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Posts Tagged ‘Charles Beaumont’

On the occasion of Kurt Neumann’s 103rd birthday, we revisit this article written for the late, lamented original Scifipedia website (revised with corrections, addenda, and additional links on July 29, 2017).

Originally published in the June 1957 issue of Playboy (then an outlet for outstanding short fiction by the likes of Charles Beaumont, Ray Bradbury, and Richard Matheson), George Langelaan’s “The Fly” won the magazine’s Best Fiction Award, and the rights were immediately acquired by Twentieth Century-Fox.  The story was faithfully adapted by first-time screenwriter James Clavell, later the author of the bestsellers Shogun and Tai-Pan.

Producer-director Neumann (1908-1958) had considerable experience in Hollywood, but very little in the SF genre, although he is notorious for his low-budget quickie Rocketship X-M (1950), which he also wrote.  Rushed into production to cash in on the publicity surrounding Destination Moon (1950), it beat producer George Pal’s more serious film into theaters by several months.

Fox financed and released the low-budget output from Robert L. Lippert’s Regal Films, including Neumann’s previous black-and-white genre efforts, She Devil and Kronos (both 1957).  But The Fly was given the full studio treatment, with lush color cinematography by Karl Struss, who shared an Oscar for Sunrise (1927) and was nominated for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931).

Leading man Al Hedison would soon be better known as David Hedison, under which name he starred for several seasons opposite Richard Basehart on Irwin Allen‘s evergreen 1960s SF series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.  Hedison also has the distinction of being the first actor to play James Bond’s CIA pal, Felix Leiter, twice, in Live and Let Die (1973) and License to Kill (1989).

Third-billed Vincent Price already had one classic horror role under his belt, in House of Wax (1953), and soon came to dominate the genre for decades to come, most notably in a series of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations in the ‘60s.  (Blessed with a self-deprecating sense of humor, he liked to relate the story of an overeager fan who mistook him for the title character in The Fly.)

The film starts as Helene Delambre (lovely Patricia Owens) summons her brother-in-law, François (Price), and admits to crushing her husband André (Hedison) in a hydraulic press—not once, but twice—yet won’t say why.  After finding André’s lab wrecked, and hearing their son Philippe (Charles Herbert) refer to a “special” fly, François returns to Helene to elicit the truth.

André had rashly used himself as a guinea pig to test his experimental matter transmitter, unaware that a fly accompanied him into the disintegrator.  When he emerged in the reintegrator, he had the head and arm of an oversized fly, and vice-versa, although Neumann wisely maintains the suspense by keeping André’s altered appearance beneath a black hood for much of the film.

Passing notes from his locked lab to Helene, André explains that he has had an accident, and seeks a fly with a white head, not knowing that Philippe had already caught such a fly and been unwittingly made to release it by Helene.  André tells her that his will is deteriorating in favor of the fly’s animal nature and, fearing for her safety, threatens to do away with himself.

Although her efforts to recapture the fly have failed, Helene persuades André to try going through the transmitter once more without it, and when he emerges, she optimistically yanks the hood from his head.  Only then is the work of Fox’s makeup artist, Ben Nye, revealed in all its glory, while in an equally memorable shot, Helene is shown from the fly’s multiple perspective.

Wrecking his lab and burning his notes, André orders Helene to kill the fly, if found, and to obliterate the evidence of his transformation in the press; his arm falls out on the first attempt, so poor Helene must repeat the process.  Not surprisingly, Inspector Charas (Herbert Marshall) thinks she is insane, and arrests her…until Philippe summons Charas and François to the garden.

There, they find the fly trapped in a spider web, and Charas mercifully crushes it with a rock as the arachnid advances on its prey, which pitifully screams, “Help me!”  This scene still provides a jolt in many a viewer, although Price and Marshall literally had to act it out back to back, as they found themselves completely unable to deliver their dialogue with straight faces.

Sadly, Neumann died in between the premiere and the general release of The Fly, which became one of Fox’s biggest hits for that year, and earned a Hugo nomination for Best Dramatic Presentation.  Its success demanded an immediate sequel, although Return of the Fly (1959) was downgraded to a black-and-white cheapie written and directed by Edward L. Bernds.

The sequel devolved onto Lippert’s outfit and—along with The Alligator People (1959), with which it was double-billed—was among their first productions after Regal was renamed Associated Producers Incorporated (API…hmmm).  Rewatching this recently, I had a micro-epiphany when I recognized the music by Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter as also having been used in The Last Man on Earth (1964), which coincidentally was one of the last API productions; sure wish I’d known that when I wrote Richard Matheson on Screen.

In light of his decades-long association with the Three Stooges, Bernds may seem an odd choice to helm a sequel to The Fly.  But his lengthy filmography does include the occasional, if undistinguished, SF film, such as World Without End (1956), Space Master X-7, the cult classic Queen of Outer Space (both 1958), and the Jules Verne adaptation Valley of the Dragons (1961).

After a reporter accosts Philippe at Helene’s funeral, this unearthing of family skeletons forces François to reveal the truth and show him André’s lab at the Delambre Frères foundry.  His intended cautionary tale has the opposite effect of increasing his nephew’s determination to follow in Dad’s footsteps, and Philippe essentially blackmails the dubious François into backing him financially by threatening to unload his half of the family business at any cost.

Bernds is a little sloppy with the details:  in the original, André’s lab (reportedly standing sets utilized in the sequel) is in his home rather than the foundry, and since Philippe soon relocates it to the family manse anyway, the change seems pointless.  Similarly, 15 years are said to have intervened, which would make the sequel set in 1973, and although Philippe is now played by the age-appropriate Brett Halsey, the only returning cast member, Price, looks about the same.  If Wikipedia is to be believed, illness prevented Marshall from reprising his role, rewritten as Charas’s colleague Inspector Beecham (John Sutton); script cuts supposedly also removed unspecified elements that had originally attracted Price to the project.

Hired as Philippe’s assistant, Dr. Alan Hinds (David Frankham, who appeared in Matheson‘s Master of the World and Tales of Terror) is revealed as fugitive killer Ronald Holmes, who plans to sell the technology using mortuary-based crony Max Berthold (big Dan Seymour, a literal heavy in several Bogart classics) as intermediary.  When Inspector Evans (Pat O’Hara), who has been trailing Holmes, catches him microfilming the plans, “Alan” bludgeons the ill-fated lawman and puts him through the machine, where Evans gets recombined with a guinea pig disintegrated earlier.

Holmes crushes the guinea pig (which has human hands), first with his shoe and then with a heavy piece of machinery; sends the rodent-clawed Evans into the river in a car trunk; and, when confronted by Philippe, repeats the process, sadistically including a fly, of which he knows his employer has a terrible dread, if not why.  This time, the story has a happier ending as the fly-headed Philippe eludes the trigger-happy police, finds his way to the mortuary, and kills both Berthold and Holmes (who wounded François while making his getaway) before being put back through the machine with the captured fly and “getting his head together.”

Unlike Hedison, who actually acted under the heavy makeup—little wonder that Michael Rennie, the distinguished star of The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), declined the role—Halsey was relieved of that burden.  Hal Lierley’s makeup in the sequel, which dramatically increased the size of Philippe’s fly head to gigantic proportions (and added a fly leg), was sported by a stuntman, circus giant Ed Wolff, best known to genre fans for playing the title role in The Colossus of New York (1958).

Although their relationship to André et al. is unclear, the matter-transmitting Delambres made one final appearance in Curse of the Fly (1965), directed in England by Don Sharp, whose work for Hammer Films included Kiss of the Vampire (1963).  Here, the family is represented by Henri (Brian Donlevy) and his two sons, Martin (George Baker) and Albert (Michael Graham).

Harry Spalding’s complex script finds Martin, whose periodic bouts of aging are caused by inherited fly genes and controlled with a serum, marrying an escaped mental patient, Patricia Stanley (Carole Gray).  But, like Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre, he secretly has a wife already:  the deformed Judith (Mary Manson), who is locked up with two other failed Delambre experiments.

