Paul Landres was one of the more notable B-movie directors of the 1950s and one of the more visible directors in early television, as well. Born in New York in 1912, Landres intended to be a doctor, but low grades kept him out of the college of his choice. Instead of U.C.L.A., he attended California Christian College on a football scholarship, which paid for half of his education. With the help of his stepfather, who knew many people in the movie business, Landres landed a job in the editing department at Universal Pictures in 1931. At the time, he didn't know the first thing about cutting film, but he learned quickly, at just the time when sound was coming into its own and when editing and sound departments were learning how to manipulate the new medium. Landres became fascinated with the craft and the art of editing. He spent the next 18 years in the cutting room, 17 of them at Universal Pictures, primarily working on B-movies, such as the
Westerns of Johnny Mack Brown, and also assisting on prestige pictures such as Rowland V. Lee's Tower of London. Indeed, in later interviews, he admitted to having learned a lot about directing from his experience in editing the latter film; he explained to Filmfax magazine that he'd thought, along with everyone else at the studio, that they had a real masterpiece, as well as a box-office winner on their hands with Tower of London, but he soon realized that although the movie was made up of brilliant individual scenes, it had no overall dramatic arc to involve the audience and draw viewers in. It failed at the box office.
He picked up other important aspects of directing during his nearly two decades as an editor, in the course of supervising the shooting of the retakes that were occasionally needed to finish a film. Landres left Universal in 1948, and after short stints at a series of small independent studios, moved to Lippert Pictures, where he started out as an editor -- working on Samuel Fuller's first film, I Shot Jesse James, among other movies -- but quickly moved up to the director's chair. Over the next 17 years, most of the movies that Landres directed were Westerns or crime thrillers, which he turned out with efficiency and occasional inspiration. He had a penchant for handling unusual stories, such as Johnny Rocco, which mixed elements of mainstream drama, children's films, and gangster movies all in one plot. His most important movies, however, were outside of the crime and Western genres. Landres directed the most entertaining and important of the three Alan Freed-produced and -starring rock & roll jukebox movies of the late '50s: Go, Johnny Go!, which had an unusually snide and knowing cynicism about itself and its subject. He was also responsible for The Flame Barrier, an interesting sci-fi/jungle adventure story with one of the more intelligent scripts of its period. He made a pair of excellent horror movies, The Vampire and The Return of Dracula, in 1957 and 1958, respectively. The Vampire took the traditional vampire legend and filtered it through a science fiction story (with some cautionary elements of drug addiction tales), and had some excellent central performances. The Return of Dracula transposed the traditional vampire elements, going back to Nosferatu and Dracula, into a 1950s-California setting and didn't compromise on the gore in the course of telling its tale. Landres moved into television early in the 1950s and was responsible for directing many episodes of The Cisco Kid, Boston Blackie, The Lone Ranger, Sky King, Ramar of the Jungle, and The Rifleman. In the early '60s, he also worked on Bonanza, 77 Sunset Strip, and Hawaiian Eye, among other series. In recent years, as B-horror films have come to receive more attention from scholars and critics, Landres' work on The Vampire and The Return of Dracula has achieved a certain degree of respect and Go, Johnny Go! has also been well-received on video and even at occasional theatrical showings.