Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Look at Some Vintage Magazines, Part 1

If you've gotten here via The Truth Inside The Lie, welcome!  You'll notice that this blog doesn't have a whole lot to it yet, but trust me, it will in time; oh yes it will...

Anyways, as promised, here's a look at some old issues of Starlog I recently bought.

Let's start with this one:



  
I love that cover art.  I've never seen a single episode of Space: 1999, but it's on my list for eventual perusal.  In fact, given enough time, I"ll eventually be reviewing each and every episode right here at Where No Blog Has Gone Before.

Right inside the front cover, there is a photo that will make any semi-nerdy child of the seventies (and probably a fair numbers from the eighties) do that thing where you smile and frown at the same time:




Inside, there are good articles about the just announced Star Trek movie (which later got turned into a new television series, then back into a movie); Logan's Run, Space: 1999, Flash Gordon (PBS had evidently been airing the thirties serials and getting phenomenal ratings with them), The War of the Worlds, and notable sci-fi movie soundtracks.



The art for this wraparound cover is by Ira Gilford; sorry my scanner isn't big enough to take the whole thing at once!


The Star Wars coverage here is marvelous, and here's a fact that will be of interest to King fans: some of the interviews with cast and crew members were conducted by Mick Garris!

Lots of cool behind-the-scenes photos of effects work being filmed; here are two of the best:





Elsewhere in the issue, there are Close Encounters of the Third Kind interviews with Steven Spielberg and Douglas Trumbull, which are very good.

Great issue; I haven't even scratched the surface of it here.






Close Encounters is one of my absolute favorite movies of all time.  When I was a kid, I never had this issue of Starlog, but I'd see pictures of it in their back-issue advertisements and sort of pine for it and wish I did have a copy.

Well, by Gan, now I've got one!  Is it all I hoped it would be?  Eh . . . not really.  But it's pretty cool nevertheless.

Let's have a look at a few fun things that popped up over the course of this issue's eighty pages.







Boy, how low-rent does that image look by 2014 standards?  We live in a mashup culture today, and it's either gratifying or annoying to see that some of the same tendencies were around even in 1978.  In this case, the Pinocchio/CE3K connection is very appropriate, of course.



  
Hoo-whee!  Speakin' of "low-rent," take a gander at that, willya?

Now, it must be said, I never experienced any of the fanzine boom of the seventies.  I was too young, and if they were still around in the eighties -- as they probably were -- then they were never anywhere that was accessible to young Bryant.  But the idea immediately captivates me, because I can both understand where it came from, and also sympathize with the desire to participate in it.  I mean, really, that's all my blogs are; one-man fanzines, pumped out on an irregular basis when I feel like my yammerings are worth committing to "paper."  It's worth remembering that in 1978, when finding a way to see an episode of Star Trek would have been a genuine challenge if syndicated reruns were not airing in your town, a fanzine like this would, for a great many people, have been the entirety of their Star Trek fandom.  You cannot marginalize something like that in terms of its impact on Trekkie culture.  So on the one hand, yeah, this is a cheap-looking ad; but on the other hand, this sort of thing had a big hand in the fact of Trek's continued existence.

Next up is an interview with Gene Roddenberry, who can only have been minutes or hours away from finding out that his new Star Trek series wasn't happening but that a major motion picture was.  It's too good an interview for me to summarize; I'm going to just post the whole damn thing:









We next come to the Close Encounters cover story, which, happily, includes a text-free page of that fantastic cover art by Ron Weidner:




Much of the article focuses on the apparently-controversial secrecy that surrounded the film's plot and story elements during the pre-release period.  "Close Encounters.  The ultimate TOP SECRET movie," writes Ed Naha.  "Press representatives barred from the sets.  Publicity materials kept hidden.  Actors, technicians and musicians sworn to silence about the film's storyline and special effects.  National magazines arguing over what the film was all about."

Entitlement much?

Such practices are commonplace in 2014, but evidently were not in 1977-78, and I guess a bunch of people got a little butthurt about it.  There are some good quotes from Spielberg, special effects artist Doug Trumbull, and co-star Teri Garr about the secrecy and the level to which it was wanted, needed, or necessary.  Spielberg's answer is the most concise: "One of the simple reasons for going secret on this project two years ago are those damned movies-of-the-week on television.  They have a tendency of not only ripping you off, but ripping your story off, your characters off.  They do it shamelessly in one instance after another.  I just didn't want to see Close Encounters on ABC, CBS or NBC before it opens at Christmas time."

