Founded in 1954 by Samuel Z. Arkoff and James H. Nicholson, American International Pictures released hundreds of independently produced, low-budget films in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. With titles like She Gods of Shark Reef and The Vampire Lovers, American International produced creature features, beach party movies, and exploitation flicks for teenagers.
The production company was also home to Roger Corman‘s early films, including The Fast and the Furious, X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes, and House of Usher, starring Vincent Price.
With the resurgence of grindhouse and exploitation films in popular culture, Lou Arkoff, Jeff Katz, and Hal Sadoff plan to remake 10 titles from the American International Pictures library. The initial 10 films are: Girls in Prison, Viking Women and the Sea Serpent, The Brain Eaters, She-Creature, Teenage Caveman, Runaway Daughters, The Undead, War of the Colossal Beast, Cool and the Crazy and Day the World Ended.
It will be interesting to see how remakes of these drive-in classics are received by modern audiences. Most AIP films are remembered for their evocative titles and gorgeous hand-illustrated posters – not their complex narratives or award-winning performances. Still, special effects have come a long away since flying saucers were pie tins on fishing wire, so perhaps there’s hope yet. Still, I hope these AIP remakes embrace the classic poster art and pulp aesthetic that made the originals so memorable.
Samuel Z. Arkoff had a tried-and-true “ARKOFF formula” for producing a successful low-budget movie:
Action (exciting, entertaining drama)
Revolution (novel or controversial themes and ideas)
Killing (a modicum of violence)
Oratory (notable dialogue and speeches)
Fantasy (acted-out fantasies common to the audience)
Fornication (sex appeal, for young adults)
Now if that isn’t a formula for success, I don’t know what is! In an official press release, financier Hal Sadoff explained why there’s a market for remaking these forgotten American International Pictures b-movies:
“The independent film marketplace has never been stronger, with traditional along with new and exciting distribution platforms for consumers to access content. We will be working with established and cutting edge talent to create films that are fun and commercial, while maintaining the integrity of the classic AIP titles.”
New distribution platforms like Video On Demand and digital downloads will certainly allow for a bigger audience of horror and science-fiction fans to seek out these low-budget genre films, but I’m wondering what will separate Arkoff’s modern day grindhouse flicks from SyFy Originals shlock-fests like Komodo vs. Cobra and Yeti: Curse of the Snow Demon.
Films like Machete, Hobo with a Shotgun, Black Dynamite, and Grindhouse have reinvigorated the exploitation film but for every great homage there are 15 bad ones: see Nude Nuns with Big Guns.
My hope is that these remakes are closer to the spirit of Troma Entertainment’s Father’s Day and less like the kind of mind-numbing cinematic atrocities Uwe Boll regurgitates on a monthly basis. Roger Corman is still out there making low-budget genre pictures – it’d be great to see him tackle some of these classic films again. Also, why not get the V/H/S guys involved? It’d be pretty cool to see AIP titles re-imagined by guys like Jason Eisener, Eduardo Sánchez, Adam Wingard, and Ti West!