Sunday, July 13, 2014

In Memoriam: Bill Holloway (1950-2014), director of A Voyage to Arcturus (1971)

Bill Holloway passed away in April at the age of 63, and I’d like to pay honor to his memory here.  A fuller obituary appears here.

I first came into contact with Bill in the mid-1990s, having tracked him down through the Antioch College alumni office, who passed on to me his address in Massachusetts. I was interested in learning more details about the college project he’d done in 1970-71, a film version of David Lindsay’s 1920 novel A Voyage to Arcturus.  We first chatted about this over the telephone on 2 April 1996, and got in touch again in 2003 as Bill made a transfer of the film to VHS, and subsequently re-edited the film for a DVD release. 

Bill Holloway and his camera
A Voyage to Arcturus was an independent study film project, and was filmed over three weeks during the summer of 1970, using local students and amateur actors.  It was made with a very small budget, using out of date black-and-white film stock.  Rod Serling saw a rough cut (without sound) on a visit to the college as an Antioch alumnus, and he assisted in getting an N.E.A. grant for money to finish making the film. For a few years around 1972-73 it received some distribution in the U.S. through the MacMillan Audio Brandon Catalog, but I doubt it played at very many venues.  The only contemporary review of it that I have seen dates from 1973, after a showing at a meeting of the Denver Science Fiction Association on July 21st.  The short review, by Phil Rose, reads in part:

Directing A Voyage to Arcturus
My general reaction is that a person would probably not enjoy it (or understand it at all) without having first read the book.  The special effects are minimal, many important scenes are omitted, and the ending of the film in no way does justice to the powerful climax of the book.  Still, for such an ambitious project there are many good scenes.  I found the portrayal of Krag particularly good, and that of Maskull not so good.  I would recommend, for group showings, that someone who has read the book give a brief outline of the story of Lindsay’s ideas before the viewing.

This isn’t an unfair critique, and Bill didn’t disagree with it. After all, the film was begun when he was nineteen, and shot with virtually no money, using students and amateurs. Bill felt the project was his education in film-making, and he thought the camera-work and composition was good, and that some of the footage had a really nice look.When he re-edited the film for the DVD release, he reworked the ending, even getting the original Nightspore (Tom Hastings) to do a new voice-over. 

Bill was a kind and interesting man, and he will be missed by everyone who knew him. The DVD of A Voyage to Arcturus is still available here, or you can see the seventy minute film on YouTube here, along with a short nine minute interview with Bill here (the same interview is on the DVD). 

The cover to the DVD

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for letting us know. I have the DVD transfer and enjoyed watching it. It's true that anyone who hadn't read the book probably wouldn't enjoy it as much...But then few would ever see it who hadn't read the book.