With the interest of the police piqued by the passport problems inherent in transporting between England and Canada, Martin and Henri send those other “mistakes” through together, forcing Albert to dispose of the resulting blob.  As the law closes in, Martin disintegrates Henri, not knowing that the disillusioned Albert has now smashed the reintegrator, and ages to death.

Langelaan’s idea was well served in a remake, The Fly (1986), with Jeff Goldblum as the ill-fated genius, Seth Brundle.  Director David Cronenberg and co-writer Charles Edward Pogue offer a more plausible scenario, with the transmitter splicing Seth’s genes to those of the fly, and mine the inherent tragedy as his lover, Ronnie Quaife (Geena Davis, who utters the immortal line, “Be afraid.  Be very afraid.”), witnesses his degeneration.

Chris Walas, who created and designed Cronenberg’s Fly, directed a superfluous sequel (sans Cronenberg, Goldblum, or Davis), predictably titled The Fly II (1989).  Ronnie dies giving birth to Seth’s son, and the mutated Martin (Eric Stoltz) is raised by an evil industrialist, but this second-generation fly also escapes his father’s fate in a happy ending, eventually curing himself.

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On the occasion of his 103rd birthday, we revisit this profile written for the late, lamented original Scifipedia website.

Displaying a rare commitment to SF and fantasy, George Pal (1908-80) produced, and sometimes directed, a dozen feature films that had a profound impact on the genre.  Most of his works had their origins in literature, and perhaps his greatest achievement was his adaptations of two classic novels by H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds (1953) and The Time Machine (1960).

Born Marincsák György to Hungarian stage parents, unemployed architect Pal was hired by Budapest’s Hunnia studio as an apprentice animator.  Marrying and moving to Berlin, he rose to the top of the UFA studio’s cartoon department until the Nazis’ rise to power drove him out of Germany, and then lived and worked in various European countries before emigrating to the U.S.

During the 1940s, Pal directed, photographed and/or produced dozens of animated shorts, combining puppets and stop-motion in his famous Puppetoons.  He earned an honorary Academy Award for developing the techniques used in the Puppetoons, and seven consecutive nominations for the best animated short subject, from Rhythm in the Ranks (1941) to Tubby the Tuba (1947).

Unlike other forms of stop-motion, the Puppetoons used replacement animation, which substitutes a series of figures in various poses or emotions, instead of manipulating one model.  Animator Ray Harryhausen got his start in the Puppetoons, but after working under Frank Capra in the Army’s Special Service Division during World War II, he declined an offer to rejoin Pal.

Harryhausen told me in our Filmfax interview, “George…was a very easy man to work with, and I was one of the first animators he hired….It was great experience, although it wasn’t the type of animation I was really delighted to do, because…[Pal] had twenty-four separate figures to make one step, and that meant substituting a new figure for each movement, which wasn’t really my cup of tea.”

Pal’s debut feature, The Great Rupert (aka A Christmas Wish, 1950), was among the first to combine stop-motion and live-action footage, as the eponymous animated squirrel aids Jimmy Durante’s down-on-its-luck family.  After this transitional effort, directed by actor Irving Pichel, Pal focused solely on live-action projects, although animation still featured in many of his films.

Also directed by Pichel, Destination Moon (1950) was adapted by genre giant Robert A. Heinlein from his own young adult novel Rocket Ship Galileo, and indeed the script, written with Rip Van Ronkel and James O’Hanlon, lacks sophistication.  But Pal’s breakthrough project set a cinematic standard rarely equaled, dramatizing a lunar flight with scrupulous scientific accuracy.

Based on the novel by Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer, Rudolph Maté’s When Worlds Collide (1951) was the first of five films Pal made for Paramount, including the biopic Houdini (1953).  As two planets approach the Earth, one passes close enough to create mass destruction, also allowing forty colonists to travel there before the larger heavenly body demolishes our own.

Barré Lyndon’s updated script made The War of the Worlds more immediate, a precedent set by Orson Welles in his famous 1938 radio broadcast.  Pal’s initial collaboration with director and special-effects expert Byron Haskin, the film featured modern Martian war machines that are extremely impressive (albeit a far cry from Wells’s tripods) as they besiege the world’s capitals.

Although not strictly SF, The Naked Jungle (1954) nonetheless gave Haskin and Pal the opportunity to dazzle audiences with spectacular scenes of destruction, interwoven with human drama.  Adapted by Philip Yordan and Ranald MacDougall from Carl Stephenson’s “Leiningen vs. the Ants,” it starred Charlton Heston as a man trying to protect his plantation from army ants.

Haskin’s Conquest of Space (1955) marked Pal’s swan song for Paramount, undone by a melodramatic O’Hanlon screenplay.  Adapted by Yordan, Lyndon, and George Worthing Yates from a nonfiction book by astronomical artist Chesley Bonestell (a frequent Pal collaborator) and Willy Ley, it depicted a Mars mission jeopardized by a religious fanatic in conflict with his son.

With the fantasy tom thumb (1958), Pal moved to MGM, where he would remain for the next decade, and assumed directorial duties, as he would on his next four films.  A showcase for the acrobatic Russ Tamblyn in the title role, it featured Puppetoon sequences, songs, and rising star Peter Sellers as the henchman of Terry-Thomas’s villain, who tries to exploit the tiny hero.

The Time Machine won an Oscar for its special effects, as had Destination Moon, When Worlds Collide, The War of the Worlds, and tom thumb.  The script was by David Duncan, while Rod Taylor played the intrepid time traveler who journeys far into the future, when evolution has divided the human race into the passive Eloi and the subterranean Morlocks, who feed on them.

Disappointing on all counts, Atlantis, the Lost Continent (1961) was hampered by Daniel Mainwaring’s unusually outlandish script, adapted from a play by Sir Gerald Hargreaves.  Greek fisherman Anthony Hall rescues a princess and travels by submarine to her home, Atlantis, but it is dominated by mad scientists and destroyed by a volcano just after Hall has effected his escape.

Co-directed with Henry Levin, The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962) told the story of the brothers and dramatized three of their fairy tales:  “The Dancing Princess,” “The Cobbler and the Elves,” and “The Singing Bone.”  It featured an all-star cast and a screenplay by David P. Harmon, famed genre author and screenwriter Charles Beaumont, and William Roberts.

7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964) was adapted by Beaumont from Charles G. Finney’s novel The Circus of Dr. Lao, with Tony Randall as Lao, who enlightens people by showing them their true selves while in various guises (e.g., Merlin, Pan, Medusa, the Abominable Snowman).  William Tuttle’s makeup earned an honorary Oscar; Jim Danforth’s special effects were also nominated.

Even a reunion with Haskin could not save The Power (1968) from tensions between Pal and MGM’s régime du jour, which dumped the film with little promotion.  Based on the book by Frank M. Robinson, it starred George Hamilton as a man on the run from an unknown assassin, a telekinetic superman who is eliminating his colleagues—and any evidence of his own existence.

Pal’s many abortive projects over the years included an adaptation of Wylie and Balmer’s sequel, After Worlds Collide, and a follow-up to The Time Machine.  One of the most devastating was his attempt to film William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson’s SF novel Logan’s Run, which after a long period of development was taken out of Pal’s hands and given to Saul David.

“Poor George was stymied one time after another while he generated new enthusiasm,” Johnson told me in a separate interview.  “Each new regime that came in would throw out all the old projects and say no to almost everything….[He] was linked to the deal for the longest period of time, during which he managed to teeter on there at MGM, trying to get one thing and another together…”

Pal’s final film, Doc Savage—The Man of Bronze (1975), showed how sadly out of step he had fallen with current public tastes.  Released by Warner Brothers, and directed by Michael Anderson, it sought unsuccessfully to recapture the spirit of the old serials, with Ron Ely (better known onscreen as Tarzan) playing the hero of Kenneth Robeson’s lengthy series of pulp novels.

