Bond" showdown between Octopussy and Never Say Never Again.

Can't resist putting a few choice images in, so here goes:


Was there anyone alive in America in the '80s who didn't see this image of Drew Barrymore as Charlie McGee at some point?  Can't have been many.

Christopher Lloyd and Leonard Nimoy on the set of Star Trek III: The Search For Spock

James Mason and Paul Lukas on the set of 20.000 Leagues Under the Sea


So sure, I am bummed about the lack of Christine coverage; but the rest of the issue gets close to making up for it, at least for me.


art by John Schoenherr


This one, I bought for one reason: I am a big fan of Dune.  I am moreso a fan of the novel than of the movie, but both hold a seminal place in my development.  I may as well take a moment to give you a brief version of that story (which isn't much of a story, really, except in my own mind).

I was an avid reader practically from the moment I became self-aware, and while I can't swear that this is the truth, my mother claims that I was reading at the age of two.  Obviously, this consisted mostly of pre-schooler books for quite some time, then eventually comic books, and later juvenile lit like the many books of Roald Dahl.  I graduated to colorful tomes about Greek and Norse mythologies at some point, and then discovered the joy of movie novelizations.  These retellings of familiar flicks delighted me, and I became a little obsessive about it, and bought a great many novelizations for movies I'd never seen.

An accidental side-effect of this was that in late 1984 (or, more likely, early 1985, probably using Christmas money), I bought two books that I thought were novelizations, but were in fact the original novels their respective movies had been based upon: Frank Herbert's Dune and Arthur C. Clarke's 2010.

I had seen 2010, but had not seen Dune.  I wanted to see it really badly, but never got to.  My guess is that my parents thought it looked too weird to take me and my brother to see; but it also may not have played here in town.  Who can say?

In any case, I began reading the novel as soon as I got it, and was in so far over my head -- I would have been a few months short of my eleventh birthday at this point -- that I had no clue what was going on.  But I was entranced by it nevertheless, and it is likely that the challenge was a big part of what appealed to me.  Up until this point, the most challenging thing I'd ever read was probably The Wounded Sky, an original Star Trek novel by Diane Duane.  Not exactly lightweight stuff, but certainly not the epic that is Dune.

No reason to belabor the point (I'll do that on Where No Blog Has Gone Before one of these days).  Suffice it to say that I must have read Dune half a dozen times before I began wrapping my head around what was going on.  In doing so, I think the impact Frank Herbert's vision had upon my must have been hugely significant; it helped to cement my desire to experience more such massive worlds, and it almost certainly helped make me into the sort of person who would, four or five years later, be totally wiling to take a chance on a thick novel called The Stand (and, a year or so after that, another called The Lord of the Rings).

It was quite some time before I finally got around to seeing the movie Dune, by the way.  For whatever reason, I didn't see it until . . . jeez, I think it may have been college before I finally saw it.  And I liked it fairly well.  I was familiar with it, via a Marvel Comics adaptation I got at around the same time I got the novel; so I knew the differences, and to some extent the designs.  It is a flawed, cumbersome film; but it also has some genuine richness to it, certainly in the visuals department.  And I also quite like the score by (believe it or not) Toto.

So I was pretty thrilled by the idea of this double-sized issue devoted to the film.  So thrilled, in fact, that -- like with some of the others we've discussed -- I have not read a word of it.  Again, saving it for a rainy day (or, more likely, for that other blog I referenced earlier).

I flipped through the entire thing, though, just to see what else was in it, and here is an image I cannot resist posting:




That, friends and neighbors, is a concept painting of an Arrakeen Sandworm by H.R. Giger.  Damn, I love Giger's work; I really must get some books of it one of these days, or at least make myself more familiar with it via Google.  He's got a style that really is unlike that of anyone else.
 
I also found an unexpected bonus toward the beginning of the issue: ten pages of coverage on Firestarter.  I have to confess, I had no idea that was among this issue's content, and so, bonus points for me, King-collection-acqusition-wise.  The article is focused almost entirely on the fire effects used in the film, and details the safety procedures used, the creation of the gels used to protect the stuntmen, etc.  It's a little on the dry side if you aren't interested in the technical aspects of filmmaking, I guess, but I found it to be very informative.

Finally, here is what appears on the back cover:




Ah, to think that at one point in time, we lived in a world that had not yet seen Ghostbusters!  I remember this particular poster design vividly; it was the one that ran in all the magazines and comic-books, and I betcha I must have seen it a thousand times.  I hadn't seen it in forever before seeing this issue's back cover, though, so I got a little blast of nostalgia from it and felt like it would be wrong of me to not pass it along to you.  There is no Dana; only Zuul.




It bothers me that the editors didn't know not to use the hyphen there on the cover, which should read "Why the sequel failed to measure up to the original."  A hyphen would only be used if the writer sought to turn the phrase into a single descriptive concept; for example, "Why the sequel's measure-up efforts failed."  As used here, the hyphen is distracting and misleading.  One expects that sort of idiocy in 2014; it's considerably more surprising from a professional publication in 1985.

This has been "how to properly use the English language" minute -- which I could alternatively have spelled how-to-properly-use-the-English-language minute -- with Bryant.

Incidentally, I am aware that this post, and possibly all of my posts, is likely riddled with typos.  I generally don't reread my stuff before putting it up, so there is no telling what sort of horrific blunders I may have made.  But hey, I'm not a professional publication, am I?  And anyways, who the hell has time for revision?  Not this cat, that's for sure.

Speaking of cats, this issue has a good feature on Cat's Eye.  That was a segue and a half, there, boy!




The above photo is a beaut, and it retroactively bums me out that those marvelous oversized sets didn't get some sort of Academy Awards recognition.  The Oscar for Art Direction went to Out of Africa that year, and while that's a great, lovely film, I don't know that it deserved the Oscar; I think maybe Cat's Eye did.  Because seeing Lewis Teague and Dino DeLaurentiis standing there, my eye insists on seeing them as miniaturized people; NOT as regular-sized people standing on a set, but as some sort of scientific aberration.  Maybe that speaks more to my sense of fanciful wonder than it does to anything else; but then again, maybe it speaks to the tremendous efficacy of those sets.  The Oscars are far too prone to stick only to rewarding "prestige pictures," in my opinion, and the result is that a lot of genuinely exceptional work goes unmentioned by the Academy.  It's a shame.

As for the articles, they are fairly brief.  The highlight is a one-page interview with King, who talks, amongst other things, about the humorous aspects of Cat's Eye taking producer Dino DeLaurentiis aback a bit.  Here's a great quote from King on that subject:

I saw part of the Quitters, Inc. story and I laughed harder than I've laughed at anything this year, with the exception of one serious picture, which I thought was pretty funny -- Star Trek III, I just laughed and laughed.  I couldn't stop.  'Course I have a different reference.  My brother went bald at eighteen, got Jesus at twenty-three, got Amway at thirty, and now he wears this wig and looks just like a sort of gone-to-seed William Shatner.  I made that connection and just started to laugh.

King also clears up the confusion over what happened to his screen credits on Cujo and Children of the Corn.  In both cases, the writers of the revised screenplays took the matter before the Writer's Guild, and King simply chose not to contest their claims.  In the case of Children of the Corn, King is obviously glad that his name did not appear on the final product: "The picture was a dog," he says, and many a moviegoer would likely agree with him.

Here's a great behind-the-scenes photo:


The caption from the magazine: "A hairdryer and a Van de Graaff generator simulate an electric shock on Mary D'Arcy, in the Juice Room of Quitters, Inc."

Ah, the magic of movies!

Here's another gem:




I've got two cats who look quite like that one, and I didn't have the sense either time to name one of them The General!  It was fail in both instances.  Someday, maybe I'll rectify it.

