Lucas is a much-beloved figure on the horror film-movie buff website-forum axis.5 What Forrest J. Ackerman and his magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland were to kids of the 1960s, the 51-year-old Lucas and his Video Watchdog are to the film buff of today.6 Video Watchdog - which Lucas writes and edits and which his wife, Donna, designs - has won numerous awards7 since it began publication in 1990. It is read and admired by such Hollywood survivors as director Joe Dante.8 And if Lucas's style comes across over the years as essentially humorless, that is a much-needed alternative to Ackerman's trivializing, pun-laden prose.
The monthly VW has an official print run of 10,000, though Lucas says that "the actual number of copies printed is slightly less than that. We're more serious and statistical than most readers want to be about their entertainment, especially the sort of entertainment we cover - and we've lost a certain number of customers whose curiosity is saturated by the information they can find online. We're not supported by outside advertising and don't have to overprint to impress or attract advertisers with our circulation figures; we print what we know we can sell."9
The relative success of Video Watchdog has allowed Lucas to attain a prolific career as the go-to journalist about all things video. This includes a monthly column in the prestigious British film monthly Sight & Sound, as well as sporadic appearances over the years in Film Comment, American Cinematographer, Spin, and even Cahiers du cinéma.
In addition, before All the Colors of the Dark, Lucas had published three other books, a collection of the original Video Watchdog columns and two novels, Throat Sprockets and The Book of Renfield.10 Lucas has recorded about eight audio commentary tracks, and has written or co-written four movie scripts.11 Lucas is even a published poet.12
Tim Lucas was born in Cincinnati in May of 1956. His mother Juanita, was widowed; her husband, a typesetter and bass player, had died the previous year of a heart ailment. Poverty kept the Lucases moving frequently. According to a profile of Lucas in Cincinatti's City Beat magazine in 2001, Lucas's grandmother took the three-year-old Lucas to his first sci-fi film, The Incredible Shrinking Man, which apparently sent the youth fleeing the theater, shrieking.
Since then, death has followed him. At age nine, he was nearly killed in a car accident. When he was 12, he caught sight of a "monster lady" observing him from the window above his apartment (she turned out to be the deformed sister of their upstairs neighbor). His 14-year-old best friend committed suicide.
Lucas went to Norwood High School for two years, where he was the school paper's film critic. "I had to leave school for personal reasons and went straight to work, bypassing college," he relates in an e-mail. "But it was around this time that I also became a serious reader and began educating myself. Fortunately, I always hung out with an older, smarter group of friends, so I had a sense of direction, and I also had a career to pursue as I'd already been published at 15. I sometimes jokingly say that I received an Honorary Doctorate from Purdue University, because in 1981 or thereabouts their literary magazine Modern Fiction Studies once accepted an article of mine and addressed the acceptance to 'Dr. Timothy Lucas.'"13
That publication experience at age 15 occurred in Cinefantastique - the glossy magazine dedicated to fantasy films whose trademark was extensive, near-book length film production histories coupled with later, oft-times acerbic reviews of the same films. Cinefantastique was edited by a rather volatile yet mysterious figure named Frederick S. Clarke, who committed suicide in 2000, apparently after a long bout with clinical depression. "When I bought my first issue of Cinefantastique in 1971, I was so taken with its serious approach to genre film reviewing that a friend of mine recommended I write something for them." Lucas took that advice, and of the two submitted, Clarke published Lucas's review of Ken Russell's The Devils.
Shortly thereafter, Lucas struck out on his own, endeavoring to make a career as a freelance writer, first at local newspapers such as The Queen's Jester and Rivertown Times, and gradually, nationally as well. He met his wife to be, Donna Goldschmidt, when she was a cashier at the RKO Albee Theater in downtown Cincinnati. When he was 33, Lucas launched Video Watchdog.
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