The film industry is a world where one is judged almost wholly by the success of one's work - an attitude which extends even beyond the grave. Take the recent passing of Albert Band, a producer, director and writer who spent nearly fifty years in the movie business.
The death of celebrated filmmaker John Frankenheimer last week was noted on most entertainment oriented TV programs, and a search of the Internet will turn up dozens of mentions of his passing, and certainly justly so. But a similar search for Albert Band will likely turn up nothing. One can't argue that Band left behind the cinematic legacy Frankenheimer did, but his was a noteworthy career nonetheless.
Born Alfredo Antonini . A year later, Albert wrote the screenplay for Huston's highly respected adaptation of Stephan Crane's THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE, but Band soon left Huston's tutelage to become a filmmaker himself.
Band's first film was the 1956 western THE YOUNG GUNS. Two years later he directed his first memorable film, the spooky I BURY THE LIVING. The chiller did only modest business in the theaters, but was discovered by horror fans later when it hit TV. Starring Richard Boone, the movie tells of a graveyard manager who finds he can bring about the deaths of those who own plots there simply by changing the white stick pin, which denotes an open plot, to a black one.
A year later, Band moved his family (including sons Charles and Richard) to Stockholm, where he directed FACE OF FIRE, a fine examination of humanity's mistreatment of fellow humans. The film deals with a man (James Whitmore) who risks his life to save a young boy from a fire, but is so badly burned during the act that the townspeople see him as a monster and his entire life is changed.
A few , starring Steve Reeves, and THE TRAMPLERS, with Joseph Cotton, both considered by many to be among the best of their respective genres. Band later directed HERCULES AND THE PRINCESS OF TROY, which was shot with an English speaking cast in order to be used as a pilot for a potential Hercules TV series. The series never happened but the film played U.S. TV under the title HERCULES VS THE SEA MONSTER and is fondly remembered by those who saw it.
In the early '70s, Band returned to the U.S. where his sons Charles and Richard also entered the film industry, Charles as a producer and director, and Richard as a composer, often scoring the works of his father and brother. Albert would soon direct the ridiculously titled, but not ineffective, DRACULA'S DOG, and the bizarre but amusing LITTLE CIGARS, about a group of midget bandits. But it was son Charles who would begin to make a name for himself.
Mixing horror, . Later, Charles would launch Empire Pictures, a low budget production company which found major hits with the likes of GHOULIES and Stuart Gordon's RE-ANIMATOR. The company took advantage of Albert's European contacts and experience and soon built a studio in Italy, utilizing the strength of the American dollar in Europe at the time. Empire also found considerable success with titles like the 3-D METALSTORM: THE DESTRUCTION OF JARED SYN, which Albert produced. The low budget film stunned many in the industry when it out-grossed Universal's highly promoted JAWS 3-D. However, a shift in world monetary values brought about the collapse of Empire's Italian operations.
However, the greatest benefit Albert Band brought to his son's company was simply the presence of a man of his experience. Few who passed through Full Moon had anything negative to say about Albert Band. Actor Tim (TRANCERS) Thomerson recently referred to him as "simply a great guy" and writer/director C. Courtney Joyner shared that he considered the elder Band a "surrogate father" who helped him through the difficult experience of directing his first film, TRANCERS 3.
There's not likely to be any retrospectives of Albert Band's work, nor salutes to him by the AFI or the Academy Awards, but he was one of the last of the breed of writers, filmmakers and producers who believed that even a low budget film deserved to be made as professionally as possible and should aim to entertain its audience in addition to turning a profit for its producers. It seems likely that we won't see his kind again.