A remake of the Tobe Hooper-directed horror classic Poltergeist will be made by MGM and Fox 2000, with Gil Kenan (Monster House) directing a script by David Lindsay-Abaire (Oz: The Great and Powerful). Rosemarie DeWitt has been cast in the Mum role. Jobeth Williams and Craig T. Nelson were the original parents whose ideal family life is uprooted by a cavalcade of spirits that culminates in the kidnap of their youngest daughter Carol Anne played by Heather O’Rourke. Given how well these paranormal films are faring against studio product lately, this one seemed ripe for remaking and it’s surprising that it hasn’t been remade before now. Sam Raimi and Nathan Kahane are producing.
Congratulations to Argo, winning a well deserved Best Picture Oscar… and shame on the Academy for not nominating Ben Affleck in the Best Director category.
Forrest J. Ackerman (born Forrest James Ackerman; November 24, 1916 – December 4, 2008) was an American collector of science fiction books and movie memorabilia and a science fiction fan; a magazine editor, science fiction writer and literary agent, a founder of science fiction fandom and possibly the world’s most avid collector of genre books and movie memorabilia. He was the editor and principal writer of the American magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland, as well as an actor and producer (Vampirella) from the 1950’s into the 1980’s, and appears in two documentaries related to this period in popular culture: Jason V. Brock’s The AckerMonster Chronicles!, which details his life and career, and Charles Beaumont: The Life of Twilight Zone’s Magic Man. He was, for over seven decades, one of science fiction’s staunchest spokesmen and promoters.
Also called “Forry,” “The Ackermonster,” “4e” and “4SJ,” Ackerman was central to the formation, organization, and spread of science fiction fandom, and a key figure in the wider cultural perception of science fiction as a literary, art and film genre. Famous for his wordplay, he coined the genre nickname “sci-fi”. In 1953, he was voted “#1 Fan Personality” by the members of the World Science Fiction Society, a unique Hugo Award never granted to anyone else.
Ackerman was born Forrest James Ackerman (though he would refer to himself from the early 1930s on as “Forrest J Ackerman” with no period after the middle initial) on November 24, 1916 in Los Angeles, to Carroll and William Schilling Ackerman. He attended the University of California at Berkeley for a year (1934–1935), worked as a movie projectionist, and spent three years in the U.S. Army after enlisting on August 15, 1942.
Ackerman saw his first “imagi-movie” in 1922 (One Glorious Day), purchased his first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, in 1926, created The Boys’ Scientifiction Club in 1930 (“girl-fans were as rare as unicorn’s horns in those days”). He contributed to both of the first sci-fi fanzines, The Time Traveller, and the Science Fiction Magazine, in 1932, and by 1933 had 127 correspondents around the world.
He attended the 1st World Science Fiction Convention in 1939, where he wore the first “futuristicostume” (designed and created by Myrtle R. Douglas) and sparked fan costuming, the latest incarnation of which is cosplay. He attended every Worldcon but two thereafter during his lifetime. Ackerman invited Ray Bradbury to attend the Los Angeles Chapter of the Science Fiction League, then meeting weekly at Clifton’s Cafeteria in downtown Los Angeles. Bradbury often attended meetings with his friend Ray Harryhausen; the two Rays had been introduced to each other by Ackerman. With $90 from Ackerman, Bradbury launched a fanzine, Futuria Fantasia, in 1939.
Ackerman amassed an extremely large and complete collection of science fiction, fantasy and horror film memorabilia, which, until 2002, he maintained in a remarkable 18-room home and museum known as the “Son of Ackermansion.” (The original Ackermansion where he lived from the early 1950’s until the mid-1970’s, was at 915 S. Sherbourne Drive in Los Angeles) This second house, in the Los Feliz district of Los Angeles, contained some 300,000 books and pieces of movie and science-fiction memorabilia. From 1951 to 2002, Ackerman entertained some 50,000 fans at open houses.
He knew most of the writers of science fiction in the first half of the twentieth-century. As a literary agent, he represented some 200 writers, and he served as agent of record for many long lost authors, thereby allowing their work to be reprinted in anthologies. He was Ed Wood’s “illiterary” agent. He kept all of the stories submitted to his magazine, even the ones he rejected; Stephen King has stated that Ackerman showed up to a King book signing with a copy of a story King had submitted for publication when he was 11.