Call me crazy, but . . . was this seriously something people got upset over?  Personally, I enjoy not knowing all that much about a movie when I sit down to watch it.  I don't go to great lengths to avoid some things, but sometimes, I can live without knowing stuff.  A good example is this coming November's new Christopher Nolan movie, Interstellar (which was at one point going to be directed by Spielberg himself): there is virtually NO information out there about that movie, apart from who is starring in it (Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway, among others).  Do I need to know more?  No, I don't.  It's a sci-fi movie directed by Christopher Nolan starring Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway; I'm there the first show, so really, what can knowing anything else about it benefit me?  I'll watch the previews when they get released.  But if for some reason no preview was ever to be released?  Fine by me.  Ticket may as well already be sold, regardless of any other factor.

So when I read that the "secrecy" around Close Encounters of the Third Kind seemingly caused some distress for some people, it gives me a headache.  You know; one of those kind you get from rolling your eyes so far back into your head that you're afraid they're never going to roll back around again.

Other features of the issue include: a write-up about the digital effects animation of Star Wars; an article about special effects makeup technician Dick Smith; a piece about renowned sci-fi illustrator Chesley Bonestell; an article about superheroes on television (mostly focusing on the Hulk series and the Spider-Man tv movie starring Nicholas Hammond); and a back-of-the-issue editorial by Howard Zimmerman that takes Spielberg to task for his public avoidance of having Close Encounters labeled as sci-fi.




Not gonna lie; I bought this one strictly because I love that damn Moonraker art (which is teaser-poster art, and not something created specifically for Starlog).

Oddly, there isn't much more than about a page's worth of Moonraker coverage, which is a bummer.

Elsewhere, there is an interview with Lorne Greene about the then-new series Battlestar Galactica; a short interview with Galactica's child star, Noah Hathaway (titled -- fit for The Onion, this is -- "Noah Hathaway: 'I Want to Direct'," which, of course he does); an interview with Veronica Cartwright, co-star of the yet-to-be-released Alien; write-ups on upcoming film versions of Brave New World and The Shape of Things to Come (the latter of which currently holds a 3.1 rating on IMDb); and a profile of sci-fi artist Don Maitz, one of whose book covers Starlog reproduces in a glorious full-page spread, and which I now replicate for your perusal.




Good stuff, that!


cover art by Roger Stine


That's groovy; I'd buy a poster of that, man.

This is a pretty good issue, and it leads off with a four-page piece in which filmmaker George Pal discusses his upcoming movie, The Disappearance, based on the Philip Wylie novel of the same name.  There is some interesting stuff here, and some great concept art which includes far more genitalia than one might suspect.  The movie never got made, so I present the full article for your (partially NSFW) perusal:







The Superman coverage consists of a five-page interview with director Richard Donner, who is frank if you want to be polite about it, and blunt if you want to be honest about it, and incensed if you want to be even more honest about it.  On the subject of Marlon Brando, he says, "Marlon's the kind of man that if he can collect his money and not do his deed, he'd only be too happy to do so."  He's got plenty of good things to say about Brando, too, though; it isn't all carping.
  
He's less multi-faceted on the subject of the Academy Awards, which largely ignored the movie come Oscar-time in 1979:
  
I'm just totally disgusted, despondent, and have the greatest possible disrespect for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  Not for me.  But how dare this select club of 3800 people look past Geoffrey Unsworth?  If you look at the pictures that were nominated for best cinematography, it's a fucking sin that his name wasn't up there because his work far surpasses anything I've seen this year.  How dare they treat him with such disdain and disrespect when that photography outclasses a hundred times over half the shit they have seen?  What a genius of a motion picture cameraman he was; he was the master.  And he didn't even get a goddamned nomination!  I don't believe it.  And art direction.  They put up pictures like California Suite -- duplications of the Beverly Hills Hotel.  Big deal!  Just look at what John Barry did for Superman!  And he wasn't nominated either.  I think the Academy is a disgrace.  It certainly isn't peers on a peer level.  It's the most political, ridiculous thing I've ever seen -- this convinced me.  I'd like to be awarded once so I could get up there and speak my piece.

To date, that has not happened.  It's hard not to be sympathetic with Donner's assessment of Unsworth and Barry's work, too, although the Oscar for Best Cinematography went to Nestor Almendros for Days of Heaven, which WAS the correct call.  Should Unsworth -- who had recently died -- have been nominated, though?  Yes; Superman was, and still is, a beautiful film.  This was hardly the first time Unsworth had been shafted by the Academy, though; they'd also failed to nominate him for 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is arguably STILL one of the most visually-impressive films ever made, and certainly was at the time of its release.  Oscar made up for it by giving Unsworth an award a few years later for Cabaret; and -- probably NOT out of deference to Dick Donner, though who can say for sure -- would do so again in 1981 for Tess, the movie Unsworth was making at the time of his death.  And even then, they had to do so by shafting Michael Chapman out of what probably should have been a win for Raging Bull, and also by shafting John Alcott out of a richly-deserved (but not-to-be) nomination for another Kubrick film, The Shining.

