I Sing Bradbury Electric: A Loving, Personal Remembrance 

Ray Bradbury at his home in Los Angeles (photo by Danny Tuffs, Getty Images)

By Steve Vertlieb: He was a kindly, gentle soul who lived among us for a seeming eternity. But even eternity is finite. He was justifiably numbered among the most influential writers of the twentieth century. Among the limitless vistas of science fiction and fantasy he was, perhaps, second only in literary significance to H.G. Wells who briefly shared the last century with him. Ray Bradbury was, above all else, the poet laureate of speculative fiction. He shared with Ernest Hemingway the simplicity of phrase inspired by genius. No more legendary literary figure ever claimed Earth as his home, and yet Ray Bradbury was a childlike gargantuan whose life and artistry were shaped by the wonder and innocence of curiosity and tender imagination.

He was born into a world of rocket ships and monsters, a universe traversed by Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Frankenstein, Dracula, and a miraculous primordial ape called KING KONG. His boyhood was transformed by the promise of distant worlds and stranger creatures whose outward malevolence masked secret torment, the sadness of being deemed somehow different.

Ray Douglas Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois (a hometown he shared with Jack Benny) on August 22nd, 1920. From birth he shared an affinity with the magical realm of motion pictures. His middle name was dedicated to the imagery of screen swashbuckler Douglas Fairbanks, and so Ray always knew that his spiritual ancestors consisted of pirates and colorful masked swordsmen. Coming of age during America’s great Depression, the gregarious youth was lifted by the seat of his pants by silken images painted in celluloid. His heroes consisted not only of daring cavaliers such as Fairbanks, but by the pervasively exotic characterizations of Lon Chaney Sr., Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. The mystic lure of far away worlds beckoned the impressionable adolescent with the promise of tomorrow, while monstrous cinematic cadavers and rockets to Mars replaced the mundane scenery of a Depression-stricken America.

As sympathetic souls and kindred spirits came together in pre-destined unison, Bradbury found himself drawn to the early worlds of science fiction, fantasy, pulp fandom and, together with fellow teenagers Ray Harryhausen and Forrest James Ackerman, began their journey of discovery, forming what has come to be recognized as “first fandom,” in pursuit of creative profit and recognition. Bradbury would later state that he owed everything to Forry Ackerman who sold his first published story. The third member of the imaginative trio, Ray Harryhausen, formalized their creative partnership with the visual realization of Bradbury’s short story “The Fog Horn.” Published in a celebrated issue of The Saturday Evening Post, the short story concerning a sea beast consumed by the tantalizing image of an isolated light house, became the basis for Harryhausen’s first solo screen effort, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.

Rod Serling encouraged the celebrated writer to join his literary enclave at CBS Television as the decade reached its conclusion and, while Bradbury submitted several scripts to Serling’s classic science fiction/fantasy anthology series, The Twilight Zone, only one was aired as a part of the series. “I Sing The Body Electric,” inspired by Walt Whitman’s famous poem, served as the basis for a Bradbury story in which an electric grandmother is hired by a wealthy widower to work as his children’s nanny. The episode aired as a part of the series on May 18th, 1962 and was later included in a famous Bradbury anthology of the same name published in 1969. While this remains the only episode of the series penned by Bradbury, Serling managed to include an affectionate reference to the writer in his own melancholy tale (“Walking Distance”) of an advertising executive on the verge of a nervous breakdown, coming home once more to the small town in which he had spent his boyhood. As Martin Sloan (Gig Young) walks along the streets of Homewood, he makes a casual reference to the Bradbury house standing prominently in his gaze. Homewood sweetly represented small town Americana from which both writers had migrated.

Ray Bradbury turned his adolescent energy and enthusiasm into poetic imagery, and brought a human face to Man’s exploration of the stars. When Neil Armstrong took his first small steps upon the lunar landscape in July,1969, generating a giant leap of faith for all Mankind, Bradbury’s frustration over the lack of excitement shown by the television networks covering the monumental story exploded into headlines, and a memorable tirade by the world’s most eloquent innocent. Bradbury sat solemn and quiet as a guest on a network Lunar themed telecast, struggling to fill time with inanity after insanity. Unable to contain his rage at the proliferation of stupidity filling the national airwaves, the child in a man’s body rose to his feet…outraged by the lack of understanding and exhilaration being exhibited by David Frost and his disinterested panel of guests…and threatened to walk off of the live telecast. His contempt for the bland assemblage of guests apparent, Bradbury admonished them as he would a poor student in the gaze of a disappointed teacher. “This is the greatest night in the history of the world,” he raged. The lack of excitement over this cherished, awe inspiring moment in time, was just too much for this child of wonder either to accept or to absorb. The moment that Ray, and millions of children around the world, had dreamt of and imagined since Buck Rogers and Superman had first flown into space some thirty years earlier was finally here. That these simple, uninspired talk show guests were consumed with themselves, rather than this extraordinary moment of mortal achievement and exploration, was more than Bradbury could endure.

Like millions of imaginative children inhabiting Bradbury’s world, I revered his name and legend. Ray Bradbury signified everything I’d ever dreamt of or aspired to.

