Sins of the Past – Misha Burnett

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Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m nearly 52 years old, divorced with three grown children, and I work in the maintenance department of a small university.  I have been writing and self-publishing for about four years, and have four novels published, a series collectively called The Book Of Lost Doors.

Who are your favorite authors?

Mostly New Wave Science Fiction.  Tim Powers, Phillip Dick, George Alec Effinger, Samuel Delany, Thomas Disch, William Burroughs.  I am also a huge fan of G K Chesterton, and have a weakness for Romantic poets.

Tell us a bit about your story, We Pass From View

I love the schlock drive-in cinema of the 1960s and 1970s and wanted to write about a film crew making a low budget horror movie.  I am also fascinated by the Lovecraftian concept of books that are so horrible that they drive you insane if you read them.  “We Pass From View” combines those two ideas.  I also sneaked in a few references to my main series, but you don’t need to catch them to enjoy the story.

If you could travel back in time to any place and period in the past where and when would you go?

Honestly, I don’t think I would—I kind of like it right now.  I think sometimes about being able to travel back and talk to myself in, say, 1973, and explain a lot of the facts of life to the younger me, give some stern warnings and some advice, but knowing who I was then I wouldn’t have listened anyway.

What attracts you to writing horror?

The freedom.  Horror is supposed to be socially unacceptable. When readers pick up a horror story, they know that are going to be shocked, frightened, disconcerted, and maybe even grossed out.  That’s what they are there for. I get to make people really uncomfortable and get paid for it?  What’s not to love?

Tell us a little about your series, The Book of Lost Doors.

Recently I came across the phrase “slipstream fiction”, which seems to fit my work better than any conventional genre designation.  I use elements from science fiction, fantasy, horror, and psychological fiction.  It’s set in a world that looks like ours on the surface, but has a lot of odd little corners and hidden passageways where strange things from strange other places lurk. My main character, James, has an alien intelligence called Catskinner in his head and the two of them encounter a lot of other people with alien things about them.

Are you planning to write a story for Sins of the Future?

I’ve written it and sent it off.  Fingers crossed.

Any hints about your story?

It’s actually quite a departure from my usual style.  I tend to avoid moralizing in fiction—I go with the credo that if you want to send a message, call Western Union.  However, in this one case I am very troubled by a particular trend in technology and I set out to write a story specifically to point out some problems that no one else seems to be thinking about.  I think the story works but it’s very much a cautionary tale and that’s new territory for me.  I’d like to think that it would fit in Harlan Ellison’s Dangerous Visions.

What do you like to do to relax?

Movies, television, and wine, mostly.  I’m very plebeian.

What are you currently working on?

I’m taking a bit of a vacation from writing, although I am noodling around ideas for the next novel in my series, World Edgewise. Right now my day job is very demanding—the students will be returning to campus in just a couple of weeks—and I am making preparations for Archon, a local science fiction convention that I’ll be attending in the fall.

How can readers connect with you?

My blog on WordPress is the easist—it has links to everything else and a page for sending me e-mail.  I do love hearing from readers and I try to reply to any mail I get.

http://mishaburnett.wordpress.com/

Ready to read a little from We Pass From View?

Josef Naamaire directed 47 films, beginning with The Congo Gunman in 1955 and ending with Mission: Asteroid in 1974.  All of his films were made for B-movie mill Spectacular Studios, mostly produced by Hymie Greenbaum. While several of his movies—notably Hellcats In High Heels (1964), and The Room Without A Door (1966)—enjoyed  a brief cult status for what were, for the time, shockingly explicit scenes of lesbianism, Naamaire is best known for a film that, it is said, no living person has ever seen.

We Pass From View was filmed in July and August of 1963, with principal photography on location in what is now Wildwood Canyon Park, outside of Burbank, CA.  The script was based on the book of the same name, written by a young man named Michael Chase, who would go on to found the cult, Clear Vision World.  Chase and his followers—including four children—were brutally murdered on April 23, 1982, by persons unknown.

How Chase’s book became the basis of a Spectacular film is an interesting story in itself.  In 1961 Robert Sterling, at the time the chairman of the studio’s board of directors, made arrangements to purchase the film rights for the entire catalog of the paperback original publisher Cupid’s Bow Press.  As a condition of the purchase, Spectacular was required to film We Pass From View.  It is believed that this unusual clause was made a condition of the deal by Cupid’s Bow publisher, Sabrina Erikovitch, who went on to join Michael Chase’s organization, and eventually to die with him.

Since Cupid’s Bow owned the rights to the popular Code Name: Hangman spy thriller series, Sterling agreed to the terms, and gave studio staff writer, Robin Wilde, the task of converting Chase’s book into a screenplay. (Spectacular went on to film six Code Name:Hangman movies, which were among the studio’s most lucrative films.)

