Biography and early career
Lucas, born in Cincinnati, Ohio, was the only child of Marion Frank Lucas, a typesetter and musician, and the former Juanita Grace Wilson; his father died six months prior to his birth, on November 14, 1955, of a congenital heart ailment at age 33. He subsequently spent most of his childhood in the homes of various relatives and caregivers, seeing his widowed mother only on weekends, when she took him to drive-in theaters. After publishing single issues of two fanzines, he became a film critic and cartoonist for Norwood High School's newspaper The Mirror while still a freshman. He began writing professionally at the age of fifteen, when his first reviews were accepted by the influential fantasy film review Cinefantastique. He served at one of the magazine's midwestern bureaus for the next ten years.
Though Lucas never formally graduated high school, he succeeded in placing an essay in Purdue University's literary quarterly Modern Fiction Studies on the occasion of its Autumn 1981 issue, dedicated to British novelist Anthony Burgess. Jokingly, Lucas has described this accomplishment as his "honorary doctorate" because his letter of acceptance was addressed to "Dr. Timothy Lucas." His article, The Old Shelley Game: Prometheus and Predestination in Burgess's Works, was subsequently anthologized in Modern Critical Views: Anthony Burgess (1987, ISBN 0-87754-676-2), a collection "of the best criticism available upon the novels of Anthony Burgess" in the words of its editor, Harold Bloom.
It was in 1984, while reviewing Betamax and VHS releases for the Chicago-based magazine Video Times, that "Tim pretty much invented video reviewing as a genre distinct from movie reviewing," innovating the way in which home video releases are generally reviewed today. While other writers at the time preferred to review only the films, without venturing any comment whatsoever on their presentation, Lucas focused on how films were being treated by this new medium: the transfer, the picture cropping, the completeness of the source element. Pleased with his work, the editors of Video Times hired him to edit and co-author a series of twelve paperback video guides published in the summer and winter of 1985 by Signet Books. Of these, he wrote the introductions to all twelve and the entirety of four: Movie Classics, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy and Mystery & Suspense. The books, his first as a published author, were formally credited to "The Editors of Video Times" with Lucas receiving credit only on the copyright pages.
In October 1985, Video Times published the first installment of a new Lucas column, Video Watchdog, in which he investigated the changes made to various films (usually horror, cult and fantastic) when they appeared on video. With the dissolution of Video Times in 1986, the column resurfaced as a shot-on-video featurette, hosted and narrated by Lucas, in Pacific Arts Corporation's one-shot video-magazine-on-video experiment Overview[disambiguation needed], produced by Michael Nesmith. Video Watchdog was subsequently reborn in the pages of the Fangoria spin-off Gorezone, where it regularly appeared from 1988 to 1992. These early Watchdog columns were later collected with other relevant material in The Video Watchdog Book (1992, ISBN 0-9633756-0-1).
With his wife Donna Lucas, Lucas launched Video Watchdog as a separate magazine in June 1990 with a focus on extremely detailed articles that made it a key source of serious film criticism. Video Watchdog added full color covers with #13 (September/October 1992), increased its frequency from bimonthly to monthly with #55 (January 2000), and changed to a full interior color format with its 100th issue (October 2003). The magazine's unique approach to reviewing home video releases has since been widely adopted as the norm, especially by online critics. Its contributors include many renowned authors of film reportage and also fiction, including Kim Newman, Ramsey Campbell, David J. Schow and Douglas E. Winter.
Video Watchdog won the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award as Best Magazine every year from 2002 through 2006, the first five years the award was presented. The magazine's 20th Anniversary issue was published in June 2010. More recently, director Quentin Tarantino praised Video Watchdog in the pages of the Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano as "l'unica rivista di cinema autorevole al mondo" ("the only reliable film magazine in the world").
Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark
Lucas's critical biography Mario Bava All the Colors of the Dark (ISBN 0-9633756-1-X), a vast work thirty-two years in preparation, with a special introduction penned by Martin Scorsese, was published in August 2007 by Video Watchdog. This 800,000-word mammoth received words of praise from such filmmakers as Guillermo del Toro and Joe Dante. It also won numerous awards. It was honored as Best Book of 2007 by The Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards and the Sex Gore Mutants website, as an Independent Publisher Book Award Bronze Medal winner in the Performing Arts category, and The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films recognized Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark by having actor John Saxon present Lucas and his wife Donna with the rarely presented Saturn Award for Special Achievement. In November 2008, the book also received the International Horror Guild Award as the best Non-fiction work of 2007. In the aforementioned Il Fatto Quotidiano interview of 2010, Quentin Tarantino hailed Mario Bava All the Colors of the Dark as "the best book on films ever written."
Lucas' most recent work of nonfiction, Videodrome, a study of the 1983 David Cronenberg film, inaugurated the new Studies in the Horror Film line from Centipede Press in September 2008. The book is an amalgam of Lucas' previously unpublished production history, written in 1983, and new chapters encompassing essay, criticism, and personal memoir.
Blogs and columns
Beginning in October 2005, Lucas supplemented his editorial duties with Video WatchBlog, an essay blog that touches on film, music and literary as well as personal subjects; and NoZone, a DVD column for the British monthly Sight and Sound (which ran for 112 issues, ending its run with the newly reformatted September 2012 issue); Video WatchBlog received the Rondo Award for Best Website/Blog in 2007 and Best Blog in 2009. He also makes frequent contributions of liner notes, audio commentaries and archival materials to DVD and Blu-ray releases.
On January 1, 2012, Lucas launched Pause. Rewind. Obsess., a new blog designated as his 2012 screening diary.
