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Masters of Science Fiction (TV series)

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26 August 2007, 08:06 AM
Chapter 31
Masters of Science Fiction (TV series)
The best beyond a doubt. Denehy and Hurt were excellent. And the wonderful mood, with the camera coming in on the Gulag station with the blues piece playing, with piano and muted trumpet and then later with snare drum and xylophone. Ellison must be dancing on air right now. If only Ray could get this kind of treatment to his work.
26 August 2007, 02:48 PM
ravenswake
Good, better, best, fantastic--at least this four-episode series went out on a high note.

Much agreed, Chapter 31, the tone of this episode, visually and instrumentally, was excellent. Did you note the direction? Jonathan Frakes; Will Ryker of Star Trek/TNG. I have to wonder if Ellison was pleased, and if Frakes and Ellison met for the production.
26 August 2007, 03:24 PM
Chapter 31
Mr. Frakes has turned out to be a wonderful supporter of filmed science fiction. I think he directed all of the stories.

Ellison anecdote: Isaac Asimov was very happy with Harlan Ellison’s script to “I, Robot” but Harlan couldn’t see eye to eye with the omnipotent ones in Hollywood so it never got produced. Asimov then wrote in one of his editorials, “Darn you, Harlan!” I’d like to think that if he knew of this teleplay he would now say, “Good for you, Harlan.”
27 August 2007, 01:21 PM
philnic
On the Harlan Ellison message board at harlanellison.com, HE has made it clear that he is very pleased with the episode, including the direction. Ellison must have met Jonathan Frakes, as HE makes a small appearance in the episode (disguised as an alien).

Chapter31, I don't believe that's the reason Ellison's I ROBOT screenplay was never filmed. However, it's one of Hollywood's great losses, as it is a beautiful piece of screenwriting, an incredible blend of Ellison styling and Asimov's plotting.


- Phil

Deputy Moderator | Visit my Bradbury website: www.bradburymedia.co.uk | Visit the Center for RB Studies: www.tinyurl.com/RBCenter
27 August 2007, 02:15 PM
LordShen
Frakes has incredible respect for the genre and this screamed his style. I was overjoyed from beginning to end. What alien/mutant was HE? The story also struck a personal chord with me, having spent some of my childhood in and out of hospitals due to illness and heart conditions.


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28 August 2007, 02:46 AM
philnic
quote:
Originally posted by LordShen:
What alien/mutant was HE?


This one!

I wonder if he went to the studio refectory made up like that. It reminds me of an Orson Welles anecdote. When he was made up for his part in Touch of Evil (all padding and large fake nose), people greeted him by saying "You're looking well, Orson").


- Phil

Deputy Moderator | Visit my Bradbury website: www.bradburymedia.co.uk | Visit the Center for RB Studies: www.tinyurl.com/RBCenter
28 August 2007, 07:51 AM
LordShen
I thought as much! Thanx philnic!


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28 August 2007, 04:26 PM
ravenswake
Thanks for the link, philnic; for some reason it never occurred to me that there was a harlanellison.com. Ellison's treatment of Asimov's "I, Robot," is still a movie that needs to be made. Successful movies are remade all the time.

I thumbed through the book again this morning, "I, Robot, The Illustrated Screenplay." Some notes:

Asimov's forward mentions three reasons why this screenplay didn't get made. ". . .Harlan's imagination took no account of the economic facts of life. The picture would have cost some thirty million dollars to make. . .." This, in the first Star Wars era. Then, Asimov mentions, the studio wanted cuter robots and a cuter Susan Calvin. And, finally, "Harlan is not known for his equanimity and pliability. When he is asked to do something stupid, he is quite likely to say, 'This is stupid,' with some ornamental additions of his own."

And, from HE's forward, Ellison mentions how he had a meeting with the then-head of Warner Bros., and discovered his screenplay hadn't even been read! HE then told the exec, "You've got the intellectual capacity of an artichoke!"

In 1980, Irvin Kershner was approached by Warners to direct. Kershner agreed, but only with HE on board. But the same studio exec wouldn't let it happen. And so it goes.

Excellent illustrations in this book by Mark Zug, too. Maybe someday. Thought these bits might be interesting to others.
29 August 2007, 12:46 AM
Chapter 31
Thanks, philnic. I guess that finance was the main culprit but I still think that artistic disagreements played a role.
29 August 2007, 01:06 AM
philnic
ravenswake, thanks for actually looking in the book and checking the facts! I wasn't in a position to do this, unfortunately, as my copy of the book is in storage somewhere.

The fact is that the vast majority of films never get made. So there doesn't have to be a specific reason that I Robot never got done. In fact, of course, the project bounced around for years (decades) until, eventually, one of the OTHER screenplays for the project came to be shot.

Another major movie project Ellison worked on around the same time was Norman Spinrad's Bug Jack Barron. You will sometimes hear that Ellison's script for this must have been unfilmable, or that there were personality problems. In fact, that movie also went into "development hell". If you search YouTube, Spinrad is on there telling the true story of what went on.

But Ellison could at least laugh all the way to the bank. He told Roger Ebert recently that in his career to date he has written (and been paid for) 27 screenplays that never got made. It's tragic, because his published screenplays are stunning.


- Phil

Deputy Moderator | Visit my Bradbury website: www.bradburymedia.co.uk | Visit the Center for RB Studies: www.tinyurl.com/RBCenter
29 August 2007, 11:47 PM
Chapter 31
“Darn you, Harlan!”
13 January 2014, 09:06 PM
Doug Spaulding
quote:
Originally posted by Chapter 31:
“Darn you, Harlan!”

So says Milhouse.


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