The issue also contains a one-page article updating the progress on the production of Silver Bullet: "Production has continued at a steady pace for the film despite some reported minor problems with an early werewolf design and protests from a North Carolina religious group who opposed the use of public property for the filming of Silver Bullet.  The Faith Christian Fellowship cited the film for containing 'murder, violence, evil representations, and vulgar language' as cause for opposition."  How'd that protest work out for them, you suppose?

Further into the magazine -- it's practically buried beneath an article about the Pia Zadora rock-n-roll-aliens Beach Party film When the Rain Begins to Fall [!!!!!] -- is a seven-paragraph report about a recent appearance.  Let's pay close attention to the first little bit here...

Horror master Stephen King, approximately 1.5 sheets to the wind, looked to be having the time of his life, joking, signing autographs, and slugging down beers given to him by a near endless stream of fans, autograph hounds, well wishers, and assorted supplicants at a party given for him in Dallas' trendy Inwood Lounge.

Given what we know now about King's alcohol and drug problems during this period of his life, it's difficult to not read that and wince a little.  But, then again, it's hard to feel too bad for a fella described as looking like he is having the time of his life.

Elsewhere, there is an article about the making of Dreamscape (which to this day I have still never seen), a whiny few pages about how Temple of Doom isn't as great as Raiders (which it admittedly isn't, although in my opinion it's still pretty damn great), and reviews of genre flicks like 2010, Buckaroo Banzai, The Terminator, The Ewok Adventure, and All of Me.


art by Roger Stine


I'm not AS big a Star Trek fan as I am a Stephen King fan . . . but I've been a Trekkie longer than I have been a King fan, and my love for those shows runs real damn deep.  So while I bought this issue because it has Pet Sematary coverage in it, I was utterly delighted to also get a Next Gen issue in the process.  If I were to rank my list of favorite series, Star Trek: The Next Generation might or might not still be in my top ten; probably not, having given way to modern-day masterpieces like Breaking Bad and Battlestar Galactica and The Sopranos.  But I can say without much hesitation that however much I loved -- and love -- those shows and others of their kind, there has NEVER been a show that I loved more while it was airing than I loved The Next Generation during the late '80s and early '90s.

But that's a paean to compose another day, on another blog.

Here, we are concerned merely with the Pet Sematary article, which runs three pages and discusses some of the hurdles that faced the movie's very existence (it has languished in development for several years).  There is also some talk about director Mary Lambert -- then-famed as the director of the music videos for Madonna's "Like a Virgin" and "Borderline" -- having taken over for the project's intended director, George Romero.  Romero evidently couldn't get away from post-production work on Monkey Shines, and I suspect we all lost in that deal.

It isn't a bad article, but it has no quotes from King and is a bit fluffier than most of Cinefantastique's stuff tended to be.  All in all, I'm glad there were those twelve pages of Trek content to make me feel a bit better about buying this issue.  (Not that I've read the Trek articles yet; I haven't.  They, too, are on the some-other-day list.)

I also can't resist mentioning the presence of a very brief sidebar about how comic fans were "up in arms" over the recent casting of Michael Keaton as Batman in the forthcoming Tim Burton film.  There was no Internet in 1989, but there has always been discontent among comic-book fans.




No King content at all in this issue (with the exception of a one-paragraph review of Pet Sematary in the Film Ratings column); I bought it purely because it was a James Bond issue.  I mentioned a few moments ago that I'm not as big a Trek fan as I am a King fan; that's also true of Bond, but in this case, the gap is considerably narrower.  You may or may not know that I also have a Bond blog, You Only Blog Twice; go check it out some time if you've a mind to.

The Bond articles are pretty good, though, so this fan's money was well-spent.




The main attraction here (for me) is a two-page article featuring copious quotes from King in which he gives Cinefantastique updates on the various film projects that were at some stage of development at that time.  The hypothesis was that after "the box office success of Pet Sematary," King was "hot again in Hollywood."  There are lots of great little bits of info, so let's review them via bulletpoint:
  • "The most anticipated of the upcoming films," says writer Gary L. Wood, "will be King's epic The Stand, being readied by Pet Sematary producer Richard Rubinstein of Laurel Productions."  Wood mentions that George Romero was once in the pole position to direct the project, but that currently no director is attached.
  • "Romero is also being considered to direct a six-hour mini-series of King's It for ABC based on a teleplay by Lawrence D. Cohen."  Huh?!?  I don't think I'd ever heard that Romero was in the running for It.  I also didn't know that at one point the project was planned as a three-night miniseries, as opposed to the two nights we ended up with.  One suspects that at some point, the budget must have gotten hacked to bits; one also suspects that, given how big the ratings for that sucker (not to mention its afterlife on video and cable) ended up being, ABC and Warner Bros. would have loved to go back and restore the third night.
  • The Talisman, which was in the hands of Steven Spielberg, was stuck in limbo.  "Universal didn't want to buy that for him, you know?" says King.  "You have to picture Steven as this bright, able child who is going to Mommy and Daddy saying, 'Buy me this! Buy me this! I want it! I want it! I want it!'  And the mother and father know that this is going to end up in the attic with most of the other toys that the kid really, really wanted.  I think eventually it'll be a mini-series on CBS, but I haven't heard a lot about it."  And 24 years later, it remains unproduced.
  • Misery has been purchased for director Rob Reiner, the prospects of which excite King: "It'll make a hell of a movie if they do it right," he says.  "I think Rob will.  If anybody can, he can."  And indeed he did.  King also has some praise for William Goldman's screenplay, mentioning that the Oscar-winning writer was able to create a new character who could be on the outside of the situation, moving around and keeping the scenario from being too inward and static.
  • There has been an option on Thinner taken out by Warner Bros.  "It looks like maybe they'll do it," says King.  "I think John Candy would be perfect.  He'd have to lose some weight, and maybe it'd save his life."
  • On the subject of every King book and story being optioned by Hollywood, King has a few specific rebuttals, beginning with The Tommyknockers, which nobody has even offered to buy.  "See?" says King.  "Not everything I write gets made into a movie."  He's also fielded no offers on The Dark Tower but mentions Rutger Hauer as a potential "hell of a gunslinger."

Elsewhere in the issue, there is (obviously) an extensive cover story on Tales from the Crypt, which I have never seen a single episode of, to this day.  I'd like to, eventually.

I was intrigued by a brief article about the then-upcoming movie version of Captain America, which starred Matt Salinger as the titular hero and featured supporting players such as Ned Beatty and Darren McGavin.  The movie ended up being a barely-released train-wreck, which was par for the course when it came to movies based on Marvel Comics properties during this era.  I say this about six weeks out from the April 4, 2014 release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which is likely to be another blockbuster jewel in the crown of Marvel Studios.  How the times have changed!

There are also pretty good articles about The Little Mermaid, The Abyss, and Communion.  The Mermaid piece is a bit odd, in that it refers to the film as being due in the fall; this issue's cover date in January 1990, and The Little Mermaid premiered prior to Thanksgiving 1989.  So either this is one of those deals where the cover date of the issue is two or three months later than the issue's actual release date, or the article had been written for a previous issue and nobody bothered to revise it to accommodate whatever delay prevented it from appearing earlier.  Either way, the article focuses in part on the question of whether Disney's new movie can withstand the competition from the Don Bluth animated film All Dogs Go to Heaven.  The two films opened on the same weekend, and the Bluth movie performed pretty well; The Little Mermaid was the clear winner, however, and ended up kickstarting a new Golden Age of Disney animation.  It's cool to look back to a document of a time right before that era began; you realize that in no way was its occurrence a given.


art by David Voigt


I acquired a copy of this one for a solitary reason: it was the first issue of Cinefantastique I bought back in the day, and when I realized I no longer had a copy of it, nostalgia took over and demanded that I add it into the mix along with all the Stephen King stuff!  And so I did.


art by David Voigt


This issue was not among the recent spate of acquisitions I made, because I never got rid of my original copy.  Still, it's well worth our time to look at; it's a flippin' goldmine for King fans.

