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Posts Tagged ‘McFarland’

Part of my “day job” as Copy Specialist for the PCS Stamps & Coins division of MBI, Inc. is to license images for use on our various collector panels and other products, so I had occasion today to contact the New York Public Library in that capacity for the first time. Lo and behold, the guy whose own day job is Manager of Rights & Permissions for the NYPL, Tom Lisanti, is not only a fellow McFarland author (e.g., Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema: Interviews with 20 Actresses from Biker, Beach and Elvis Movies; Film Fatales: Women in Espionage Films & TV 1962-1973), but also a fellow contributor to Cinema Retro whom I met in Manhattan at a delightful get-together for Retro writers hosted by our own “Dear Leader,” Lee Pfeiffer, at the Players Club (founded by 19th-century Shakespearean actor Edwin Booth, brother of John Wilkes) a couple of years back. Tom is a capital fellow who helped me with some advice while I was writing Richard Matheson on Screen, and duly appears in my acknowledgments. Those interested in the skull-splintering output of quintessential shlockmeister Larry Buchanan–and who isn’t?–will enjoy this article on Creature of Destruction from his website. Great to renew your acquaintance, Tom!

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Richard Gordon (1925-2011)

British producer Richard Gordon, who died November 1 at 85, occupied a notable place in the cinema of the fantastic by vocation, by avocation, and even by birth, as the younger brother of Alex Gordon, who was a key figure at American International Pictures during the 1950s before going solo. Richard used to write long letters to Filmfax relating his entertaining and informative adventures with the likes of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. I always laugh about the fact that while I was on the dessert line at Fanex long ago, I served Gordon—who didn’t know me from Adam—a piece of pecan pie, but I did get to chat with him a bit when I met him in the company of McFarland mainstay Tom Weaver at a Film Forum screening of the re-re-restored Metropolis.

Gordon helped get Lugosi—then touring in a revival of Dracula—into the drag comedy Mother Riley Meets the Vampire (1952, aka Vampire over London, also the title of a book about Lugosi’s sojourn in Britain, and My Son the Vampire). He produced films starring Karloff (The Haunted Strangler, Corridors of Blood [both 1958]), Marshall Thompson (Fiend without a Face [1958], First Man into Space [1959]), Bryant Haliday (Devil Doll [1964], Curse of the Voodoo [1965], The Projected Man [1966], Tower of Evil [1972]), and Peter Cushing (Island of Terror [1966]). When we met, Gordon lamented his falling-out with my late screenwriter/author friend George Baxt, which took place after director Jim O’Connolly rewrote George’s script for Tower of Evil.

As an increasingly rare living link to the horror stars of the Golden Age, Gordon will be missed.

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Had occasion today to plug my name into Google Books, where in addition to the usual Matheson fare and The Nativity–one of several picture books I’d forgotten adapting from animated versions by my erstwhile employers–I discovered Anne Francis: The Life and Career. Laura Wagner, the author of this just-published McFarland title, thanks me in her acknowledgments…which was civil of her, especially considering I had no idea she’d quoted from my Filmfax interview with the late Ms. Francis no fewer than six times. Not that I mind per se, since she cites them all quite properly, but it does seem strange that I was unaware of this, after the hoops McFarland made me jump through getting permission to use previously published material in Richard Matheson on Screen.

Additional random updates/observations:

  • I see NBC has already cancelled Free Agents. Glad I didn’t invest myself in that one–although, considering my track record, can the shows I liked enough to stick with be far behind?
  • Not sure how soon I’ll get to it myself, given how packed my next two weekends will be, but I urge everyone within the sound of my voice to go see Real Steel. It opens tonight and is based on Richard Matheson’s story “Steel,” which he also adapted into an excellent Twilight Zone episode with Lee Marvin, plus it stars Hugh Jackman, so what’s not to like? More on that after I’m able to see it personally, but here’s a nice Matheson-centric piece in the meantime, for which I thank the mighty Turafish.
  • Recognizing boundless enthusiasm and free material when they see it, the good folks at Marvel University have decided to make me a “substitute teacher,” first by re-presenting some vintage Marvel-related BOF posts (if anything from a blog that launched in January 2010 can truly be called “vintage”). They’re supposed to be running my stuff on Sundays starting 10/9, of which I will of course keep you apprised, and then, God willing, once the dust has settled on my epic Bond project, I’ll start churning out new material for them. As I recently told President and Dean of Students Peter Enfantino, he and his partner in crime, Professor John Scoleri, make me remember why I started writing for little or no money in the first place!

