Cinefantastique, July-August 1982

I’ve waxed lyrical before about the old film magazines I used to buy as a teen – Fantastic Films, Starburst, Starlog etc- and how things have changed so much in the internet age. We have so much information now, and of course docs and commentaries on discs, that some of the mystery of movies has been lost somewhat. Film mags were like little glimpses into a hidden world. I’d pore over photographs and read interviews and look at pre-production art (the paintings of the late Ralph McQuarrie for Star Wars was likely my first experience of that). I loved reading all that stuff every month, read them, then re-read them. I’ve kept most of my old mags and many of them are stored up in the loft out of casual reach but some are handy and I sometimes get them out for a read. The news articles are glimpses of the publishing date and what was going on, the reviews sometimes funny in hindsight, sometimes perceptive, but always the behind the scenes stuff is priceless, even now.

20160528_164507-1So anyway, I picked up an issue of Cinefantastique to read, the double-issue of Blade Runner and Star Trek: Wrath of Khan. Reading the article about Blade Runner really took me back. That film was so big, so mysterious and magical to me back then. It is so odd to read interviews likely taken in 1981 talking about creating this incredible world of 2019 that must have seemed so long away at the time, and here we are now, with it just around the corner.

It was quite intense though, re-reading this article from 1982; I was experiencing the same old-forgotten feelings of awe and wonder I used to feel about Blade Runner back then.  Feelings triggered by the spread above or the one below that featured a Syd Mead painting that was printed everywhere at the time but always fascinated me.

I used to stare at it; the colours, the design-work… all that ambition and work that went into that film. The detail and layering that Ridley Scott employed- its rather usual now, as films are now more sophisticated generally than they were back then, certainly regards art-direction. People seem to forget how ground-breaking and important Ridley Scott’s work on Alien and Blade Runner was, how much that has impacted everything we see today- it wasn’t just how ‘pretty’ the photography and imagery was, it was all that layering and detail. It looked so real.

20160528_164528The Cinefantastique article, like the Cinefex one about the films effects, was a goldmine of imagery and information about this incredibly powerful film (it remains my most intense experience at the cinema) that somehow, at the time, was so quickly forgotten when it had failed at the box office.

All the books that would be written when the film was eventually reappraised were years away back then (though I have always wondered why no-one ever produced, in the long years since, a definitive ‘Art-Of’ book for Blade Runner). I used to re-read these same articles over and over in the years before any of that happened. Naturally as the years have passed,  some of the interviewed people are no longer with us, but it’s interesting too to see on-set photos Ridley Scott at work (he looks so young!) and read his comments and know how his career later progressed. He was intending to keep on making these incredible genre films back then, but the failure of Blade Runner and Legend put paid to that. I remember though, back at the time, reading this stuff- imagine, Ridley Scott following up Alien and Blade Runner with other ‘adult’ genre films, and George Lucas still busy with the Star Wars films (it wasn’t a Trilogy back then, we thought there would be several of them), Spielberg making genre films like CE3K, Raiders, ET… what an amazing time that was, some kind of Golden Age or something, I was just too young to really ‘get’ it.


As an aside, regards these magazines being time-capsules of when they were printed, this issue of Cinefantastique also featured articles on Fire & Ice (Ralph Bakshi’s animated feature he did with Frank Frazetta), Something Wicked This Way Comes (prior to all its release/re-edit problems), Videodrome, the original Hawk’s The Thing, and a spread of McQuarrie paintings from a film still titled Revenge of the Jedi. Short features on upcoming films like Xtro, Brainstorm. Poltergeist, Firefox, Greystoke are a reminder of what else was going on and what would be future VHS rentals. They were good times indeed.

I mentioned this issue also featured Wrath of Khan– here’s a photograph from that issue that really got me excited when first reading it. The effects boys at ILM uncrating the Enterprise miniature from Star Trek: TMP prior to shooting Khan’s effects. God, that kind of stuff really blew me away back then- I mean, this isn’t just a model- this is the bloody Enterprise. Its funny considering the access to so much behind the scenes stuff we have with special features on discs and the internet now, but things like this photograph were mind-blowing back then.




