Saturday, September 09, 2006

Why Froog?

A reference to a favourite film - 'Dark Star', a science fiction black comedy (a genre of one?), the film school graduation project of John Carpenter (who went on to fame with the likes of 'Halloween', 'The Thing', and 'Escape From New York') and Dan O'Bannon (who later reworked some of the ideas in his script for 'Alien'). The Time Out Film Guide once called it "the last great hippie movie", and Carpenter himself characterized it as "a sort of 'Waiting For Godot' in Outer Space".

The leading character, played by O'Bannon himself, is ostensibly called Pinback (one of the bleak gags in the film is that the astronauts have all been in space so long they have forgotten their own first names, and can perhaps only remember their surnames because they are stencilled on the front of their overalls), but at one point, in a rather poignant video diary sequence (and that's pretty prescient for 1972), he claims that he is a victim of mistaken identity, and is in fact a lowly member of the ground crew called Bill Froog who has come on the mission by mistake - "Sgt Pinback's uniforms do not fit me. The underwear is too loose."

The secret alias of a fictional character in an obscure cult film makes an appealing nom de guerre, I feel.

Some years ago, I was browsing in a bookshop in New York - Coliseum Books, in its old location just off Columbus Circle (it has since moved to much airier, but far less characterful, premises in Midtown, just over the road from the New York Public Library) - when I happened upon a book (on the 'How To Write A Screenplay' shelf, I believe) written by one William Froug. He had been a professor of film studies in the 60s and 70s - at UCLA, possibly; I forget. So, it seems very possible that Carpenter and/or O'Bannon were surreptitiously paying homage to a favourite teacher. And it would appear that I have been misspelling my favourite alias all these years. Ah well - I'm too set in my ways to change now.


Bill.Froog said...

Hehe -
me too
for exactly the same reasoning - I've had Bill Froog as my fave alias for 15++ years online!
(BillFroog@hotmail is me!!)

I was similarly saddened - upon finding the Book of the Film.. where it is spelt 'Frug'
Similarly - I'm too attached to the double-o moniker.

I'm sad enough to have put myself in the video diary room with the alien as my atavar also!

Nice to meet a fellow Froog - greetings!

Froog said...

I used to have that novelization too (by Alan Dean Foster, right?), but it's lost years ago now.

I've only been using the Froog alias online for.... oh, 10 or 12 years, I suppose. But I've been in love with the film for something like 30 years, I would guess. I think it was first shown on British TV late night on BBC2 over Christmas/New Year in the late '79s sometime.

Welcome, Other Froog.

Froog said...

Oh, and I like the Alien in the corner of your video-diary picture.

JES said...

Every year, on January 1, the US cable channel formerly known as SciFi -- now, alas, as SyFy -- runs a back-to-back marathon of episodes from the original Twilight Zone TV series.

This year, now that we have a DVR, we recorded something like 42 of the things. We've been watching them in clusters of two or three at a time. And one of the names which keeps showing up in the production credits is presumably the same William Froug who wrote the screenplay book. IMDB cites 22 episodes as producer and one as writer (the latter on the "new" Twilight Zone series, from the 1980s).

(I decided to indulge myself in my newly restored commentability and share this, on an older post, before diving into the current ones.)

Froog said...

Why, thank you, JES. I suppose I'll have to go rooting around on IMDB now to try to find out what that episode was.

Funny, I suppose, that it had never occurred to me before to search for him on there: I suppose he must have a fair few writing credits to his name.