R.I.P. Richard Gordon, producer of Fiend Without a Face and countless B-movie classics

You might not have heard of Richard Gordon, but you've probably seen at least a few of his movies. He produced a string of fantastic science fiction and horror B-movies with titles like The Electronic Monster, The Fiend Without a Face, The Haunted Strangler, First Man into Space and Devil Doll. He worked with horror masters like Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, and helped bring a level of gothic suspense to these films, without relying on gore or special effects.


In an interview in the book Interviews with B Science Fiction and Horror Movie Makers, Gordon talks about how he scoured old issues of Weird Tales for stories to adapt into movies, even buying the rights to one 1930s story by Amelia Reynolds Long which became Fiend Without a Face. Another movie, Corridors of Blood, started out as a screenplay by a woman named Jean Scott Rogers for "a very serious picture about surgery in the days before anesthetics," but Gordon and his collaborators injected more horror and melodrama into it, to make it a Karloff vehicle.

Said Gordon:

Operating within low budgets, horror and science fiction were two of the best categories to be involved with because you don't necessarily need big stars, elaborate sets or complicated special effects. You could achieve something that would hold audience interest even if it was done on a low budget.

Later in his career, he made more explicit films, most notably Inseminoid aka Horror Planet. He told the interviewer:

Let me say that if I had my choice I would rather make the more subtle kind of horror picture, a Haunted Strangler or Devil Doll or something like that. I don't really enjoy the slash-and-gore or slice-and-dice kind of picturemaking. I don't think it's any fun, but if I make another picture I think I will have to conform to the requirements of the box office.

Gordon died aged 85, at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, after being hospitalized for heart problems. [L.A. Times]



Incidentally, Corridors of Blood is a solid B-movie with real atmosphere and dread. Christopher Lee, in one of his first roles, plays a "resurrection man" who procures fresh bodies for Karloff's experiments (i.e., by murdering people). He's in a good chunk of the movie but speaks maybe only a dozen lines — like a Victorian Terminator! PAIN... and the KNIFE... are INSEPARABLE!

It's available from the Criterion Collection, who've released several of Gordon's films on DVD, most of them with cool cover illustrations by Darwyn Cooke.