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Archive for January, 2011

Snowstorms Ate My Blog

I think the old expression “when Hell freezes over” might have got it wrong, because sometimes, Hell is being frozen over, as those residing in our neck of God’s Country—aka Connecticut—for the past month can attest.  Without the official statistics of this Sisyphean nightmare, I can’t tell you exactly how many snowstorms we’ve had (although I do know there has been more than one per week, sometimes on consecutive days) or how many inches they’ve dumped (I believe we’re one of the areas that have already exceeded their average for the entire season; I’m guessing it’s close to six feet).  But I can tell you that the nuclear winter of 2011 has made it impossible to live any kind of real life, which includes blogging, and guess what, another whopper is on the way…

Our driveway is not huge by local standards, but when a foot of snow accumulates overnight (it’s always overnight, so there’s no chance to shovel in shifts to keep pace), it can take Madame BOF and myself almost seven hours to clear it.  And since we’re ecologically minded enough to drive VWs instead of Hummers, that precludes leaving the premises until it’s done, forcing me to miss a day of work in each of the past three weeks, on only one of which my company closed; I’m not counting the first time this winter that a blizzard resulted in a rare closing, when I was home with my daughter between Christmas and New Year’s, which means I wasted a vacation day.  And so, on top of everything else, we get the thrill of watching ourselves slip ever-further behind at work.

All of that would be bad enough, but then the inevitable ice damning—er, damming—due to our frozen gutters started to turn Maison Bradley into a sieve, with random leaks breaking out along the walls adjacent to our deck (which is enclosed on three sides), in some cases cascading down into the basement.  We’ve been able to catch them in time to avoid any damage worse than a set of ruined ceiling tiles, but we feel like jugglers with too many plates in the air as I race to remove the snow that is feeding these insidious BradliLeaks as it melts.  On Thursday alone, I spent four hours raking snow off the roof above the deck, which miraculously is the one section I can reach, and shoveling it no fewer than four times over the railing onto a pile that is now taller than I am.

A roof rake, which I’d never even heard of until this year, is of course one of the most diabolical instruments of torture—uh, tools—designed by the mind of man, so long and cumbersome that if you’re working in a tight space like over our three-sided deck, it’s all you can do not to take out a light fixture, break a window, or put a hole in a screen, only one of which I have done (so far).  Add to that a healthy dose of acrophobia for the poor slob up on the ladder trying to manipulate this unwieldy thing, and we’re talkin’ some fun.  That said, however, under the circumstances, I am extremely grateful that thanks to my generous and ever-practical in-laws, who found me one when most of the major hardware stores were long since out of stock, I have this in my arsenal.

Naturlich, the necessity of shoveling and raking in response to each successive blizzard has ruled out not only normal activities such as blogging, but also secondary concerns like the satellite dish that hasn’t been able to receive a signal for more than two weeks, or experimenting with ways to clear the gutters.  We’ve lost entire days to this never-ending wintry ordeal, since after six or seven hours of back-breaking labor, usually with the knowledge that the next storm is already en route, you’re too exhausted and demoralized to do anything else.  Meanwhile, instead of reading this, all of you apartment- and condo-dwellers should be down on your knees, thanking whatever god or demon or machine you pray to that you are (presumably) spared the worst of these effects.

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Pardonable Pride

It seems that McFarland is going back to press again for a third printing of Richard Matheson on Screen.  I merely mention it…

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Your Humble Correspondent is officially running on fumes after two consecutive nights with the barest minimum of sleep, which even together probably did not add up to a single decent night’s repose.  One was an inaugural 2011 gathering with the Musketeers in Ozone Park, and the other a grueling road trip on which I rode shotgun with a typically selfless Madame BOF, transporting our daughter and her boyfriend from Syracuse—into which they had flown after saying adieu to his late father in Oregon—back to Ithaca.  That said, however, I am trying to muster up enough energy to share with you a number of tidbits, all in some way or other Richard Matheson-related.

First of all, I see from Internet traffic that Video Watchdog top dog Tim Lucas was kind enough to recommend Richard Matheson on Screen for a 2011 Rondo Award nomination, and since his book on Mario Bava is the standard to which all may aspire, that means a lot, coming from him.  Faithful BOF readers might remember that The Twilight and Other Zones: The Dark Worlds of Richard Matheson (a revised and updated version of The Richard Matheson Companion, which I edited with Stanley Wiater and Paul Stuve) received a 2010 Rondo Honorable Mention as one of the best books of ’09.  I will of course keep you posted on this year’s nominations and balloting.

