Chinatown, Blue Christmas Coverage and Fruitcake

February 20th, 2024 by Max Allan Collins

Thanks to producer Chad Bishop we have a Blue Christmas web page. It includes info about buying advance tickets to some of the premieres and we will be updating it to include the others, so check back to the page for the update info over the next few weeks.

Blue Christmas is an Official Selection of the Cedar Rapids International Film Festival. Info about the festival is right here.

I introduced a great screening of Chinatown at the Fleur Theatre in Des Moines on Saturday night (Feb. 17). A good house – about 70 people – took up one of the three screens. The Fleur is a terrific theater, recently re-opened under new management by Iowa’s Fridley chain. Barb and I would like to thank Fridley’s Chris Kottman for inviting us (and for his hospitality). The Fleur staff is stellar (and they have perhaps the best popcorn in the state…though the Collins Road Theatre in Cedar Rapids rivals it) and the venue is among the best in the Midwest.

Seeing Chinatown – probably atop a three-way tie with Vertigo and Kiss Me Deadly for my favorite film – on a big screen in a 4K presentation (where is the 4K disc, Paramount?) was breathtaking for this fan. The audience was divided in roughly two groups – those who’d seen the film before and those who hadn’t. I envied the latter group, and was pleased to hear laughs and gasps coming at the correct moments.

I talked about the film’s relation to various hardboiled (or noir) mystery writers, including Hammett, Chandler and Spillane, names that weren’t necessarily familiar to the younger attendees (which included a good number of film students from Drake University). While screenwriter Robert Towne often pointed to Chandler as a major influence on the story, I mentioned that Kiss Me Deadly had an impact, too – unlike Phillip Marlowe and Mike Hammer, the protagonist of Chinatown – Jake Gittes – was a “divorce dick,” like the Hammer of the Kiss Me Deadly film.

And I of course mentioned the significance of John Huston, director of the 1941 Maltese Falcon, playing a major role (to say the least).

M.A.C. speaking about Chinatown at the Fleur
I explain to the audience at the Fleur why John Huston’s name is bigger than Roman Polanski’s on the CHINATOWN poster.

My appearance – in a Fleur series featuring writers and filmmakers introducing films that had inspired them – was designed in part to promote the World Premiere of Blue Christmas at the Fleur next Saturday (February 24). I will be there with producer Chad Bishop and a number of the actors, including star Rob Merritt and maybe his co-star, Alisabeth Von Presley, in a red carpet event.

We got great coverage from Channel 13, WHO, in Des Moines, who focused on Blue Christmas and the Feb. 24 event at the Fleur. We were sitting at the counter at the Drake Diner having a fantastic breakfast when suddenly the story came on the big screen near the serving window.

Blue Christmas coverage on TV at the Drake Diner
The view of Channel 13’s BLUE CHRISTMAS coverage from the Drake Diner counter!

Advance tickets are available here.

Our three other premieres are the following:

Collins Road Theater/Cedar Rapids Premiere – March 13th
Palms 10/Muscatine Premiere – March 16th
Last Picture House/Quad Cities Premiere – March 22nd
* * *

Barb and I are already in pre-production on the next indie movie, Death by Fruitcake, which (if all goes well or even passably) will introduce Brandy Borne and Mother (of the Antiques cozy mystery novel series) to the big screen (in Iowa, anyway) and on the flat screen in your house.

What kind of movie is it? Well, it starts with a murder and ends with a fruitcake recipe.

That recipe, which was included in the source novella (“Antiques Fruitcake”) and featured in the paperback collection Antiques Ho Ho Homicides, looked wrong to Barb. For one thing, there was no butter in it. How could that even work?

In order to be responsible storytellers and filmmakers, we set about making that fruitcake recipe, planning to at least taste the finished product, though neither of us are fruitcake fans.

The batter looked like fake vomit – you know, the gag item that Magic and Gag Shops always sell.

Fruitcake batter, or fake vomit?
Dessert – comin’ right up!
Fake vomit, or fruitcake batter?
Magic shop fake vomit, kids!

But the result was…we swear…delicious. True, we ate it warm with ice cream, but that’s fair dinkum, as they say on Prisoner Cell Block H and Wentworth.

Fruitcake is served – surprisingly delicious!
Fruitcake is served – surprisingly delicious!
* * *

Iowa Public Radio has a really good article on me and Blue Christmas at their web site.

And the great J. Kingston Pierce writes up my announcement that I’m planning for the next Nate Heller novel to be the last. Nice that people still care. Really nice, actually.


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3 Responses to “Chinatown, Blue Christmas Coverage and Fruitcake”

  1. Mark Lambert says:

    REALLY looking forward to the World Premiere of BLUE CHRISTMAS! I’ve been hawking the event on my Facebook page and at least a few of my FB friends have said they are coming! The fruitcake looks fabulous! (I am a fruitcake fan). It reminds me of some children’s book I checked out of the library for my daughters when they were little. It was about a woman’s famous cranberry bread, and the story was basically a don’t-judge-a-book-by-its-cover tale, as she deals with a conman who is well dressed and handsome, and a scruffy old guy who is trying to warn her about him. It included the recipe for the cranberry bread, and my daughters and I made it together for several years at Thanksgiving. So, I love the idea of including the recipe! The pic of the fake vomit brought back memories — I used to have one of those, which I purchased from the venerable Johnson-Smith catalog (sadly, now out of business) which advertised in every comic book back in the day. As a sophomore in high school, I would drop it on the floor and stand there and look at it and watch kids walk by and look disgusted! You had to make your own fun in high school in the 70s! See you Saturday night!

  2. stephenborer says:

    ‘Preciate the Public Radio story link !

  3. Bill P says:

    You are spot on. That fruitcake batter most certainly looks like fake vomit. Doesn’t mean the finished product can’t be good, though. I applaud the lengths you go to ensure your readers aren’t given any bunk recipe!