Much of it is focused on the Rob Reiner film Misery, which was already being seen as a bit of a classic.  Here is a great behind-the-scenes photo:




Say, guys...?  It's Kathy Bates, not Cathy.  You know, with a "K"?  The issue spells it with a "C" the entire time, which is a fairly major editorial blunder.  Ah, well; these things happen, I guess.

Points of interest:
  • Reiner, in directing Misery, became the first director to tackle a second King-based movie.  (The first, of course, had been Stand By Me.)  Reiner on his reasons for tackling the film: "Everybody knows about obsessive, psychotic fans, and everybody knows what they do: Mark David Chapman with John Lennon, and John Hinckley -- those kinds of things.  We read about them in the paper all the time.  So it's not out of the realm of possibility.  That's what drew me to it.  It's something that could actually happen."
  • King sold the rights to the novel to Reiner's Castle Rock Entertainment with one condition: Reiner had to personally either produce or (preferably) direct the film.  According to Reiner, he initially intended to serve only as producer.  "Then Bill Goldman wrote a great screenplay and I started getting more and more interested," he says.
  • Unlike with Stand By Me, Columbia and Castle Rock planned to use King's name prominently in the marketing.  Says Reiner, "What I hope is that we don't fall into the cracks between people who are going to be hardcore Stephen King fans -- horror fans who are going to be disappointed that there aren't enough blood and guts -- and people who are expecting me to give them another comedy.  There's a lot of humor in this film, and there's some very tense, horrific moments.  We've got both."
  • Grego Nicotero and KNB EFX were charged with making the fake legs the ankles of which get shattered by Annie's sledgehammer.  "We made gelatin legs that we punched hair into," says Nicotero.  "What they did was cut holes in the bed, and put James Caan's legs into the holes.  We attached the gelatin legs onto the ends.  I remember we took the legs on set and Rob said, 'What's going on? I thought we were going to use the fake legs.'  And we said, 'Well, these are the fake legs!'  He was surprised.  'Really?' he said.  'Cool!'  He was all excited and happy."

Grego Nicotero and Howard Berger with the fake Paul Sheldon legs

  • The film evidently struggled to find a distributor.  Says Reiner, "When it was finished, we showed it to every major studio in town and nobody wanted to release it except Columbia."  And this, evidently, was a last-minute decision made by Columbia's president, who had one foot out the door on his way to some other job.  "So we were really hanging by a thread there," says Reiner, in what one suspects might be an understatement.

Rob Reiner (l) and James Caan (r) on the set of Misery

Highlights from a lengthy article titled "Stephen King & Hollywood" (subtitled "King and his adaptors tell what went wrong on the horror assembly line"):
  • King on the (technically)-not-yet-announced Sleepwalkers: "I guess it's going to be bought for this huge amount of money and put into production immediately by these guys who have bankrolled a couple of Steven Seagal's films.  It's a pretty good screenplay, a real Spielberg story."  Huh?  And huh?!?  Well, I'd love to read the actual screenpplay one of these days; maybe it's better than the final product.  It'd be hard for it not to be...
  • "My guess would be that in a lot of cases, the people who read the books and the people who go to the movies are the same people," says King.  "And they stay away because they know that whatever they read in the book, they're just not going to see on the screen.  It can't be done.  You can do stuff in a book that you simply can't do in a film without earning yourself an X rating for your troubles."  "On the other hand," says Chrstine screenwriter Bill Phillips, "if you can get ten million people to come into the theatre and be disappointed, you've got a hit."
  • Reiner on screening Stand By Me for the author:  "I was very nervous because I wanted him to like it.  I didn't actually watch the film with him.  I showed up after it was over and ran into him.  He was visibly moved.  He was really almost crying.  He said, 'Listen, I've got to compose myself. I'll come back and talk to you.'  He came back in about fifteen to twenty minutes, and we sat and talked.  He said that this was by far the best film that had ever been made of any of his works.  And he said, 'But that's not saying much.'  And I understood what he said because it's exactly why I'm sure he's frustrated by some of the films that are made out of his books.  Because filmmakers don't bother to look past the gore."
  • King on the subject of a television series that would feature him as a Rod Serling / Alfred Hitchcock -style host: "The things came and went. Pitches like, 'Wouldn't it be great to do a TV series on the order of The Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents?'  TV thinks that any idea that succeeded once, even in a half-assed way, will succeed again.  Since my face is known, I must, therefore, become this generation's Rod Serling, or Alfred Hitchcock, or Boris Karloff, or all of them rolled into one.  I get this real kind of dreadful feeling about celebrity.  The media ate Rod Serling alive an inch at a time.  You could see him sort of disintegrating as the years went by.  I think that cigarettes and booze also had a lot to do with it.  They all worked together in the same way.  So I feel about TV the way that I felt about the deserted church that I used to pass when I was a kid at night.  You know, it seems like a haunted place.  I don't want any part of it."  I get where King is coming from here, but at the same time, how cool would it be for there to have been four or five seasons' worth of a great anthology horror series with King as the Serlingesque host in the eighties?  Somebody on that level of the Tower needs to send me those Blu-rays, stat.
  • Lawrence D. Cohen on Carrie: "DePalma was at the peak of his talents with Carrie.  Brian brought just a wallop of style to it.  I think the difference between the King movies that are successful and the movies that are not successful, both commercially and artistically, is that the director adds the other quotient."  This is probably a fair assessment in 1990, and it's probably a fair assessment in 2014.
  • George Romero on the movie version of The Shining: "The Shining was a book that made my skin crawl.  It made me really, really scared.  My first take on the film version was that I didn't think it worked at all.  Now, in retrospect, after I've had it on the shelf and watched it a few times, I can appreciate a lot of what Kubrick did with it.  At first, I just remember being really disappointed because it wasn't Steve.  It was something else."
  • There is quite a bit of Christine conversation, ranging from the casting (which King singles out as one of the film's problems) to the lack of scares (everyone, Carpenter included, seems to agree that omitting the rotting ghost of Roland LeBay from the project altogether was a massive mis-step) to the lack of response at a screening in a New York theatre prone to interactions from street people who wandered in to shows.  I dig the movie, personally; but I guess it's easy to see how everyone involved saw it for what it wasn't moreso than for what it was.

Producer Richard Kobritz and director John Carpenter on the set of Christine

  • King on the public's rejection of Maximum Overdrive (which he not only wrote, but also directed): "I said going into the movie that if you make enough money, and you are successful enough in the society that we live in, they give you not only enough rope so that you can hang yourself, but you can do it in Times Square before a live, prime-time audience."
  • "There are things in any picture that I don't like," King confesses before telling the world what he didn't like in Stand By Me.  "I don't like the scenes with the parents of Gordon LaChance.  It's like the Night of the Living Parents.  They are so disconnected from reality that it's a bit ludicrous."  This is a fair criticism, but I'd counter it by pointing out that the entirety of the film can be seen as a point-of-view flashback from the older Gordie's perspective, and as such, the scenes with his awful parents don't represent reality so much as they represent Gordie's memories.  Most of us, I'd wager, deal with the immense gulf that lies between memory and reality, and as long as a movie sets that idea up properly, I think it works.
  • King on Creepshow 2: "The oil slick monster looked like some dirty old man's raincoat."