Through his magazine, Famous Monsters of Filmland (1958–1983), Ackerman introduced the history of the science fiction, fantasy and horror film genres to a generation of young readers. At a time when most movie-related publications glorified the stars in front of the camera, “Uncle Forry”, as he was referred to by many of his fans, promoted the behind-the-scenes artists involved in the magic of movies. In this way, Ackerman provided inspiration to many who would later become successful artists, including Joe Dante, Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg, Tim Burton, Stephen King, Gene Simmons (of the band KISS), Rick Baker, George Lucas, Danny Elfman, Frank Darabont, John Landis and countless other writers, directors, artists and craftsmen.
He was married to teacher and translator Wendayne (Wendy) Wahrman (1912–1990) until her death. Her original first name was Matilda; Forry created “Wendayne” for her. Wendayne suffered a serious head injury when she was violently mugged while on a trip to Europe in 1990, and the injury soon after led to her death.
A lifelong fan of science fiction “B-movies”, Ackerman had cameos in over 210 films, including bit parts in many monster movies and science fiction films (The Howling, Return of the Living Dead Part II), spoofs and comedies (Amazon Women on the Moon), and at least one major music video (Michael Jackson’s Thriller). Ackerman was fluent in the international language Esperanto.
In 2003, Ackerman said, “I aim at hitting 100 and becoming the George Burns of science fiction”. His health, however, had been failing, and after one final trip to the hospital, informed his best friend and caregiver Joe Moe that he didn’t want to go on. Honouring his wishes, his friends brought him home to hospice care. However, it turned out that in order to get Ackerman home, the hospital had cured his infection with antibiotics. So Forrest went on for a few more weeks holding what he delighted in calling, “a living funeral”. In his final days he saw everyone he wanted to say good-bye to. John Landis recalled that “Although he was extremely ill he told me he could not die until he voted for Obama for President and he did.”
Forrest J Ackerman died on December 4, 2008, at the age of 92. He is interred at Glendale Forest Lawn with his wife Wendayne “Rocket To The Rue Morgue” Ackerman. His plaque simply reads, “Sci-Fi Was My High”.
Birthday wishes are in order for Universal Pictures, which as widely noted is celebrating its centennial all year long. Founded by Carl Laemmle, Universal Film Manufacturing Company was incorporated in New York on April 30, 1912. The studio sent out 100 facts about its history, which makes for a good read…. I’ve cut the list down to my favourite 50:
1. Universal Film Manufacturing Company was officially incorporated in New York on April 30, 1912. Company legend says Carl Laemmle was inspired to name his company Universal after seeing “Universal Pipe Fittings” written on a passing delivery wagon.
2. The only physical damage made during the filming of National Lampoon’s Animal House was when John Belushi made a hole in the wall with a guitar. The actual Sigma Nu fraternity house (which subbed for the fictitious Delta House) never repaired it, and instead framed the hole in honor of the film.
3. In the movie All Quiet on the Western Front, the Greek writing on the blackboard in the schoolroom is the beginning of Homer’s Odyssey: “Tell me, oh Muse, of that ingenious hero who traveled far and wide.”
4. The word “dude” in The Big Lebowski is used approximately 161 times in the movie: 160 times spoken and once in text (in the credits for “Gutterballs” the second dream sequence). The F-word or a variation of the F-word is used 292 times. The Dude says “man” 147 times in the movie—that’s nearly 1.5 times a minute.
5. Back to the Future’s DeLorean time machine is actually a licensed, registered vehicle in the state of California. While the vanity license plate used in the film says “OUTATIME,” the DeLorean’s actual license plate reads 3CZV657.
6. American Graffiti’s budget was exactly $777,777.77, and it was delivered on time – and on budget.
7. In the Alfred Hitchcock classic The Birds, Tippi Hedren was actually cut in the face by a bird during the shooting of one sequence.
8. The Munster’s House on Colonial Street was originally built for the 1946 production, So Goes My Love.
9. The title of the movie Do The Right Thing comes from a Malcolm X quote: “You’ve got to do the right thing.”
10. According to reports, during some of the Russian roulette scenes in the movie The Deer Hunter, a live round was put into the gun to heighten the actors’ tension per Robert De Niro’s suggestion. It was checked, however, to make sure the bullet was not in the chamber before the trigger was pulled.
11. In the first scene of the movie Double Indemnity, when Walter first kisses Phyllis, there is a wedding ring on Walter’s hand. Fred MacMurray was married and the ring was not noticed until post-production.
12. When Bela Lugosi, star of the monster classic, Dracula, died in 1956, he was buried wearing a black silk cape similar to the one he wore in the film.
13. At 29,500 sq. ft., Universal Studios’ Stage 12 is the 7th largest soundstage in the world. It was originally built for the 1929 musical Broadway.
