Wednesday, July 27, 2022

ATLiH: Walking The Concrete Carpet

An ALL THE LOSERS IN HOLLYWOOD entry from 2006...

Thursday night I went to a movie premiere. Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were no shows, and I didn’t get a chance to joke with Bill Murray or Jack Black. Entertainment Tonight didn’t scream for an interview with me, and I wasn’t blinded by a million flashes from press cameras. I didn’t get a chance to ask either recently single Kate Hudson or just divorced Denise Richards to ask if anyone was sitting next to them (and might I?). You see, this wasn’t one of those fancy red carpet movie premieres in Westwood or at Grauman’s Chinese in Hollywood... this one was held at the Culver Studios (where David O’Selznick’s huge mansion offices sit, you’ve seen it in the credits before GONE WITH THE WIND and NOTORIOUS) - it’s part of Sony. That still sounds pretty good, right? But this was a rented screening room - no red carpet, just a concrete sidewalk. And the movie wasn’t some big studio blockbuster, it was the latest film from legend-in-his-own-mind Donny Vitamin.

I *have* gone to those red carpet premieres a couple of times. The late Chris Penn was a friend of an actor I’ve worked with a few times, so I walked the red carpet at the premiere of MULLHOLLAND FALLS as part of his entourage. On the real red carpet it’s mostly about not ruining any photographer’s shot of Nick Nolte - basically trying not to be seen on the red carpet.

Here, no one cared if I was on the concrete sidewalk except the security guard who made sure my name was on the list before pointing out where to park the car.

This was a Donny Vitamin movie.

I don’t know where I first met Donny. Might have been at the American Film Market, might have been at a Film Artist’s Network meeting. Donny is a character. He has this comb-over-fro.... kind of reminds you of Trump’s hair. Poofy. And he's always popping vitamins... I think he told me he gets regular B-12 injections. Donny has been around forever, working as a comic book writer and cartoon writer. His big claim to fame: he wrote the novelization of a huge hit movie because he went to college with the director. That novelization became a best seller in paperback due to the film being a massive hit... and a career is born!

I saw Donny’s first film on the big screen TV in a coffee shop (also a premiere with no red carpet) - it was a *musical* about a guy who gets transported back to cave man times and has to escape stop-motion dinosaurs left over from some other movie and a clan of amazon-like cave girls lead by a too-old-for-a-loin-cloth Karen Black. If you can get past the song and dance aspect, the film is... clumsy and not all that well made. Compare it to DINOSAUR ISLAND, co-directed by my friend Fred Olen Ray and my arch-enemy Jim Wynorski which is a fun 6 pack movie about Navy guys who get shipwrecked on an island filled with half nekkid women and man eating dinosaurs. ISLAND isn't going to win any Oscars or make any ten best lists, but it's a pleasant waste of time. It uses the same elements as in Donny's - just put to better use. ISLAND is like an R rated Edgar Rice Burroughs story (and, as a kid reading those books, the Frazetta covers and descriptions of what the women were hardly wearing - the books were R rated to begin with). ISLAND is a fun T&A film, Donny's movie is... a really inept musical.

Oddly enough, the cinematographer on DINOSAUR ISLAND was the cinematographer on Donny’s new film which is a sequel to his previous (low budget horror) movie that I watched on DVD - which was crudely made, but featured lots of naked women. The sequel is more of the same. Basically a soft core porn film about an aging museum curator who discovers an ancient amulet that allows her to recapture her youth as long as she has simulated lesbian sex with a different stripper-trying-to-act every night. Of course, the museum is some cinderblock building with a nick-knack shelf fill of Egyptian junk, and the editor’s office at a big tabloid newspaper is a desk and chair shoved up against the wall in some warehouse. In one of the first scenes, two strippers show up at the opening of the mummy exhibit at the museum. What were they doing there? They acted like strippers, with air-head dialogue about liking old stuff. You know what they were doing there? They were setting up a pointless simulated lesbian sex scene after they leave the museum. What does that have to do with the story? Nothing. Did they have to be air-head strippers? Nope - but, you know, all air-head strippers have lesbian sex in their free time. This is so far past lazy writing I don’t know what to call it!

