Several years ago, I began researching my current book project, a full-length biography of writer/director Tom Graeff. The book is tentatively titled Smacks of Brilliance: The Forgotten Life of Filmmaker Tom Graeff. The following is an excerpt from the introduction. This is still a work-in-progress. Many people have asked me if I have a publisher or any idea when the book is coming out. The answer to both questions is No. I will begin the process of approching agents and editors with a book proposal soon, but it's a time-intensive and frustrating task, so I'm putting it off as long as I can. Writing the book is much more fun.
-- Jim Tushinski
I’ve known about Tom Graeff, without realizing it, for most of my life.
By the 1960s, Hollywood studios were on a downward spiral. To help offset the decline in ticket sales, the studios sold their libraries of old films to television—their fiercest competitor for the American public’s attention. Along with the higher profile pictures, boasting slick production values and Hollywood style, came hundreds of westerns, film noirs, and science fiction and horror movies, most made for very little money. Many of these films had been produced independently in the 1950s but were distributed by the major and minor studios to fill double bills. The films were designed to delight kids and provide moments of shock during which a girl could grab a boy’s hand or bury her face in his chest. What had once been designed for the boisterous group experience of a Saturday matinee was now being shown to families sitting quietly around a flickering blue screen in their living rooms.
In my case, the movies were unspooling into the imagination of a lonely boy looking for a way out of the routines and conformity of Midwestern suburbia. Usually these films, sporting titles like Tarantula, The Killer Shrews, or I Married a Monster From Outer Space, came on right after school in that lull before dinner that allowed me to justify not starting my homework. The films would show up on Saturday mornings, too—an alternative to cartoons while my parents slept in, exhausted from a week of providing for the family.