Sunday, February 18, 2007
For about 20 years film producer Richard Gordon has been both a friend – and whether he knew it or not – a mentor to me. A witty and classy gentlemen, Richard has a vast knowledge about film and I'm hopeful a new generation will discover his own movies through DVD releases such as the following. These photos are from Richard's brother Alex's – also one exceptional gentleman – film "Atomic Submarine," "Corridors of Blood," "Haunted Stangler" and "First Man into Space."
This new two-disc set from The Criterion Collection – the gold standard for
DVDs – features the vintage horror films, “The Haunted Strangler” and
Corridors of Blood and science fiction films, “First Man into Space” and
“The Atomic Submarine.”
Richard Gordon produced three of the films – “Strangler,” Corridors
“and” Space – while the fourth film was made by Richard’s brother Alex back
in the era in which independent producers flourished.
This package is more than just four enjoyable films. It is a celebration
of a two movie fans who did what all fans wish they could do: actually
produce films – successful films no less.
Richard and Alex grew up in England in the 1930s and were both avid
films fans. As kids they ran fan clubs in their native country – Richard
organized a club for Buster Crabbe (Flash Gordon of the movie serials),
while Alex ran a club for singing cowboy Gene Autry – and their love of
films only grew with time.
As young men, they decided to come to this country in the late 1940s to
try their luck breaking into the industry. After a variety of show business
jobs ranging from publicity to distribution, both men were able to find
Alex settled in California and made most of his films at American
International Pictures and along with Roger Corman was one of the principal
producers of that company in the 1950s.
Alex was the producer who really established the casting concept now
made famous of by Quentin Tarantino of giving roles to performers who were
favorites from his youth and ready for re-discovery.
Alex left producing in 1965 and pursued a respected career as an
archivist and then a long stint working with cowboy turned businessman Gene
Autry. He died in 2003.
Richard established his offices in New York City and made his films in
his native Great Britain. Although his last feature was made in 1981,
Richard has been very active licensing his library of films for home video
and television around the world.
Of the many independent producers who were making films in the 1950s
through the 1980s, only Richard has remained active in the business to this
Richard’s The Haunted Strangler” and “Corridors of Blood” both star
Boris Karloff and afforded the aging actor with two of best roles in the
last segment of his career.
“Strangler’ is a neat twist on the Jekyll and Hyde theme with Karloff as
an acclaimed mystery writer trying to prove his theory about a long-dead
“Corridors” features Karloff as a doctor in Victorian England pioneering
the use of anesthesia and becoming an addict in the process.
Richard’s third movie in the package is “First Man into Space,” a movie
that straddles the horror and science fiction genres.
A Navy test pilot returns from an experimental flight as an encrusted monster killing
people for their blood.
The effective direction of Robert Day and Karloff’s performances push
“Strangler” and “Corridors” out of standard horror genre fare. They are both
very good, solid films.
“First Man” is a fast-moving exploitation film – it capitalized on the
very topical space race of the late 1950s – and is also a lot of fun.
“The Atomic Submarine” is one of Alex’s most ambitious films with a
large cast of sentimental favorites – cowboy stars Dick Foran and Bob
Steele, suave Tom Conway, among others – a lot of special effects, and a
timely theme of nuclear submarines. It can also boast of one of the most
unusual monsters seen in a sci-fi movie.
Although the low budget shows at times, “Submarine” is a drive-in movie
that is hard not to dislike.
All of the films have great commentary tracks with author Tom Weaver
interviewing Richard and Alex and Criterion includes two insightful booklets
featuring essays on the films. Other extras are interviews with director
Robert Day and some of the cast members from the films.
This is one of my essential additions to my DVD library.
For more information, log onto www.criterionco.com
Images copyright by Gordon Films, Inc.
Copyright 2007 by Gordon Michael Dobbs