Bradley out–and about.

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While preparing Richard Matheson on Screen, I had some very enjoyable correspondence with Christopher Landry, who produced the soundtrack CD for the Matheson-scripted miniseries of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, released on the Airstrip One label in 2002. Chris was kind enough to give me permission to quote some material from his excellent CD liner notes, and recently sent me the following, which he has generously allowed me to reproduce here verbatim:

“I wanted to let you know that I finally obtained a copy of your excellent book, Richard Matheson on Screen. Reading it cover to cover, I found it thoroughly enjoyable. Congratulations on a job well done!

“While you only asked me about The Martian Chronicles, I have a couple of other tidbits of information that you might find of interest…

“First, regarding What Dreams May Come—I was an assistant director on that film (though I think I am credited as ‘producer’s assistant’ because they didn’t want to pay union wages). During the prep of the film in 1996-1997 and up until very close to the time of shooting, we were told that Annette Bening was cast in the role of Annie. Not sure what happened, but Annabella Sciorra seemed to be very much a last-minute replacement. Also, [German filmmaker] Werner Herzog’s cameo in the film [as part of the “sea of faces”] came initially through a request to use footage he had shot in Kuwait during the first Gulf War of the burning oil fields. This was intended for use in a documentary that was ultimately shelved when the similar IMAX Fires of Kuwait came out first. Herzog’s footage was used as VFX plate elements in many of the Hell scenes in What Dreams. It turned out that Herzog was a big fan of Matheson’s book and was eager to do a cameo when [director] Vincent Ward offered it.

“Second, about The Last Man on Earth—there has always been debate about which portions of the film were directed by Sidney Salkow and which were directed by Ubaldo Ragona. There was an Italian DVD boxed set of this film released [c.] 2008 that as a bonus feature shows a number of scenes in split-screen showing a comparison of Salkow’s and Ragona’s direction of the same scene. There are numerous differences, but essentially it’s the same story. There is also a unique bonus feature where you can scroll around a map of Rome, showing the various filming locations used in the film, with then-and-now photos and a clip from the film showing each location.

“Maybe you know about all of the above, but if not maybe it is of interest. Again, great job on the book.”

Actually, I didn’t know about ANY of that, and wish I had in time to use it in the book, but better late than never. Thanks, Chris!

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Many factors led me to start writing Richard Matheson on Screen in 1997, only the most obvious one of which was my growing obsession with Matheson’s work.  I did not record for posterity the date when I conceived or started working on it, but if I’d known it would take thirteen years, I would have erected a plaque in what was then my office at the now-defunct GoodTimes Entertainment, where the book was born.  My job as copy manager entailed a lot of down time, or I never would have attempted it, and I was going through some personal stuff that made it desirable to channel my energies in a productive direction.  In addition, I had already interviewed Matheson and some of his friends and fellow writers, and written introductions to limited editions of several of his novels.

The most specific impetus was the slow-motion train wreck of a proposed Matheson biography that he initially cooperated with but ultimately, and wisely, disowned.  The author (who shall remain nameless) was someone I’d known from my years as a book publicist and—due to my excitement over an actual book about Matheson, unprecedented at that time—foolishly tried to help.  Luckily, his editor was a friend of mine, and when he showed me an early draft of the manuscript I saw that the author had plagiarized my introductions, among other things, which is one reason why it was cancelled and later self-published.  It was during this fiasco that I hit on the idea of writing my own Matheson book, albeit with a focus more suited to my longstanding interest in the relationship between literature and film.

In 2003, I met Simon Drax as a fellow commuter from Bethel to Manhattan, and had been working on the book for about six years.  Around that time I also embarked upon the first of several related projects that repeatedly sidetracked my own when I agreed to edit Matheson’s Duel & The Distributor for Gauntlet.  Imagine my surprise after I learned that Drax was not only a fellow writer and publishing professional, but also an honest-to-God Matheson fan who took a genuine interest in my work.  When The Danbury News-Times wanted to do a story on Duel & The Distributor, it was Drax who brought his camera over to GoodTimes to snap the shot of me that accompanied the article…and now graces this blog.