Other film-related books featuring his work are The Book of Lists: Horror (edited by Amy Wallace, Del Howison and Scott Bradley), Nebula Awards Showcase 2009 (edited by Ellen Datlow), If Looks Could Kill (edited by Marketa Uhlirova), The Famous Monsters Chronicles (edited by Dennis Daniel), Horror: Another 100 Best Books (edited by Stephen Jones and Kim Newman), The BFI Companion to Horror (edited by Kim Newman), The Shape of Rage: The Films of David Cronenberg (edited by Piers Handling), The Eyeball Companion (edited by Stephen Thrower), The Hong Kong Filmography by John Charles (with a foreword by Lucas), José Mojica Marins: 50 anos de carreira (edited by Eugenio Puppo) and Obsession: The Films of Jess Franco.
From 1988 to 1992, Lucas contributed a number of comics stories to Stephen R. Bissette's graphic horror anthology Taboo, including three stories that formed the genesis of his first novel, Throat Sprockets, two ("Throat Sprockets", "Transylvania mon amour") illustrated by Mike Hoffman and the last ("The Disaster Area") drawn by David Lloyd. Lucas' other Taboo stories were "Sweet Nothings" (illustrated by Simonida Perica-Uth) and "Blue Angel" (illustrated by Stephen Blue).
In 2006, Lucas became a published poet when he placed several poems in issues 13 and 14 of the Manchester, England-based journal The Ugly Tree.
Lucas has also enjoyed critical success as a novelist. Throat Sprockets (1994, ISBN 0-385-31290-3), the fulfillment of an uncompleted graphic novel serialized in Taboo, is about a man whose life is altered by a chance encounter with an erotic and disturbing film of mysterious origin. It was singled out as the year's best first novel in Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow's The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, and was chosen by novelist Tananarive Due for inclusion in Horror: Another 100 Best Books (2005, ISBN 0-7867-1577-4). In October 2006, Rue Morgue magazine included Throat Sprockets on a list of 50 essential alternative horror novels. A film adaptation is presently in the works as the author's directorial debut.
After completing work on his Bava magnum opus, Lucas ended his decade-long hiatus from fiction with The Book of Renfield: A Gospel of Dracula (2005, ISBN 0-7432-4354-4), a complement to Bram Stoker's Dracula that focuses on the character of Renfield and how the circumstances of his tragic past predisposed him to become the ideal pawn for the Lord of the Undead. The novel was generally overlooked upon publication but can be seen in hindsight as the point of origin for the "mash-up" horror novels that rose to commercial prominence at the end of the decade, for its incorporation of approximately 50 pages of Stoker's novel into the weave of its original narrative.
Lucas has since written a third novel, The Only Criminal, another "graphic novel idea written in classic novel form," but it remains unpublished.
Since the completion of Mario Bava All the Colors of the Dark in 2007, Lucas has devoted his free time to pursuing a career in screenwriting. Lucas' screenplay The Man with Kaleidoscope Eyes (co-written with Charlie Largent), a comedy about the filming of Roger Corman's 1967 film The Trip is currently optioned by Metaluna Productions for director Joe Dante.
According to an interview in the Oregon-based fanzine Sinister Press, Lucas spent most of his off-magazine time in 2008 and early 2009 scripting Me and the Orgone, based on Orson Bean's 1971 book about his experiences in Reichian therapy[disambiguation needed], and also an original screenplay based on the life of Ishi written in collaboration with Diane Pfister.
In November 2010, Lucas made his directorial debut at The Factory Digital Filmmaking School of the Douglas Education Center in Monessen, PA with a promotional trailer and dialogue scene for a proposed feature film adaptation of his novel Throat Sprockets, executive produced by Robert Tinnell. The dialogue scene, a self-contained six-minute short adapted from the novel's "Transylvania mon amour" chapter, features Christopher Scott Grimaldi as Ad Man (unnamed in the novel) and Brandy Loveless as Nancy Reagan. The short had its World Premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal, Quebec on July 18, 2011, as a lead-in to the documentary Jean Rollin - Le Reveur Égare.
Lucas won in three different categories of the 2006 The Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards: Best Writer, Best Magazine (Video Watchdog, its fifth annual win in this category) and Best Website (Video WatchBlog). He continued his winning streak as Best Writer in 2007 and 2008; after a two-year gap, he was recognized as such again in 2011 and 2012. He currently holds a record total of 14 Rondo Awards. With his wife and business partner Donna, Lucas was inducted into the Monster Kid Hall of Fame at the 2010 Rondo Awards ceremony in May 2011.
- Lucas, Tim. Autobiographical notes in The Famous Monsters Chronicles (Fantaco, 1992).
- Lucas, Tim. Autobiographical notes in Video Watchdog no. 50 (Mar./Apr. 1999).
- Kehr, Dave. Blog entry on DaveKehr.com (Dec. 23, 2005).
- Pontiggia, Federico. Il Fatto Quotidiano, "Kechiche, Venere d'Oro" (September 9, 2010, p. 17).
- Lucas, Tim. Video WatchBlog, "Going Back To My Criminal Ways" (December 10, 2005).
- "Dracula's Doorman: Tim Lucas' Book of Renfield" in Sinister Press no 3 (Spring 2009).
- Lucas, Tim. Video WatchBlog, "Waffling About Watchdog, Weight & Woodstock" (June 19, 2009).
- Video Watchdog website
- Video WatchBlog (Tim Lucas's blog)
- Pause. Rewind. Obsess. (Tim Lucas's screening diary blog)
- Bava Book Update Blog
- GreenCine Daily profile