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Concluding our eclectic selection of Boris Karloff credits from the Bradley Video Library catalog…

The Devil Commands (1941):  HUAC name-dropper Edward Dmytryk directed this misleadingly titled coda to Karloff’s “Mad Doctor” series (see The Ape in our previous installment).  Based on William Sloane’s novel The Edge of Running Water, it concerns a scientist who establishes that human brain waves can be recorded, and are unique (like fingerprints), just before his wife is killed in a car crash. When Boris’s machinery picks up her distinctive waves after death, he launches an all-out effort to contact her spirit beyond the grave, and is immediately dismissed as a nut-job by his colleagues, daughter, and associate/future son-in-law.  So he sets up shop in an isolated cliff-top mansion, joined by a shady spiritualist, a snooping housekeeper, and an employee whose brain was partially cooked by a previous experiment.  Although strictly speaking science fiction, this programmer is filmed in a gothic-horror manner, complete with Dark Shadows-style narration by the daughter—who, alas, probably could not have known about some of the events she relates.  Sadly, Boris’s habit of stealing corpses from the local boneyard (since for some odd reason he needs to have dead people hooked up to his gizmo in order to contact other ones) draws the attention of the sheriff, with predictable results.

Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome (1947):  An utterly routine (albeit mercifully brief) comic-strip programmer, notable only for the presence of Karloff as the titular villain.

Thriller (1960-62):  Having already covered this series in some detail, I’ll merely enumerate a few highlights besides “The Return of Andrew Bentley,” adapted by Richard Matheson from the short story by H.P. Lovecraft protégé August Derleth and Mark Schorer.  They include the atmospheric “Pigeons from Hell,” also directed by John Newland and based on a story by Conan creator Robert E. Howard; four other episodes based on stories by Derleth, written either with Schorer (“The Incredible Doktor Markeson,” an especially creepy episode in which Karloff stars as well as hosts) or without (“Mr. George,” “Trio for Terror,” “A Wig for Miss Devore”), sometimes using his Stephen Grendon pseudonym; an adaptation of Poe’s “The Premature Burial,” also with Boris; three based on works by Cornell Woolrich (“Guillotine” [adapted by Charles Beaumont], “Papa Benjamin,” “Late Date”); Beaumont’s other, inferior episode, “Girl With a Secret”; and a whopping ten written and/or based on works by Robert Bloch (“The Cheaters,” “The Grim Reaper” [starring William Shatner], “The Devil’s Ticket,” “The Weird Tailor,” “Waxworks,” “The Hungry Glass” [also with Shatner], “’Til Death Do Us Part,” “A Good Imagination,” “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper,” “Man of Mystery”), two of which were remade in his Amicus anthology films.

The Raven (1963):  Extrapolating from “The Black Cat,” the successful comic segment of their Poe anthology film Tales of Terror, director Roger Corman and screenwriter Matheson went all-out in this comedy; Matheson left the series afterward, saying he couldn’t take the films seriously any more.  Featuring Peter Lorre in the title role, Karloff (appearing in his second film allegedly based on Poe’s poem) bemused by Lorre’s ad-libs, the obligatory Vincent Price, the heavenly Hazel Court (who rejoined Corman and Price on Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death the next year), and a very young Jack Nicholson as the dubious—in every sense—hero, Rexford.

The Comedy of Terrors (1963):  Written by Matheson and directed by Val Lewton alumnus Jacques Tourneur, this is a black comedy about unscrupulous undertakers who drum up business the hard way, with veteran horror stars Price, Lorre, Karloff, and—carried over from Tales of Terror—Basil Rathbone.  Originally slated to play the more athletic role of Price’s acerbic landlord, which ultimately went to the ironically older Rathbone, Karloff has a hilarious scene in which he delivers a rambling funeral oration, complete with every imaginable synonym for the word “coffin.”

I Tre Volti della Paura (The Three Faces of Fear, aka Black Sabbath; 1963):  Again, I won’t belabor this anthology horror film, having discussed it in multiple posts devoted to director Mario Bava, but it would be a shame to omit it.  As with Thriller, Karloff hosts and stars in one segment, effectively playing a Russian vampire opposite Mark (House of Usher) Damon in “The Wurdalak.”  Sadly, you won’t hear his voice in the uncut Italian version, only in the one re-edited by the film’s co-producer and U.S. distributor, AIP.  The other segments are “The Drop of Water,” as a ghost reclaims a ring stolen by a greedy woman, and “The Telephone,” in which a girl is stalked by her ex-lover.

The Sorcerers (1967):  One of three films (the others being La Sorella di Satana and Witchfinder General) on which the reputation of Michael Reeves rests; his early death of an alcohol and drug overdose ensured a kind of James Dean fame for the British director.  Karloff and Catherine Lacey star as an elderly couple who invent a machine with which they can share the sensations of, and ultimately control the actions of, a disaffected youth played by Reeves’s perennial lead, Ian Ogilvy.

La Camara del Terror (The Fear Chamber, 1968):  One of four Mexican horror films for which Karloff shot footage (in L.A., I believe) shortly before his death; behind-the-scenes machinations altered some of the resulting pictures from their original conceptions.  Hard to imagine what they had in mind for this one, which as it stands is an incoherent mishmash about scientists using blood from frightened girls to fire up a living, power-hungry rock.  At least, I think that’s what it’s about…

Targets (1968):  Peter Bogdanovich’s first and probably best film (I’m not a fan; it’s mercifully unlike his other work), this stars Karloff as an aging actor who feels his Hollywood horrors can no longer compete with real life, and Bogdanovich as a young guy who chats up oldtime filmmakers (quite a stretch for both!).  Proving his point, a seemingly mild-mannered young man suddenly goes on a killing spree, eventually konfronting Karloff (sorry, too much Famous Monsters of Filmland in my youth) at a drive-in screening of one of his films—in reality, The Terror, made by Pete’s sometime mentor, Corman.

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Joyous tidings have recently been announced for fans of both classic television and the Southern California Sorcerers (aka “The Group”), namely that the anthology series Thriller will be released on DVD in its entirety by the ever-outstanding Image Entertainment on August 31.  Thriller ran for two seasons (1960-62) on NBC, initially following the same network’s Alfred Hitchcock Presents; both shows were produced by Universal’s television arm, and Hitchcock supposedly pressured them to cancel Thriller because he thought it was too similar.  Indeed, Thriller had much in common with his show:  suspenseful stories, an instantly recognizable host in the form of Boris Karloff, and many of the same personnel (e.g., Herschel Daugherty and John Brahm, who with fifteen and eleven episodes, respectively, were its most frequent directors).

Among those personnel were several Group members, with episodes written by Richard Matheson (“The Return of Andrew Bentley”) and Charles Beaumont (“Guillotine,” based on the story by Cornell Woolrich, and “Girl with a Secret”).  By far the most active was Robert Bloch, who supplied scripts or original stories for many episodes of both shows, including some of the most memorable.  But as with the Hitchcock series and England’s Amicus Productions, which filmed Bloch’s “The Skull of the Marquis de Sade” as The Skull (1965) before hiring him as a screenwriter, he was recruited for Thriller only after three episodes (“The Cheaters,” “The Hungry Glass,” and “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper”) had been adapted from his work by other writers.

Never as well known as The Twilight Zone or the Hitchcock show, Thriller has its adherents, including Stephen King, who called it “probably the best horror series ever put on TV,” noting in Danse Macabre that “after a slow first thirteen weeks, [it] was able to become something more than the stock imitation of Alfred Hitchcock Presents that it was apparently meant to be…and took on a tenebrous life of its own.”  The show initially focused more on crime and mystery, and many of its early problems can be traced to uncertainty regarding its direction and the tensions between creator Hubbell Robinson and his original producer, Fletcher Markle.  The latter and his associate producer and story editor, James P. Cavanagh (a veteran of  Alfred Hitchcock Presents), were soon supplanted by two new producers, Maxwell Shane and William Frye, brought in to handle Thriller’s crime and horror episodes, respectively.

Shane, who had already adapted Woolrich’s work in Fear in the Night (1947) and Nightmare (1956), left after basing “Papa Benjamin” on another of his stories, and Frye, who produced the remaining episodes, soon gave the series a distinctive flavor by mining the pages of Weird Tales.  That famed fantasy pulp is, of course, best known for featuring the work of H.P. Lovecraft and such protégés as August Derleth and Bloch himself.  Directed by Brahm and written by the show’s most prolific contributor, Donald S. Sanford, “The Cheaters” was one of only two episodes—the other being the Edgar Allan Poe adaptation “The Premature Burial” —that were actually introduced with the host’s frequently quoted tagline, “As sure as my name is Boris Karloff, this is a Thriller!”

