Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Ultimate Goose Chase: 30 years without a "Clue"

A few years ago we were revising the Bellairsia website, which meant ripping and creating new images from the television adaptations of The House with a Clock in its Walls and The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn (we had clearer versions of the programs which meant we could create clearer images for the site). No, the programs are not great and the routine of updating the pictures was not an enjoyable task, either. Still, in watching the programs and examining the pictures we realized there were some exterior shots of the characters in front of houses and parks and a cemetery, among other places.

The thought “where on earth is this place, what kind of town is this?” popped into conversation, as did this bizarre thought: there are people who love visiting the real-life locales from their favorite movies – like Back to the Future or Lord of the Rings – and for a fleeting moment we thought it would be a hoot to visit one of the locations from the adaptation of House or Treasure.

Of course, this is where the goose chase kicks in: we don't have a clue where the programs were filmed. (I almost wrote “where the programs were shot” but I could see that being a joke for some.) Both were released by a California-based production group so it makes sense if they were filmed on location somewhere out west. But I could be wrong. Maybe Canada? Near a Women’s College in eastern Montana? (Fidgeta joke – sorry.) Or was everything set-pieces, long destroyed or converted into something used for other programs (like Dr. Quinn or The Wire or...try again).

We tried tracking down some of the names associated with the programs a few years ago and either we had bad information or people were too embarrassed to respond.

Wherever it was filmed (or shot), the television adaptation of The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. We’re told the program was first broadcast as part of the CBS-TV "Children's Mystery Theater" on December 26, 1980, and we considered waiting half a year to say a few words but we felt a commemorative note was better published on April 1. That way we have half a year to bask in its 50+ minutes of glory. (On a sort-of-related note, according to the program and the tombstone viewed midway through, Alpheus Winterborn was born April 9 – so we’re just a few days away from his supposed birthday.)

One reason there seems to be so little known on the program is that it was produced and released under the title The Clue According to Sherlock Holmes. Yes, as the title indicates, Holmes and Watson are featured prominently in the program, welcoming viewers to the story and popping-up occasionally to guide viewers through the mess. Bellairs' characters are there - Miss Eells, Anthony, and Hugo - but their traits and habits seem more like excessive clichés. One notable change is the Winterborn clues (none written by Bellairs) that start off on a bad leg and progressively get more ridiculous: one clue essentially reminds the treasure hunter to use the back door if the front door to the library is locked.

See, it's silly. But don't take my word for it.

We’ve been discussing (and watching) Once Upon a Midnight Scary – the title of the anthology program that adapted The House with a Clock in its Walls for television – on our forum. It’s another 30-year-old gem from the Bellairsian vaults and watching either one of these programs will surely bring a smile to your face.  Or maybe a laugh and a roll of the eyes.

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