As a quiet, introspective boy growing up in Philadelphia during the nineteen fifties, I became a poster child for what would one day become known as “A Monster Kid” — a generation of “baby boomers” weaned on, and inspired by, television, the huge monster movie craze of the fifties, and the introduction of a genre movie magazine with the unlikely name of Famous Monsters of Filmland. The progenitor of this magical publication was none other than the editor who had first brought Ray Bradbury to the attention of publishers. Forrest J Ackerman, or as he was known to his millions of adoring children, “Uncle Forry.”

Forry was the Hans Christian Anderson of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, a Walt Disney father figure who, like the proverbial “Pan,” would lure willing children to worlds and concepts beyond the stars, filling their imaginations with inspirational promise and invitation. He was a joyous Pied Piper who, together with his boyhood friends, Ray Bradbury and Ray Harryhausen, would cause generation after generation of creative youth to embrace their dreams, and create their own fantastic lives and careers. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were only two of the many artists who found their singular paths among the clouds inhabited by Bradbury, Harryhausen, and Ackerman.

Ray Bradbury with Steve and Erwin Vertlieb

It was during the wonderful Summer months of 1974 that I traveled for the first time to Los Angeles, and came face to face with the land of fantasies, dreams, imagination, and motion pictures that had so consumed and mesmerized my own impressionable childhood. I was like the proverbial kid in the candy store. Everywhere I turned represented the reflection of my own childhood longing and wanderings.

Among my friends of the period was composer and orchestrator John Morgan. John announced one afternoon that he had received an invitation to Ray Bradbury’s house that evening, and he wondered if my brother Erwin and I would like to join him for the royal summons. I swallowed my singular exhilaration, and excitedly accepted his generous invitation. Bradbury’s residence was a large yellow structure in a quiet residential neighborhood. We nervously climbed the outer steps and rang the door bell. As the door opened, Ray greeted us personally and ushered the three of us into his living room. I was both thrilled and frightened, for here within my gaze was the legendary writer smiling at me and extending his hand. His hands, I remember, were very large and inviting and I became lost inside their welcome grasp. Ray asked me about my own career, and I told him that I was a published writer and minor film historian. My day job was, I explained, a film editor at a Philadelphia television station.

He asked if I knew that he had written the screen play for John Huston’s magnificent 1956 production of Moby Dick. I assured him that I had. He was very proud of the gift that Huston had given him after the picture had been released. It was a 16-millimeter Technicolor print of the Warner Bros. release given him personally by the director. Ray was like a little kid proudly showing off his Hopalong Cassidy pistol. He asked if I’d like to see a few minutes of the film. I said yes, of course, and he ran to find the print. His joy was infectious as I watched him delicately thread the projector and share his treasure with us.

As the film began to unspool on the screen in his living room I could see that the print was immaculate. My film editor’s eye, however, noticed just the beginnings of an emulsion scratch in the otherwise gorgeous Technicolor print. I took my life in my hands, and asked Ray to stop the film for a moment. I don’t know if it was courage on my part or youthful arrogance. It’s difficult now to say which. Ray looked at me with a puzzled expression. I asked him if he ever cleaned his projector “gate.” He asked what I meant. I said “Ray, do you have a box of cue tips and some Isopropyl Alcohol?” Here was one of the most important writers of the Twentieth Century going dutifully to fetch a box of cue tips for this young upstart transgressing his hospitality. I honestly thought he would lift me bodily from my chair, and hurl me out the door to the street below. Instead, like the gentle soul he was, he went out into another room to bring what I had requested. I took a cue tip from the box he had handed me and immersed it in the accompanying bottle of alcohol. I showed him how to clean the “gate” of the projector in the areas that came into contact with the film print and assured him that this procedure would help to keep his beloved Technicolor print from being torn and permanently scratched. He thanked me for this simple lesson in film maintenance, and appeared grateful, but I was thoroughly convinced at the time that I would soon be black listed all over Hollywood, and forbidden from ever encountering or confronting this splendid Ice Cream Man again. That was Ray. He was just a big kid…a gentle, enthusiastic child with the talent and intellect of a genius.

During that same trip out West we had the unique opportunity to sit in the audience with Ray and his wife for a live, small theater production of Fahrenheit 451. Ray told me that he adored Bernard Herrmann’s original score for the Truffaut film version of his famous novel and, at his insistence, the small theater troupe used excerpts from the Herrmann recording of his score for London Phase 4 Records, with the composer conducting The London Philharmonic Orchestra. The experience was surreal.

After that, Ray and I maintained a sporadic, yet steady correspondence for the rest of his life. I remember running into him at one of Forry Ackerman’s Famous Monsters Of Filmland conventions in Virginia in 1993. I hadn’t seen Ray in years. He was surrounded, as he always was, by a burgeoning crowd of awe-struck fans. I approached him and asked if he remembered an arrogant young man some twenty years earlier who had had the temerity, in his own living room, to lecture him on the care and feeding of his 16-millimeter movie projector. He looked up at me from the hotel couch on which he was sitting and grinned somewhat impishly, pointing his finger in my direction. “Was that YOU?” I assured him that I was, indeed, that brazen young lad. We both chuckled over the recollection of that embarrassing episode so many years earlier. He might have cringed at my appearance, but he didn’t. He simply chuckled in delight. He was A Medicine For Melancholy.