The film had zero production value - as if it was thrown together at the last minute. The dialogue was awful and the story made no sense at all - in one scene a captured tabloid reporter is wrapped like a mummy for no apparent reason, except that it would be cool to have her unwrapped in the very next scene. They can't even come up with a *bad* excuse to wrap her up! Characters stumble into scenes without reason or motivation... and the whole film looks cruddy. Obviously shot in a warehouse, without anyone caring enough to make it look like whatever location it’s supposed to be in the story.

Before the film, Donny did a little intro where he told us the film was shot for $100k in a week. Now, that isn’t much time to shoot a film, but my CYBERZONE (DROID GUNNER) film was shot in 9 days (a week and an extra weekend) and it looks pretty good. It’s also a sci-fi action flick with space ship battles and all kinds of other time consuming production value elements. As for the $100k budget, afterwards I wondered what they did with the money. Seriously. I’ve seen films made for half that budget that looked much bigger and, well, competent. Since the whole thing was shot in a warehouse in a week, we aren’t talking much in the way of cost. Cast was non-SAG, crew was probably minimal... where did the money go? This terrible film a friend of mine made, SLAUGHTERHOUSE MASSACRE, was shot for a third of their budget in 12 days with lots of gore FX... and a couple of nekkid women. Oh, and we rented a small town location for a chase and did stunts and had a room full of sides of beef, plus a tower of pig heads and some other cool production value stuff. We *built* sets! Even when things went wrong, like losing the school at the last minute, they built a classroom set that looks like a real classroom. It was built in a warehouse, by the way. But there are classroom seats and a chalkboard and the walls are dressed like a classroom. This was all done at the last minute... and looks a million times better than anything in Donny's film.

It seemed as if the only reason this film was made was the simulated lesbian sex stuff. Now, I like nekkid girls as much as the next guy. I can understand why a middle aged man with a bad comb-over would want to make a movie filled with nekkid girls in their 20s. But why make it a *bad* movie? It seemed as if the film part was just an excuse for the nekkid girls. No effort was put into anything, except rounding up nekked girls. The thing that pissed me off the most was that tabloid office, because with a little effort they could have made it look like a real office - but they didn’t. Porn films have better production value - and who cares whether a location is convincing in a porn film?

Sure, this is just a cruddy T&A film, but why did it have to be a bad one? It’s being sold as a horror film, so why not spend a *minute* on the horror plot? Or some real horror? Or some suspense? Why not make the sets convincing? The story convincing? The characters more than moronic cliches (porn films have more characterization than this film - really!)? The leading lady’s acting was bad on purpose - she was given air-head dialogue and then played it so over-the-top that *cartoon characters* are more realistic. Why *try* to make it crappy? Why not make it the best it can be within the confines of budget and schedule and talent? Donny told me he spent twice as much time writing the script as he did making the movie - and the result is something that’s worse than a porn script! Those lucky plumbers and pizza delivery guys have better motivation and dialogue... and more realistic acting. If you’re going to go to all of the trouble to make a film, why not at least *try* to make it good?

You know that scene in ED WOOD where Johnny Depp watches the terrible scene and says “Perfect!” - that’s an untalented film maker who is passionate about his work. At least Ed Wood *cared*. The thing I don’t understand is when they don’t care. I once had a director *read the newspaper* on set, yelling “Action!” and “Cut!” when nudged by an assistant. What is this guy doing in the business? This is my big beef about Donny's film and many other films - the people making them don’t care.

I think you can have nekkid girls a third your age in the film and *still* make it a good film. Even if you have limited talent, if you *try* to do good work, if you *care*, at least the film will be the best you can make it. It may not be great, but it will be something.