This was to be the first of ten episodes written and/or based on works by Bloch, including William Shatner’s only two appearances, “The Hungry Glass” and Daugherty’s “The Grim Reaper”; coincidentally, Matheson scripted Shatner’s only two Twilight Zone outings, “Nick of Time” and “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” and both writers later contributed to his best-known series, Star Trek.  Bloch adapted “The Weird Tailor” and “Waxworks” (both directed by Daugherty) from his own stories, which he later recycled in the Amicus anthology films Asylum (1972) and The House That Dripped Blood (1970).  His other Thriller episodes were “The Devil’s Ticket,” Brahm’s “A Good Imagination,” Daugherty’s “’Til Death Do Us Part,” and John Newland’s “Man of Mystery,” all based on his own work.

Newland, whose Thriller episode “Pigeons from Hell” is often called the single most frightening story ever done on television, also directed “The Return of Andrew Bentley,” which Matheson adapted from a Weird Tales story by Derleth and Mark Schorer.  Although Beaumont and fellow Group member Jerry Sohl adapted Lovecraft’s work in The Haunted Palace (1963) and Die, Monster, Die (1965), respectively, Matheson never did, despite his successful Poe films for the same studio, AIP.  “He wasn’t my kind of writer—too heavy,” he told me in an interview for Filmfax.  “Heavy stuff.  You know, he’d spend fifty pages talking about some Eldritch horror that is so horrible to describe that he can’t possibly do it, and then in the last ten pages he describes it.  I mean obviously, the man was brilliant, I just don’t care for that kind of writing….But the show Thriller, the whole thing had a Lovecraft atmosphere to it.”

For the full story of this neglected show, see Alan Warren’s This Is a Thriller: An Episode Guide, History and Analysis of the Classic 1960s Television Series, to which I am greatly indebted.  For a blow-by-blow account of Bloch’s involvement, see my contribution to Benjamin Szumskyj’s The Man Who Collected Psychos: Critical Essays on Robert Bloch, some of which I have drawn on here.  And, needless to say, you can read more about “The Return of Andrew Bentley” in Richard Matheson on Screen; all three books are, or will be, published by McFarland.

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Several years ago this review was commissioned, and then cancelled, by A Magazine That Shall Remain Nameless.  I’d put a lot of work into it, and was very distressed that it wouldn’t see the light of day (not to mention getting stiffed for my fee).  For all I know, these books may be out of print by now, but in the era of eBay and its ilk, older books are easier to obtain than ever, so the idea of running this doesn’t seem so crazy as it once would have.  In any event, I’m glad someone will finally see it, even if I still won’t get paid.  Hope you enjoy it.

 

 AS TIMELESS AS INFINITY: THE COMPLETE TWILIGHT ZONE SCRIPTS OF ROD SERLING, VOLUME ONE, edited by Tony Albarella.  Gauntlet Press, hardcover, 488 pp., $66 (numbered edition), $200 (lettered edition)

 

THE TWILIGHT ZONE SCRIPTS OF CHARLES BEAUMONT, VOLUME ONE, edited by Roger Anker.  Gauntlet Press, hardcover, 440 pp., $66 (numbered edition), $250 (lettered edition)

 

THE TWILIGHT ZONE SCRIPTS OF JERRY SOHL, edited by Christopher Conlon.  BearManor Media, trade paperback, 177 pp., $18.95

While accepting his second consecutive Emmy Award for The Twilight Zone for Outstanding Writing Achievement in Drama in 1961, Rod Serling famously thanked “three writing gremlins who did the bulk of the work:  Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, and George Clayton Johnson.”  With the Twilight Zone scripts of Matheson and Johnson already published, an ambitious program by Gauntlet Press is now immeasurably enhancing the literary legacy of that seminal anthology show by issuing those of Serling and his remaining “gremlin,” Beaumont, in multiple volumes edited by Tony Albarella and Roger Anker, respectively.  The first book of Serling scripts includes a message from his widow, Carol; appreciations by Matheson (whose short story “Third from the Sun” was adapted into one of them) and Farscape creator Rockne S. O’Bannon (whose screenwriting career began with the mid-1980s Zone revival); tributes by cast members and producer Buck Houghton, Albarella’s detailed commentaries, photos, and various “rarities.”

The book begins with both of the show’s pilots (“The Time Element,” an episode of Desilu Playhouse, and “Where Is Everybody?”), and explains its origins as an outgrowth of earlier Serling scripts for mainstream anthology shows such as Kraft Television Theater and Playhouse 90, which discomfited sponsors and networks with their controversial content.  With Emmys in hand for “Patterns,” “Requiem for a Heavyweight,” and “The Comedian,” Serling sought an SF/fantasy vehicle to “camouflage” his de facto morality plays, and “The Time Element” (an hour-long expansion of a live show written in his college days) delivers, whisking William Bendix back to December 6, 1941, when his frantic warning is unheeded.  “Where Is Everybody?” actually “cheats” by explaining its outré scenario, as an amnesiac desperately seeks signs of life in an abruptly depopulated town, although it is otherwise a textbook Twilight Zone case, and ironically, Serling altered the ending, which reveals the man as an astronaut whose ability to undergo isolation is being tested, in a prose adaptation.

The scripts constitute a cross-section of autobiographical details from Serling’s life, like the wartime Philippine Islands setting of “The Purple Testament”—where a soldier sees in their faces which of his comrades will die—and recurring themes in his work, such as the prize-fighting milieu of “The Big, Tall Wish,” in which a boy wishes a boxer to victory.  Albarella explores the creation of the classic “Eye of the Beholder” (although omitting its original title, “A Private World of Darkness,” also taken from Serling’s narration), famed for its shock ending wherein a bandaged outcast is revealed to be a beauty by our standards, in a world of porcine man-monsters created by the great William Tuttle’s striking makeup.  A tale of two families fleeing an apocalypse, “Third from the Sun” shows Serling’s skill at adaptation, while an instructive comparison between drafts reveals why a lesser episode like “A Most Unusual Camera,” whose titular gadget photographs the near future, might have been better with the simpler ending in an alternate version, written eighteen months earlier.

“The Mind and the Matter,” with comedian Shelley Berman as a chronic malcontent who repopulates the world with duplicates of himself, and “The Dummy,” highlighted by Cliff Robertson’s tour de force performance as a ventriloquist terrified by his wooden companion, round out this initial offering of nine scripts from the ninety-two Serling wrote.  Like Beaumont’s, they are faithfully reproduced by Gauntlet in their oversized original typescript format, with revisions and hand-written corrections included to shed additional light on the development of these enduring episodes, although purists might prefer that they had been published in their original order, rather than selected from the first three seasons.  Albarella displays an admirable awareness of the key support provided by Serling’s many collaborators on both sides of the camera, including composers Bernard Herrmann and the late Jerry Goldsmith, ace cinematographer George T. Clemens, directors Douglas Heyes and Richard L. Bare, and an impressive roster of actors, several of whom offer recollections.

Contractually obligated to provide 80% of the scripts himself, Serling wanted to use the best in the business to help out with the rest and, like Gene Roddenberry with Star Trek years later, turned to the members of the burgeoning “Southern California School of Writers,” more familiarly called The Group, with Beaumont and Matheson his first recruits.  Beaumont brought an entirely different sensibility to the new series:  “Whereas Serling’s tales often explored the human condition and were rooted in sentimentality and nostalgia, Beaumont’s…usually took on darker themes:  nightmares from which there was no escape, voodoo curses, encounters with Satan,” as Anker notes of his debut, “Perchance to Dream.”  That nail-biter, about a man who fears the fatal effects of a recurring nightmare, is one of several scripts in this volume to be based on Beaumont’s published stories, such as “The Howling Man,” “The Jungle,” and the unproduced “Gentlemen, Be Seated,” the last of which depicts a dystopian future where laughter is outlawed—but still practiced in secret.

