Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A(nother) Look at Some Vintage Magazines

A few weeks back, I published a post that delved into a slew of old Cinefantastique back issues I'd obtained, most of which had fun Stephen King content in them.  At that time, I was still waiting on a few other issues to arrive in the mail, and so I threatened promised to write a sequel to that post in the not-too-distant future.

Well, the not-too-distant future has arrived.  We still don't have flying cars, and the zombie apocalypse still hasn't broken out.  But by gum, I got those other issues of Cinefantastique in the mail, so at least some prophesied events have come to pass.

In addition to the Cinefantastiques, I also scooped up some other goodies, so we'll have a look at them as well.

Let's start off salaciously, with this:




Speaking of recent posts, I also put up a review of the short story "Night Surf" not long ago, and in the course of writing that, I obtained a copy of this 1974 issue of Cavalier, which contained the first professional publication of the story.  (It had also appeared in a 1969 issue of Ubris, a student publication at the University of Maine.)  I was curious to see how different the 1974 version of the story was from the 1978 version that appeared in Night Shift (King's first short-story collection), and I was shocked to find a copy of the magazine on Amazon for only about $10!

So needless to say, I snapped that sucker up right quick.


The story itself is almost entirely the same as the '78 revision, with a few cosmetic changes evident in the final collected version.  There is one substantial difference, however: for the '78 revision, King in a few places added the nickname "Captain Trips" in the place of referring to the flu exclusively as "A6."  What does this mean?  Well, it means that when he revised the story for its Night Shift inclusion, King wanted to make it a bit more clear that "Night Surf" does indeed take place within the universe of The Stand.

I love little details like that!  For this reason, I hope to someday build a complete collection of all of King's short stories in their original magazine/anthology appearances.

The issue of Cavalier also contained a sweet little bonus I didn't know about: an interview (of sorts) with the man himself, who had had his first novel (Carrie) released only a few months earlier. Here's how the magazine puts it: "Because we thought our readers would be interested to find out how it feels to 'hit the big time' with a first novel, we sent one of our ace interviewers, Stephen King, to interview Mr. King at his lakeside home in North Windham, Maine."

What follows is a self-interview of slightly more than a page.  It's a lot of fun, and assuming one wishes to actually count it as an interview, it might be one of the very first interviews with King ever published.  One of the questions he answers is the question of when and where he published his first-sold short story ("The Glass Floor," which King says sold to The Magazine of Horror and Strange Stories, although everything I've ever seen indicates that the story actually appeared in Startling Mystery Stories).  "And who published you next?" King asks.  "Cavalier did," King answers.

Here's an interesting passage:

Have you sold short stories elsewhere?

To a few of the other men's magazines.  I haven't written much that would fit comfortably into The Ladies Home Journal.

A few things about this jump out at me.  First of all, King would eventually appear in Ladies Home Journal: in the October 1981 issue, to be exact, with an excerpt from Cujo that appeared under the title "The Monster in the Closet."  (Gotta find a copy of that one of these days.)

More importantly, if King HAD indeed published any stories in men's magazines not named Cavalier, the knowledge of it seems mostly to be lost to time.  By 1974, he'd published roughly twenty short stories (including "Night Surf"), and of them, only one -- "The Float," an early version of "The Raft" which had sold to Adam but which King never actually saw a copy of -- appeared in a men's magazine.  So maybe King is fudging some details in this interview . . . or maybe he published other stories under a pseudonym which nobody these days knows about?

It's almost certainly the former, but the idea that it might be the latter is tantalizing, isn't it?

The interview closes thus:

Do you have any advice for unpublished writers?

Only Faulkner's.  Persevere.  Write mountains and be convinced every word of it's gold.  If you're good and if you're lucky, the tips of those mountains will poke through the sea of rejection.  Be an egomaniac if you have to, but keep writing.
As we know, King was both good AND lucky.  And he certainly kept writing!

Elsewhere in the magazine, one can find: a music column by Lenny Kaye about, amongst other things, Mott the Hoople and Black Sabbath; an interview with Merle Miller about his Harry S. Truman book Plain Speaking; a glorious two-page Record Company of America advertisement; some naughty cartoons; a guide to impressing women on your first date; an article titled "Bush Pilot," which, surprisingly, is about an actual bush pilot, and not a metaphorical one; and about five different nudie galleries.  As I am a blogger of fine, upstanding moral fiber, I will not replicate any of those photos, although I'm tempted to do so just for the sake of saying I did so.  To be honest, though, none of the photos are especially interesting; that tease-y one on the cover is easily the hottest of the bunch.

Moving on, we now come to Starlog, which was far and away my favorite magazine when I was a kid.  I had a decent collection of 'em at one point, but lost every single one in a move.  So recently, I picked up a few that were easily gettable and which scratched my nostalgia itch sufficiently.


art by Dick Kohfield
   
I love that cover art.  I've never seen a single episode of Space:1999, but it's on my list for eventual perusal.

This is a Stephen King blog, and since King wasn't involved in the sorts of movies and television shows Starlog covered, he won't really be a component of these magazines.  Consequently, I'm not going to cover most of them here.  However, I am going to talk about them at least a bit over at Where No Blog Has Gone Before.  You can find that post here if'n you're inclined to check it out.




The Star Wars coverage in this issue is marvelous, and here's a fact that will be of interest to King fans: some of the interviews with cast and crew members were conducted by Mick Garris!

Lots of cool behind-the-scenes photos of effects work being filmed; here are two of the best:





That's no guy holding a light meter next to a moon; it's a guy holding a light meter next to a space station!

There are no articles specifically focused on Stephen King material, but there is a one-page interview with Amy Irving that is ostensibly focused on The Fury, but spends some time on Carrie as well.  Check out the relevant section:




The idea of Sissy Spacek playing a six-year-old Carrie is just bizarre, isn't it?  Not hard to see why that got cut out.





Not gonna lie; I bought this one strictly because I love that damn Moonraker art (which is teaser-poster art, and not something created specifically for Starlog).

By the way, just when I thought it was a certainty that there would be zero Stephen King content in these Starlogs, there's this blurb in a news column: "In other bad news from Britain, an active set for Stanley Kubrick's production of The Shining was wiped out by fire in early February.  In addition to causing $2,500,000 damage to the EMI Studios soundstage, it is likely to add another three weeks to the production's shooting schedule.  The Empire Strikes Back, George Lucas' Star Wars sequel, was to begin production on the same soundstage in March, but has instead been transferred to Lee International Studios in Wembley."

Luckily, that ended well for pretty much everyone involved on both sides.


cover art by Roger Stine

Nothing King-related in that one, but I dig that Superman Richard Donner cover.

There IS, however, a cool one-page article about an upcoming $6 million "adaptation" of the Lovecraft mythos -- I use the quotes because it was evidently going to be less an adaptation than a pastiche -- that was intended to be the first of a four-film series.  None of 'em ever got made, which, judging from the concept art, is maybe a bit of a shame.

Let's have a look:




Speaking of never-made movies, there's another article about a would-be flick called Snails.  The following piece of concept art by Jim Danforth -- which is great -- gives you a pretty good idea of what the movie (which likely would have been less great) would have been about:




Glorious.




There are pages and pages of Alien interviews in this issue, all of which are pretty great.  I'll try and cover a bit of it for you:
  • Director Ridley Scott, asked what frightens him: "Claustrophobia frightens me.  I can't stand the thought of being restricted for a long period of time.  Obviously, then, I related to the dilemma of the crewmembers of the Nostromo.  Even worse than facing the alien is the thought of being in those cramped quarters for more than a year's time.   You have to relate on a very personal level to what frightens you the most."
  • Interviewer Glenn Lovell asks Scott, "Will you do another science fiction film soon?"  Scott answers, "My next film will certainly not be science fiction."  Scott's next movie ended up being Blade Runner, which, last time I checked, hella qualified as science fiction.
  • Producer David Giler, answering a question about whether Alien was influenced by Star Wars: "Alien is to Star Wars what The Rolling Stones are to The Beatles; it's a nasty Star Wars."
  • The man inside the alien suit was 6'10" graphic arts student Bolaji Badejo, who reminisced thus about the scene in which the creature confronts Lambert: "The idea was that the creature was supposed to be graceful as well as vicious, requiring slow, deliberate movements.  But there was some action I had to do pretty quick.  I remember having to kick Yaphet Kotto, throw him against the wall, and rush up to him.  Veronica Cartwright" [who played Lambert] "was really terrified.  After I fling Yaphet Kotto back with my tail, I turn to go after her, there's blood in my mouth, and she was incredible.  It wasn't acting.  She was scared."
  • Associate producer Ivor Powell on the subject of Ridley Scott's familiarity with the horror genre: "One of the good things about Ridley was that hadn't seen a Hammer film or any other horror films for that matter.  He used his own approach, and I think it works."  [Screenwriter Dan] "O'Bannon did show him The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, mainly to make Ridley realize the extremities to which you could go on the screen."
  • Conceptual artist H.R. Giger, answering a question about whether he enjoys cinema as a spectator: "The last film I have seen is one of the greatest films I have ever seen.  It's called Eraserhead; unfortunately, it seems to be presented in New York City only, as a Friday night late show.  I also never forget that I got my first fantastic impressions while seeing Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast, or, rather, stills taken from the film, published in an issue of Life magazine circa 1945.  American soldiers had brought us hewing gum and Life magazines.  I was five years old then.  And, as a matter of fact, many of my designs could be called "Beauty and the Beast." "
Fascinating!