There are also a large of number of sidebar articles, so let's hit some of those highlights:

  • This era apparently included a whole lot of vitriolic back and forth between King and Firestarter director Mark Lester that had been playing out for a while in interviews one or the other had given, and continues to play out in the pages of this issue.  It's so good that I'm going to just post a couple of the relevant pages for you to read in their entirety:



  • Romero on the subject on the long-gestating movie version of The Stand: "It's expensive to make.  And it's got to have a long running time, so it has a lot of problems.  It doesn't have this sort of obvious kind of Hollywood premise.  You can't tell the story in two sentences in the Polo Lounge.  So it's a hard sell."
  • Then-current screenwriter on The Stand Rospo Pallenberg on one of the sequences that simply could not be eliminated from the film, the Lincoln Tunnel escape: "I knew it was a stock piece.  King had outdone himself in writing it.  But in many ways you didn't need it, from the point of view of telling the general story.  So I just loaded it with a few other things so that it could stay, using it to develop the relationship of Rita and Larry.  I didn't go for a total pitch blackness.  I accelerated the development of the plague so there are some dim lights still in the cars, but they're colored lights and they make things more eerie.  Rubinstein and Warners never told me it had to be in.  I just knew from showmanship that it had to be in.  It carries more weight now.  You couldn't cut it out at this point."  This sidebar also contains three storyboards of the sequence by artist Steve McAffe; whether they hail from the Pallenberg era, or an earlier version of the project, or are original to this issue, I do not know.  But here they are:

Sorry about the mid-page fold and staples there; not much that can be done about it, sadly.



  • King on missing out on writing a screenplay for Poltergeist: "There was a screw-up in communications at that time.  I was in England and this was after Steven and I had dinner and talked about it.  We wrote letters back and forth.  We talked on the phone about it.  I got ready to do it, went to England, and found out that Doubleday, who had been acting on my behalf, had asked this incredible amount of money to do the screenplay.  This is for somebody who had never done a screenplay that had been produced.  I got a letter from Spielberg saying that he was really unhappy that it turned out this way."
  • One of the most fascinating pieces in the issue deals with the uncompleted first film version of Apt Pupil, which starred Ricky Schroeder and Niccol Williamson and was directed by Alan Bridges.  I suspect that most King fans have no idea such a film ever even (partially) existed, so this is a real find for the King afficionado.  Here is a quote from the author: "They shot for about ten weeks.  I got a rough assemblage of about three quarters of the film.  Then they ran out of money.  And that was good!," he says, referring to the quality of what he'd seen and not to the fact that the money dried up.  "That sucker was real good!"  This blogger's thoughts on the matter are simple: I'd LOVE for that footage to see the light of day eventually.  I just hope it's still in existence, and hasn't been lost.
  • King on the casting of Pet Sematary: "I think Dale Midkiff is stiff in places.  I think Denise Crosby comes across cold in places.  I don't feel that the couple that's at the center of the story has the kind of warmth that would set them off perfectly against the supernatural element that surrounds them.  I like that contrast better."
  • King on producer Dino DeLaurentiis's eccentricities on the set of Cat's Eye: "Dino went to any length possible.  He held up production for the first six hours.  Cat's Eye was the first picture in his new studio and he had to get a priest to bless the studio before any footage could be shot.  [Director] Lewis [Teague] is on set.  He's got three, four cats, he's got Drew Barrymore, he's got Drew's mother, who's going nuts, 'When are we going to get started?!'  And everybody's standing around with their thumbs up their butts waiting for the priest to come and bless the studio.  He finally did, and you know how much good it did.  The place went right down the toilet."  The article also drops the bomb that when the studio shuttered, there were plans for another King film called Training Exercise.  There doesn't seem to be much info about this prospective project, for which King supposedly wrote a treatment, in the King community; it must remain a tantalizing mystery, one guess.  Hey...I think I'll Tweet a question at King about it and see if it turns anything up!

King and Drew Barrymore on the set of Firestarter

  • King on the unsinkable Dino DeLaurentiis: "Dino is like James Bond.  He's always got a life vest inside his dinner jacket, or something, so that everyone else drowns while Dino floats serenely away with Martha Schumacher, and they're both drinking martinis, shaken-not-stirred . . . Hey!  Twenty million dollars!  Thirty million dollars!  And what happened?  Did Dino eat any of that?  No.  The bank ate it.  He's still got his big house"
  • King on the unproduced screenplay The Shotgunners, which he wrote for director Sam Peckinpah (who died while in pre-production on the project): "I think it's great!  It's the kind of thing that ten years from now, finally somebody will produce and it will be a mega-hit."  So far, this has not happened, but King eventually reworked the screenplay and turned it into the novel The Regulators.
  • There is a great sidebar piece wherein King is quoted extensively about his experience directing Maximum Overdrive.  He feels it was an obvious failure, but an instructive one.  He namechecks Alfred Hitchcock as being the quintessential director of suspense: "Because I was new and I'd never done anything like this before, I read a book about Hitchcock, about the way he worked.  I read that he had said at some point that actually making the movie was the dullest part of the experience.  What he really liked to do was plan everything in advance.  He said [shooting] was the dullest part, because once he started there were no surprises.  That's exactly what I wanted!  I wanted no surprises whatsoever so I did it that way.  I planned out, shot-for-shot, literally angle-for-angle, everything I wanted in the movie.  What never crossed my mind until I began to see rough assemblies of the stuff, when it was really too late to back out, was that this was never the way that I work creatively. My idea is to just get in there and just bash away, take the materials that are available and put them together in a hurry and go on."  Nevertheless, King states succinctly, "I will direct again."  Well, not so far, be that for good or for ill.

King and Ellen McElduff on the set of Maximum Overdrive


All in all, the King stuff runs for nearly forty pages.  It's good stuff, and if you can find a copy, I highly recommend it.


art by David Voigt


This is another one of the issues that I lost during the Great Moving Tragedy of '03.  I mainly bought it because I remembered the cover fondly, but there are two pages devoted to Sleepwalkers, plus another two devoted to The Lawnmower Man.  Score!

Here's what the King fan is apt to learn from the issue:
  • "King originally sold" the rights to The Lawnmower Man "to British producer Milton Subotsky in the early '80s, as part of an intended anthology, but turned down Subotsky's overtures to direct it himself."  [This presumably means Subotsky wanted King to direct, not that Subotsky himself wanted to direct.]  "Subotsky never got the film off the ground and peddled the rights to Dino DeLaurentiis, who sold them to Allied / Lane / Pringle."
  • When director Brett Leonard was brought onboard, he told the producers there was no movie in the original story, so they asked him for ideas on how it could be expanded.  "Leonard's idea was to combine King's story with Cybergod, an existing script co-written with Gemil Everett about a virtual reality experiment gone awry."
  • "Obviously Stephen King is a credible and marketable name," says Leonard.  "When he sells the rights to a short story, that's what he sells."  Sadly, this is true.
  • Alice Krige was cast in Sleepwalkers because director Mick Garris had been a publicist for Universal Pictures, and remembered her from one of the movies he publicized (Ghost Story).



I care nothing for Ren & Stimpy; I'm sure it's fine, and I'm sure I'd laugh if I watched it, but I never have seen an episode, and don't particularly plan to alter that.

The draw to this issue for me was the eight pages of coverage of George Romero's The Dark Half.  Let see what there is to glean from said coverage:
  • The role of Rawlie DeLesseps (who gets a gender change and a name change, to "Reggie") was originally going to be filmed as written in the novel; both Michael Gough and John Hurt were considered for the part.  It eventually went to Julie Harris, hence the gender reassignment.
  • Filming began in October of 1990.  I had always heard that the movie sat on the shelf for a while thanks to distributor Orion Pictures having financial woes, but I didn't know it had been on the shelf for THAT long!
  • Effects supervisor did his best to try and keep Timothy Hutton in the mood while his George Stark makeup was being applied.  "We stuck Rustler posters and heavy metal posters all over the place," he says, "and blasted Tim with Led Zeppelin and Guns 'N Roses while we worked the makeup, trying to get him and ourselves in a real George Stark mood.  On the very first day, John" [Vulich] "and I ordered pizzas and threw them all over the walls, littered the floor with beer and Coke cans and generally turned the place into a pigsty.  Tim got into it as inspiration for the character and absorbed the atmosphere along with our makeup.  Of course, finally, the place just started to stink, the novelty wore off, and we had to clean up our act a bit."  Stories like this make me think I probably wouldn't last long as a director in Hollywood, because I would have tossed the lot of them right off the set for pulling crap like that.  If that's the sort of thing you need to get into character, then I need a new actor.

