Frank Capra, The Man Who Saved Christmas

By Steve Vertlieb: Spending a quiet afternoon with one of cinema’s greatest, most distinguished motion picture directors, the brilliant Frank Capra. A memorable afternoon in which Frank and I sat together at the home of a mutual friend…just the two of us…watching a 16 mm print of his Oscar-winning classic. “It Happened One Night.” This cherished afternoon with the acclaimed director of It’s A Wonderful Life, Lost Horizon, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Meet John Doe, and A Hole In The Head, among so many other classic motion pictures, was absolutely sublime, and a wondrous remnant from a lifetime of cinematic memories and unforgettable experiences.

Steven J. Vertlieb and Frank Capra.

During a particularly sad and lonely Christmas for my friend and hero, I wrote Frank Capra a few ineffectual words of hope and inspiration. His nearly heart breaking response remains one of my most treasured letters. This poignant note from the man who offered hope to so many year after year with his Christmas masterpiece, It’s A Wonderful Life, is a cherished remnant of true humility, and all too common human frailty… a tender personal document for this holiday season.

Together with “The Man Who Saved Christmas,” the great Frank Capra … one of Cinema’s most influential pioneers, and the director of the quintessential Christmas movie, It’s A Wonderful Life.

“Star Wars…Nothing
But Star Wars”

By Steve Vertlieb: The moment that I’d dreamt of and imagined for decades had at last arrived. Nicchi Rozsa, Miklos Rozsa’s lovely granddaughter, said that she’d never seen me look so happy. Here was the moment that I’d longed for … to meet my last living, life-long hero at last. When he smiled at me, and wrapped his arm around my shoulder, I thought that I’d died and gone to Heaven. It was so unforgettably sweet.

John Williams, at the tender age of 87 years, remains the most important motion picture composer on the planet. This weekend marks the release of his final score for Star Wars, and it is truly a momentous event.

Simply one of the greatest moments of my life… Meeting John Williams for the very first time in his dressing room at The Hollywood Bowl in late August, 2010.

Among the many highlights of my pilgrimage to Hollywood in 2017 was an entirely unexpected, nearly miraculous, accidental “close encounter” with the current star of one of the most lucrative and beloved movie franchises in motion picture history. I’m still amazed, two years after this most astonishing occurrence, that our meeting actually occurred, as this remarkable photograph will happily attest to.

While waiting backstage to speak with composer John Williams at the venerable Hollywood Bowl, I noticed that Daisy Ridley’s name was posted on one of the dressing room doors. She hadn’t appeared on stage with Maestro Williams during the Star Wars concert selections, and so I wondered why. I turned to my brother to mention the strangeness of the occurrence when I inwardly gasped at the realization that the young star of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and, currently, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, was standing just inches in front of me.

Listening to her British accent in conversation with the director of The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson, I nudged my brother Erwin, and whispered “I think that Daisy Ridley is standing right in front of me.” Hearing my admittedly excited observation to my little brother, she turned toward me with a big smile and said “Hello.”

She was as delightfully adorable in person as she is as “Rey” on the big screen in the spectacular continuation of the cherished science fiction franchise. I couldn’t help but recall John Williams’ own wonderfully charming admission, upon receiving his A.F.I. Life Achievement Award in 2016, that he didn’t want any other composer but himself writing music for this lovely young actress. I completely understood his feelings upon meeting Miss Ridley.

“The Thin White Line” Premiered 58 Years Ago Tonight

By Steve Vertlieb: The “Golden Age Of Television” lasted from the late 1940s until the early 1960s where it thrived and flourished, presenting mostly “live” dramatic and musical presentations that captured the exhilaration and essence of fresh theatrical Broadway productions, staged and created expressly for the newly experimental format of the small home tv screen.

Television was a brand new medium, daring in its provocative concepts and artistic explorations, while revolutionary in its groundbreaking originality. Everything was fresh and new, as this voracious, visionary monolith consumed original productions as rapidly as they could be produced. Into this ravenous mix, and at the tail end of the medium’s legendary golden age, came a weekly television series produced by CBS (the famed Murrow “Tiffany” network) concerning two friends (played by Martin Milner and George Maharis) from the often cruel streets of New York, seeking meaning, value, and definition in their ongoing dramatic sojourn across the highways of America.

 Route 66 launched nationally on Friday night, October 7, 1960, taking the country by storm. Filming on location in virtually every state of the union until its final episode on March 20, 1964, the powerful series introduced some of the finest anthology drama that television has ever witnessed, while showcasing stunning conceptual poetry by principal writer Stirling Silliphant, original music by composer Nelson Riddle, and ensemble guest performances by many of the finest actors and actresses in Hollywood, and from the New York stage.

The weekly series effectively changed the course and direction of my life when the program filmed two episodes in Philadelphia in the Fall of 1961. I was there on location with my brother Erwin, along with George Maharis and Marty Milner, as a seminal episode of the beloved series was filmed atop The Ben Franklin Bridge. “The Thin White Line” made its debut over the CBS Television Network on Friday evening, December 8th, 1961, at 8:30 in the evening. This is the bittersweet story of the cultural evolution and significance of the iconic series, as well as its profound, transformative effect upon my own life, direction, and career.

Read Steve Vertlieb’s extended tribute to the show at The Thunder Child: “Two For The Road: Traveling Route 66”,


“Lizard’s Leg and Owlet’s Wing” premiered over the CBS television Network on Friday evening, October 26th, 1962. Featuring guest stars Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, and Lon Chaney, Jr., this beloved episode of the classic television series “Route 66” starring George Maharis and Martin Milner would be the last time that Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney, Jr. would ever reprise their signature performances as Frankenstein’s Monster and The Wolf Man.

George Maharis and Marty Milner with Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, and Lon Chaney, Jr. posing for publicity shots for “Lizard’s Leg and Owlet’s Wing,” their memorable Halloween episode of Route 66.

