Indie film’s forefathers


Samuel Z. Arkoff: With his partner, James Nicholson, Arkoff founded AIP in 1954. Perhaps no one is better known as the progenitor of the indie action pictures and exploitation cinema than Arkoff. AIP’s heyday was the ’60s, when the company churned out biker pics, horror films, teen-rebellion tales and sci-fi fare, fueling the career of another key indie pioneer, director-producer Roger Corman. By the late ’70s, AIP had become synonymous with the indie films filling the lanes of drive-ins, so that calling a film “an AIP-type picture” was a way to instantly tag all the indies operating in this arena.

REPUBLIC PICTURES (a division of Spelling Entertainment)

Joseph Kane (1894-1975): Kane directed 109 films for Republic Pictures between 1935 and 1971. He directed 17 of Western singing star Gene Autry’s films and at one point was completing eight films a year. In 1936 alone, he directed three John Wayne films. Before directing, he was an editor at Paramount and had the first sound Moviola in Hollywood. He also came up with the name Trigger for Roy Rogers’ horse.


Joe Solomon: In the 1940s, Solomon barnstormed around the country four-walling a picture called “Mom and Dad” (1945), a rather tame black-and-white affair. Yet it became one of the biggest indie hits of the era. Why? Solomon cut in a color segment featuring the live birth of a baby, had a woman in a nurse’s uniform on duty in the theater where the film was playing, played the film to audiences who were segregated by sex, and turned off the air conditioning to help induce fainting. Years later, in the ’60s, Fanfare made another splash with successful motorcycle pictures, including “Hells Angels on Wheels,” starring the then-unknown Jack Nicholson.


Phil Karlson (1908-1985): Starting his directing career in the mid-’40s as an indie and wrapping up in the ’70s with one of the decade’s biggest indie hits, “Walking Tall” (1973) for Cinerama, Karlson is one of the least known of the major action directors and most in need of a thorough retrospective. In 1957, for Allied Artists, he made “The Phenix cq City Story,” one of the key crime dramas of the decade. Karlson’s films were extraordinarily tough actioners, and even when he worked for the majors, he never lost his edge. He pushed the boundaries of controversial subject matter and used the violent, realistic treatment these stories deserved. He paved the way for action helmers from Sam Peckinpah to Quentin Tarantino. And along the way, he discovered TV legend Steve Allen!

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