Posts Tagged ‘Tor’

Tor.com Alert 4/7/11

Okay, let’s see:  yesterday was Wednesday, Wednesday.  Today is Thursday, Thursday.  Tomorrow is Friday.  And Saturday comes afterwards…but I digress.  It’s so easy to get distracted by great literature.  (Man, Steve Allen would have had a field day with that one.)

Be that as it may, you can still tune in to Tor.com for the latest, and possibly last, post in my Richard Matheson—Storyteller series, since there’s been no discussion of where we might go from here, although I’m sure if I had a brilliant suggestion they’d be up for it.  Today’s entry is my long-awaited (?) interview with Richard, spurred primarily by the publication of his critically praised new novel, Other Kingdoms.  But it’s also an overview of the recent, current, and forthcoming events in the multimedia world of You-Know-Who:  books, short stories, movies, and more, so if you want to know all about the latest from the greatest, you need look no further.  Bradley out.

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Sorry I’m a little slow off the mark with this one, but my online time has been extremely limited lately for a variety of reasons (not least of them a massive motivational meltdown), and I’ve only just become aware of it.  It seems that the good folks at Tor.com, fresh from a massive revamp of their already impressive website, were able on Wednesday to squeeze in my review of the latest Gauntlet special edition of Matheson’s work, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.  The book is a must for any serious Matheson collector, examining this seminal creation in its multimedia incarnations, and I hope the review will whet your appetite for my forthcoming Tor.com Matheson interview.

Meanwhile, we bid a sad but affectionate goodbye to longtime genre fixture Michael Gough, a native of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, who—at the ripe old age of 93, and with 178 IMDb credits over the course of his 64-year film and television career—can, in all fairness, be said to have had a good run.  Sixty years ago, he appeared in The Man in the White Suit opposite Alec Guinness, with whom Gough was reunited in The Horse’s Mouth (1958) and the BOF fave Smiley’s People (1982).  He also had a small role in Laurence Olivier’s version of Richard III (1955); their other collaborations ran the gamut from The Boys from Brazil (1978) to Brideshead Revisited (1981).

Gough was in at the beginning of the Hammer renaissance with a substantial and, in retrospect, surprisingly heroic part as Arthur in Terence Fisher’s Horror of Dracula (1958), which marked Christopher Lee’s debut as the Count.  The following year, he had what might be considered his defining role as a crime writer who commits murder to generate his own material in Horrors of the Black Museum.  This was to be his first of five collaborations with erstwhile AIP producer Herman Cohen, followed by several similar characters in Cohen’s Konga (1961), Black Zoo (1963), Berserk (1967), and Trog (1970), the latter two starring Joan Crawford, of all people.

With his talent for portraying slimy villains, Gough was a considerable asset to Hammer’s The Phantom of the Opera (1962), although its disappointing box-office results gave Fisher’s career a serious hit.  His path crossed that of Lee’s almost a dozen times over the decades, and the next was in “Disembodied Hand,” a segment from Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965), the first of rival Amicus Productions’ many anthology films.  Further, if minor, roles for Amicus followed in The Skull (1965, again with Lee) and They Came from Beyond Space (1967), all three of them directed (as was Trog) by Hammer veteran and Oscar-winning cinematographer Freddie Francis.

Gough also found decent roles outside the genre in the likes of a television production of Pride and Prejudice (1967), and even his pairings with Lee straddled both worlds.  After they picked up a paycheck in the AIP/Tigon co-production Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968), they joined an all-star cast headed by Charlton Heston for Julius Caesar (1970).  Other high-profile mainstream films from this period include Ken Russell’s D.H. Lawrence adaptation Women in Love (1969) and Joseph Losey’s The Go-Between (1970), scripted by Harold Pinter, and Gough appeared in such TV series as The Saint, The Avengers, and Hammer’s short-lived Journey to the Unknown.

Lest we forget the inevitable Matheson connection, Gough had an unbilled but significant role in The Legend of Hell House (1973), and then worked largely in television (including Dr. Who) for the next few decades.  Among his intermittent and noteworthy feature films were Peter Yates’s The Dresser (1983), Sydney Pollack’s Out of Africa (1985), John Mackenzie’s cracking thriller The Fourth Protocol (1987), and Wes Craven’s The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988).  Gough’s fame with the Hot Topic generation of viewers was assured when he took the role of the Wayne family butler, Alfred Pennyworth, in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992).