George and Marty from a publicity still from Route 66. My favorite episode of my favorite television series aired tonight … 58 years ago.

Review: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

By Steve Vertlieb: I had the great pleasure of seeing Sony’s new release, A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood last evening. This sweet, lovely trailer both previews and promises faithfully that this new film, based upon an incident occupying the later years of Fred Rogers, will become the feel good movie of the year. Tom Hanks is, as ever, a magical presence on the screen. It is, indeed, A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood when spiritual goodness is shared, honored, and cherished by both film maker and audience. 

 However, this lyrical and wondrous motion picture is so much more than I could ever have imagined. It is loosely based upon the friendship between journalist Tom Junod and television’s most beloved children’s host, after a jaded, embittered magazine writer is assigned a purely “fluff” assignment to interview Public Television’s “Mr. Rogers” for Esquire Magazine.

Convinced that the character of “Mr. Rogers” is merely a scripted persona, the writer goes about his work with both cynicism and restrained contempt … until events in his own life force him to look inward toward the scarred, unhappy soul that he has, perhaps, unknowingly, become. Rogers, a former Presbyterian minister, gently pierces the bitter facade of his interviewer, subtly forcing the writer to believe in his own inherent goodness, and in the deceptively hidden beauty of the world and people around him.

Directed with deep sensitivity by Marielle Heller from a screenplay by Micah Fitzerman Blue and Noah Harpster, A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood features sweet, lovely performances by Matthew Rhys as the troubled journalist, Chris Cooper (in what’s sure to become an Oscar-nominated supporting performance as his troubled father), Susan Kelechi Watson as his wife and, of course, Tom Hanks in the role that he was, perhaps, born to play as Mister Rogers.

 A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood is a tender, sweet parable about fathers and sons, and about the absolute power of goodness. Heller’s direction of the film plays with children’s perceptions of love and strength, while softly interweaving them with the sadness, distrust, and cynicism which often, sadly, replace the innocence of youth with the jaded wisdom of maturity. In these deeply divisive and conflicted times, we truly need this sweet story of faith, spiritual goodness, and the remarkable beauty and consequence of love and forgiveness. To that end, A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood is a both a revelation, and a miracle.

Pixel Scroll 10/12/19 “Have Fifth, Will Godstalk,” Reads The File Of A Man, A Scroll Without Pixels In A Fannish Land

(1) NYRSF READINGS. The New York Review of Science Fiction Readings presents “An Evening of ‘Reckoning’” — creative writing on environmental justice – on October 14 with guest curator Michael J. DeLuca, featuring Emily Houk, Yukyan Lam, Krista Hoeppner Leahy, Marissa Lingen, Emery Robin, and Brian Francis Slattery. The event begins at 7:00 p.m. at The Brooklyn Commons Café, 388 Atlantic Avenue  (between Hoyt & Bond St.). Full info on Facebook.

Michael J. DeLuca‘s roots are mycorrhizal with sugar maple and Eastern white pine. He’s the publisher of Reckoning, an annual journal of creative writing on environmental justice. His fiction has appeared most recently in Beneath Ceaseless SkiesThree-Lobed Burning EyeStrangelet and Middle Planet

Emily Houk’s short fiction has appeared previously in Conjunctions, and she has just finished her first novel. She is coeditor of Ninepin Press, and she thrives in the shade of the library stacks of Western Massachusetts.

Yukyan Lam is based in New York, NY, and works for a non-profit on environmental health and social justice. Her scientific writing has appeared in various academic journals. She loves reading and writing creative non-fiction and short stories, and currently serves as a prose editor for Typehouse Literary Magazine. Follow her @yukyan_etc

Krista Hoeppner Leahy is a poet, writer, and actor. Her work has appeared in ClarkesworldFarrago’s WainscotLady Churchill’s Rosebud WristletRaritanShimmerTin HouseYear’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy and elsewhere. Born in Colorado, Krista currently resides in Brooklyn with her family.

Marissa Lingen is a freelance writer living in the suburbs of Minneapolis with two large men and one small dog. Mostly she writes speculative fiction. She has a large collection of foliage-themed jewelry.

Emery Robin is an Oakland-born and New York-based writer, previously published on Tor.com and in Spark: A Creative Anthology. When not busy reading, Emery is interested in propaganda, marginalia, and rock ‘n’ roll, and can be found on Twitter @ emwrobin .

Brian Francis Slattery is the arts editor and a reporter for the New Haven Independent. He has written four novels and is currently on the writing team of Bookburners, a serial fiction project. He’s also a musician and for a week out of every year, lives without electricity.

(2) JUNGLE CRUISE. Andrew Petersen, a student I met at Azusa Pacific University’s Yosemite Semester in 2001, achieved his goal of becoming a driver on the Jungle Cruise Ride. If only he hadn’t died last year – he would have gotten a kick out of this movie.  

Inspired by the famous Disneyland theme park ride, Disney’s JUNGLE CRUISE is an adventure-filled, Amazon-jungle expedition starring Dwayne Johnson as the charismatic riverboat captain and Emily Blunt as a determined explorer on a research mission. Also starring in the film are Edgar Ramirez, Jack Whitehall, with Jesse Plemons, and Paul Giamatti. Jaume Collet-Serra is the director and John Davis, John Fox, Dwayne Johnson, Hiram Garcia, Dany Garcia and Beau Flynn are the producers, with Doug Merrifield serving as executive producer. Disney’s JUNGLE CRUISE opens in U.S. theaters on July 24, 2020.

(3) PRINCIPLES OF WARFARE. At The Angry Staff Officer, Matthew Ader exercises 20/20 hindsight in “Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory on Wakanda”.

