"Working Title"

A Memory of David Goodis

By Brian Kellman

My 13th year was not only a coming of age in the religious sense it was at that time that I felt acceptance and respected as a young adult by my father and his friend, David Goodis.

David, who attended my bar mitzvah in 1958, collaborated with my dad, producer Louis W. Kellman and director Paul Wendkos on the screen adaptation of his novel, The Burglar, in 1955.

David and my dad were buddies as well as collaborators. It seemed that whenever I dropped by the office I would catch them laughing, gossiping and furiously pitching ideas to one another.

One special day shortly after my bar mitzvah they asked me if I wanted to join them for a working lunch at a nearby -- now long gone -- Stouffer's Restaurant in Center City Philadelphia. Their goal that afternoon was to flesh out an idea for a horror film who's working title was Terror of the Opera House -- perhaps an homage to a certain, earlier silent movie.

I was welcomed as an equal participant as ideas flowed back and forth.

I still remember a few threads of the plot discussed that afternoon. A beautiful diva had been murdered during a performance. A hunchback -- the theater's janitor -- was suspected and disappeared that night. The old opera house which had been shuttered and had fallen to ruin was purchased decades later by a land speculator who wanted to demolish it. And of course, he became the target of the hunchback who for decades lived below the stage in some inaccessible, subterranean recess.

It all ends with a cleansing fire that I believe kills both hunchback and speculator.

Apparently, the original murder weapon -- a knife -- had been tossed against the backstage wall after the initial crime and had fallen though a space between the wall and a rarely used, antique electrical power box. In the end, I forget who pulls the switch that causes the short circuit but that's the cause of the fire.

We all had great fun at that bull session! The film was never made. The afternoon was unforgettable.

This essay appeared in the GoodisCON program book.