Film historian Jim Nemeth is the co-author of “It Came From…” (Spenser Hasak)
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Jim Nemeth has been hooked on science fiction and fantasy books and movies since he was a kid growing up in Chicago, so it’s somewhat appropriate we’re wearing facemasks and maintaining a safe distance while chatting on the deck of his Marblehead home.
This could be a futuristic scene from a Ray Bradbury novel or 1950s spookfest by Don Siegel or Jack Arnold. Two earthlings just trying to survive a deadly virus on a dying planet.
Nemeth, who moved to town with husband Ken Bowden in 2005, is probably smiling behind his mask. He’s just fulfilled a lifelong dream, to write and publish a book about the stories and novels behind classic horror, fantasy and sci-fi films.
“It Came From…,” co-written with fellow film historian Bob Madison, will thrill fans of the genre. It has been in the works since 2011. “I hit a brick wall, terrible writer’s block,” said Nemeth. “But with support and encouragement from Bob, my longtime friend and co-writer, he got me out of the block and I wrote like crazy.”
Nemeth spent many a day, laptop in hand, sitting on the sand at Devereux Beach, writing “It Came From…”
“When I was young, I discovered classic vampires and Frankensteins. Saturday nights, Chicago TV aired ‘Creature Features.’ which ran horror movies. As I got older, I just had to read every horror book I could find.” Nemeth soon wanted to know how these movies were made. He spent hundreds of hours researching the original stories and screenplays, and deduced that loving the book didn’t always mean he loved the movie, and vice versa. He talked with directors, actors, and behind-the-scenes personnel from his favorite movies, plus authors of the original story and the writers who adapted those stories for film.
The book, available from Amazon and other online retailers, is published by Midnight Marquee Press of Baltimore. It contains 21 essays providing comparisons between original source material and the feature film for well-known classics, cult favorites with a focus on less-covered works. It is not without controversy: Nemeth isn’t a fan of “Psycho,” the acclaimed Alfred Hitchcock motion picture that scared the bejesus out of millions of filmgoers.
“This is the 60th anniversary of (the movie) ‘Psycho,’ so people are paying special attention. Not everyone agrees with my assessment of the film, evident from some of the comments I’ve received from those who have read the book.”
He’s also not wild about “The Shining,” calling Stanley Kubrick’s big-screen translation of Stephen King’s beloved novel a disappointment that emphasized style and scares over King’s deftly developed characters and their motivations.
Other renowned films or screenplays get the stink-eye from Nemeth and Madison, but “It Came From…” mostly celebrates and professes its love for sci-fi, fantasy and horror. Favorites include “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” “This Island Earth,” “Planet of the Apes,” 2012’s little-seen “John Carter” and various Supermans, Draculas, and Frankensteins.
In 1993, Nemeth entered a national magazine’s short-story writing contest with his tale about a vampire who was outsmarted by a total eclipse of the sun. At the Famous Monsters World Convention in Virginia, Bradbury and Robert Bloch (“Psycho” author) judged his work the best. “Just to know that two of my favorite writers read my story and liked it was thrilling. That was enough for me.”
Nemeth and Bowden share their house with two cats: a boy, Bob (“We just like the name.”), and a girl, Carly (named for singer-songwriter Carly Simon). Nemeth isn’t sure if Bob and Carly give “Cat People” and “The Black Cat” paws-up or makes them scaredy cats.
Nemeth, a technical writer in the corporate software field, hopes there will be a sequel to “It Came From…”
“One of my goals was to have this book placed in the window of Marblehead’s Spirit of ’76 Bookstore. I just missed out. It closed in December … I miss that place every day.”