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Max the Fifth

June 9, 2024 at 8:50 am
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Saw FURIOSA last week on an Imax screen.   The latest Mad Max movie… though, oddly, without Mad Max.   I don’t think there’s a better action director in the field than George Miller.   The  fights in FURIOSA are spectacular, especially on Imax.

I saw my first Mad Max film back in 1981.   That was ROAD WARRIOR, the second in the series (did not catch the first one until a few years later — I am not even sure it was ever released in Santa Fe).   The chase sequence blew me away.   The best ever put to film, I thought.   So good that I dragged Roger Zelazny out to see it a few days later, to show him what  the film version of DAMNATION ALLEY should have l0oked like.. and could have looked like, if they had hired the right director.  And they almost did, as it happens.   But that’s another story.

I would still rank ROAD WARRIOR’s climactic action chase as one of the best in movie history, especially since it was all practical, amazing real world stuntwork and not the sort of SFX and AI that dominates so many movies currently.   George Miller keeps trying to top himself.   BEYOND THUNDERDOME had some great action too, with the train chase… and the fight in the Thunderdome, though that was a different sort of animal.   After that there was a long hiatus before FURY ROAD came along, with a different Max and several huge chase scenes.   You can make a case for that one being bolder and bigger than any that had come before, though on balance I still liked ROAD WARRIOR more.

With FURIOSA, though, there’s no doubt.   Of course, Miller had a much bigger budget this time.   I think the original MAD MAX was made with the loose change he found in his couch pillows.  FURIOSA probably cost more than the first four Max movies put together.   Given its structure, it could just as easily been five features, or maybe three seasons of a television series.   I liked Anya Taylor Joy, who played Furiosa this time around.  The girl who played Furiosa as a child was good as well.  I liked Tom Burke (Praetorian Jack) and Chris Hemsworth as Dementus too… and the Citadel is a cool set, though it was used with more impact in FURY ROAD.

Overall, though, ROAD WARRIOR is still my favorite Mad Max movie.  FURIOSA and FURY ROAD both had their merits, but I’d still rank them below the second and third Mel Gibson films.    The new ones are bigger and more expensive, and the action scenes are huge… but the worldbuilding, the secondary characters, and the stories cannot compare.

And I miss the epilogues.  The closing scenes of both ROAD WARRIOR and BEYOND  THUNDERDOME are beautifully written, and make me choke up whenever I see them.


I love the bittersweet flavor of the epilogues.   In both instances Max is left by himself, standing alone in the road… which fits the character that was established in the first film, the loner so broken by the death of his wife and child that he no longer wants to be part of any community.   He does not want to be a hero (as Aunty Entity sings in THUNDERDOME), does not want to love again (and lose again, perhaps), but there is still a remnant of the cop he was buried inside him, and he finds himself dragged into heroism regardless.

FURY ROAD and FURIOSA have much darker endings than the earlier films.   They take place entirely in the Wasteland, where no shred of civilization remains.  The Green Place, where Furiosa is born, is seen in the new movie and sought after in previous one, but when finally found only death and corruption remains.   The Wasteland is ruled over by bloodthirsty gangs and their insane overlords.   In FURIOSA the only choice seem to be between Dementus and Immortan Joe… and slavery and death, always  on the menu too.   Is there anything beyond the Waste?  If so no one mentions it.  The earlier Mel Gibson films were much more balanced, their characters painted in shades of grey, even Max himself.   Bartertown and Auntie Entity, Master Blaster, the Lost Tribe (and the legendary Captain Walker), the pilot and his son from THUNDERDOME, and from ROAD WARRIOR Pappagallo, the Gyro Captain, the Mechanic and the Warrior Woman, and of  course the Feral Kid…  some of them die along the way, but more survive.   Max might be might a reluctant hero, but he is a hero nonetheless, and thanks to that  heroism, we get a semblence of a happy ending… at least in the epilogues.

George Miller has talked of wanting to do another film in the sequence, a movie called THE WASTELAND that would tell the story of what Max himself was doing between THUNDERDOME and FURY ROAD.   Having Mad Max in a Mad Max movie seems like a good idea… though less so if all he is going to be doing in wandering the Wasteland again.    Surely by now we have seen enough sand and stone and desolation.

