Thunder and Lightning

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My second Hollywood screenplay assignment. The first, for director William Friedkin at Universal, had been to adapt the French cult classic, Morning of the Magicians, by Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier. Friedkin was unhappy with my draft and the golden coach turned back into a pumpkin. (The proposed film was never made, a sure indication that no one was ever able to crack the problem.) At the time, I felt like my screenwriting career had been stillborn, but just a couple months later I got a call from Frances Doel in Roger Corman’s office. She had read Alp and asked if I’d be interested in writing “a moonshine-whiskey-car-chase-comedy,” for New World. I immediately said yes.

Working for “the King of Bs” was very different from an assignment at Universal. The paycheck was significantly lower, for one thing. Also, there were no first class tickets to L.A., no suites at the Beverley Hills Hotel, no limos waiting at the airport. In fact, there were no trips to tinsel town at all. Our story meetings all took place over the phone. Frances had an idea about a guy on the lam with two gals called “Three’s Company,” but I said I thought it was dumb. Who’d ever want to watch something like that? Instead, I came up with my own proposal. Everyone liked it and the script moved forward through its various stages, treatment, first draft, revisions, with minimal pain. Frances Doel’s notes were all cogent and easy to implement. Before I knew it, the film was in production in Florida. It turned out so well that Corman sold the finished print to 20th Century Fox and I wound up with a major studio credit. All that was lost was my original title: “Hog Heaven.”