By MICHAEL GINGOLD
One of the horror genre’s truly unique talents, director Stuart Gordon passed away yesterday at age 72.
Gordon began his career on the stage, first with Screw Theater, whose productions included a sociopolitical modern update of PETER PAN that featured a nude flight to Neverland that got him arrested for obscenity. In 1969, Gordon and his wife, actress Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, founded Chicago’s Organic Theater with his wife, where they premiered David Mamet’s SEXUAL PERVERSITY IN CHICAGO (which became the movie …ABOUT LAST NIGHT) and BLEACHER BUMS. He and one of his Organic cohorts, writer Dennis Paoli, made an unforgettable, splattery entry into the film world with RE-ANIMATOR, the H.P. Lovecraft adaptation that became an instant cult classic when it was released unrated by Charles Band’s Empire Pictures in 1985.
Gordon, Paoli, producer Brian Yuzna and stars Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton reteamed for Empire’s 1986 Lovecraft film FROM BEYOND, and Gordon also directed DOLLS and ROBOT JOX for the company. He later helmed the Edgar Allan Poe film THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM and reunited with Combs and Crampton on CASTLE FREAK for Band’s Full Moon Entertainment. Gordon’s other films as director included the science fiction pictures FORTRESS and SPACE TRUCKERS, another Lovecraft film, DAGON, the crime thrillers KING OF THE ANTS and EDMOND (the latter scripted by Mamet), and the fact-based black comedy STUCK.
For television, Gordon helmed the 1990 movie DAUGHTER OF DARKNESS, two episodes of MASTERS OF HORROR—the Lovecraft-based DREAMS IN THE WITCH-HOUSE and the Poe adaptation THE BLACK CAT, with Combs playing the author—and the EATER installment of its follow-up series FEAR ITSELF. He returned to the stage with RE-ANIMATOR: THE MUSICAL and yet another collaboration with Paoli and Combs, NEVERMORE…AN EVENING WITH EDGAR ALLAN POE, which had a long run in Los Angeles and was most recently staged at New York’s Sleepy Hollow Film Festival.
Starting with RE-ANIMATOR, which popularized Lovecraft as a cinematic source, Gordon created a body of screen work that was often playful amidst its horrific and imaginative excesses, imaginative in its storytelling and always uncompromised. While he didn’t find as much screen work as he should have in the 2000s, every film he did make is one to be treasured. Rest in peace, Stuart.