Bob Burns is one of my very favorite people.
I remember when I first read about him in Starlog magazine. Issue #18. The entire cover was dedicated to a story about his Halloween shows in Burbank, and although I’d never heard of him or the shows, the photos immediately captivated me. And as soon as I finished reading and re-reading that cover story, I added a goal to my personal bucket list: see a Bob Burns Halloween show live at least once.
A few years ago, that dream finally came true, and now, thanks to the efforts of some of the many people Bob has inspired over the years, you can share that experience.
Last week, Greg Nicotero of KNB FX Group called me while I was in Austin to tell me that the documentary about Bob that has been in the works for a while now is finally done and ready. Because of the nature of Bob’s Halloween show and the iconography used in it, they can’t sell this documentary. For you, though, that’s a good thing, because it means you can see this film online starting today, and it is absolutely worth your time.
Bob’s career in film started as far back as the ’50s, when he was a very young man and head over heels in love with sci-fi, horror, and fantasy. He always worked with and around the greats of the genre, and little by little, he started putting together a collection of props and toys that is absolutely staggering when you see it today. I’ve spent hours in Bob’s basement, wandering through, holding pieces of Hollywood history, and he is one of the most gracious, generous people in the way he shares his museum with people from around the world.
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The thing he’s best known for, though, were the Halloween shows that he put on through most of the ’70s, using his house as a stage, and that’s what the new documentary does its best to preserve for future audiences. Using footage shot at the time and new interviews, the documentary goes show by show, ilustrating how they grew from simple ideas into elaborate recreations of films like “The Exorcist,” “The Time Machine,” and “Alien.” The last one he did was for “The Thing From Another World,” and it was a chance for a whole generation of people who had only read about those shows to actually participate and help him put the show together.
Watching the documentary, I was struck again by just how amazing these shows were, both in craftsmanship and in the way Bob never once tried to profit off of them. How many people do things for the sheer love of doing them these days? How many people EVER did things just for the sheer love of doing them? The documentary was co-produced by Paul Prischman, another friend of mine. Paul has been battling brain cancer for the last few years, and there was a charity established to help him and his family called Paul’s Brain Trust. The reason so many people rushed to Paul’s aid is because he’s that same sort of person… always helping others with creative endeavors for the pure love of doing so. It makes perfect sense that Paul was one of the people who helped Bob bring his show back, and who helped make this documentary happen. Bob just attracts decent and creative people to him by a sort of magic, and these shows were the result.
Bob Burns is truly the Santa Claus of Halloween, and this great new film finally captures the magic of those shows for viewers around the world to share. If you’d like to see the first chapter, simply go to Bob’s official site, and then click “Video.” You’ll see the first chapter posted today, and if you continue to check back, you’ll eventually get to see the entire thing.
It’s worth your time. Trust me.
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