Samuel Z. Arkoff

Active - 1956 - 2014  |   Born - Jun 12, 1918   |   Died - Sep 16, 2001   |   Genres - Comedy, Horror, Science Fiction, Drama, Thriller

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Iowa-born law school graduate Samuel Z. Arkoff and his late partner James H. Nicholson, although they never directed movies, were among the most important low-budget producers of the late 1950s as founders of American International Pictures (originally known as American Releasing Corporation). Beginning in 1955, Arkoff and Nicholson filled a niche left behind by the declining major studios, for genre and exploitation films that could round out the double-bills of movie theaters and, later on, form the programs for smaller neighborhood theaters and drive-ins. The budgets of these pictures were low, and often the pictures themselves began as titles (usually conceived by Nicholson) and artwork, with scripts written subsequently: The Female Jungle, Reform School Girl, Sorority Girl, Motorcycle Gang, Drag Strip Girl, The Amazing Colossal Man, and I Was a Teenage Werewolf were just a few of the dozens of movies made or distributed by AIP during its 15 years of existence, many of which were directed and/or produced by Roger Corman. During the 1960s, the budgets of Arkoff's and Nicholson's movies grew. The resulting films, including The Fall of the House of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum, began attracting a more serious following, even as AIP also ground out the "Beach Party" movies, and exploitation titles like Wild In The Streets. In the early 1970s, AIP moved into bigger-budgeted films, including a very respectable British-made version of Wuthering Heights, starring future James Bond Timothy Dalton as Heathcliff. James H. Nicholson died during the early 1970s, and AIP was sold to Filmways, which evolved into Orion Pictures. Arkoff continued producing films sporadically, and in the early 1990s re-released the bulk of the early films that he had personally produced to home video.

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