Saturday, 28 March 2015

Perchance to Dream

Charles Beaumont deserves to be better known. He was one of the writers (along with Robert Bloch and Richard Matheson) who contributed some great horror/fantasy episodes to The Twilight Zone. Unlike his co-writers, though, Beaumont died relatively young, in 1967. A few years later Matheson and Bloch both enjoyed TV success.

If Beaumont had lived he might have given us some wonderful movies and TV shows. Like Matheson, he might have produced much of his best work in his middle and later years. As it was Beaumont suffered a slow, painful, and mysterious decline due to a disease that aged him rapidly. He died at 38 but according to his son he looked 98. Towards the end his writer friends stepped in to meet deadlines for him, He insisted on splitting the fees.

I have to confess a special affection for Beaumont because he scripted one of the best bad sf movies. Queen of Outer Space, featuring a young Zsa Zsa Gabor. While director Ben Hecht wanted a straight space movie, Beaumont transformed Hecht's dumb story into an affectionate parody of the genre that's still fun to watch.

Perchance to Dream

Now Penguin Classics have brought out a collection of Beaumont's tales. I think that's rather wonderful, as a few years ago the only way you could get them was in the form of old, tatty paperbacks - or at least what was my experience. The cover's cool, too.

Oh, and the title story? One of my all-time favourite TZ episodes, about a man who seeks help because he is terrified of falling asleep. Who could forget Maya the Cat Girl (Suzanne Lloyd), or the twist ending? I really must watch the Twilight Zone again, it's good for morale.


JeffreyA said...

There is a very informative biographical introduction to Beaumont, penned by Roger Anker, to be found in "Mass for Mixed Voices" (Centipede Press, 2012). This reveals that Beaumont suffered several serious childhood illnesses, including meningitis. He subsequently developed severe headaches, for which he took large quantities of Bromo-Seltzer (this in the days before the toxicity of bromine had been recgonised). It seems probable that bromine poisoning was responsible for his sudden decline and untimely death.

Joe Muszynski said...

In a wonderful coincidence, I just watched the Twilight Zone episode "The Howling Man." One of my favorites, and I noticed Beaumont was the writer. I will have to pick this collection up!