Horror History: Nathan Juran

nathanjuranNathan Juran
Born Sept. 1st, 1907 – Died Oct. 23rd, 2002

Juran’s first career was that of an architect before he got into the film business as an art director. This career choice won him an Oscar for How Green Was My Valley (1941) and another nomination for The Razor’s Edge (1946), working on several other films before he made his move into the director’s chair. His directorial debut was for The Black Castle (1952), staring Lon Chaney Jr. and Boris Karloff. He would go on to direct some great films in the sci-fi horror genre in the ’50s, such as The Deadly Mantis (1957), 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958). Of course, there were some films that didn’t get the praise that one would hope, like The Brain from Planet Arous (1957) and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958). At least from the critics back then. If they weren’t entertaining, fans wouldn’t still be watching them and talking about them and keeping them alive.

After working in film, he moved to television and worked on several series, like Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Time Tunnel, Lost in Space, Land of the Giants, and a few more.

While Juran thought of filmmaking in the sense of a business as oppose to having a passion for it, when looking at some of the great films that he help create, it didn’t matter what the reasoning behind why he was making them. We will just be forever grateful for the work that he did give us.

Horror History: Germán Robles

roblesGermán Robles
Born March 20th, 1929 – Died Nov. 21st, 2015

Robles became a star after appearing as the Count Duval, in his first feature film, El Vampiro, in 1957. And that was even a last minute decision. Back in the ’50s, producer Abel Salazar was all set to start his new vampire film with another actor already cast as the Count, one that had already an established name. But when he thought back to the Universal pictures, like Dracula and Frankenstein, where both featured a monster played by a relatively unknown name, he decided to follow that same route. So he went to see a play and found Robles on stage and thought he would make a great vampire and hired him on the spot. Robles would go on to play Count Duval in the sequel El ataúd del Vampiro, aka The Vampire’s Coffin, in 1958.

While he would appear in a few other Mexican horror films, like the cult classic The Brainiac (1962) and the Nostradamus series, he continued to work in film and on the stage. But it is because of his performance in these early Mexican horror films, that had such amazing atmosphere and style back then, that he needs to be remembered. While we all know Lugosi and Lee, Robles’ name should be up there as well, since he gives us a splendid performance as the Count. Lucky for us, these movies are both available, so do yourself a favor and seek them out.

Horror History: Luciano Pigozzi

luciano pigozziLuciano Pigozzi
Born Jan. 10th, 1927 – Died June 14th, 2008

Sometimes referred as the “Italian Peter Lorre”, Pigozzi is more like the Italian Michael Ripper, because if you watch any amount of Italian films, whether it be westerns, horror, giallo, or any type of exploitation films, you will probably see Pigozzi in there somewhere. And like both Ripper and Lorre, he was always entertaining to see on screen.

Appearing in more than 100 films, sometimes billed under the name Alan Collins, one of his first genre roles was in the 1961 film Lycanthropus, which was re-titled under the more exploitive title Werewolf in a Girl’s Dormitory. But he can also be seen in several of Mario Bava’s films, such as The Whip and the Body (1963), Blood and Black Lace (1964), and Baron Blood (1972), as well as plenty of titles from director Antonio Margheriti, who he was good friends with. He also appeared in some of the more cheesy Italian fare, such as Yor, The Hunter from the Future (1982) and Exterminators of the Year 3000 (1983).

So the next time you’re watching an older Italian film, keep an eye out in the opening credits for Pigozzi (or Collins), or look for that wonderful and easily recognizable face. Then you can impress your fellow movie friends by shouting out “Hey! That’s Luciano Pigozzi!”