I would be far more interested in seeing what is happening elsewhere in Australia.  How is the Gyro Captain doing as the leader of the Great Northern Tribe  (on the ocean somewhere, presumably, maybe up by Darwin or Townsville).  How long did he rule?  Did he build more gyros?   When did Feral Kid succeed him (presumably after he learned to talk), and what happened then?   And the Lost Tribe from BEYOND THUNDERDOME, they wind up in a ruined Melbourne at the end, lighting the lights to bring the wanderers home, and telling the tell the tell to the next generation so they remember who they are and where they came from (a beautiful speech).   There are stories there that I would love to hear one day, stories richer and deeper and more moving than anything going on in the wastes.

The problem is, Max can’t be part of those stories.  The epilogues made it clear; neither the Lost Tribe nor the Great Northern Tribe ever saw the road warrior again…

Ah, well.   That’s a problem for George Miller and his team.   I have my own issues back home in Westeros and Essos.   Worldbuilding can be a bitch.

I understand that FURIOSA has not done nearly was hoped, so maybe Miller will never get to make another Mad Max film.   That would be a pity, I think.   Whether set in the Great Red Center or the ruins of Melbourne, regardless of which characters it featured, I suspect Max VI would have splendid action scenes.   No one does that better than Miller.

Maybe someone should hire him to do a remake of DAMNATION ALLEY.   We’d finally get a proper Hell Tanner, and Roger would get the movie he always deserved.



Current Mood: thoughtful thoughtful

Howard Times Two

April 25, 2024 at 8:12 am
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If you missed seeing our adaptation of Howard Waldrop’s classic short NIGHT OF THE COOTERS when it was out on the film festival circuit, I’m pleased to say that you have another chance.   This year’s Balticon will be featuring a program of short films, and COOTERS will be one of the movies they are showing.

Balticon will be held over Memorial Day weekend (May 27-31),  in Baltimore, Maryland.










Meantime, our second Waldrop short, Steven Paul Judd’s adaptation of MARY-MARGARET ROAD-GRADER, has just been accepted for the deadCenter Film Festival in Oklahoma City.

MARY-MARGARET is on submission to half a dozen other film festivals, around the country and the world.   Watch this space for details as to when and where it will be showing.

THE UGLY CHICKENS is coming soon as well, and after that, FRIENDS FOREVER.   Dates and details to come.

Howard Waldrop was one of the great ones.   We’ve tried to do justice to his genius with these short films… but no one can match H’ard itself.   Come see the shorts, if you have a chance.   And read the stories.


Current Mood: accomplished accomplished

The Chickens Are Coming

March 13, 2024 at 7:16 pm
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Howard Waldrop is gone, but his work will live on.

We’ve completed work on two more short films, based on a couple of Howard’s best stories (he wrote so many, it was very hard to choose).

You can find the trailer for MARY-MARGARET ROAD GRADER several posts down.

And here’s the latest one, an adaptation of Howard’s most famous story, THE UGLY CHICKENS.  Winner of the Nebula.   Winner of the World Fantasy Award.   Nominee for the Hugo, but, alas, not a winner.   A pity, that.  Howard never won a Hugo, but in some more Waldropian  world he has ten of them lined up on his mantle.

Felicia Day (SUPERNATURAL, THE GUILD, DR. HORRIBLE’S SING ALONG BLOG) stars in our film of “that dodo story.”   Mark Raso (COPENHAGEN, KODACHRONE) directed.   Michael Cassutt (TWILIGHT ZONE, MAX HEADROOM, TV101, EERIE INDIANA, and many more) did the screenplay.

Howard saw a rough cut of the film before he died.   He liked it, which pleases me no end.   I only wish we had been able to screen the final cut for him.

Meanwhile, here’s our trailer.

We’re taking THE UGLY CHICKENS and MARY-MARGARET ROAD GRADER out on the film festival circuit, as we did with NIGHT OF THE COOTERS before them.   Don’t know yet when and where you will be able to see them — that depends on the festivals — but watch this space, and I will be sure to let you know where the films are playing.

