Why do many film critics and Philip K. Dick aficionados overlook John Alan Simon's thoughtful interpretation of the first and best VALIS novel into film? Radio Free Albemuth (2010) is actually a gem of a movie, which suffers unfairly from its low budget and lack of promotion.
Radio Free Albemuth was actually the first VALIS novel that Philip K Dick wrote, and in my opinion it is the best of that trilogy. His agent returned the manuscript with a note saying that it would never sell, so Phil wrote a second version and a third, both of which the agent returned with the same message: This will never sell. That was in the three years spanning 1974 through1977, and the market for his work improved over time.
After Ridley Scott's film Blade Runner went into production in 1981, publishers soon found an interest in publishing the VALIS novels. By the time the film was released in theatres in 1982, Phil had tragically died of a stroke followed by a heart attack. Those in charge of his estate wanted to release a VALIS trilogy, but they knew nothing about the first novel, which Phil had called VALIS before changing the title to Radio Free Albemuth. In search of a suitable third volume of the trilogy, they settled on The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, which really does not belong.
So, without that stamp of official approval as part of the VALIS trilogy, the novel languished. The film similarly fell under the radar of most fans and film critics. Despite the low budget, which was funded by producer-director John Alan Simon and his wife, along with a few others, the film features a brilliant cast. Shea Wigham stars as Phil, with Jonathan Scarfe as Nick Brady, and Katheryn Winnick as Rachel Brady. Alanis Morissette shines as Sylvia Aramchek. All the cast members agreed to work for union scale in this low-budget venture, since they believed in the project enough to take less money than usual for their work.
Like the novel, the film suffered from its lack of pubic connection with VALIS. What a shame! Despite the changes necessary when translating the written word into a visual medium, Radio Free Albemuth represents the most faithful interpretation of the work of Philip K. Duck that has ever shone its lights in a movie theatre.