H. G. Wells on Film: The Utopian Nightmare (review)
- Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies
- Center for the Study of Film and History
- Volume 33, Number 2, 2003
- pp. 86-87
- Additional Information
Book Reviews | Regular Feature These criticisms aside, the true strength of this book lies with the individual in-depth analysis of each Brooks film, which follows the introduction chronologically. The movies included are The Producers, The Twelve Chairs, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Silent Movie, High Anxiety, History of the WorldPart I, To Be or Not to Be, Spaceballs, Life Stinks, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, and Dracula: Dead and Loving It. Each screenplay is reviewed independently, complete with a brief synopsis of the production, followed by the analysis and concluded with technical information. Furthermore, the technical information the author provides is a nice added bonus, especially for instructors who might be interested in the cast or running time of a specific production by Mel Brooks. Two other useful and interesting features of the text are the appendix ofother works by the filmmaker and the still shots taken from the reviewed movies. Mr. Crick explains that the list is by no means all-inclusive. A long, involved career such as the filmmaker has had, and still has, makes compiling an inclusive list very difficult. He states, "Finding out precisely when Mel Brooks had appeared on shows on Today or Larry King Live proved difficult enough but what about all those lesser-known shows (224)?" He adds, "Documentation of Brooks' audio, video, literary, and other creative output also remains sketchy at best, and some of Brooks work . . . has been long erased, discarded, or just plain lost (224)." Despite these difficulties, the author has still been able to create a notable and impressive list of the moviemaker's work throughout his career. In short, The Big Screen Comedies ofMel Brooks contains in-depth reviews, each with a synopsis and technical information regarding the specific Brooks film. In addition, photographs of these movies were added to illustrate the reviews and an extensive list of other works by the filmmaker can be found in the appendix . Mr. Robert Alan Crick's book, though, is not without a couple minor criticisms, such as setting lofty goals and lacking full support of stated remarks. They are, however, minor in comparison to what this text can provide as a reference tool for historians , instructors and students and, of course, the many fans of Mel Brooks. Jason P. Wojcik Cambria County Area Community College Jwojcik@mail.ccacc.cc.pa.us Don G. Smith. H.G. Wells on Film: The Utopian Nightmare. McFarland, 2002. 205 pages; $39.95. Widening Gulf Don G. Smith's H.G. Wells on Film is a reference work covering "every theatrically released film from 1909 to 1997 (both credited and unaccredited) based on the writings of H.G. Wells" (2). By casting his net so broadly, Smith reveals how frequently filmmakers have drawn on Wells' ideas over the last century (the book covers over forty films). At the same time, only a few of these motion picture adaptations actually addressed any of the stories' central concerns. This book is organized chronologically by the publication date ofthe original Wells stories. Smith offers abriefbackground and concise plot summary for each story, followed by full discussions ofevery cinematic incarnation. Each film's entry includes a synopsis, a comparison to the story that inspired it, an in-depth account of its production and marketing , an assessment of its strengths and weaknesses, and lastly a numerical rating. The organizational scheme of H.G. Wells on Film allows the reader to easily find information on a particular film or to see the different ways a specific story was adapted for the screen. Smith has a knack for clear and vivid plot summary , and has amassed an impressive amount of information (including some interesting trivia) about the making of each film, including those that no longer survive . The nature of the information provided varies by film, but his broad purview covers production, direction, screenwriting, cinematography, and acting. Numerous illustrations—from movie posters, stills, and lobby cards—supplementthe text. Smith's prose is easy to read, if a bit chatty and prone to irrelevant asides (such as how he would improve certain films' plots). Though this book is not intended as a contribution to Wells scholarship or to intellectual history, it is nevertheless...