The point is, the Oscars are bullshit.  I love 'em to death; I literally skipped an exam in college one year because it was being administered during the Oscars.  But they are, frequently, bullshit.

Elsewhere in the issue: an article about a never-to-be-realized film called The Cry of Cthulhu; an update on prospective (but similarly never-to-be-realized) films based on Arthur C. Clarke's novels The Fountains of Paradise and Childhood's End; dismissive reviews of both Superman and Alien; and three pages of Moonraker interviews, with the likes of producer Cubby Broccoli, production designer Ken Adam, and director Lewis Gilbert.  There is also a brief update on the progress of The Black Hole, which includes this nifty piece of Peter Ellenshaw concept art:




Still got a soft spot for The Black Hole, y'all; not even afraid to admit it.  Bummed out that Joseph Kosinski remake never happened.



  
  
I bought this issue of Fangoria because it has a four-page interview with Stephen King in it (the details of which can be read at The Truth Inside The Lie).  Fangoria is mostly devoted to the horror genre, but as we all know, horror and sci-fi and like chocolate and peanut butter; they go well together, and mix frequently.

So it will come as no surprise to you that there is plenty of interest to the sci-fi fan in this issue, including: an interview with Jack Arnold (director of, among other classics, The Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Incredible Shrinking Man); a profile of artist-of-the-fantastic Michael Sullivan; and a terrific four-page foldout poster of a piece of art Barclay Shaw did for Alien.  It's much too large for my poor little scanner, and I despaired of being able to show it to you.  However, I located an image of it oneline, and here it is, in all its glory:






I am deeply tempted to take it out and hang it on the wall, but since the poster has remained attached lo these 35 years, I'd feel bad if I ruined it now.





If you grew up a movie fan during the 1980s, you almost certainly encountered Fangoria at some point, and if you encountered Fangoria at some point, you are probably accustomed to seeing bloody and gruesome images on the covers.  And if that's the case, then you might be looking at this particular cover with a bit of confusion, wondering who spilled Starlog all over this copy of Fangoria.

It's a fair question, but bear in mind, this was just #4; the editors were clearly still feeling their way toward a format.

And anyways, The Motion Picture remains my favorite Star Trek movie to this day, so I'm pleased as punch to see ol' Leonard N. on the cover.

Because it pleases me to do so, here is the entire cover story (which does not actually amount to all that much, but has some cool photos):






Sci-fi fans will also be interested in articles about the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the robots of The Black Hole, and the original King Kong.




Here's a terrific issue of Cinefantastique that contains a 22-page "Maing of The Birds" feature.  I'm a big ole Hitchcock fan in general, and The Birds specifically is one of my favorite of his films, so for a fella like me, this is catnip.  Not literally.  Because I'm not a catnip.  But whatever the catnip equivalent is for 39-year-old geeks, it's that.

You get it.

Anyways, that article is the reason I bought this issue.  Since it's not sci-fi, we won't worry about it for our purposes on this blog.  But it's worth reading for Hitchcock fans, so if that's you, then wink-wink, nudge-nudge, mum's the word.

This issue does contain some stuff of interest here at Where No Blog Has Gone Before, though, starting with this look at the then-current PBS series Cosmos.  Since we in 2014 are currently three episodes (as of the writing of this sentence) into the update/sequel, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, it seemed like I ought to just post the pages for your perusal:





I've never seen the original; gonna have to cross that off my list one of these days.

Also of interest, and not in a good way, is the magazine's review of The Empire Strikes Back.  Hey, look: I'm not of the mindset that everyone has to have the same opinion I have, but that said, good lord, who do you know who doesn't love The Empire Strikes Back?!?  Just when you think there's something all geeks can agree upon, along comes this:





Uh-huh.  Sure.

And as if that isn't bad enough, there's this bullshit:




That's a near-flawless example of being wrong, that is; my hat's off to Greg Otis.  Here's hoping that promise threat of him writing a regular film-music column for the magazine never came to pass.





All sorts of great stuff in this fifth-anniversary spectacular, beginning with a cool piece of collage art by editor Howard Zimmerman:




I recognize a lot of those, but a few are complete mysteries to me.  This was in the pre-Photoshop era, and it must have taken forever to put together.

