Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Biography: DIRECTORS

John Boorman

John Boorman_movie bannerJohn Boorman (born 18 January 1933) is a British filmmaker who is a long time resident of Ireland and is best known for his feature films such as Point Blank, Deliverance, Zardoz, Excalibur, The Emerald Forest, Hope and Glory, The General and The Tailor of Panama.

John BoormanBoorman first began by working as a dry cleaner and journalist in the late 1950s. He ran the newsrooms at Southern Television in Southampton and Dover before moving into TV documentary filmmaking, eventually becoming the head of the BBC’s Bristol-based Documentary Unit in 1962.

His feature debut was Catch Us If You Can (1965), about competing pop group Dave Clark Five, a rip-off of Richard Lester’s ‘A Hard Days Night’. Boorman was drawn to Hollywood for the opportunity to make larger-scale cinema and in Point Blank (1967), a gritty, powerful and brutal film, he brought a stranger’s vision to the decaying fortress of Alcatraz and the proto-hippy world of San Francisco. Lee Marvin gave the then-unknown director his full support, telling MGM he deferred all his approvals on the project to Boorman.

Deliverance_poster_1After Point Blank, Boorman re-teamed with Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune for Hell in the Pacific (1968), which tells a fable story of two representative soldiers stranded together on an island. Returning to the UK, he made Leo the Last (US/UK, 1970). The film won him a Best Director award at Cannes.

Boorman achieved much greater resonance with Deliverance (1972), the odyssey of city people played by Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ronny Cox and Ned Beatty as they trespass into the Appalachian backwoods and discover their inner savagery. This film became Boorman’s first true box office success, earning him several award nominations. He followed with the cult film Zardoz (1973), starring Sean Connery, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi piece, set in the 24th century.

Exorcist II The Heretic_posterBoorman was selected as director for Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), but the resultant film was widely ridiculed and regarded by many as a failure. The film is set four years after The Exorcist, and centers on a now 16-year-old Regan McNeil who is still recovering from her previous demonic possession.

Exorcist writer/producer William Peter Blatty and director William Friedkin both had no desire to involve themselves in an Exorcist sequel. According to the film’s co-producer Richard Lederer, Exorcist II was conceived as a relatively low-budget affair: “What we essentially wanted to do with the sequel was to redo the first movie… Have the central figure, an investigative priest, interview everyone involved with the exorcism, then fade out to unused footage, unused angles from the first movie. A low-budget rehash – about $3 million – of The Exorcist, a rather cynical approach to movie-making, I’ll admit. But that was the start.”

Exorcist 2_Linda Blair_John BoormanPlaywright William Goodhart was commissioned to write the screenplay, titled The Heretic, and based it around the theories of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (the Jesuit paleontologist/archaeologist who inspired the character of Father Merrin when Blatty wrote The Exorcist). Boorman was unhappy with Goodhart’s script, and asked Goodhart to do a rewrite, incorporating ideas from Rospo Pallenberg. Goodhart refused, and so the script was rewritten by Pallenberg and Boorman. Goodhart’s script was being constantly rewritten as the film was shooting, with the filmmakers uncertain as to how the story should end. Actress Linda Blair recalls “It was a really good script at first. Then after everybody signed on they rewrote it five times and it ended up nothing like the same movie.”

British filmmaker Boorman signed on to direct, stating that “the idea of making a metaphysical thriller greatly appealed to my psyche.” Years before, Boorman had been considered by Warner Bros. as a possible director for the first Exorcist movie, but he turned the opportunity down as he found the story “rather repulsive.” Boorman, however, was intrigued with the idea of directing a sequel, explaining that “every film has to struggle to find a connection with its audience. Here I saw the chance to make an extremely ambitious film without having to spend the time developing this connection. I could make assumptions and then take the audience on a very adventurous cinematic journey.” He should have left it alone…

Deliverance_postersBoorman returned with Excalibur (1981), a retelling of the Arthurian legend. For the film he employed all of his children as actors and crew and several of Boorman’s later films have been ‘family business’ productions.

