Friday, April 06, 2007

A 100 Gun Salute to Joseph H. Lewis

Born 100 years ago today, Joseph H. Lewis -- the Republic Pictures editor who became the legendary director of film noir classics GUN CRAZY and THE BIG COMBO. His name is also revered by horror film cultists for his memorable 1940s B-pictures INVISIBLE GHOST with Bela Lugosi and THE MAD DOCTOR OF MARKET STREET with Lionel Atwill. Lewis also directed the outstanding '50s Western TERROR IN A TEXAS TOWN, starring Sterling Hayden, which was likely responsible for involving him in the show in which I've been revelling lo these past many months: THE RIFLEMAN. Lewis directed an impressive 51 episodes of the series between 1958 and 1963, a third or so of its remarkably high quality run. Among his greatest contributions were a couple of its two-parters, the thrilling "The Wyoming Story" and "Waste." Lewis also directed other great Western series from GUNSMOKE to Chuck Connors' later series BRANDED. He died in 2000, after his career had been rediscovered and celebrated by film noir, Western, and indeed Western noir cultists -- especially for GUN CRAZY, the most fetishistic film ever made about firearms and by far the sexiest.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Writing and Dining

A lot of happy, well-meaning people have been e-mailing us, suggesting that we celebrate completing the Bava book by taking a small trip or at least taking a day off. Unfortunately, no-can-do. Finishing the book coincided with the beginning of our work on VW #130, and I've taken on more than my share of additional work this month, too. In addition to assembling the next issue, which will resume our monthly schedule, I've agreed to write an article on Grindhouse films for the next SIGHT & SOUND (along with my regular Nozone column) and a short chapter for a book about José Mojica Marins that's being published in Brazil. All of that is due by mid-month. And somewhere in the next few weeks, I have to finish and turn in that VIDEODROME book I told you about. So I am presently on the wrong side of frazzled and can't imagine myself having too much spare time for blogging... but, knowing me, I will probably find some time to keep this blog and the Bava book blog (which I've updated thrice in the last three days) at least semi-active.

Last night we were taken to dinner at The Olive Garden by our friends Jan and Jane. Before dinner, they presented us with a set of very attractive wine glasses etched with modernistic designs and a long-cellared bottle of wine. It was a French red table wine, Marquis de Valclair Rouge, whose label, unfortunately, was undated; however, it likely dated from at least the late 1970s and was certainly the oldest wine Donna and I had ever tasted -- "Rembrandty" was the first adjective that came to mind -- deep, dry, tasty, and introspective. It provided a dramatic contrast with the red table wine we had at the restaurant, which immediately struck me as living in the present tense. We returned to Jan's house after dinner and had some more of the vintage wine, which we had allowed to breathe while we were away, and its flavors had "opened up" a bit more in our absence, becoming even more flavorful.

As I told Jan, Donna's and my completion of the Bava book is a bit like the question of whether a falling tree makes any sound if there's no one around to hear it. Left to our own devices, we would probably just continue working on something else, but to see this feat confirmed in the eyes and hearts of our friends is what makes it real. It's been such a struggle for us, for so long, that even we need convincing. It was a joy to see how happy our friends are for us, and humbling too to see how impressed and moved they are to see this enormous task -- which they've lived with for awhile too -- finally carried out. So we drove home last night with a dawning sense of what we may have accomplished -- not just for Bava fans, but for anyone craving evidence that not all impossible dreams are impossible.