14. Carl Laemmle Jr. offered James Whale a list of more than 30 film adaptations he could direct and out of them all, Whale picked Frankenstein. It was his transition from war movies to monster pics.
15. Vans, the company behind the checkerboard shoes worn by Sean Penn (a.k.a. Jeff Spicoli) in the cult movie classic, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, became a national brand after the film’s release in 1982.
16. Actor Charlton Heston “parted” the Red Sea attraction on the Universal Studios Tour at the attraction’s grand opening in 1973.
17. The Universal sound technician, Jack Foley, developed the method of creating and recording many of the natural, everyday sound effects in a film. Today this method is named after him.
18. The legendary thriller and suspense director Alfred Hitchcock did not win any Academy Awards while working with Universal.
19. In the infamous shower scene in Psycho, the sound of the knife-stabbing actress Janet Leigh was made by plunging a knife into a melon.
20. The legendary studio head Irving Thalberg got his start in show business as Carl Laemmle’s personal secretary in 1917.
21. In 1995, Waterworld generated worldwide attention for being the most expensive film made to date. Unable to live up to expectations at the box office, the film eventually turned a profit due to strong home video sales and inspired one of the most popular theme park attractions of all time.
22. About 25% of the film Jaws was shot from water level so audiences could better relate to treading water.
23. In the film The Invisible Man, the director dressed Claude Rains in black velvet and filmed him against a black velvet background to create the effect that he wasn’t there.
24. Some of the props used in the 2005 version of King Kong were original props from the 1933 version. These props came from Peter Jackson’s personal collection and include the Skull Island spears and brightly painted shield, and some of the drums from the sacrifice scene.
25. In Jurassic Park, a guitar string was used to make the water ripple on the dash of the Ford Explorer by attaching it to the underside of the dash beneath the glass.
26. Universal entered the 3-D market with the film, It Came from Outer Space (1953)
27. Universal won its first Best Picture Academy Award for All Quiet on the Western Front in 1930.
28. Steven Spielberg nicknamed the mechanical shark in the movie Jaws, “Bruce.”
29. In the film The Incredible Shrinking Man, when Louise is on the phone asking for the operator, the music playing on the radio is the theme song to Written on the Wind, which was made at Universal the year prior.
30. It took two-and-a-half hours a day to apply Lon Chaney’s makeup in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
31. The first American film to show a toilet flushing on screen was Psycho.
32. In the film, Scarface, an M16 assault rifle with an M203 40mm grenade launcher attached to the barrel is Tony’s “little friend.”
33. Alfred Hitchcock did not choose to conclude the film, The Birds, with the usual “THE END” title because he wanted to leave the audience with the feeling of unending terror and uncertainty.
34. The locusts in the 1999 film, The Mummy, were mostly computer-generated, however, some live grasshoppers were used. Hours before filming they were chilled in a refrigerator to make them more sluggish.
35. The average shot length in the film Vertigo is 6.7 seconds.
36. The permanent set in Stage 28 was created to be a replica of the landmark The Paris Opera House, for the classic film, The Phantom of the Opera.
37. When you hear the sound of the crowd cheering, “Spartacus! Spartacus!” in the movie Spartacus, it was actually a pre-taped recording from a 1959 football game at Michigan State University’s Spartan Stadium.
38. The final speech by Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird was done in one take.
39. The diner in the movie The Sting is the same diner interior used in Back to the Future.
40. The title of the film Streets of Fire starring Michael Paré and Diane Lane, was drawn from a Bruce Springsteen song, from his album Darkness on the Edge of Town. The song, unfortunately, does not appear in the film.
41. 1920’s Shipwrecked Among Cannibals was the first film to gross $1,000,000 for Universal.
42. Prominent Universal Director Edward Laemmle was the nephew of Universal Founder Carl Laemmle. He directed over 60 films (including shorts) for Universal.
43. Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein is only the second time Bela Lugosi would play “Dracula” in a feature film. (He played other vampires in the interim, but not Dracula.)
44. In 1973’s High Plains Drifter starring Clint Eastwood, one of the headstones in the graveyard bears the name Sergio Leone as a tribute.
45. In 1992’s Scent of Woman, Al Pacino repeatedly shouts “Hoo-ah.” “Hoo-ah” comes from the military acronym “HUA” which stands for “Heard, Understood, Acknowledged.”
46. The Blues Brothers “Bluesmobile” is a 1974 Dodge Monaco.
47. 1971’s Play Misty for Me was set in Carmel, CA, where Clint Eastwood later lived and became mayor in 1986.
48. “The Bride” in “The Bride of Frankenstein” is the only one of Universal Studios’ Classic Monsters to have never killed anyone.