Among the many ties that bound us together was Ray’s passionate interest in symphonic motion picture music written for the screen. We shared a love for the music of such composers as Bernard Herrmann, Miklos Rozsa, and Max Steiner among others. I had known Miklos Rozsa as a friend for nearly thirty years, and Ray not only admired his music, but had worked together with the composer during the filming of King Of Kings for MGM in 1961. Rozsa had won a richly deserved Oscar for his magnificent 1959 score for Metro-Goldwyn- Mayer’s Ben-Hur, and so was asked to write the music for the studio’s early sixties remake of the original 1927 Cecil B. DeMille silent classic. Ray was hired by Metro to write the narration spoken by Orson Welles scattered throughout the picture, and attended some of the recording sessions with Rozsa.

In 2007 the historic Castro Theater in San Francisco was preparing a special film festival honoring the work of the legendary composer, and I was asked to choose the films for the presentation, write the liner notes for the program, and co-host the festival. As it turned out, the Miklos Rozsa film festival became a major San Francisco event in late 2007 and early 2008 with seventeen motion pictures presented to packed houses over a nine-day period. The composer’s daughter, Juliet Rozsa, along with his granddaughters Nicci and Ariana, all drove in from Los Angeles and appeared with me on stage during the introductions. I was honored to read proclamations from both the Mayor of San Francisco, as well as the Hungarian Ambassador to The United States. However, the introduction that thrilled me the most was one written expressly for the event by Ray Bradbury.

Knowing Ray’s love for film music, I wrote him about the festival. He wrote me back asking if he might contribute his own written introduction to the festival. I was honored to accept his lovely request. After all, who was I to say say “no” to Ray Bradbury. Consequently, I felt a tingle of excitement as I read Ray’s brief, loving words from the stage to an audience of some seven hundred people just prior to my “live” interview with Juliet Rozsa, and a 35-millimeter screening of the composer’s masterpiece, Ben-Hur.

Over the years that followed I continued to correspond with Ray, both my mail and through the internet. Each Christmas would bring Ray’s newest holiday poetry which seemed to arrive not through conventional mail delivery but, rather, upon wings of angels within a snow covered sleigh. On one memorable occasion, after sending him an article I’d written pertaining to the science fiction genre we both so adored, he wrote me a lovely note thanking me for continuing to write about the worlds of fantasy and science fiction. He felt a singular obligation to keep the faith, so to speak, through his own place in literary history, and wanted to thank me, as well, for continuing to carry the torch along with him. Despite his advancing years and assorted health problems, which included a debilitating stroke in 1999, he was still the same little boy who had discovered the wonder of other worlds and galaxies so many decades before. Like Ray Harryhausen and Forry Ackerman, with whom he had shared his first spiritual journeys to outer space, he wrote “Steve…You’re a good pal.” I nearly cried when I read that, and wanted to reach out and hug this gentle soul whose life and work had so touched and impacted my own.

Ray continued to find wonder in the music of the movies and particularly loved Jerry Goldsmith’s valiant score for The Wind and The Lion. His affection for Goldsmith’s exhilarating musical themes for the romantic Sean Connery adventure film inspired his own work, and he proudly acknowledged his debt to the composer’s symphonic poetry in creating Now And Forever: Somewhere A Band Is Playing, published by William Morrow Company in 2007.

Jerry Goldsmith

I published my own tribute to Jerry Goldsmith and his music for another epic score, First Knight, in June, 2011, at Film Music Review, and discussed Ray’s love for that earlier Goldsmith music. I sent the article to Ray’s beloved daughter, Alexandra (Zee) shortly after its online publication. I think that one of the greatest thrills of my life, perhaps, was when Zee took my work along with her during a trip to her dad’s home a few weeks later, and read it to him. She wrote me that he smiled from ear to ear and offered his own enthusiastic comments as she read him my words about the Goldsmith music. 

Several weeks later I received a small parcel from Ray in the mail. On the face of the large white envelope were two postage stamps honoring Edgar Allan Poe.

Next to the stamps, Ray had drawn an arrow pointing toward Poe, and written in big letters “My Pa.”

Inside the envelope were a photograph of Ray standing next to a painting of Poe, along with a handwritten note which read…

Steve:

Thanks for “Mickey” (Miklos Rozsa)
4E (Forry Ackerman)
Xmas
& ME!

Love,
Ray

I got to see Ray a couple of more times, and those visits were the most wonderful love fests that I could have imagined. After the death of his lifelong friend friend Forry Ackerman, I sent Ray my Rondo-nominated tribute to my own forty-seven year friendship with Uncle Forry and, as I sat at his side, Ray said “I owe him everything.” I visited Ray shortly after his ninetieth birthday in late August, 2010. He was busily involved in numerous tributes, interviews and appearances honoring his birthday, but he told Zee to please somehow fit me into his schedule…and so I traveled with my little brother Erwin to Ray’s house to spend a loving hour at his feet. It was difficult for him to speak due to ill health, but he was obviously happy to see us and felt invigorated by our visit. I continued to feel astonished that this world renowned literary figure, this giant of a writer, was still living within the confines of the very same humble home he’d shared with an unsuspecting, quiet residential neighborhood for some fifty years. When I asked him about it, he told me that he’d raised his family and enjoyed much of his fame and success in his beloved house. Why would he ever wish to leave it?

In January, 2010, I discovered that my own health had been dramatically failing and that I would need major open heart surgery quite soon if I were to survive. In mid February of that year we scheduled surgery for a few weeks hence. I wrote Ray of my impending procedure, and he playfully instructed Zee to write me of the poetic irony of my requiring heart surgery right around Valentine’s Day. He further instructed her to tell me that he would not allow me to die. Who was I to contradict Ray Bradbury?

