Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on May 5, 2016
Every Thursday night throughout the month of May TCM will be spotlighting American International Pictures (AIP) with a block of films hosted by director and producer Roger Corman. Corman learned his trade while working with AIP, which was established in 1954 by Samuel Z. Arkoff and James H. Nicholson. The Los Angeles based company was committed to making low-budget, independently produced B-movies aimed at the burgeoning youth market that were typically released as double features and shown at drive-ins.
During its heyday, AIP became a training ground for many future filmmakers and actors including Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Nicholas Roeg, James Cameron, Peter Bogdanovich, Ron Howard, Jonathan Demme, John Sayles, Monte Hellman, Joe Dante, Jack Hill, Paul Bartel, Stephanie Rothman, Curtis Harrington, Dennis Hooper, Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern, Peter Fonda and Robert De Niro. The company was responsible for reviving the careers of older horror stars neglected by Hollywood such as Boris Karloff, Vincent Price and Peter Lorre securing them a new generation of fans. AIP also established working relationships with international film distributors introducing American audiences to foreign films by Federico Fellini, Mario Bava and Ishirō Honda. And they played an important role in creating popular genres such as Blaxploitation, Biker movies and the Beach Party movies that helped make Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon household names.
The idea of marketing primarily at teenagers was a novel idea in 1954 but Samuel Z. Arkoff’s “ARKOFF (Action, Revolution, Killing, Oratory, Fantasy and Fornication) Formula” for making movies along with AIP’s insistence that to “catch your greatest audience you zero in on the 19-year old male” have indirectly become the Hollywood standard.
In a 1965 issue of Life magazine, Arkoff along with AIP co-founder James H. Nicholson described what they referred to as their “Peter Pan Syndrome” for attracting a younger audiences explaining, “These are busy pictures. They don’t even have to make sense if they move fast enough–so long as nobody stops to analyze until he’s on his way home.” Elaborating on the idea they added, “Kids don’t like to be held up to the mirror of life. And so we present a picture of kids as they would like to see themselves, not as others see them. Hence, Frankie and Annette–a little older than 19, perhaps, but not grown up. Annette can have a baby or a dozen babies, but she and Frankie will go on being the Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy of teenagers for as long as the kids don’t thumb their noses at them.” For better or worse, Arkoff and Nicholson’s ideas are more prevalent than ever and can help explain the continuing popularity of superhero films as well as franchises such as The Twilight Saga and The Hunger Games.
AIP movies are typically described as fast-paced, fun and frivolous affairs but that only defines a portion of their catalogue. TCM’s spotlight on AIP with Roger Corman at the helm includes a number of TCM premieres and should broaden viewer perspectives while helping to shine some light on their underappreciated output. Tonight, things kick off with AIP’s “Early Days/The 1950s” this is followed by “1960s Horror and Sci-Fi” on May 12, “1960s Kids and Counterculture” on May 19 and finally “The 1970s” on May 26, which includes a rare screening of Vincente Minnelli’s last film; the musical fantasy A Matter of Time (1976) starring his daughter Liza along with Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, Tina Aumont, Fernando Rey and featuring the screen debut of Isabella Rossellini.
I hope you will tune in and join Roger Corman as he takes us through an extensive look at American International Pictures. In simple terms, be there or be square cats and kittens! This is going to be one wild ride you won’t want to miss.
The full schedule of AIP films playing on TCM this month can be found here
In the coming weeks I’ll highlight a few of the movies airing but in the meantime you might want to familiarize yourself with some previous posts written by myself and my fellow Morlocks focusing on the company’s diverse achievements.
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