Richard Gordon, R.I.P.
Moving to New York in 1947, he and his brother met Bela Lugosi, and would later be somewhat involved in his career.
While Alex headed off to Hollywood, Richard Gordon stayed in New York and former Gordon Films, which imported British and other European films for distribution in the American market.
He helped arranged a UK stage tour of DRACULA for Bela Lugosi. When this did not lead to success, Gordon used some connections he had in the British film industry, and came up the story idea for using Lugosi in one of the “Old Mother Riley” comedy films VAMPIRE OVER LONDON (1952, aka MY SON, THE VAMPIRE) .
While successful at distributing others’ films, Richard Gordon still felt the urge to make some of his own, as Alex was doing at AIP. Starting out with the World War II thriller THE DEVIL’S GENERAL (1953) and continuing with UK-lensed crime thrillers, Gordon eventually turned his attention to the genre productions for which he’s best remembered.
Often working without screen credit, he began with THE ELECTRONIC MONSTER (1958, aka ESCAPEMENT), a sci-fi thriller involving mind-control, directed by Mongomery Tully, and starring American actor Rod Cameron and Mary Murphy.
His next project, GRIP OF THE STRANGLER (1958) starred Boris Karloff, as did CORRIDORS OF BLOOD (1958).
FIEND WITHOUT A FACE (1958) was a wild ride, with intially invisible “thought monsters” materializing as stop-motion animated brains, with strangling, snake-like spinal columns, A vivid and unforgettable sight, the creatures have entered sci-fi movie iconography.
Marshall Thompson starred in that film, as well as FIRST MAN INTO SPACE (1959), another sci-fi/horror original.
ISLAND OF TERROR (1966) was directed by Hammer regular Terrence Fisher, and starred Peter Cushing and Edward Judd. The human-devouring “silicates” made memorable monsters in this clastrophobic entry.
THE PROJECTED MAN (1966), starred Bryant Haliday (who would appear in several of Gordon’s films) as the ill-fated scientist Dr. Paul Steiner, victim of a matter transporter gone wrong.
Other genre offerings include DEVIL DOLL (1964), CURSE OF THE VOODOO (1965), NAKED EVIL (1966), BIZZARE (1970), TOWER OF EVIL (1972, aka HORROR OF SNAPE ISLAND), and HORROR HOSPITAL (1973, aka COMPUTER KILLERS).
In 1978 he produced the remake of THE CAT AND THE CANARY (1978), which starred Honor Blackman, Edward Fox, Wilfred Hyde-White, Olivia Hussey, Carol Lynley, and Michael Callan.
HORROR PLANET (1981 aka INSEMINOID ) was directed by Norman J. Warren and starred Judy Geeson, Robin Clarke, and Stephanie Beacham. It was a particularly gruesome (for the time) low-budget take on ALIEN, filmed in actual caves in England, which add to the oppressive atmosphere. Not actually a good film, but still with some effective moments. The premise itself, of forced alien reproduction, is taken to an unsettling level, as suggested on the poster (right).
In recent years Richard Gordon stayed active, writing good-natured letters correcting genre magazine articles, and sharing his recollections of films, filmmakers and actors. He appeared at a number of Horror Movie conventions, recorded commentaries for DVDs, and became something of a fan favorite among those with fond memories of 1950’s-80’s cine fantastique.