Giger also talks his hopes that he will still someday get to work on a movie adaptation of Dune (Jodorowsky's version had fallen apart years before, and Lynch's version was still in the future), as well as about a small-budget film he worked on in 1969 called Swiss Made.  It was at least partially about an alien dog.  Thankfully, Cinefantastique had photographic proof of this:




I can't even tell you how delightful I find this to be.  I imagine the dog's reaction to being placed in such a ridiculous outfit must initially have been to be unhappy, but that it wore off pretty quickly, and led to the tongue-lolling peace evident in the above photo.  Sort of an "oh, well, I guess this is what life is now" attitude.

Gotta love dogs, man.

There are a lot of other great photos, too.  Here are a few:



Giger posing with one of the egg/cocoons.

Carlo Rambaldi and Giger posing with the alien head.

Seeing Giger in that "pilot's seat" both delights and terrifies me.


The cover art, by the way, is a detail of Giger's painting Necronom II, which is horrifying.  Within the pages of the articles on the movie, Cinefantastique posted a smaller, black-and-white image of the full painting.  See if you can spot the reasons why they cropped the image a bit for the cover:




I assume those are sandworms from Giger's work on Jodorowsky's Dune.

We now enter the Fangoria era of history, beginning with:




I bought this issue because it has a four-page interview with King in it.  (There is a Fangoria-derived book consisting of reprints of interviews with King and Barker, called Fangoria Masters of the Dark: Stephen King and Clive Barker, but unless my skimming was amazingly inaccurate, this particular interview -- the magazine's first with King -- is not included.  That book is nevertheless well worth having.)

Here are some highlights:

  • King on visiting the set of then-unreleased Stanley Kubrick adaptation of The Shining: "I got out to the set the second to last day of shooting and I got a chance to look around.  The security was extremely tight; there was everything but guard dogs around the place.  I didn't see any rushes, but I saw some lovely Kodachrome stills of the set, as it was at the time they were shooting everything.  It looked incredible!  The hotel looks like something out of 2001.  It's so big it beggars description."
  • "By the time I got there Nicholson and Duvall were gone.  They were finishing up filming a scene from the book where Halloran goes from Denver up to a town called Sidewinder where he gets a snowmobile from a guy who runs a garage.  Apparently they" [the crew] "saw the gas station that they wanted somewhere in Alaska and took a lot of photographs of it.  They've reproduced the thing entirely on the set.  Stanley said that if the guy ever goes to see the film he's going to be the most surprised gas station owner on Earth."
  • "I asked Stanley how closely he was following the plot and he said extremely closely.  There are going to be some minor changes, but nothing substantial.  In terms of plot, it's going to follow the book very closely, whether or not it's going to follow the book in spirit is something else altogether."
  • "I understand that there is one sequence in the movie where Danny goes into this game room that's full of electronic games.  Apparently, Kubrick assembled every advanced kind of electronic game in England and put them in this room; when the kid comes in they all come to life.  I don't see a whole lot of potential in that myself, though."  It's worth pointing out that when the time arrived for King to direct his own film, Maximum Overdrive, he had a scene in which -- you guessed it -- a bunch of video games come to life.
  • On his impressions of Kubrick's mood on-set: "He looks tired, but he seems happy and he seems pleased with what he was getting.  He didn't seem nervous or autocratic or anything else."
  • On the mind's tendency to leap to the worst possible conclusions: "I'll give you an example.  Oddly enough, the fiction editor of Maine Magazine was a guy named Gunnar Hansen, who played Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  He's a nice, gentle man, but it was very funny to see him holding my small son.  There was old Leatherface holding him on his lap and bouncing him up and down.  I even felt a little nervous about that."

In a sidebar, King discusses the sequel potential for 'salem's Lot, and it's so good I'm going to just replicate the entire thing:




 It is worth mentioning that this interview was published in 1979, and many of the elements of the potential sequel that King described ended up finding their way in The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla, which was not published until 2003.  Nearly a quarter of a century later!

So any of you skeptics who doubt King's word when he says something about how he had the idea for (as a couple of examples) Under the Dome or 11/22/63 long before actually writing the books, take note; here is proof of how wrong you are.

Also of potential interest to King fans in this issue: an interview with David Cronenberg about The Brood; the second part of a Richard Matheson interview; an interview with Jack Arnold (director of, among other classics, The Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Incredible Shrinking Man); an episode guide to Kolchak: The Night Stalker (the Darren McGavin show that was a profound influence in Chris Carter when he created The X-Files); and an article (featuring quotes from Ray Bradbury) about another Arnold film, It Came From Outer Space.  Accompanying that last article is a full-page replica of the movie's poster, which I cannot help but post:




The 2010s are superior to the 1950s in many regards.  Movie-poster art is not one of them.




If you grew up a movie fan during the 1980s, you almost certainly encountered Fangoria at some point, and if you encountered Fangoria at some point, you are probably accustomed to seeing bloody and gruesome images on the covers.  And if that's the case, then you might be looking at this particular cover with a bit of confusion, wondering who spilled Starlog all over this copy of Fangoria.

It's a fair question, but bear in mind, this was just #4; the editors were clearly still feeling their way toward a format.

And anyways, The Motion Picture remains my favorite Star Trek movie to this day, so I'm pleased as punch to see ol' Leonard N. on the cover.

That's not why I bought it, though; it's just a happy bonus.  No, I bought it -- as you've probably guessed -- because of the Salem's Lot article, which if nothing else contains this photo:




That's producer Richard Kobritz in the middle.  He produced Salem's Lot, which was directed by Tobe Hooper, pictured left.  He also produced the little gem of a television movie Somebody's Watching Me, which was directed by the fellow pictured right: John Carpenter.

So . . . how's the article itself?

Well, here are some highlights:

  • Kobritz's name is misspelled "Kubritz" throughout.  Oops.  I cannot even begin to imagine how embarrassing a gaffe like that must be for a magazine editor.
  • Partially filmed on location in Ferndale, California, the producers did not find a house that was moody enough in appearance to serve as the Marsten house.  What you see in the movie is merely a facade, built at a cost of more than $80,000.
  • Says "Kubritz" of the relationship between Straker and the Marsten house: "Straker is pristine like the outside of the house.  Inside is a chamber of horrors, representing Straker's inner self.  The house is beyond your wildest nightmare; everything rotten, no furniture.  Everything falling apart.  How could a man live in absolute decay?"
  • In talking about Barlow, Kobritz mentions the vampire as having only one line in the entire film: "Let me go," he is alleged to say.  Now, if I'm wrong about this, somebody keep me honest, but . . . that line ain't nowhere in the movie.  Is it?  My memory is that Barlow never speaks a word.  Like I said, if your memory is otherwise, let me know.

Other articles of potential interest to the horror fan include: an interview with makeup artist Herschell G. Lewis; a talk with director Don Siegel about the making of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (the original, not the the-recent remake); reminiscences on the film Curse of the Demon with star Dana Andrews; and the first part of a three-part look at "The Great Animated Apes" (those being King Kong, the Son of Kong, and Mighty Joe Young).

And now, we turn our attentions toward a two-part interview that appeared in issues #4 and #5 of the Marvel-published magazine The Tomb of Dracula back in April and June of 1980:





An edited version of the interview appeared in chapter four of the terrific book Bare Bones: Conversations on Terror with Stephen King, which ought to still be easily obtainable.  So obtain one already; you won't regret it.

Here's one succulent tidbit -- asked what effect the "peculiarity of Maine's rural atmosphere" has had on his work, King replies:

You write about the places you know about.  I would still write horror stories if I had grown up in New York City.  The only difference is that they would be urban horror stories.  There are things in New York that fascinate me, that I'd love to write about.  A cab driver told me once that there was an abandoned subway tunnel under Central Park... I thought, 'This is fantastic!'  In fact I've even had a book that I've wanted to write for about three years where that would work right in.  It would be a snap.  But I'm never going to try to do it, because I don't feel I know it well enough, even though I know it a lot better than any other place I've been to in the last three years.

This is a fascinating thing to consider: for every book King writes, or even begins writing, how many must there be that flame into existence inside his brain for a time only to never actually get committed to paper?  Is there, for him, some mental equivalent of those pieces of concept art for never-filmed movies like Snails and The Cry of Cthulhu, only representing books he never writes rather than movies nobody ever films?  There must be.  And only one man -- Stephen King -- will ever be privy to them.  Fascinating!

Speaking of fascinating, here's a pair of photos of King with his kids:





That's Owen in the middle, Joe mugging for the camera on the right, and Naomi, looking like she is only sort of tolerating all these goobers, on the left.  Pretty adorable, the lot of 'em.
  