I was able to visit Ray one more time during the closing days of August, 2011. Once again, the demands on his time had become nearly impossible, as the world around him was beginning to understand and respect the significance and singular importance of the solitary inspiration who had so profoundly influenced the better part of their lives. Once again, Ray grew excited at the prospect of my impending visit and asked Zee to please arrange his schedule so that he might find time to see me. When Zee wrote me that “Dad” was excited about seeing me during my visit to Los Angeles, I humbly pondered the reasons why Ray Bradbury…this living legend…would grow excited over seeing me, of all people. I think the reason for his enthusiasm had little to do with me personally. It was just that Ray had never truly grown up. He was still the eternal innocent…still the little boy possessed of childlike awe and wonder who was eager to stop time and simply visit with an old “pal.”

Ray had just turned ninety-one and was visibly excited over the news that a film production company had just purchased the rights to his novel Dandelion Wine. As we entered the house, Zee told me that her dad was thrilled by the report and that he couldn’t wait to tell me about it. When I entered his den I found him in good spirits and quite animated. We talked of the sale, and of our nearly forty-year friendship. As the time wore on, and Ray was growing tired, I grew unusually sentimental as we were to preparing to leave. I filled up with tears as I told Ray how deeply I loved him, and how he had so profoundly impacted not only my life, but the lives of literally millions of friends and admirers all over the world who loved him as well, and owed him so very much. I arose from my chair and embraced this frail, gentle soul. I kissed him on his cheek, and told him how much he meant to me. He said “I love you, too, Steve” as each of us smiled and fought back the inevitable tears.

As we left the modest home on Cheviot Drive, I turned once more to see the façade and stood there for a moment, deep in thought and contemplation. As we got into the car, I said to Erwin “I have a terrible feeling that this is the last time we’ll ever see Ray.”

The remaining months of 2011 slipped quickly away. A new year was dawning but, with it, came new health concerns…not only for me, but for my beloved mom who had celebrated her one hundredth birthday six months earlier. In the early morning hours of February 1st, 2012, I received the dreaded telephone call that my mother had passed away. Among the treasured notes and letters of condolence that I received was a touching E-mail from Ray and Zee Bradbury expressing their sadness over the loss of my mom.

Nostalgia for things past and for a simpler time, perhaps, has become a common thread shared by so many so called “baby boomers.” In December, 2011, I was interviewed in my home for two hours by film director Robert Tinnell and a camera crew for a new film documentary concerning the “Monster Kid” phenomenon inspired by Forrest J Ackerman, his groundbreaking Famous Monsters Of Filmland Magazine, and the hugely popular, affectionately remembered monster movie craze of the 1950’s. Such luminaries as Steven Spielberg and George Lucas owe their careers to the phenomenon, as do such decidedly minor players as myself. While the film has not yet been completed, the producers released a theatrical trailer promoting their forthcoming documentary in the Spring. I sent the link for the trailer to Zee Bradbury, inspiring her to write back that “Dad should really be a part of this.” I telephoned Bob Tinnell on his mobile phone while he was driving in West Virginia to let him know that Ray Bradbury was interested in appearing in his film. He pulled off to the side of the road in excitement over the news. I put Bob in touch with Zee, and they arranged for Bob to come and visit Ray either in late May or early June, 2012, to interview him for the film.

In the meantime, I had spoken with Zee about my own impending return to Los Angeles in late August, 2012 and, as usual, she wrote back that her dad was excited about seeing me, and had asked her to re-arrange his schedule so that he might find the time to do so. While at work on the morning of Wednesday, June 6th, I received an E-Mail from Bob Tinnell letting me know that Ray had passed away during the night before at his home in Los Angeles. I stared at my Blackberry phone in stunned silence, unable to fully grasp the news. Ray Bradbury was gone. I began to cry. My lifelong hero and friend had died. I would no longer behold his wonderful face and childlike smile, nor would I ever again find my own hands lost in his. He had joined Forry and his other pals in what must surely be Science Fiction Heaven. Ray shared our lives and existence for an all too brief and shining moment in eternity, and now he had departed, leaving us to face a world sadly dreary in his absence.

Ray has found peace in another realm of immortality, having joined The Ghosts of Forever, and yet his work lives on beyond his fabled physical presence, and we shall continue to sing Bradbury Electric in joyful celebration and chorus for the remainder of our own solitary sojourn upon this wondrous sphere.

— Steve Vertlieb, June 2012
Contributing writer – Film Music Review

Originally published by Roger Hall in Film Music Review.

[Some of the images in the remembrance are from the author’s personal collection. Others are from online sources and no copyright infringement is intended or implied.]

Pixel Scroll 4/20/22 “Sorry We’re Late, Kate,” The Sweet Birds Sang

(1) FROM THE LIFE OF JMS. J. Michael Straczynski has released an unlocked Patreon post of a chapter he cut from his autobiography: “Chapter Cut from Bio: The Great Bible Battle”. Here’s his introduction:

As noted elsewhere, I cut a good chunk of material from my autobiography Becoming Superman because there was just too much stuff for one book and I didn’t want to do this in two volumes.  It was already almost too long.  

This is actually one of the better, and in part most heartfelt chapters in the whole book, but it was also one that could be cut without damaging the structure of the book because it was for all intents and purposes unconnected from what came before and what followed.  It also marks one the first times that something I’d done earned me death threats (yes, there were others).  

