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My friend, the largely unsung British horror/sci-fi producer
Richard Gordon, died last November. This past New Year’s Eve would have marked
his 86th birthday. It’s sad that Richard’s no longer here, as I can’t tell you
how much I enjoyed getting together with the adopted New Yorker to hear his
wonderful stories about the making of his ’50s/’60s films such as FIEND WITH A
FACE (his best-known effort), CORRIDORS OF BLOOD, THE HAUNTED STRANGLER, etc.
and his palling around with the likes of genre legends Boris Karloff, Bela
Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Michael Gough. Though Richard is no
longer with us, I now have Tom Weaver’s terrific book THE HORROR HITS OF
RICHARD GORDON to reminisce about the man’s colorful career.
What I like best about this photo-filled BearManor Media
trade paperback, which debuted last summer, is that it takes the form of a
book-length interview, so reading it brings Richard’s voice alive in my head
once more. Richard and older brother Alex (the late Fango columnist) grew up in
WWII-era London, sharing a passion for B-movie monsters and cowboys. Alex
ventured to Hollywood to work for American International Pictures and Western
star Gene Autry, while Richard hit the Big Apple to start a fledgling
distribution and production company. In rapid succession, Richard churned out a
steady stream of lurid shockers, beginning with the Karloff-starring HAUNTED
STRANGLER in 1958, right up till his last major movie, 1981’s ALIEN-inspired
INSEMINOID (a.k.a. HORROR PLANET).
I’ve read many of Richard’s recollections in past magazines
(some recycled for this book) and heard them directly from the man’s lips, but
in THE HORROR HITS OF RICHARD GORDON, author and subject reveal cinematic
tidbits rarely discussed before. For example, I never knew how closely Gordon
and the executives at “rival” UK studios Hammer and Amicus helped each other
out on their pictures with casting and whatnot. Each chapter examines the
making of one or two of Gordon’s movies, from finding the stories to
preproduction to post to the selling and marketing of each scream flick. I
especially enjoyed the revelations on how the casting came together and which
actors proved to be ballbusters (you’d want to claw CAT AND THE CANARY star
Daniel Massey’s eyes out too!). Equally illuminating are Gordon’s comments on
the life of eccentric and largely forgotten director Antony Balch (SECRETS OF
SEX, HORROR HOSPITAL); how MGM tried to stiff Gordon on CORRIDORS OF BLOOD; and
his meeting the likes of junkie author William S. Burroughs (!) and a pre-007
Sean Connery (!!).
Fans don’t have Gordon around anymore to recount his horror
adventures (he quietly regaled them at many a convention over the years), but
THE HORROR HITS OF RICHARD GORDON will survive as a lasting testament to
Gordon’s offbeat movie legacy. (Go here and here for author Weaver’s
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