Chicago Tribune - FREDERICK S. CLARKE; FILM MAGAZINE FOUNDER
11/1/00 - Frederick S. Clarke, 51, whose pre-teen fascination with the movie "When Worlds Collide" later gave fans and the film trade the science fiction film magazine Cinefantastique, died Tuesday, Oct. 17, near Adair, Iowa.
Mr. Clarke was a onetime University of Illinois at Chicago physics major who lived in Oak Park.
Arriving on the scene in 1970, just as big-budget sci-fi pictures were making their entrance, Cinefantastique, under Mr. Clarke's direction, led a kind of guerrilla journalism into the world of fantasy motion pictures.
From his office in Forest Park, he directed his writers to prowl horror, science fiction and fantasy movie sets around the world, revealing how special effects were accomplished, which screenwriters were cheated out of fees, how pictures were funded, even story lines.
The result was a magazine thick with exhaustive analysis, the sort of thing that led to an eight-page description of the mermaid tail Darryl Hannah wore in "Splash."
"A lot of magazines in our field deal with horror and fantasy, but they do it on a juvenile level," Mr. Clarke told the Tribune in 1986. "We treat the genre the way a serious magazine on the art of film would treat filmmaking."
But for all the hard-core delving into the making of movies, at the heart of Cinefantastique was a man who as an 11-year-old became imbued with a sense of wonder at the movies.
Born in Ohio, Mr. Clarke grew up in Elmwood Park, where he moved with his family after his father died. As a child, he would go on his own to the movie theaters, seeing sometimes three films in a row. His teen years were chaotic, and movies, for all the fantasy they contained, offered a steadying influence, said his wife, Dr. Celeste Casey Clarke.
"Before it became a catch phrase, we were film nerds," said Steve Rubin, a producer for Showtime who wrote for Mr. Clarke's magazine in the 1970s.
"Fred just loved going to the movies," Rubin said. "Going to the movies was more than a ritual for us, it was kind of like a religion."
At Elmwood Park High School, he began producing Cinefantastique on a mimeograph machine, and after graduating from UIC in 1971, he sold laboratory supplies while tinkering with it.
In 1970, he had published the first glossy issue of Cinefantastique, which sold for $1 and was laid out on his kitchen table in Elmwood Park. When circulation jumped in the mid-1970s, he quit his sales job.
A mild, jovial man in person, Mr. Clarke was uncompromising in his approach to covering movies. Watching movies on television irritated him, and he prided himself at one time on driving as far as Milwaukee to see movies in the theater. (Deductions on his 1982 tax return, the year he got married, showed he had seen 728 movies.)
Neither did his magazine pull punches. One of his writers once panned "E.T." as "derivative."
The approach, in an industry that often fawns on moviemakers and actors, led to his magazine being stonewalled by larger movie studios more than once. Still Mr. Clarke relentlessly pursued the stories.
In recent years, the publication boasted a worldwide circulation of 30,000. Spotlighting special-effects experts and makeup artists instead of actors (Mr. Clarke derided fan magazines that didn't), Cinefantastique has long been an influential magazine for entertainment writers and industry insiders. His wife, the magazine's business manager, said Cinefantastique would continue.
Since 1992, Mr. Clarke had also published the film magazine Femme Fatales.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Clarke is survived by two daughters, Whitney and Caitlin; a stepson, Drew Sikula; a stepdaughter, Ana Sikula; and two brothers, George and Charles.
Services were held in Oak Park.