Again, the scripts are presented in chronological but not sequential order, and in this case it is an especially curious editorial decision, in light of the mini-biography that Anker weaves through his commentaries, concluding with Beaumont’s premature aging and early death at thirty-eight, which leaves the reader wondering where he will go in Volume Two.  Anker expands upon the material from his introduction to Beaumont’s Selected Stories (Dark Harvest, 1988), and like that estimable edition, this offers a superb Group portrait, with reminiscences by Matheson (who also wrote the foreword; Zone scribe Earl Hamner contributes an afterword as well), Johnson, Ray Bradbury, William F. Nolan, and others.  Another and even more moving perspective is provided by the eldest of Beaumont’s four children, Christopher, a fellow television writer who speaks eloquently in his preface and elsewhere in the book of his father’s talents as both a parent and an artist, and of the special moments afforded them before Chris was left fatherless at the age of only sixteen.

“Person or Persons Unknown” is a quintessential Zone original about a man who is suddenly a stranger to all who knew him, while Beaumont used a lighter touch on “A Nice Place to Visit,” as a crook’s heavenly afterlife turns out to be in  “The Other Place” (the original title), and “The Prime Mover,” with Buddy Ebsen as an amiable telekinetic.  Among his best-known episodes are “The Howling Man” (under whose title Tor reissued the Selected Stories in 1992), in which an unwitting traveler releases a captive Satan, and “The Jungle,” a terrifying tale of voodoo vengeance whose opening scene bears a strong resemblance to a sequence in Burn, Witch, Burn (1962), the film he wrote with Matheson.  Credited with fully a third of the fourth season’s eighteen hour-long scripts, Beaumont is represented here by his first, “In His Image,” and last, “Passage on the Lady Anne”; based on “The Man Who Made Himself” and “Song for a Lady,” respectively, they concern an android who quite literally meets his maker and a bickering couple on an ill-fated voyage. 

No discussion of Beaumont’s Twilight Zone work is complete without mentioning the uncredited colleagues who jumped in when the charismatic writer—famed for his ability to dazzle network executives at pitch meetings—was unable to handle his heavy workload, especially during his rapid decline due to a degenerative disease, most likely Alzheimer’s.  Chief among these initially unsung heroes was the late Jerry Sohl, and BearManor Media has, appropriately, just released a volume of his three Twilight Zone scripts produced under Beaumont’s byline; their earlier collection Filet of Sohl, also edited by Group expert Chris Conlon, contained two Zone teleplays that were never filmed.  Unlike the others, Sohl’s have been typeset, and two are previously unpublished:  “The New Exhibit,” the only one of the half-dozen hour-long shows bearing Beaumont’s name that he did not write himself, and “Queen of the Nile,” the last episode of the original Zone to credit him, although “Dead Man’s Shoes” and “Shadow Play” were remade in its ‘80s incarnation.

Echoing House of Wax (1953) and Robert Bloch’s Thriller episode “Waxworks,” “Exhibit” casts Martin Balsam as the curator of a fading wax museum’s Murderers’ Row, dangerously obsessed with his charges and their crimes, while “Queen” concerns an ageless actress with a secret, a scarab beetle that proves fatal for anyone who gets too close to her.  Sohl’s standout episode is the fan favorite “Living Doll,” in which a girl’s Talky Tina toy announces and carries out its intent to kill her wicked stepfather, and it is interesting to note that the script calls for the doll to be larger and more menacing in appearance, à la Child’s Play (1988), though the concept is probably even more frightening as it was finally filmed.  Of necessity, this is a more modest affair than the Gauntlet titles, with a brief introduction from Conlon but no episode commentaries or photos, plus an invaluable afterword in which Johnson explains the origins of A Touch of Strange, an abortive anthology series that he, Sohl, Matheson, and Theodore Sturgeon discussed while all four were writing for Star Trek.

Reading these twenty-one taut teleplays, it’s easy to escape back into The Twilight Zone and experience once again the thrill of discovery one had when watching “Eye of the Beholder” or “The Howling Man” (both directed by Douglas Heyes, who speaks candidly about the challenges they offered and his disagreements with Beaumont) for the first time.  And one can see how actors like Earl Holliman in “Where Is Everybody?,” Richard Conte in “Perchance to Dream,” Richard Long in “Person or Persons Unknown” and Telly Savalas in “Living Doll” were given the extraordinary gifts of stories and characters that pitted them against forces beyond their control or understanding, allowing their acting talents full rein.  Given his literary background, it is not surprising that Beaumont’s scripts make for slightly better reading, with shot descriptions presumably more detailed than those in an average teleplay, but all three books are brimming with the imagination, ingenuity and diversity that have kept The Twilight Zone thriving in reruns since it made its debut, forty-five years ago.

As Rod Serling told TV Guide in 1959, “the half-hour film can probe effectively, dramatize and present a well-told and well-filmed story….We want to tell stories that are different.  We want to prove that television, even in its half-hour form [as The Twilight Zone was for four out of its five seasons], can be both commercial and worthwhile.”  No greater proof of that theory need be offered than these unforgettable excursions from a trio of master storytellers, whose work will outlive them all, and enrich us for years yet to come.

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During the renaissance of Gothic horror, British beauty Hazel Court worked for both Hammer Films and American International Pictures (AIP), directed by Terence Fisher in The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959) and by Roger Corman in The Premature Burial (1962), The Raven (1963), and The Masque of the Red Death (1964). Many of the actresses appearing in such films shun the association, but since she entitled her autobiography Hazel Court—Horror Star, she seems rather to have embraced the genre, to which her contributions include Ghost Ship (1952), Devil Girl from Mars (1954), and Dr. Blood’s Coffin (1961). A friend bought me the book (published by Tomahawk Press in 2008 just after her death) while I was seeking material for Richard Matheson on Screen, yet it’s only now, with my magnum opus on the verge of being proofread and indexed, that I have had a chance to read it from cover to cover.

Born in 1926 (just ten days before Matheson), Court feelingly describes her family, her happy upbringing in Birmingham, her experiences during and after World War II—which claimed her first love, identified only as J.W.—and the fulfillment of her childhood aspirations when she made her debut with two lines in Champagne Charlie (1944). Her career progressed through magazine covers and glamour shots, a contract with the Rank Organization, a starring role in Meet Me at Dawn (1947), and an appearance in the late Ken Annakin’s first feature, Holiday Camp (1947), enabling Tomahawk to cross-promote his autobiography, So You Wanna Be a Director? Court also became a staple of episodic television, and it was on her first of four episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents that she met her second husband, ex-actor Don Taylor, who directed her in “The Crocodile Case” and was married to Court until his death in 1998.

In addition to guesting on such shows as Bonanza, Danger Man, Thriller, Rawhide, The Twilight Zone, Dr. Kildare, and Mannix, Court starred with Patrick O’Neal in the single-season comedy Dick and the Duchess, which she was promoting in New York when The Curse of Frankenstein was #2 at the U.S. box office. It’s easy to forget that she was probably more familiar to cinemagoers at the time than either of her Curse co-stars, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee—who also had a supporting role in The Man Who Could Cheat Death—about both of whom she writes with great affection. This makes Hammer’s decision to hire her all the wiser (I had not realized that her seven-year-old daughter, Sally Walsh, played her character as a child), but it’s interesting to note that while they used her as a more traditionally imperiled heroine, Corman cast her as a sensually sinful “bad girl” in all three of their Edgar Allan Poe films together.

Tomahawk claims that Court is the only actress to have worked with Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, Lee, and Cushing; equally impressive were her off-screen collaborators Fisher, Corman, Matheson, and his friend Charles Beaumont, who co-wrote both The Premature Burial and The Masque of the Red Death. She cites Matheson’s The Raven as the film she most enjoyed making, offering delightful anecdotes about encountering the young Jack Nicholson and watching Price, Karloff, and Peter Lorre try to outdo one another, and writes about the painting and sculpting she successfully pursued as her acting career wound down. After starring with Price in Masque, Court continued making television guest spots through 1972, and her last appearance was an unbilled cameo in The Final Conflict (1981) as a favor to producer Harvey Bernhard, for whom Taylor had directed Damien: Omen II (1978).