Deliverance_poster 2The Emerald Forest (1985) saw Boorman cast his actor son Charley Boorman as an eco-warrior, in a rainforest eco-adventure. Hope and Glory (1987, UK) is his most autobiographical movie to date, a retelling of his childhood in London during The Blitz. The film proved a Box Office hit in the US, receiving numerous Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations. However his 1990 US produced comedy about a dysfunctional family, Where the Heart Is, was a major flop.

Boorman won the Best Director Award at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival for The General, his black-and-white biopic of Martin Cahill. The film is about the somewhat glamorous, yet mysterious, criminal in Dublin who was killed, apparently by the IRA. Released in 2006, The Tiger’s Tail was a thriller set against the tableau of early 21st century capitalism in Ireland.

In 2004, Boorman was made a Fellow of BAFTA.


John Carpenter – Part 2

John Carpenter_Movie Banner 2Carpenter followed up the success of Halloween with The Fog (1980), a ghostly revenge tale (co-written by Hill) inspired by horror comics such as Tales from the Crypt. Completing The Fog was an unusually difficult process for Carpenter. After viewing a rough cut of the film, he was dissatisfied with the result. For the only time in his filmmaking career, he had to devise a way to salvage a nearly finished film that did not meet his standards. In order to make the movie more coherent and frightening, Carpenter shot additional footage that included a number of new scenes. Approximately one-third of the finished film is the newer footage.

Escape from New York_Kurt RussellCarpenter immediately followed The Fog with the science-fiction adventure Escape from New York (1981). An American cyberpunk action film, starring Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Donald Pleasance and Harry Dean Stanton, it is set in the near future in a crime-ridden United States that has converted Manhattan Island into a maximum security prison. Ex-soldier Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) is given 24 hours to find the President of the United States, who has been captured after the crash of Air Force One.

His next film, The Thing (1982), is notable for its high production values, including innovative special effects by Rob Bottin, special visual effects by matte artist Albert Whitlock, a score by Ennio Morricone and a cast including Carpenter regular Kurt Russell and respected character actors such as Wilford Brimley, Richard Dysart and Keith David. The Thing was made with a budget of $15,000,000, Carpenter’s largest up to that point, and grossed about $20,000,000.

Kurt Russell_John Carpenter_Escape from New YorkCarpenter’s film used the same source material as the 1951 Howard Hawks film, The Thing from Another World, Carpenter’s version is more faithful to the John W. Campbell, Jr. novella, Who Goes There?, upon which both films were based. As The Thing did not perform well on a commercial level, Carpenter has stated that E.T.’s release could have been largely responsible for the film’s disappointment. The movie has found new life in the home video and cable markets, and it is now widely regarded as one of the best horror films ever made.

Shortly after completing post-production on The Thing, Universal offered him the chance to direct Firestarter, based on the novel by Stephen King, but when The Thing was a box-office disappointment, Universal replaced Carpenter with Mark L Lester. Ironically, Carpenter’s next film, Christine, was the 1983 adaptation of the Stephen King novel of the same name. The story revolves around a high-school nerd named Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon) who buys a junked 1958 Plymouth Fury which turns out to have supernatural powers. As Cunningham restores and rebuilds the car, he becomes unnaturally obsessed with it, with deadly consequences. Christine did respectable business upon its release and was received well by critics; however, Carpenter has been quoted as saying he directed the film because it was the only thing offered to him at the time.

John Carpenter_The ThingStarman (1984) was critically praised but was only a moderate commercial success. The film received Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for Jeff Bridges’ portrayal of Starman. Following the box office failure of his big-budget action–comedy Big Trouble in Little China (1986), Carpenter struggled to get films financed. He returned to making lower budget films such as Prince of Darkness (1987), a film influenced by the BBC series Quatermass. Although some of the films from this time, such as They Live (1988) did pick up a cult audience, he never again realized his mass-market potential.

John Carpenter_portraitCarpenter was also offered The Exorcist III in 1989, and met with writer William Peter Blatty (who also authored the novel on which it was based, Legion) over the course of a week. However, the two clashed on the film’s climax and Carpenter passed on the project.