Among the highlights of the issue are a pair of interviews with Harrison Ford and George Lucas, who were riding high from the success of Raiders of the Lost Ark (or, depending on whether this was on stands prior to the movie's June 12 release date, were about to be).




Elsewhere, you will find an examination of the current state of sci-fi comics; a preview of upcoming movie version of Heavy Metal (which, it may surprise you to learn, I have never seen); an article wondering if NASA would squander the opportunity to send a probe to explore Halley's Comet during its 1986 fly-by (my brief skimming of Wikipedia indicates that NASA did indeed squander that opportunity); an interview with John Carpenter about Escape From New York; and an interview with Bill Mumy of Lost In Space.

There is plenty more in addition to that, including an article about sci-fi illustrator Vincent DiFate.  I cannot resist posting a couple of images from that article:


Cover art for John Wyndham's Out of the Deep.

Cover art for Robert A. Heinlein's Waldo and Magic, Inc.

Maybe I'm an old fogey in this regard, but do ANY books ever have great artists like this working on their covers anymore?  If so, I'm thinking I don't typically see them.




I mean, come on, right?  Clearly I bought this because it's got Roger Moore on the cover.  But I have to say, that interview with Snake Plissken Kurt Russell didn't hurt.

Check out this following page:



Starlog ran this ad for (I think) years, and words cannot convey how much I wanted each and every one of those.  Words are also ill-equipped to convey how much of a time tunnel I am mentally falling through while looking at the ad in 2014; it's like, I'd kinda need for you to get drunk and be listening to Explosions In The Sky or something before I even tried.  I may have to make it a mission to track all of those books down, especially the all of them.

In the Kurt Russell piece, there is a great quote from Escape From New York director John Carpenter, who had this to say in response to the unlikelihood of casting -- fascinating to consider there being a time when this was true... -- a former Disney child star for the sort of role that would have ostensibly been better-suited to (as writer Steve Swires puts it) Clint Eastwood or Charles Bronson: "Kurt Russell is a great actor.  If you gave him a copy of Starlog he could play the whole issue, including the editorial and the letters to the editor."  How cool is that?

As for Russell himself, he divulges that he was in serious consideration (of sorts) to play the title role in Flash Gordon for producer Dino de Laurentiis: "Dino was all over me on that one," he says.  "I turned it down because I thought a lot of science-fiction pictures like that had already been done, and they were better.  Basically, the character of flash in the script was a lacking character.  I didn't feel he was in any way fulfilled.  I talked with Dino and the director about it, but I couldn't make any headway.  Dino was trying to make a deal and I was trying to make a character."

It's fascinating to consider what Flash Gordon might have been like with Russell in the lead role; he's right that there isn't such of a much there, but if the right actor is in the right role, sheer charisma can make up for whatever isn't on the page.  Might that have happened?  We'll never know.

Here's a cool image from a piece about special effects artist Derek Meddings, who, aomong other things, did wonders for the James Bond series:




I wish Starlog hadn't felt the need to jam that other image in the corner there, but even so, it does nothing to obscure how cool it is for a hardcore For Your Eyes Only fan to see a guy standing there on that particular miniatures set.  Or, at least, this hardcore For Your Eyes Only fan.  I was probably in my thirties before I realized (by which I mean, "was told") that the sequence of Blofeld the bald dude in the wheelchair remote-control-flying the helicopter through the inside of the building was one with miniatures.  Granted, fairly large ones.  But still.  Blows my mind to this day.  It's a great effect, and hey, maybe you'll call me an old fogey here, but CGI still is mostly inferior to great miniatures, which these decidedly are.

There's a lot of great stuff in this issue, including interviews -- both continuations from previous interviews, sadly for me (although who am I kidding, I'm angling to eventually build a full Starlog collection) -- with two Georges, Takei and Lucas.  There's also a feature on Raiders of the Lost Ark, plus one on a Roger Corman sci-fi flick called Mind War: An Infinity of Terror.  I'd never heard of it, and that's because it eventually got retitled Galaxy of Terror.  I'd never heard of that, either.  But I thought the page of accompanying photos might be worth reproducing:




See anyone of interest on that page?

Incidentally, I once met Sid Haig at Dragon*Con.  Cool motherfucker, Sid Haig.  Bought an autographed poster off of him; it's hanging in my closet still, and I see it practically every day.  It's him playing Captain Spaulding in House of 1000 Corpses.  He asked if I wanted him to write anything specific, and I answered without pause, which is why my poster reads "To Bryant -- 'And most of all, FUCK YOU!'."  Which, if you're a House of 1000 Corpses fan, is pretty dang cool.  If you're not, it's probably less cool.