Hazel Court—Horror Star is enjoyable and, as the memoir of such an icon (especially one no longer with us), perhaps invaluable, but leaves the reader wanting more, e.g., Ghost Ship is mentioned only in passing as one of two films she made with director Vernon Sewell and her first husband, Irish actor Dermot Walsh. She details the courtship leading up to their 1949 wedding, yet then Walsh virtually disappears from the narrative, with no discussion of why their marriage “was not the strongest in the world” or how their divorce affected Sally, who was almost thirteen when Court married Taylor in 1963. However, she has not skimped on the book’s 200 photos (one of which confirms the existence of her fabled topless modeling scene from the rare European version of The Man Who Could Cheat Death), so as a celebration of Court’s career highlights and red-haired, green-eyed beauty, it is eminently satisfying.

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On the occasion of his 84th birthday, we revisit this SF-oriented profile written for the late, lamented original Scifipedia website.

A living legend in the film industry, Roger Corman has directed more than fifty low-budget independent motion pictures, thirty-three of them for American International Pictures (AIP), which was founded by James H. Nicholson and Samuel Z. Arkoff in 1954 as the American Releasing Corporation.  Born on April 5, 1926, he has also produced and/or distributed hundreds more for his own companies, New World Pictures and Concorde/New Horizons; given a generation of major filmmakers their first big break, on one or both sides of the camera; and even acted in occasional films.  Long before there was a Sundance Institute for independent filmmakers, there was an unofficial “Corman School” whose many prestigious alumni include Peter Bogdanovich, James Cameron, Francis Ford Coppola, Joe Dante, Jonathan Demme, Dennis Hopper, Ron Howard, Gale Anne Hurd, Jonathan Kaplan, Jack Nicholson, John Sayles, Martin Scorsese, and Robert Towne.

Associated with AIP since its inception, Corman became disillusioned with the studio over changes made by cofounder Nicholson to four consecutive films without his knowledge, and after making Von Richthofen and Brown (1970) for United Artists, he took a twenty-year hiatus from his directing chores to get married, start a family, and found New World, which he eventually sold in 1982.  As a director, he is probably best known for AIP’s highly successful series of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, which in its use of color, Gothic horror, classic literary sources, and relatively low budgets served as an American answer to the Hammer horror revival that was then underway.  Corman initiated the series, directing the first eight films, half of which—House of Usher (aka The Fall of the House of Usher, 1960), Pit and the Pendulum (1961), Tales of Terror (1962), and The Raven (1963)—were based on Poe’s work by acclaimed author and screenwriter Richard Matheson.

Matheson’s friend and colleague, Charles Beaumont, weighed in with The Premature Burial (1962), written with the late Ray Russell; The Haunted Palace (1963), which took its title from the poem by Poe, but was primarily based on H.P. Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward; and The Masque of the Red Death (1964), which was rewritten by R. Wright Campbell and incorporated Poe’s “Hop-Frog.”  The Tomb of Ligeia (1964) was scripted by Towne, then still in his twenties, and Corman’s team included Vincent Price (who starred in all but The Premature Burial), composer Les Baxter, and cinematographer Floyd Crosby, an Oscar-winner for the semi-documentary Tabu (1931).  Art director and production designer Daniel Haller later directed AIP’s more overt Lovecraft films Monster of Terror (aka Die, Monster, Die, 1965)—adapted by another member of Matheson’s circle, Jerry Sohl, from “The Colour Out of Space”—and The Dunwich Horror (1970).

Corman made his directorial debut with a Western, Swamp Women (1955), after producing three films, including Monster from the Ocean Floor (1954), and while his subsequent genre credits as a producer are too numerous to mention, he has directed several sometimes borderline SF films, most of which are cult classics, like It Conquered the World and Day the World Ended (both 1956).  The former pits Peter Graves against fellow scientist Lee Van Cleef, the minion of a cucumber-like creature from Venus trying to take over the Earth with bat-shaped control devices, while Richard Denning starred in the latter, as irradiated mutants menace a group of survivors after an atomic war.  These gained additional “bad cinema” luster when Dallas-based auteur Larry Buchanan remade them, for even less money, as Zontar, the Thing from Venus (1966) and In the Year 2889 (1967), respectively, to round out two packages of genre films for American International Television (AIT).

Remade by Jim Wynorski in 1988 and, incredibly, again by Terence H. Winkless in 1995, Corman’s Not of This Earth (1957) was written by Charles B. Griffith—who scripted no fewer than seven of his genre films—and Mark Hanna, with Paul Birch as an alien seeking blood for his dying race, and Corman’s frequent and formidable leading lady, Beverly Garland, as his gutsy nurse.  In the self-explanatory Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), atomic fallout is fingered as the culprit once again, not only rendering the crustaceans colossal but also giving them the ability to absorb the brains of those they kill, which still makes them no match for a cave-in and high-tension wires.  The Undead (1957) cashed in on the Bridey Murphy craze, with prostitute Pamela Duncan hypnotized as the subject of a regression experiment and sent to the Middle Ages, where she is inconveniently jailed as a witch; it was reportedly shot in six days, with interiors built inside a disused supermarket.

With a running time only slightly longer than it takes to read its title, The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent (1957) mingled Corman regulars and an unusually threadbare beast, created on an off day by the entrepreneurial effects team of Jack Rabin, Irving Block, and Louis DeWitt.  Responding to reports of the Soviet Sputnik, Corman and writer-producers Rabin and Block then banged out War of the Satellites (1958) in just two months, although any resemblance to reality was, presumably, purely coincidental as aliens attempted to foil manned space flight.  To Corman’s dismay, AIP retitled Campbell’s script Prehistoric World as the more exploitative Teenage Caveman (1958), with a relatively young, albeit hardly teenaged, Robert Vaughn as “The Boy,” who breaks his clan’s laws and heads for greener pastures roamed by The God That Brings Death With Its Touch, finally revealed as the deformed survivor of an atomic war.

In between the Poe series and such spoofs as A Bucket of Blood (1959), The Little Shop of Horrors (1960) and Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961), Corman continued to dabble in SF with the likes of The Wasp Woman, in which royal jelly from a queen wasp turns Susan Cabot into the titular terror, and The Last Woman on Earth (both 1960).  Shot back-to-back with Haunted Sea, this featured the same leads—Betsy Jones-Moreland, Antony Carbone, and “Edward Wain” (debuting screenwriter Towne)—enmeshed in a post-apocalyptic love triangle, reminiscent of the somewhat higher-toned The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1959).  One of Corman’s more unusual efforts of this period, X—The Man With the X-Ray Eyes (1963), was written by Russell (also an editor at Playboy, in which capacity he acquired many stories by Matheson et al.) and Robert Dillon, with Ray Milland as a driven scientist whose experiment leads to enhanced vision but ends in tragedy.

Corman’s swan song at AIP, the ill-fated satire Gas! or, It Became Necessary to Destroy the World in Order to Save It (1970), included an homage to Poe in general and The Raven in particular, with a character named “Edgar Allan Poe” appearing periodically to comment on the action, riding a Hell’s Angels chopper with a raven perched upon his shoulder.  It concerns a nerve gas that is accidentally unleashed and prematurely ages all those over twenty-five to death, leaving the youth of America to run the country in a scattershot mélange of communes, bikers, rock music, hippies, and a deus ex machina ending.  Corman’s sole directorial credit since 1970, Frankenstein Unbound (1990) is based on Brian W. Aldiss’s novel, with scientist John Hurt transported by a time slip from 2031 to 1817, encountering Victor Frankenstein (Raul Julia), his Monster (Nick Brimble), Mary Godwin (Bridget Fonda), Lord Byron (Jason Patric), and Percy Shelley (Michael Hutchence).

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Last in a series of six previously unpublished profiles.

Author and screenwriter Jerry Sohl (1913-2002) was the senior member of the Southern California Group that included Charles Beaumont, Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, George Clayton Johnson, Richard Matheson, William F. Nolan, and Ray Russell. He contributed to some of the best-loved SF series from the 1960s, such as The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Star Trek.

