Archive for September, 2012

Hat Trick

Lord knows, I don’t have time to do this justice tonight, but the way things are going lately, I’d rather get at least a provisional word out while it’s fresh in my mind, and then build on that later if and when the opportunity arises.  I’ve just become aware of a wonderful blog, Tipping My Fedora, whose author, Sergio, describes it as “Enjoying mystery, crime and suspense in all media,” which—needless to say—I do, too.  I became aware of it in the nicest possible way when Sergio, who was reviewing the early Hammer film Wings of Danger, was kind enough to direct his readers to my series of posts on the late, great Elleston Trevor, who co-wrote the novel upon which the film was based.

Now, I appreciate a good plug as much as the next guy, but when I started to dip into the blog, I discovered that we have an astonishing array of interests in common, not least of which is a certain Mr. Matheson, who seems to be quite ubiquitous on Sergio’s site.  Just looking through his most recent posts, I see such familiar names and topics as Agatha Christie, Terence Fisher, Quiller, Dying Room Only, Fredric Brown, Sidney Lumet, Robert Culp, Vertigo, Evan Hunter, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, Ray Bradbury, John Frankenheimer, No Way Out, James Bond…well, that’s plenty.  On top of that, he’s a big fan of John Dickson Carr, whose Dr. Gideon Fell mysteries I have loved since I was a kid, so start clicking!

And, speaking of plugs, check out my main man Gilbert Colon’s awesome piece on Person of Interest and the Dark Knight Trilogy at SF Signal.

Up next, when time permits, some thoughts on the passing of Herbert Lom.

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Retro Rocket

I’ll have more to say when I’m holding a contributor’s copy in my hot little hands, but in the meantime, if this news flash from Cinema Retro doesn’t send you zooming like a rocket for your wallet, checkbook, or credit card, then you are no true fan of the self-appointed multi-media legend that is Matthew R. Bradley.  There have been issues of Filmfax and Outre in which my story was featured on the cover, but I don’t remember ever seeing my name emblazoned on one before, which I think I would.  Plus I have the honor of sharing cover space with FrenzyDeliverance (which means Fred may even buy it), and Gene Hackman—and whose article did they choose to illustrate, with that wild shot of Big Don Pleasence as Blofeld?

In the immortal words of Felix Unger, “This is it—this is the big one!”

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It’s Always About Mimi

I’m reading an excellent book by my Marvel University colleague Jack Seabrook entitled Martians and Misplaced Clues: The Life & Work of Fredric Brown (1993), despite the fact that I am as yet familiar with Brown’s work only through the occasional adaptation; his story “Arena” (Astounding Science Fiction, June 1944) was the basis for both the Star Trek episode of the same name and, arguably, the Outer Limits entry “Fun and Games.” Many of his mystery stories also appeared on television, most notably as episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (“The Cream of the Jest,” “The Night the World Ended,” “The Dangerous People,” “Human Interest Story“) and Thriller (“Knock Three-One-Two“). Relatively few of Brown’s thirty novels have been filmed, but one exception is The Screaming Mimi (1949), adapted in 1958 by future “Fun and Games” director Gerd Oswald and largely undistinguished horror/SF screenwriter Robert Blees.

One of the reasons I own a copy of the novel, and will one day do a comparison between page and screen, is that it is often said to be the uncredited basis for Dario Argento’s directorial debut, the seminal giallo film The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970). I’m not a particular fan of either Argento or gialli, but I certainly recognize their importance in the horror genre, and have long noted (not that I’m the only one to do so) that although Argento gets the lion’s share of the credit for popularizing the subgenre, he was in many ways simply following and elaborating upon the template established by Mario Bava—of whom I AM particular fan—in films like The Girl Who Knew Too Much (aka The Evil Eye, 1962) and Blood and Black Lace (1964). What’s especially intriguing in this case is that The Girl Who Knew Too Much, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, and many of Argento’s subsequent films all rely on a plot mechanism that Brown used in The Screaming Mimi.

Several of Brown’s mysteries hinge upon what Jack calls “the misplaced clue,” in which the “investigation centers on the vicinity of the murders until a point late in the novel, where [the protagonist] must travel out of town or out of state to discover something from the past that provides the missing link needed to solve the puzzle.” In The Screaming Mimi, on the other hand, protagonist Sweeney witnesses the aftermath of an attack on a beautiful blonde dancer by a serial killer known as the Ripper, only to learn later on (without giving away anything for those unfamiliar with the story) that what took place was far different from what he thought he saw. Not only Bird but also Argento’s Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971)—whose hero, like Sweeney, has a friend named “God”—Deep Red (1975), Suspiria (1977), Trauma (1993), and others utilize what might be referred to as “the misinterpreted/misremembered/forgotten clue.”

Jack’s book doesn’t mention the Argento connection, of which I first learned from my original 1990 edition of Fangoria contributor Maitland McDonagh’s since-updated Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds: The Dark Dreams of Dario Argento, autographed by Maitland and Argento himself at a Film Forum appearance. But this essay by David Jacobs from S. Michael Wilson’s 2008 anthology Monster Rally, “Argento’s Big Rip-Off: Stealing Screaming Mimi,” documents it quite damningly; if the Google Books link doesn’t take you right to it, it’s on pages 217-225. The net result, of course, is that Argento—a former screenwriter who denied the aging Brown (1906-1972) proper credit or remuneration for the blatant use of his work—turns out to be even more derivative with his gialli than by merely ripping off Bava or, later (and endlessly), himself.

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Small World 9/12/12

When Paul Stuve, my esteemed co-editor on The Richard Matheson Companion (aka The Twilight and Other Zones), was recently contacted by a gentleman seeking information on Matheson’s literary circle, known as the Group, Paul wisely directed him to Christopher Conlon‘s superb Group overview, “Southern California Sorcerers,” and also asked me to weigh in. Lo and behold, said gentleman turned out to be none other than Pierre Comtois, who is—among other things—the author of Marvel Comics in the 1960s and …1970s, recently commended to me by Marvel University ramrod Peter Enfantino. Pierre wanted Group-related material for Fungi, “the Literary Magazine of Fantasy and the Supernatural,” and I was only too happy to oblige with my profiles of Group members George Clayton Johnson, William F. Nolan, and Jerry Sohl…but how bizarre is it to stumble across someone who shares so many of my obsessions?

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