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Harlan Ellison's Watching


Before he was a screenwriter, before he was a fantasist even, Harlan Ellison was a film critic. The proof appears here, in a review of "The Day the Earth Stood Still" penned in 1951 by the author, then age 17, for his high school newspaper.

Since then Ellison's essays on current cinema have appeared in, among other publications, Cinema, the Los Angeles Free Press and, most frequently, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Watching is, then, a wide-ranging romp, a 40-year retrospective of a guy who, like many of us, loves movies, and who, like few of us, gets paid to tell us what he thinks of those movies. There's no injustice in that formula; Ellison, though rarely mentioned in the same breath as Pauline Kael or even, God help us, Roger Ebert, is a master of weaving together film lore, current events and personal anecdote to create a definitive statement about even the most forgettable flick.


  • Preface to the 2007 Edition (by Leonard Maltin) (2008 edition only)
  • Foreword (by George Kirgo)
  • Introduction: Crying "Water!" in a Crowded Theater
  • Darkness in Magic Caverns: a nostalgic appreciation of moviegoing
  • Cinema [1965-68}:
    • The Train
    • Von Ryan's Express
    • Masquerade
    • Mickey One
    • The War Lord
    • The Battle of the Bulge
    • Juliet of the Spirits
    • You're a Big Boy Now!
    • Beau Geste
    • Up the Down Staircase
    • Rosemary's Baby
    • Les Carabiniers
  • Divers Publications
    • Hard Contract
    • Harlan Ellison's Handy Guide to 2001: A Space Odyssey
    • Joe
    • Silent Running
  • Harlan Ellison: Screening Room [1973]:
    • 1st Installment
    • 2nd Installment: A Sort of Interview with Peter Boyle
    • 3rd Installment
    • 4th Installment
  • Harlan Ellison's Watching [First Series, 1977-78]
    • 1st Installment
    • 2nd Installment: Luke Skywalker is a Nerd and Darth Vader Sucks Runny Eggs
    • Star Trek -- The Motionless Picture
  • Harlan Ellison's Watching [Second Series, 1984- ]
    • Installment 1: In Which We Begin Our Journey
    • Installment 2: In Which Sublime And Ridiculous Pass Like Ships In The Night
    • Installment 3: In Which We Scuffle Through The Embers
    • Installment 4: In Which We Discover Why The Children Don't Look Like Their Parents
    • Installment 5: In Which The Left Hand Giveth Praise And The Right Hand Sprayeth For Worms Of Evil
    • Installment 6: In Which We Learn What Is Worse Than Finding A Worm Of Evil In The Apple
    • Installment 7: In Which an Attempt Is Made To Have One's Cake And Eat It, Too
    • Installment 8: In Which Some Shrift Is Given Shortly, Some Longly, And The Critic's Laundry Is Reluctantly Aired
    • Installment 9: In Which The Fortunate Reader Gets To Peek Inside The Fabled Black Tower
    • Installment 10: In Which The Fabled Black Tower Meets Dune With As Much Affection As Godzilla Met Ghidrah
    • Installment 11: In Which Nothing Terribly Profound Occurs
    • Installment 12: In Which Several Things Are Held Up To The Light ... Not A Brain In Sight
    • Installment 13: In Which Numerous Ends (Loose) Are Tied Up, Some In The Configuration Of A Noose (Hangman's)
    • Installment 14: In Which We Sail To The Edge Of The World And Confront The Abyss, Having Run Out Of Steam
    • Installment 14 1/2: In Which The Unheard-of Is Heard, Kind Of
    • Installment 15: In Which A Gourmet Feast Is Prepared Of Words A Mere Two Months Old
    • Installment 16: In Which A Forest Is Analyzed Without Recourse To Any Description Of A Tree
    • Installment 17: In Which We Unflinchingly Look a Gift Horse In The Choppers
    • Installment 18: In Which Youth Goeth Before A Fall
    • Installment 19: In Which We Long For The Stillness Of The Lake, The Smooth Swell Of The Lea
    • Installment 20: In Which Manifestations Of Arrested Adolescence Are Shown To Be Symptoms Of A Noncommunicable Dopiness, Thank Goodness
    • Installment 21: In Which You And A Large Group Of Total Strangers Are Flipped The Finger By The Mad Masters Of Anthropomorphism
    • Installment 22: In Which the Land Echoes To The Sound Of An Ox Of A Different Color Being Gored
    • Installment 23: In Which Premonitions Of The Future Lie In Wait To Swallow Shadows Of The Past
    • Installment 24: In Which Flora and Fauna Come To A Last Minute Rescue, Thereby Preventing The Forlorn From Handing It All Over To The Cockroaches
    • Installment 25: In Which The Specter At The Banquet Takes A Healthy Swig From The Flagon With The Dragon, Or Maybe The Chalice From The Palace
    • Installment 26: In Which A Good Time Was Had By All And An Irrelevant Name-Dropping Of Fritz Leiber Occurs For No Better Reason Than To Remind Him How Much We Love And Admire Him
    • Installment 27: In Which The Fur Is Picked Clean Of Nits, Gnats, Nuts, Naggers And Nuhdzes
    • Installment 28: In Which, With Wiles And Winces, We Waft Words Warranting, To Wit, Wonderful Wit
    • Installment 29: In Which Li'l White Lies Are Revealed To Be At Least Tattletale Gray
    • Installment 30 1/2: In Which 3 Cinematic Variations On "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs" Are Presented
    • Installment 30: In Which The Li'l White Lies Thesis (Part Two) Takes Us By The Snout and Drags Us Unwillingly Toward A Door We Fear To Open
    • Installment 31: In Which The Li'l White Lies Thesis (Part Three) Approaches A Nascent State, Approaches The Dreadful Door, And En Route Questions Meat Idolatry
    • Installment 32: In Which the Switch Is Thrown
    • Installment 33: In Which The Canine of Vacuity Is Wagged by The Far More Interesting Tale Of O'Bannon
    • Installment 34: In Which We Praise Those Whose Pants're On Fire, Noses Long As A Telephone Wire
  • Appendix A: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Has Science Fiction Theme
  • Appendix B: Nightmare At The Daisy
  • Index

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Underwood-Miller hardcover 1989 (first edition)

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