Sohl’s books include The Haploids, Costigan’s Needle (his personal favorite among his SF novels), The Altered Ego, Point Ultimate, and his critically acclaimed mainstream debut, The Lemon Eaters. The posthumous collection Filet of Sohl: The Classic Scripts and Stories of Jerry Sohl includes unproduced teleplays, plus a treatment, as well as tributes from friends and family.

While on the staff of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Sohl scripted “Dead Weight,” “Not the Running Type,” “The Doubtful Doctor,” and “A Secret Life.” As he told this writer in an interview for Filmfax, “That’s the first thing that I did. [Producer] Joan Harrison liked me…and we got along very well. She had short stories…[they] had purchased here and there, and from [those] I fashioned the teleplays.”

Sohl wrote scripts for Naked City, Route 66, and especially The Twilight Zone that were credited to Beaumont, who died of a degenerative disease at the age of thirty-eight in 1967. Sohl recalled, “the trouble with Chuck Beaumont was that he was ill and his wife needed the money, so for nothing I did the teleplays for him, so that she would get the money and the residuals….

“He was going downhill at the time, so what he said was some kind of title, let’s say, and I just took it from then on. You know, I was perfectly familiar with the format, so there was no problem in getting [them] done,” he said. “The New Exhibit,” “Living Doll,” and “Queen of the Nile” were published in The Twilight Zone Scripts of Jerry Sohl, edited by Christopher Conlon.

“The New Exhibit” and “Queen of the Nile” were both directed by John Brahm. “We discussed various scenes, and there was no difficulty…I really liked him a lot, and he was very good…He had his own ideas, and he translated whatever I gave him into what I thought was better than I could have done by myself, because he was a very experienced person,” said Sohl.

“Living Doll,” in which Telly Savalas is menaced by the macabre Talky Tina, is one of the most memorable Twilight Zone episodes. As Sohl recalled, “Chuck Beaumont and I were walking along and saying, ‘Suppose we had a doll that talked and could answer our questions and reprimand us. Just think of all the things that a doll could do!’…It turned out very well.”

During the show’s fifth and final season, William Froug succeeded Bert Granet as the producer of The Twilight Zone and drastically altered or cancelled scripts by Beaumont, Johnson, Matheson, and Sohl that had been accepted by his predecessor. “Pattern for Doomsday” and “Who Am I?” are included in Filet of Sohl, also edited by Conlon; both books are published by BearManor Media.

Matheson and Sohl were playing golf on November 22, 1963, and broke off their game when they learned that President John F. Kennedy had been shot. Their real-life encounter with a psychotic trucker on the way home grew into Matheson’s story “Duel,” published in Playboy, and the eponymous 1971 TV-movie that marked a young Steven Spielberg’s feature-length debut.

Sohl adapted his own stories “The Invisible Enemy” and “Counterweight,” first published in pulp SF magazines of the 1950s, for The Outer Limits, although “Counterweight” was heavily rewritten by Milton Krims, to his dismay. Its alien-possessed plant, animated by Jim Danforth, was one of the more memorable monsters, or “bears,” that ABC insisted must be in each episode.

“Initially…they wanted the monster shown at the beginning of the show. My feeling about the matter was [that then] you might as well forget it all and just show the monster, that’s it. You have to show something mysterious and continue on, and the mystery mounts until you find that it is a monster who is doing this terrible thing, whatever it is,” as Sohl later observed.

Among Sohl’s few feature-film credits are two adaptations of the work of H.P. Lovecraft, both produced in England by American International Pictures (AIP) and starring Boris Karloff. Sohl scripted Daniel Haller’s Monster of Terror (aka Die, Monster, Die!, 1965), but received only the story credit on Vernon Sewell’s The Crimson Cult (aka Curse of the Crimson Altar, 1968).

“I really liked the way that he wrote,” Sohl said of Lovecraft. “He had a unique style of writing, and his mind worked in mysterious ways, so we all admired him. It was nice to be able to use something that was so new and startling, and it certainly was startling, many of the things that he did. So to put that on the screen required some maneuvering, but I think that we [did it].”

In Monster of Terror, based on “The Colour Out of Space,” Karloff conducts dangerous experiments with a radioactive meteorite that eventually mutates him. An uncredited adaptation of “The Dreams in the Witch House,” The Crimson Cult assembled Karloff, Christopher Lee and Barbara Steele for the first time, to sadly little effect, in the tale of a vengeful reincarnated witch.

Surprisingly, Sohl is credited on Furankenshutain tai Chitei Kaijû Baragon (Frankenstein Against the Subterranean Monster Baragon, aka Frankenstein Conquers the World, 1965), a U.S.-Japanese kaiju eiga (giant monster movie). Recruited by one of the producers, he devised a story in which the Frankenstein Monster’s heart, irradiated in Hiroshima, grows into a behemoth.

“I took five minutes of my time and…explained how it happened, and I think you’d be pleased with it but you would not be too pleased with the picture. They have a funny style over there. I did the whole [treatment] and sent it to him. He paid me $2,500 for it and sent it over to Japan. They made a picture out of it and I did not have to write a screenplay,” as Sohl recounted.

His seminal contribution to Star Trek was the first episode shot after its two pilots, “The Corbomite Maneuver,” which introduced the characters of McCoy and Uhura. Sohl’s subsequent scripts were so heavily revised that he only shared the story credit on “This Side of Paradise” (as Nathan Butler) and “Whom Gods Destroy” with final writers Dorothy C. Fontana and Lee Erwin, respectively.

“When you’re doing the first script, you have the blueprint of the pilot before you, so you have to figure out, ‘Well, what is [a particular character’s] job, really? What does he do? What is he afraid of? Does he have any panache? Does he like little girls?,’ or whatever. You think of all these things…because that’s the blueprint of how the thing is going to play,” Sohl related.

Sohl worked on two episodes from the SF series The Invaders, collaborating with fellow Twilight Zone contributor Earl Hamner on the teleplay for “The Watchers,” and scripting “Dark Outpost.” He also shared the screenwriting credit on a 1977 Man from Atlantis TV-movie, “The Disappearances,” with producer Herman Miller, who used the nom de plume of Luther Murdoch.

The TV-movie Night Slaves (1970) was directed by Twilight Zone veteran Ted Post, and adapted by Robert Specht and producer Everett Chambers from Sohl’s 1965 novel about humans controlled by aliens to repair their ship. “I was very pleased with the whole thing,” he said. “As a matter of fact, it interested me [when] I sat down to watch it…[and] they did a marvelous job.”

Star Trek contributors Sohl, Johnson, Matheson, and Theodore Sturgeon incorporated as The Green Hand and pitched ideas to network executives, but “they didn’t seem to understand us at all…When they saw us…come in and invade their office, they seemed to be overpowered and stunned and open-mouthed, and they would never buy anything that we were selling,” Sohl said.

Sohl commented on the enduring appeal of his classic 1960s shows: “What we did was new, unusual, startling, sparkling, and because they had never been done before, you had a lot of leeway in doing them. But the fact that they are on the tube now shows that the things that we did at the time were the right things. Otherwise, they would be like the rest of TV, forgotten.”

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Charles Beaumont

Second in a series of six previously unpublished profiles.

The life and career of Charles Beaumont (1929-67) blazed, briefly but brightly, like a comet crossing the sky; he has been called the hub of the Southern California School of Writers (aka The Group), with such celebrated “spokes” as Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, George Clayton Johnson, Richard Matheson, William F. Nolan, Ray Russell, Jerry Sohl, and John Tomerlin.  All of these paid tribute to Beaumont in his posthumously published Selected Stories (reissued as The Howling Man), which—like The Twilight Zone Scripts of Charles Beaumont, Volume One—was edited by Roger Anker, according to whom he produced ten books, almost a hundred short stories, thirteen screenplays (nine of them produced), more than seventy teleplays, forty comic-book stories, and dozens of articles, profiles, and columns.  This was in thirteen short years, before Beaumont was rendered unable to work by the incurable degenerative disorder (either Alzheimer’s Disease or Pick’s Disease) that in 1965 consigned him to the Motion Picture Country Home and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California, where he died at the age of thirty-eight, prematurely aged and senile.