Amy Madigan and George Romero on the set of The Dark Half

director George Romero, cinematographer Tony Pierce-Roberts, and effects supervisor Everett Burrell on the set of The Dark Half



art by David Voigt


That cover art doesn't do much for me.   Most of Voigt's covers are pretty good, but all in all, the glory days of Cinefantastique covers seems to have died in the eighties.  Oh, well.

The Stand gets sixteen pages of coverage in this issue, and while we do not have the treasure trove we had with the Misery issue, this is still going to be of great interest to anyone who enjoys the miniseries.

  • King's screenplay was written over the course of four months.  He did not use his own previous drafts (from when the project was intended to be a feature film), nor did he use Rospo Pallenberg's draft.  Says the article, "King ultimately rewrote the script six times before a final screenplay was approved."  Jesus!  When did he have time to write any novels?!?
  • "Although Laurel Entertainment was unwilling to comment on the budget and eventual expenditures of making The Stand, industry scuttlebutt suggests that Laurel 'lost its shirt' financing the miniseries because ABC was not covering all the costs of production.  But, because Laurel is owned by parent company Blockbuster Video and because one of its subsidiaries is Worldvision Enterprise, Inc., which will license the miniseries internationally, it is widely believed that the profit for this epic will ultimately be realized in its subsequent release on home video and in worldwide distribution."  Well, I don't know about that, but the Internet informs me that Blockbuster was purchased by Viacom in 1994, and that Laurel was folded into another Viacom holding, Spelling Entertainment, in 1995.
  • Adam Storke (who played Larry Underwood) on Stephen King: "He was very accessible, amiable, interesting, eccentric, and a lot of fun to be around.  He's someone who still holds on to a large amount of youth.  He loves stories, movies, rock and roll, is unpredictable in his appearance and is very bright.  He's made quite a success for himself, yet is still an accessible, intelligent, funny human being and he doesn't seem to be tainted by it all.  He's still just a fan like anyone else."
  • Three of the various actors who were considered for the role of Randall Flagg: David Bowie, James Woods, and Lance Henriksen.
  • Joe King -- known better these days as author Joe Hill -- worked with effects expert Steve Johnson for a bit while the crew filmed "corpses" at the Utah State Prison.  Says Johnson, "Joe, Stephen's 21-year-old son, who worked with us on the film, was really interested in making it work.  So rather than just setting the bodies up to look good aesthetically, Joe was actually coming up with story points -- 'this guy is trying to get out his window, this guy died when he was vomiting on the toilet.'  He'd come up with ideas.  He suggested if they had the flu there would be snotty bloodied tissues all over the place.  It was really good to have an extension of Stephen work with us to set this stuff up.  That was basically what it was like, working with Joe."  How cool is that?



This issue contains eight pages devoted to the movie version of Thinner, which is one of my least-favorite of all King movies.  And as if that weren't enough, there are four pages devoted to Sometimes They Come Back...Again, which, of course, is a SKINO fauxquel.

Although, actually . . . the article points out that certain elements from the original short story that were not used in the first Sometimes They Come Back got used for the "sequel."  This makes it arguably more of a legitimate Stephen King film than most of the other fauxquels.  Truth be told, I'm very happy to have this article about the making of the movie; as crappy a film as it is, it's nice to know at least a little something about its making.

Not much to speak of in the way of fun quotes, so here is a photo of Tom Holland directing Stephen King on the set of Thinner:





Moving on, we come now to the third of the three King-related issues that I managed to not lose:




Well, if there was any doubt about it before, there is no doubt now: by this point, Cineantastique had lost its touch when it came to covers.  This one is pretty lame, with two goofy-looking hedge animals.

Readers of the blog will know by now that I am not a fan of the television version of The Shining.  So you will perhaps understand that while the rational side of my brain is happy to have sixteen pages' worth of articles devoted to that project's making, the more judgmental side of my brain is kind of disinterested.

Still, let's see if we can pick out a few noteworthy tidbits:
  • Says the article, "After directing King's epic vision of mankind's fall and rise," by which writer Frederick Szebin means The Stand, "Mick Garris went on to two feature projects that eventually stalled -- Rose Red, a $40 million King screenplay that was to be produced by Steven Spielberg, and the long-in-development remake of The Mummy."  I think I had read before that Rose Red originally began life as a big-budget feature, but I don't think I new that Mick Garris was attached as director.  The project was eventually repurposed as an ABC miniseries, with Craig Baxley as the director.
  • Says a sidebar article focusing on King himself, "While ghosts and things that go bump in the night abound in The Shining, King said he had no plans for a sequel, even though there is a signpost at the end which says 'True Greatness Should Not Be Allowed To Die.'  'It's meant ironically,' he explained.  'But it's also my way of trying to say that this evil that the Overlook Hotel represents can never be routed" [sic] "out, or burned out.  It always comes back.  That is my understanding of evil -- that we never are able to get quite all the roots, that sooner or later it always comes back.' "
  • The sidebar continues, on the subject of King crafting a television series: "I'd love to be able to tell a story that would have a beginning and an ending," he says.  "But I can't see doing a series in the sense that The X-Files is a series.  I'd love to write an X-Files some time.  That would be a kick."
  • There is plenty of talk all through the various articles about how Stanley Kubrick had made a Stanley Kubrick movie with The Shining rather than a Stephen King movie, and how the miniseries is an attempt to make Stephen King's The Shining.  If you've never heard any of that before, it's probably interesting.  We won't replicate it here.
  • You have no idea how many quotes I am NOT putting in as an excuse to respond to them snarkily.  Yay me, for being restrained!
  • Garris on King: "He's very collaborative, a unique, wonderful, non-bullshit guy.  There's nothing Hollywood about him, thank God.  We both kind of work outside the realm of Hollywood.  We don't surround ourselves with television and movie people all the time.  It's a nice feeling.  He is utterly without pretense."

Mick Garris and Stephen King on the set of The Shining





I'm definitely a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan, so it's cool to have this issue.  But I bought it because it has coverage of The Green Mile inside it.  A whole page's worth of it.  Wow.


Frank Darabont directs Tom Hanks


The coverage on Storm of the Century is better; that runs eight pages, and since the miniseries under discussion is my favorite King-for-tv project, I'm happy to have it.
  • Producer Mark Carliner on King's writing approach: "I think he had thought about writing it as a novel, but it came out as a screenplay.  The way he works is that he writes the story that he wants to write.  It's not as if somebody pays him to develop something.  It's intoxicating the way he [approaches] the networks.  He just says, 'Here's the script and if you want to do it, then this is the script we shoot.'  There are not that many people that are able to do that.  He retains the complete artistic control over the picture."  Of his role in the production, Carliner says "I'm here to enforce his vision."



  • Interestingly, the writer of the article, Paul Wardle, refers to villain Andre Linoge as "a further extension of The Dark Man from The Stand," representing the forces of Satan.  It is unclear what he is basing this assertion on; nobody associated with the project is quoted on Linoge's hypothetical relationship to Flagg (a view I happen to share, incidentally), so it may simply be that Wardle is making a generalized comment about Linoge's similarity to Flagg, as opposed to a specific one.  Sure does sound specific, though, doesn't it...?