Joe also features prominently in an anecdote King tells in answer to the question "What kind of things terrify you?"

The last time I was really terrified was probably the time that Joe got hit with a snow shovel.  Joe was a little younger than three.  It was snowing.  We were going to the library.  Joe and Naomi were scooting around with a snow shovel and I had a bunch of library books.  Then I heard Joe start to cry, and when I turned around he was face down in the snow.  I thought: the kid is crying because he got his face washed -- that's what we used to call it, falling on your face in the snow -- and then he got up on his knees and" [his] "face was totally gone.  It was covered with blood from top to bottom, and there was blood streaming down the front of his jacket.  I ran to him.  His eye was gone; it was just a sort of big glob of blood, but we took him and then we ran around like chickens with our heads cut off, my wife and I... Naomi and Joe had apparently been squabbling over the snow shovel, and somehow it had slipped and the corner severed his tear duct.  He was in the hospital for a week.  That was the last time I can remember experiencing really acute terror, when he got up on his knees from that face-washing, and there was no face, just blood.

That anecdote alone makes tracking this interview down worth its price, but there's plenty more where that came from.

As for the black-and-white vampire comics that serve as the bulk of these two magazines . . . well, I haven't read 'em yet.  I may try to do so for an upcoming installment of Bryant Has Issues, but I ain't makin' no promises on that score.




What a great cover that is!  John Carpenter, wearing a yellow sweater, sitting in front of a lit jack o'lantern, fog-machine fog rolling along behind him, looking barely tolerant of his surroundings.  Gotta love it.

Carpenter is interviewed by Jordan R. Fox, and had many, many things to say.  Here are a few:
  • On the fairly public spat between himself and Dark Star co-writer Dan O'Bannon: "Dan is a pretty unusual guy.  There's not a doubt in my mind that he's a genius in certain areas of drama and screenwriting.  He is truly one of the best editors I've ever worked with.  I will say that his major contribution to Dark Star, major above all others, was that he single-handedly edited the entire film.  But he did not direct one frame.  It's insinuated" [that he did] "and this is part of his anger and his disenchantment with me.  To be fair, Dan invested a great deal of his life in that film...  The movie business is tough; there are a lot of stakes in it."
  • Asked "What's your view on the resurgence o the horror film in recent years?" Carpetner answers thus: "I don't think it's just the horror film.  We're going back to escapist entertainment; the 'B' film is coming back.  By 'B' I don't mean less expensive, good, or important, but a film whose primary purpose is to entertain.  There was a great deal of pretension in film during the '60s and '70s: filmmaking is art.  The idea was that you are delivering a message of great importance.  This goes back to Antonioni and Fellini, the influence of the European film.  Now we're going back to the American cinema, filmmakers like Howard Hawks, Hitchcock, and John Ford -- entertainment movie-makers.  I'm happy, because this is the best kind of film there is."
  • On the subject of his telefilm Elvis: "Elvis came to me in the mail; my agent knew someone at ABC.  I'm a tremendous rock 'n roll fan -- equal with the movies.  I opened the script, aw the title, and said 'Yes.'  Elvis' music had done a lot for me, and I wanted to pay some of that back.  A lot of name directors had turned this project down, thinking it was too hard.  I saw it as a chance to avoid being typed as a director of horror movies.  I knew that whether it turned out bad or good, it would show that I could do other things."
  • On Halloween: "Halloween is not about a crazy guy killing people.  That's the story, but not what it's about.  The movie is about evil, and it's about sex.  In my opinion, evil never dies."
  • On the editing process: "It runs from a feeling of initial confidence all the way down to a feeling of 'Why did I make this movie?'...  The movie you make in editing is often not the movie you thought you were going to make...  The objectivity just goes after awhile and you feel drained, useless.  It's hard to say what works or not.  Then it just becomes a matter of timing and of instinct.  Concentrating on the film's pacing is what sees you through."



Elsewhere, Carpenter is his famously, outspokenly grumpy self, dissing everything from Alien to Star Wars to Taxi Driver to Dawn of the Dead.

There is also a good sidebar about Debra Hill, which I'll just post in its entirety:




I love that photo of Hill menacing Carpenter with the knife.

As if all the Carpenter-y goodness isn't enough, there's also a pretty good single page about some guy named Stephen King.  I'll post it, too, in its entirety:




That bit at the end about Dark Forces is a bit of an error, of course: it WAS an anthology, but not (as implied here) an anthology of King stories; instead, it was edited by Kirby McCauley.  It did, of course, include the first publication of King's "The Mist," so it's certainly notable for King fans.

Now, here's a delightful cover:


cover art by Kirk Henderson


There isn't a whole of of King content in this issue, but this IS where the review of Kubrick's The Shining appeared, and I figure I may as well post it up for you to see on your own:



It isn't a positive review, obviously.  But at least they had a few nice words to say about Shelley Duvall, who, as far as I'm concerned, is brilliant in that movie.

The main attraction for this issue, though, is obviously the retrospective on Alfred Hitchcock's film The Birds.  That one divides Hitchock-philes, with some folks claiming it was the beginning of his downfall as a filmmaker.  Not me; I think it's one of his masterpieces.  There is 22 pages of coverage in this magazine, and if I had my way, I'd post every single one of them.


Elsewhere, the magazine's reviewers and editors prove -- again -- how hopelessly they could come down on the wrong side of history in Frederick S. Clark's review of The Empire Strikes Back, which summarized at the top of the review thus: "A lifeless copy of Star Wars propelled chiefly on the momentum on that earlier film."

What

the

fuck

ever.

I'm not even entirely sure what that means, to be honest, except that I probably need not heed reviews written by Frederick S. Clark, should I encounter any of them in the future.  Reviewer Tim Lucas is on firmer ground when his analysis of Friday the 13th is summarized thus: "As disorganized as a film can be; more the end product of steady shooting than involve construction."  Right on, brother.  I attempted a marathon of all the Friday films this past Halloween (not all in one day, mind you; but for a week leading up to the day), and couldn't get past #4 in the series.  Those are dreadful movies.

Moving on!




This issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine includes the first publication of "The Wedding Gig," which would later be collected in Skeleton Crew.  I wish it didn't have that dadburn mailing label on the front, but what're ya gonna do?

And (as Forrest Gump might say) that's all I have to say about that.



I bet you weren't expecting to see an issue of Mad here, were you?

Well, the reason why it's here is that this is the issue which contained a movie parody of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining.  Titled "The Shiner," it features art by Angelo Torres, and was written by Larry Siegel.

I never read a huge amount of Mad when I was a kid -- I was always more of a Cracked kid -- but it held a great deal of allure for me.  I'd pick up the occasional issue and leaf through it, and chortle at the movie parodies, or Spy vs. Spy, or those ingenious foldover art pieces inside the back cover.  But my memory is that a great deal of it was typically over my head; I got that the joke was a joke, but I didn't actually get the joke, you know?

I'm probably not the only person who was ever confused by that magazine, and yet oddly attracted to it.  I would love to be able to tell you that years later, I became a Mad addict and expert, but that would be a lie.  I think I owned maybe a grand total of three issues until I bought this one; however many there were, they are long gone to that place where lost things go.

But who knows?  I'm young yet; there's still time to become a Mad addict.  A Maddict, even.

For now, though, I content myself with giving you "The Shiner":


Do you suppose the editors of Mad spelled King's name "Steven" on purpose for satirical reasons, or that they simply fucked it up?

I would say that about 75% of the jokes in the script fall flat on their face, and that about 50% of them would have done so even when the issue was brand-new.  For me, most of the humor comes from the art, which captures certain scenes from the movie uncannily well.  That probably means that Torres was drawing from photo reference, but so what?  Funny is funny, as far as I'm concerned, and the extent to which Torres has captured the scene in (as one example) the first panel on this page cracks me up.

I know it's satire, and that it's over thirty years old, but there are a few too many references to "Windy" being ugly for my tastes.  Personally, I'm rather attracted to late '70s / early '80s Shelley Duvall.  I gather from talking to other people that I am perhaps in a bit of a minority in this regard.  Fine by me.  Either way, I don't know that calling someone out for being "ugly" is something that even Mad ought to have been doing.


YRRAB NODNYL is maybe Kubrick's most underrated movie, for my money.

Marv Throneberry had a lifetime batting average of .237, according to Wikipedia.  Coincidence, or sly reference?  You be the judge.  Either way, that panel cracks me up.

"I'll feel funny, making more money than you!!!"  Ouch.  Very uncharitable, guys.


Speaking of being uncharitable...




First thought: who in hell would put Edith Massey on the cover of a magazine?!?

Second thought: an editor determined to lower his magazine's subscriptions and circulation.

Third thought: Bryant, stop being a lookist sumbitch.  Do you not remember the Shelley Duvall argument of a few paragraphs ago?

Fourth thought: hell with that, Edith Massey was hideous.

Fifth thought: how charming is that someone once upon a time bought this as a place called Leo's Book & Wine Shop?  Was said consumer already half in the bag and therefore less put off by the Edith Massey close-up, or did seeing it merely serve as a catalyst for speedier wine consumption?  There is, of course, a third option, but it is too horrible to mention.