While still finding time for highbrow fare like Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence (1993), Gough soldiered on through the decreasing quality of the Burton-less Batman Forever (1995) and Batman & Robin (1997).  More important, he kept working with Burton—and renewed his association with Lee—in Sleepy Hollow (1999), Corpse Bride (2005), and last year’s Alice in Wonderland, which while a bit of a disappointment to this Burton fan was a perfect capstone to his long and impressive career.  So let us salute and celebrate this consummate performer, whose many decades in front of the camera displayed such enviable breadth and depth:  R.I.P., Michael.

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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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Any pleasure I would have taken in reporting this news has been largely dampened—in every sense of the word—by the discovery (literally as I sat down to begin writing) of a new leak, in our bedroom ceiling this time, followed by the resurgence of an old leak in the basement, and a fruitless session of chopping away at the ice in the gutters.  Madame BOF and I were left feeling utterly hopeless, with two more months of winter yet to come and the second storm in a double-header hitting tonight.  Be that as it may, however, issue #19 of Cinema Retro, that outstanding magazine devoted to the true cinematic Golden Age of the ’60s and ’70s, is a veritable goldmine for those who follow the careers of yours truly and my main man Gilbert Colon with any interest.

The cover story is a ten-page “Film in Focus Special” occasioned by the Blu-ray release of The Exorcist (1973), most of which is devoted to pertinent passages from the 1996 interview Gil and I did with its original author, screenwriter, and producer, William Peter Blatty.  Portions of said interview were published in Filmfax, but Retro will supposedly publish the whole enchilada over a series of issues; this installment is beefed up with color photos, sidebars by editor-in-chief Lee Pfeiffer, and Gilbert’s preview of Bill’s new novel from Tor, Crazy.  And, as if all that weren’t enough to entice you, Lee was able to squeeze in a last-minute review of Richard Matheson on Screen, opining that, “If you admire Matheson’s work, this book can be considered as essential.”

Meanwhile, as if this year didn’t suck enough already, John Barry has left us at the not-terribly-advanced age of 77.  Since his name will be familiar to BOF readers, I will not regurgitate what I’ve already written here about his place among my top ten favorite film composers, his seminal contributions to the James Bond series or, most recently, his work on the late Peter Yates’s The Deep (1977).  I will mention his Academy Awards for Born Free (1966)—for song and score—The Lion in Winter (1968), Out of Africa (1985), and Dances with Wolves (1990), as well as his nominations for Mary, Queen of Scots (1971) and Chaplin (1992), because even though none of them is a personal favorite, they surely display the length and breadth of his extraordinary career.

My choices are, as usual, a bit more eclectic, like Sidney J. Furie’s The Ipcress File (1965), from the novel by Len Deighton.  Bond co-producer Harry Saltzman intended to establish Deighton’s nameless and bespectacled spy (dubbed “Harry Palmer” and brilliantly played by Michael Caine in the film) as the anti-Bond, and despite Barry’s already strong association with the Bond series, Saltzman wisely allowed him to score the film.  One need only contrast the moody, world-weary main title theme from The Ipcress File with the dynamism of, say, Barry’s first full Bond score, Goldfinger (1964), or his pulse-pounding instrumental main title from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) to see how, even within the espionage genre, he could vary his work accordingly.

At the other end of the emotional spectrum, Barry composed a theme of suitably heartbreaking beauty for Nicolas Roeg’s solo directorial debut, Walkabout (1971), a unique tale of two children forced to undergo a coming-of-age odyssey through the Australian Outback.  With his seemingly effortless artistry, Barry captures both the lyrical majesty of the film’s setting and the bittersweet ache of its storyline.  Finally, as the author of the Matheson tome cited above, I would be remiss if I neglected to mention Barry’s work on Somewhere in Time (1980), a lush, romantic score that incorporates Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (Op. 43, Variation XVIII), proved to be one of his biggest-selling soundtracks, and was born out of the pain of losing both his parents.

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

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

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

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Sorry this is a day late (if not a dollar short); my daughter had oral surgery yesterday, which kind of tended to crowd out less familial concerns such as the penultimate installment of my précis of Matheson’s screen career on Tor.com.  This one backtracks to cover his seminal contributions to the original Twilight Zone, including the classic entry “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” while the next post will cover not only his subsequent Zone involvement but also some recent adaptations of his work.  Due to the holidays, my editor and I have yet to discuss where the “Richard Matheson—Storyteller” series might then proceed, but you’ll surely be able to read about it here, uh, second.