Captain Roger’s performance at the Battle of Wakanda has been widely and rightly panned. But nothing has been said about the profound failures of his enemy, the Thanosians. Despite every possible advantage in manpower, materiel, and circumstance, they still failed. All students of the military art should examine how they so masterfully snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. 

Terrain Analysis 

The Thanosians had complete freedom in the approach to battle. Nevertheless, they committed two grievous and unforced errors. First, they failed to identify the large energy shield protecting Benin Zana and its immediate environs. This information would have been known with even the most cursory reconnaissance. The mistake cost them at least a battalion worth of troops, when their dropship smashed into it. It is generally agreed that losing a sixth of your force before battle commences is a bad thing. ..

(4) KRAMER PLEADS NOT GUILTY. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports “Judge, others charged in Gwinnett hacking case enter not guilty pleas”.

All four defendants charged in Gwinnett County’s convoluted courthouse hacking saga entered not guilty pleas Thursday afternoon.

Each of the defendants — including sitting Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader and DragonCon co-founder Ed Kramer — were present for a brief arraignment hearing, scattered across the courtroom gallery as attorneys spoke on their behalf. Their not guilty pleas mean the case against them will move forward. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Nov. 7….

(5) IMPERIAL SPONGEBOB. Holly M. Barker’s article for The Contemporary Pacific, “Unsettling SpongeBob and the Legacies of Violence on Bikini Bottom”, asserts the cartoon series normalizes an array or moral and ethical problems. Most of the piece is behind a paywall. Here is the abstract:

Billions of people around the globe are well-acquainted with SpongeBob Squarepants and the antics of the title character and his friends on Bikini Bottom. By the same token, there is an absence of public discourse about the whitewashing of violent American military activities through SpongeBob’s occupation and reclaiming of the bottom of Bikini Atoll’s lagoon. SpongeBob Squarepants and his friends play a role in normalizing the settler colonial takings of Indigenous lands while erasing the ancestral Bikinian people from their nonfictional homeland. This article exposes the complicity of popular culture in maintaining American military hegemonies in Oceania while amplifying the enduring indigeneity (Kauanui 2016) of the Marshallese people, who maintain deeply spiritual and historical connections to land—even land they cannot occupy due to residual radiation contamination from US nuclear weapons testing—through a range of cultural practices, including language, song, and weaving. This article also considers the gendered violence of nuclear colonialism and the resilience of Marshallese women.

Campus Reform’s post “Prof: SpongeBob perpetuates ‘violent, racist’ acts against indigenous people” elaborates on some of the issues, for example:  

… While Barker admits that the show’s creators likely did not have “U.S. colonialism” in mind while developing the cartoon, she calls it “disturbing” that they did not realize that “Bikini Bottom and Bikini Atoll were not theirs for the taking.” Consequently, Barker suggests that “millions of children” have “become acculturated to an ideology that includes the US character SpongeBob residing on another people’s homeland.” 

In this way, colonialism is supposedly “produced, reproduced, and normalized” through the cartoon

As if fictionally “occupying” nonfictional land was not enough, Barker also accuses the cartoon of being biased against women. 

The professor complains that “all of the main characters on the show are male,” except for Sandy Cheeks the squirrel, whom she suggests was only created in order to boost the gender diversity of the show. 

“The name ‘Bob’ represents the everyday man, a common American male, much like a ‘Joe,'” Barker observes, concluding that “our gaze into the world of Bikini Bottom, as well as the surface of Bikini, is thus filtered through the activities of men.”

Barker concludes her article by insisting that even though SpongeBob’s writers likely did not mean “to infuse a children’s show with racist, violent colonial practices,” the show is part of a larger issue, an “insidious practice of disappearing Indigenous communities.”

(6) DANIUS OBIT. Sara Danius has died due to breast cancer. She was the permanent secretary for the Swedish Academy during the MeToo era and who was forced out from it due to her determination to get rid of its toxic patriarchal working culture. She was 57 years old. (Swedish language news article here.)

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 12, 1987 Ultraman: The Adventure Begins. This Japanese animated film stars the English voice lead talents of Adrienne Barbeau and Stacy Keach.  Jr.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 12, 1875 Aleister Crowley. Genre writer? You decide. But I’ve no doubt that he had a great influence upon the genre as I’m betting many of you can note works in which he figures. One of the earliest such cases is Land of Mist, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle which was published in 1926. (Died 1947.)
  • Born October 12, 1903 Josephine Hutchinson. She was Elsa von Frankenstein with Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff in Son of Frankenstein. She was in “I Sing the Body Electric”, The Twilight Zone episode written by Bradbury that he turned into a short story. (Died 1998.)
  • Born October 12, 1904 Lester Dent. Pulp-fiction author who was best known as the creator and main author of the series of novels chronicling Doc Savage. Of the one hundred and eighty-one  Doc Savage novels published by Street and Smith, one hundred and seventy-nine were credited to Kenneth Robeson; and all but twenty were written by Dent. (Died 1959.)
  • Born October 12, 1916 Lock Martin. His claim to fame was that he was one of the tallest humans that ever lived.  At seven feet and seven inches (though this was dispute by some), he was also quite stocky.  He had the distinction of playing Gort in The Day The Earth Stood Still. He was also in The Incredible Shrinking Man as a giant, but his scenes were deleted. And he shows up in Invaders from Mars as the Mutant carrying David to the Intelligence though he goes uncredited in the film. (Died 1959.)
  • Born October 12, 1924 Randy Stuart. She’s best remembered as Louise Carey, the wife of Scott Carey, in The Incredible Shrinking Man. She was also Frances Hiller in “Anniversary of a Murder“ on One Step Beyond which conceived as a companion series to the Twilight Zone. (Died 1996.)
  • Born October 12, 1942 Daliah Lavi. She’s in Casino Royale as The Detainer, a secret agent. In the same year, she was in Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon as Madelaine. She was Purificata in The Demon, an Italian horror film.  If you’re into German popular music, you might recognize her as she was successful there in Seventies and Eighties. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 12, 1943 Linda Shaye, 76. She’s been an actress for over forty years and has appeared in over ninety films, mostly horror. Among them is A Nightmare on Elm StreetCritters, Insidious, Dead End2001 Maniacs and its sequel 2001 Maniacs: Field of ScreamsJekyll and Hyde… Together AgainAmityville: A New GenerationOuija, and its prequel Ouija: Origin of Evil. She even appeared in The Running Man as a Propaganda Officer
  • Born October 12, 1965 Dan Abnett, 54. His earlier work was actually on Doctor Who Magazine,  but I’ll single out his co-writing Guardians of the Galaxy #1–6 with Andy Lanning, The Authority: Rule Britannia and his Border Princes novel he did in the Torchwood universe as great looks at him as a writer. 
  • Born October 12, 1968 Hugh Jackman, 51. Obviously Wolverine in the Marvel film franchise. He’s also been the lead character in Van Helsing as well as voicing him in the animated prequel Van Helsing: The London Assignment. One of his most charming roles was voicing The Easter Bunny in The Rise of The Guardians. And he played Robert Angier in The Prestige based off the novel written by the real Christopher Priest.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Rich Horton says about today’s Dilbert: “I don’t know if Scott Adams nicked this idea from Fred Pohl or Greg Egan or someone else, but I think of Daniel Galouye’s Simulacron-3 (filmed as The Thirteenth Floor).”