So I present this to you, good patrons, seen here for the first time anywhere, ever.

(2) AWARD RETURNING. Submissions are being taken for the 2022 IAFA Imagining Indigenous Futurisms Award through December 1, 2022.

The IAFA Imagining Indigenous Futurisms Award recognizes emerging authors who use science fiction to address issues of Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination.

(3) AWARD FLAMBEAU. Serge Ecker’s video takes you inside the foundry to witness the “Making of the European Science Fiction Award 2022 – LuxCon, the 2022 EuroCon”. Molten metal and flames aplenty.

(4) LOVE IS BLUE. Somtow Sucharitkul is creating “Terrestrial Passions: a Regency Romance with Aliens” on Kindle Vella. The wry titles of the first four installments set the tone — “A Most Peculiar Frenchman”, “Universally Acknowledged”, “Dissuasion”, and “Incense and Insensibility”.

The widowed Mrs. Dorrit lives a marginal existence with her brother, a vicar, and twin daughters in a cottage on the estate of her wealthy cousin, Lord Chuzzlewit, in the West London village of Little Chiswick. As the season dawns and a rakish Earl takes up residence in the once-abandoned Flanders House nearby, their lives, and the marital prospects of Emma’s daughters, become immeasurably complicated when a starship lands in her apple orchard. By World Fantasy Award winning author S.P. Somtow

Where did this art come from? Somtow says, “Hilarious cover created for my Vella Serial by an Austrian designer on Fiverr.” No name given.

(5) VERTLIEB HONORED. Steve Vertlieb shared today that he has been honored “for his dedication and tireless activity to keep Miklos Rozsa’s memory alive,” by the Hungarian Hollywood Council. Congratulations, Steve!

(6) HOW KENTUCKY LEGISLATION WILL AFFECT LIBRARIES. “New Kentucky Law Hands Control of Libraries to Local Politicians” reports Publishers Weekly.

In a move that has alarmed library supporters, a new law in Kentucky will give politicians control over local library boards in the state. According to a report in the Lexington Herald Leader, SB 167—which came back from the dead last week with a dramatic veto override—will empower local politicians to “appoint whomever they want to library boards and block major library spending.”

Last week, the bill appeared to be killed after Kentucky governor Andy Beshear vetoed it, and the Kentucky House of Representatives fell short of the necessary votes to override. But in a surprise maneuver, supporters of the bill were able to revive the bill for another override vote—and this time, four representatives who had not voted in the previous effort voted to override Beshear’s veto, carrying the measure into law. The law is scheduled to take effect in January 2023.

According to the Lexington Herald Leader, Kentucky Republicans say the issue is “accountability,” pointing out that most of Kentucky’s public library boards can levy taxes and should therefore “answer to someone elected by voters.” But critics say the bill is in fact a thinly veiled effort to “politicize” library boards, and give unprecedented control over library operations to politicians….

(7) CAN IT BE THEY DON’T LOVE US? Lise Andreasen sends “A warm hug to everybody who feels physical pain at ‘it’s not science fiction’ and ‘it’s science fiction but’” in her roundup of critics’ slighting comments about the sff genre in “They Bellow… Dune edition”.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1955 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Sixty-seven years ago, George Pal’s fourth genre film premiered. It was the Conquest of Space and it had two firsts, our first trip to Mars and our first space station, a marvel in itself. It was based off The Conquest of Space by Willy Ley and Chesley Bonestell. The former author has a crater on the far side of the moon named after him. Later in life he became a believer In cryptozoology. Ohhh well. (I’ve actually met Loren Coleman, the prime proponent of that fake science. Don’t get me started on that subject.) 

Ley and Bonestell would win an International Fantasy Award for the book. Bonestell would be recognized with Special Award for Beautiful and Scientifically Accurate Illustrations at DisCon II (1974). He later won a Hugo for Best Related Work for The Art of Chesley Bonestell at ConJosé (2002). He’d also pick up a Retro Hugo at Noreascon 4 (2004) for Best Professional Artist. 

(Pal had hired Bonestall to the technical adviser on Destination Moon buthe bought the book’s film rights at the urging of Ley.) 

The screenplay was by James O’Hanlon from an adaptation by Barre Lyndon, Phil Yordan and George Worthing Yates. O’Hanlon had done the Destination Moon screenplay which won a Retro Hugo at the Millennium Philcon.

It was directed by Byron Haskin who is best remembered for directing The War of the Worlds, one of many films where he teamed with producer George Pal. Bonestell who is known for his photorealistic paintings of outer space, provided the film’s space matte paintings.

So what did critics think about when it was released? 

The Variety said of it that, “When Byron Haskin’s direction has a chance at action and thrills they come over well, but most of the time the pacing is slowed by the talky script fashioned from the adaptation of the Chesley Bonestell-Willy Ley book by Philip Yordan, Barre Lyndon and George Worthington Yates.”

The New York Times likewise liked it: “THERE is very little doubt about who should receive a generous amount of credit and praise for ‘Conquest of Space,’ yesterday’s science-fiction entry at the Palace. They are the special effects artists, John P. Fulton, Irmin Roberts, Paul Lerpae, Ivyle Burks and Jan Domela. In telling the fanciful tale of man’s first trip to Mars, they created top-flight effects such as ‘the wheel,’ a self-contained station orbiting about earth, rocket flights in space and a horrendous near-collision with an asteroid. These facets of the Paramount production—and fortunately they are many and frequent—are much to marvel at. But then there is a story. As plots go in this type of unearthly entertainment—and it is nothing more than broad, undemanding entertainment—it is not offensive.”