After the film was over, there was a little reception with wine and veggie platters in the parking lot. Many cast members were there - including the strippers, who were more intelligent in real life than on screen (they had to be). I think more thought was put into the veggie platters than the film... but I was confused by the whole screening. Why would you rent a theater at Sony to show this film? Why not just collect your check and pretend you never made it? After a few minutes of mingling with sub-Z grade “celebs” (from the Rock Riddle cult - I will do an All The Losers post on them in the future), I bolted down that concrete carpet to the parking garage and got out of there.

Even if you are doing a low budget exploitation movie, you have to *care*. You have to make it the best movie possible at whatever your budget is. Donny only made one film after this... and then people stopped giving him money to make movies. I have no idea what he's doing now.

- Bill

Names have been changed to protect the... well, not exactly innocent!

Saturday, July 16, 2022

My Birthday Gift... To You!

This is my birthday week, so I am in Las Vegas getting a sunburn and giving the casinos all of my money.

So this week (beginning 7/17), all of my fiction (the the exception of FAMILY'S JEWEL) will be FREE!!! (I think in the USA only - sorry! Amazon's rules.)



FOLLOWED HOME: A CRIME TIME THRILLER. Bowden knew the best place to find a victim is somewhere they feel safe. Diane Taylor would be his next victim... Could she survive? Short story.

PRIME RATE: A CRIME TIME THRILLER. Chuck Skinner brought his father's failing butcher shop back into the black with the help of modern day cattle rustlers. Nice story if it ends there...

THROUGH THE RINGER (MITCH ROBERTSON #1) - Screenwriter Mitch Robertson just wants to sell a script, but ends up solving the mystery of a whiz kid writer whose new script stinks. Then read #2!

Coming Soon (worked on it Friday!) THE SHOTGUN APPROACH: A CRIME TIME THRILLER. Burn-out Homicide Detective Shelly Steele investigates the murder of the most popular half of a Simon & Garfunkle music team in a luxurious San Francisco Hotel. Guess who was staying on the same VIP floor?


VINTAGE SCREENWRITING #1: HOW TO WRITE PHOTOPLAYS by Anita Loos & John Emerson. Screenwriting in the 1920s! The complete 1920 book, a screenplay by Loos, and a look at the history of women in film.


Since July 20, is my birthday, I am giving YOU a gift! All three of the STORY IN ACTION books are 99 cents each on my Birthday! They are on Kindle Countdown Deals - so the price goes up a buck every couple of days until it they get back to $3.99. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, TERMINATOR, BOURNE. All 99 cents on Wednesday! (USA Only, Sorry!) Tell your friends, your family, your enemies, the person sitting next to you on the bus, because....

I want to get all three into the TOP 100 on Amazon!




All Six Movies analyzed! All of the mission tapes, all of the “that’s impossible!” set pieces and stunts, the cons and capers - and how these scenes work, the twists and double crosses, the tension and suspense (and how to generate it), the concept of each film as a stand alone with a different director calling the shots (broken in the sixth film), the gadgets, the masks, the stories, the co-stars and team members (one team member has been in every film), the stunts Tom Cruise actually did (and the ones he didn’t), and so much more! Over 120,000 words of fun info!




TERMINATOR: Story In Action - every film analysed! (except DARK FATE.) All of the epic action scenes, all of the amazing effects, the pacing, the characters, and what it means to be human. 366 pages of of information!




All 5 Films Analyzed! Buy the BOURNE book today! Great for fans, writers, directors! How Thrillers work, elevated thrillers, Arrogance Of Sequels, American vs European car chases: 276 pages, under $4!

THE BOURNE MOVIES - Only 99 cents!

3 FREE, 3 ONLY 99 Cents on July 20th!
Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, July 13, 2022



One night, sitting in Residuals Bar in Studio City (where the DRAGONHEART script was conceived) and drinking a Guiness, I was telling one of the stories that usually end up on this blog - a story about some poor misguided person in the film biz, and one of my friends said: “Where do you find these people?” I replied, “I bet I know all the losers in Hollywood”.... and they said that should be the title of my autobiography (or this blog). But instead, this blog ened up being called SEX IN A SUBMARINE due to a crazy script note I got from HBO on CRASH DIVE, and ALL THE LOSERS IN HOLLYWOOD was a title without a story... until now.