As longtime BOF readers already know, my Google Alert for Matheson’s name has taken me to some strange places, but perhaps none more so than this post in a “Spielberg Blogathon,” which makes a major contribution to Matheson scholarship by explaining that “Duel is essentially about gay panic inspired by a traumatic car accident.”  It refers to “the handlebar mustaches [that] are [part of] the foundation of Spieberg’s gender-coded man’s world,” and its “central preoccupation with transferring fears of being assaulted, in this case rear-ended [!], into objects—leather boots, rear-view mirrors, bumpers…”  Joke’s on Richard, who clearly had no idea what he was writing.

Finally, I offer this holiday-themed video with no editorial comment whatsoever.  Bradley out…

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The life part is easy, because it being the wee hours of Christmas Day as I write this, we’re now celebrating the birth of J.C., despite being the least prepared for this holiday we have ever been.  Kicking off a ten-day vacation, I slept until 10:00, finished writing a Matheson post for Tor.com, and availed myself of the last opportunity for some, uh, “quality time” with the wife before our daughter and her boyfriend fly in from Oregon.  Then we gorged ourselves on corned beef (an unusual gift from the senior Mrs. B., who sent us a Box o’ Ruben Fixin’s from Zabar’s in New York) and I slipped in a nap, with Mina sleeping on my lap, and a workout on my exercise bike, while embarking on Kurosawa’s The Idiot (1951), before I had to shower and change for church.

Although I’m technically an agnostic, Madame BOF and I attend a local Congregational church and are in the choir, singing on Christmas Eve at 7:30 and 11:00.  In addition to the traditional carols for which we join the congregation (e.g., “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “Joy to the World,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “Silent Night, Holy Night”), this year we did a pretty French carol, “Saw You Never, in the Twilight,” and a rousing English one, “Masters in This Hall.”  In between the two services, we repair to the home of a fellow choir member for potluck food and drink—albeit hopefully not too much of the latter—and a nicer bunch of people to sing or socialize with cannot be imagined.

The death part is a little trickier, and I’ll state at the outset that this is going to be one of those I’m-not-really-crazy-about-So-and-So-but-feel-I-must-acknowledge-their-passing posts, in this case (belatedly) that of writer-director Blake Edwards, who left us on the 15th at 88.  Without wishing to speak ill of the dead, especially on Christmas, it’s become a running gag among the Movie Knights that our Host with the Most will not allow any Edwards films to be shown, yet he takes his Hostly duties seriously enough that more than once he’s made exceptions for a Knight to see his favorite Pink Panther film.  Gilbert loves A Shot in the Dark (1964), I favor The Return of… (1975), and the mighty Turafish comes down squarely on the side of …Strikes Again (1976).

I’m sure part of Gil’s fondness for Shot is due to the fact that William Peter Blatty, whom people forget worked in comedy before he struck gold with The Exorcist (we’re still waiting to receive the new issue of Cinema Retro featuring our interview with Bill), co-wrote that and three other films with Edwards.  Yet I’ve seen two more, What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? (1966) and Darling Lili (1970)—the latter starring Julie Andrews, who married Edwards the year before—and didn’t care for either of them.  I haven’t seen Gunn (1967) or the Edwards-created private-eye TV series that spawned it, although I absolutely adore the driving theme song (especially the Art of Noise version) by Henry Mancini, his longtime, and perhaps most valuable, collaborator.

Interestingly, as much as I admire Peter Sellers (TCM’s star of the month for January), I also saw the only non-Inspector Clouseau movie he made with Edwards, The Party (1968), and found that painfully unfunny.  This suggests that Clouseau created a special alchemy among Sellers, Blatty and/or Edwards that may not have existed elsewhere, just as director Jack Arnold and producer William Alland seemed to do better work together than apart.  And because the Edwards/Sellers relationship was a fractious one, it also calls to mind a milder version of the almost murderous love-hate bond between director Werner Herzog and star Klaus Kinski, which was documented in Herzog’s My Best Fiend (1999), and nonetheless produced some brilliant work…but I digress.

Edwards worked as an actor and screenwriter before graduating to director, making several films with Tony Curtis:  Mister Cory (1957), The Perfect Furlough (1958), and Operation Petticoat (1959); in spite of Cary Grant’s presence in the latter, I think that as an undiscriminating teen, I actually preferred the TV spin-off.  Now, I’m not dumb enough to say that I think Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) isn’t a good movie, but I will say it wasn’t my cup of tea, nor was I crazy about his other pre-Panther successes such as Experiment in Terror or Days of Wine and Roses (both 1962).  I’ll also freely admit that my feelings toward Days have since been colored by my loyalty to John Frankenheimer, who directed the Playhouse 90 version and was passed over for the film.

