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B Entries
Barbara Bain
Gene Barry
Wesley E. Barry
Martin Berkeley
Paul Birch
Whit Bissell
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BERKELEY, MARTIN
(1904–1979). American writer.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Wrote: Shock (with Eugene Ling, story Albert DeMond) (Alfred L. Werker 1946); Tarantula (with Robert M. Fresco; story Fresco and Jack ARNOLD) (Arnold 1955); Revenge of the Creature (story William ALLAND) (Arnold 1955); "Crackpot" (story by Harold Gast) (1957), episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents; The Deadly Mantis (story Alland) (Nathan JURAN 1957).
 
Everyone agrees that a former Broadway actor named Martin Berkeley gave the best performance of his career when he appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1951, expressed deep regret over his foolish decision to join the Communist party in the early 1940s, and conveyed his repentance by naming over 150 other Hollywood figures who had been his co-conspirators in plotting America's downfall—including, it appears, many people that he never met. No doubt he feared that a more honest list of the few dozen former Communists he could verify would have provided insufficient evidence of his newfound devotion to freedom and democracy.

Surveying the subsequent career of this screenwriter—a few science fiction films, several westerns, and numerous episodes of television westerns—some commentators have regarded these lowly assignments as Hollywood's punishment for his perfidy, but however satisfying this theory might be, there is no evidence to support it. Even before his testimony, Berkeley had never been asked to work on any major films, and many other writers in the 1950s could only find work writing westerns and science fiction films. Further, though he undoubtedly could have marketed his talents to other sorts of television programs, his almost exclusive focus on westerns suggests that he actually enjoyed writing them, apparently with consistently satisfactory results.

Whether he also enjoyed writing science fiction films is much more questionable, but the available evidence indicates that he was rather good at it. To be sure, writing "two of the greatest giant-insect movies of the 1950s" is not exactly the highest compliment one could provide, but that is an accurate description of Tarantula and The Deadly Mantis, energetic films that have retained their power to entertain audiences. Revenge of the Creature is less successful, but that is mainly due not to Berkeley's dialogue but to an inept cast (led by John AGAR, William ALLAND's contrived story, and Jack ARNOLD's unusually flaccid direction.

Other than his lamentable adventures in Washington, little about Berkeley's life has been recorded, and we may never know precisely how this minor actor was able to write two plays that were produced on Broadway, how he managed to land a job as a screenwriter, and what he did after retiring in the 1960s to live in Florida. Perhaps he was shunned by a few former colleagues, and perhaps he resented having his actions criticized by individuals who didn't know what it felt like to cower before an enormous monster and fear for one's life. So, yes, it may be regrettable that Berkeley did not display more courage during his darkest hour, but one must also acknowledge that he was facing a particularly odious and vicious tarantula that ultimately harmed both its victims and its allies.

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