Thursday, January 24, 2008

Amazing Stories: television show?

Last night I spoke at the Torrance Library and was so happy to see several brave folk show up despite the ridiculous rain/hail/thunderstorm occurring right at that moment. (You know things are crazy when the Emergency Activation System comes on the radio to announce the possibility of tornadoes in Southern California. As it was, a water spout was reported off the Long Beach coast). Anyway, Dana Vinke, the librarian, and I weren't expecting anybody to show up, but about ten people did. A wonderful time was had by all. Dana said he wanted me to come back - maybe he felt bad because there wasn't that much of a turnout because of the weather. But I didn't mind - I love talking about pulp fiction - there are so many interesting stories to tell. And I always end up meeting great people - and many times I end up learning something in return.

One of the patrons last night, a young woman, quiet and unassuming, asked me after the talk if I knew if Steven Spielberg's TV show "Amazing Stories" was based on the Amazing Stories pulp magazine. First of all, I had to admit that I had never heard of the show, and no, I didn't know if it was based on the pulp. Are you sure you're not thinking of Stephen King? I asked her. No, she was sure, it was Steven Spielberg.
Well, my curiosity was piqued by this exchange, so today I looked up "Amazing Stories." This cover, by the way, is from 1932.

Apparently this was a TV show that ran for two years in the mid 1980s, and yes it was created by Steven Spielberg. It was controversial, to say the least, for varied reasons. There was a lot of hype before it came out because of its illustrious creator, fueled by the fact that very little information was leaked out to the media before its debut. Spielberg was designing the show somewhat in the same vein as the Twilight Zone, with vignette stories directed by various directors and acted by guest stars. There were mixed reviews from what I can tell, but there seems to be a huge cult following now. And yes, Spielberg did create this show in the spirit of the Amazing Stories pulp magazine, although one paper dismissed it as "a pulpy sci-fi magazine from the 50s." Amazing Stories was much more than that, and it was around a long time before the 50s. This cover is from 1927, and included a story by H.G. Wells.

So I have ordered a copy of the first year's episodes and will check it out when it arrives.

So what other tv shows and movies have been inspired by the pulps, besides "Pulp Fiction" of course, which was inspired by the great hard-boiled detective magazine, "Black Mask," and Speilberg's Amazing Stories? Many of the pulp Westerns were transferred to the silver screen, 3:10 to Yuma being the most recent movie (and a remake). I think it would be a tough task to try to research all of these, but maybe some of the most famous and successful transitions might be worth mentioning. I know that "The Shadow" was made into a movie in the 1990s, starring Alec Baldwin. If you know of any others out there - write them in.


Jamdin said...

Victor Jory played Lamont Cranston and in the 1940 serial, The Shadow. Another pulp masked man, the Spider, appeared in a serial titled The Spider's Web (one of Columbia's best). Both serials have been edited down into movies.

Ron Ely starred in Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze movie released in 1975. Even Tarzan is a pulp character with several movies and television series have been made featuring him. Ron Ely even protrayed Tarzan. Two movies featuring Conan has been made and another has been in the works for years. A movie based on the John Carter of Mars serials is also in the works.

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