Born and raised in New Jersey, Joe Dante was a garrulous, semi-obsessed "movie nut." As a teenager, Dante wrote articles and criticism for "#Castle of Frankenstein," a popular "fanzine" for horror-film aficionados. While attending the Philadelphia College of Art, Dante and his friend Jon Davidson put together The Movie Orgy (1968), a 7-hour compilation of kitschy film clips that was screened on the college-campus circuit under the sponsorship of Schlitz beer. Dante went on to write for The Film Bulletin, then joined Roger Corman's New World Pictures, starting out editing trailers. When Dante made noises about becoming a director, Corman challenged him to whip up a picture for $50,000; the result was Hollywood Boulevard, an elongated (and frequently sidesplitting) inside joke about low-budget moviemaking. With Piranha (1978) and The Howling (1980), Dante began attracting critical attention as a director to keep an eye on. For producer Steven Spielberg, Dante directed his most profitable film, Gremlins (1984), a funny and frightening compendium of filmic "quotes" from past movie classics, full of cameo appearances by such pop-culture icons as Chuck Jones, Dick Miller, and Robby the Robot. For television, Dante has directed episodes of Police Squad, Amazing Stories, Twilight Zone and Tales from the Crypt. While Dante is best known for his stylish "scare" pictures, one of the director's finest and most personal projects was Matinee (1993), a nostalgic (and very movie-savvy) glance back at what it was like to grow up as a film buff in the early 1960s.
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by Hal Erickson biography