Second, in no particular order, John W. Morehead has posted a very gracious interview regarding my book on his thought-provoking website, TheoFantastique, and as a public service I’ll identify the folks shown with Richard.  The first photo depicts him flanked by Ray Bradbury and the late Robert Bloch; the second shows him with Roger Corman.  An early and enthusiastic supporter, John plugged the book as far back as October, and it says a lot that this is his third consecutive Matheson-related post; the previous two covered Joseph Laycock’s article on The Omega Man and “the sociophobics of cults,” and tomorrow’s SF episode of Pioneers of Television on PBS.

Next, Joe Kane (aka The Phantom of the Movies)—whose fine book on Night of the Living Dead was favorably reviewed here—has more than returned the compliment with his RMOS review in the new issue of my sometime outlet, VideoScope.  I’ll probably include it in its entirety on the new Reviews page I’m going to be working on shortly, but for now, try this excerpt on for size:  “Matheson maven…Bradley lends his entertaining style and vast expertise to this addictive exploration of the prolific author’s extensive cinematic oeuvre….[This book] arrives as the definitive word on one of the genre screen’s most influential, enduring and inventive scribes.”

Next, the scholar in me is always delighted to see the book being used as an actual resource, even in a venue as admittedly problematic as Wikipedia, where the following now appears on the page devoted to Matheson’s 1971 TV-movie Duel in the “References in other works” section:  “Stock footage from Duel appears throughout The Incredible Hulk (1978-1982) first-season episode ‘Never Give a Trucker an Even Break’…Director [Steven] Spielberg was reportedly ‘not too happy about it,’ according to Duel author Richard Matheson, quoted in Richard Matheson on Screen: A History of the Filmed Works by Matthew [R.] Bradley (McFarland; 2010, page 70).”

Finally, Susannah York—an Oscar nominee as Best Supporting Actress for They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969)—died on Friday at 72.  While probably best recalled for Tom Jones (1963) and as the title character’s mother, Lara, in Superman (1978), she starred in an old BOF favorite, Gold (1974), which teamed up then-007 Roger Moore with ex-Bond director Peter Hunt and editor John Glen, as well as Elmer Bernstein, whose catchy main-title theme I remember very well.  La York was to have starred with Jack Palance and Paul Dooley in Matheson’s abortive Broadway mystery-suspense play Magician’s Choice, which he later turned into a novel, Now You See It….

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Damn, the Reaper appears to be working overtime so far in 2011, having taken British director Peter Yates last Sunday at the age of 81, and even if I would never have ranked him among my favorite directors, attention must be paid by BOF because he did do one of my all-time favorite films.  In fact, I’ve just learned—courtesy of the mighty Turafish—that he was also an assistant director on another, The Guns of Navarone (1961), and it seems Yates received Academy Award nominations as both the director and producer of Breaking Away (1979) and The Dresser (1983).  As a director, Yates will probably best be remembered for Bullitt (1968), yet in my mind he will always be associated first and foremost with The Deep (1977), from the novel by Peter Benchley.

Yates’s resume may have had more minuses than pluses (despite points for several episodes of Danger Man), although I liked The Hot Rock (1972) very much and enjoyed The Dresser, which my wife loves.  In my opinion, Bullitt was overrated (but then I’m not a big McQueen fan); The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973) was just too damn depressing; Mother, Jugs & Speed (1976) was disappointing, considering its crazy cast (Cosby, Welch & Keitel); and Breaking Away was also overrated (except for one funny scene with Paul Dooley as the father).  I hated For Pete’s Sake (1974; Streisand and Sarrazin—strikes one and two!), had major script problems with Eyewitness (1981) and Suspect (1987), and thought The House on Carroll Street (1988) was, at best, so-so.

With social venues a wee bit lacking in our semi-rustic Connecticut environs, the future Madame BOF and I attended a lot of movies during our courtship, including Krull (1983).  I may not have seen it since, so I won’t presume to call it a guilty pleasure, but I think we enjoyed it at the time, especially the cool giant spider that for once wasn’t a tarantula, and that’s certainly on our list for another look, marking as it does an early appearance by Alexandra-fave Liam Neeson.  The point is that despite my reservations about some of his work—and it should be noted that many of said reservations had nothing to do with his directorial abilities—Yates did know how to put a picture together, which brings us back to The Deep, one of those films I champion in a decided majority.

All my life, water—and more specifically the ocean—has inspired mixed feelings of fascination and dread within me; I do love snorkeling, and hope someday to scuba dive, yet I have a fear of drowning (indeed, any kind of suffocation), and what might lurk in that vast and silent expanse can be just as terrifying.  For most people, the first Benchley adaptation, Jaws (1975), is the go-to reference point for such fears, yet while I am second to none in admiring Spielberg’s movie, I noted in my obit for David Brown that I remember the circumstances under which I hadn’t seen it better than I do my first viewing.  But I sure as hell remember when Dad took me to The Deep (which, perhaps not surprisingly, I think he liked less than I did), and the impact it made on me.