His 1990’s career is characterized by a number of notable misfires: Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992), Village of the Damned (1995) and Escape from L.A. (1996) are examples of films that were critical and box office failures. Also notable from this decade are In the Mouth of Madness (1994), yet another Lovecraftian homage, which did not do well either at the box-office or with critics and Vampires (1998), which  starred James Woods as the leader of a band of vampire hunters in league with the Catholic Church.

2001 saw the release of Ghosts of Mars. 2005 saw remakes of Assault on Precinct 13 and The Fog, the latter being produced by Carpenter himself, though in an interview he defined his involvement as, “I come in and say hello to everybody. Go home.” In 2007 Rob Zombie produced and directed Halloween, re-imagining of Carpenter’s 1978 film that spawned a sequel two years later.

Carpenter returned to the director’s chair in 2005 for an episode of Showtime’s Masters of Horror series as one of the thirteen filmmakers involved in the first season. His episode, Cigarette Burns, aired to generally positive reviews, and positive reactions from Carpenter fans. He has since contributed another original episode for the show’s second season entitled Pro-Life, about a young girl who is raped and impregnated by a demon and wants to have an abortion, but whose efforts are halted by her religious fanatic, gun-toting father and her three brothers.

John Carpenter_Movie Banner 3The Ward (2009), starring Amber Heard, was his first movie since 2001’s Ghosts of Mars. Carpenter narrated the video game F.E.A.R.3. On 10 October 2010 Carpenter received the Lifetime Award from the Freak Show Horror Film Festival.

In 2011 at the Fright Night Film Festival Carpenter revealed that he is currently working on what he described as a “gothic western” movie and hopes to get it off the ground soon. He went on to say that he is unsure of the film’s fate as it is harder to sell westerns these days… although the success of Tarantino’s Django Unchained may help…


John Carpenter – Part 1

John Carpenter_Movie Banner 1John Howard Carpenter (born January 16, 1948) is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, editor and composer. Although Carpenter has worked in numerous film genres, he is most commonly associated with horror and science fiction films from the 1970’s and 1980’s.

JOHN_CARPENTERAlmost all the films in Carpenter’s career have garnered cult followings, particularly: Dark Star (1974), Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), Halloween (1978), Escape from New York (1981), The Thing (1982), Starman (1984), Big Trouble in Little China (1986) and They Live! (1988), while Carpenter has been acknowledged as an influential filmmaker.

Carpenter was born in Carthage, New York, the son of Milton Jean and Howard Ralph Carpenter, a music professor. He was captivated by movies from an early age, particularly the westerns of Howard Hawks and John Ford, as well as 1950’s low budget horror films, such as The Thing from Another World and high budget science fiction like Forbidden Planet and began filming horror shorts on 8mm film even before entering high school. He attended Western Kentucky University where his father chaired the music department, then transferred to the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts in 1968, but later dropped out to make his first feature.

Halloween_Jamie Lee CurtisHe collaborated with producer John Longenecker as co-writer, film editor and music composer for The Resurrection of Broncho Billy (1970), which won an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film. The short film was blown-up to 35mm, and the film was theatrically released by Universal Studios for two years in the United States and Canada.

His first major film as director, Dark Star (1974), was a science fiction black comedy that he co-wrote with Dan O’Bannon (who later went on to write Alien, borrowing freely from much of Dark Star). The film reportedly cost only $60,000 and was difficult to make as both Carpenter and O’Bannon completed the film by multitasking, with Carpenter doing the musical score as well as the writing, producing and directing, while O’Bannon acted in the film and did the special effects (which caught the attention of George Lucas who hired him to do work on the special effects for Star Wars). 

Halloween_Michael MyersCarpenter’s next film was Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), a low-budget thriller influenced by the films of Howard Hawks, particularly Rio Bravo. As with Dark Star, Carpenter was responsible for many aspects of the film’s creation. He not only wrote, directed and scored it, but also edited the film under the pseudonym “John T. Chance” (the name of John Wayne’s character in Rio Bravo). Carpenter has said that he considers Assault on Precinct 13 to have been his first real film because it was the first movie that he shot on a schedule. The film also marked the first time Carpenter worked with Debra Hill, who played prominently in the making of some of Carpenter’s most important films.

