Samuel Z. Arkoff
BURBANK, CA--Samuel Z. Arkoff, the producer who, for decades, turned out hundreds of low-budget-but-profitable B movies, died at the Providence St. Joseph Medical Center here, of natural causes, on September 16, 2001. He was 83.
Along with his longtime partner James Nicholson, Arkoff served as executive producer for the movies in episodes 309- THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN, 311- IT CONQUERED THE WORLD, 313- EARTH VS. THE SPIDER, 315- TEENAGE CAVEMAN, 317- VIKING WOMEN AND THE SEA SERPENT, 319- WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST, 701- NIGHT OF THE BLOOD BEAST, 806- THE UNDEAD, 807- TERROR FROM THE YEAR 5000, 808- THE SHE-CREATURE, 809- I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF and 912- THE SCREAMING SKULL.
Born in Iowa in 1908, Arkoff was an entertainment attorney when he was hired in 1954 at Nicholson's American International Pictures (AIP), originally American Releasing Corporation, a studio with one director on staff: Roger Corman. The trio perfected the technique of completing films on time and under budget, ready for the drive-ins and the teenager market they felt big name studios were neglecting. Marketing was everything: In many cases, the title and poster would be the first things done for a possible AIP film. If they sounded and looked good, the script and casting was next.
Horror and science-fiction films were AIP mainstays, but also in the mix were such genres as gangster films ("Machine Gun Kelly," "Dillinger"), so-called " blaxploitation" films such as "Blacula" and "Black Caesar" and counterculture flicks like "Wild Angels" and "Wild in the Streets." The studio's best-known films included "Dressed To Kill," "The Amityville Horror" and the long-running "beach party" movies, many of which starred Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. And, in 1979, the studio had a surprise hit when it picked up the North American distribution rights to "Mad Max" after a number of other studios passed on Mel Gibson's breakout film.
"I think my dad was one of the first mavericks," Louis Arkoff told Reuters. "A movie was never a good movie unless it contained two thrills a reel. He always said people go to the movies to be entertained and to be titillated."
AIP also was an early practice ground for young directors such as Martin Scorsese, Francis Coppola, Woody Allen, Ivan Reitman and Brian De Palma, as well as actors including Robert De Niro, Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern, Peter Fonda and Melanie Griffith.
Arkoff and Nicholson sold AIP in 1979 and Arkoff published his memoirs, " Flying Through Hollywood by the Seat of My Pants," in 1992.