For this issue, Cinefantastique did two different covers: one for The Wrath of Khan, the other for Blade Runner, both of which get substantial coverage inside.

We begin with Blade Runner:
  • Philip K. Dick (author of the source material, the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) speaks about the original book: "It's one of my favorite novels.  Although it's essentially a dramatic novel, the moral and philosophical ambiguities it dealt with are really very profound.  The book stemmed from my basic interest in the problem of differentiating the authentic human being from the reflexive machine, which I called an android.  In my mind, 'android' is a metaphor for people who are physiologically human, but who behave in a non-human way."  Some of this was evidently prompted by Dick's research for the WWII novel The Man in the High Castle, during which he read some diaries of SS officers stationed in Poland.  He was haunted by a particular sentence: "The sentence read, 'We are kept awake at night by the cries of starving children.'  There was obviously something wrong with the man who wrote that.  I later realized that, with the Nazis, what we were essentially dealing with was a defective group mind, a mind so emotionally defective that the word human could not be applied to them.  Worse, I felt that this was not necessarily a solely German trait.  This deficiency had been exported into the world after World War II and could be picked up by people anywhere at any time.  I wrote Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? during the Vietnam war.  At the time, I was revolutionary and existential enough to believe that these android personalities were so lethal, so dangerous to human beings, that it ultimately might become necessary to fight them.  The problem in killing them would then be: 'Would we not become like the androids in our very effort to wipe them out?' "
  • Dick on Hampton Fancher, the first screenwriter to work on the adaptation: "I read two drafts of Fancher's screenplay, and it was terrible -- corny and extremely maladroit throughout.  They were on the level of Philip Marlowe Meets The Stepford Wives.  I did not approve of what it tried to do, and I don't think it accomplished what it tried to do.  In other words, they aimed low and failed at what they aimed at."
  • Dick turned down a rather lucrative opportunity: "I was offered a great deal of money, and a cut in the merchandising rights, if I would do a novelization of the screenplay, or if I would let someone like Alan Dean Foster come in and do it.  My agent figured that I would make about $400,000 from the deal.  But part of this package required the suppression of my original novel, and I said no.  They got nasty again.  They began to threaten to withdraw the logo rights -- we wouldn't be able to say that my book was the novel on which Blade Runner was based, and we'd be unable to use any stills from the film.  We remained adamant, though, and stuck to our guns, and they eventually caved in.  In re-releasing the original novel I only made about $12,500.  But I kept my integrity.  And my book."
There's plenty more where that came from, much of it focused on the art and production design process.  If you're a fan of the movie, this is great stuff.

The Wrath of Khan coverage is pretty great, too:
  • Art director Michael Minor takes credit for certain aspects of the film's eventual direction: "I suggested a plot, just making it up in my head while talking on the phone" to producer Harve Bennett.  "The Federation had developed a way of engineering the planetary evolution of a body in space on such a rapid scale that instead of eons you have events taking place in months or years.  You pick a dead world or an inhospitable gas planet, and you change its genetic matrix or code, thereby speeding up time.  This, of course, is also a terrible weapon.  Suppose you trained it on a planet filled with people and speeded up its evolution.  You could destroy the planet and every lifeform on it.  The Federation is involved with playing God, but at the same time, trying to take barren dead planets and covert them into lovely worlds.  Harve liked the idea a lot.  At the story conference the next day, he came over, hugged me, and said 'You saved Star Trek!' "
  • Minor also has thoughts about The Motion Picture, which generally is in for a drubbing this issue, and certainly is in Minor's comments: "It was one of the more soiled and shabby chapters of Hollywood history, in terms of how people were treated.  The trouble, as always, was that the wrong people were in charge.  We're in a business in which the people at the top, who make the decisions, really don't know a damn thing about making pictures.  I think we all knew then that we were associated with a bomb.  It's too bad the movie happened at all."  Where No Blog Has Gone Before begs to differ with that last sentence.
  • Walter Koenig on an unpleasant part of his spacesuit costume: "The suits were heavy, as was the apparatus that went over our shoulders and back to support the helmets.  But the most disquieting problem was the helmet itself.  Nothing had been done about ventilating it, and once it was on, we had four or five minutes worth of air inside, and that was it.  Periodically, between two takes, someone would shove an air hose under the helmet and fill it up with fresh air.  We had two mikes in our helmets, one for recording dialogue and one which was used to talk with the director or each other.  Sometimes the mikes wouldn't be switched on, so no one would hear us say we were running out of air.  It we started to get light headed from lack of oxygen, we'd go around tapping our helmets, hoping someone would understand we were in trouble."
  • A few words from composer James Horner: "There is a tendency to want to compare scores of big outer space movies, like John Williams' music for Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back and Jerry Goldsmith's for the first Star Trek film.  There will be similarities, of course.  For one thing, if you close your eyes and play Star Wars and my Star Trek score, the first notion that will come to your mind is that the same instruments are playing.  Williams created a trend in music for space movies with Star Wars because that was the first big space movie to come along in quite awhile.  But that style of scoring is very old-fashioned.  It works well, whether you're on a train or a pirate galleon or in deep space.  That kind of approach is very tactile.  It's easy to use it to manipulate emotions."
  • Producer Robert Sallin had some comments in response to some things director Nicholas Meyer had said in a previous issue of Cinefantastique: "I don't believe in taking credit for other people's work and I don't believe in making myself seem more important at other people's expense.  Nick did not supervise the creation of the effects storyboards, and Nick did not supervise the execution of the shots.  He attended one meeting with me at ILM, at which time I ran through every frame of every shot, and that was it.  He was overwhelmed with the special effectsand just backed away from them.  I resent Meyer saying about the effects, 'We didn't know what we were doing...'  He might not have known what he was doing, but we knew exactly what we were doing.  He was confused and intimidated because the effects work was highly technical and required a sense of visualization, and -- as he says -- he knows nothing about special effects.  The implication is that there was confusion, and there was no confusion at all.  If there had been any confusion we could not have come in so close to budget."
And so forth.