Working within the limitations of a $100,000 budget, Carpenter assembled a main cast that consisted of experienced but relatively obscure actors. The film was originally released in the United States to mixed critical reviews and lacklustre box-office earnings, but after it was screened at the 1977 London Film Festival, it became a critical and commercial success in Europe and is often credited with launching Carpenter’s career. The film subsequently received a critical reassessment in the United States, where it is now generally regarded as one of the best exploitation films of the 1970’s.

Carpenter both wrote and directed the Lauren Hutton thriller Someone’s Watching Me!. This TV movie is the tale of a single, working woman who, shortly after arriving in L.A., discovers that she is being stalked. However, it was his next film which changed the horror landscape, and for which he will be mostly remembered.

Halloween_postersHalloween (1978) was a commercial hit and helped give birth to the slasher film genre. Originally an idea suggested by producer Irwin Yablans (titled The Babysitter Murders), who envisioned a film about babysitters being menaced by a stalker, Carpenter took the idea and another suggestion from Yablans that it take place during Halloween and developed a story. Carpenter said of the basic concept: “Halloween night. It has never been the theme in a film. My idea was to do an old haunted house movie.” The film was written by Carpenter and Debra Hill with Carpenter admitting that the music was inspired by both Dario Argento’s Suspiria (which also influenced the films surreal colour scheme) and William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. 

Debra Hall_John Carpenter_HALLOWEENCarpenter again worked with a relatively small budget, $320,000, and a young cast of unknowns, headed by Jamie Lee Curtis. The film grossed over $65 million initially, making it one of the most successful independent films of all time. In addition to the film’s critical and commercial success, Carpenter’s self-composed “Halloween Theme” became recognizable apart from the movie.

Carpenter has described Halloween as: “True crass exploitation. I decided to make a film I would love to have seen as a kid, full of cheap tricks like a haunted house at a fair where you walk down the corridor and things jump out at you.” The film has often been cited as an allegory on the virtue of sexual purity and the danger of casual sex, although Carpenter has explained that this was not his intent: “It has been suggested that I was making some kind of moral statement. Believe me, I’m not. In Halloween, I viewed the characters as simply normal teenagers.”

In 1979, John Carpenter began what was to be the first of several collaborations with actor Kurt Russell when he directed the TV movie Elvis. The made-for-TV movie was a hit with viewers and critics, and was also released as a feature film in cinemas outside the U. S. and revived the career of Russell, who was a child actor in the 1960’s.


Darren Lynn Bousman

Darren Lynn Bousman_Movie BannerDarren Lynn Bousman (born January 11, 1979) is an American film director and screenwriter. Bousman was born in Overland Park, Kansas, the son of Nancy and Lynn Bousman. He attended high school at Shawnee Mission North High School in Overland Park, and studied film at in Winter Park, Florida.

Darren Lynn Bousman_Spike TV's 2008 Scream AwardsDuring 2004, he was pitching an idea for a movie called The Desperate to various American studios, who complained that the screenplay was too violent, and the plot was too close to Saw. David A. Armstrong who worked on Saw asked Bousman if he could show the script to Saw producer Gregg Hoffman, who read the script and called Bousman interested in producing “The Desperate”, but after showing the script to his partners Mark Burg and Oren Koules, the two decided it would be the perfect opportunity to turn “The Desperate” into Saw II. Two months later, Bousman was flown to Toronto to direct Saw II.

During the production of Saw II, Bousman directed the music video for Mudvayne’s single “Forget to Remember”, which appeared as the lead song on the Saw II soundtrack album. Saw II was a huge hit and Bousman was signed on to direct Saw III, which was released on October 27, 2006.

Saw_Darren Lyn Bousman_Shawnee SmithAfter Saw III, Bousman announced that he would never direct another Saw film so that he would be free to prepare for his project Repo! the Genetic Opera, the stage version of which he had directed in 2002. Despite this, on February 19, 2007, Leigh Whannell announced that Bousman had signed on to direct Saw IV, as before shooting could begin on Repo!, there was a gap of time during which the songs were being pre-recorded, and he would be able to direct Saw IV during that period. He also directed an episode of the horror anthology show Fear Itself, entitled “New Year’s Day”, in 2008.

