Thursday, March 26, 2020

The Late Great Stuart Gordon

Stuart Gordon, who directed such movies based on the works of H. P. Lovecraft as Re-Animator (1985), From Beyond (1986), and Dagon (2001), died on March 24 2020 at the age of 72.

Stuart Gordon was born on August 11 1947 in Chicago, Illinois. He attended Lane Technical High School in Chicago. He attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison. It was there that he founded his first theatre company, the Screw Theatre. It was at the Screw Theatre that Mr. Gordon staged a politicised version of Peter Pan in the fall of 1968. Both he and his eventual wife, Carolyn Purdy, were charged with obscenity. While the story made national headlines, the charges would be dropped in November 1968. Afterwards the University of Wisconsin demanded that any future plays staged by the Screw Theatre be overseen by a university professor. Stuart Gordon then broke with the university and founded the Broom Street Theatre without their support.

It was later in 1969 that Mr. Gordon and his wife Carolyn moved to Chicago where they founded the Organic Theatre Company. The company operated through the Seventies and into the early Eighties. Among the plays Mr. Gordon produced with the Organic Theatre Company were Sexual Perversity in Chicago, Bleacher Bums, and E/R (upon which the short-lived sitcom of the same name was based). It was following E/R that Stuart Gordon left Chicago for Los Angeles.

Stuart Gordon made his directorial debut with a 1979 adaptation of the play Bleacher Bums. It was in 1985 that he made his first feature film, Re-Animator. An adaptation of  H. P. Lovecraft's novelette "Herbert West–Reanimator," it did well at the box office and received largely positive reviews from critics. Mr. Gordon followed it with another H. P. Lovecraft adaptation, From Beyond (1986), based on H. P. Lovecraft's short story of the same name. He closed the Eighties with the films Dolls (1987) and Robot Jox (1989). With Brian Yuzna and Ed Naha, he provided the story for the film Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989). On television he directed the 1990 TV movie Daughters of Darkness.

Stuart Gordon began the Nineties with the Edgar Allan Poe adaptation The Pit and the Pendulum (1991). During the decade he directed the movies Fortress (1992), Space Truckers (1996), and The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit (1998). He wrote the screenplays for Body Snatchers (1992) and The Dentist (1996), and the story for Progeny (1998). On television he directed an episode of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show.

In the Naughts he directed the H. P. Lovecraft adaptation Dagon (2001), based on novella The Shadow Over Innsmouth rather than the short story of the same name. He also directed the movies King of the Ants (2003), Edmond (2005), and Stuck (2007). On television he directed two episodes of Masters of Horror and one episode of Fear Itself. In 2009 he returned to the stage to direct Nevermore...An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe.

In 2011 Stuart Gordon produced, directed, and co-wrote the book for the stage production Re-Animator: The Musical. In 2014 his play, Taste, premiered at Sacred Fools Theatre Company in Los Angeles.

There can be little doubt that Stuart Gordon will always be best known for his work in the horror genre. In fact, many believe that he directed the absolute best adaptations of H. P. Lovecraft's work ever made. Much of his power as a horror director was his willingness to push the boundaries of what was acceptable in the genre.It is with good reason that Re-Animator and From Beyond are considered horror classics. At the same time, however, Mr. Gordon was versatile. He made the relatively family friendly science fiction film Robot Jox. He also made the sci-fi films Fortress and Space Truckers. He even made a comedy, The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit, based on a short story of Ray Bradbury (who considered it the best film based on any of his works).

While Stuart Gordon is best known for his work in film, his career in theatre must also be acknowledged. There are no bigger names in Chicago theatre than Stuart Gordon. He worked with such talents as David Mamet, Joe Mantegna, and Dennis Franz. It was Stuart Gordon, often pushing the boundaries of what had been on stage before, who essentially put Chicago on the map where the theatre was concerned. No less than David Mamet himself said of his ideas in his eulogy for Mr. Gordon in The Chicago Tribune, " fact, many of them came from Stuart Gordon." Stuart Gordon was a major talent whose work spanned not only genres, but also media. He revolutionised both horror cinema and the Chicago stage.

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