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes do not like it at all giving at just a twenty percent rating. Damned if I know why this is so. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 20, 1908 Donald Wandrei. Writer who had sixteen stories in Astounding Stories and fourteen stories in Weird Tales, plus a smattering elsewhere, all in the Twenties and Thirties. The Web of Easter Island is his only novel. He was the co-founder with August Derleth of Arkham House. He received the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, and he’s a member of First Fandom Hall of Fame. Only his “Raiders of The Universe“ short story and his story in Famous Fantastic Mysteries (October 1939 issue) are available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1987.)
  • Born April 20, 1937 George Takei, 85. Hikaru Sulu on the original Trek. And yes, I know that Vonda McIntyre wouldn’t coin the first name until a decade later in her Entropy Effect novel. Is it canon? Post-Trek, he would write Mirror Friend, Mirror Foe with Robert Asprin. By the way, I’m reasonably sure that his first genre roles were actually dubbing the English voices of Professor Kashiwagi of Rodan! The Flying Monster and the same of the Commander of Landing Craft of Godzilla Raids Again.  Oh, and it won’t surprise you he played Sulu again in the fan fic video Star Trek: Phase II episode, “World Enough and Time.”
  • Born April 20, 1939 Peter S. Beagle, 83. I’ve known him for about twenty years now I realize, met him but once in that time. He’s quite charming. (I had dinner with him here once several years back. His former agent is not so charming.)  My favorite works? A Fine and Private PlaceThe Folk of The AirTamsinSummerlong and In Calabria. He won the Novelette Hugo at L.A. Con IV for “Two Hearts”. And he has the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. He is working on a new novel now I’m told by his editor Deborah Grabien, another friend of mine.
  • Born April 20, 1949 Jessica Lange, 73. Her very first role was Dwan in the remake of King Kong. Later genre roles are Sandra Bloom Sr. in Big Fish, Katherine Pierson in Neverwas, and the amazing run of Constance Langdon / Elsa Mars / Fiona Goode / Sister Jude Martin in American Horror Story
  • Born April 20, 1949 John Ostrander, 73. Writer of comic books, including GrimjackSuicide Squad and Star Wars: Legacy. Well those are the titles he most frequently gets noted for but I’ll add in The SpectreMartian Manhunter and the late Eighties Manhunter as well. His run on the Suicide Squad is available on the DC Universe app as is his absolutely amazing work on The Spectre.
  • Born April 20, 1951 Louise Jameson, 71. Leela of the Sevateem, companion to the Fourth Doctor. Appeared in nine stories of which my favorite was “The Talons of Weng Chiang” which I reviewed over at Green Man. She segued from Dr. Who to The Omega Factor where she was in the regular cast as Dr. Anne Reynolds. These appear to her only meaningful genre roles. And she like so many Who performers has reprised her role for Big Finish. 
  • Born April 20, 1964 Sean A. Moore. He wrote three Conan pastiches, Conan the Hunter, Conan and the Grim Grey God and Conan and the Shaman’s Curse. He also wrote the screenplay for Kull the Conqueror, and the novelization of it. All were published by Tor. He was active in Colorado fandom. He died in car crash in Boulder. (Died 1998.)
  • Born April 20, 1964 Andy Serkis, 58. I will freely admit that the list of characters that he has helped create is amazing: Gollum in The Lord of the Rings films and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, King Kong in that film, Caesar in the Planet of the Apes reboot series, Captain Haddock / Sir Francis Haddock in The Adventures of Tintin (great film that was), and even Supreme Leader Snoke in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Last year, he portrayed the character of Baloo in his self-directed film, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle. His readings of The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings are truly amazing as well. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro reports a shocking defection from a well-known superhero team.

(11) PANTHER CHOW. In the Washington Post, Emily Heil interviews Nyanyika Banda, author of The Official Wakanda Cookbook, who explains how they tried to come up with a cuisine that wasn’t just pan-African but actually might have recipes that would come from that imaginary country. “Wakanda cookbook brings Black Panther food lore to life”.

The fictional worlds spun in many TV shows, movies and video games can feel as real and as meaningful to fans as places with actual Zip codes. Think of Hogwarts, the magic-filled, honey-lit boarding school in the world of Harry Potter books and movies; the faraway galaxy of “Star Wars”; or even the lovably quirky small town of Stars Hollow in “Gilmore Girls.”

Wakanda, the wealthy, technologically advanced, mountain-ringed land of the “Black Panther” comics and blockbuster 2018 movie, though, occupies an even more rarefied role. It’s not just the setting for the action in a beloved franchise; it has become a symbol of African greatness, a mythical place that feels like an actual homeland to many people, and not just to comics geeks with posters of King T’Challa on their bedroom walls.

This week, the mythical country is seeing its culture expand with “The Official Wakanda Cookbook,” a collection of recipes sanctioned by “Black Panther” publisher Marvel….