Bousman taught Film director newcomers in the Horror Film Boot Camp, May 7, to May 9, 2010 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Bousman directed Mother’s Day (2010) starring Rebecca De Mornay, Shawn Ashmore and Jaime King; a remake of the old 1980 Troma slasher.

In 2011, Bousman directed the awful film 11-11-11, about an author who, after the death of his wife and child, travels to Barcelona to see his estranged brother and dying father, where he learns that his life is plagued by events that occur on 11/11/11.

The Devil's CarnivalIn 2012, Bousman reunited with Repo! writer Terrance Zdunich along with several cast members to direct The Devil’s Carnival, an interesting short film that is planned to be the first installment of a longer series. In 2012, he also directed The Barrens, a horror film about a man who takes his family on a camping trip and becomes convinced they are being stalked by the legendary monster of the New Jersey Pine Barrens: the Jersey Devil. Notable only for starring Stephen Moyer of True Blood fame.

He is currently directing the psychological thriller Ninety which follows the wrongfully accused Vernie James, who having escaped prison is thirsty for revenge. The only thing that can balance the scales for this psychopath: a rampant, cross country killing spree, all while ebbing chased by Detective Bill Denton, the cop that put Vernie James away. Bousman is better than his last few movies, he needs something fresh to show what he’s capable of; various websites have him attached to direct remakes of David Cronenberg’s The Brood and Scanners. 


Shane Meadows

Shane Meadows_movie bannerShane Meadows (born 26 December 1972) is an English film director, screenwriter, occasional actor and BAFTA winner.

Shane MeadowsMeadows grew up in the Westlands Road area of Uttoxeter, Staffordshire. His father was a long distance lorry driver and his mother worked in a fish and chip shop. He attended Picknalls First School, Oldfields Hall Middle School and Thomas Alleyne’s High School. At weekends, he sold fruit and veg on a market stall in Uttoxeter market. His love of cinema was fostered by regular trips to the Elite Cinema.

This is England_French Film PosterMeadows left school shortly before reaching his GCSEs, and soon turned to petty crime. He moved to Nottingham when he was 20; while living there, he made roughly 30 short films with the friends he met there. He could not show these films to anyone because there were no film festivals in his area. His friends started one in the local cinema which became popular within the city.

Meadows enrolled on a Performing Arts course at Burton College, where he first met friend and future collaborator Paddy Considine. Amongst other things, they formed the band She Talks To Angels (inspired by a Black Crowes song of the same name), with Meadows as vocalist and Considine as drummer.

dead_mans_shoes_2004The vast majority of Meadows’ films have been set in the Midlands area. They recall the kitchen sink realism of filmmakers such as Ken Loach and Mike Leigh. Much of the content of his films is semi-autobiographical and based on his experiences in Uttoxeter: Twenty Four Seven was inspired by his youth, both at a boxing club, and also playing in a local football club. A Room for Romeo Brass was also inspired by his youth after his best friend, neighbour and future writing partner — had a bad accident and was bound to his bed for two years, Meadows instead hung around with some of the town’s more undesirable characters. Dead Man’s Shoes is based on the more unpleasant side of his youth in Uttoxeter. It was inspired by a close friend who had been bullied, developed a drug problem and then committed suicide. He said “I couldn’t believe that, going back ten years later, he had been totally forgotten in the town — it was as if he had never existed. I was filled with anger against the people who had bullied and pushed the drugs on him, and with despair at what drugs had done to that small community”.

This is England '86

His second feature-length film, Twenty Four Seven, won several awards at film festivals, including the Douglas Hickox award at the British Independent Film Awards and Best Screenplay at the Thessaloniki Film Festival. Dead Man’s Shoes, his sixth film, and third starring Paddy Considine, was nominated for a BAFTA for Best British Film. His seventh film This is England, won the British Independent Film Awards 2006 for best British independent film, and also won a BAFTA for Best British Film. Five of Meadows’ films were shown at the 2007 Flourish Festival, held annually in Uttoxeter, to mark the release of This is England (a film set in 1983).

