Skip to comments.Larry Buchanan [Obituary]
Posted on 12/29/2004 2:35:36 PM PST by flitton
Larry Buchanan, the filmmaker who has died aged 81, specialised in the niche market for what he called "guerrilla filmmaking" - truly dreadful B-movies with such names as Zontar, the Thing from Venus; Curse of the Swamp Creature; Naughty Dallas and Mars Needs Women, a film which reputedly features in every list of the worst movies ever made. But even this last title found a market, and reached its widest audiences in a version dubbed into Yiddish.
Buchanan combined the roles of producer, director, screenwriter, editor and, where appropriate, voice-over narrator. He was unashamed, even proud, of tacky production values, ham acting and thin story lines. Because they were so cheap, most of his films made a useful profit.
Some regarded Buchanan as a genius in his own genre. Of his 1963 "blaxploitation" film Free, White and 21, a courtroom drama about an interracial rape, a critic noted that "the incident is graphically recounted, with emphasis on its most sordid aspects, in language seldom heard on the screen. Possibly some socially conscious spectators will find the subject matter significant enough to overlook the film's unconvincing dialogue, awkward acting and total absence of cinematographic technique." He followed it with High Yellow, which he called "a picture about a young girl passing for white".
He was born Marcus Larry Seale at Lost Prairie, Texas, on January 31 1923. His parents died when he was still a child and he was sent to a Baptist orphanage in Dallas where he was unofficially "adopted" by the Variety Clubs of America. Aged 18, he drifted to Hollywood where he found work in the props department and took bit parts with 20th Century Fox, which renamed him Larry Buchanan.
He learnt his craft making training films in the US Army Signals Corps. Then he made religious documenatries for the Bible-bashing American evangelist Oral Roberts and worked as an assistant director to George Cukor on The Marrying Kind (1952).
By this time he had already embarked on his career as one of the worlds' worst directors with The Cowboy (1951). Over the next 40-odd years, from his base in Dallas, Buchanan churned out nearly 30 films ranging from horror and science fiction to biopics such as Goodbye Norma Jean (1976) and Goodnight, Sweet Marilyn (1989) both about the life of Marilyn Monroe, and conspiracy theory films such as The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald (1964).
In Down on Us (1984) he claimed that Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin had been victims of government hit squads. Other notable films included A Bullet for Pretty Boy (a biopic about Pretty Boy Floyd), The Naked Witch and Strawberries Need Rain (1970), a picture Buchanan made in between other projects. Having noticed how minimal Bergman's films were, he reasoned that the great Swedish director was, like him, working to a tight budget, and so imitated his techniques. He put Bergman's name on the credits, but then regretted it when students started raving about the film.
Shortly before his death, Buchanan finished what he regarded as his magnum opus, The Copper Scroll of Mary Magdalene, about the life of Christ. In 1996 he wrote a memoir It Came from Hunger! Tales from a Cinema Schlockmeister.
Larry Buchanan died on December 2 and is survived by his wife Jane and by three sons and a daughter.
RIP, Larry, you talentless schmuck.
I like dreadful B-movies... lot better than the crap hollywood puts out on a weekly basis.
Good read. I hope there's a cable channel low budget enough to show one of his films.
I don't know that Oliver Stone will be overly flattered bythe comparison though.
Yep. And it's "gouge-out-your-eyes" bad.
Larry shot a movie called Naughty Dallas in one of Jack Ruby's strip joints (not The Carousel Club, the other one).
He also shot a movie called The Trial Of Lee Harvey Oswald about a fictional court trial had Oswald lived.
Netflix has several of his films and he provided commentary for them in recent years.
Perhaps his most famous film was Mars Needs Women.
Thanks for the PING.
Larry's a Dallas boy, one of the most famous graduates of the Buckner Babtist Boys Home, and his first movie was "Naughty Dallas," the story of Jack Ruby, where he used the actual strippers that worked in Ruby's nightclub down on Lemmon Avenue. That led to "The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald," which led to "Goodbye Norma Jean," which led to the movie that tied it all together, "Down On Us," the first movie to fully reveal the anti-rock music conspiracy that systematically killed Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison.
And now we've got "Goodnight, Sweet Marilyn," the first movie to reveal how Marilyn Monroe died just three days before her press conference to tell everything she knew about Bobby Kennedy, the Mafia, Jimmy Hoffa, and Cuba. And this may be the sleaziest movie of 1989, a perfect 100 on the Sleaze Meter, so sleazy that three hours after you watch it you're still wiping sleaze off your chin. Misty Rowe plays Norma Jean Baker before her plastic surgery, and Paula Lane plays Marilyn AFTER the plastic surgery, and between em they sleep with half the pork-bellied cigar-smokin pasty-face slime-meisters in Hollywood. By the time she asks her buddy to shoot her up with a little sodium pentathol, you're thinking, "Thank GOD, is it almost over?"
Dear Mr. Bob,
Your review of "Goodnight, Sweet Marilyn" took me by surprise. You see, Terrence Locke died in 1982, and I was wondering if it's the same person, in an old movie. He did play in a movie with Misty Rowe called "Goodbye, Norma Jean." Perhaps they recut that. I'm curious, because I lived with Mr. Locke until he died and he never spoke of "Goodnight, Sweet Marilyn." Perhaps there is another Terrence Locke. Would you please let me know.
Santa Rosa, Calif.
Larry Buchanan, the greatest conspiracy theorist drive-in movie maker working today, sometimes spends ten years working on the same movie, and then he gives it three, four different titles, so it's VERY possible that the movie completed in 1988 was shooting in 1982. That's the kind of drive-in genius Larry is. He's a perfectionist. And now that we're discussing it, if Marilyn Monroe WAS killed by the Mafia, CIA, Castro and Bobby Kennedy, then who killed Terrence Locke? The Soviets? Marina Oswald?
"Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In" for 2/9/90
cutline: Why would the FBI assassinate Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison, as depicted in "Beyond The Doors"? After you see the movie, you'll be asking "Why didn't they do it sooner?"
By Joe Bob Briggs
Drive-In Movie Critic of Grapevine, Texas
Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Bryan Wolf, as Jim Morrison, for wearing his shirt open down to his navel, letting the girls in the audience lick his hand, and saying "You don't wanna change the world, do you, honey? You just wanna make love" and "I look for rainbows, and all I see is pig blue"; Gregory Allen Chatman, as Jimi Hendrix, for smashing his guitar, having his private parts preserved forever in sculpture, and saying "I only write what I feel"; Riba Meryl, as Janis Joplin, for porking up for the role, shooting up with heroin, and saying "I go out and make love to 25,000 people, and then I go home alone"; Sandy Kenyon, as the assassin, for saying "Our assignment--neutralize the three pied pipers of rock music"; and, of course, Larry Buchanan, for writing lines like "I know I didn't need that second barrel, but who counts birdshot in a man's chest? Rock and roll is dead. Long live rock and roll."
Three stars. Joe Bob says check it out.
Rock and Roll PING! email Weegee to get on/off this list (or grab it yourself to PING the rest)
Rock and roll PING for the director of Down On Us (aka Beyond The Doors), also for his DIY spirit of filmmaking which may have inspired others from Lester Bangs to Lux Interior to the Ramones to Richard Kern, Nick Zedd, John Michael McCarthy, and Christopher Frieri (all of these directors have made low budgeted rock and roll/punk horror films shot on film).
Hasn't been a good year for the old exploitation directors. Russ Meyer also passed away in September.
Thanks for all that extra info.