… Aside from the challenges posed by satisfying an avid fan base and respecting a cultural touchstone, Banda faced another, more practical task. Often, a cookbook author writing about a region of the world is concerned about staying true to the dishes, the ingredients, the people and the history of the land. But what does it mean to be faithful to something that doesn’t actually exist?…

(12) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter was tuned into Monday night’s episode of Jeopardy! and watched as contestants drew blanks on several items about the fantasy genre:

Category: Fantasy Fiction

Answer: In George R.R. Martin’s saga of Westeros, this blustery & bloody volume follows “A Game of Thrones” & “A Clash of Kings”

No one could ask, What is “A Storm of Swords?”

***

Answer: Set in ancient China, “A Hero Born” by Jin Yong takes place in a world where this martial art is practiced magically.

Wrong question What is Karate?

Right question: What is Kung-Fu?

***

Answer: Victor LaValle’s “The Changeling” tells the tale of a human baby switched at birth with one of these Nordic creatures.

No one could ask, What is  troll?

(13) FUTURE IS NOW FOR SJW CREDENTIALS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Maria Luisa Paul discusses  ViaGen Pets, which will clone your dead cat for $25,000.  But while the clone may look like the original cat, it won’t have the personality of the original feline. “A woman cloned her pet after it died. But it’s not a copycat.”

… When the beloved 5-year-old cat died in 2017, there was nothing her owner, Kelly Anderson, could do — or so she thought.

Chai’s body had not yet turned cold when Anderson remembered a conversation with her roommate about the Texas-based ViaGen Pets, one of just a few companies worldwide that clones pets. The next morning, she called them.

Some $25,000 and five years later, Anderson — a 32-year-old dog trainer from Austin — has a 6-month-old carbon copy of Chai curled up in her lap. Belle is nearly identical to Chai, down to her deep-blue eyes and fluffy white coat. The two cats share a couple of quirks, like sleeping with their bodies stretched out against Anderson’s back. But that’s where the similarities end, Anderson said….

(14) PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER. What could be more wholesome? Mecha Builders is coming from the makers of Sesame Street.

Catch a sneak peek of an all-new series from Sesame Street in this official Mecha Builders Trailer! Together Elmo, Cookie Monster, and Abby are the Mecha Builders! The Mecha Builders are always ready to save the day, and while they may not get it right the first time, they won’t give up until they do! There’s no problem too big or too small for this super team to solve … all before snack time. New series coming to Cartoonito! Watch on Cartoon Network May 9th and stream the next day on HBO Max!

(15) SUMMERTIME, AND THE CONCATENATING IS EASY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The SF² Concatenation summer* edition is now up, which is a few days later than usual so as to capture news announced over Easter. This edition has its full news page, articles and convention reports, including:  Film NewsTelevision News;  Publishing News;  General Science News  and  Forthcoming SF Books from major imprints for the season, among much else.  Plus there is a tranche of stand-alone book reviews.  Something for everyone.

* ‘Summer’ season here being the northern hemisphere, academic year summer.

v32(3) 2022.4.20 — New Columns & Articles for the Summer 2022

v32(2) 2022.4.20 — Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Reviews

v32(3) 2022.4.20 — Non-Fiction SF & Science Fact Book Reviews

(16) E.T. FAMILY REUNION. Dee Wallace played Drew Barrymore’s mom in the iconic film E.T. almost 40 years ago. They will be reuniting at the 40th Anniversary screening of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial on Opening Night of the: 2022 TCM Classic Festival. And Wallace got a head start by appearing on Drew’s TV show. Yahoo! has the story: “Drew Barrymore Reunites with E.T. Onscreen Mom Dee Wallace Ahead of Film’s 40th Anniversary”.

Drew Barrymore is taking fans on a trip down memory lane.

The Golden Globe winner, 47, reunited with Dee Wallace, who played her mother in 1982’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, as they reminisced about the film ahead of its 40th anniversary Monday on The Drew Barrymore Show.

“That was the first day on the set and I’m sitting in this really high director’s chair,” Wallace, 73, recalled of a photo of the two of them. “And Drew comes up to me and she says, ‘Hi, I’m going to sit on your lap now.’ And I said, ‘Well, come on up Drew.'”

“I mean, I knew you were going to be a director/producer back then,” she told Barrymore.

Barrymore raved about how “sexy” Wallace looked in the cheetah costume her character wore for the Halloween scene. “I still fit in it too,” Wallace proclaimed….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Neil deGrasse Tyson was on Colbert last night to talk about his new book Welcome To The Universe In 3D. “Aliens May Have Been Watching Earth’s TV Shows For The Last 80 Years – Neil deGrasse Tyson”.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Chris Barkley, Rob Thornton, Michael J. Walsh, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

The 2020 IFMCA Awards

By Steven Vertlieb: As ever, I am proud to be a voting member of The International Film Music Critics Association. Here are this year’s most worthy winners. I am particularly proud to announce that Tadlow’s stunning new recording of Samuel Bronston’s epic “King of Kings,” composed by Miklos Rozsa, produced by James Fitzpatrick, and conducted by Nic Raine, as well as the most remarkable visualization ever produced of a live John Williams concert, Deutche Grammophon’s “John Williams In Vienna”, have each won in their respective categories.

Also, winning recognition as Best Original Score For A Fantasy/Science Fiction/Horror Film was the Wonder Woman 1984 music by Hans Zimmer.

Sincere congratulations to all of this year well deserved winners.

The list of winners follows the jump.

Continue reading

Honoring Miklos Rozsa’s Birthday

Portrait of Miklos Rozsa by artist Bill Levers. The great Oscar winning composer was born on April 18th, 1907.

