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Where Did It Come From

A good ol’ nasty review on Amazon reminded me of the post I’ve been intending to make about the four major influences on me that lead to Tumor, each really helping to form the backbone of the story, shape the tone, and give me a direction to follow.

First, and probably foremost, is the 1950 classic D.O.A. directed by Rudolph Mate’ and starring Edmund O’Brien. D.O.A. is quite possibly my favorite of the film noirs for both its simplicity and aching suspense. It’s the story of a man, who is accidentally poisoned, who must spend his last remaining hours trying to solve his own murder. It’s got it’s share of goofy, awkward moments, as any good B picture would, but, what raises it above the others, is a degree of style and grace and just sheer damn inventiveness that drives the story to it’s inevitable conclusion. It also paints a portrait of San Francisco that feels both real, alive, and accurate (even though it’s not quite.)

Secondly, we have Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries. It’s easily my favorite Bergman film, both for it’s straight forwardness (for Bergman, anyways) and for it’s complete portraiture of a man’s life. Over the course of just 91 minutes, you see every mistake, formative event, and final destination of a man, who’s life, he realizes, has been lived in vain. The movie is a man’s journey to death, as his life flashes before our eyes. You’ll find the stylistic blendings between reality and dream that we strive to use in Tumor taken straight from the beautiful cinematography and editing of Bergman’s masterwork. Plus, the stunning performance of Victor Sjöström has that balance between bastard and charming victim that really makes Frank tick.

Third, as our esteemed Amazon reviewer pointed out, is the Singing Detective. Dennis Potter’s amazing mini-series starring Michael Gambon combines elementes of both movies I mentioned above into a dense, beautiful story of a man trapped in his body by an illness with only his imagination and his haunted memories to alleviate the tension. His mind draws him into a fantasy story that’s a sort of dance hall version of a pulp detective story. The Singing Detective is truly one of the great masterpieces of television, and it’s where that core idea of a man dependent on his mind slowly losing it came from for the book.

So here’s the thing. These three very different pieces of film have always felt somehow linked to me. Perhaps because all three are about men on the verge of death, or, fates worse than. All three tell the stories of what it means to have nothing left to lose, and to face the mistakes and disasters that have made us who we are. All three movies have a strong auto-biographical feel (especially the Singing Detective, which sees the lead character afflicted with a more extreme version of what Potter himself suffered from.)

I came up with the idea for Tumor quite a few years ago. What really lit a fire under my ass to get it done was a mysterious condition I developed about three years ago now. I started to lose vision at an alarming rate. It became almost impossible for me to read books, street signs, anything that wasn’t brightly illuminated right in front of my face. And then the headaches started. Crippling, debilitating, real humdingers of torturous pain. I spent the better part of the first year with them curled up in a ball on the couch trying to make it through the day. For a time, I was convinced (as were some of my doctors) that it was neurological in nature. Whatever was causing my problems wasn’t my eyes, but my brain, they told me. And I started to go insane.

Thank god for my wife and friends who stood by me, and gave love and sympathy when I needed it. I spent every minute of that pain terrified that I was going to lose the only thing that makes me special, my ability to think. I was put on various medications for the pain, the headaches, the depression, each making me feel slightly better in one way, while worse in some unknown extra way. I spent every day on that couch wanting to die, just to stop the pain. And, just like Frank, my mind was torn to every mistake, every lost friend, every foolish day wasted, seemingly laughing at me for the mistakes I made.

Once I was finally diagnosed, (it turned out to be a degenrative eye disease combined with a massive allergy to the local plantlife that swarmed around our neighborhood), I went back to work on Tumor. And now, not a year later, I’m proud as hell to share it with y’all.

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