The other day I read the sad news that Richard Gordon had died. Not the guy who wrote the 'Doctor' novels that the films and TV series were based on, but rather the low-budget British film producer. He was active from the 1950s until the early 1980s. None of his films, (many of which he produced uncredited), which ranged from Old Mother Riley Meets the Vampire
, could ever be mistaken for art house classics, but they were, on the whole enjoyable. At times they touched on nightmarish surrealism, most notably in Fiend Without a Face
, which features a climactic siege in which a group of characters are attacked by a horde of disembodied brains, complete with spinal cords, which slither down chimneys and smash through windows to strangle and suffocate their victims. Then there's the delirious Tower of Evil
, in which Robin Askwith is impaled with a Phoenician spear, people get menaced by a family of monstrously inbred lighthouse keepers and Candace Glendenning performs most of her role stark naked. In between such low-budget horror flicks, Gordon would also find time to produce some really off-beat stuff, like Anthony Balch's two weird and wonderful exploitation films Secrets of Sex
and Horror Hospital
Gordon worked with many of the 'big names' of the horror movie industry, both in front of the cameras, (he produced movies starring both Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, not to mention Christopher Lee), and behind them, (directors on his films included Norman J Warren and John Gilling). Nevertheless, in truth, his films never reached the level of, say, Hammer in terms of production values and even critical acclaim. They were strictly cheap double-bill fodder. So why do I hold him such esteem? Well, he was a reminder of an earlier age of film-making, when it seemed much easier to actually get movies made. He was from a time when the business wasn't dominated by corporate finance, focus groups and audience surveys. A time when projects didn't spend years in development hell, when they didn't suffer the slow death of being passed from ego to ego as various 'name' directors, producers and actors try to impose their 'vision' on them. Gordon came from an era when, if you had a script, you could get finance, hire a commercial director and actors and just go out and make
a film. There was no angst over what it was 'about', how it should 'look' and so on, you just went out and tried to shoot something that looked reasonably professional and had some kind of entertainment value. Funnily enough, some of them even had some artistic merit as well. But sadly, those days seem to have gone forever. And now one of our dwindling links with them - Richard Gordon - has as well.
Labels: Musings From the Mind of Doc Sleaze