(10) THE ANSWER IS. Heather Rose Jones replies to the latest question on the Alpennia FAQ: “Are the Alpennia books historical?”

The setting deviates from real-world history in two major ways. Magic exists. And the country of Alpennia does not correspond to any real-world place or nation…. [More at the link.]

(11) WITH RESERVATIONS. CNET: “Addams Family fans can book ‘creepy, kooky’ night in replica mansion”. The “mansion” is in Brooklyn. Tagline: “Booking.com is offering a scary stay. Get a witch’s shawl on and a broomstick you can crawl on.”

…The exterior of Booking.com‘s Addams Family mansion doesn’t look spooky, but the inside makes up for it.

The [3700 square foot] mansion rents for just $101.10 per night, but not everyone interested will get in. [It will be available for only four one-night bookings starting the 29th of this month.] Mark your calendars now if you want to try to be one of the lucky ones. Bookings open on Oct. 28 at 9 a.m. PT, and they’ll probably disappear as fast as you can snap your fingers.

(12) KINGS AND MONSTERS. LitHub learns from Joe Hill, “When Stephen King is Your Father, the World is Full of Monsters”.

We had a new monster every night.

I had this book I loved, Bring on the Bad Guys. It was a big, chunky paperback collection of comic-book stories, and as you might guess from the title, it wasn’t much concerned with heroes. It was instead an anthology of tales about the worst of the worst, vile psychopaths with names like The Abomination and faces to match.

My dad had to read that book to me every night. He didn’t have a choice. It was one of these Scheherazade-type deals. If he didn’t read to me, I wouldn’t stay in bed. I’d slip out from under my Empire Strikes Back quilt and roam the house in my Spider-Man Underoos, soggy thumb in my mouth and my filthy comfort blanket tossed over one shoulder. I could roam all night if the mood took me. My father had to keep reading until my eyes were barely open, and even then, he could only escape by saying he was going to step out for a smoke and he’d be right back.

(13) THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW. Behind a paywall at The Wall Street Journal: “Streaming Is Killing Physical Media. Here’s Why You Won’t Miss It “. Tagline: “With Samsung’s decision to stop making Blu-ray players, now even discs are going extinct. One writer reminisces about all we’ll lose. Another looks forward to an all-digital future.”

(14) FUTURIUM. Aa “house of futures” museum opened in Berlin last month called the Futurium, and their website is futurium.de. The home site is in German, however, they also offer an English language version.

Futurium celebrated its opening on 05 September 2019. Since then, the interest in the house of futures has exceeded all expectations. In the first month, 100,000 visitors already came to Futurium and devoted themselves to the question: How do we want to live?

(15) NOSFERATU. [Item by Steve Vertlieb.] Every generation has its incarnation of the vampire mythos – Dark Shadows, Twilight, True Blood, and more. But it all cinematically began with F.W. Murnau’s 1922 silent movie masterpiece Nosferatu. Ninety-four years after its inception, North Hollywood’s Crown City Theater Company unleashed an astonishing live stage presentation entitled Nosferatu: A Symphony in Terror. In Nosferatu”, film historian Steve Vertlieb takes us aboard a dark yet wonderful cinematic time machine, delving into the creation of Murnau’s seminal horror film, examining it’s influence on generations (from Lugosi and Lee, to Salem’s Lot, Harry Potter and more), then reviews the startling stage presentation from a few years ago.

 (16) ONE LESS BRICK IN THE WALL. CNN says “You can feel good about ditching your LEGO bricks thanks to this new program”.

…Gather the LEGO bricks, sets or elements that you want to part with; put them in a cardboard box; and print out a free shipping label from the LEGO Replay website. At the Give Back Box facility, they’ll be sorted, inspected and cleaned.

“We know people don’t throw away their LEGO bricks,” Tim Brooks, vice president of environmental responsibility at the LEGO Group, said in a Tuesday news release. “The vast majority hand them down to their children or grandchildren. But others have asked us for a safe way to dispose of or to donate their bricks. With Replay, they have an easy option that’s both sustainable and socially impactful.”

(17) MUSHROOM MANAGEMENT. Car ownership and use are dropping, so they’re “Turning Paris’s underground car parks into mushrooms farms” – the BBC has video.

What do you do with an old car park that no-one wants to park in? Why not use them to grow mushrooms – or even salad?