When looking for regular features for the blog for 2018-2019, I thought it would be fun to tell a bunch of those stories of the oddballs I’ve met in the almost 30 years I’ve been in this business. I’m changing all of the names to protect the very very guilty (and avoid meeting lawyers) but the stories you are about to read are true... well, mostly true.


Built in 1956, the Casa Vega restaurant on Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks has been a celebrity haunt since they opened the doors. Cary Grant was a regular, as were Marlon Brando and Michael Jackson and Jane Fonda and Dyan Cannon... these days Gwent Sefani and Al Pacino and Tom Hanks and the Spielbergs and the Kardashians and even George Clooney (when he’s in town) are part of the dinner crowd. The place is a fake adobe villa with a terra cotta roof on the main drag of the San Fernando Valley... just down the street from where I live. The drinks aren’t cheap, but for a while when I was getting lots of stuff on screen (and the production bonuses that come with that) I’d often meet friends there for a drink or two. A couple of times I even had dinner, but never spotted any celebrities, though one night they told me that Clooney was buying drinks for the house the night before. Just my luck!

Often at a table in the bar was a producer who I will call Martin, though his real name is... oh, wait, that could get me in trouble. You could tell Martin was successful because he didn’t care what the hell you thought of him. He was dressed down, as if he might be on his way to the bowling alley down the street, but wore a Rolex on his wrist... and was rumored to drive a blue Ferrari Testarossa - and I actually saw him pull into valet parking in that car once. So I was a corroborating witness on that part of his legend. I didn’t even know they made them in blue - I thought they were all bright red.

Martin would hold court at his booth, and wanna-be actors and actresses and directors and writers would often fight for a seat. I was usually with my friends, but a couple of times when I was there alone I just sat at the bar. Gotta be cool, right? Can’t look desperate. I often wonder if that theory has lost me jobs in the past? I know people who fawn over people and end up being thrown a bone now and then - and use that to move up in the business. A director I know started out by becoming everyone’s “number one fan” and then asked everyone he knew who was important if they’d be in his short films - and ended up with stars and directors and others in short films that he’d show to the next level of people in the business and a producer ended up hiring him to direct a real movie, just based on the names in his short films. I don’t do that stuff... but where would I be if I did? Could I be driving a blue Ferrari like Martin?

But playing it cool kind of worked - a few times I got invited to Martin’s booth and tried to figure out just what films he had produced. This was in those dark ages before IMDB when you had to read the trades or watch all of the credits to know who was involved in a film. So I was always looking for clues when I was invite over to his booth. Once Martin mentioned that he was working with Swayze on his new film, so I combed the trades for what film Patrick Swayze was currently working on. Another time he said he was negotiating with Stallone for the lead in his new film. He’d name drop and I’d search the trades for the project. The problem was, the trades didn’t report on everything. Hollywood Reporter had a weekly list of films in production, pre-production, and post production - but they were bare-bones listings and the ones with Stallone or Swayze or whoever else he’s mentioned starring didn’t list all of the producer credits. I’m not going to tell you how much time I spent looking for clues to his films... because then you wouldn’t think I was cool anymore.

He’d often name drop movie stars and big time directors and tell stories about them that only an insider could ever know. He’d talk about all of the red carpet movie premieres he went to - and sometimes would describe some actresses dress... and when they showed the premiere on Entertainment Tonight, that’s the exact dress she was wearing! So even though I could never find the Stallone project that he was working on, I knew that there was one. He’d tell stories about stars and name directors and other producers that not only sounded true, sometimes the same stories would pop up here and there in the press... so they *were* true. At some point in all of this, I was going to Casa Vega in hopes of being invited over to his booth. How could I turn this into a script sale?

See? I’m not cool.

One time when I was at the bar, he was at his regular booth... with an incredibly beautiful woman. No one else was invited to the booth that night. She had to be an actress, right? The next big star? Had to be. I wish I was a producer!