I, of course, purchased this mag for Stephen King's nonfiction piece, which runs four pages, is titled "Stephen King's Guilty Pleasures," and consists of King talking about various films that fall into the guilty pleasures column for him.

Problem is, King doesn't entirely buy into the concept of guilty pleasures.

Here's how the essay begins:

     If I have anything to be guilty about in regard to the movies, it's probably that I've never felt guilty at all.  The best films leave me feeling nearly exalted with pleasure; the worst send me from the theatre bemused, feeling a little like Alice when she finally awoke -- "Really, I've had the most peculiar dream."  The only movies that really offend me are the boring ones, the ones where you realize, halfway through, that you are rocking the seat in front of you down with your feet in a kind of masochistic contest to see if you can get it all the way down safely or if your feet are going to get a really wicked pinch.  These are the movies when you find yourself sucking M&M's rather than actually eating them, because the issue of how long it will take that thin candy shell to melt has become more important than whether the guy will find his girl again or if the angry farmer is going to shoot the nice county kid's dog.  I found myself doing both of those things during Marlon Brando's long and maddeningly opaque monologue near the conclusion of Apocalypse Now (which was satirized by Mad magazine as A Crock O' Shit Now), and during almost all of the Neil Simon-Goldie Hawn-Chevy Chase Seems Like Old Times.
     A bad movie is not the worst offense against Constant Filmgoer; a boring one is.  When, as in Woody Allen's Stardust Memories, I find myself putting off getting a drink of water in the lobby so I will have something to look forward to, I know that I've been had.  I never had such a problem with The Devil's Angels, although it really was a stinker; I was so paralyzed by the sight of John Cassavetes in a Nazi coalscuttle helmet, boring down the middle lane of a California freeway with tears leaking out of his eyes, that I probably would not have gone out to the lobby even if told that the water-fountain was putting out beer.
     Nevertheless, I understand the concept of Guilty Pleasures (as pejorative and as elitist as that title may be) quite well, I think: It is a listing and a capsule commentary of films which you would just as soon not admit to the others in your Contemporary Film class that you liked.  I have no problem with that, since I'm not in a Contemporary Film class -- and if I was, I think that three weeks of listening to thin kids in white T shirts, scuffed Bass Weejuns, and wiffle haircuts explaining why Sunset Boulevard (or The Wild Bunch, or The 400 Blows, or take your pick) is Absolutely the Greatest Film Statement Ever Made would drive me absolutely insane.  Anyways, with no further ado, introduction, teaching, or preaching, here are my absolute chart-toppers when it comes to my own not-so-guilty pleasures:

At which point, he begins talking about Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.

There is so much to cover in those three paragraphs that I scarcely know where to start.  I disagree with a good bit of what King is saying here, and yet, the essay is so damned readable, and so clearly evocative of King's personality, that I can't help but be amused and entertained by it.  Above all, it's fun, which counts for a lot.

Once upon a time, I understood fully what a guilty pleasure was; there were movies (or music, or whatever) I liked that I probably wouldn't have wanted people to know I liked, lest they think me uncool.  Eventually, I figured out that I kind of was uncool whether they thought me to be or not, so I might as just enjoy what I enjoy and not worry about it.  Which, oddly enough, is cool; it's the definition of it, in some ways.

And so it is that I can proudly admit that the last CD I purchased -- just yesterday, in fact -- was the soundtrack to Muppets Most Wanted.  I've had songs from it stuck in my head all day.  One of the first albums I ever bought with my own money was the soundtrack to The Muppets Take Manhattan, but if any of my friends had found out I owned it back in the 7th grade or whenever, I'd have been horrified and ashamed.  Why?  Beats me.

I got over that long ago, though, so on the subject of guilty pleasures, I get where King is coming from.  I'm not sure I believe in 'em; they're just pleasures, no "guilty" involved in the process.

My sense of film theory is well-developed and is fairly consistent; or at least, I believe it to be those things.  Others might disagree, I guess.  This is the wrong venue to get into it, but it can be summarized with some adequacy thus: I judge a film based on my perception of whether it is successfully communicating what I believe it to be trying to communicate.  If it is, then I think of it as a good movie; if it is not, then I think of it as a bad movie.  And yes, it's just that simple.  And no, it's nowhere near that simple . . . but for now, it'll do.

My opinion does not necessarily prohibit me from disliking a movie I'd classify as good.  I'll give you an example: I borderline hate the movie 300.  And yet, I think it is a fundamentally good movie, one that is very successful in achieving its goals.  It's also a more complicated film than you might believe; it's all about war propaganda, and the lies our leaders tell us, and soldiers, to enable the war to be waged.  Do not for one second believe that the fact that it was released during the Bush administration and during the War on Terror is irrelevant; it is not.  So yes, I admire the movie; but I did not, and do not, enjoy it.

The flip side of that coin is that while I might not genuinely be able to hold something like, oh, the '80s Flash Gordon movie up as an example of good filmmaking, I nevertheless enjoy it.  Same goes for Krull, or any number of old-school sci-fi movies I could name.

To me, this seems like a fairly common-sense approach.  I won't say "simple," because it does require a modicum of self-reflectivity, analytical skill, and knowledge of cinematic language, all of which are things the average moviegoer does not possess, and would not wish to possess if he had the opportunity to do so.  And that's fine!  Most people have better things to worry about, and only want to be entertained for a couple of hours.

Where I take issue with King is in some of the specifics.  I'm not sure I know how anyone could be bored during Apocalypse Now, much less someone like King.  Is Kurt's monologue "long and maddeningly opaque"?  Sure, I guess so.  That was a long and maddeningly opaque war, and the point of the scene, as I've always seen it, is for Martin Sheen's horror at what he's seeing to be steadily on the rise the longer the scene goes on; we're feeling a safer, more remote version of what he would be feeling during such an encounter.  Is Kurtz frustratingly, annoyingly insane?  Yes, but that isn't the pointl the point is how Martin Sheen's character feels about him.

Stanley Kubrick used to pull tricks like that all the time; Ridley Scott did it for a while, too, until he seemingly forgot how.

But I digress.

I'd also have to say that I don't know how anyone could dislike Seems Like Old Times.  Granted, I haven't seen it since I was probably 12 or 13.  Maybe it sucks.  Let's forget I mentioned it.  It's similarly been too long since I saw Stardust Memories for me to feel good about mounting too vigorous a defense for it; but I do not recall being even slightly bored by that film.  I'm on firmer ground defending The Wild Bunch, which is a GREAT movie, and about as far from boring as you can get.

Granted, we all have different conceptions of what "boring" means.  A much more modern version of King than the one who wrote this 1981 essay is on record as saying that Mad Men is boring, whereas I don't think I've seen more than half a handful of episode of that series that did not utterly rivet me.  But I'm versatile; I can also find a great deal of joy out of an essentially trashy movie like The Toxic Avenger (which IS, admittedly, quite bad in some respects . . . but which is also a fairly spot-on pastiche of Stan Lee style comic books).  The key for me is that the film be successfully communicating something to me.  Tell me something, man!  I don't much care what it is, just tell me something!

The students of that hypothetical Contemporary Film class can, of course, get quite pretentious about things.  You might be accusing me of pretension after the last few paragraphs; if so, fine by me.  But I think that if a fella is going to try and be a lover of film in anything more than a strictly entry-level sense, it's kind of essential to develop some version of a personal philosophy of film rhetoric.  If nothing else, you'll sound smarter when you're trying to fight off the trolls on some damn comment thread somewhere.

Either way, I think that King's attitude here helps to explain why he was never able to engage with Kubrick's The Shining on its own merits.  It seems to me that it would have been hard for him to do even if he hadn't written the novel it was based on; since he did, it must have been a near-impossibility.  It also probably helps to explain why he is okay with directors like Mick Garris and Tom Holland mucking up movies based on his books.

Anyways, the other films discussed in the essay are: Bloody Mamma; Killers Three; Sorcerer; The Horror of Party Beach; The Amityville Horror; The Wild Angels; Suspiria; and Night of the Juggler.  Of those, I am ashamed -- and slightly gratified -- to note that I have seen only one, The Amityville Horror, a movie I quite like.  King has witty things to say about each and every one of them . . . but to find out what those things are, you just going to have to find a copy of the essay.  The urge to put images of the entire thing here is strong, but I'd hate for Stephen King to be able to accuse me of bogarting his essay, so we won't go down that road.

In summary: while I am intellectually opposed to some of what King is saying here, he's saying it in so delightful a fashion that I don't give a damn.  This is a terrific essay, and it serves as another piece of proof that a collection of King nonfiction is WAAAAAAAAAAAAY overdue.

Elsewhere in the magazine are interviews with John Boorman, John Waters, and John Sayles, none of which I read, but all of which probably ARE, nevertheless, worth reading.  I believe there were other interviews with people named something other than John, but I wouldn't swear to it.