Paris built too many underground car parks in the 1960s and 70s. Falling car ownership means many are standing empty, or finding new and surprising uses.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Lauren Gunderson Is Taking On J.M. Barrie” on YouTube, Lauren Gunderson discusses her adaptation of Peter Pan, which will be produced by the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington in December.

[Thanks to Nancy Collins, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Karl-Johan Norén, Steve Vertlieb, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anne Sheller.]

Sixty Years of The Twilight Zone

By Steve Vertlieb: Rod Serling’s iconic, landmark television series The Twilight Zone, premiered over the CBS Television Network on Friday night, October 2, 1959. The program featured the brilliant literary poetry of its creator, as well as the writings of Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont and Ray Bradbury. It’s science fiction/fantasy premise often camouflaged Serling’s own deeply sensitive social commentary, and profound pleas for understanding and tolerance.

The program broke new ground with its reverent, often haunting, sometimes heartbreaking allegories, and remains one of the most eloquent and influential network television series in the history of the medium. For its sixtieth anniversary, the city of Binghamton, New York, which cradled the author’s birth place, has scheduled a celebration of the acclaimed tv show this weekend, commemorating the anniversary of the premiere of this wondrous television anthology series.

The Twilight Zone: An Element of Time” is my published 2009 celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the classic Rod Serling television series. With original teleplays by Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, Ray Bradbury, George Clayton Johnson, and the visionary pen of host Rod Serling, along with accompanying scores by Bernard Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith, Franz Waxman and Fred Steiner, among others, this tender recollection of the iconic sci-fi/fantasy anthology series is dedicated to the memory of its beloved creator, Rod Serling, who left us far too soon on June 28th, 1975 at age 50.

 His legendary television series, and his revered memory, live on beyond “shadow and substance.” “That’s the signpost up ahead.” Be swept away into another dimension with this sweet remembrance, adrift upon rippling currents of time and space, only to be found in…The Twilight Zone.


See Steve’s extended writeup The Twilight Zone: An Element of Time” at American Music Preservation which begins

There is an obscure Air Force term relating to a moment when a plane is coming down on approach and a pilot cannot see the horizon. It’s called The…

“Papa Can You Hear Me” …Precious Moments With Nehemiah Persoff

By Steve Vertlieb: Here is, perhaps, the most exciting moment of my recent pilgrimage to Los Angeles and Hollywood, California. I’ve been a huge fan of character actor Nehemiah Persoff for some sixty years. We’d begun a degree of correspondence in May 2019. I was watching an episode of tv’s The Untouchables during a televised weekend retrospective in the late Spring and there, of course, was the great Nehemiah appearing as a guest in three separate episodes of the classic television series.

I began to wonder whatever became of this marvelous actor and so, before retiring for the evening, I started to research Mr. Persoff’s whereabouts on my computer. As luck would have it, I found him and wrote him a rather hasty letter of personal and lifelong admiration. To my shock and utter astonishment, he responded within five minutes.

I told him that I was coming West in a few months, and wondered if there was even the most remote possibility that I could personally pay my respects. Born in Palestine (now Jerusalem) on August 2nd, 1919, this gifted actor was about to turn one hundred years old.

Mr. Persoff generously consented to a visit and so, on Wednesday, August 28, 2019, my brother Erwin and I commenced our long drive to his home. We spent two hours at the feet of this remarkable human being, and shared a virtual Master Class on the art and history of screen acting. He spoke reverently of working with Marlon Brando at The Actor’s Studio, and in On The Waterfront, as well as studying with Elia Kazan in the late nineteen forties.

When Billy Wilder was casting Some Like It Hot, he’d chosen Edward G. Robinson to play Little Bonaparte, opposite George Raft and Pat O’Brien. When the two had a falling out, however, someone suggested Nehemiah Persoff for the part. The rest, as they, is history. When Barbra Streisand sang the moving “Papa, Can You Hear Me” in Yentl, she was singing to Nehemiah Persoff in a performance that, I’d like to believe, most effortlessly captured this remarkable actor’s gentle soul.

I shall remain forever grateful to have spent such joyous hours with this blessed soul … and for the gift of your friendship, dearest Nehemiah, I can only express my heartfelt gratitude. God Bless and Keep You.

The Original William Shatner ‘Star Trek’ Fanzine Interview Origin

By Steve Vertlieb: It was fifty years ago this month that I interviewed William Shatner for the British magazine L’Incroyable Cinema in July1969 (later re-printed in The Monster Times in early 1972) at The Playhouse In The Park. Star Trek was still in the final days of its original network run on NBC.

My old friend Allan Asherman, who joined my little brother Erwin and I for this once in a lifetime meeting with Captain James Tiberius Kirk, astutely commented that I had now met all three of our legendary boyhood “Captains,” which included Jim Kirk (Bill Shatner), Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers (Larry “Buster” Crabbe), and Buzz Corry (Ed Kemmer). It’s funny how an often charmed life can include real life friendships with childhood heroes.

Steve Vertlieb, William Shatner, and Erwin Vertlieb (1969).

L’Incroyable Cinema Issue 3 Centre Spread for what may have been the first fanzine interview ever conducted with William Shatner while “Star Trek” was still airing over the NBC Television Network.

L’Incroyable Cinema No. 3 Wrap round cover for their special Star Trek interview issue.

Here is the cover for The Monster Times 1972 “Star Trek issue featuring my published 1969 interview with William Shatner from L’Incroyable Cinema Magazine.

Pixel Scroll 7/12/19 Pixel Less, Scroll More

(1) CELEBRATING “BLOB FEST” THIS WEEKEND. [Item by Steve Vertlieb.] This weekend, fans from all over the world will converge upon The Colonial Theater in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania to commemorate the arrival upon our planet of a gelatinous intruder whose ravenous appetite inspired the birth of girth, and shamed The Cookie Monster into both seclusion and retirement. The historic theater, itself a performer in the classic Paramount release, plays host each Summer to “Blob Fest,” and will be the preferred destination for all self-respecting horror fans from Friday to Sunday, July 12th, 13th, and 14th.