The Green Mile coverage is restricted to a mere two pages -- which is fine, since we're about to get an issue with that movie as the cover-story material -- and is notable mainly for some vigorously anti-death-penalty quotes from actors James Cromwell and Patricia Clarkson.

I worked at a theatre when The Green Mile came out, and once had to give a refund to a grumpy old coot who walked out of the movie angry that it was preaching the gospel of being against the death penalty.  I believe that gentleman may have thought I was somehow responsible for writing the film.  This may be the only way in which I will ever be confused for Stephen King...

Toward the back of the magazine, there is a surprise bonus: a two-page article about Children of the Corn 666.  Much of it consists of quotes from director Kari Skogland, who obviously put some effort into making the film into something distinctive and memorable.  I'd rate this as one of the better Corn films, so she succeeded to at least some degree.

I'd also like to call your attention to this still from the then-current remake of House on Haunted Hill:





Now, you feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but . . . doesn't that look a hell of a lot like the "nightmare apparition" that was deleted from the final cut of Ghost Story?  If you said, "Why, hell YES, Bryant, it surely to Goshen does!" then you, sir or madam as the case may be, are correct.

The article mentions nothing of the sort, but I did a little digging on IMDb and found that Dick Smith -- who, you might recall, worked on Ghost Story (and was credited as "special makeup") -- has a credit on the '99 version of House on Haunted Hill.  As, you guessed it, "special makeup effects design."

No word on whether Smith actually worked on Haunted Hill or if he merely loaned his design out.  I could probably find out, but I'm too lazy.  Either way, I think it's kind of cool that that excellently horrifying design finally got used somewhere.




Well, that cover photo is pretty cool, at least.

Of the issues that I acquired during this buy-old-magazines phase, this one is the most recent.  And, oddly, it was the one that was the most difficult to obtain!  I had to resort to eBay, rather than use the comics retailer the rest of 'em came from.  I didn't end up having to pay much more than what I wanted to pay, but I got ever so slightly outside of my comfort zone.

Sadly, the issue doesn't amount to a whole heck of a lot.  There are twelve pages worth of coverage of the film, and it's all good.  I guess.  But there isn't much here that you wouldn't know from watching, say, Entertainment Tonight interviews, or reading something in USA Today or Entertainment Weekly.  One of the big pluses to Cinefantastique during its golden era was that its writers simply got better material.  I don't know if that means that they had better access, or if its writers in the eighties and early nineties were more skilled, or what.  But most of the content in this series of Green Mile articles positively reeks of having come from standard press junkets (i.e., the type of interview-a-thons in which a director or star will sit in a room for eight hours one day and have a stream of writers -- many of whom ask similar questions -- paraded in front of them for specific, pre-set amounts of time).  You tend to hear a lot of sameness from the interviewees; understandably so.  My God, if I had to do that, I'd read all my answers off of note cards!

But Cinefantastique used to not be prone to that.  Or at least, they didn't appear to be, based on the sampling I've got at my fingertips (some small portion of which I have now passed along to you).  That makes this issue a bit of a bummer for me.

Still, there are extensive quotes from Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, Doug Hutchison, Sam Rockwell, Frank Darabont, and others, including King himself, so it all still makes for a worthwhile document of what the party line about the movie was just prior to its release.

And with that, we have reached the end of out Stephen King issues of Cinefantastique.

But before we call it a night, I may as well show you this:


art by David Voigt


This issue was the second one after the Green Mile one, and its coverage of the recently-concluded Babylon 5 is superb.  So maybe I was a bit too harsh in bemoaning the EPK-quality material on evidence in that Green Mile coverage.  I could probably go i a edit that right out, but what fun would that be?  We like to keep it real here at The Truth Inside The Lie.  (That's still a thing people say, right?  Ah, fuck it.)

Speaking of keeping it real, I cannot endorse the claim that Babylon 5 was at that time "the greatest science fiction epic ever filmed."  I probably would have endorsed it at the time of this issue's release, however; I was a huge fan of that show, and to some extent I still am.  This is the wrong venue to get into it, but suffice it to say that the show really did have a scope of ambition that few shows have ever tried for, and even fewer have pulled off.

Thing is, Babylon 5 DIDN'T pull it off.  Not really.  Time has not been especially kind to it, to be honest.  Its ambitions far outstripped its reach, and the final season -- a few episodes excepted -- is a bit of a disaster.  All that said, the ambition really did result in some occasional excellence, and if you are a serious fan of sci-fi television, you it to yourself to watch the series at some point.  You may end up disliking it, but even if you do, I think you'll find the ways in which you dislike it to be interesting and instructive.  Even failures can be compelling, and I think this qualifies.

PRIME remake material, incidentally.

During the course of writing this post, I stumbled across a few additional King-related issues that I had not purchased.  Some of these were from other magazines published by the same company that published Cinefantastique, so I've ordered them, and when they arrive in the mail, we'll do a sequel.  Like most sequels, it will be inferior to the original, but hey, sometimes you just have to do it anyways.  I might also toss in some scant mentions of the issues of Starlog I got, because why not.

Until then, I got nothin' else.

28 comments:

  1. I think the 80s classify as pretty much the Golden Age of Sci Fi/Fantasy film making. Aside from the impact of Star Wars, and the fact that the fans who grew up watching Serling and reading Bradbury, Dune, or Jules Vern now had Hollywood clout, I can't really say what it is that made that decade so special for genre cinema. I do know however that, looking back, they pretty much defined that decade in terms of look and feel (a strange mix of Bradbury and Tolkien with an MTV overlay, and yes, you had to be there for any of that to make sense). The only non-genre work that had as much an impact would be the films of John Hughes.

    Sadly, while I thought I might have had some copies of Cinefantastique, it turns out they were really copies of some wannabe called Cinemascape....I was thinking of inserting a clip of the Beatles I'm a Loser here, but thought it would just confuse the issue.

    However, I think it can be said the Cinefantastique counts as one of the cultural marker for the time as well.

    It's particularly interesting to here how in-depth most of those issues are about King and his work. I was hoping for, and gratified to find a photo of Hill as a kid (featuring patented disturbed young mind smile), I didn't expect but was even more gratified to here about his input while filming the Stand. Funny Creepshow production related story I heard King tell Dennis Miller (back when Miller was still hip and funny): the make-up people had given Hill artificial bruises to simulate that Hill's character had an abusive father. King was driving his son home while still wearing the make-up, and as they pull up to a McDonald's drive-thru window, the clerk sees the make up, sees King with a beard, and it all ends with Hill and King in the back of a police cruiser where the following dialogue takes place:

    Hill (who I imagine bouncing up and down in his seat, both terrified and delighted out of his wits):
    We're making a movie, WE'RE MAKING A MOVIE!

    King (calm, somewhere between bemused and not really believing it's happening): He's right, officer, it's just a film.

    It's a shame Straub's career never took off like King's. That said, (shudders) sweet CRAP, THAT MODEL! Here's a hint, just because enlarging the screen view helps some read the text better doesn't always make it a good idea.

    ChrisC
    You can't make stuff like that up.




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    1. I think King (and Hill, for that matter) probably COULD make it up . . . but that particular story smacks of truth to me. Imagine the cop who, if he's still around today, gets to tell the story of detaining Stephen King!

      I tend to sort of think of the period from, oh, let's say 1977-1985 as a bit of a sci-fi/fantasy/horror golden era, too. I think that's because it mostly WAS, but I'm sure nostalgia plays into it, as well. Thing is, I think we've been in another such period since at least 2001 or so. I mean, "The Lord of the Rings," "Harry Potter," and the Marvel movies alone account for something like two dozen movies that might reasonably be called classics. (Or, if not classics, then at least strongly notable.) That arguably beats the pants off of 77-85 right there, and that's without getting Pixar involved in the conversation. Kids who were born in this era have had it pretty good at the movies, I'd have to say.