The film has since had a series of sequels adapted into television serials, the first being This is England 86 (set in 1986 aired on Channel 4 in September 2010). A second series, This is England 88 (set in 1988) was aired in December 2011. A third and final series, This Is England ’90 (set in 1990), was originally due to be broadcast in December 2012, but in July 2012, Shane Meadows announced that the production had been put on hold in order for him to complete his documentary about Stone Roses, and the actors were still waiting for confirmation as to when filming would start.

Paddy Considine_Shane MeadowsHis shortest film, The Stairwell, was shot on a mobile phone and is just 40 seconds long. It consists solely of a man and woman, played by Meadows regulars Andrew Shim and Vicky McClure, violently bumping into each other on a stairwell.

He is widely regarded as a big fan of Notts County F.C., with several references included in his films by way of imagery and background shots… always interesting, he’s the face, and future of British Independent Film.


Jules Dassin

Jules Dassin_movie bannerJulius “Jules” Dassin (December 18, 1911 – March 31, 2008) was an American film director, with Jewish-Russian origins. He was a subject of the Hollywood Blacklist in the McCarthy era, and subsequently moved to France, where he revived his career.

Jules DassinOne of eight children of Berthe Vogel and Samuel Dassin, a barber in Middletown, Connecticut, Dassin grew up in Harlem and went to Morris High School in the Bronx. He joined the Communist Party USA in the 1930’s and left it after the Hitler-Stalin Pact in 1939. He started as a Yiddish actor with the ARTEF (Yiddish Proletarian Theater) company in New York.

Dassin quickly became better known for his noir films Brute Force, The Naked City, and Thieve’s Highway in the 1940’s, which helped him to become “one of the leading American filmmakers of the postwar era.”

Peter Finch_Jules DassinIn 1937 he married Beatrice Launer, with whom he had three children. In May 1955 he met Melina Mercouri at the Cannes Film Festival; at bout the same time, he discovered the literary works of Nikos Kazantzakis; these two elements created a bond with Greece. He divorced Launer in 1962 and married Mercouri in 1966. The couple had to leave Greece after the colonels’ coup in 1967. In 1970, they were accused of having financed an attempt to overthrow the dictatorship, but the charges were quickly dropped. Dassin and Mercouri lived in New York City during the 1970’s; then, when the general’s dictatorship in Greece fell in 1974, they returned to Greece and lived out their lives there. While Mercouri became involved with politics and won a parliamentary seat, Dassin stayed with movie-making in Europe but found time in the U.S. to make another movie, the racial drama Up Tight!, which would be his last American film.

Jules Dassin_Rififi bannerAfter he was blacklisted from Hollywood, Dassin found work in France where he was asked to direct Rififi. Despite his distaste for parts of the original novel, Dassin agreed to direct the film. He shot Rififi while working with a low budget, without a star cast, and with the production staff working for low wages. It was to become his most influential film; Rififi (Du rififi chez les hommes) is a 1955 French film adaptation of Auguste le Breton’s novel of the same name. The film stars Jean Servais as the aging gangster Tony le Stéphanois, Carl Möhner as Jo le Suédois, Robert Manuel as Mario Farrati, and Jules Dassin as César le Milanais. The plot revolves around a burglary at a jewelry shop in the Rue de Rivoli, Tony, Jo, Mario, and César band together to commit the almost impossible theft. The centerpiece of the film is an intricate half hour heist scene depicting the crime in detail, shot in near silence, without dialogue or music. The fictional burglary has been mimicked by criminals in actual crimes around the world.

Rififi_Jules DassinUpon the initial release of the film, it received positive reactions from audiences and critics in France, the United States, and the United Kingdom. The film earned Dassin the award for Best Director at the 1955 Cannes Film Festival; it was nominated by the National Board of Review for Best Foreign Film. Rififi was re-released theatrically in 2000 and is still highly acclaimed by modern film critics as one of the greatest works in French film noir. It inspired later heist films, such as Ocean’s Eleven and Mission: Impossible; another piece it inspired was Dassin’s own heist film Topkapi, filmed in France and Istanbul, Turkey with Melina Mercouri and Oscar winner Peter Ustinov.

Dassin died aged 96, in 2008 from complications from a case of flu; he is survived by his two daughters and his grandchildren.


