Ansible 176 Supplement
More on Harry Nadler
Here's a further appreciation of Harry Nadler by Bill Burns, and the full Steve Gallagher text which was briefly excerpted in Ansible. Bill also hosted Harry's movie website, still on view at http://hnmovies.fantastic-films.com/.
Sad to report that Salford-born Harry Nadler, main organizer and tireless linchpin of Manchester's annual Festival of Fantastic Films, had a sudden heart attack and died on Friday March 1st.
In the 60s and 70s he made films with friends and published such fanzines as L'Incroyable Cinema, through which I first came to know of him; we didn't meet until some years later but I used to rent 8mm movies from his collection when he traded as Delta Films and his mother ran the shop. Harry was one of those people who was always full of ideas and in a constant state of excitement about carrying them through, to the extent that everyone around him would be swept along by his enthusiasm. How many of us, after a drink or two, have fantasized about grouping together and buying the pub, only to look back on the conversation with a rueful smile the next morning? With Harry around, it would probably happen... not many film fans mobilize friends and family to buy, renovate and run their own cinema, as Harry did with The Savoy in Sale, Cheshire.
It was with Harry as their binding force and dynamo that the same bunch of lifelong friends conceived an annual festival to celebrate the kind of films they'd always loved. The ethos of the Festival of Fantastic Films is rooted in the Universal and Hammer horrors, the Republic Serials, Ray Harryhausen movies, anything you might ever have seen in Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, the Standard 8 one-reelers from Castle Films, B-movies of all kinds and from all nations, all coupled with a love of celluloid showmanship and the will to salute the surviving artists. If you wanted a snapshot of Harry, the Festival is, in part at least, a fair reflection of the man.
I met Harry in the summer of 1964 when I was seventeen; I'd been reading SF for five or six years then. The open market in Salford had a used bookstall, run, strangely enough, by our milkman. Mixed in with the general fiction I would occasionally find copies of the American edition of Astounding, Fantasy & Science Fiction, and lesser magazines. Seeing my interest, the stall's proprietor gave me Harry's name and address ('another chap who likes this stuff'). We didn't have phones in those days, so I wrote Harry a letter. I still have the letter he wrote back, inviting me to a meeting of the Delta Science Fiction Film Group, and mentioning a magazine that he and Chuck Partington produced.
Harry and Chuck were boyhood friends, having grown up in the same area of Salford. I'm not sure how their interest in SF developed, but they had attended Eastercons in 1963 and 1964 and were already involved in amateur movie-making. At the 1963 Eastercon in Peterborough, the Best Costume prize was won by Harry, for what was described as 'a very nasty-looking mutant'. With Tony Edwards and other Manchester fans, Harry and Chuck had also organized the Delta Science Fiction Film Group (the DSFFG), which met initially over a chip shop in Kersal, then moved to more spacious premises in Manchester. The group had been commissioned by the 1965 British Worldcon committee to produce some short films to be shown at the convention, and met three times a week – two evening meetings for planning and socializing, and a Sunday shoot on location or in the clubroom.
Harry and Chuck were also co-editors of the fanzine Alien; attracted by its content and intrigued by its curious orthography, I saw a way to get involved, and became chief proofreader and production assistant, also helping with the hand-cranked Gestetner duplicator and the collating. A bi-monthly (!), the fanzine was produced in Harry's bedroom at his mother's house; Harry took over the house after he married and lived there his entire life.
The movie-making progressed, too. I went with the group to the 1965 Birmingham Eastercon, where we filmed Harry Harrison as an inept weapons instructor – his part in Breathworld, one of the films being made for the Worldcon. Always a keen film fan, Harry was generally found running the projectors at conventions, when the film program was still an important event (in the days before video and DVD, a convention was one of the few places you could see classic SF films in Britain). Very much low-key, Harry was tireless in his support of fandom, and was on the committee of the Buxton and Chester Mancons in the late 60s. A printer by trade, he also did much of the printing of convention books and badges for late 60s Eastercons.
The amateur films, Castle of Terrors, and Breathworld, were completed on time, and although I couldn't attend I heard that they were well-received at the Worldcon in August of 1965. The group also sponsored an amateur film competition at successive Eastercons, which resulted in quite a few movies reaching a wider audience. Meanwhile, on the print scene, production of Alien was suspended while Chuck and Harry's new magazine was in preparation – Alien Worlds. The first issue had a full-colour cover by Eddie Jones, stories by Harry Harrison, Ken Bulmer and Ramsey Campbell, book reviews by Ken Slater, an article on Flash Gordon by Allan Asherman, and advance stills from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The magazine was produced entirely in-house, from the typesetting to the printing and collation. Poor distribution and resulting financial difficulties resulted in Alien Worlds being a one-shot.
But Harry's main interest was always the fantastic film, and his next venture was a film magazine, L'Incroyable Cinema, first published in 1969. Again produced entirely in-house, the magazine was a literate look at fantastic films and was well-received, running for five issues over the next several years. Harry drifted away from SF Fandom, attending conventions only intermittently, but remained in close touch with the Liverpool Group and the Knights of St. Fantony, of which he was a member. He continued to organize local film society meetings, eventually forming the Society of Fantastic Films. In 1990 the Society put on the first Festival of Fantastic Films in Manchester, which has grown to be a very well-respected annual festival. Harry's role as program director gave the Festival an eclectic and wide-ranging selection of guests, old and new films, and two film competitions, amateur and professional.
Although I moved to New York in 1971, Harry and I kept in touch (although we often joked about whose turn it was to send the letter that year), and I saw him every year on our regular trips to England for Eastercon. When we met after a year, each time it was as if it was only a few days separation. I was looking forward to seeing him later this month, and had exchanged emails with him just the day before he died.
Harry contributed a tremendous amount to British SF fandom in the 60s and 70s; this remembrance has hit only the highlights from my personal knowledge. Never one to be in the spotlight, in the days when conventions were run by a committee of only three or four people Harry just did what had to be done and thought nothing of it. I had the privilege of working with him again on the two most recent film Festivals, and despite his earlier heart attack and doctor's warnings to avoid stress, he was right there running the program, taking care of guests, and getting things done, careless of his own well-being to make the convention a success.
He was a dear friend, and I'll miss him greatly.