49. Throughout its hundred year legacy, Universal brought to audiences the first films of talents such as John Ford, Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg, Norman Jewison, Ben Stiller, Robert Zemeckis, John Hughes, Amy Heckerling, Spike Jonze, Zack Snyder and Judd Apatow.
50. More than 100 million people from around the world have taken the Universal Studios “studio tour.” While the tour officially began in 1964, Universal has been welcoming the public to our studio since 1915 and the silent era.
Tobe Hooper (born January 25, 1943) is an American film director and screenwriter, best known for his work in the horror film genre. His works include the cult classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), along with its first sequel, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986); the three-time Emmy-nominated Stephen King film adaptation Salem’s Lot (1979); and the three-time Academy Award-nominated, Steven Spielberg-produced Poltergeist (1982).
Hooper was born in Austin, Texas, the son of Lois Belle (née Crosby) and Norman William Ray Hooper, who owned a theater in San Angelo. He first became interested in filmmaking when he used his father’s 8 mm camera at age 9. Hooper took Radio-Television-Film classes at the University of Texas at Austin and studied drama in Dallas under Baruch Lumet.
Hooper spent the 1960s as a college professor and documentary cameraman. His short film The Heisters (1965) was invited to be entered in the short subject category for an Oscar, but was not finished in time for the competition that year. In 1969, Hooper co-wrote and directed Eggshells, a film about a group of hippies in a commune house having to deal with the presence of a possible supernatural force. Eggshells did not receive a theatrical release, but did win Hooper several awards, including the Atlanta Film Festival Award, when the film played around different colleges. Hooper had shot over 60 documentaries, commercials, and short films before making The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
In 1974, he organized a small cast composed of college teachers and students, and with Kim Henkel, on a budget of $60,000 (which eventually rose to $70,000, though some reports say up to $120,000) made The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Hooper claims to have come up with the idea for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre while standing in the hardware section of a crowded store. While thinking of a way to get through the crowd, he spotted chainsaws for sale. However the origins have always been linked to stories surrounding notorious serial killer Ed Gein. The highly successful film changed the horror film industry and landed Hooper in Hollywood. Media reports of audiences throwing up and storming out of theaters showing the film swept the nation. Hooper wanted an MPAA PG rating for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, as there was no PG-13 at the time. Despite having no sex or sexual situations, no drug use, no hard profanity, and a low level of graphic violence, the film received an R rating. The MPAA cited the film’s intense tone as reason enough to issue the R rating.
Hooper was hired by Marty Rustam to direct his first Hollywood film, Eaten Alive (1977). Hooper and Henkel re-wrote most of Rustam and Alvin Fast’s script to fit their own desires. Eaten Alive starred Mel Ferrer, Carolyn Jones, William Finley, and Marilyn Burns, who played the lead role in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Some critics noted that Hooper tried to recreate Chainsaw, but did not succeed in terms of intensity. The main reason for this was that Hooper felt the producers were compromising his vision by exerting control over the film. As a result of this, Hooper left the set with three weeks of principal photography remaining. After Hooper’s departure, Carolyn Jones, and the editor, Michael Brown, reportedly finished directing the final weeks of the film.
Richard Kobritz, producer of the suspenseful and acclaimed John Carpenter telefilm, Someone’s Watching Me! (1978), handpicked Hooper to direct an adaptation of Stephen King’s vampire novel ‘Salem’s Lot. The novel had been a bestseller and had been in development for some time, with Hooper briefly attached under producer William Friedkin’s supervision in 1977. Salem’s Lot (1979) became Hooper’s most polished and mainstream film to date. The telefilm was well-received by critics and fans alike, and is generally thought of as a genre classic.
In 1981, Hooper directed the film, The Funhouse. The story involved four teenage friends who decide to spend the night in the funhouse of a sleazy traveling carnival. The film opened to modest box office receipts and received mainly positive reviews. Hooper had a shooting schedule similar in length to Salem’s Lot, but nowhere near the same budget. One of the most praised aspects of the film was its visually stylish cinematography.
In 1982, Hooper directed Poltergeist for MGM, with Steven Spielberg serving as co-writer with Michael Grais and Mark Victor, and co-producer with Frank Marshall. It quickly became one of the top ten highest grossing films of the year. In addition to this, Hooper was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Director. As a result of the film’s critical and commercial success, it seemed that Hooper would be propelled into Hollywood’s A-list of directors. However, some industry insiders in Hollywood viewed the film as more of a Spielberg-directed film than a Hooper-directed film, despite Hooper’s claims that he directed the film and did “half the storyboards himself”.