There's all sorts of great stuff in this fifth-anniversary Starlog spectacular, but for our purposes, we are probably most interested with the John Carpenter interview.  It may not have made the front cover, but I'll try and compensate for that ever so slightly by giving you the entire interview, which is cool and has a few good on-set photos:


"I have no intellectual explanation for why I cast him," says Carpenter of hiring Donald Pleasance to play the President of the United States.  Which is essentially a gussied-up shrug.

I could be wrong about this, but . . . that ain't Donald Pleasance tied to that chair.  Is it?  Looks more like a stand-in to me, which probably means that the photo was taken while coverage of Harry Dean Stanton was being filmed.  Either that, or I'm crazy and my eyes are deceiving me.


Rumors of El Diablo being "not dead at all" were, sadly, exaggerated; the movie never got made.


Next up:





I mean, come on, right?  Clearly I bought this because it's got Roger Moore on the cover.  But I have to say, that interview with Snake Plissken Kurt Russell didn't hurt.

Contained within:




2014 magazines ain't runnin' no damn mail-in ads for the motherfuckin' Necronomicon.  1981 wins by a landslide in this regard.

There's a lot of great stuff in this issue, including interviews -- both continuations from previous interviews, sadly for me (although who am I kidding, I'm angling to eventually build a full Starlog collection) -- with two Georges, Takei and Lucas.  There's also a feature on Raiders of the Lost Ark, plus one on a Roger Corman sci-fi flick called Mind War: An Infinity of Terror.  I'd never heard of it, and that's because it eventually got retitled Galaxy of Terror.  I'd never heard of that, either.  But I thought the page of accompanying photos might be worth reproducing:




See anyone of interest on that page?

Incidentally, I once met Sid Haig at Dragon*Con.  Cool motherfucker, Sid Haig.  Bought an autographed poster off of him; it's hanging in my closet still, and I see it practically every day.  It's him playing Captain Spaulding in House of 1000 Corpses.  He asked if I wanted him to write anything specific, and I answered without pause, which is why my poster reads "To Bryant -- 'And most of all, FUCK YOU!'."  Which, if you're a House of 1000 Corpses fan, is pretty dang cool.  If you're not, it's probably less cool.




I am a huge fan of Conan the Barbarian.  Not in the ironic way; not as a guilty pleasure.  Nosir, I flat-out think it is a great movie, Ahunld and all.  In fact, if you were to somehow dial into my brain remotely and do some sort of mental search that sought to definitively answer the question "what does Bryant wish he looked like?" the odds are good that this is one of the images that might come up:




Does that mean that, given my druthers, I would be a crudely-camouflaged, muscle-bound, blood-soaked barbarian, shirtlessly wielding a massive sword and exacting vengeance on behalf of a wronged king?  Well . . . maybe, maybe not.  But I'd certainly be okay with being able to pass for one at sci-fi cons.

There is other good stuff in this issue, too, including an update on John Irvin's movie adaptation of Peter Straub's Ghost Story, as well as a review of the recently-released-in-America Straub film The Haunting of Julia.

There's also this, which caught my eye:




The controversy over the extent to which Spielberg actively directed Poltergeist certainly did not abate during the months between this sidebar's publication and the film's release the next summer.  It hasn't really abated much in the 32 years from there to here, either.

For my money?  It's a terrific movie no matter who did and who didn't direct it.  I'm not enough of a Tobe Hooper expert to say whether Poltergeist feels of a piece with his other films.  But I am enough of a Spielberg expert to say that Poltergeist unquestionably feels like a Spielberg movie.  Does that mean he ghost-directed it?  It certainly does not.  But it DOES mean that regardless of any other consideration, the movie looks and sounds like Spielberg, from the editing to the cinematography to the music.

Good enough for me.




When last we visited with Fangoria, they were running benign covers of Christopher Lee and Leonard Nimoy.  Fast-forward a couple of years and we now have Alice Krige with half of her face rotted off.  So clearly, the editors figured out at some point during that time that gross covers moved units.

Our primary interest here is, obviously, the movie of Peter Straub's Ghost Story, which is covered via a pair of interviews: with screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen and with Straub himself.

Let's begin with Cohen, who, you may remember, also scripted Brian DePalma's Carrie:
  • On the appeal of the novel Carrie: "What was terrifically appealing to me was that the book had the magical quality of a fable.  As someone once said to me, if the Brothers Grimm were alive today, Carrie is what they might have written."
  • On Brian DePalma's subsequent film, The Fury: "I do think that he's best off with a simple straight-line story.  The Fury, for example, is a concoction of stories that couldn't be harnessed to a simple line.  As a result, that movie isn't particularly satisfying, though it is spectacular from a directing standpoint.  I think Brian's interested in different things than certain of us are.  His storytelling sense is a very visual one, and he tries to achieve, I think, a certain choreography in space.  So I think he's best off when the story is as simple and clean as Carrie was."
  • On prioritizing the elements of the adaptation process for Ghost Story: "One" [element] "was simplification, the most obvious job that any adaptor would bring to it.  It meant finding a line in it -- unlike Carrie, where the line was incredibly apparent.  There were a number of things in Ghost Story that were irresistable, but would not string together in any straightforward line of beginning, middle and end.  A number of different films could have been made from that material, and we chose one that we felt was consonant with our feelings about the book and the film.  That was one area, ridding ourselves of a wealth of material that simply wouldn't fit into this picture; and, even when I reached the seventh, eighth and ninth drafts of the screenplay, there were things that we cut in preproduction simply because the picture was going to be too long, and there were sequences that were shot, but don't appear in the picture for the same reason.  But deciding what to use and what not to use was the easier part of it, a matter of instinct, taste, and brains.  More difficult was the reinterpretation and reslanting of the material, and that's where the major attention went."
  • On what elements of the novel he most misses in the movie: "We lost things like the Dedham girls, and Elmer Scales, both of which were stories that I particularly loved, and are now no longer in it.  The single most difficult decision concerned the presence of Gregory and Fenny Bate, who are still in the film, but serve an entirely different purpose, and are not the supernatural characters they were in the book."
Straub had thoughts such as these:
  • On the script: "I did look at it, and I could see that the book had been changed a lot.  And that's fine by me, because they have to change books when they turn them into movies -- or they're terrible movies."
  •  On the vagaries of casting evident in the production of Full Circle [a.k.a. The Haunting of Julia]: "One example is that, in the book, Magnus Lofting is a 55 year old, 250 pound, upper class Englishman.  In the film he is played by Keir Dullea, who's about 35 and weighs about 160 pounds.  And has an American accent.  He doesn't make any sense!  And he's supposed to be the brother of Jill Bennett, who's about 55 and has an upper class English accent.  But you don't understand why he sees this woman, why he goes and has coffee in her apartment.  Because there's no reason -- they don't look alike, they don't talk alike, they can't be related.  That central flaw in the casting throws a lot of things out of kilter."
  • On short stories versus novels: "I find it very difficult to write short stories because I find I can think of an idea, but after I've thought of the idea, I'm no longer interested in writing it down.  Because it seems like it's all solved already.  Probably that isn't the real way stories are written, but it's as though the conception solves the problem.  And once the problem is solved, I can't think of any reason to go along with the act.  Novels are an act of discovery for me, or a process of discovery, and one has a great deal of room in which to make that discovery.  Whereas in a short story -- especially in supernatural short stories -- the discovery is instantaneous and there's a 'hook' and that's it.  And I don't care about that, so I'm not interested in doing it.  I don't even like to read short horror stories very much."
  • Does he tone down the horrific elements in his novels to make them more palatable to critics or readers?  "No, never," he answers.  "If anything, I have the reverse sort of situation in which it isn't quite as gruesome as I'd hoped it would be, and I have to 'dress it up' a little.  I wouldn't want to tone down the horror because part of the point is that the horror must be shocking, it must have an impact."
  • On an upcoming project with his friend, Stephen King: "Steve and I are writing a book called The Talisman, and when I am done with this book now," Straub said (in reference to Floating Dragon), "then we'll actually start to write The Talisman.  But what we've done is outline about two-thirds of it, a very careful outline, down to the dialogue even.  So the writing's going to be easy.  In a way, I think the outline is the best thing I ever wrote -- it's just dazzling!  I am convinced that book is going to be a knockout, that it's going to be a big, big commercial success and that it's a book that'll be around for a long time.  Because it has all kinds of unusual and striking material in it, that has to be called fantasy-horror.  That's not a genre I know anything about, and I'm glad I don't know anything about it, because I think we're inventing it!"
  • Straub compares horror to a specific genre of music: "Horror writing is like the blues.  That's the way I really feel about it.  There's an incredible richness and variety in what seems an ordinarily limited stock of situations.  But it's only limited to the extent that your imagination is limited.  You know there's a certain chord progression, and that's the blues!  Twelve bars and then it repeats itself.  But -- what you can do with that chord progression is staggering..."






I bought this issue simply because it promised to have a huge amount of Conan info, but there was a nice bonus waiting inside: a fairly lengthy article about the making of Creepshow!  Being a fan of Conan the Barbarian is reward enough on its own, but when it inadvertently leads to a unexpected Stephen King acquisition, that's yummy icing on a yummy cake.