No known copies of Michael Chase’s original book exist.  By all accounts it did not sell—only one edition was printed and the majority of it was likely sent back to be pulped.  Robin Wilde, in a letter to his longtime companion, actress Ellie Vance, called it, “this unreadable pile of shit.”

Even the Cupid’s Bow catalog entry is uncharacteristically terse. We Pass From View appears in only one edition, Fall, 1960.  The entry reads: “A fascinating look at the myths and realities surrounding death and dying, by professor of philosophy, Dr. Michael Chase.”  Michael Chase, it should be noted, often claimed a doctorate, sometimes in physics, sometimes in philosophy, however there are no records of him completing an advanced degree at any of the schools that he claimed to have attended.

Faced with the daunting task of transforming a “look at the myths and realities surrounding death and dying”, fascinating or otherwise, into a screenplay suitable for the drive-in movie market, Wilde chose to pen a tale of a group of college students who go camping in the woods and die from mysterious causes, one by one. (It will be remembered that Wilde is also responsible for the screenplay of Spectacular’s “adaptation” of Baudelaire’s Flowers of Evil that contained, among other things, vegetable creatures from Venus who had come to Earth to harvest human males’ “vital fluids”.)

Since neither the book nor the screenplay is available for comparison, the question of how faithful the latter is to the former must remain unanswered.  Given what we do know of both works, however, the probable answer is “not very.”

There is, however, one section of the screenplay that seems to have been lifted directly from Chase’s book.  Shortly before her death from bone cancer in 1987, Bette Blowe, (born Elizabeth Tucker) the lead actress in We Pass From View and Josef Naamaire’s wife was interviewed in Playboy magazine.  While most of the article is concerned with her claims that she carried on numerous homosexual affairs with various female celebrities, towards the end of the interview she was asked about We Pass From View and the film’s alleged effect on the test audiences.  Her reply follows:

“It was that fucking Appendix B. They made me read the whole thing aloud. Robin refused to transcribe it—he just told me to read it out of the book. He said Bob [Sterling] told him that had to be in the movie.  That’s the part that made everybody go apeshit. It was bad.  I don’t remember what it said—I don’t remember reading it at all. It was like I was in a trance.  But I know it was some serious bad shit.  Joe didn’t let anybody watch the dailies of that scene, he just shipped it straight off.”

It was a very small crew who traveled to the campsite north of Burbank to film We Pass From View. Most accounts report that Naamaire operated the cameras himself (he had begun his film career as a camera operator, and frequently chose to run the cameras, both to keep costs low and to control the specifics of his shots.)  The sound technician was one Greg Donnely, who committed suicide in May of 1970.  It is likely, although employment records are unclear, that Alice Monroe served as assistant director on the film.  She worked with Naamaire on many of his other films, and at least one account of the location shooting refers to “Alice” setting marks during the shoot.  Alice Monroe died in September of 1968, also a suicide. Although there were almost certainly other crew members, no one else associated with the location shooting has been identified.

The cast was also small.  In addition to Bette Blowe (first billed on the released material), Ellie Vance (billed as Esther Vance for contractual reasons), Eve Eden, Neville Brook, and Hank Renck comprised the company. Bette Blowe’s sole published remarks regarding the film are referenced above.  Neville Brook is on record threatening the life of a reporter who asked him about the film.  None of the other cast members are believed to have commented about the film in print at all.

Eve Eden vanished without a trace in late 1965.  She had reportedly incurred very large debts to Las Vegas casinos, and it is believed that she either vanished to avoid her creditors or was murdered by them and her body hidden.  Rumors have circulated regarding her reappearance since then, but none have been confirmed.

All of the other cast members are now dead.

Ellie Vance was murdered in February of 1972 by Robin Wilde, who then killed himself.

Hank Renck died of complications from syphilis in November of 1975.

Neville Brook was found in a hotel room in Tijuana, in June of 1980, shot in the head.  The case is still unsolved.

At the time that the following interview was conducted, January 17th, 2014, Josef Naamaire was the only living person who could be reliably placed at the campsite north of Burbank during the filming of We Pass From View. He was 83 years old, and had recently been diagnosed with latestage pancreatic cancer. He would die within the month, on February 12th.

The interview was conducted by Aaron Tellman, a graduate student in film history at UCLA. Naamaire was residing at the time in a managed care facility in Anaheim, CA.  Tellman contacted the notoriously reclusive Naamaire without much hope that permission for an interview would be granted. The director agreed to talk, however.  It is likely that news of his impending death induced him to tell his story.

The transcript that follows is unedited …

To read this exclusive interview pick up a copy of Sins of the Past today!

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And don’t forget to check out the book of lost doors series – on sale today in honor of Misha’s bithday for just 99 cents a piece – I promise you won’t be disappointed.

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One thought on “Sins of the Past – Misha Burnett

  1. Pingback: Sins of the Past – Round up! | Paws4Thought

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