 

Horror History: Andrew Prine

Andrew PrineAndrew Prine
Born Feb. 14th, 1936

You could say I grew up with Andrew Prine. When I started watching TV back in the late ’60s, I was seeing Prine on there. Not that I remembered him, but he made appearances on the shows I was watching, such as One Step Beyond, Thriller, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and even Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Once I started to really get into movies, then I really became aware of this amazing actor, in such films as Simon, King of the Witches (1971), Crypt of the Living Dead (1973), The Centerfold Girls (1974), Grizzly (1976), The Evil (1978), and so many more. In the ’80s, he seemed to relish playing one of the bad lizards in the TV series V (1983) and the follow up V: The Final Battle (1984).

He was always so good and so much fun to watch on screen. He always seemed to make his characters come to life. While we celebrate him for his work in the genre, Prine played in just about every genre, making more than a few westerns, working with names like Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, and Dean Martin.

I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to meet Prine a few times at shows over the years, even interviewing him way back in 2005, and he’s always been such a great guy to chat with, not to mention giving me hours and hours of entertainment. 

 

Horror History: James Carreras

jamescarrerasJames Carreras
Born Jan. 30th 1910 – Died June 9th, 1990

James Carreras was the son of Enriqué Carreras, who along with William Hinds, would form the company that would later evolve into Hammer Films. First starting just as a distribution company, they figured instead of buying other films to distribute, they could make their own films and distribute them, cutting out the middle man. Then Hammer Films was born. James Carreras would be the head of that division until he retired.

The great thing about Carreras was that he knew little about the actual making of films. He left that up to the people who knew what they were doing. But he did how to sell the movies. In fact, he was known for selling a movie before a script was even written! They would come up with a title, create a poster, and sell the movie on that alone. Then it was up to the screenwriter to whip up a story and go from there. And it worked. A lot.

Carreras’ policy was about as simple as you could get: make films that are guaranteed to make a profit. In those days, with these smaller film companies, sometimes your financing on the next film would rest on how well your last one did at the box office. And this is something that Carreras seemed to excel at. He was always bringing in fresh female faces to appear in their newest films. Starting the trend that would become known as Hammer Glamour. Again, he knew what would sell.

He was the head of the company until 1971, when he gave control over to his son, Michael.

Horror History: Amando de Ossorio

blinddeadAmando de Ossorio
Born April 6th, 1918 – Died Jan. 13th, 2001

With the recent announcement that Synapse Films is working on a new restoration of the original Tombs of the Blind Dead (1970), we thought it would be a great time to pay a little tribute to the creator of our favorite undead Templars, filmmaker Amando de Ossorio.

While he started as a journalist and producing radio dramas, once he got into the film business, it was making short films and documentaries. He started making feature films but it was in 1969 when he directed his first horror film, Malenka (aka Fangs of the Living Dead) which was a little cheesy but still had some great atmosphere. But it was the following year when he created his legacy, when he wrote and directed La noche del terror ciego, better known as Tombs of the Blind Dead (1970). Keep in mind, this was only a couple of years after George Romero set loose his flesh eating zombies unto the world, before Ossorio released his undead Templars that were feasting on the blood of their victims. With a unique twist on zombies and vampires, he gave us something that is still remembered and celebrated six decades later. Continue reading

Horror History: Morris Ankrum

Morris AnkrumMorris Ankrum
Born Aug. 28th, 1897 – Died Sept. 2nd, 1964

Now this is a guy that needs a little more attention. He is one of these character actors that was never a big star but appeared in so many of our favorite films, such as, of course, The Giant Claw (1957)! But you can also see him in Rocketship X-M (1950), Invaders from Mars (1953), Earth vs the Flying Saucers (1956), Zombies of Mora Tau (1957), and even in Bert I. Gordon’s Beginning of the End (1957).

He actually was an attorney and even an economics professor before he was bitten by the acting bug and joined the theater. It was in the ’30s when he started appearing in movies, appearing in close to 300 movies and TV shows before he passed away. He was usually showing up as a military officer of some type, someone of authority, not to mention in more than a few westerns.

So when the next time you’re watching some old sci-fi/horror flick, see if old Mr. Ankrum doesn’t show up somewhere!