Another fantastic double-issue extravaganza here, with oodles of coverage of John Carpenter's The Thing, plus a heapin' helpin' of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial stuff, including the following photo, which blows my mind:


Seriously.  How cool is that?


There is also quite a lot of Krull coverage.  Ever seen Krull?  I've got a huge amount of fondness for that movie.  It isn't a good movie, per se; it hasn't aged well the way, say, Conan the Barbarian has.  But I loved it as a kid, and I can't deny that it still tickles me.  Would it similarly tickle you?  Unless you grew up with it, I'd guess it probably would not.

Here's (because why not) a piece of concept art by Stephen Grimes:




The coverage of The Thing is pretty awesome, too, focused mainly on the special effects and the evolution they went through.  If you are a fan of that movie -- and why wouldn't you be? -- then I would say that tracking down a copy of this magazine is probably well worth your money.


  



There are three things mentioned on this cover: James Bond, Star Trek, and Disney World.  All three are on my list of obsessions.  So, yeah, pretty happy with this issue.

The Bond coverage focuses on Octopussy and Never Say Never Again, which in 1983 were battling to for Bond-franchise superiority of sorts.  Spoiler alert: Octopussy won.

Of more interest to this blog, the Star Trek coverage consists of a talk with Star Trek II producer Harve Bennett, who discusses the difficulties surrounding the leaked knowledge of Spock's death in the Wrath of Khan, and also about the difficulty of finding a story for the next movie in the series.  "With all the love and all the success, one is not inheriting a blank page," he says, "one is inheriting a legend -- and relationships and contracts and actors' equities and inequities.  You don't just say, 'Assemble at 7 a.m. next Tuesday and we'll shoot the movie.' . . .  If I could do it, I'd love to make a picture in which every one of the Star Trek cast had a solo."

The coverage of Disney World's EPCOT Center (as it was initially known) is pretty cool, and since Epcot is a personal love of mine, let's investigate this piece a bit more closely:


As always, my scanner can't handle a double-page spread, but this one was too good to not at least try to find elsewhere.  And so I did, here.

