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Flying Through Hollywood by the Seat of My Pants: From the Man Who Brought You I Was a Teenage Werewolf and Muscle Beach Party Hardcover – July 1, 1992
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From Library Journal
American International Pictures (AIP), founded by the author and James Nicholson in 1954, produced a succession of remarkable low-budget movies in the following decades. Targeting the youth market with such films as their first big hit in 1957, I Was a Teenage Werewolf (with Michael Landon), Arkoff describes how his frugality, resourcefulness, and good business sense were parlayed into box office success. Typical of the author's amusing, behind-the-scenes stories, he recalls how AIP's "beach movies" incurred the wrath of Walt Disney for displaying former Mouseketeer Annette Funicello in a bathing suit. Encounters with the Catholic Legion of Decency and other guardians of morality are humorously described. Especially entertaining are the accounts of AIP's more upscale, higher-budgeted horror films of the 1960s, which starred Vincent Price. This good-natured, unpretentious memoir is recommended for subject collections.
-Richard W. Grefrath, Univ. of Nevada Lib., Reno
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
Brisk but too tasteful autobiography of cheapo independent filmmaker Arkoff, and a catalogue of the dreck he has dredged--much of which was lively and likable. Cigar-puffing Arkoff focuses here on finances in his film career, which has largely been concerned with distribution. He began as a lawyer by producing and distributing a situation comedy that briefly went national on NBC. Then he fell in with Jim Nicholson, sales manager of a small film company, and together, in 1954, they founded American International Pictures on a nest egg of $3,000. At that financial level, AIP had to make money with each picture just to make its next picture--Arkoff received no salary for four years. For the most part, his directors had a free hand if they kept within the band-of-steel budget. AIP pictures played the bottom half of double bills and deliberately appealed to adolescents at drive-in passion pits. That slot returned AIP a flat rental fee while top-of-the-bill pictures paid their studios a box- office percentage. Arkoff and Nicholson saw that if they could make up the double bill themselves--two creature features at once (I Was a Teenage Werewolf, I Was a Teenage Frankenstein, The Amazing Colossal Man, etc.), two beach-blanket flicks, two ``school'' pictures (Reform School Girl, Diary of a High School Bride), or two fast-car or science-fiction flicks--they could ask for almost the same cut as the studios. Enlisting director Roger Corman, the fastest filmmaker alive, gave them product and led to their celebrated line of Poe-inspired horror films. AIP also released dubbed Italian epics, then expanded into more expensive works such as The Amityville Horror and Brian de Palma's Dressed to Kill. Later, Arkoff gave up distribution. He is now lensing a sequel to his own Machine Gun Kelly. Abominations of the Atomic Filmmaker. Photographs (not seen) should add lift. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
Top customer reviews
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Sam does an amazing job of balancing his tales of how he got in the business, AIP's history and tips for anyone who wants to make low budget films.
Recently both Dreamworks and Miramax fell off the horizon as active "indies." Neither of these two studios rate up to AIP. Miramax went from a lowbudget indie wonderland to a bloated entity that just wanted to make $100 million epics. This was a company that died when they passed up on "Company of Men" because they couldn't figure out how to market it. While Sam didn't hesitate to edit or dub a film - he didn't hide under "but he loves film" guise that covered Harvey Weinstein. Sam cut up a foreign film cause he didn't want butts to leave the seat. He wanted to be entertained and didn't care about winning Oscars. Dreamworks set itself up as a place for artists. In the end, it treated its talent like every other studio. Sam always let his "artists" know that they had to make a film he could follow in 15 days or less.
The biggest revelation in the book is how Sam hated movies that preached to the kids. No teenager wants to hear an authority figure babble on about the right thing to do - they'd hear enough about that when they got home from the Drive-In after midnight.
If you decide to skip film school, read this book as a Master Class. Sam knows what hes' talking about when it comes to filmmaking. Remember - the audience needs to be entertained.
Above all, the book is great fun. Mr. Arkoff is a master storyteller, and is as amazed at his own success as anyone else. I couldn't recommend the book any higher. By the way, the movie mentioned in the title is MUSCLE (not "music") BEACH PARTY.