Georges Delerue’s ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’

somethingDisney’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, directed by Jack Clayton and based on Ray Bradbury’s famous novel, was a film that suffered from bad audience reactions at preview screenings, just as Blade Runner had several months before. As with Blade Runner, much of the problem came from audience expectations. SWTWC was a slow-paced, atmospheric horror film, a morality tale and study of the innocence of youth and regrets of old age, but was being released in the wake of Poltergeist and The Thing that summer. Audiences now expected their horror films to be big and effects-driven modern spectacles, and what effects there were in SWTWC were very old-school and subdued.  Disney panicked at the negative audience reactions and ordered reshoots with extra visual effects, increasing the pace and spectacle to better approximate what audiences expected. As an inevitable consequence of the re-editing and added visual effects, the original score by Georges Delerue was dropped, replaced by a score created by rising composer James Horner, hot from the success of his score for that summer’s hit Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

I’ve never seen Clayton’s original cut of SWTWC- far as I know very few people have, certainly not since 1982 as I believe it does not exist anymore in its complete form. When it finally came out in 1983 SWTWC was a fairly average film that was neither the atmospheric character-based horror film originally intended nor the exciting effects showcase Disney tried to later turn it into, but rather something in between, pleasing few. One of the few things positive about it was Horner’s replacement score, which I believe he wrote in something like two weeks. It’s impossible to say which version of the film was better; even members of the creative team admit there were issues with the original cut, while fans of the final version admit it is badly flawed. The film came out, did little business, and has been largely forgotten.

wicked2Delerue’s original score, meanwhile, passed into film-score fan-myth, one of those ‘lost’ scores like Yared’s original Troy score (which was also, in an odd twist of fate, replaced by a last-minute Horner score). Years later Delerue’s music was the subject of much interest when some of it finally came to light from the composer’s own personal copy on an audio tape. Some of it was released on a French CD with understandably poor sound quality a few years ago and circulated on the internet on sites like Youtube.

Fortunately archivists at Disney recently discovered the scoring session masters from 1982 and now Intrada have released the complete score on CD. It’s a fascinating glimpse into what the original cut of SWTWC must have been like, as the music sounds nothing like the Horner score and hardly represents the film as we know it today. It’s a dark, moody piece of work, dominated by an opening piece reminiscent of the opening of Bernard Herrmann’s Citizen Kane score, that proceeds to run through a score full of regret and yearning. Its dramatic, its moody, its quite eerie and its really very sad; but its hardly music for the exciting edge-of-your-seat shocks that films like Poltergeist deliver. Its clearly a score for a very different kind of horror film.

We’re very lucky to have this score available to us, and comparing this release with Intrada’s earlier release of the James Horner score that replaced it, is a fascinating insight into how different music can have an impact on a film, and how changes to a film can impact the music. There’s certainly no way the film as it turned out could have used this Delerue score, as fine as it is,  so it’s understandable why it was dropped, regrettable at it may have been.

Another example of this kind of situation would be the Legend scores;  Jerry Goldsmith’s original and the Tangerine Dream score that replaced it in the US- one richly orchestral, the other drone-like electronica. We can hear both scores on the two alternate cuts of Legend on the Blu-ray release from a few years back. In a similar situation to what happened with SWTWC, the studio wanted to increase the pace and excitement of Ridley Scott’s original (European) cut and hired a prog-rock band to score it. It didn’t work at all but we can hear both soundtracks and see how they do and don’t work on the Blu-ray. We can’t do that with SWTWC because the full original cut does not apparently exist. Maybe one day, somehow, the original cut of the film will surface, if only in a rough workprint form as an extra on a future blu-ray release of SWTWC. As the film isn’t particularly popular though, any such release of the film seems very unlikely. But at any rate, at least we can listen to this new Intrada CD and wonder.