Some years ago, I was invited by my beloved friend, Wes Shank, to his home to meet his nefarious tenant. Wes left us, sadly, a year ago … but his protege continues to mystify, charm, and entertain millions of adoring fans.

What follows is the link to a hopefully entertaining chronicle of one of my less successful show business associations…with one of filmdom’s “largest” screen personalities, and a creature that only Jenny Craig could love. Celebrating the sixty first anniversary of “The Blob.” — “How I Met… The Blob” at The Thunderchild.

(2) “HIGHLY CLASSIFIED” TV COMMERCIAL. Ad Astra comes to theaters September 20.

Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) travels to the outer edges of the solar system to find his missing father and unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of our planet. His journey will uncover secrets that challenge the nature of human existence and our place in the cosmos.

(3) THE MAD MEN WHO SOLD THE MOON. FastCompany lines up “The best and worst ads that celebrated the Apollo 11 Moon landing”:

…The most interesting ad on July 21, 1969, came from Brillo steel-wool scrubbing pads. Brillo offered Times readers a poster-size color map of the Moon, from Rand McNally. The ad was a striking one-third of a page, showing the Moon, with a coupon. It was a typical late sixties promotion: Fill in your address and mail the coupon, with two “proofs of purchase” clipped from boxes of Brillo pads to get that map. “This map is only available from Brillo,” the ad touted. “Let Brillo send you the Moon. Free.”

Brillo, to be clear, had no connection to the Moon landings.

The advertising blossomed on the day after Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin, and Neil Armstrong successfully and safely splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. On that day, in fact, the ratio of news coverage to advertising in the New York Times completely reversed.

The paper itself was 88 pages that Friday, July 25, 1969. It contained 15 full-page ads about Apollo, and another half-dozen ads that were a half-page or bigger. In all, there were more than 22 pages of advertisements about the Moon landings. The coverage itself that day was only six pages.

(4) PREPPING FOR DUBLIN. The third in Anne-Louise Fortune’s series “What is Worldcon” aims to enlighten the YouTube generation. “Three Essential Elements” covers the business meeting and site selection, among other things.

(5) I AM NO MAN. Nicole Rudick reviews The Future Is Female anthology in “A Universe of One’s Own” at The New York Review of Books.

“Write me a creature who thinks as well as a man, or better than a man, but not like a man.” This was the challenge the influential science-fiction editor John Campbell famously issued his authors in the 1940s. It was aimed at producing aliens as fully formed as the interstellar human travelers who encounter them. Isaac Asimov thought the best example was a creature named Tweel from Stanley Weinbaum’s “A Martian Odyssey,” a story from 1934 that preceded the dictum. But the instruction also has the feel of a riddle, and neither Campbell nor Asimov considered its most obvious answer: a woman.

Three years before Weinbaum’s Martian adventure, Leslie F. Stone published “The Conquest of Gola” in the April 1931 issue of the science-fiction pulp magazine Wonder Stories. This was not Stone’s first published story, but it became her best known. Gola is a planet ruled by a gentle civilization of telepathic nonhumanoid females with movable eyes and sensory functions available on all parts of their round, golden-fur-covered bodies. The males of the planet are docile pleasure-consorts. Into this edenic world plunges a cadre of Earth men who desire “exploration and exploitation.” The queen rejects their plea for trade and tourism. She isn’t just dismissive of what she feels are the Earthlings’ barbarian mentality and low-grade intelligence; she simply can’t be bothered to take them seriously. “To think of mere man-things daring to attempt to force themselves upon us,” she says. “What is the universe coming to?” Rebuffed, the Earth men launch a full invasion; the Golans (who narrate the tale) obliterate them. End of story. A case study in thinking better than men but not like men.

“The Conquest of Gola” is one of the twenty-five SF tales written by women that are collected in the enjoyable new anthology The Future Is Female, edited by Lisa Yaszek…

(6) BEGGING THE QUESTION. BookRiot thinks readers should already know the answer: “So You Want To Bring Back Dystopian YA? Well, Here’s Why It Never Left”.

With the announcement of a prequel to Suzanne Collins’s popular young adult trilogy The Hunger Games, there has been a wealth of discourse on why it’s finally time to bring back dystopian YA. It’s a trend that dominated both the YA scene and the box office in the early 2010s, with the success of The Hunger Games seeing major film production companies competing in a fierce battle for the next big blockbuster hit.

…But what about the books? Is Suzanne Collins bringing back dystopian YA? Is the trend finally rising from the ashes, allowing us all to relive our best 2012 selves? Well, you can’t bring back something that never really left.

Despite the apparent decline of dystopian YA movies in Hollywood, a steady stream of young adult novels in recent years has kept the genre afloat for teens who still wanted to consume these stories outside of the adaptations.

Some of the most popular series, like An Ember In The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir and Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, both written by authors of colour, were first published during the dystopian craze of the early 2010s, and subsequent books continue to be published without the marketing push that saw the likes of The Hunger Games and Divergent driven to success.

(7) FLAME OUT. At a Warner Bros. studio in the UK, fire claimed a set used in numerous genre productions: “Warner Bros Studios fire: Crews tackle blaze for 15 hours”.

Crews were called to the site in Leavesden, Hertfordshire, at 23:29 BST on Wednesday.

The fire service said the set involved was not being used at the time and there had been no reported injuries.

All eight Harry Potter films as well as other movies including James Bond, Fast and Furious and the Mission Impossible franchises have filmed at the studios.

The fire service confirmed shortly before 15:00 on Thursday the fire was out, although some crews remain at the scene.