Current Mood: pleased pleased

Come to the Pulls

February 3, 2024 at 3:04 pm
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Howard Waldrop had a new book out last year:  H’ARD STARTS: THE EARLY WALDROP, from Subterranean Press.   Brad Denton and I put it together.  It was a collection of Howard’s earliest work — the stories he wrote for comic book fanzines in the 60s and early 70s, some plays from college, con reports, articles from CRAWDADDY, a sketch he wrote for Red Skelton (Red passed), sword and sorcery in the mode of Robert E. Howard, science fiction in the mode of Cordwainer Smith, and his earliest pro work, including his first sale, one of the last stories bought by John W. Campbell Jr.  Plus the never-published “Davy Crockett Shoots the Moon,” a story purely in the mode of Howard Waldrop.  All of it tied together by a series of interviews done by Brad Denton, wherein H’ard told the stories behind the stories, and how all this came to be.

It’s a swell book, if I do say so myself.   Howard liked it too.  If you missed it, you can still grab a copy from SubPress, autographed by me, Brad, and Howard himself.

Howard also had a movie out last year… well, actually the year before, but overlapping.   NIGHT OF THE COOTERS, an adaptation of his novelette of the same name, debuted at the LA Shorts Film Festival, where it won the award for Best Sci-Fi.  Scripted by Joe Lansdale, directed and starring Vincent d’Onofrio, produced by the sfx wizards at Trioscope, it spent most of the year on the festival circuit, screening at the Atlanta Film Festival, the Dubuque Film Festival,  FilmQuest in Provo, Utah, the New York Shorts Film Festival, Midwest WeirdFest in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and the Santa Fe International Film Festival, winning several additional awards along the way.

Howard liked it too.

COOTERS was just the beginning, though.  Only the first of a series of short films — and one full-length feature, we hope — we have been making, based on some of Howard’s astonishing, and unique, stories.   He wrote so many, it was hard to know where to start, but start we did, and I am pleased to say that we have three more Waldrop movies filmed and in the can, in various stages of post production.   Some of you — the lucky ones — will get a chance to see them this year, at a film festival near you.  As with COOTERS, we’re taking them out on the festival circuit.

First one out of the chute will be MARY-MARGARET ROAD GRADER.   We were able to screen a rough cut for Howard just a few days before his death.  I am so so so glad we did.   And I am thrilled to be able to report that he loved it.

We can’t show it to the world yet.   But here’s a trailer, to give you all a taste.

MARY-MARGARET was adapted and directed by Steven Paul Judd, and features an all-indigenous cast, with Crystal Lightning as Mary-Margaret and  Martin Sensemeier as Billy-Bob Chevrolet.  The tractors are all by our friends at Trioscope.

I will be sure to let you know where the movie will be appearing just as soon as we hear back from some of those film festivals.

And there’s more coming after that.  Next up will be THE UGLY CHICKENS, Howard’s most famous story, which won the Nebula and the World Fantasy Award (and should have won the Hugo too, if you ask me).   That one is almost done, and I hope to have a trailer for you soon.   Further down the pike is the film we’re calling FRIENDS FOREVER (that will not be the final title), which should be ready in another four-five months.

And after that, we hope we hope, will come the feature, a full length adaptation of A DOZEN TOUGH JOBS.   Have not started filming on that yet, but the deals are in place.   The amazing Joe Lansdale adapted the novella, and Howard loved the script.

I wish he was here to see the movies.  To see all the movies.

Howard’s gone.   But his genius lives on.

Current Mood: pleased pleased

A Rocket from Wisconsin

October 17, 2023 at 1:32 pm
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Back in March, we showed our short film NIGHT OF THE COOTERS at the Midwest Weirdfest festival in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and won the award for Best Science Fiction Short.

The trophy was not ready at the time, but it is now, and the good folks in Eau Claire were kind enough to send it to us.


It’s very cool, and we’re pleased to add it to the awards shelf.

NIGHT OF THE COOTERS had a good run on the festival circuit.   We exhibited the film at LA Shorts and NY Shorts, Genreblast (Provo, Utah), Midwest Weirdfest (Eau Claire), Atlanta Film Festival, Santa Fe International Film Festival, Dubuque Film Festival, and took home five awards.   At this point, though, COOTERS is retiring from the festival circuit for the time being, while we try to put together a distribution deal.  Meanwhile, we have two more Howard Waldrop shorts almost ready to go.  Watch this space.   When we have some details on times and showings, I will be glad to share them here.

NIGHT OF THE COOTERS was based on Howard Waldrop’s short story of the same title, with a screenplay by Joe Lansdale.   Vincent d’Onofrio directed, and also starred as Sheriff Lindley of Pachuco, Texas.



