Friday, October 12, 2007

Eat my dust

He passed away on September 28, 2007 of this year, but my Bombast home page is just now getting the news that Charles B. Griffith, a writer-director-producer…and even sometime actor, has gone on to his rich reward.  He was 77.

Griffith will remain best-known for his authorship on the screenplay for Roger Corman’s The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), a.k.a. The Film Shot in Two Days (though this isn’t technically true); a cult favorite about a nebbish (Jonathan Haze) who makes good in the floral business after finding a plant that begins to demonstrate none-too-attractive cannibalistic qualities.  (Horrors was later brought to the stage in musical form, and that in turn saw a cinematic version directed by Frank Oz in 1986.)  In addition to the screenplay, Griffith served as second unit director (uncredited) and actor (he plays three roles—one of which is the voice of Audrey, Jr.) on the project.

Personally, I’m not a fan of either version of Horrors—the 1960 version doesn’t have the budget it needs to get the picture’s admittedly novel concept across, and the 1986 film has a sugary-sweet happy ending tacked on.  I prefer Griffith’s treatment for A Bucket of Blood (1959), a mordant black comedy about a nebbish (Dick Miller) who becomes the toast of the art world by murdering people and encasing them in clay.  Among the other memorable Corman films he wrote are It Conquered the World (1956), Not of This Earth (1957), Rock All Night (1957), The Undead (1957) and The Wild Angels (1966).

Naturally, when working for Roger Corman, you’re going to wind up directing at one time or another—just ask Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Jack Nicholson, Peter Bogdanovich, Jonathan Demme, etc., etc., etc.  Griffith got the opportunity to sit in the director’s chair on a few occasions, notably the Ron Howard car crash delight Eat My Dust (1976) and Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype (1980), an interesting (if unsuccessful) take on the Dr. Jekyll tale starring Oliver Reed.

Regular readers know that I’m quite enamored of Mr. Corman—the King of the B’s—so when I hear of the passing of one of his loyal minions, I can’t help but be more than a little depressed.  R.I.P., Charles—you will be missed.

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