Wednesday, November 24, 2010

He’s Chevy Chase: The Starlog Project: Starlog #177, April 1992

Ever since fellow Saturday Night Live alum Dan Aykroyd got his mug on the cover of Starlog (#164), the jealousy must have been eating away at Chevy Chase. His hopes and dreams are finally sated with this issue, which features Chase on the cover with his Memoirs of an Invisible Man costar Daryl Hannah. Best of all, Chase didn’t have to wear a fat monster costume like Aykroyd did.

Seriously, though, Chase’s Memoirs film deserved a better reception from critics and at the box office than it received. According to the Internet Movie Database, the movie was budgeted around $40 million but grossed less than $14.4 million domestically. Director John Carpenter’s a creator who seldom gets the credit where it’s deserved, and often I think his box office failures are lumped together. But Memoirs was head and shoulders above something like Ghosts of Mars or Big Trouble in Little China, which were both (again, just IMHO) over-produced formulaic films.

I think (and I’ve written such elsewhere) that Carpenter is over-rated in many fan circles, but I do think he deserves credit for his good films, and Memoirs is one of them. The Thing is another, and of course that, too, was not exactly a blockbuster. The box office is a fickle friend.

Starlog #177
80 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $4.95

This issue contains some tantalizing tidbits about Treks that might have been. Read on ...

The rundown: Chevy Chase and Daryl Hannah hold down the cover, while none other than Mick Jagger guards the contents page. Four looooong letters fill up the three-page Communications section, in which they dissect Bruce Gordon’s latest Back to the Future theorizing from issue #170, plus Mike Fisher’s Creature Profile features (appropriately) the Invisible Man; David McDonnell’s Medialog gives us first word of a second live-action Star Trek spinoff series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – and McDonnell writes that the producers considered several possibilities before settling on the space station concept: “A Next Generation prequel (presumably set after the Trek classic films), a show set contemporaneously with the events seen in The Next Generation (allowing for guest star cross-overs) and the most fascinating of all, The Klingon Empire. A fourth possibility – [an] SF sitcom starring Majel Barrett as Lwaxana Troi – had been mulled by Barrett, Gene Roddenberry and The Sci-Fi Channel as a project for that cable network. But Roddenberry’s death and SFC’s start-up delays have sidelined that idea for now.” A Klingon series and a Troi sitcom. How life might have been soooo different!

Booklog expands to two pages and reviews Russian Spring, Heads, Shadow, Savior of Fire, Riverrun, Halo, Soothsayer, The Blood of a Dragon, Stranger Suns, The Elvenbane, The Other Sinbad, Slow Freight, and There Won’t Be War; the Fan Network pages include Lia Pelosi’s ongoing directory of fan clubs and publications, plus the convention calendar; David Hutchison’s Videolog warns us of the release of a Tobor the Great laserdisc, noting that prospective purchasers should “be warned that this film’s silly story and terrible acting can only be handled by the hardcore collector of genre ultra-campiness.”

Stan Nicholls interviews Gardner Dozois, an author and the editor of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, who explains the publication’s successful collaboration with its namesake: Asimov “really doesn’t have anything to do with picking the contents. If there’s some controversial topic, we may seek his opinion, but I would say for the most part he doesn’t dabble. … Asimov has always been very supportive of our choices, even when there have been stories he wouldn’t have chosen himself. He has been supportive of things like the use of explicit sex, violence and obscene language, even though these don’t figure much in his own fiction. He certainly could have imposed a more sanitary aesthetic style on the magazine if he wanted to. But Isaac has been smart enough to leave his editors alone, trust them and give them room to operate.”

In his From the Bridge column, Kerry O’Quinn time travels … several weeks; Kim Howard Johnson looks at new Tarzan comics; Steve Swires talks to Memoirs of an Invisible Man director John Carpenter, who admits that he was initially wary of working with a big-name actor like Chevy Chase, but a bigger challenge turned out to be the studio, which had to be convinced that Carpenter was right for the job: “The executive who was designated to say the things that nobody wanted to hear, told me, ‘We want to clarify that this is not a violent horror film.’ I stood up and said at the top of my lungs, ‘Aw, fooey, guys. I wanted to take the bad guy and rip his stomach apart, drain his blood on screen and wrap his entrails around the Invisible Man.’ They didn’t know what to make of me, because I was showing them how insulted I was. Then, I made my speech: ‘I got into this business because I wanted to direct Westerns. I can do any type of movie, so don’t give me your shit.’” – and Swires also pens a sidebar about a proposed Carpenter-led remake of Creature from the Black Lagoon; and Will Murray chats with Freejack screenwriter Ron Shusett, plus a sidebar by Howard M. Riell peeking at possible future films by Shusett.

Dan Yakir interviews German filmmaker Wim Wenders about his film Until the End of the World; Bill Florence talks to Don Mankiewicz, writer of the 1966 Star Trek episode “Court Martial”; Edward Gross gets director Nicholas Meyer to discuss his second Star Trek film, The Undiscovered Country, and how he basically decided to ignore some of the strictures of Gene Roddenberry’s Trek universe (plus there’s a sidebar looking at the original beginning of The Undiscovered Country, which included a newly retired Captain Kirk in his San Francisco apartment making out with Carol Marcus); Marc Shapiro talks to Star Trek VI producer Ralph Winter; keeping with the theme of the cover story, Michael Wolff (and illustrator George Kochell) examine stories featuring invisible characters; Bill Warren chats with Dick and Marge Save the World director Greg Beeman; and editor David McDonnell wraps it all up in his Liner Notes column, in which he discusses invisible movie coverage and offers a mea culpa for the previous issue’s cover, which I gently criticized in my last installment of this article series – McDonnell writes: “Yes, yes, issue #176’s cover did indeed turn out dreadful. Didn’t see it? That was the one with half of Emilio Estevez matted to half of Anthony Hopkins as one face ‘became’ the other in Freejack. … Great idea, but artistic decisions, color separation errors and time constraints rendered it an editorial disappointment. Boy, were we sorry, but it does demonstrate the truth of that old line ‘You can’t tell a book by its cover’ – because behind that cover was (I think) a really good Starlog.”
“The term ‘science fiction’ is a paradox in itself, because you can’t make a movie in the future; you can only make a movie today. If you’re projecting into the future, then it’ll certainly talk about your fears and desires and hopes today in the guise of a future world. So, the future would just be some sort of liberty you take, and I liked the idea of taking some liberties and talking about things that concern us today. … This film doesn’t intend to depict life in 1999 – that would be preposterous anyway – but setting it in the future lets you use technology that relates to visual culture. I thought it would be corny to tell a story today where somebody could show images to a blind person and extract images from a sleeping brain.”
– Wim Wenders, filmmaker, interviewed by Dan Yakir: “To the Ends of the Dream World”
For more, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent site.
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