Irwin Allen "Master of Disaster" Centennial

Tim here. Today we celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the birth of producer-director-writer Irwin Allen, one of the great junk-food purveyors in Hollywood cinema. It's by no means true that Allen invented the disaster movie (a genre stretching back into the 1930s), nor even the uniquely '70s-style incarnation of the form, with an impressively well-stocked larder of overtalented, underpaid stars filling out the clichéd melodramas of addiction and marital strife that tend to form the plots of these movie (Airport got there first). But it was under Allen's hand that disaster movies became the greatest, gaudiest spectacles of the decade.

Allen was not always a high-end schlockmeister. In fact, he began his career as an Oscar-winner, taking home a Best Documentary Feature award for 1953's The Sea Around Us, based on a Rachel L. Carson book. Curiously his first taste of the effects-driven spectacle that would typify his later films came in as a way of fleshing out his documentaries. One sequence of his 1956 film The Animal World, on dinosaurs, featured effects by the great Ray Harryhausen, and his very next film was his first all-star extravaganza, the cameo-packed The Story of Mankind.

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