  •  "Ahead of us, gleaming above the Disney-sculpted topiary trees and rising like a Brobdingnagian golfball is the geosphere, Spaceship Earth, its 954 geodesic panels breaking the early morning light into intricate geometric patterns.  Nearly everyone has seen a geodesic dome, first made famous by architect Buckminster Fuller, but this is the first time the principle has been used for an entire sphere on so gargantuan a scale."
  • "Standing under the 17-story structure, it seems quite small . . . maybe only seven or eight stories.  Being a sphere, with no windows or doors for scale it's impossible to judge the height of the building from the ground.  It's the opposite of the normal skyscraper experience in which something looks small from far away and only looms into the sky when you are standing next to it.  With Spaceship Earth, the farther away you get, the more you can appreciate the structure's size."
  • "WED" [a Disney company responsible for park designs, among other things] "executives Mrty Sklar and John Hench were trying to get across to me what EPCOT was all about.  There are a lot of things it isn't.  It is not a realistic portrait of future life; it is not a series of answers to today's problems; it doesn't purport to 'show the way.'  Nor was it intended to be any of these things.  The purpose of EPCOT is to entertain, but in a very special way.  It is designed to thrill that most-thrillable sense of all -- your imagination."
This is only the first part of a three-part series spread across successive issues of Starlog, but to make the presentation a bit cleaner, we'll go ahead and consider parts two and three now:
  • We begin with Hutchison making his entrance to the other part of Epcot, the World Showcase.  He begins with the Mexico pavilion: "I turn toward the pyramid which looms into the sky, a monument to lost pre-Columbian civilization.  Just inside the main entranceway is a small gallery of historical artifacts including an enormous replica of an Aztec calendar.  All of this is just what you would expect and in no way prepares you for what lies beyond.  Stepping through the next doorway, I find myself standing on a colonial style portico (modeled after a mayor's mansion, the guidebook says) overlooking a large traditional Mexican zocalo.  What's so amazing is that, apparently, I am outdoors again.  Except that it is no longer a bright, sunny 1:30 in the afternoon, but early evening, just after sunset . . . a few stars are out and in the distance is a volcano -- its red glow mixing with the last rays of the setting sun.  I step off the covered walkway and into the 'open.'  A few stars twinkle overhead and there is a gentle breeze.  A live mariachi band is playing on the other side of the plaza hidden behind a central fountain and several display areas with vendadores selling handcrafts.  Somehow, the Disney imagineers have succeeded in creating a completely natural outdoor environment inside a building."
  • "The World of Energy is all angles and reflective surfaces.  On the roof are 2,200 solar panels containing 80,000 photovoltaic cells.  This rooftop 'cistern of sunshine' generates 70,000 watts of power to help run the pavilion.  The press kit says the audience literally 'rides on sunshine.' "
  • "The energy pavilion is a symphony of ascending scales.  Leaving steaming dinosaurs behind, our sunlight-powered cars roll into another theater.  This time, we view a live-action film on a 210-foot-wide wrap-around screen which covers an angle of view of 218 degrees.  This 12 1/2 minute, super-widescreen extravaganza takes us everywhere, from the oil rigs of the North Sea to the deepest coal mines, on a fossil energy quest.  Disney's filmmakers custom-designed a camera rig which incorporates three 65mm cameras working in sync.  These cameras were placed on a special mount with their lenses focused on three precisely angled mirrors to produce an almost seamless image.  It is the only camera rig of its kind built for this size screen and requires a camera crew of seven to handle the 550-pound system."
  • Hutchison tried to ride Spaceship Earth on his first day, but found the lines too daunting.  He's determined to have more success on the second day, but things seem to not be going his way . . . right up until his media liason shows up along with another guest: Ray Bradbury.  The trio proceeds through a V.I.P. entrance, natch.  "Spaceship Earth dramatizes the importance of communication to man's survival and to a future where the flow of ideas and information is unimpeded.  The Disney designers believe that man's ability to communicate more efficiently has lifted him from 'animal' to 'human' status.  Spaceship Earth traces the evolution of human communication from our distant ancestors through today and into our future.  Science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury is credited with the conceptual story development of the pavilion, which is sponsored by the Bell System.  The ride moves swiftly through a series of audio-animatronic dioramas which begin with Cro-Magnon hunters, travels on past the Egyptians, Phoenicians and the other great landmarks of human progress until we are taken to the edge of outer spac.  Our car seems to be launched into the starry universe and we see our home planet Earth as if from thousands of miles away.  Earth is an oasis of blue and green and white, a traveling spaceship moving majestically . . . a drifting island in a sea of stars."
  • "EPCOT Center itself will mean something different to every visitor.  Some will find simple entertainment, others, inspiration; but its power to affect people is undeniable.  A few days after I returned to New York, I spoke with Howard Green, who had since returned to Los Angeles.  Among other things, I asked about Ray Bradbury and how his long and difficult overland return journey to California had fared.  'David, you won't believe it,' he said.  'After EPCOT, Ray climbed on an airplane for the very first time in his life and flew to Los Angeles.'  Sure enough, a few days later, Time magazine carried a photo of Bradbury disembarking at Los Angeles.  Apparently Time thought it was momentous news, too.  Isn't it interesting what power mere entertainment has?"
Plenty more where all that came from, too, but we must soon turn our attentions elsewhere.