Before we discuss the Creepshow content, a word about the Conan content: awesome.  A few more words: there are so many terrific photos that I don't even know where to begin.  So I simply won't begin, as it will lead to me posting about two dozen images, some of which are rather NSFW.

I'll try to make up for it by posting this review of Ghost Story, with which it is difficult to argue in general, but perhaps a bit easier to argue with in terms of its specifics.  You be the judge:




Now, what says Cinefantastique in this issue on the subject of Creepshow?  Let's hit a few highlights:
  • Says reporter Paul Gagne, "Part of the reason UFD" [United Film Distribution, who funded the film's $8 million budget] "was willing to gamble so much on a horror anthology -- films of the sort have never been especially successful -- was Romero's enviable track record: Dawn of the Dead, which UFD also distributed, has grossed more than $50 million, making it one of the most successful independent films of all time."  I had no idea Dawn of the Dead had been that big a hit!
  • Stephen King indicates that he did not write the role of Jordy Verrill with the idea of playing the role himself.  He says, laughing, "I've been telling people that if I had written it for myself, I would have put at least one sex scene in there.  Or maybe not a sex scene, but at least a vision of Jordy sitting there with some painted woman who would look like something out of one of his magazines -- a real '50s-style whore!"  Not, perhaps, one of King's more tactful quotes for an interviewer.  But the thought of Jordy imagining that the meteor will bring riches and fame, and that that in turn will bring what a substitute teacher I once had referred to as "poontang" -- that's a mildly delightful idea, and one that would have fit in with the movie pretty well.  (By the way, I suspect that when Tabitha King read this article -- if she read it -- she got to this section and had a few choice words for her husband.)
  • Director George Romero on the subject of King's performance:  "He's not at all intimidated by the people around; he really cuts loose.  He's taking real chances with it and doing it very broadly, which I think is very brave.  It's perfect for what the character has to be.  And although I've never really worked with Steve as an actor, I have a feeling it's a pretty conscious performance, and that he could be a lot more subtle."
  • Tom Savini did the film's makeup effects, and the decision to do so was an agonizing one: he'd been offered the chance to direct a movie for William Friedkin, a murder-mystery titled Night of the Burning Moon.  But he opted to stay loyal to Romero, and work on Creepshow.  [Which seems to have perhaps been the wise move: as far as I can tell, Night of the Burning Moon never got made!  Did Savini dodge a bullet, or did the movie fall apart when he opted out of directing it?  Unclear.]
Here are a few photos I scanned in from the article:


What a hick.

That's King with Tom Savini, of course.

Savini is, here, posing with the head-replica of actress Carrie Nye, who appeared in the "Father's Day" segment.


We now turn our attentions away from Creepshow and toward The Twilight Zone Magazine:





In this issue: fiction from, among others, Lewis Shiner, Joe R. Lansdale, and Robert Silverberg.  I've read none of it, which is almost certainly a mistake.  I've also not yet made time to read the preview piece on John Carpenter's The Thing, but really, there's not much need; I was sold on that movie long ago.  One of my favorite flicks of the era.

Elsewhere, Stephen King talks about what is NOT one of my favorite flicks of the era: The Boogens, which currently holds a 5.1 rating on IMDb.  Granted, I've never seen The Boogens.  But Steve King's review makes me kinda want to.  The review is titled "Digging The Boogens," which is perhaps an even more unfortunate title than The Boogens itself.

Says King:

     It isn't just "kind" of a relief; it is a distinct relief.  It isn't a message movie disguised as a horror movie (Wolfen), not some intellectual director's attempt to "rise above the genre" (The Shining, Ghost Story), not a snuff film disguised as a horror movie (Maniac).
     It's -- gasp! -- an "old-fashioned pretty good low-budget" horror movie.
     It's The Boogens, a meller from Taft International.  A lot of my horror-moviegoing friends have had very little good to say about this one.  But most of those guys -- I'm sorry to say it -- have gotten uptown tastes since we were all kids together and getting the creeps over Boris Karloff in The Terror or Jack Nicholson in The Little Shop of Horrors.  They've gotten weird, speaking well for scenes which don't horrify and defending scenes which only turn the stomach, and in the meantime, much of what made the genre our toy to start with has gotten lost . . . or maybe it only went underground, like the Boogens themselves.

 Again: there needs to be a collection of King's nonfiction.  Would it sell?  Not to the level of his fiction, no; of course not.  But it'd do okay, and would certainly be profitable.  Somebody make this happen!

I can't honestly say that King persuades me to give The Boogens a chance; but he persuades me to at least consider it, and that's not too shabby.

We stick with The Twilight Zone for a bit:




Here's how King's article from this issue, "The Evil Dead: Why you haven't seen it yet . . . and why you ought to," begins:

When I met Sam Raimi at the Cannes Film Festival in May of 1982, my first thought was that this fellow was one of three things: a busboy, a runaway American high school student, or a genius.  He wasn't a busboy, and Raimi finished high school some time ago, although he has the sort of ageless sophomore looks that are going to keep bartenders asking to see his driver's license or state liquor card until he's at least thirty-five.  That he is a genius is yet unproven; that he has made the most ferociously original horror film of 1982 seems to me beyond doubt.  The only problem is that you may never see it.

He goes on to explain that "most of the large American film distribution nets have now passed on Raimi's independently financed film."  King's take on the film is that it "has the stupid power of a good campfire story -- but its simplicity is not a side effect.  It is something carefully crafted by Raimi, who is anything but stupid."

So, what's with the American non-release?  "Evil Dead may never play an American screen," King reports, "but deals have been made in several foreign countries, including the lucrative Hong Kong market."  King says -- probably from a place of knowledge, although that is not entirely clear -- that the film's investors are likely to make their money back on this level of foreign release alone; the implication is that there might not be a huge push to go much farther once that base level of success has been achieved.

But there may be light at the end of the tunnel: the film is (was) now in the hands of Irvin Shapiro, who King describes as being possibly "the oldest and sharpest handler of independent film productions in the free world," with experience apparently dating back -- literally -- to working publicity for Sergei Eisenstein's Potemkin!

As we know, the story had a happy ending.  IMDb lists the film's American release date as April 23, 1983, and also lists its gross as of December 31 same year as $2.4 million.  That's not a huge it, but since they also list the budget as a mere $375,000, it's enough.

Today, most horror fans consider the movie to be a classic of sorts, if not on its own merits then certainly in terms of its impact.  Isn't it odd to consider a time in which the movie's very release was in question?  It's a weird old world we live in, and who knows how many times situations like this have been resolved in exactly the way that DIDN'T result in a decades-enduring cult classic being delivered to its small-but-adoring public?

Also of interest to King fans is an interview with The Thing director John Carpenter, who at that time was planning for Firestarter to be his next picture.  Interviewer James Verniere asks, "Why do you want to adapt Stephen King's Firestarter?"

"I like that story," answers Carpenter.  "It's about a drug experiment conducted in the sixties that alters the glands of a couple who later have a daughter who can start fires with her mind.  The government finds out, and it becomes a chase about a little girl who is pyrokinetic and a mutant.  I want to do it because it's exciting."

Seems like solid reasoning to me, John.  Sadly, it never came to pass; Universal kicked Carpenter off the project after The Thing proved to be such a financial disappointment.  One can only speculate as to how such things would have turned out, but I'd love to be able to see what an early-eighties version of John Carpenter's Firestarter might have been like.  We got Christine from him instead, though, and that's good enough for me.

Elsewhere, there's a preview of Halloween III, fiction by Al Sarrantonio and Joseph Payne Brennan (among others), and reviews of E.T., The Thing, and Poltergeist which are at least not as infuriating as the sort of thing you might see in Cinefantastique.




Another fantastic double-issue extravaganza here, with oodles of coverage of John Carpenter's The Thing, plus a heapin' helpin' of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial stuff, including the following photo, which blows my mind:




The main attraction, of course, is the coverage of The Thing.  As with the Conan the Barbarian stuff from a few issues back, there is simply too much good stuff to properly deal with within the confies of this post.

I can't resist posting a couple of goodies, though:


I tend to assume that this concept was dropped because it was a bit too reminiscent of Alien.  But it's pretty dang creepy.

That's a fake dog.  Coulda fooled me.


The magazine also contains an extensive look at the special effects of Poltergeist.

And as if that wasn't enough, there is a single page of King-related content: a sidebar announcing that David Cronenberg had been hired to direct The Dead Zone, plus a brief article about the John Harrison score for Creepshow.  (Speaking of which, that score will be part of the focus of an upcoming post on King soundtracks released over the past few months, of which Creepshow is one.)




I bought this because it has the first appearance of King's short story "Word Processor of the Gods" (here titled "The Word Processor").  Eventually, I'll read it and see if there are any major differences between it ad the version collected a couple of years later in Skeleton Crew.

I don't have much interest in the rest of the issue, but I can't help but point something out about the cover: I have no idea who Audrey and Judy Landers are.  I might if it were 1983, but I sense that even then, it'd only be a "might."  Evidently, they were at least worthy of a cover-story Playboy pictorial at one point in time.  But if you're big fans of theirs, I've got disappointing news for you: they don't show much here. 