      Apologies for the horrifying photo from "Ghost Story." That one really is nightmare-inducing! As for Straub's career never taking off like King's, I don't think that was ever really in the cards. His style simply isn't built for mass consumption the way King's is. That's not to suggest that King's style is dumbed down (it isn't) or that Straub's style is impenetrable (it isn't). It's just that based on what I've read, you can't picture most airline travelers reading "Ghost Story" or "Shadowland" on their way from New York to Los Angeles. It's easier to picture with, say, "Salem's Lot."

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    2. I here what you say about Straub. I remember thinking, his style sounds as if it's always auditioning for the New Yorker or something like that. Good grief I hope that didn't reverse-snobby, that's not what I meant at all. I really like Straub's work (even Shadowland is starting to grow on me!). Perhaps the word I'm looking for is his style is always experimental, if that helps.

      I also admit we're in another era of sci-fi/fantasy, though I sometimes wonder if it isn't that same wave from the 80s and it's just stuck around all this time before making another big impact.

      It's funny you should mention Pixar, as I was just thinking and watching from them earlier yesterday and comparing The Incredibles with another Disney product. You remember I once showed you a vlog review of an old Disney afternoon show called Darkwing Duck? Well, I had a chance to sample a few episodes and, wonder of wonders, the show has really grown on me.

      What really interests me when comparing it to Incredibles is the similarities and differences between the two.

      I'd like to start, hoping this isn't off topic, with a surface comparison between the two main characters of both movie and show. Mr. Incredible seems like a decent enough sort, dedicated to his job, but ultimately not above that of his family. I don't know what kind of employment he may or may not have at the end of the film, but he seems like your average white collar dad, all things considered.

      Drake Mallard, aka Darkwing Duck, is more or less the definition of basket case. He's a super hero, yet like Eric Rodriguez said in the vlog review, he seems to do it for the publicity and the attention such a gig would draw. It probably should be noted that in one episode we see the character as a little kid, and he's pretty much the missing Loser's Club member. All in all, he seems like a bit of a fool, and the city he protects doesn't even really know what to make of him, sometimes wishing that he'd just go away.

      Here's where the comparison gets interesting.

      To be continued.

      ChrisC

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    3. I'd never given much credence to the idea of watching "Darkwing Duck" -- I tend to gravitate away from Disney's tv projects -- but I'm starting to wonder if that might not be a mistake.

      These issues of Cinefantastique had a fair amount of Disney material in them, too, by the way, most of which I did not remark on. But there were strong articles about "Toy Story 2" and "Fantasia 2000" and "James and the Giant Peach," just to name a few (in addition to the exceptional ones on "The Black Hole" and "20,000 Leagues").

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    4. Continued from above.

      Still hoping this isn't to off topic....

      It gets interesting once we go into the stories that both respective characters, Mr. Incredible and Darkwing, and what they may or may not reveal about each other.

      Now I may be reading too much into a lot of this, so here goes.

      First here's a valuable quote from Brad Bird himself (I found this in a review article but it's really off the DVD commentary):

      Bird: "There's expectations for animation, and, you know, you make this connection with animation and superheroes, you think, 'Saturday morning,' and Saturday morning they have these very strange shows, completely designed around conflict and yet no one ever dies or gets really injured, or there's no consequence to it. I think that came out of, you know, a team of psychologists determined that it is bad for children, and I think just the opposite. I think that it's better if kids realize there's a cost and that if the hero gets injured and still has to fight, it's more dramatic, and it's closer to life."

      The link where this statement can be found is here:

      http://moviecitynews.com/archived/columnists/pratt/2005/incredibles.html

      Also helpful is a part of a multi-critic DVD verdict review (seriously, I thought I was over-thinking it, these professionals put me in the shade): "At one time, Robert Parr lived in a universe of heroes and villains, champions and challengers. But when the world turned its back on him, he had no choice but to slink off into obscurity. Yet, there is a force raging inside, something more substantial than truth, justice, and freedom. For Bob, alias Mr. Incredible, life was, at one time, a celebration of his special powers."

      The truly incredible multi-review from DVD verdict is here (they even manage to drag in Robert Heinlein, P.J. O'Rourke and Pat Mcgoohan's Prisoner. Yyyyes!):

      http://www.dvdverdict.com/reviews/incredibles.php


      With these quotes in mind, it has to be said, long before I even came across them, I was interested in the similarities between Bob Parr and Drake Mallard, even once thinking Drake could be Bob is he lived in a world without super powers. I don't know how that sounds, and I don't mean to knock a good character, believe me. It's just something I noticed.

      The comparison's get even more interesting.

      To be continued.

      ChrisC

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    5. My assumption with "The Incredibles" was always that if it was inspired by anything specifically, it was a mashup of "The Fantastic Four" with "Watchmen." But whatever the influences, it's so good that it becomes its own entity approximately five seconds into the movie.

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    6. Continued from above.

      One area of interest is in how the supers of either the film or TV show handle their jobs, and the people around them.

      On the surface, Mr. Incredible is a straightforward superhero, with powers and abilities far beyond etc, and he deals with the bad guy in a more or less straightforward manner.

      Drake Mallard often appears to bumble his way to success, almost as if it's more dumb luck than crime fighting talent.

      However, it's when the possible implications of both hero's actions are examined that things get interesting. For instance, there's an interesting scene where Bob and Helen rescue their kids in such a way that leaves at least three or two men dead. Their response? They turn to each other, sigh like a couple, and say "I love you".

      Again, maybe I read too much into something that's not meant to be, yet it seems interesting how, coupled with Bird's comments above, the superhero life can maybe inure people to the kind of destruction such a lifestyle would entail. I don't know, it was just a strange moment that caught my attention.

      Comparing it with Darkwing Duck, however, is interesting. Darkwing is clumsy, he's not very bright, he's bungler and sometimes a borderline ego maniac. Yet here's the interesting part. In the two part pilot episode, Drake rescues a little orphan girl, Goslyn from villains, and after taking care of her for the night and returning her to the orphanage, he later admits to himself that he pretty much has no life, or at least not one he'd wish on others. In the end, he adopts Goslyn as his daughter, and it's interesting to see how that dynamic plays out.

      For instance, in all his battles, Darkwing never really to hurt any of the villains. Yes he knows how to use his fist, yet he often prefers to pacify them with a gas gun more often than not. Also, on those occasions when Goslyn is in trouble, you can tell Darkwing is always genuinely worried about her. Now to be fair, this is part of Incredibles too. It's just interesting to see how Drake and Gos's relation builds, especially in an episode where she decides to become a kid super heroine herself. Drake literally doesn't want her risking her life, yet he ultimately let's her grow up.

      It's pretty clear that both Drake Mallard and Bob Parr, while dissimilar on the surface, show a lot of similarities below the surface. Both want to be recognized for something significant, and yet both want a normal home life. These were the tings that helpd make a simple Disney afternoon show so interesting.

      Sorry if I've gone off on a tangent though.

      ChrisC

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    7. "whatever the influences, it's so good that it becomes its own entity approximately five seconds into the movie."

      I agree - the Invincibles is so great. I actually just rewatched most of that the other night while Evelyn tried to make up her mind whether she was going to sleep or not, and it really holds up well. While watching this time, I just kept thinking good lord, why can't there be a FF movie like this? It doesn't quite remind me of anything specific to FF (probably more traces of Watchmen, actually) but it just put me in mind of the great potential of a FF film.

      As I like to say, all these turkeys need to do is film FF #236, for eff's sake. As Mr. Cressner says, "Well begun is half done."