Especially close to Beaumont, both personally and professionally, Matheson said he was “my best friend for many years.  We wrote together for a period of time when we first went into television (until we decided that we would do better each going solo) and acted as ‘spurs’ to each other creatively.  I had sold my first collection of short stories [Born of Man and Woman] before Chuck, which spurred him on to get his first collection [The Hunger and Other Stories].  We both wrote ‘mainstream’ novels about the same time [The Beardless Warriors and The Intruder, respectively].  We both went into TV at the same time.  We both wrote films in the same period of time.  There was competition but only of the friendliest sort….He was tremendously magnetic.  I am a quiet person—although there is an antic spirit underneath the surface which some people see, most normally my family.  Chuck was a meteoric type of person.  His sense of humor was devastating.  He was a very funny, very witty person.  He had interests in so many things and pursued them all fully,” as he recounted to Marc Scott Zicree in The Twilight Zone Companion.

Born Charles Leroy Nutt in Chicago, Beaumont was raised by five widowed aunts in a Washington State rooming house, and before selling “The Devil, You Say?” to Amazing Stories in 1950 he held a variety of jobs ranging from actor to comic-book editor.  The year 1954 marked both the breakthrough appearance of “Black Country” in his best-known fiction outlet, Playboy, and his first screen credit on “Masquerade,” an episode of Four Star Playhouse; unfortunately, neither cast nor crew of Queen of Outer Space (1958) realized that his script was written as a spoof, but he fared better in the burgeoning medium of television.  “When we joined this agency [Adams, Ray, and Rosenberg] together, it was such a strange new world out there that we decided to work together,” Matheson told this writer.  “We collaborated on a lot of different shows….We knew each other, our families knew each other, our kids knew each other.”  Each had four children of similar ages, and when Beaumont’s wife, Helen, died of cancer just four years after him, the Mathesons acted as the foster parents for the orphaned Beaumont brood, the youngest of whom was only seven.

Beaumont and Matheson shared story or script credits on episodes of the detective series The D.A.’s Man (“Iron Mike Benedict”), Markham (“The Marble Face,” originally titled “Spirit Unwilling”), and Philip Marlowe (episode title[s] unknown), and the Westerns Buckskin (“Act of Faith”), Wanted: Dead or Alive (“The Healing Woman”), and Have Gun—Will Travel (“The Lady on the Wall”).  While obviously prolific, Beaumont frequently found himself overextended with commitments to the producers he was so famously adept at schmoozing, and sometimes split his fees with friends who would provide a first draft or an original story—often uncredited—which continued as his health declined and his medical bills increased.  This resulted most notably in Twilight Zone scripts ghost-written by Sohl (“The New Exhibit,” “Living Doll,” “Queen of the Nile”) and Tomerlin (“Number Twelve Looks Just Like You,” based on Beaumont’s story “The Beautiful People”), but credited to Beaumont; he and Matheson had seen no need to collaborate on the show because of their already solid literary credentials in the SF, fantasy and horror genre.

Beaumont based many Twilight Zone scripts on his own stories:  “Perchance to Dream,” “Elegy,” “The Howling Man,” “The Jungle,” “The Fugitive,” “Person or Persons Unknown,” “In His Image” (from “The Man Who Made Himself”), “Printer’s Devil” (from “The Devil, You Say?”), and “Passage on the Lady Anne” (from “Song for a Lady”).  Matheson told this writer that they “were both already well established in the magazine field, we knew how to write that kind of story, and we were very adaptable.  We could fit the Twilight Zone pattern almost instantly…The pattern is:  a teaser that gets your interest, and then Rod [Serling] making a comment, and then your first act with a cliffhanger, and then to your ending, which hopefully has a surprise.”  Beaumont also wrote the original teleplays “Long Live Walter Jameson,” “A Nice Place to Visit,” “Shadow Play,” “Valley of the Shadow,” and “Miniature,” and based “Static” and “The Prime Mover” on then-unpublished stories by Ocee Ritch (who later ghosted “Dead Man’s Shoes”) and Johnson, respectively, while “Long Distance Call” was a joint effort with another friend, William Idelson.

When William Froug took over as the producer of The Twilight Zone during the fifth and final season, he cancelled a number of teleplays written by Group members, including “Gentlemen, Be Seated” (published in The Twilight Zone Scripts of Charles Beaumont, Volume One) and Matheson’s “The Doll.”  Matheson said Froug “didn’t like my writing.  As a matter of fact, when I was collaborating with Chuck…I made the mistake of saying, because I didn’t like to go out, ‘I’ll do the first drafts, and you go out and do the office meetings.’  So because of that, everybody got the impression that I was like the retarded country cousin he was supporting out in the sticks.  And Froug, the producer who we did Philip Marlowe for, was totally convinced of that.”  Credited on Sohl’s scripts for Naked City and Route 66, Beaumont also contributed to Suspense, One Step Beyond (“The Captain’s Guest,” “Brainwave”), Thriller (“Girl With a Secret,” “Guillotine”), The Outer Limits (“The Guests,” based on his teleplay “An Ordinary Town”), Alfred Hitchcock Presents (“Backward, Turn Backward”), and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (“The Long Silence”).

When producer-director Roger Corman filmed The Intruder in 1961, with William Shatner playing the titular racist instigator, Beaumont adapted his own novel, as well as joining Johnson and Nolan in supporting roles, and continued their relationship on the Edgar Allan Poe series that Corman had initiated with Matheson at American International Pictures (AIP).  He wrote The Premature Burial (1962) with Russell, based The Haunted Palace (1963)—which took its title from a poem by Poe—on H.P. Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, and scripted The Masque of the Red Death (1964), which incorporated Poe’s “Hop-Frog,” and was rewritten by R. Wright Campbell.  Beaumont also worked for producer-director George Pal on The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962), with an all-star cast dramatizing the story of the brothers and enacting three of their fairy tales, and the Oscar-winning 7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964), which he adapted from Charles G. Finney’s The Circus of Dr. Lao; Tony Randall starred as the chameleonic Lao, who brings self-awareness to small-town citizens with various fantastic guises.

Matheson and Beaumont adapted their only feature-film collaboration, Night of the Eagle (aka Burn, Witch, Burn, 1962), from Fritz Leiber’s 1943 novel Conjure Wife.  Matheson told this writer, “We just went to a bar one night, we were chatting, and we decided, ‘Let’s write a movie together.’  We both loved Conjure Wife, and we knew that it had already been filmed, so we just ignored the fact and did it anyway.  We were both working for American International at the time, and they liked the script very much, but since they had to buy the rights from Universal, who had made Weird Woman [1944], the one with Lon Chaney, Jr., I think we split $10,000 between us for the script, that’s all we ever made….Actually, it doesn’t seem like it when you read our short stories, but when it came to scripts we wrote pretty similarly.”  Directed in England by Sidney Hayers, it starred Peter Wyngarde as skeptical college professor Norman Taylor, who destroys the supernatural paraphernalia with which his wife Tansy (Janet Blair)—a literal witch—protects him and furthers his career, leaving him vulnerable to attack by another witch among the faculty.

Beaumont’s work continued to reach the screen after his death; as early as the following year, his stories were being adapted into “The New People” and “Miss Belle” (based on “Miss Gentilbelle”) for Journey to the Unknown, the short-lived anthology series produced by 20th Century-Fox and England’s Hammer films, with many of the latter’s personnel participating.  The mid-1980s Twilight Zone revival essayed remakes of two Beaumont episodes, one of them with a change in gender (“Dead Woman’s Shoes” and “Shadow Play”), while writer-director Adam Simon resurrected his unfilmed 1963 screenplay Paranoia as Brain Dead (1990), which was made for Corman’s company, Concorde, and deals with an experimental treatment referred to as “the kindler, gentler lobotomy.”  But true immortality has come through the enduring popularity of his books and films, and especially of The Twilight Zone, for which he wrote more scripts than anyone but its creator, Rod Serling, as well as through the work of the writers whom he inspired or instructed, guaranteeing that the Group’s influence will outlive all of its members.

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