Current Mood: happy happy

Cooters In Atlanta

May 19, 2023 at 7:17 pm
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This year’s Atlanta Film Festival was held April 20-25 in Atlanta (natch), Georgia.   I was on hand, along with some friends, minions, associates, and, of course, our cooters, to present a special screening of our short film, NIGHT OF THE COOTERS, based on Howard Waldrop’s classic short story.

The film was very well received, I am pleased to report.  (I do wish Howard had been on hand to enjoy the applause, but alas, he’s still in Texas and not able to travel for the present).  Vincent d’Onofrio, who directed the short and starred as Sheriff Lindley, took a short break from playing the Kingpin and flew down from New York to join us.

I don’t think I have been back to Atlanta since worldcon went there, many years ago.   It was great to be back.  The weather was perfect.  We got to enjoy a Braves game from one of the owner’s boxes, and they brought me out onto the field to the sound of the GAME OF THRONES theme to start the game by shouting “Play Ball.”  (I was tempted to shout “Let’s Go Mets” instead, but (a) the Mets were not playing, and (b) the Braves fans might have stoned me to death).   It was a great day for the Braves, fwiw:  they won 11-0, with five home runs, and the pitcher had a no-hitter going for seven innings or so.

We stayed at the historic Clermont Hotel.   The festival folk were wonderfully hospitable, and we got to visit some great old movie theatres… I have a soft spot for old movie palaces.   A ballroom at the historic Fox theatre was the site of the festival’s awards presentation.  Very cool.

Vincent and I were honored with a couple of awards from the festival:  his was the Phoenix, and mine the Originator.   We were in great company.   Jimmy Carter was also presented with an award, accepted for him by one of his grandsons and Francis Ford Coppola.

Baseball games and awards are wonderful, of course, but the real highlight of the visit was getting to have dinner with Francis Ford Coppola, one of the greatest directors of this, or any other, age.   A fascinating guy, and I loved our conversation.   He spoke with such passion about the film he is now making that I can’t wait to see it.



Current Mood: cheerful cheerful

Cooters on the Road

April 18, 2023 at 2:35 pm
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Them dosh-garned cooters are spreading out, despite the best efforts of Sheriff Lindley, his deputy Sweets, them miscreants, and the other good people of Pachuco, Texas.   If this keeps up, they’ll be everywhere.

Not quite yet, though.   This month, we have it on good authority that they plan to attack Atlanta, Georgia and Dubuque, Iowa.

So if you’ve had a hankering to check out our award-winning short film NIGHT OF THE COOTERS, based on the classic award-losing short story by Howard Waldrop, that national treasure, you can catch it at the ATLANTA FILM FESTIVAL

Cooters will be screening on APRIL 22, 8:00pm, at the Rialto Center.   I will be on hand to introduce the film, along with our star and director, Vincent d’Onofrio (Sheriff Lindley himself), that guy DeSpain, and the good folks from Atlanta’s own Trioscope.

We’ll be doing a panel afterwards too.   The festival will be screening all sorts of other amazing new features and shorts as well, so if you’re in Georgia or nearby, do swing by.

That’s not the end, though.   After Atlanta, the cooters and I will be headed up to Dubuque, Iowa (where, as it happens, I lived from 1976-1979, teaching journalism at Clarke College) for the JULIEN DUBUQUE FILM FESTIVAL.

I am told we have two screenings of NIGHT OF THE COOTERS scheduled for Dubuque: on APRIL 26 and again on APRIL 27.   There will be lots of other cool films to see as well… and in between movies, if you are so inclined, you can take a ride on a steamboat,  ascend to the top of the bluffs on the Fenelon Place Elevator, and check out the historic river town where I first got the idea for FEVRE DREAM.

But watch out for them cooters.

See you in Georgia… or maybe Iowa.


Current Mood: bouncy bouncy

Cooters Take Wisconsin

March 15, 2023 at 7:47 pm
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VERY pleased to announce that NIGHT OF THE COOTERS kicked ass and took names at this year’s Midwest Weirdfest in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, winning the festival laurel as the Best Short.

It’s the third victory for our little movie since we hit the festival circuit.   COOTERS was also named Best Sci-Fi at the LA Shorts Film Festival back in November, and again at the New York Shorts earlier this year.

NIGHT OF THE COOTERS is based on the short story by the one and only Howard Waldrop, adapted for the screen by Joe R. Lansdale, directed by and starring Vincent d’Onofrio, produced by Trioscope and Lumenscape.    The film is not in general release yet, but we’re out on the circuit, so look for it at a film fest near you.   Next up on our calendar, looks like, will be Atlanta.   See you there.

