Has it really been 50 years since The Exorcist first scared the bejesus out of everyone? I interviewed the author of the new tribute, The Exorcist Legacy: 50 Years of Fear (2023, Kensington), for a piece that recently popped on the Mystery Scene website.
Nat Segaloff was working as publicity director for a Boston theater chain when Exorcist first opened. He subsequently got to know both filmmaker William Friedkin and author William Peter Blatty, who wrote the 1971 bestseller on which the film is based as well as its Oscar-winning screenplay adaptation. Curious about the Exorcist “curse” (the weird goings-on during the film’s production)? The industry backlash when the movie was nominated for 10 Oscars, but won only two? How about how the film’s star-less cast contributed to the film’s success? In his exhaustive compendium, Segaloff provides all the background details, and explains why the film ranks as a great whodunit.
You can find my piece here: https://mysteryscenemag.com/blog-article/7698-q-a-with-nat-segaloff-author-of-the-exorcist-legacy-50-years-of-fear
P.S. Back in 1973, Yours Truly was among the throngs standing in a line that wrapped around an entire city block, waiting to see the movie at the National Theatre in Westwood, California. Hey, it was worth the wait!
This month I’m “ravin'” about my double bill of reviews for the Mystery Scene website: A Mystery of Mysteries: The Death and Life of Edgar Allan Poe and Corman/Poe: Interviews and Essays Exploring the Making of Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe Films, 1960–1964.
The first book, by Mark Dawidziak, opens with the literary icon’s strange passing in Baltimore — a city he wasn’t intending to visit — at age 40 in 1849. Found wearing another man’s clothes, not long after telling a friend “I am full of dark forebodings,” Poe added to the ensuing intrigue by calling out a name in his final hours that no one recognized. Dawidziak examines the many theories of what he labels “one of the great literary stage exits of all time,” tracing Poe’s rise, struggles, artistry and that confounding demise.
In the second, Chris Alexander explores Roger Corman’s popular cycle of eight films based on the darkly imaginative writer’s most famous works; interviews with the pioneering producer/director himself add to the author’s astute analysis.
I recommend both publications … and the website, which you’ll find at https://mysteryscenemag.com/
I’m pleased to be making my debut as the non-fiction columnist for Mystery Scene magazine in the upcoming Fall issue – this after the retirement of much-respected longtime columnist Jon L. Breen. In my first column I cover a trio of new titles about genre royalty Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes, and examine a true crime entry about the classic Leopold & Loeb case.
I’ve been busy on the fiction front, too. My short story “The Fast and the Furriest,” about a Hollywood fixer, was reprinted in June’s Black Cat Weekly # 41 – which I think is apt, as I’m an unapologetic Cat Lady. The piece first appeared in the pages of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. You can order a copy here: https://www.fantasticfiction.com/l/frank-belknap-long/black-cat-weekly-41.htm
Finally caught up with Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis” … and it was definitely worth the price of admission! This is a very, very authorized take on the King – there is absolutely nothing to upset the powers-that-be within the “Graceland industry.” But although it’s a sanitized account of Presley’s life and career – and that’s the only way this movie was going to get access to all that famous music, etc. – it’s also fabulously produced, and earnestly performed, with Austin Butler giving his all in the title role.
Luhrmann takes oodles of creative license, with the action happening in his trademark flamboyant, sometimes mind-boggling fashion. Along the way the film dodges minefields: several women with whom Elvis was seriously involved, who aren’t popular with the Presley clan, don’t warrant so much as a howdy-do; the Memphis Mafia is downplayed; Elvis’s military time (when he seriously started popping pills) gets short shrift; ditto weight-related issues.
But if this isn’t a warts and all biopic, it does hit the high notes of E’s career, and also serves as an introduction for the younger crowd. And it’s certainly a showcase for Luhrmann’s hyperventilating screen style. This film will be in contention for numerous Oscar technical categories – and possibly, for Tom Hanks’s performance as Colonel Parker. Meantime, with everyone all shook up again, Elvis will continue to entice.
(You’ll find additional thoughts in a longer version of this review on my Facebook page.)
It may be an election year, but all the slings and arrows from warring candidates and their respective parties can’t compare to the ominous weaponry and sinister plots perpetrated in politics of the literary kind. In the latest issue (Spring 2022) of Mystery Scene magazine, I take a look at political thrillers: The best-sellers. The writers (some of them actual politicos). The history. And more. The magazine is now on newsstands.