Drax was then working on his own long-gestating book, the magnificent prose-manga epic Doomtroopers (more on that in a moment), and while riding the rails together we struck up the most congenial creative interplay imaginable.  I did not and do not own a laptop, so I would sit relentlessly poring over printouts of the day’s work, while across the aisle Drax was furiously typing away on his Mac.  We would critique each other’s efforts, and I had the honor of reading Doomtroopers almost literally as it flowed forth from his fingertips.  It was a heady, fruitful time.

Drax’s love for Matheson in general and I Am Legend in particular, his fascination with the seemingly endless saga of my writing the book (interrupted again when I was pressed into service as the co-editor of The Richard Matheson Companion and its revised version, The Twilight and Other Zones: The Dark Worlds of Richard Matheson), and his equally endless creativity inspired him to write a unique pastiche.  Its title a play on the first film version of I Am Legend, “The Last Manuscript on Earth” had me mysteriously appearing in the depopulated L.A. hitherto occupied only by Robert Neville and a horde of vampires, clutching my now-completed magnum opus and, as usual, proselytizing about Matheson.

While artistic license led Drax to mischaracterize my work in progress a bit, overall it was a touchingly personal tribute and a hilariously dead-on evocation of Matheson’s style, although Drax was more than a little chagrined when I sent it to the man himself and received a comment along the lines of, “Cute.”  Corporate layoffs ended our time together on the train, but I eventually finished my book, and am thrilled to announce that the Kindle edition of Drax’s Doomtroopers is now available here.  Other projects will undoubtedly ensue for both of us, and we will continue to reach across the aisle, in spirit if not in fact.  I couldn’t ask for a better travelling companion—it’s been a hell of a ride.

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We finally have in hand Fangoria #301, emblazoned with a caricature of Matheson as the Mystic Seer fortune-telling machine from his Twilight Zone episode “Nick of Time” and the headline, “The Master of Terror Speaks.”  In addition to discussing his new novel, Other Kingdoms (just out from Tor), Richard reveals in his six-page interview, “My son [Richard Christian] and I are starting a company called Matheson Entertainment, which will take a lot of [our] unused material for film and television…and adapt it.”  They review his new Gauntlet book Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, as I will be for Tor.com, and the third-season Twilight Zone Blu-ray, although they err by claiming that he contributed only two episodes to that season, overlooking “Once Upon a Time.”

Last but, ahem, far from least, Fangoria reviews “writer, Matheson expert and occasional Fango contributor Matthew R. Bradley’s excellent recent tome Richard Matheson on Screen….Each picture is given due diligence, with Matheson appraisals, quotes from other journalists and thorough critical analyses by Bradley, making [this] a fantastic point of entry in understanding the author’s fascinating oeuvre.”  (Amusingly, the literary and DVD reviews are respectively credited to “Ben Cortman” and “Janos Skorzeny,” two names that need no introduction for the serious Matheson scholar.)  And, as a bonus, the issue also includes a chat with Matheson pal, fellow BOF interviewee and birthday boy William F. Nolan, so really, what’s not to like, guys?

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$183.83

As is often observed regarding…certain activities, you can only ever have one first time, so it’s possible that I may remember the figure $183.83 for quite a while, since that’s the amount of my very first royalty check from McFarland for Richard Matheson on Screen.  Okay, I’ve gotten—and appreciated—third-party checks representing my slice of the royalties for contributing to The Man Who Collected Psychos, but this is the first time they’ve cut a check directly to me for work that is all my own.  I’d probably still be staring at it now if we hadn’t obeyed their injunction to “CASH CHECK IMMEDIATELY,” which I trust says nothing about McFarland’s finances.  🙂

No, it doesn’t seem like a lot to show for thirteen years of work, and it will barely pay for half of Renfield the rat’s visit to the vet two weeks ago, where he was diagnosed with an enlarged heart and put on antibiotics that have apparently enabled him to hang on, albeit precariously, since that time.  But because McFarland calculates royalties twice a year, which I gather is unusual, this is only a reflection of what they had sold by the end of 2010 (minus one return—bestid!).  They tell me the book has now sold at least five times as many copies in three printings, so there’s more to come, and if you’d like to check back in here in about six months, I’ll probably keep you posted.

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