Current Mood: bouncy bouncy

Lost and Found

February 7, 2023 at 9:15 am
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“You can buy anything you might desire from Gray Alys.   But it is better not to.”

Those were the opening words of my short story “In the Lost Lands,” first published in the DAW anthology AMAZONS II  in 1982.   In the first decade or so of my career most of what I wrote was science fiction, set amidst the Thousand Worlds, the shared background of dozens of my stories and my first novel, DYING OF THE LIGHT.   “In the Lost Lands” was a bit of a departure; a pure fantasy.  (I loved fantasy just as much as SF, but back in the 70s and 80s there was not much of a market for fantasy shorts).   It was meant to be the first in a series of stories about Gray Alys, a mysterious sorceress in a distant, magical realm, who provides her patrons with whatever they might wish… if they are foolish enough, to buy from her.   You deal with Gray Alys at your peril.

I wanted to write six or eight or ten Gray Alys stories, then put them all together in a collection… or perhaps a “fix up” novel.   That was a common approach back in those days.   And one I used myself with another character, Haviland Tuf.  I wrote a series of Tuf stories, then an interstitial to bridge them all together, and published them as TUF VOYAGING.

Alas, for whatever reason, I never wrote that second Gray Alys story.  (I did begin one, long ago.   Got two pages, I think, then set it aside, and never returned to it).   Why?  Damned if I know.   It was a long time ago.    I always liked the character, though.

That’s why it thrills me to announce that she will soon be appearing on the big screen.   IN THE LOST LANDS, the movie, wrapped filming in Poland a few weeks ago!   Paul W.S. Anderson, director of MONSTER HUNTER, EVENT HORIZON, and the RESIDENT EVIL series, helmed the picture.   Milla Jovovich stars as Gray Alys, and Dave Bautista as Boyce.   Constantin Werner (PAGAN QUEEN) served as writer and producer.

IMDB has information on the rest of the cast.

We’ve just started the post production process, and there’s a lot of special effects and other work yet to do, so IN THE LOST LANDS likely won’t be appearing at your local cinema until some time in 2024.    We are also hoping to do a tie-in graphic novel, which will include both my original story (quite short, at 6,000 words or so) and the larger, darker, more expansive world of the film.   That’s still in early days, though.

And who knows?   If the gods are good, and IN THE LOST LANDS turns out to be a hit, maybe we’ll get to tell the further adventures of Gray Alys after all.   I have a sheet of ideas around here somewhere…

Current Mood: bouncy bouncy

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July 2, 2022 at 8:45 am
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These past couple of years, what with covid and all, I have fallen way behind on my movie-going.   Which is a shame, since I loved going to movies… in a movie theatre, ideally.   Hell, I own a movie theatre.   And we have the best popcorn in Santa Fe, still!

We did not have DR. STRANGE AND THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS, however.   Elsewise I might have seen it sooner.   Parris and I did finally catch it a few days ago, though, and…

I have to say, I loved it.

Sam Raimi has always been one of my favorite directors.   And Dr. Strange has always been one of my favorite Marvel characters.   And this version of Dr. Strange, slipping through portals into surreal dimensions full of floaty things and alternate realities, was the Doctor I fell in love with, way way way back when world was young (and so was I).   They even gave us CLEA!   I love Clea!

Seeing this movie brought back a cherished memory, of the day I attended the world’s first comicon, in 1964 in Greenwich Village.  I was fifteen years old.   The whole con was held in one small room in some sort of union hall, with hucksters selling old comics from cardboard boxes along one wall, and the speakers at a podium in the front.   Fabulous Flo Steinberg turned up.. and so did Steve Ditko.   It might well have been the only comicon he ever attended… but I got to talk to him, and tell him how much I loved his art.   Especially on Dr. Strange.   Ditko was reserved, maybe a bit shy, but genial enough.   He told me that Dr. Strange was his favorite as well.   Yes, even more than Spider-Man.

He’s still one of the best comic artists who ever picked up a pencil, in my not-so-humble opinion.

Anyway… MULTIVERSE woke the sleeping Marvel fanboy in me, and that was a joy.

So says a former member of the Merry Marvel Marching Society.




Current Mood: nerdy nerdy