By Steve Vertlieb: Miklos Rozsa’s magnificent musical signature reached its conclusion on July 27th, 1995. Commemorating the life of one of cinema’s most revered composers as we celebrate his musical legacy. Born April 18, 1907, Miklos Rozsa remains among the most revered composers in film history.

The 3-time Oscar winner for Best Original Score For A Motion Picture was a pioneering musician who, along with Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Newman, Max Steiner, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Franz Waxman, Dimitri Tiomkin, and Victor Young brought dramatic, melodic musical form and structure to the sound of film, thereby forever altering the way we listen to movies.

Elmer Bernstein considered both Miklos Rozsa and Bernard Herrmann the finest practitioners of the developing art form of Music For The Movies in the remarkable history of the medium. In a career that comprised some forty-five years of scoring and achievement, Miklos Rozsa created lush, romantic scoring for such beloved fantasy films as Alexander Korda’s The Thief of Bagdad, and the tale of a young Wolf Boy named Mowgli for The Jungle Book.

He became the defining voice of classic Film Noir with such scores as Double Indemnity, Brute Force, The Killers, The Naked City, and The Lost Weekend for director Billy Wilder and, as the 1950s approached, virtually invented the epic motion picture score for such films as Quo Vadis, Ivanhoe, Knights of the Round Table, Ben Hur, King of Kings, and El Cid.

He was a musical chameleon who reinvented both himself and the remarkably diverse genres for which he composed Time After Time. Here, then, is this published career retrospective and tribute to a consummate artist whose Lust For Life elevated the craft and power of Cinema to sublime ascension.

Together with Miklos Rozsa at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, circa 1977, for a film conference…a wondrous event (also featuring George Pal) in which I spent eleven sublime hours in the intimate company and shadow of this giant 3-time Oscar winning musical genius. It just doesn’t get any better than that. One of the greatest experiences, and most unforgettable honors of my nearly seventy-four years on this all too mortal plain. 

Vertlieb and Rosza in 1977.

Honoring Miklos Rozsa’s 100th birthday on April 18th, 2007, here is a special birthday proclamation issued by The Hungarian Ambassador To The United States. I’d been invited to a special commemoration of the composer’s life at the Hungarian Embassy in Washington, DC by the ambassador, and was delighted to have met Juliet Rozsa for the first time after years of correspondence.

I carried this precious document with me to the nine-day Miklos Rozsa Film Festival which I’d programmed at Christmas of that year, and was privileged to read its contents to an audience of seven hundred enthusiastic film fans gathered together at The Castro Theater in San Francisco, California.

I lovingly presented the official proclamation to Juliet Rozsa, the three time Oscar winning composer’s daughter on stage, prior to a live thirty-minute interview with her, in which we shared remembrances of her father’s life and career, followed by a spectacular presentation of William Wyler’s Ben Hur on the giant Castro screen.

After the screen presentation, we were invited by the ambassador to a sumptuous private supper at the embassy residence.

In 2007 I was asked by the folks who ran the venerable Castro Theater in San Francisco to put together a Miklos Rozsa film festival for their historic venue. I chose seventeen films to reflect a variety of moods expressed on screen by the wondrously gifted composer.

The film festival ran for nine days toward the end of December, 2007, and into January, 2008. I wrote the notes for the official program handed out for the once in a lifetime event, and hosted a thirty minute interview “live” on stage with Juliet Rozsa, daughter of this illustrious composer, before a paying crowd of some seven hundred movie goers prior to a presentation of the composer’s masterpiece, Ben Hur, on the giant Castro screen.

Proclamations, tributes, and testimonials were written for the occasion by the Hungarian Ambassador To The United States, The Honorable Mayor of San Francisco, and legendary writer Ray Bradbury. Here is a first person report by Michael Guillen, an independent film journalist sitting among the capacity crowd during that memorable evening. “MIKLÓS RÓZSA—An Onstage Tribute”

Vertlieb read Bradbury’s tribute to the Castro audience and the Rózsa family members on stage: “In all my life I’ve never had a more complete relationship with a composer than with Miklós Rózsa. When MGM asked me to write the narration for King of Kings, I immediately joined a partnership with Margaret Booth, the film editor, and we became fast friends. The most wonderful moment in my life was when I went on the sound stage to watch Miklós Rózsa conduct the score for King of Kings and then heard my own voice booming out over the orchestra and dear Miklós’ head as I spoke the narration. I wish that I had a recording today of my voice with his music because it became a partnership and a great friendship for life. To everyone hearing his wonderful music this week, I send my love and regard to the memory of Miklós Rózsa.”

Miklos Rozsa remains one of the most revered and legendary motion picture composers in screen history, and it was my sublime honor and privilege to know him for nearly three decades. A sublime inspiration guiding the direction and trajectory of my own life and career, we remember and commemorate the monumental influence, and birthday, of this superlative artist and man.

Ray Harryhausen’s Praise for Film Composers

By Steven J. Vertlieb: Special effects and stop-motion animation pioneer Ray Harryhausen candidly discusses his affection, respect, admiration, and love for three-time Oscar-winning composer Miklos Rozsa in this deeply personal correspondence, commenting on their very special working relationship, and ever evolving mutual friendship.

A lovely note from Ray Harryhausen concerning Miklos Rozsa, Bernard Herrmann, Max Steiner, and the art of Music For The Movies: