American International Pictures

American International Pictures

company_name = American International Pictures
American International Pictures, Inc.
company_type = Corporation
founder = James H. Nicholson
Samuel Z. Arkoff
foundation = April, 1956
dissolved = 1980 into Filmways
location = TBA
divisions = American International Productions Television (AIP-TV)
owner = independent (1955-1979)
Filmways Inc. (1979-1982)
Orion Pictures (1982)
MGM (1997, "as successor-in-interest to Orion")

American International Pictures was a film production company formed in April 1956 from American Releasing Corporation (ARC) by James H. Nicholson, former Sales Manager of Realart Pictures and Samuel Z. Arkoff, an entertainment lawyer. It was dedicated to releasing independently produced, low-budget films, primarily of interest to the teenagers of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Nicholson and Arkoff and formed ARC in 1955, [p.265 Johnson, John "Cheap Tricks and Class Acts" McFarland 1996] with their first release being "The Fast and the Furious (1955 film)".

AIP personnel

Nicholson and Arkoff served as executive producers while Roger Corman and Alex Gordon were the principal film producers and, sometimes, directors. Writer Charles B. Griffith wrote many of the early films, along with Arkoff's brother-in-law, Lou Rusoff. Later writers included Ray Russell, Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont. Floyd Crosby, A.S.C. famous for his camera work on a number of exotic documentaries and the Oscar winner, "High Noon", was chief cinematographer. His innovative use of surreal color and odd lenses and angles gave AIP films a signature look. The early rubber monster suits and miniatures of Paul Blaisdell embodied the best of 1950s science fiction films. AIP also used composer Les Baxter for many of its film scores.

Emphasis on teenagers

When many of ARC/AIP's first releases failed to earn a profit, Arkoff quizzed film exhibitors who told him of the value of the teenage market as adults were watching television [ [ Samuel Z Arkoff Biography - Fancast ] ] . AIP stopped making Westerns with Arkoff explaining "To compete with television westerns you have to have color, big stars and $2,000,000". [ p.126 Doherty, Thomas "Teenagers and Teenpics" Unwin-Hyman 1988]

AIP was the first company to use focus groups fact|date=June 2008, polling American teenagers about what they would like to see and using their responses to determine titles, stars, and story content. AIP would question their exhibitors (who often provided 20% of AIP's financing [ p.35 Doherty, Thomas "Teenagers and Teenpics" Unwin-Hyman 1988] ) what they thought of the success of a title, then would have a writer write a script for it. [ p.156 Doherty, Thomas "Teenagers and Teenpics" Unwin-Hyman 1988] A typical sequence of production involved coming up with a great title, getting an artist such as Albert Kallis who supervised all AIP artwork from 1955-1973 [ [ Albert Kallis - bio ] ] to create a dynamic, eye-catching poster, then raising the cash, and finally actually writing and casting the film.

The ARKOFF formula

Samuel Z. Arkoff related his tried-and-true "ARKOFF formula" for producing a successful low-budget movie years later, during a 1980s talk show appearance. His ideals for a movie included:

* 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)

Later the AIP publicity department devised a strategy called "The Peter Pan Syndrome":

"a) a younger child will watch anything an older child will watch;"
"b) an older child will not watch anything a younger child will watch;"
"c) a girl will watch anything a boy will watch"
"d) a boy will not watch anything a girl will watch;"
"therefore-to catch your greatest audience you zero in on the 19-year old male". [ Bean, Robin and Austen, David "U.S.A. Confidential" p.215 "Films and Filming" November 1968 quoted in p.157 Doherty, Thomas "Teenagers and Teenpics" Unwin-Hyman 1988]

AIP's 1960s output

In the 1960s, AIP produced a series of beach party films starring Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon. During this time AIP also produced or distributed most of Roger Corman's famous horror B movies, including such films as "", "The Raven", and "The Terror". Composer Les Baxter was hired by AIP to do a variety of original film scores as well as rescoring European made releases such as "Goliath and the Barbarians".

In 1966, the studio released "The Wild Angels", based loosely on the real-life exploits of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang. This film kicked off a subgenre of motorcycle gang films that lasted almost ten years and included "Devil's Angels" and "The Born Losers". The psychedelic and hippie scenes of the late '60s were also exploited with films like "The Trip", "Riot on Sunset Strip", "Wild in the Streets", "Gas-s-s-s", and "Psych-Out".

AIP is well known for being the major U.S. distributor for Kadokawa Pictures and Toho Studio's Godzilla and Gamera (kaiju) movies of the '60s and '70s. AIP also distributed other Japanese sci-fi movies like "Frankenstein Conquers the World", "Monster From a Prehistoric Planet", and "Yonggary, Monster from the Deep".

The Corman Poe cycle

In the early 1960s, AIP struck gold by combining Roger Corman, Vincent Price and the stories of Edgar Allan Poe into a series of visually impressive horror films. This series of movies made AIP an American counterpart to the British studio Hammer Films and its famous Hammer Horror line featuring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.

The original idea, usually credited to Corman, was to take Poe's story "The Fall of the House of Usher", which had both a high name-recognition value and the merit of being royalty-free due to being in the public domain, and expand it into a feature film. Corman convinced the studio to give him a larger budget than the typical AIP film so he could film in color and create lavish sets fact|date=June 2008.

The success of "The House of Usher" led AIP to finance further films also based on Poe's stories. The sets and special effects were often reused in subsequent movies (for example, the burning roof the Usher mansion reappears in most of the other films) making the series quite cost-effective. All the films in the series were directed by Roger Corman, and they all starred Price except "The Premature Burial", which featured Ray Milland in the lead (it was originally produced for another studio, but AIP acquired the rights to itfact|date=June 2008).

As the series progressed, Corman made attempts to change the formula. Later films added more humor to the stories, especially "The Raven", which takes Poe's poem as an inspiration and develops it into an all-out farce starring Price, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre. Corman also adapted H. P. Lovecraft's story The Case of Charles Dexter Ward in an attempt to get away from Poe, but AIP changed the title to that of an obscure Poe poem, The Haunted Palace, and marketed it as yet another movie in the series. The penultimate film in the series, "The Masque of the Red Death", was filmed in England with an unusually long schedule for Corman and AIP. The film, inspired by Ingmar Bergman's "The Seventh Seal", looks much more opulent than the rest of the series.

Although Corman is generally credited with coming up with the idea for the Poe series, in an interview on the Anchor Bay DVD of Mario Bava's "Black Sabbath", Mark Damon claims that he first suggested the idea to Corman. Damon also says that Corman let him direct "The Pit and the Pendulum" uncredited. Corman's commentary for "Pit" mentions nothing of this.

List of the Corman Poe films

# "House of Usher (1960)
# "The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
# "The Premature Burial (1962)
# "Tales of Terror (1962)
# "The Raven (1963)
# "The Haunted Palace (1963)
# "The Masque of the Red Death (1964)
# "The Tomb of Ligeia (1964)


In 1964, AIP became one of the last film studios to start its own television production company, "American International Productions Television" (a.k.a. American International Television or AIP-TV). [ [ American-International Television (AIP-TV) [us ] ] AIP-TV at first released many of their 1950s films to American television stations, then filmed unsuccessful television pilots for "Beach Party" and "Sergeant Deadhead", made several colour horror/science fiction television movies by Larry Buchanan that were remakes of black-and-white AIP films, and sold packages of many dubbed European, Japanese, and Mexican films produced by K. Gordon Murray and foreign-made live-action and animated TV series.

In order to allay the fears of cinema owners who feared current releases would soon end up being shown on television, AIP issued a statement retroactive to 1963 that the company would not release any of their films to television until five years after cinema release unless the film had not made back its original negative costs. [ p.167 Heffernan, Kevin "Ghouls Gimmicks and Gold: Horror Films and the American Movie Business" 2004 Duke University Press] . AIP-TV also filmed specials of promotion of AIP films such as "The Wild Weird World of Dr. Goldfoot" (1965) and "An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe" (1972), both with Vincent Price.

AIP Records

AIP started their own record label in the late 1950's to release tunes used in their movies. There were a number of soundtrack albums as well.

Later years

In the 1970s, AIP began to produce more mainstream films such as "Bunny O'Hare", "The Amityville Horror", "Love at First Bite", "Meteor", "Force 10 from Navarone", "Shout at the Devil", "The Island of Dr. Moreau", and "Mad Max". The increased spending on these projects, though they did make some money, contributed to the company's downfall. AIP also produced some of the 1970s blaxploitation films like "Blacula", and "Foxy Brown". In a throwback to the old "studio days", the company is credited with making Pam Grier a household name, as all of her '70s films were made under contract to American International.

In 1979, with the retirement of Arkoff, AIP was sold to Filmways, Inc. and became a subsidiary production unit thereof. Filmways was later bought by Orion Pictures Corporation and the AIP subsidiary was disbanded. Today, a majority of the AIP library is owned by Orion's successor company, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.



* Mark Thomas McGee, "Fast and Furious: The Story of American International Pictures" (McFarland & Company, 1995) ISBN 0-786-401370.

External links

* [ Deep Dark Thoughts: American International Pictures]
* [ Partial Horror and Sci-Fi filmography]
* [ Article on AIP]
* [ It Conquered Hollywood! The Story of American International Pictures]
*Albert Kallis poster artist
* AIP logos through the years

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