Richard O. Fleischer

Richard O Fleischer_movie bannerRichard O. Fleischer (December 8, 1916 – March 25, 2006) was an American film director. Fleischer was born in Brooklyn, the son of Essie (née Goldstein) and animator/producer Max Fleischer. He started in motion pictures as director of animated shorts produced by his father including entries in the Betty Boop, Popeye and Superman series.

Richard FleischerHis live-action film career began in 1942 at the RKO studio, directing shorts, documentaries, and compilations of forgotten silent features, which he called Flicker Flashbacks. He won an Academy Award as producer of the 1947 documentary Design for Death, co-written by Theodor Geisel (later known as Dr. Seuss), which examined the cultural forces that led to Japan’s imperial expansion through World War II.

the-boston-strangler-movie-posterFleischer directed his first feature in 1946. His other early films were taut film noir thrillers such as Bodyguard (1948), The Clay Pigeon (1949), Armored Car Robbery (1950), and The Narrow Margin (1952). In 1948, Fleischer also directed So This Is New York, a cynically sophisticated comedy. In 1954, he was chosen by Walt Disney (his father’s former rival as a cartoon producer) to direct 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea starring Kirk Douglas, James Mason and Peter Lorre. It was a great success with both the critics and the public. As a result, Fleischer became known for big features, often employing special effects, such as Barabbas (1961), Fantastic Voyage (1966), Doctor Dolittle (1967), and Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970). He also directed many action adventures such as Violent Saturday (1955), Bandido (1956), The Vikings (1958), and Mr. Majestyk (1974).

However, Fleischer also directed a superb trilogy of films centering on famous serial killers and focusing on the theme of capital punishment:

The Boston Strangler_Tony CurtisCompulsion (1959), in which Artie Strauss (Bradford Dillman) and Judd Steiner (Dean Stockwell) kill a boy on his way home from school in order to commit the “perfect crime”. Strauss tries to cover it up, but they are caught when police find a key piece of evidence – Steiner’s glasses, which he left at the scene of the crime.

The Boston Strangler (1968), which starred Tony Curtis as Albert DeSalvo, the strangler, and Henry Fonda as John S. Bottomly, the chief detective now famed for obtaining DeSalvo’s confession. The first part of the film shows the police investigation, with some examples of the seedier side of Boston life, including promiscuity in the adult quarters of the city. The second part shows the apprehension of DeSalvo. Bottomly’s intent is to answer the question presented in the film’s famous print ad: Why did 13 women open their doors to the Boston Strangler?

10 Rillington Place_John Hurt10 Rillington Place (1971), which dramatises the case of British serial killer John Christie (Richard Attenborough), who committed most or all of his crimes in the titular apartment, and the miscarriage of justice involving Timothy Evans. The film relies on the same argument advanced by Ludovic Kennedy in his book Ten Rillington Place, that Evans was innocent of the murders and was framed by Christie. That argument has now been accepted by the Crown, when Evans was officially pardoned by Roy Jenkins in 1966. The case is one of the first major miscarriages of justice known to have occurred in the immediate post-war period.

He also helmed Soylent Green (1973), a cautionary tale starring Charlton Heston and, in his final film, Edward G. Robinson. The film depicts the investigation into the murder of a wealthy businessman in a dystopian future suffering from pollution, overpopulation, depleted resources, poverty, dying oceans, and a hot climate due to the greenhouse effect. Much of the population survives on processed food rations, including the mysterious “soylent green”.

Soylent Green_Charlton HestonSome of his entertainments are regarded as controversial and provocative, such as Che! (1969), a biopic of Che Guevara, and the interracial melodrama of the Deep South in Mandingo (1975).

Fleischer was chairman of Fleischer Studios, which today handles the licensing of Betty Boop and Koko the Clown. In June 2005, he released his memoirs of his father’s career in Out of the Inkwell: Max Fleischer and the Animation Revolution. Fleischer’s 1993 autobiography, Just Tell Me When to Cry, described his many difficulties with actors, writers and producers.

He died in his sleep in 2006, aged 89, after having been in failing health for the better part of a year.