A Jules Verne film journey in Packard Theater in Culpeper
Posted: Tuesday, July 21, 2015 5:30 pm
Brian Taves discovered the adventurous world of Jules Verne as a 9-year-old growing up in L.A. during the early days of manned space flight.
"My cousin gave me his Classics Illustrated comic book of 'Journey to the Center of the Earth' and I was entranced," said Taves, an author, movie historian and film archivist with the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation in Culpeper.
He hopes to share that wonder with the public as part of this week's free film tribute to the iconic French novelist in the Packard Theater on Mount Pony. Taves programmed and will introduce a trio of Verne-inspired movies showing Thursday, Friday and Saturday after recently completing his latest book, appropriately titled, "Hollywood Presents Jules Verne: the Father of Science Fiction on Screen," published 2015 by The University Press of Kentucky.
Around the time Taves first became a fan of the science fiction pioneer, he said, "The press often noted how Verne's 1865 novel, 'From the Earth to the Moon,' provided a near-exact blueprint for the 1968 flight of Apollo 8 and the Apollo capsule, including the Florida launch, weightlessness, the hours to travel to the moon, the lunar orbit and Pacific splashdown. His stories offer a 19th century view of the future of science with many of his predictions fulfilled, but many more still to be realized."
The stories of Jules Verne (1828-1905) - including "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" and "Around the World in 80 Days" - have been brought to the screen more than 300 times around the world through feature films, television specials, miniseries, and live-action and animated series, according to Taves, while another 100 documentaries have told of his life.
The local film archivist's new book focuses on the 90 screen versions originally made in English, spanning 1908 to 2012.
"From the outset of his career as a novelist in the 1860s, Jules Verne was an author who broke the rules," Taves wrote in his introduction to 'Hollywood Presents.' "He not only defined a new genre, science fiction, but also appealed to a wide audience - readers of all ages around the world. Now, going on 150 years later, his novels continue to sell in all languages as well as in condensations for children and comic books."
Just as Verne's writing broke the rules, Taves continued, so did the screen adaptations.
"There is no one-to-one correspondence between a novel and a film; Verne's stories have given rise to multiple versions, adjusted for various mediums, produced for all audiences," Taves wrote. "Few writers have enjoyed such enduring screen success as Verne in so many forms."
The French writer's name is synonymous with scientific progress and the challenges, glories and disasters it has brought, Taves wrote: "More than simply an author, Verne is a phenomenon of the scientific age; in him we see both a reflection of our advances and the perils they have engendered."
More than a third of the novelist's books feature the U.S., its citizens or the American continent, Taves wrote: "The United States was the land of Yankee ingenuity, inventiveness, and industrialization, part of the technological wave that formed the undercurrent for his series 'Extraordinary Journeys.' ... However, Verne also saw the United States as full of cranks, frauds and schemers for whom no undertaking was too audacious or extravagant and who often were possessed by the hubris of self-destructive greed ..."
Verne made his only visit to America in 1867, and the highlight of his trip - just a couple of years after the Civil War - was a visit to Niagara Falls, according to Taves. In his new book, the Culpeper author explores Hollywood's treatment of an author spanning more than a century.
"Verne and the film industry have become inseparable," Taves wrote in his 360-page book, his seventh title on film history and popular culture.
Writing keeps him busy on weekends, Taves said. In addition to his books, he's contributed some 25 chapters to anthologies and written more than 100 magazine articles. Taves is also editor of the Palik series for the North American Jules Verne Society.
"A late member left us a bequest to bring to publication Verne stories and plays which have never appeared in English before," he said. "Ed Palik's gift allowed the society to hire the best translators, and experts have contributed critical material. Eight volumes of an anticipated dozen are currently in print and I'll have some examples for sale at the screening."
Taves, who holds a doctorate in film studies from the University of Southern California, hopes this weekend's program in Culpeper will give attendees a chance to sample, on the big screen, contrasting types of Verne films that are held in the Library of Congress collection on Mount Pony. Many more titles are readily found on DVD and Turner Classic Movies.
"I encourage going back to the more modern publications of the author that may have only been encountered in watered-down versions as children, and exploring the many wondrous other screen adaptations," Taves said.
His book on the legendary novelist has earned rave reviews.
"Fortunately for us all, Brian Taves has no snobbery for 'the liveliest art,' and those of us who adore Jules Verne movies are in for a major treat," said John Goodwin, an Emmy-winning makeup artist.
Author Ted Okuda said that Taves' vast knowledge as a Verne scholar provides a fascinating look at cinema based on one of the most acclaimed authors.
"Through exhaustive research, detailed descriptions, trenchant insights and evocative images, Taves takes us on an incredible journey worthy of Verne himself," Okuda wrote.
Rick Worland, author of "The Horror Film: An Introduction," described Taves' book as among the most detailed and knowledgeable summaries of Jules Verne film adaptations.
"It's a volume that all subsequent scholars will cite and against which subsequent work will be judged," Worland reviewed. "Taves has a remarkable, seemingly inexhaustible store of information and insight on Verne's work."
"Hollywood Presents" is available in hardcover for $39.95 through the University Press of Kentucky and on Amazon. It's also available as an Ebook.
Reservations are not required for the upcoming free film series in the Packard Theater, featuring:
>> Thursday at 7:30 p.m. - "The Southern Star" (Columbia, 1969), a comedy crime adventure starring Orson Welles, based on "The Vanished Diamond" by Verne.
>> Friday at 7:30 p.m. - "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" (New Line Cinema, 2012), starring Dwayne Johnson, based on Verne's titular novel, "Twenty Thousand Leagues" and "The Golden Volcano," recently translated for the first time.
>> Saturday at 2 p.m. - "In Search of the Castaways" (Disney/Buena Vista, 1962), starring Maurice Chevalier, based on Verne's 1868 adventure novel, "Captain Grant's Children."
Allison Brophy Champion is a news reporter for The Culpeper Star-Exponent. You can contact her at email@example.com. ext. 101 or