RIP Lorenzo Semple Jr., King of the Camp Classic Reimagining
Long before nerd culture became completely post-modern and self aware, Lorenzo Semple Jr. was pioneering the art.
Oh, sure, in cinema circles the screenwriter is probably most revered for movies like The Parallax View and 3 Days of the Condor…both inspirations for the new Captain America movie, as it turns out.
But to me he was the master of one very specific form – the rebooting of classic properties in ways kids could love on an adventure level and adults could enjoy for their campiness. 1966 Batman. 1980 Flash Gordon. 1976 King Kong. Sean Connery’s aging James Bond in Never Say Never Again. On the one hand, yes, like today, Hollywood was churning out cynical, cash-grab remakes. But in his hands, with action scenes big enough to please the fans and subtle social satire buried in campy jokes that only parents would appreciate, he turned the brand-name product into a treasure that would grow up with you. I suspect there is not a person reading this site today who didn’t have that experience with at least one of the major nerd properties he had a hand in.
He could certainly teach today’s screenwriters and filmmakers a thing or two – Seth Macfarlane, who made a whole subplot in Ted about Flash Gordon and regularly employs Adam West, is at least attempting to follow in his footsteps…but ironically enough, gets the satire aspect while missing those good old-fashioned values on which we used to rely.
We had a mutual friend at one point, but the introduction was never made because apparently he wasn’t all that comfortable around strangers. He could never be one to me, nor, I suspect, to many of you, even if you didn’t know his name before now.
Farewell, old chum.