There are three things mentioned on this cover: James Bond, Star Trek, and Disney World.  All three are on my list of obsessions.  So, yeah, pretty happy with this issue.

I should probably port the Bond coverage over to You Only Blog Twice, which is (you guessed it) yet another of my blogs, the title of which is obviously a bold-faced lie.  However, that blog is -- for the time being, at least -- strictly composed of reviews, and does not have quite the freedom of form that, say, The Truth Inside The Lie has.  So, the Bond coverage must live here.  We'll start with a cool photo of Roger Moore (he said, as if there were any other kind):




Octopussy director John Glen had this to say about the film's unexpectedly-relevant plotline:

When we were writing the plot for Octopussy, we had little idea that it would be virtually the truth.  There is a big scandal in Moscow about the State Circus.  Brezhnev's son-in-law was involved in the scandal.  The State Circus was being used to smuggle jewelry into Russia.  In other words, they were taking payment, presumably, from the various places they performed, but they didn't take money, they took jewelry.  They raided this guy's flat and found a million dollars worth of gems.  And by some strange coincidence, that's part of our story.

As I write this, ole Vladimir Putin is in Russia cuttin' some didoes with a certain next-door neighbor.  Which may mean that in the next few years, the James Bond franchise might get another opportunity for the Russkies to be the bad guys again.  That might or might not turn out to be a good thing for the Bond series; it's almost certain to be of no particular benefit to anyone else.

A separate article interviews Richard Maibaum, the screenwriter who at that point had been helping to write the Bond series (off and on) for over twenty years.




Maibaum has many interesting things to say, none moreso than his thoughts on the issue of which of the Bonds is the better: "In a strange way," he says, "some people like Roger better than Sean.  I certainly don't.  I think Roger does very well.  He's suave, witty, and so forth, but as far as I'm concerned, he has a dimension of disbelief.  He does what I consider unforgivable: he spoofs himself and he spoofs the part.  When you start doing that, the audience stops laughing.  Just play the part."

This is an uncharitable way of looking at things.  That's one way of putting it, I guess (even though a great many people agree with Maibaum's assessment).  Remember, however, that Maibaum wrote the Roger Moore movie that year, NOT the Sean Connery one!  You can't exactly accuse him of shilling for the competition here, but he's walking right up to the edge of that precipice and pissing off of it.  Can you imagine such a situation in 2014?  It'd be damn near unthinkable.

The magazine also gives coverage to 1983's second Bond film, Never Say Never Again, which was made by rival producers who had obtained remake rights to Thunderball as the result of a decades-long legal battle.  They successfully lured original 007 Sean Connery (pictured below with co-star Barbara Carrera) back for one last go-round in the hopes of knocking the Roger Moore series of Bonds out of the limelight.




The article isn't of huge interest; it probably would have been in 1983, though, when knowledge of how and why the Thunderball lawsuit came to be would have been more difficult to come by.  I was a Bond fan practically from the moment I began watching movies, and was cognizant that Never Say Never Again was different in some way; but I don't believe I encountered any info on the specifics of why it was different until years later.

It's a dreadful film, though, and if you wish to know where I come down on the great Battle of the Bonds of 1983, you need only read my reviews of Octopussy and Never Say Never Again.

*****

Well, this post has gotten way out of hand, so I think it's best to cut it here, and pick it up in a part three.

See you then!

14 comments:

  1. Wow. There's a lot to talk about here.

    Taking the last item first, there is a Bond fan theory which goes roughly like this:

    James Bond is not a man but rather a secret service Code Name that is passed on to various MI6 agents at various times in order for them to take up both the identity and agent status that goes with it.

    This theory, so it goes, helps explain why we see so many 007s with totally different and at-odds personalities, such as the one pointed out by Maibaum between Moore and Connery.

    My own take on the fan theory is I can go either way. I will say it makes a nice tie-in to yet another fan theory regarding Nick Cage's "The Rock". Mainly that the Sean Connery character of Mason is, in fact, the original 007! Take it all however, I will say that viewing Mason as the first agent to take on the Bond name does give him an interesting depth that seems to be missing from most ,if perhaps not all, the others (here I'm thinking of Lazenby, bits Brosnan, and Craig). In particular, I'm thinking of Connery's line that goes: In retrospect, I'd rather have been a poet, or a farmer." It's lines like that which make me think the first still deserves to be called the best.

    On to other topics:

    Oh dear. Caroline Munro. I know which movie they're talking about in that issue, and I even know Roger Corman had a hand in it! The film is called Starcrash (which is of course NOT trying to rip off any better American SF film!) If there's any candidate for THE guilty pleasure, this film is definitely top of the list. As for Munro...

    ...Sorry, you were saying? Oh yes, Roger Corman!

    I actually think he doesn't get enough credit, to tell the truth. Yes, there are more hits than misses, and yet it's wrong to say he has neither a certain amount of talent, plus the ability to spot real filmmaking prowess (Coppola, Scorsese, Bogdanovich etc). For instance, there are the Poe films, and his producing of Dementia 13 and the best Karloff film, Targets.

    A good source for Corman is the book "Crab Monsters, Teenage Cavemen And Candy Stripe Nurses: by Chris Nashawaty. It features interviews with Corman, and stars like Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern, Jack Nicholson, Joe Dante and Dick Miller. The list is almost endless. It also showcases posters and still from the kind of Grindhouse/Schlock genre Tarantino made famous.

    The real problem is how few modern audiences outside of Tarantino seem to know or care about this genre. Admittedly, the schlock genre is one you either give in to or dismiss whole-heartedly without a second glance; I guess. All I know is I've always had a soft spot for this kind of film since is saw a Vincent Price documentary. Also, Nashawaty's book features the following endorsement on the cover:" Fantastic-a treasure" - Stephen King.

    Some excerpts are featured on RogerEbert.com:

    http://www.rogerebert.com/balder-and-dash/book-excerpt-crab-monsters-teenage-cavemen-and-candy-stripe-nurses

    ChrisC

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    1. One of these days, I'm going to need to familiarize myself with Corman. He looms large, but I've never seen a single movie that he directed, and only a few that he produced. Never saw "Starcrash," for example, although I suspect I'd enjoy it in much the same way I enjoy another Corman-produced sci-fi flick, "Battle Beyond the Stars."

      And now, let me address the "Bond is a codename" issue.

      The answer to that is no. Just plain "no," period, no frills to it. It's a nonsensical hypothesis perpetrated by people who think they are being clever, but are actually not paying much attention. The films themselves simply do not permit for the hypothesis to be borne out.

      Eventually, I plan to write an entire post about this at You Only Blog Twice, but I will give you a few highlights of why the movies do not bear the hypothesis out:

      (1) In "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," Bond announces his retirement from MI6, and then goes to his office and starts sentimentally looking through a drawer of curios he's collected from his missions. If Lazenby is not playing the same person as the person who collected them, why would he be looking at them and remembering them? (Which cues in the music imply that he is.)

      (2) In "The Spy Who Loved Me," Roger Moore's Bond turns very -- and uncharacteristically -- serious when Anya makes a reference to his dead wife. Bond had a wife die once upon a time; in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service."

      (3) In "For Your Eyes Only," Roger Moore visits Tracy's grave. If he were playing a different man, then that would mean he was visiting the grave of George Lazenby's dead wife. Which would be odd.

      (4) In "Licence to Kill," Timothy Dalton's Bond is also said to have been married once, and for it to have not ended well. There is no explicit mention of OHMSS or Tracy, but the evidence listed above makes it an act of willful ignorance to not assume that's what is being talked about.

      As for the Brosnan movies, there are no explicit bits of evidence linking them, except for the continued presence of Desmond Llewelyn as Q.

      Things do admittedly get murky when Daniel Craig shows up, but since there are zero explicit references to earlier Bond films, I'd say it's a massive leap to assume that "Casino Royale" is anything but a reboot. Judi Dench's continued presence as M confuses the issue a bit; I would argue that you COULD use that as a piece of evidence to support the "Bond as codename" hypothesis, but that it would be one of only about two semi-credible pieces of evidence. (The other being Lazenby's "This never happened to the other fellow" line, which works only if you insist on NOT seeing it as a fourth-wall violation . . . and I'd argue that it clearly is that.) Stacked up against the pieces of evidence arguing against the "Bond as codename" argument, they don't hold much weight.

      The fact is, the Bond films as a series simply aren't interested in continuity. They make very occasional nods in that direction, but for the most part each film exists within its own universe. The general public, which also doesn't give much of a crap about continuity, has managed to roll with this for well over forty years now.

      Now, all that said, there's no reason why some enterprising fellow couldn't write a story that adopts the codename idea and explains the whole series in these terms. Alan Moore could do it, if he had a mind to. But it would be necessary to flat-out invent things that are not present in the films, and while that might potentially make for a good piece of fanfic, the films themselves simply do not bear the thought out.

      I do like the idea of watching "The Rock" that way, though.

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    2. The Bond theory is really more an amusing diversion, than anything to be taken seriously, really.

