S.M. Douglas

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Category: The 70’s

Jaws on the Big Screen

I’m still working my way through this year’s edition of shark week. Other than the Phelps fiasco (why must you start each season of Shark Week with such schlock, Discovery Channel), most of the episodes are quite good. I loved the early attention given to the Great Hammerhead, Mako, and Porbeagle Sharks. As I have commented before, recent seasons of Shark Week overall have been trending toward educational over sensationalism. That’s good – keep it up.

From there, and with sharks on the brain, I had no problem saying ‘yes’ when one of my friends asked me if I wanted to see Jaws at the local small-town theater. Of course I loved it (my all time favorite movie) but I also loved the experience. This fifty-plus-year old theater not only put actual butter on the popcorn but the ticket cost only three bucks – you can’t beat that! It was heartening to see quite a few teenagers and millennials in the packed theater. It’s great to know there’s a new generation of fans. Needless to say, Jaws was a huge influence on my life and my writing (with a certain police chief providing much of the inspiration for one of the leading characters from my werewolf book Apex Predator).

ARD DER WEISSE HAI (jaws), USA 1974, Regie Steven Spielberg, am Samstag (02.12.06) um 23:10 Uhr im Ersten. Brody (Roy Scheider) ist der Polizeichef des Badeortes Amity. © ARD Degeto - honorarfrei, Verwendung nur im Zusammenhang mit o. g. Sendung bei Nennung Bild: "ARD Degeto" (S2), Programmplanung und Presse (069) 1509-334 oder -335

What’s amazing is that even though I’ve seen the movie probably a hundred times on TV – it makes such a huge difference seeing it on the big screen. For instance, I just noticed that it was Old Spice Brody was dabbing on his handkerchief when he was chumming off the stern of the Orca. Or that Charlie’s ferry charges extra if you use it between 7pm and midnight – according to the sign in the background you can’t really read on TV and as seen in the film (when Brody is asking Charlie to take him over to the boy scouts and get them out of the water).

What a great movie. What a great experience. And yes, I saw Dunkirk at the IMAX big chain theater the week before (a solid effort with almost no CGI, real WWII aircraft and equipment, and some fantastic dog-fights between Spitfires and Me-109s). However, just like I support local used and new bookstores I also try and support the small town theaters that add so much to a community. I’m sure there’s quite a few of you who would agree.

BTW – if there’s anything in Jaws that didn’t catch your eye until recently please let me know. Otherwise, enjoy the behind the scenes movie pics I included with this post (and if you have any good one’s then please share).

Jaws Behind the Scenes 1 Jaws Behind the Scenes 2

Jaws Behind the Scenes Pic Jaws Cast Jaws_Behind the Scenes Pic

In Search Of, Bigfoot, and Apex Predator

Over the past few years I have often discussed my greatest influences as a writer in the horror genre. This week I would like to discuss another one: an oft neglected TV show entitled In Search Of. Airing from 1977 to 1982, In Search Of was narrated by the regrettably now deceased Leonard Nimoy, In Search Of proved not only entertaining – but also surprisingly scary. Especially for young children at that time, such as myself. I loved the show (particularly it’s first few seasons), so much that I couldn’t resist finding a reason to briefly mention it in my new werewolf novel Apex Predator.

Whether consciously or not writers often interject aspects of their own personality into their characters. Though I didn’t shape my novel’s protagonist nor the other characters upon myself, there is a bit of me in each of them.  Before anyone says anything about the villainous Jimmy Donnelly,  please don’t worry. I’ve never done anything remotely approaching the savagery unleashed by that character’s particular appetites. However, parts of my past show up in other characters; including the book’s protagonist – William Brody.

During Apex Predator’s first act Brody is investigating a gruesome murder that happened in the same metropolitan area where he grew up. There is a forest bordering the suburban neighborhood where he was raised; and this forest had an impact on his character’s development, as it did on mine. As a child I spent countless hours in that forest and in front of the television. During those years the forest taught me something, and at times the lessons it taught inspired me to become a horror novelist.  One of those instances occurred when my childhood best friend and I swore we found Bigfoot prints in the mud along the tree line. Now, where do six year old’s get such an idea? Why, the television of course.

Some of you might remember that it once seemed as if Bigfoot was everywhere. In Search Of spoke of him; the Six Million Dollar Man fought the creature; and the Saturday afternoon horror special’s eerie Led Zeppelin scored intro all too often led into another showing of the Legend of Boggy Creek.

In Search Of’s creepy take on the beast might have been the scariest. The first three minutes of Season One’s Bigfoot episode led to several nights of nightmares for my young self. Those minutes reenacted a Bigfoot attack on some miners in the Pacific Northwest. The rest of the show (included below) isn’t bad, but I encourage you to watch at least those initial scenes. Try and overlook the show’s groovy title music. Consider what a young child who watched the episode might have been thinking the next day when he or she ventured into the woods. What might that child have been imagining was also out there in the trees – watching and waiting for a chance to strike:

Leonard Nimoy Passes Away at Age 83

Horrible news – Leonard Nimoy passed away earlier today at the age of 83. It is being reported that he died of end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Though Nimoy was sometimes at pains to point out he was not in fact “Spock” he will always be remembered for his iconic role in the Star Trek TV series (1966 to 1969) and the ensuing films. Nimoy would not only become Spock to legions of his fans (myself included) but even shaped the character. He created the Vulcan salute from memories he had of Jewish blessings during his childhood.

Beyond Spock, I would also like to point out Nimoy’s role presenting the TV show “In Search of” which would prove to be one of the better looks at strange myths, monsters, and the paranormal. The show managed to achieve a fittingly eerie and creepy tone that for a young child such as myself was often quite scary. The “Bigfoot” themed episodes were particularly disturbing as I recall.

Nimoy was a multi-talented individual and will be greatly missed, but fondly remembered. He truly lived long and prospered.

Spock

As many of you know by now, Robin Williams died yesterday at age 63 (apparently suicide being the cause of death).

My first exposure to his work was via the TV Show Mork & Mindy. From there, and though Mrs. Doubtfire gets so much attention, three of my favorite performances of his were in Good Morning Vietnam and of all things, two of his darker roles; in the 2002 films Insomnia and One Hour Photo. In addition I would be utterly remiss to ignore the 1980 film Popeye, in which he played the titular character. The movie was in heavy rotation on HBO and was a staple of my childhood.

Rather than go into a long introspective piece on the greatness that was his particular brand of comedy I would like to show you some examples of why he was such a riveting entertainer:

 

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