A spokesman for Warner Bros said the fire had occurred on a sound stage being used for the television production Avenue 5, but all productions were able to continue working.

Avenue 5 is an HBO space tourism comedy by The Thick of It creator Armando Iannucci.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

July 12, 1969  — [Item by Steve Green.] Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of Star Trek‘s debut on British television, where it occupied the Saturday afternoon slot on BBC1 traditionally occupied by Doctor Who. Unlike NBC and its US affiliates, the BBC opened with ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before’, the second pilot and the first to feature William Shatner as James T Kirk. As one of those captivated viewers, this means July 12, 2019 is also the fiftieth anniversary of my becoming a Star Trek fan.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 12, 1895 Buckminster Fuller. Genre adjacent and I don’t believe that he actually wrote any SF though one could argue that Tetrascroll: Goldilocks and the Three Bears, A Cosmic Fairy Tale is sort of genre. You will find his terminology used frequently in genre fiction. (Died 1983.)
  • Born July 12, 1912 Joseph Mugnaini. An Italian born artist and illustrator. He is best known for his collaborations with writer Ray Bradbury, beginning in 1952. Through an amazing piece of serendipity, there’s an interview with him talking about working with Bradbury which you can listen to here. (Died 1992.)
  • Born July 12, 1923 James E. Gunn, 96. H’h, what have I read by him? Well there’s The Joy Makers and Future Imperfect, not to mention The Magicians. I’m sure there’s more but those are the ones I fondly remember. Which ones do you recall reading? 
  • Born July 12, 1933 Donald E. Westlake. No, I didn’t know he did genre but ISFDB says he, hence this Birthday note. Transylvania Station by him and wife is based on Mohonk Mountain House-sponsored vampire hunting mystery role-playing weekend. (Died 2008.)
  • Born July 12, 1945 James D. Allan, 74. A rather prolific writer and author on the subject of Tolkien linguistics. He is primarily known for his book, An Introduction to Elvish. His most recent contribution to the field is “Gandalf and the Merlin of the Arthurian Romances”, published in Tolkien Society’s Amon Hen number 251. 
  • Born July 12, 1946 Charles R. Saunders,73. African-American author and journalist currently living in Canada, much of his fiction is set in the fictional continent Nyumbani (which means “home” in Swahili). His main series is is the Imaro novels which he claims are the first sword and sorcery series by a black writer.
  • Born July 12, 1970 Phil Jimenez, 49. Comics illustrator and writer. He was the main artist of Infinite Crisis, a sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths. He also did the awesome first issue of Planetary/Authority: Ruling the World, and was responsible for the first six issues of Fables spin-off, Fairest.
  • Born July 12, 1976 Anna Friel, 43. Her best remembered genre role is as played Charlotte “Chuck” Charles on Pushing Daisies, but she’s been Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Elizabeth Bonny in Neverland, not to mention Lady Claire in Timeline, an SF virtually no one has heard of. 
  • Born July 12, 1976 Gwenda Bond,  43. Her Blackwood novel won a Locus Award for Best First Novel. (Strange Alchemy is the sequel.) She written three novels featuring DC character Lois Lane, and her Cirque American series with its magic realism looks interesting. She also wrote the “Dear Aunt Gwenda” column in the Lady Churchill’s Robot* Wristlet chapbooks that Gavin J. Grant and Kelly Link did for awhile over at Small Beer Press. 

(10) RESISTANCE ON HOLD. Hugo Martin, in “Disneyland delays 2nd ride at Star Wars land” at the LA Times, says “Rise of the Resistance will open Jan. 17 instead of this year.”

The Anaheim theme park had previously said the Rise of the Resistance ride would launch this year.

The ride is designed to put parkgoers in the middle of a fierce battle between resistance fighters and the evil forces of the First Order. An identical ride will open in December at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge , the largest expansion in the park’s history, opened May 31 with only one ride in operation, Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run…

Bob Iger, chief executive of Walt Disney Co., had previously promised Disney fans that Rise of the Resistance would open in 2019.

Instead, Disney said on its website Thursday that the much-anticipated Rise of the Resistance will open first at the Florida park before the Christmas holiday vacation and then at Disneyland in January, when families will have returned to work and school after the winter break.

Disney’s website suggested that the California attraction would open later than the one in Florida because Disney engineers and ride developers can open only one ride at a time…

(11) JAPAN SCORES TOUCHDOWN. “Hayabusa-2: Japanese spacecraft makes final touchdown on asteroid” – BBC has the story.

A Japanese spacecraft has touched down on a faraway asteroid, where it will collect space rock that may hold clues to how the Solar System evolved.

The successful contact with the Ryugu asteroid was met with relief and cheering in the control room at Japan’s space agency, JAXA.

It is the second touchdown for the robotic Hayabusa-2 craft, which grabbed rocks from the asteroid in February….

(12) TRUE ACCOUNTABILITY. Somebody had to say it.

(13) TEA OR TOR. Bonnie McDaniel takes her turn at reviewing the lot: “Hugo Reading 2019: Best Novella”.

The novella (17,500-40,000 words) has had something of a resurgence in recent years, mainly due to Tor’s excellent novella line. (I know the ones I’ve bought are taking up nearly a full shelf in one of my bookcases.) This time around, five of the six nominees are from Tor; the only exception (Aliette de Bodard’s The Tea Master and the Detective) was published by Subterranean, a niche publisher that puts out lovely limited collectible editions. (Which also take up a not-inconsiderable amount of my own shelf space.) For a lot of stories, the novella is the perfect length, and I’m glad to see its growing popularity.

(14) AREA CODE. CNN reports “Thousands of people have taken a Facebook pledge to storm Area 51 to ‘see them aliens'”.

Stretch those quads and prep that tinfoil hat!

