American International Pictures: The Golden Years by Gary A. Smith (book review)

April 25, 2017 | By | Reply More

If you look at the title and wonder what ‘American International Pictures’ is, go by the initials AIP and this is the company that distributed Roger Corman and Alex Gordon’s films and the penny should drop. Well, Alex and his brother, Bert, only up to the 1960s when disputes over money arose. Gary A. Smith’s book, divided into 19 years covering their early and what he considers their golden or best period. He uses a combination of press and his own comments, in bold, and skips through all, although he says most, of their films.

The AIP empire wasn’t restricted to the USA and films were made in the UK as well as distributing many more from over here. Although it’s not stated in the book, the UK did have a policy at the time that we should have some home-grown films on the same schedule with American films and this was the way it would have been done. Don’t read this book expecting a total history of the company as that’s Mark McGee’s territory in his 1984 book, ‘Fast And Furious: The Story Of American International Pictures’. This is really a book of news clippings and reactions to the AIP output.

It was very weird reaching the 1960s as my memory hooked in more strongly with the number of films I’d seen of AIP. Even weirder was seeing famous names like David Niven, Sean Connery and even ‘Mission: Impossible’s Peter Lupus, named Rock Stevens then in three Italian ‘Hercules’ films here. Of course, Vincent Price appeared in 26 of AIP’s films, mostly by Roger Corman.

It’s also interesting seeing producer Julian Wintle’s name crop up so often. As it’s a name you see in UK’s 1960s ‘The Avengers’ so much, this gives you some background as to what films he used to produce.

The oddest thing is from the mid-60s on, AIP seems to have an apparent slump, despite having Hammer films available to show in America. Even more so, as cinema becomes more media aware, not to mention more magazines on the subject, you would have thought there would have been more media releases but unless Smith or Mark McGee who supplied information found nothing, there seems to be less not more.

I’ve only hit on a few of the things that have struck me from reading this book. I think the one lesson you learn is that the press reaction doesn’t make as much sense as AIP’s popularity with the viewers. In that respects, I think it would have made some sense had Smith done a comparison with how much money each film made compared to these review snippets and showed the critics didn’t gauge the viewing public correctly. If nothing else, it would reveal if the reviews deterred people from seeing the films or induced them to go. Nevertheless, this book is a good reminder of AIP’s output and how many of them were beach and motorbike movies compared to those that were in our genre.

GF Willmetts

April 2017

(pub: BearManor Media. 528 page illustrated indexed enlarged paperback. Price: $34.95 (US), £23.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-59393-750-8)

check out website: www.bearmanormedia.com

Category: Books, Films

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About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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