      As for that article on the never made Lovecraft adaptation, it turns out there actually has been an Indie made German version of the Colour out of Space!

      It's called Die Farbe (The Color), and it's shot in black in white, in the style of those old German Expressionist films and the cinema of Ingmar Bergman.

      There's an idea. What if Bergman had ever adapted Lovecraft?

      The trailer can be found here:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4t-MxVyublk

      As for Peter Straub's claim to not being interested in short stories, it turns out he actually has written a book of short stories called "Houses without Doors". Also, there's the short piece he wrote with his wife for the collection of New Myths. "Doors", however, is only for sale "used", so getting a copy may take a wait.

      Also, that picture of the King Family. Good grief, what the hell's up with Owen's eyes in one shot (shivers)!

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    3. I think I'd been too busy being amused by Joe to notice Owen's eyes. I think he's turned evil there; that's what it meant when Willow's eyes went all black on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," at least.

      I've got a copy of "Houses Without Doors," though I have not read it. And Straub has published short stories elsewhere, too; I'm guessing that was just a phase he grew out of.

      I've never seen a single Bergman movie, which is something to be ashamed of for a film nerd. But hey, only so many hours in a life, and there are all these James Bond movies to rewatch (and rewatch, and rewatch).

      Speaking of which, you SAY that hypothesis is an amusing diversion and not much else, but I've seen people online take it WAY more seriously than that. I got in a knock-down, drag-out argument with one of them once; he would not budge an inch. I'm getting angry just thinking about it.

      Grrrrrr.....! BRYANT SMASH! (By which I mean, "Bryant go have dinner and watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)

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  2. These photos and scans are all so great. And greatly appreciated. All the covers and that Alien stretch in particular, damn.

    I watched It: The Terror From Beyond Space a few years back and enjoyed it. It's easy to see its influence on Alien. There's an unintentionally hilarious scene where a crew member keeps the monster at bay from behind a ladder / bulkhead by waving a torch of some kind at him and narrating it all for his crewmates.

    I want to say that COULD be Donald Pleasance in that photo, but it could just as easily be a stand-in.

    There's so much gold in these scans and interview and review excerpts, I truly don't know where to begin. (This is where your idea to have hover-window comments would come in especially handy!)

    I've never even heard of The Boogens. That's an interesting comment about the changing taste of his generation, though, as splatter movies became to dominate more and more of an industry.

    The idea of some level of the Tower that I cannot access having a "John Carpenter's Firestarter" is maddening.

    Audrey and Judy Landers were familiar guest-stars on much of the TV I remember from childhood. They owned a certain demographic from the mid-70s to mid-80s.

    That is a fantastic Sid Haig inscription for your poster.

    That blurb on Poltergeist is certainly interesting. I guess it wasn't a very well-kept secret, then or now. Poltergeist is so great. I've always considered it a Spielberg movie, I guess. Back to the Future and The Goonies, as well, though not to the extent of Poltergeist. I think Tobe Hooper sensed he'd been hired by a Spielberg Factory and probably checked out mentally. Not that I know that for certain or anything, just my (unresearched and candid) speculation. I don't know if they ever worked on Amazing Stories together.

    (Just checked imdb - looks like they did, at least once. Amazing Stories is one I'd love to own the whole series of. My ideal library would probably include every anthology show ever made, if I'm being honest, regardless of whether I enjoy them or not. But I remember enjoying Amazing Stories. Kind of strange that one isn't syndicated, isn't it?)

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    1. I, too, aspire to one day own all of those anthology shows, especially "Amazing Stories."

      I could talk about "Poltergeist" for thousands and thousands of words. And will, eventually. But for now, here's what I'll say: in terms of its authorship, it IS a Spielberg movie. That doesn't mean it isn't also a Tobe Hooper movie. But the facts -- without even involving the issue of who directed things on set -- are these: (1) Spielberg came up with the idea for the story; (2) Spielberg wrote an uncredited final draft of the screenplay; (3) Spielberg was heavily involved in pre-production storyboarding; (4) Spielberg was heavily involved in casting (not only the casting of the actors, but the hiring of the key creative personnel); (5) Spielberg supervised the entirety of post-production editing; and (6) Spielberg supervised the entirety of the scoring process. That means that both prior to and after filming, he was just as involved as he would have ever been on any movie he actually DID direct, and since so much of a movie is shaped during those phases of production, I think it would be flat-out silly to deny that he was obviously THE primary influence on the film. That's the case regardless of anything that happened on-set.

      Either way, it's a great horror movie, one of my absolute favorites.

      Like you, I'd never heard of "The Boogens." I mean, technically I had, but only because I'd heard of this article. It's on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zJG3ieCsdk), and if I had more time, I'd watch it and write a review that considered it from the standpoint of King's article. Maybe someday! (I'd also like to do a series on all the books and movies he's written about in his major nonfiction, but I'm so far away from being able to make that a reality that I may as well be asleep and a-dreamin'.)

      I'd take a photo of that Sid Haig poster and upload it if I had a half-decent camera. But I don't.

      I, too, have seen "It! The Terror From Beyond Space," but not in a loooong time. I remember liking it. "Alien" is also said to be, um, inspired by "Planet of the Vampires," which I've never seen. I think whenever I feel the urge to watch the "Alien" series again, I'll give that and "It!" a look beforehand.

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    2. Charles Sonnenberg, vlogger at SF Debris, has a neat two part review of It: the Terror from Beyond Space here:

      http://sfdebris.com/videos/films/itfilm.php

      While I don't agree with everything he says, mainly to do with Roger Corman, he does have some interesting insights into the film itself.

      ChrisC

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    3. I was in a big-time sci-fi phase when I last saw that movie, and I just remembered that when I bought it -- on VHS, kids! -- I also bought, at the same time, "It Came From Outer Space," which was written (co-written? adapted from?) by Ray Bradbury. That, too, is a not-at-all-bad little flick. '50s sci-fi is good stuff; even when it's bad it's often fun, and much of it is FAR from being bad.

      Speaking of Disney World, one of my favorite things there is a restaurant called the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater. It's a burger joint that replicates being at a drive-in movie, complete with a screen -- not full size, alas -- that shows a loop of old sci-fi movie trailers. It's way overpriced, and kind of cheesy, but hot damn do I love it.

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    4. I actually had/have a copy of a SF anthology whose theme was short stories that later were made into classic SF films. One of the short stories was actually Bradbury's "It came from Outer Space"!

      The punchline:

      AND NOW I CANNOT BLOODY FIND THE DAMN BLOODY THING!!!!!!

      (sounds of a room being trashed as if Keith Moon the Loon hade just arrived).

      Believe it or not though, Gauntlet Press released a limited edition of ICFOS. Seriously, there's still an Amazon page up for it:

      http://www.amazon.com/Came-Outer-Space-Ray-Bradbury/dp/1887368663

      Feel free to insert limited edition rant here. The one that gives me a headache is a limited edition of The Halloween Tree that includes the original 60s/70s script he'd written for Chuck Jones. Someone needs to find it and make it into either a movie or an animated TV film.

      As for Disney, I think I may have actually heard of that diner before. Odds are it's now been slapped with the Brand of one of the park's films these days, like maybe a Wall-E theme or something.

      I do know they once had this scare ride back in 99-01 or about that time. It was called the extra-TERROR-estrial encounter. Basically, it revolved around the idea of an alien monster running loose among the audience.

      Thankfully, some patrons did preserve recordings of the ride itself, a two part tribute vid is on youtube here:

      Part 1:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTk9Lnuo8Ww

      Part 2:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3e1EKgiHMSg

      And yes, that is Mork from Ork (aka The Genie from Aladdin), along with the Emporer from Amadeus, and Pennywise the Dancing Clown as a fundamentally creepy and sadistic robot.

      ChrisC

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    5. Oh, yes, I remember the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter. It was in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom. It was really cool, and still is -- it's since been revamped into a more comedic version of the exact same idea, with Stitch from "Lilo & Stitch." It's called Stitch's Great Escape. Good stuff. And much more kid-friendly than its predecessor.

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  3. p.s. I mean to comment on that Mad Shining parody. Angelo Torres was really something else. A lot of times, as you say, the jokes never land - I think they're calculated to make one groan rather than laugh, but often I just wrinkle my eyebrows after reading them and think, why would anyone think this was even a groaner - but the art is always fun. Torres' Mad work seems to be following Mort Drucker's template, but a lot of old EC and Warren stuff is really great.

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    1. I do not doubt it for a second.

      If such a thing happens during my lifetime, I will absolutely volunteer to have my brain implanted into a robot body, just so I can live long enough to read all the comics I'd like to read. I'd also like a wicked machete/arm thingy, so I can smite the unworthy. But mainly, it's about the comics.

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  4. Weird, I'm coincidentally reading this right after Gunnar Hansen has unfortunately passed away, that's pretty cool though that him and King met once.

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    1. I got "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" on Blu-ray this year and watched it again. Just an awesomely horrifying movie. Hansen is interviewed quite a lot for the behind-the-scenes material, and he does indeed seem to have been a heck of a fellow. I'm sure anyone who knew him will miss him greatly.

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