So, an actor I had worked with on one of my little cable movies had a supporting role in a huge summer blockbuster from Warner Brothers, and invited me to the premiere. They had given him a handful of tickets and I guess his first choices were all busy or maybe he wanted to make sure he had great dialogue in the thing I was writing or whatever. He invited me. I had to wear uncomfortable shoes. I was going to be at this big premiere that Martin had mentioned he was going to. *That* was my chance to land a job, right? Instead of me being invited over to *his* booth where *he* had all of the power (and I was just some idiot writer), we would both be on equal ground at the premiere. Either at the premiere or the after-party I would casually pitch one of my scripts to him, saying I was just finishing it up... and let him ask to be the first to read it. He knew I was a working screenwriter and had just written an HBO World Premiere Movie - not exactly a Warner Bros summer blockbuster, but there was a full page advert in TV Guide for the film, which I’d once showed him (I was showing it to my pals at the bar and he wanted to take a look, so I was still cool, I think). Hey, we’re both on the red carpet and I mention the new script, and...

So I get to the premiere with the star of my next cable flick and his entourage and start looking for Martin. It’s not like you can look for the blue Ferrari or something, the way these things work is that the red carpet is all about photographers taking pictures of stars... so supporting actors and their entourage are either ushered in first or saved until last. Big producers like Martin are not in the same group as we were... I did spot some other stars - Nick Nolte was there! Why didn’t I bring my VHS of 48 HOURS for him to sign?

Once inside, I looked around for Martin, couldn’t spot him. Also looked around for that hot actress, just in case that was his date. Couldn’t spot her, either. There are ushers who take you to your section, and we were not sitting in the same section that Martin would be sitting in. We were in the seats where supporting actors who were in a few scenes but had their credit in the end roll rather than the opening titles were seated. It was still cool for me - lots of familiar faces. Hey, it’s that guy! Hey, it’s that woman who plays magazine editors! Hey, it’s the guy who plays blue collar guys!

After the movie, we are walking back to the valet stand to retrieve my actor friend’s SUV that we all carpooled in from the Valley, and I happen to glance at one of the event security guards - and it’s Martin. What? I go up to talk to him, and he’s already telling me that he’s just filling in as security at this event, not a day job or anything, just a favor for a friend. You know, just helping out They were a man short and he... just happened to have a suit that matched all of the other security guy’s suits. I told him it was cool, I just wanted to say hello. It was awkward.

The next couple of times I was at Casa Vega, he nodded to me but didn’t wave me over to his booth. It was an interesting kind of avoidance you see in Hollywood where people smile and nod and greet each other - then move on as quickly as possible.

A couple of months later he invited me to his premier.

Yes, he was an actual producer. He had made a low budget horror film starring the *brother* of a big movie star. Same last name, different first name. Also, different level of talent. There was no red carpet for his premiere, and it was an old theater in the Valley... he did pull up in his rented blue Ferrari - there’s a company that rents luxury cars. The movie wasn’t very good - there was a top secret government lab in the story, and the official government sign outside the building had a misspelled word. Oops! The monster also was one of the worst rubber suits I’ve ever seen, and the actor within - not the movie star’s brother - moved like a human. Not convincing. The story seemed as if it had originally been a father and son drama that got a last minute rewrite into a monster movie because some distributor told Martin that horror sells. As far as I know, the film was never released - not even on VHS or DVD or anything else... even with a real movie star’s brother. People think that every movie gets to DVD (or VHS back when this took place), but probably most independent films don’t even make it that far. They end up in film cans in people’s garages. I have no idea if that’s what happened with Martin’s film - but I never saw it anywhere, and even just now when I looked it up on Amazon I didn’t get any hits.

There are a lot of star’s brothers in movies. And star’s sisters. And star’s children. And probably even star’s parents. Some are talented, some are not. Remember, Eric Roberts is the great Oscar nominated actor from STAR 80 and RUNAWAY TRAIN and his sister is the one riding his coattails. There are a whole bunch of actors who end up in the business because they are related to someone famous. This particular one wasn’t very good, but he had a famous last name.

