Monday, November 19, 2012


1979, possibly first edition, from FOTONOVEL Publications
Neil Israel etc.*
Original price unknown, purchase price $1.85
Worn paperback

Once again, I'm giving a novelization of a bad 1970s movie a C+, although this one is a "FOTONOVEL."**  This makes it more faithful than, say, the Digby adaptation, although there are a few lines that didn't make the movie, and much of the sexual humor has been, um, stripped out.  I almost went with a B-, but some of the stills came out really dark.

Since the movie was released to DVD only last year and was a flop in theaters, I guess I should summarize it for you.  Narrator George Carlin looks back to 1998, when he was a young Peter Riegert and John Ritter was President.  (As the magazine covers in the Where Are They Nows reveal, the present is actually 2005ish.)  The country is broke, in debt to NIKE (National Indian Knitting Enterprises), and unscrupulous presidential aide Fred Willard might sell the US to the Hebrabs, unless a telethon led by has-been actor Harvey Korman raises enough money in time.  And there are lots of music cameos, most of which didn't make it into the FOTONOVEL.  (Another reason I can't give a higher grade.)

How does this world of the late '90s compare to Cerf & co's '80s?  Well, Look Back seems to have a more consistent overall plan, while this story just seems to be thrown together.  For instance, if Mouling was living with Warren Beatty in 2002, when she was 1/3 his age, that makes her about 22 to his 65, and only 18 in 1998, which Zane Buzby definitely doesn't look.  Also, if North Dakota is the first all-gay state, why is there a picture of Mount Rushmore?

There are some similarities in their predictions, as in both the UK is an amusement-park-like state of the US, Limeyland here, the United Magic Kingdom in Look Back.  The Arabs go broke in Cerf's '80s, due to the Oil Glut, while here they have an empire with the Israelis.  The US is equally bad off in both, especially economically.  In both versions of America, meat is illegal, jogging suits are fashionable.  OK, the latter was true in the real late twentieth century.  In fact, on the Internet there are quite a few lists of all the things that this movie predicted, such as China's embrace of capitalism and the emergence of reality TV.  By the time the real 1998 rolled around and I'd watched this movie several times on VHS, I'd noted the similarity of Chet Roosevelt to Bill Clinton.  Ironically, this story is much more prescient than the more intelligent Look Back, which is probably just as well.

Of Cerf et. al's vision vs. Israel (Neil I mean), I'd take the latter, because it just looks like people are having more fun.  As I recall, 1978 was a much happier year than '79, for me personally (10 rather than 11, and so not yet dealing with adolescent crap), but also for the US.  The Iranian hostage situation started in '79 and a lot other things soured then.  These two '79 books reflect this in their projections of what the next decade or two might be like.  But in Looking Back, almost no one seems happy, while here people look like they're making the best of bad situations.  And, even in stills, they're chewing the scenery like it's a meat substitute.

*It was a bit tricky deciding who's responsible for this, since no one is credited with the adaptation from movie to book.  I decided that since Neil Israel directed the movie, cowrote the screenplay (based on a play by Proctor and Bergman, of Firesign Theatre), and has a cameo as a protesting rabbi, he should get the credit/blame.

**The photonovel was popular in the pre-home-video late '70s and early '80s, with film stills and dialogue.  This is #14 in the FOTONOVEL series, the most ironic title on the list in the back being Lord of the Rings, that is, the 1978 Ralph Bakshi version.

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