SSFS

This Flashfilms blog contains a handful of film reviews, focused on one particular filmmaker, attributed to the mysterious scriptures of the Steven Spielberg Film Society.



These articles sprang to life from an advertisement that I spied in the back pages of Starlog magazine with E.T. on the cover – issue #64, November 1982. Tucked in among the pulpy pages with advertisements for Star Trek prop replicas, mail order monsters, and joy buzzer rings was a modest little call-to-arms from an address in Tucson, Arizona, seeking ‘a small group of people who share a vision in common.’


I immediately responded to the François Truffaut Close Encounters quote. I frantically typed up a reply, in my parents' home in suburban South-East England, and mailed my letter to Arizona. The correspondence led me to strike up a friendship with Judy Hubbard and Don Archer, publishers of the Steven Spielberg Film Society.


Founded by Ralph Adler, the magazine was a fanzine, a xeroxed quarterly newsletter devoted to discussion of the works of a man who, at the time, had just released a handful of films that had a huge impact on my life: the mighty Jaws, the cosmic Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the classic Raiders of the Lost Ark and the transcendent E.T. – I even loved 1941.


Tucson, 1989

Judy and Don shepherded the writing. Other contributors were mostly fans in the States, and in Europe, including SSFS European secretary Reinout Goddyn who became a lifelong friend. From time to time, the magazine included special articles with letters from Spielberg and Truffaut, cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, screenwriter Menno Meyjes, and author Ray Bradbury. My own SSFS articles were mad scribblings of an opinionated film fan. I chose to write about only the movies that moved me, and every Spielberg film was a major event.

Judy and Don encouraged my passions and humored my obsessions. And they provided me with a soft landing on my first immersion into American life, in 1989, when I arrived in the States with my short films and screenplays under my arm. After I settled in LA, I’d go back to visit to recharge my batteries. Visiting Judy and Don was a reminder of where I came from, my early ambition, and crazy rants. And whenever I could find time I'd mail or fax articles to Arizona to feed the next SSFS newsletter.


Don, Judy, and chess men

When I made the break from working in special effects, and decided to turn my career into writing full-time, I sent the folks at Cinefex some of the film reviews I’d written for Judy and Don. My heady screed on Saving Private Ryan may have prompted Don Shay to ask me to embark on my first freelance gig for Cinefex. At least, that's how I remember it.


Decades later, in a bittersweet coda after Cinefex ceased publication, I received an email from a name I had not seen in print for years. Ralph Adler, the original publisher of the first editions of the SSFS newsletter, had unknown to me been a Cinefex reader all those years. I was so touched by Ralph's kind words, and remain quite proud of my amateur writing for his little venture.


I still have a file box with all 80 issues of the SSFS newsletter, published from January 1981 to November 2000. And I have posted a handful of my old film reviews as time-capsules in this blog. Click below to browse articles (now with a gallery of newsletter images and a section of my old toons), or visit my Flashfilms SSFS archive for more: