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the irresistable silver screen
average writing
skilled art
historical bonus 2
total score 6
The Irresistable Silver Screen
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Only Printing / Late 1970s? / 36 pages / Films Inc.
The Irresistable Silver Screen is a film rental catalog produced for high schools as a mainstream comic book. The date of origin is a bit sketchy (late '70s or early '80s), but this full-color book was freely distributed to high school administrators who rented movies, documentaries or cartoons for classroom showings. It features five separate comic stories by Skip Williamson, all of which are written with movie titles incorporated directly into virtually every line of narration and character dialog. This gimmick necessitates some awkward writing in order to include the names of the films into the stories. For instance, the opening narrative of the first story, "Reel Love," begins with; "This is the story of seven days in May when I found a ring of bright water in a blackboard jungle." That's pretty lame writing, and it doesn't get much better as the book progresses.

Not only are the film titles incorporated into the dialog, but each panel is also accompanied by a lengthy hand-written description of the movie referenced in the story, so the page layouts are pretty dense with copy (see sample pages). And of course, this being a catalog distributed to high school administrators, none of the stories here are the least bit controversial. In fact, the content of some of the films offered for rent have far more controversy than the comics. Actually, some of the films are pretty damn good movies. I wish my high school had funded a film festival with "The Odd Couple," "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "The Hustler," "Blow Up," and the Marx Brothers' "A Night at the Opera."

While none of Williamson's stories in this book hold a candle to those types of films, the best of the five is probably the last, entitled "Why I Was Late," in which a grade-school student makes up a fantastic excuse for why he arrived late for school. Not coincidentally, it does the best job of unobtrusively integrating the film titles into the story. There are a couple other interesting concepts in the book, but like all the stories they get bogged down by the continuous and blatant interjection of film titles.

Although Williamson is credited as co-author of all the comic stories, it's probably best to remember this book as nothing but an illustration project for him. I believe I read somewhere that he was paid $8,000 to illustrate the book, which is no small fee even today. I also think I've read that the book was published around 1975, but the listing in The Michigan State University Libraries Comic Art Collection cite the publication year of 1982. Maybe they're right, but there's not a date to be found date anywhere in the book. It seems like this would be a project that Williamson took on to make some money soon after the popularity of underground comics nosedived around 1974. Williamson began working for Playboy magazine in 1976, so he wouldn't be so hard up for cash in 1982.

Films Inc. (founded in 1928) was one of the largest non-theatrical film distribution companies in the country. They sold and rented thousands of 16mm movies, documentaries, features and cartoons to schools (primarily high schools and colleges) for classroom showings. They also sold movies on 3/4-inch video tape. I believe the company once had branches in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. The branch in Chicago was located in the suburb of Wilmette and was either partnered with or housed next door to Encyclopedia Brittanica Films Inc., which also rented educational films to schools. In 1985, Films Inc. collaborated with a video-clip company (Video Pool) to host three-hour "Video Dance Parties" at colleges, featuring three hours of dance videos from performers like Prince, Madonna and Chaka Khan. I can find evidence that Films Inc. was still in business as late as 2002, but they don't appear to have a website.

The Irresistable Silver Screen is similar to Douglas Comix in that both are comic-book-style catalogs marketing commercial products. The Irresistable Silver Screen (which doesn't even spell "irresistible" correctly) is an interesting artifact that provided a nifty bit of financial income to Skip Williamson, but it was purely a freelance project that did not serve as a vehicle for his always-interesting political discourse or social commentary.
It is currently unknown how many copies of this comic book were printed. It has not been reprinted.
Skip Williamson - 1, 3-8, 10-17, 20-25, 27-33 (all art, story collaboration)
Cecil Williamson - 1, 3-8, 10-17, 20-25, 27-33 (lettering for film descriptions)

Peter Nevraumont - 1, 3-8, 10-17, 20-25, 27-33 (film descriptions collaboration and story collaboration)
Doug Lemza - 1, 3-8, 10-17, 20-25, 27-33 (film descriptions collaboration)