I went to Casa Vega with friends a few times after that, and Martin was still holding court at his booth. I’d nod to him and then drink with my friends. I decided not to blow his cover. Heck, he had a day job - no sin in that. Heck, he probably met the movie star’s brother at some event where he was working as a security guard! He rented an expensive car - not the only customer at that luxury car rental place. Hollywood believes in surface over substance - if you look like a big shot, you are a big shot. You can rent cars and clothes and luxury apartments and arm candy, and how can they tell you apart from the people who don’t rent or lease those things but *own* them? And half of the “real people” rent or lease some of those things anyway. Show don’t tell. As Fernando used to say, "It is better to look good than to feel good." It’s better to look important than to really be important - less responsibility. This business is full of people who fake it until they make it... and sometimes end up just faking it forever...

And in Hollywood, no one can hear you scream.

I wonder if Martin worked the Golden Globes on Sunday night?

- Bill

Friday, July 08, 2022

The French Hitchcock?

If you've seen INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, the movie playing at Shoshana's cinema that gets bumped for the Hitler Assassination Plan is called LE CORBEAU (THE RAVEN) - she has to take the letters off the marqee. The film was directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, who is often called the French Hitchcock. Clouzot also directed a couple of my favorite films, WAGES OF FEAR and DIABOLIQUE. He is a great director - knows how to build tension to the breaking point. LE CORBEAU was only his second film, but it still works decades later.

LE CORBEAU is about an alof handsome young doctor in a village hospital who begins to get threatening letters signed by "The Raven". The letters accuse him of having an affair with an older doctor's pretty young wife... and of being an abortionist, who may even have been the one who knocked up all of the women he's accused of aborting. Because he wasn't born in the village, he's seen as an outsider... and when word gets out people believe these rumors.

The old doctor's wife also gets a letter from The Raven... and soon half the village are getting threatening letters accusing them of some rumored activity. The Raven knows *everyone's* secrets! Who can it be? The old cuckold doctor and young doctor basically must work together to find out who is The Raven. And there are some *great* suspects and a really shocking twist end. Actually, a double twist.

Though this is an early film of Clouzot's - not as suspenseful as DIABOLIQUE, it still packs a punch and has some very well drawn characters and it will keep you guessing until the end. The alof doctor is an interesting protagonist because he has a deep dark secret - and we think we know what it is and we are completely wrong. The character is a twist.

If you're curious about French films made during WW2 and during the Nazi Occupation, check this one out. Oh, and look between the lines for a message about living and working in Nazi Occupied France.

- Bill

Of course, I have my own books on Hitchcock...



Alfred Hitchcock, who directed 52 movies, was known as the “Master Of Suspense”; but what exactly is suspense and how can *we* master it? How does suspense work? How can *we* create “Hitchcockian” suspense scenes in our screenplays, novels, stories and films?

This book uses seventeen of Hitchcock’s films to show the difference between suspense and surprise, how to use “focus objects” to create suspense, the 20 iconic suspense scenes and situations, how plot twists work, using secrets for suspense, how to use Dread (the cousin of suspense) in horror stories, and dozens of other amazing storytelling lessons. From classics like “Strangers On A Train” and “The Birds” and “Vertigo” and “To Catch A Thief” to older films from the British period like “The 39 Steps” and “The Man Who Knew Too Much” to his hits from the silent era like “The Lodger” (about Jack The Ripper), we’ll look at all of the techniques to create suspense!


Only 125,000 words!

Price: $5.99

Click here for more info!


We all know that Alfred Hitchcock was the Master Of Suspense, but did you know he was the most *experimental* filmmaker in history?

