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.
Biography by Hal Erickson
- Wrote for the horror fanzine Castle of Frankenstein; later became managing editor and a writer for the trade magazine Film Bulletin.
- His first film, made with friend and producer Jon Davison, was the seven-hour The Movie Orgy (1968), a compilation of movie trailers, commercials and clips that was popular on college campuses.
- Got his start in the film business working as an editor of trailers for B-movie producer Roger Corman's New World Pictures.
- Won Saturn Awards for Best Editing in 1978 for horror-comedy Piranha and Best Director for Gremlins in 1984; was nominated for Best Director in 1987 for sci-fi comedy Innerspace and in 1989 for Gremlins 2: The New Batch.
- Has cast character actor Dick Miller in many of his projects.
- In 2007, helped create Trailers From Hell, a Web site that features filmmakers' commentary on vintage movie trailers, mostly in the horror and science-fiction genres; the site has released several DVD collections since then.