Katzman Honored on Blu-Ray

Since The Giant Claw is one of my all-time favorites from the ‘50s, the announcement of this being on released on Blu-ray had my attention. Then to find out it would be in a special edition box set celebrating the works of low budget producer Sam Katzman. This guy was a producer that spanned just shy of 40 years that produced 239 pictures. In the decade of the ‘50s, he produced 105 titles, averaging out to almost 1 a month! He made everything from horror and sci-fi films to westerns, musicals, rock and roll, and just about every other exploitation genre out there.

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Horror History: Richard Denning

Richard Denning
Born March 27th, 1914, Died October 11th, 1998

Richard Denning (born as Richard Denninger, but was told to change it by the studio because it sounded too much like Dillinger!), never started out to be an actor, going to school for business, and even graduating cum laude with a master’s degree in business administration. But once he got the acting bug, there was no stopping him. After winning a radio contest called “Do You Want to Be an Actor?”, he got a screen test with Warner Bros. They passed on him, but he did sign with Paramount. While he didn’t make a ton of pictures in the horror genre, he made a few, including The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). He also appeared in Roger Corman’s The Day the World Ended (1955) or Edward Cahn’s Creature with the Atomic Brain (1955), or appearing with Mara Corday in The Black Scorpion (1957).

He would have a pretty successful career in non-genre films and a lot of television, but always left a mark with me in the genre pictures he did appear in, even when he was not the nicest character like in Creature from the Black Lagoon!

Denning had married one of the genre’s early scream queens, Evelyn Ankers, who starred in films like The Wolf Man (1941) and Son of Dracula (1943).

Horror History: Sam Katzman

Sam KatzmanSam Katzman
Born July 7th, 1901 – Died Aug. 4th, 1973

Katzman was known as one of those B-movie producers, usually taking pennies to get films made. But how could that be considered bad, if he stayed in business for almost 40 years. And during that time, he produced 241 films. That averages out to 6 films a year, but early on, such in 1953, he produced 17 films! Okay, so most of them may have not been memorable, but when he worked in the sci-fi / horror genre, I think they were. Especially one particular title, The Giant Claw (1957).

He is the man responsible for instead of paying the money for someone like Ray Harryhausen to create the title creature, he spent a rumored $50 to some guys down in Mexico. You could barely tell by the end result, can you?

Besides that epic, he also produced genre films like It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955), Creature with the Atom Brain (1955), Earth vs the Flying Saucers (1956), The Werewolf (1956), The Night the World Exploded (1957), and Zombies of Mora Tau.

So while he might not have made the right choices all of the time, the choices that he did make are probably one of the reasons we’re still talking about him today.

Horror History: Edward L. Cahn

edwardLcahnEdward L. Cahn
Born Feb. 12th, 1899 – Died Aug. 25th, 1963

Cahn started his career as an apprentice film editor but then quickly moved into directing. He started out directing a lot of westerns, crime dramas, and comedies, mainly Our Gang titles. But in the mid ’50s, when sci-fi pictures were starting to really take off, Cahn started working in that genre and made quite a few of them in a very short time. In fact, by today’s standards, Cahn might not be considered a great director, but he was quick and efficient, which is a very good trait to have when working on the world of low budget B-movies. But even those his budgets were low and time was short, the titles he made are still entertaining, even making a few classics while at it.

In his 31 years as a director, he credited with 125 films. That is 4 films a year average, with some years he was make 10! Imagine one of today’s directors trying to accomplish something like that. In those days, time was money. It was crank out the current picture and then quickly onto the next. Though even though that was the attitude, Cahn still put some quality in them.

During those years, he did make some great fun flicks, usually ones with some memorable titles. Such as Creature with the Atom Brain (1955), Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957), Curse of the Faceless Man (1958), or The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake (1959). Of course, probably his most famous film is the 1958 film that would go on to inspire Ridley Scott’s Alien, which would be It! Terror from Beyond Space.

So if you’re looking for a fun sci-fi/horror film for a Saturday afternoon, look up some of Cahn’s work. I think you’ll find yourself being entertained.