The Films We Love- (yes, even Lifeforce…)

Its funny the films we love. Ignoring those ‘classics’ that are widely considered great films (you know the usual suspects, Citizen Kane, Ben-Hur, Lawrence of Arabia, The Apartment, 2001 etc) there are those that we just fall in love with anyway, just because, well, we like them, whatever critics and anyone else says. Some are rather good films deserving our fondness, while others are guilty pleasures that we enjoy perhaps for reasons outside the films themselves- reasons like nostalgic memories of the times we saw them, the way we were. Some films we carry torches for from our teenage years all the way through adulthood and old age. I guess I’d count many of the late ‘seventies/early ‘eighties films that I love in that category. Blade Runner is my favourite movie partly for the experience of watching at just that time when it was new and breathtaking, and for that period when it was like the ultimate cult film that no-one had seen or heard of other than for hardcore sci-fi nuts like me. Its clearly not the greatest film ever made- indeed it was horribly flawed, damn near broken on its first theatrical version. But even though the versions have changed on its many re-releases, and I have seen it countless times -surely more than a hundred- in the 30 years since that first time back in September 1982, I still love that film as much as I ever did. Revisiting it is like revisiting an old friend.

But its like that sometimes even with those old films we didn’t like back when we first saw them. Perhaps we were too young to appreciate some films and we find that re-watching them when older and wiser we ‘get’ them and enjoy them. Maybe some films are just as bad as they were back in the day but in hindsight don’t seem quite so awful as the current crop of films for some reason or other. I’ve found I quite enjoy some older, pre-cgi films precisely because they are pre-cgi… as if the matte lines and dodgy effects and actors unfortunate hairdos give the films a charm and affinity it lacked originally. Is that more the charm of the old days, memories of the times, than anything in the film itself? Certainly a lot of older films lack the artificial sleekness of current films, as I find that there is a ‘perfection’ in how actors look these days, and how modern films are obviously co-designed by marketing departments and aimed with chilling sophistication at particular demographics. Older films seem more innocent shots-in-the-dark in that respect.


I must admit to a certain thrill at the news that Arrow is releasing a special two-disc edition of Lifeforce later this year (ain’t that steelbook a peach?). I saw Lifeforce at the cinema back on its original release. I think I was in college then. Saw it in town in the old picture-palace that was the ABC cinema- back in that huge, red-plastered, cavern-like Screen One that seemed like a theatre of lost silverscreen dreams, the dog-eared worn seats shadows of earlier, more prosperous times, back when The Sound of Music  and Zulu ruled the box-office.  Well, even inspite of Mathilda May’s obvious charms, Lifeforce was a complete stinker. As a horror film it was shockingly silly.  At the time I dismissed the film but as the years have passed and I’ve watched it several times, I actually have grown to like the film. Its a lousy horror film but it is so bad its actually rather funny, and I find I can giggle at the bad dialogue and cheesy performances and inept direction. So bad its good? And of course its all pre-cgi make-up and optical effects, the over-the-top music score is over-ripe Hammer… its a great bad movie.  To think after all these years someone is working on a two-disc special edition of the film with commentaries, docs etc.. well it restores my faith in humanity when a film as bad and broken as this one gets that kind of love and care. I’m just surprised some people still maintain its a horror film- if they marketed it as a deliberate comedy I think it would get a wider audience and recognition. No accounting for taste, eh?

But anyway, I’d hardly cite Lifeforce as a great film, but I love it all the same. Legend is one of Ridley Scott’s more lamentable misfires, but I have found that my affection for it has increased over the years. Partly because I remember seeing it back in its cinema release when it seemed to slip by unnoticed by most people, partly because its real-world sets/make-up/miniatures give it a ‘look’ utterly alien to the cgi wonders of The Lord of the Rings films and the recent The Hobbit.

Maybe part of it is how modern films are so obviously colour-graded in post, whereas the ‘look’ of older films is from the actual on-set lighting, lenses, filmstock…  maybe thats why when I rewatch these older films I feel something in them. Conan The Barbarian (the 1982 version) was a film I didn’t even particularly enjoy back when I first saw it, but nowadays I thinks its up there with Spartacus– its a bold, gritty, real-world movie that, in spite of its dodgy acting, mixed effects work etc, feels like exactly the kind of film they can’t make anymore (and the recent remake proved it). Bear in mind its also got a fantastic soundtrack score, which is something that a lot of older films have but current films usually lack. Indeed most of the older films I love have great music scores, while most current films ditch melodies in preference for ‘mood’ and ambience, or sound like Hans Zimmer/Media Ventures muzak.

So anyway, if it takes your fancy, please leave a comment regards the films you love that you just know aren’t great, or indeed perhaps even any good. I figure that every film out there has at least someone who loves it. I’m just curious how bad some of them are!