First, though, this page is worth posting, just because I like it:





I am tempted to now reel off a few thousand words about how much I love Epcot (and the rest of Disney World), but this is probably not the correct venue for it.  Suffice it to say that while I understand how somebody would go there and have a lousy time -- due to any number of factors, ranging from the expense to the capitalism to the cheesiness to the heat to the crowds, or some combination of all of those plus others -- I myself adore it.  It's been too long since I was there, and while it has changed a great deal since these 1983 articles (and probably since my last visit in 2007), it has stayed the same in a lot of respects, too.  And since the ever-changing aspect of it was something Walt Disney himself planned for his theme parks, it is both natural and even preferable that it has changed.




Let's backtrack a wee bit, and look at the issue of Starlog in which the second part of Hutchison's EPCOT article appeared.  There's plenty of goodness, including:
  • An article about screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, who was at that time finishing off a draft of The Batman, which did not get made for years hence.  Says the article, "The Polygram film, budgeted at $25 million, will be produced by Jon Peters and Peter Guber.  Executive producers are Benjamin Melnicker and Michael Uslan, who brought Swamp Thing to the screen.  Release by Warner Brothers is slated for 1984.  A well-known director has been approached, but his identity cannot be disclosed at this time.  Also, nothing is definite yet regarding casting.  Mankiewicz, however, would prefer to see Jack Nicholson as the chalk-faced Joker, Peter O'Toole as the Penguin, David Niven as Alfred, and in the Christopher Reeve tradition, an unknown as The Batman."
  • An interview with Return of the Jedi producer Howard Kazanjian, in which he not only talks about the still-super-duper-secret finale to the trilogy, but also about Raiders of the Lost Ark, working on Alfred Hitchcock's final film, and the (to him) perplexing failure of More American Graffiti.
  • My favorite thing here other than the EPCOT article is a two-page piece about NPR's radio drama based on The Empire Strikes Back.  Among other things, it features a quote from Mark Hamill that would, given the trajectory of the rest of his career, prove to be highly intriguing: "I had no idea how much fun this would be.  It's a play -- acting at its best," he says, foreshadowing his much-lauded voiceover work that would come over the next few decades.






Apart from the third and final part of the EPCOT coverage, this issue doesn't have a huge amount of stuff that I feel an urge to mention here.

So I'll restrict myself to a single nugget of gold: Christopher Lee reveals that James Bond author Ian Fleming (a cousin of Lee's) had written the villain Dr. No with him in mind.  Lee has nice things to say about Joseph Wiseman's performance, but I have to admit that the thought of Lee playing the first cinematic Bond villain is a tantalizing one.

*****

There's plenty more where this came from, but the post is running longer than I expected.  So I think we'll take a break here, and come back in a few days with a Part 2.

See you then!

4 comments:

  1. Aaaaaaaaaagg....

    14 bullet-points of comments, wiped away... my own fault. I clicked on that image with Jim Cameron and enlarged it so I could take a better look and then realized I didn't open it in a new tab and when navigated back... all gone.
    Oh well, the substance of it all was basically, I can't believe how great this stuff is, maybe it would have been repetitive to see that over and over, bullet-pointed. I'll be less reckless with my clicking for pt. 2.

    I've got to say tho: that "The Birds" cover is such dynamite. (And the collage that comes after that - like you, I'm really baffled by a couple of those and wish there was a key/ legend)

    And that Starlog ad for all those mags - man, I can relate! That's like the contemporaneous ads for Choose Your Own Adventure books for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. R.I.P., bullet-point comments. I feel your pain at their loss. Anytime that happens, I just sit there sort of blinking at the screen, just SURE that there's an "undo" button of some sort. There never is.

      The ads . . . yeah, man, you don't know -- well, probably you DO know, actually, now that I think about it -- how tempting it is for me to just scan in three dozen pages of the ads from these magazines, and do the blogger equivalent of just pointing and wildly gesticulating toward them. "THIS AD! I REMEMBER THIS AD!!" That sort of thing.

      I may just have to give in to that urge eventually.

      Delete
  2. p.s. I kind of need to track down this last Starlog here, #70. Spacehunter, Something Wicked This Way Comes, AND Blue Thunder got a lot of VCR time from me in the mid-80s and haven't seen any of them in decades. And Videodrome is one of my all-time faves.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know I saw both "Spacehunter" and "Blue Thunder," but I remember very little about them. As for the other two, I've never seen either. Amazing, but true. Hell, I'd never even READ "Something Wicked" until two or three years ago. Great stuff, too.

      Delete