NAME: Jack Hill.
DESCRIPTION: Cult film writer-director.
LAST SEEN: Penning novels and meditating.
While many in Hollywood like to take career direction from their agent or manager, Jack Hill decided instead to listen to his guru, who instructed the ’60s writer-director to chuck Hollywood for the world of novels.
Hill, who turned out such lowbrow fare during the ’60s and ’70s as “Pit Stop, “”The Big Dollhouse,””Coffy” and “Foxey Brown,” has been spending the last eight years trying to finish a series of novels, on the advice of his guru, whom he and his wife have been following for some time.
“She commanded me to write novels,” Hill, 61, says of guru Swami Chidvilasanada. “For a long time I didn’t believe her. I wanted to write screenplays. It turned out to be a bigger task than I thought. But that’s all right, because I’m not interested in movies.”
But in spite of Hill’s lack of interest in the movie biz, there’s considerable interest from cinema buffs these days in many of his films, including one of his most famous, 1968’s long lost “Spider Baby,” which will be unspooled at L.A.’s Nuart Theatre in midnight showings during April — perhaps the ultimate achievement for a cult film.
Described by many as what a sitcom would look like if Luis Bunuel directed it , “Spider Baby,” was produced in 1964 and released in 1968. The film, which starred Lon Chaney Jr., failed at the box office due to bad marketing and numerous bad titles, including “The Liver Eaters” and “Cannibal Orgy.”
“The producers went into bankruptcy and the picture was locked up for many years,” says Hill, who studied to be a musician at UCLA in the late ’50s.
Hill fell into film while learning movie scoring and started writing scripts in the early ’60s. He was called on to “doctor” projects for small companies — one of his earliest assignments was writing additional scenes for Francis Ford Coppola’s first feature, “Dementia 13.”
After the “Spider Baby” disaster, Hill made a reputation for himself making films for schlockmeister Roger Corman, including “The Big Dollhouse,” one of the earliest, most successful and most influential of the women-in-prison exploitation films.
Eventually, Hill tried to turn his skills to larger-scale films but found himself in that familiar Hollywood quagmire — typecasting.
“I became stereotyped for making a certain kind of film,” says Hill. “I wasn’t all that ambitious. I’d make a movie and then take a long vacation.”
Ironically, after Hill churned out a number of screenplays for low-budget films in the mid-’70s, including “City on Fire” and “Deathship,” it was Corman who finally hired him to helm a big-budget — by Corman’s standards — sword and sorcery epic, “Sorceress.”
“Everything from the beginning to the end was one disaster after another,” says Hill, who took his name off the film. “That’s when I got disgusted with the movie industry.”
In 1980, Hill met his first guru, the late Swami Muktanamda, and since then he has concentrated on yoga, meditation and writing novels.
“I tried doing some screenplays but didn’t get anywhere,” says Hill, who has no regrets about turning his attention from scripts to books. “There’s so much jealousy and competitiveness in the movie business. To make it, you have to give it your all. You can only coast on luck for so long.”