About 2 years ago, I picked up an issue that I had read and put on my shelf about 7 years before, the Dune issue, and realized with hindsight, how great this magazine once was. I was struck by how dense, how all encomapssing it's covergae was, covering so many aspects of the that movie and it's participants, from the technical to the critical. To this day, that issue remains essential for the article on the baby from Eraserhead. Probably the most indepth article into that incredible puppet/effect, an effect that is still wrapped in mystery: Lynch supposedly just showed up to work with it on the day of shooting, and wouldn't really explain how he made it or how long he worked on it. Something about a baby goat skull and fishing wire. That baby remains one of the best special effects ever.

After reading that issue, I started reading more of them and am continuely amazed by them. By most accounts, editor Fredrick S. Clarke was a tyrant to work for, rewriting peoples articles, cutting like crazy, and stuff was published without the writers even knowing about it at times. But in the end, the guy made the best film magazine around. Picking up an old issue now is always full of intriguing surprises. Three weeks ago I bought a ratty copy of vol. 8, number 1 on a lark. The cover feature is on the making of The Primevals, a stop motion movie that was never compeleted, but at the time was in preproduction as a Charles Band Production. There is something totally awesome about a nationally distributed magazine doing something like that. Only when you have one guy making all the decisions could that happen.

There is something quite sad reading an article with hindsight about a movie never completed. At one point when discussing the high quality of the animation, the primeval's director, David Allen says " if people ar talking about this film in twenty years from now, I hope it won't simply be because of the animation". Dude, no ones going to be talking about your movie PERIOD. Unless of course they are talking about this issue of Cinefantastique.
As an aside, the primevals looks like it could have been an incredible stop motion movie. Allen kept working on it, inbetween paying gigs, till he died of cancer recently. In the article Allen sounds a bit pompous and artistically frustrated (and this was when he thought his movie was going to be completed!). He was an animator who wanted to be a filmmaker. Throughout the 30+ page article, there is mention of pre-ILM giants Denis Murren and Jim Danforth working on this. They went on to have huge careers in effects, but not so for Allen. It's sad because there are probably many like Allen scrapping around North Hollywood as I type this.

Above, a lizard man model from The Primevals.
Also in the issue is probably the most insightful article on George Romero's Martin I have ever seen. An incredible piece of genre criticism by David Batholomew. Connected to that, there's also very interesting on-set reports on Dawn Of The Dead, Piranha, and Alien (which incorrectly reports Veronica Cartwright in the role of Ripley. If only!).
Besides the Martin review, there are bunch of write ups on films that eventually became pretty classic to different audiences: Tobe Hooper's Eaten Alive, Battlestar Galactica, Halloween, The Wiz, Watership Down are all covered and most are fairly dismissed and deemed forgettable.
An interview with hot new writer Stephen King, talking about his new book The Stand. With a short sidebar article on Kubrick's making of The Shining, wherein King talks about multiple ideas kubrick has for the ending of the film, all different than the one he eventually shot. King, of course, publicly dissed kubricks adaption when it came out, calling it soulless. At the time though, he sure had high hopes.
Articles on upcoming movies: Time After Time, Bakshi's Lord Of The Rings, The Black Cauldron, The Shout, Kaufman's Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake, War Lord of Terra (was this ever completed?), and a bunch of other things. After reading the issue I had a rent list of 30 movies all made in 1979. I mean seriously, I have not seen The Cat From Outer Space, but you can bet I am going to now!
Not bad for an off handed purchase, huh? And this is one of the lesser issues.
In the last year I have read incredible indepth interviews and articles on Terence Fisher, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Saul Bass's oft disputed claim to have directed the shower sequence from Pyscho, David Cronenberg, Conan, Videodrome, Blade Runner Dario Argento, Rob Bottin's work on The Thing, The Dead Zone, Last Starfighter, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, American Werewolf in London, Joe Dante, and and on and on and on and on. It's pretty endless.
It seems that nowadays with dvd special features and commentaries, a magazine like this is not really needed. But that's nuts. A well written, well designed magazine is going to trump a studio packaged and approved video press release 9 out of 10 times. If not for Tim Lucas' Video Watchdog, there wouldn't be one good serious genre film magazine left.
Also I should mention that the funniest thing about reading old issues of Cinefantastique is the general hatred of Star Wars by the editor and filmmakers interviewed. In the last three back issues I've read, john Carpenter, Rober Wise, David Allen, and the dude who made Krull all diss it. Take that, trendy, insipid flash in the pan!
Of course, after Clarke died, his family sold the magazine to some young upstarts who completely and thouroughly destroyed years of good will with it's readers, making it barely above an issue of T.V. Guide edited by Maxim. I hope that once this current incarnation fails, it burns in hell.

posted by sammy at 10:47 PM

Blogger sammy said...

I am thinking of bootlegging a best of.

2:45 AM  

Blogger Andrew Glazebrook said...

I stopped buying Cinefantastique once they changed to the new format, I still look through all my old editions including the ones you mention here with fondness !! I also used to love Fantastic Films magazine especially in it's early days,even Starlog started out great !

4:15 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I am thinking of bootlegging a best of."

Don't do it - we'll come after you with an army of lawyers. Well, maybe not an army, but we will ask you nicely to stop.

2:02 AM  

Anonymous The Other Guy At Cinefantastique said...

What he said. Any doubts, you can see the registration of the trademark here:

6:23 PM  

Blogger sammy said...

I won't do it. But you guys should follow cinefex and video watchdog's lead and scan and upload the entire Clarke run as a digital archive to view on iPads. Or at least make a little Xerox zine of all the negative Star Wars material!

6:48 PM  

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