If need be, you can refresh your memory with my B100 review of the film, but I will elaborate a little on its effectiveness, especially the quantity and quality of its underwater photography (UP for short).  Say whatever you want to about other aspects of The Deep, but if you like UP, I don’t think you’re gonna find a more satisfactory helping than here and in my favorite James Cameron film, The Abyss (1989); in fact, I believe they set respective records for the amount or percentage of UP in fictional features.  In those days before Imax and the resurgence of 3-D, seeing that on a big screen was perhaps the closest you could come to being underwater, and John Barry’s superb score somehow gave one an underwater feeling, as he did in the Bond film Thunderball (1965).

Special thanks to my main man Gilbert Colon for excavating my earlier Yates roundup from his invaluable e-mail archives, thus saving me a lot of time reinventing the wheel with this new post.

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Maison Bradley having been intermittently inundated with houseguests from December 17 until yesterday, I am behind on everything, but will try to start making up for lost time with this dual-purpose post, and since “save the best for last” is one of my bedrock mantras, I prefer to get the bad news out of the way first.  In this case, that would be another sweep of the scythe claiming a beloved figure from the Matheson universe, Bill Erwin, who played sprightly bellhop Arthur in Somewhere in Time and has left us at 96.  By all accounts, and judging from the footage of Erwin in “event videos” from the International Network of Somewhere in Time Enthusiasts (INSITE), he was a wonderful, self-effacing man and a great raconteur who will be much missed, I am sure.

The good news is that Marvel Comics über-legend Stan Lee received a richly deserved star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame a week after his 88th birthday.  Because it’s Hollywood, said star specifically recognizes the success of Stan’s creations on film and television (the jury still being out on Broadway…), but let’s face it, by extension it’s for dreaming up—or at the very least co-creating and/or developing—what still remain the fundamental building blocks of that fictional wonder, the Marvel Universe.  As noted, while I wouldn’t go quite so far as to concur with my friend Tom, who ranks that creation with the works of Shakespeare, I would make almost as bold a statement, and say that it comes damned close to rivaling Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County.

Excelsior!

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Following that word from our “sponsor” (i.e., WordPress.com), I bring you a quick notification that Tor.com has run the latest—and, for the moment, last—post in my Matheson series, devoted to his latter-day Twilight Zone efforts and the adaptations of his work into this century.  One of the possibilities I’ve discussed with my editor there is an interview with Richard himself, which would presumably focus primarily on his upcoming novel Other Kingdoms, due out from Tor in March, but in order to do that, I have to get them to give me a look at the fershlugginer thing!  At any rate, I’ll keep you posted as time goes by, and I’m sure to generate more Matheson material.

Sad to say, the Grim Reaper came out swinging in 2011, claiming in quick succession character actor Pete Postlethwaite, Forbidden Planet (1956) star Anne Francis, and a rat named Friend.  I remember Postlethwaite best from Alien3 (1992), his Oscar-nominated In the Name of the Father (1993), and Romeo + Juliet (1996), but have yet to see The Usual Suspects (1994) or the current Inception.  Although Forbidden Planet has never been a big favorite of mine, I greatly enjoyed interviewing Anne for the cover story of Filmfax #78 (April/May 2000) and discussing Bad Day at Black Rock (1954), The Blackboard Jungle (1955), The Twilight Zone and, natch, Honey West.

As for Friend, I never thought I’d shed tears over the death of a rat, let alone one that was foisted upon me against my will, yet when I learned that the poor little guy passed this morning, I was genuinely moved.  Regular readers know that he and his rodent companion, Renfield, were due for euthanasia once they’d outlived their usefulness at Cornell’s psychology lab, only to be saved by my daughter and taken in by Madame BOF, who became very attached to them.  I didn’t want us to have the responsibility of caring for the rats, especially since we’d just adopted our shelter cats, Mina and Lucy, but I certainly never wished them ill, or wanted either of the boys to suffer.

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2010 in Review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high-level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by your stats.

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 8,200 times in 2010. That’s about 20 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 182 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 51 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 35mb. That’s about 4 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was March 29th with 127 views. The most popular post that day was The Other Titan, Part III.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were mail.yahoo.com, cinemaretro.com, digg.com, mcfarlandpub.com, and jeremyduns.blogspot.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for bradley on film, irwin allen, tigon films, twilight zone saga, and bradley film.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

The Other Titan, Part III March 2010
6 comments

2

About January 2010
3 comments

3

Publications February 2010

4

Quiller February 2010

5

B100 February 2010
6 comments

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