Contained Thrillers like “Buried”? Serial Protagonists like “Place Beyond The Pines”? Multiple Connecting Stories like “Pulp Fiction”? Same Story Multiple Times like “Run, Lola, Run”? This book focuses on 18 of Hitchcock’s 53 films with wild cinema and story experiments which paved the way for modern films. Almost one hundred different experiments that you may think are recent cinema or story inventions... but some date back to Hitchcock’s *silent* films! We’ll examine these experiments and how they work. Great for film makers, screenwriters, film fans, producers and directors.

Films Examined: “Rear Window”, “Psycho”, “Family Plot”, “Topaz”, “Rope”, “The Wrong Man”, “Easy Virtue”, “Lifeboat”, “Bon Voyage”, “Aventure Malgache”, “Elstree Calling”, “Dial M for Murder”, “Stage Fright”, “Champagne”, “Spellbound”, “I Confess”, and “The Trouble with Harry”, with glances at “Vertigo” and several others.

Professional screenwriter William C. Martell takes you into the world of The Master Of Suspense and shows you the daring experiments that changed cinema. Over 77,000 words.

Click here for more info!


Wednesday, July 06, 2022

Movie Premiere Goes Wrong - Homer Simpson

Most fans of THE SIMPSONS don't know that APU starred in a trilogy of films by Satyajit Ray or that many of the other names and gags in the show are in-jokes. Since the show has been on so long, many of the in-jokes seem to have lost their meanings. If I said the name "Homer Simpson" you wouldn't instantly think about that character in Nathanael Wests's brilliant novel about Hollywood, DAY OF THE LOCUST. The joke is gone, because Homer is now more famous that the character he was named after.

Nathanael West was the screenwriter of one of my favorite movies, FIVE CAME BACK, which may have been the first Disaster Movie, and certainly inspired the film PITCH BLACK. He wrote a bunch of films in the 1930s, worked as a Hotel Manager in between writing gigs and got to know a bunch of young writers on their way up who stayed there, and wrote 4 amazing novels, two you may have heard of, two you probably have not heard of.

MISS LONELYHEARTS is the book that got him noticed - a really dark story of a male newspaper reporter who becomes the advice to the lovelorn columnist... and learns more than he wants to about people. That one's been made into a film at least 4 times, probably more... and the great comedy-mystery writer Greg McDonald even did a riff novel on it called LOVE AMONGST THE MASHED POTATOES.

DREAM LIFE OF BALSO SNELL is like David Lynch on acid - which is why you've never heard of it.

A COOL MILLION is one of my favorite novels no one has ever heard of - it's a parody of Horatio Alger jr stories (about hard working young men who overcome all kinds of problems and set backs to become very successful). Imagine the ultra-pessimistic version of those stories, and that's this book. By the end of the story, our hero is dancing on stage and several of his body parts fall off... and he's been screwed in ways you can not imagine.

Last and best is DAY OF THE LOCUST - and if you haven't read it, it's probably one of the best novels every written about Hollywood. It's up there with WHAT MAKES SAMMY RUN and the Pat Hobby stories. It's so brutal that you can't believe it was written in the 30s. The book was made into a movie in the mid-70s by John Schlesinger (MIDNIGHT COWBOY) with a script by Waldo Salt (MIDNIGHT COWBOY and SERPICO and 2 Oscars and a screenwriting award named after him) - which was an amazing 70s film... that you have never heard of. While MIDNIGHT COWBOY keeps getting special anniversary editions, DAY OF THE LOCUST was unavailable on DVD until a few years ago and is now out of print. Part of that is probably because of the stars - everybody knows who Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman are... but William Atherton's career just didn't take off... he's best known now as that obnoxious reporter that Bruce Willis punches in DIE HARD... and "Dickless" from GHOSTBUSTERS. Not a movie star like Hoffman or Voight... though he was in the 70s. And the film is a major downer. That played in the 70s, but not so much now.

So, just to spoil the whole story for you, here is the *end* - a big movie premiere where all of the characters lives intersect... that is completely ruined by Homer Simpson (played by Donald Sutherland). Homer has had very bad luck throughout the novel/film, and finally reaches his breaking point in this scene...

- Bill

Saturday, July 02, 2022

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