Over 300,000 people have signed on to a Facebook event pledging to raid Area 51 in Nevada in a quest to “see them aliens.”

The event, titled “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us,” is inviting users from around the world to join a “Naruto run” — a Japanese manga-inspired running style featuring arms outstretched backwards and heads forward — into the area.

“We can move faster than their bullets,” the event page, which is clearly written with tongue in cheek, promises those who RSVP for September 20.

(15) INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY. It only takes one.

(16) CRAWL VARMINT, CRAWL ON YOUR BELLY LIKE A REPTILE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Is this movie—about oversized alligators terrorizing people trapped in a crawlspace during a massive storm—genre? Well, it is horror of a sort, perhaps only one or two steps removed from movies about shark-filled tornadoes.

Having seen a TV advert for Crawl, I absolutely knew I would never want to go see the movie in a  theater (though YMMV). On the other hand, the review itself is a hoot: The Hollywood Reporter: “’Crawl’: Film Review”

No sensible person goes to see a movie about killer alligators and then complains that it was silly and over the top. So it’s puzzling that Paramount would refuse to hold critics’ screenings for Alexandre Aja’s Crawl, a film that, despite some ludicrous action scenes and risible dialogue, might well have been helped more than harmed, on the whole, by reviews. After all, not every Snakes on a Flesh-Eating Sharknado delivers on its schlocky promises, and savvy consumers like to be told they won’t get burned this time. Consider this a measured endorsement for the kind of action-packed B picture where Serbia stands in for coastal Florida, and nobody notices, and they wouldn’t care if they did.

(17) KEEPING UP WITH THE PHILISTINES. In Science Advances, “Ancient DNA reveals the roots of the Biblical Philistines”. “The Philistines appear repeatedly in the Bible, but their origins have long been mysterious. Now genetic evidence suggests that this ancient people trace some of their ancestry west all the way to Europe.”

The ancient Mediterranean port city of Ashkelon, identified as “Philistine” during the Iron Age, underwent a marked cultural change between the Late Bronze and the early Iron Age. It has been long debated whether this change was driven by a substantial movement of people, possibly linked to a larger migration of the so-called “Sea Peoples.” Here, we report genome-wide data of 10 Bronze and Iron Age individuals from Ashkelon. We find that the early Iron Age population was genetically distinct due to a European-related admixture. This genetic signal is no longer detectible in the later Iron Age population. Our results support that a migration event occurred during the Bronze to Iron Age transition in Ashkelon but did not leave a long-lasting genetic signature.

(18) ON STRIKES. For your edification, ScreenRant screens the “Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back Pitch Meeting.”

Empire Strikes Back is known not only as one of the best Star Wars movies, but one of the best sequels of all time. Despite it’s amazing reputation it still raises a few questions. Like how did that Wampa freeze Luke’s feet to a cave ceiling? Why was Yoda making him do so many flips? What’s up with the AT-AT strategy on Hoth? Why did Leia kiss Luke? To answer all these questions and more, step inside the pitch meeting that led to The Empire Strikes Back!

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Dann, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Doug.]

Remembering Vince and Tommy De Noble

By Steve Vertlieb: I met Tommy De Noble in 1967 when I was working as an announcer at WDVR Radio in the old Reynolds Aluminum Building in Bala Cynwyd, Pa. Tommy was one of the most handsome men I’d ever met. He was a singer, recording artist, and actor. He might have passed for James Darren’s twin brother. Dick Clark wrote in his book that Tommy was “the most popular dancer in the history of American Bandstand.” Tommy had just returned from a stint in the Army on the West Coast, and was looking for work in the Philadelphia area. Tommy and his brothers, Vince and Lou, were all from Philadelphia, but Tommy had gone to Hollywood to make his fortune. He had won a gold record for “Count Every Star,” and appeared in several motion pictures and television shows but, after his required stint in the military, gigs out West had somehow disappeared.

Somewhere around 1975, Tommy landed a position as film director at WTAF TV 29 in Philadelphia. We had become best friends and brothers in the ensuing years, and Tommy offered me a job as a film editor at the television station. I accepted, and there began the happiest employment that I’ve ever known. I was with WTAF for twelve years, from 1976 until 1988. Fleshing out the remainder of the film department were a very gifted artist named Bill Levers, and Tommy’s younger brother, Vince. We soon became inseparable. We went everywhere together, and laughed from morning until night. Bill was one of the funniest men I’ve ever known, and Vince became like my own little brother. We were quite literally “The Four Musketeers.” I’d grow excited each morning when I left for work, and become depressed in the late afternoon when it came time to leave work and return home.

Our happiness was not to last, however. After a dozen years with the station, Taft Broadcasting sold us to a tiny, fly by night chain that set about cutting corners, and eliminating personnel. I was laid off, and never again returned to the field that I hoped would constitute my life’s career. Some years later, Tommy had a stroke, and passed away. Vince asked me to read the scriptures at his funeral service. At Tommy’s memorial, a group of us stood around, in disbelief, talking and remembering our friend and co-worker. As we prepared to leave, one by one, the room had grown silent. A CD of Tommy’s recordings had been playing over the loudspeaker. Tommy’s voice sang ever so sweetly across the room. The lyrics of that last song haunt me still … “For all we know, we may never meet again.” Tommy was singing goodbye to his many friends and loved ones.

About a year or so ago, I received a telephone call from Vince’s wife, Patty. She said that, like his older brother before him, Vince had suffered a stroke. I wanted to come and visit my old friend and co-worker, but Patty was valiantly protecting her beloved husband’s dignity. They wanted Vince to be remembered as we had known him in happier times. Vince passed away earlier this past week, joining Tommy in Heaven. As I left the funeral home and church this morning, I got into my car, and turned on the radio. I drove along the lonely streets in quiet disbelief, and softly cried. Nat King Cole was singing “For all we know, we may never meet again.”