AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL PICTURES
July 31 – September 3
ROGER CORMAN, WILLIAM LUSTIG, AND TOM WEAVER IN PERSON!
The United States in the 1950s was a nation in the midst of seismic transformations. A time of postwar prosperity, an ever-increasing car culture, and the eclipse of movies by the new medium of television, the era also brought the crystallization of a creature that had only recently emerged as a full-blown social and demographic phenomenon: the Teenager. No longer ushered straight from childhood into work and marriage, and newly liberated from home by the wide availability of the automobile, those who found themselves poised between childhood and adulthood comprised an enormous segment of the nation’s population, and, from the perspective of the merchants of entertainment, an audience ripe for exploitation.
Into this breach stepped American International Pictures, the independent film production house that looms large in the memories of anyone who grew up watching movies in the U.S. in the 1950s-70s (or who find themselves drawn to that era today). AIP was founded in 1954 (initially as American Releasing Corporation) by James H. Nicholson, who was well-known among his fellow theater owners as an innovative showman with revolutionary ideas who kept his movie houses packed even when the business was in a nationwide slump. With attorney Sam Arkoff as its vice-president, AIP put together a team of writers, actors, and directors who challenged the established Hollywood studio system, and displayed an uncanny knack for anticipating and exploiting current trends. Its decades-long success was the result of a rapid-fire reaction and response that consistently beat the competition to the punch.
Nicholson and AIP seized on the teenage market – and its newfound natural habitat, the drive-in theater – with a vengeance. It was said that AIP was devoted more to quantity over quality, speed over careful craft, and promotional ingenuity over production values (in many cases, Nicholson conceived of titles and designed posters first, and only later assigned the projects to a writer). But AIP was responsible for dozens of films of astonishing energy and creativity, and became a breeding ground for some of the most extraordinary cinematic talents of its time: Roger Corman produced and/or directed more than 40 films for the company, and filmmakers from Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola to Monte Hellman and Peter Bogdanovich cut their teeth working on AIP productions, as did a who’s-who of actors including Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro, Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Bruce Dern, and many others.
Ever-adaptable, AIP in the 1950s produced (and/or distributed) dozens of low-budget westerns, racecar, sci-fi, and horror films, as well as pioneering the explicitly teenage-themed movie. In the 60s, the company invented the beach party genre, imported re-worked versions of Russian and other Eastern European sci-fi films, and produced Roger Corman’s celebrated series of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations. And in the late-60s and 70s, AIP began turning out harder-edged, often brilliant biker films, as well as turning its attention to yet another new (or newly recognized) market by embracing the blaxploitation genre, producing classics including BLACULA, COFFY, FOXY BROWN, and others.
This summer, Anthology begins a multi-part survey of AIP’s catalog, an embarrassment of riches that demonstrates the company’s crucial role in reflecting and even creating the popular culture of the 1950s-70s. The survey opens with a selection of AIP films made by bona-fide auteurs, from long-established greats who wound down their careers with AIP productions – such as Edgar G. Ulmer and Vincente Minnelli – to future New Hollywood luminaries like Coppola and Scorsese, who served their apprenticeships with the studio. And the survey continues with a focus on the ultra-low-budget, crafty sci-fi and horror films that marked AIP’s first decade, with a very special appearance by Roger Corman himself! As if that’s not enough, we welcome filmmaker and AIP-enthusiast William Lustig for a special presentation of one of his favorites, 1971’s BLOOD AND LACE, and horror cinema scholar Tom Weaver, a frequent contributor to STARLOG, MONSTERS FROM THE VAULT, and many other magazines, and the author of more than 25 books including UNIVERSAL HORRORS, THE CREATURE CHRONICLES, and SCIENCE FICTION CONFIDENTIAL, who will introduce several shows on Sunday, August 23.
ROGER CORMAN WILL BE HERE IN PERSON ON FRIDAY, AUGUST 21, TO PRESENT HIS FILM, ‘X: THE MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES’, AND FOR A SPECIAL CONVERSATION FOLLOWING THE FILM. HE WILL ALSO BE HERE ON SATURDAY, AUGUST 22, FOR THE SCREENINGS OF ‘BUCKET OF BLOOD’ AND ‘TOMB OF LIGEIA.’
Stay tuned for much more AIP madness – bikers, blaxploitation, and more – this Fall!
The AIP series is sponsored by Ninkasi Brewing, The Standard, East Village, and The Smile cafe.
Special thanks to Peter Bogdanovich, Roger Corman, Joe Dante, William Lustig, Susan Nicholson-Hofheinz, Martin Scorsese, and Jacques Boyreau & Scott Moffett (Cosmic Hex), as well as to Brian Belovarac (Janus Films); Daniel Bish (George Eastman House); Cassie Blake (Academy Film Archive); Cynthia Brown (New Horizons Picture Corp.); Robert Cashill; Chris Chouinard (Park Circus); Harry Guerro; and André Schäublin (Cinémathèque suisse).