The Pink Panther (1963) changed everything, giving Mancini his second immortal theme, and if the scenes involving top-billed David Niven and his aspiring jewel-thief nephew Robert Wagner have aged less well, Sellers steals the film with no less aplomb.  The eponymous diamond did not appear in many of the sequels, but as with The Thin Man (1934), the inaccurate name stuck, eventually becoming synonymous with Clouseau himself.  It’s clear from his contemporaneous work with Stanley Kubrick on Lolita (1962) and Dr. Strangelove (1964) that when Sellers was on, nobody could touch him as a comic genius, and the early Clouseau films bear this out, but I would agree with Hostly that they—selectively, at that—are the only Edwards movies to watch.

Although I seem to recall that a case could be made for Victor Victoria (1982), my impression is that most of his subsequent non-Panther films—although, God knows, I didn’t subject myself to all of them—relied overmuch on slapstick, toilet humor, mean-spiritedness, or some combination thereof.  I’m thinking particularly of 10 (1979), despite the frenzy over cornrowed Bo Derek, and S.O.B. (1981), for which he persuaded wholesome spouse Julie to bear her breasts.  But his worst sin was milking the Panther series beyond Hollywood’s most avaricious dreams, descending into first a patchwork quilt utilizing outtakes of Sellers from …Strikes Again (Trail of…, 1982), and then a pair of films in which Clouseau does not even appear (Curse of…, 1983; Son of…, 1993).

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Tor.com Alert 12/21/10

BOF was offline (BOFfline?) for several days while entertaining my main man Gilbert Colon, delightfully en famille with wife Carolyn and one-year-old son Louis, so we have some catching up to do here tonight.  First, as usual, I draw your attention to the latest “Richard Matheson—Storyteller” installment posted on Tor.com today, this one devoted to his cult movie Somewhere in Time.  I will be winding up the series, or at least its potted history of Matheson’s film and television oeuvre (about which you can, of course, read in A Certain Book), with the last two posts, which cover his work on no fewer than four different incarnations of The Twilight Zone and some of the more recent films based by other scenarists on his work, e.g., Stir of Echoes.

Second, speaking of said Book, the promised review by Sam Christopher has run on the Axiom’s Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy website, and although much of it is devoted to explaining who Matheson is—a sadly necessary task, as I know all too well—there’s still some good stuff about the book itself (which got their highest rating, five out of five stars).  A sampling:  “There is just so much here that is fascinating.  So much about Richard Matheson’s 50-plus year career that is fascinating.  And Matthew R. Bradley compiles a ton of it in a comprehensible and fun-to-read way.  This book is just an amazing resource for anyone interested in Matheson, the history of SF cinema and television, and/or the inner workings of Hollywood from the writer’s perspective.”

Finally, as soon as I’ve caught up on my sleep a little, I’ll weigh in on Blake Edwards’s death…

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Tor.com has posted the latest installment of my “Richard Matheson—Storyteller” series today, and it was quite a challenge tackling his miniseries The Martian Chronicles, because despite its many detractors, I think he did a superb job adapting Ray Bradbury’s book.  In other Matheson news, the first trailer for Real Steel (a remake of his Twilight Zone episode “Steel”) is making the rounds and getting raves for the filmmakers’ wise decision to use motion-capture—coached by Sugar Ray Leonard, yet—to create its robot boxers.  Finally, I’ll hold off on a formal publication alert until it’s in my hot little hands, but the official word is out from Cinema Retro that the cover stories in their Exorcist issue include the William Peter Blatty interview I did with Gilbert Colon.

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Tor.com Alert 12/7/10

Today, I am able not only to report that my “Richard Matheson—Storyteller” segment dealing with the remainder of his work with Dan Curtis is up at Tor.com (followed by a He Is Legend giveaway), but also to share a little news regarding Richard Matheson on Screen.  John Cozzoli gave the book a nice plug at Zombos’ Closet of Horror, calling it “essential reading for every horror fan,” and providing links to John Kenneth Muir’s great review and my Tor.com posts.  Sam Christopher of Axiom’s Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy reports that his review will be up within a few days, and tantalized me by writing, “Amazing book, Matthew!  I was enthralled.”

In the bird-in-the-hand department, Simon Drax has included the book in his holiday shopping guide, also citing Muir—and why not?—and reminiscing about our shared adventures as I wrote the thing.  Finally, Scott A. Johnson has written a review for Dread Central, which has a factual error (Matheson never wrote for Tales from the Darkside) but is very favorable, giving the book five out of five bloody daggers.  Those familiar with my Maudlin Man sobriquet will chuckle to read, “The respect with which Bradley treats [his subject] is appreciated without being maudlin.…a remarkable tribute to one of the true luminaries of not just horror, but literature in general.”

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