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    8. I remember lots of people talking about "The Incredibles" as the best "Fantastic Four" movie we were ever likely to see at around the time it came out. I don't think it's a ripoff, exactly; and even if it is, it's a good enough one that I don't mind. I think the thing that movie got right that the actual F4 movies haven't so far is that they understood the family dynamic being an essential component; they took that and ran with it. Plus it's just got that cool semi-retro/semi-futuristic vibe.

      What a movie!

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    9. WHY DO I KEEP *#@*'N CALLING IT "THE INVINCIBLES???"

      Sorry for the all-caps, it just flabbergasts me how my brain dyslexifies certain things.

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    10. It was all worth it just for the use of the word "dyslexifies."

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  2. What a fantastic way to start off my Thursday. These pictures are great - or start off great; sadly, it seems you are right and Cinefantastique lost its covers and design mojo as the years wore on. But your hours of scanning are certainly well-appreciated on this end.

    One of these days I will start reading Peter Straub. I might work my way backwards through his catalog, actually. He and Tabitha Hill. I need to get on this. One of these dang ol' days...

    Nice catch on that Haunted Hill / Ghost Story connection!

    Coincidentally enough, I have a lost-box-during-a-traumatic-move story of my own from right around the same time. (2004 in my case.) I hear you. And while less personal-strife-ridden, I still mourn the loss of one particular box in the big move back from Germany in 1986. In addition to Pole Position and Gyruss and a few other much-loved Atari games, all the "comics" I'd created up to that point. (75 issues of The Deadly Dragonoid! Aaaaaaag... still hurts.)

    I'm a terrible offender in the unnecessary-dash-added-to-things department.

    There is so much good stuff in this post I don't even know where to begin. The King quotes from along-the-way (there I go again!) are all fantastic, particularly the bits related to Firestarter and Cat's Eye and Dino's madness. (Of which I've read much corroborating evidence over the years) The conceptual art and behind the scene stuff, too.

    Some of those reviews you quote are so laughable in retrospect. Or even contemporaneously. Ah well.

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    1. "Unnecessary" dashes?!? Nay, sir; I say thee nay! In fact, you use them with pinpoint accuracy, and the language-snob side of me always appreciates it.

      I suspect a great many people have I-lost-crap-during-a-move stories. All I know is, in the future I will be taking all possible steps to insure that nothing like that happens again.

      On the subject of your not being able to quiiiiiiiiiite find the time to start reading Straub and Tabitha King, I sympathize. I think we all probably have a short list -- or maybe even a long one -- of pursuits like that. Such is the life of a nerd! In my case, I'm perpetually intending to read more new authors, watch more Oscar-nominated movies, and listen to more Warren Zevon. As you say, ONE of these days...

      Glad you enjoyed the post. It was a huge amount of fun to put together, and though I thought I was never going to finish it, I think it was a worthwhile use of my time.

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  3. A lot to digest Bryant. Look forward to reading all of it soon but would like to say I have to get a couple of those and the older cover were amazing. The Dead Zone reminds me of something that's gonna bug me for a while.
    -mikeC

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    1. The sideways head on the ground reminds me a bit of a brief bit in Carpenter's version of "The Thing" where there's a sideways head on the ground. It's when the tongue shoots out and grabs something and tries to pull the rest to safety.

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    2. I'm thinking more a Dali or Magritte painting.
      Didnt someone make a fake commercial for a Thing toy set awhile back? That was awesome.
      -mike

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  4. Good news. I managed to find that Cinefantastique has a website!

    http://cinefantastiqueonline.com/

    They got reviews of current movies (including, unfortunately, the current Robocop film), retrospectives of classics from decades past like Night of the Living Dead, and the Wicker Man.

    Also, out of curiosity, do any of the back issues you own detail The Running Man? It's just something I've gained an interest in.

    ChrisC

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    1. If I remember correctly, one of the issues I just ordered this week has a "Running Man" article in it; if so, I'll mention in it in my next such post.

      It had not even occurred to me to look and see if CFQ had a website. Thanks for mentioning it! I'll check it out at some point soon.

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  5. Have you seen the trailer for Jodorowsky's Dune? It looks cool. I remember reading in Shock Value or Reel Terror (both of which are excellent) that Dan O'Bannon moved to Europe to help make that version of the movie for like 2 years then it never got made. Crazy.

    The Haunting of Julia is streaming on netflix.
    I listened to Ghost Story last year, it was pretty great. I saw the movie before so it was even better because it was ALL new bc nothing was in the movie haha!

    Dude could you imagine having Steve King writing Steve Spielberg letters about friggin poltergeist?!


    -mike

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    1. I have NOT seen the trailer for "Jodorowsky's Dune," but I knew the movie existed, and am planning to buy the Blu-ray whenever it comes out. Based on a few reviews I've read of the movie, it's going to be right up my alley.

      If I might indulge my Dune-nerdery for a moment, let me see that I would loooooooove to see somebody take that whole saga and give it the "Game of Thrones" treatment. Prequels included; those are inconsistent and (to say the least) poorly-written, but they have some good ideas that could most definitely be incorporated.

      I'd love to read that King/Spielberg "Poltergeist" correspondence. But to be honest, I don't mind that the collaboration didn't end up happening. I love that movie as-is.

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    2. Wow!

      Here's an article I found by Jodorowsky about his ideas for Dune:

      http://www.duneinfo.com/unseen/jodorowsky/

      I'm really not sure what to say exactly, except how on earth have this guy and Alan Moore never even met or collaborated on a project?!

      Then again, would it have worked if they gave Watchmen another retry with this guy at the helm?

      ChrisC

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    3. I've only seen one Jodorowsky movie, "El Topo," and I loathed it. To be fair, I saw it under poor conditions.

      I'd be all for "Watchmen" being remade, but only if it's a twelve-part HBO miniseries.

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  6. I hate being the bearer of sad new, and I didn't expect to be writing this, however:

    Harold Ramis (1944 - 2014) R.I.P.

    I pretty much grew up with is films, and it's only now that I realize it's his brand of SNL/SCTV influence comedy that I was raised on.

    Popmatters did a good retrospective article on him. It's opener is classic:

    "Consider this: a world without Animal House. Or Caddyshack, Stripes, Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day.

    "I can’t fathom how much less happy my childhood would have been without any one of them. A life without all of them? Unimaginable."

    All I know for sure is, without Ghostbusters, I'd have never known of Bill Murray, and from there I wouldn't have known of SNL, and from there I would never have known of Mad Magazine, and as a result, my personality wouldn't have had a kind of guiding reference.

    I can't think of a better tribute than that.

    Here's the Popmatters article:

    http://www.popmatters.com/post/179559-harold-ramis-empathy-for-the-rebel/

    While I couldn't find any current comment CFT, I did mange to find a good Ghostbusters archive from the site below:

    http://cinefantastiqueonline.com/?s=harold+ramis

    ChrisC


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    1. I was bummed out to hear about Harold Ramis dying, no doubt. I vote no to crap like that happening in the future.

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  7. If you ever decide to start this blog again I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on Rospo Pallenberg's script for "The Stand" (if you haven't read it it's easy to find online). Some of the changes he made are clever and well-done, others are just sort of silly but it's an interesting read.

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    1. I'd like to read that, for sure; sounds like a great topic for a future post. (And the blog is definitely not dead; it's just dormant until such time as my job isn't kicking my ass quite so hard.)

      I'll try to remember to go find the screenplay at some point. Thanks for the suggestion!

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  8. Interesting tidbit on "Rose Red". You've got to wonder how different Mick Garris's career might have been if he'd made those big-budget movies - I thought "The Stand" showed a lot more promise than we eventually got (apparently even Spielberg was impressed!). I get the feeling that his position as "the official Stephen King director" isn't entirely by choice.

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    1. Could be. I guess you've got to go to where the work is, and "The Stand" certainly got him more Stephen King work.

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