Retro-View: Cinefantastique Volume 5 Number 2, 1976
CINFANTASTIQUE, the late Frederick S. Clarke’s film magazine with “a sense of wonder,” was the New Yorker of genre publications during the 70’s and 80’s, a conduit betwixt FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND, CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE MONSTER TIMES and STARLOG, treating science fiction, fantasy and horror as legitimate subjects of study, with exhaustive detail and a sometimes too-critical eye that would later raise the ire of folks like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, among others. What I cared about as a child were the rare, cool photos of deleted scenes, stop-motion masters like Ray Harryhausen at work, or especially erotic images of gothic Hammer babes. The writers were excellent, from Steve Rubin to Foster Hirsch (who would later interview me for his book on Otto Preminger) to Tim Lucas to David Bartholomew, whose review of ERASERHEAD in the 1976 issue above was my first exposure to David Lynch: “I am not given to overstatement. See this thing.” Within the same pages were perfect capsule opines on INFRA-MAN, GODZILLA VS. MEGALON, DON’T OPEN THE WINDOW, and THE CRAZIES. Their major essay reviews were literate and insightful, and also inside Volume 2, Number 5 (never understood the need to volumize the magazine) are Ross Care’s prescient take on THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (“The whole thing simply screams, ‘Cult!'”) to the merciless take-down of AT THE EARTH’S CORE (1976) with the caption on a particularly cheap image explaining, “That set must have cost Amicus at least $1.98.”
Better still, their production coverage was often the last word on the film subject, with entire issues devoted to all aspects of a single film such as FORBIDDEN PLANET; THE EXORCIST; ALIEN; WAR OF THE WORLDS; CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND; THE THING; SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES, and their famous pimping of THE WICKER MAN, which helped spread the word in 1977 (Sir Christopher Lee later sent the magazine his only letter ever responding to a negative review while thanking the readers for their support). Our featured volume above obviously focuses on the year’s big cinematic release, LOGAN’S RUN, and despite CFQ’s on-set access and interviews, their four-part examination was titled, “The Science Fiction Boom Begins With A Bomb.” The editors compare the 1968 novel by William Nolan and George Clayton Johnson to various screenplay drafts (the first magazine I ever read that published script excerpts), accurately highlighting numerous flaws in the feature with an honesty that today’s publicists would not allow, ultimately pointing out that the new wave of sci-fi films had yet to come. Frederick S. Clarke was savvy enough to sense the genre sea-change around the corner, and it’s ironic that in this very issue the “Previews” section included a long blurb on an upcoming film called THE STAR WARS, about the adventures of Luke Starkiller that would include a “12 minute space battle.”
As if all that were not enough for an impressionable geek, Volume 5, Number 2 also featured a great piece by animation maven, Mark Wolf, on all the uncredited effects artists who dilligently brought the hit sex parody FLESH GORDON (1974) to life. We learn that Jim Danforth did a few of the beautiful matte paintings, plus animated the impressive “Beetleman” fight — though he asked his name be taken off the credits (the perverse producers merely spelled it backwards). There are nifty rare stills of unused shots and a generous list of all the technicians who worked on the film, almost a who’s-who precursor to STAR WARS. This volume also features a letter from Rick Baker explaining his role in the controversy around the effects of the KING KONG remake. And this is just one standard issue from the period, so you can see what a wealth of genre information the magazine provided. CINFANTASTIQUE would gain in popularity when the official science fiction boom hit in May of 1977, and I miss the days of comic-shop haunting when they were still wthin the counter-cultural realm, discovering the latest glossy issue and rushing home to be engrossed by the cinematic Sense of Wonders within.