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Samuel Z. Arkoff

Samuel Z. Arkoff

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Samuel Zachary Arkoff was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 producer of B movie
B movie
A B movie is a low-budget commercial motion picture that is not definitively an arthouse or pornographic film. In its original usage, during the Golden Age of Hollywood, the term more precisely identified a film intended for distribution as the less-publicized, bottom half of a double feature....


Life and career

Born in Fort Dodge, Iowa
Fort Dodge, Iowa
Fort Dodge is a city and county seat of Webster County, Iowa, United States, along the Des Moines River. The population was 25,206 in the 2010 census, an increase from 25,136 in the 2000 census. Fort Dodge is a major commercial center for North Central and Northwest Iowa. It is located on U.S...

 to a Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n Jewish family, Arkoff first studied to be a lawyer
A lawyer, according to Black's Law Dictionary, is "a person learned in the law; as an attorney, counsel or solicitor; a person who is practicing law." Law is the system of rules of conduct established by the sovereign government of a society to correct wrongs, maintain the stability of political...

. Along with business partner James H. Nicholson
James H. Nicholson
James Harvey Nicholson was an American film producer. He is best known as the co-founder, with Samuel Z. Arkoff, of American International Pictures.-Biography:...

 and producer-director Roger Corman
Roger Corman
Roger William Corman is an American film producer, director and actor. He has mostly worked on low-budget B movies. Some of Corman's work has an established critical reputation, such as his cycle of films adapted from the tales of Edgar Allan Poe, and in 2009 he won an Honorary Academy Award for...

, he produced eighteen films. In the 1950s, he and Nicholson founded the American Releasing Corporation, which later became known as American International Pictures
American International Pictures
American International Pictures was a film production company formed in April 1956 from American Releasing Corporation by James H. Nicholson, former Sales Manager of Realart Pictures, and Samuel Z. Arkoff, an entertainment lawyer...

 and produced over 125 films before the company's demise in the 1980s. These films were mostly low-budget, with production completed in a few days, though nearly all of them became profitable.

Arkoff is also credited with starting a few genres, such as the Beach Party
Beach Party
Beach Party was the first of several beach party films from American International Pictures aimed at a teen audience. It was directed by William Asher and written by Lou Rusoff. The main actors included Robert Cummings, Dorothy Malone, Frankie Avalon, and Annette Funicello...

and outlaw biker movies, and his company played a substantial part in bringing the horror film
Horror film
Horror films seek to elicit a negative emotional reaction from viewers by playing on the audience's most primal fears. They often feature scenes that startle the viewer through the means of macabre and the supernatural, thus frequently overlapping with the fantasy and science fiction genres...

 genre to a novel level with successes such as Blacula
Blacula is a 1972 American horror film produced for American International Pictures. It was directed by William Crain and stars William Marshall in the title role about an 18th century African prince named Mamuwalde, who is both turned into a vampire and locked inside a coffin by Count Dracula...

, I Was a Teenage Werewolf
I Was a Teenage Werewolf
I Was a Teenage Werewolf is a 1957 horror film starring Michael Landon as a troubled teenager and Whit Bissell as the primary adult. It was co-written and produced by cult film producer Herman Cohen, and was one of the most successful films released by American International Pictures...

and The Thing with Two Heads
The Thing with Two Heads
The Thing with Two Heads is a 1972 film, starring Rosey Grier, Ray Milland and Don Marshall directed by Lee Frost, and written by Wes Bishop. Frost and Bishop also had parts in the movie....

. American International Pictures movies starred many established actors in principal or cameo roles, such as Boris Karloff
Boris Karloff
William Henry Pratt , better known by his stage name Boris Karloff, was an English actor.Karloff is best remembered for his roles in horror films and his portrayal of Frankenstein's monster in Frankenstein , Bride of Frankenstein , and Son of Frankenstein...

, Elsa Lanchester
Elsa Lanchester
Elsa Sullivan Lanchester was an English-American character actress with a long career in theatre, film and television....

 and Vincent Price
Vincent Price
Vincent Leonard Price, Jr. was an American actor, well known for his distinctive voice and serio-comic attitude in a series of horror films made in the latter part of his career.-Early life and career:Price was born in St...

, as well as others who later became household names, including Don Johnson
Don Johnson
Donnie Wayne "Don" Johnson is an American actor known for his work in television and film. He played the lead role of James "Sonny" Crockett in the 1980s TV cop series, Miami Vice, which led him to huge success. He also played the lead role in the 1990s cop series, Nash Bridges...

, Nick Nolte
Nick Nolte
Nicholas King "Nick" Nolte is an American actor whose career has spanned over five decades, peaking in the 1990s when his commercial success made him one of the most popular celebrities of that decade.-Early life:...

, Diane Ladd
Diane Ladd
Diane Ladd is an American actress, film director, producer and published author. She has appeared in over 120 roles, on television, and in miniseries and feature films, including Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore , Wild at Heart , Rambling Rose , Ghosts of Mississippi, Primary Colors, 28 Days , and...

, and most notably Jack Nicholson
Jack Nicholson
John Joseph "Jack" Nicholson is an American actor, film director, producer and writer. He is renowned for his often dark portrayals of neurotic characters. Nicholson has been nominated for an Academy Award twelve times, and has won the Academy Award for Best Actor twice: for One Flew Over the...

. A number of actors shunned or overlooked by most of Hollywood during the 1960s and 1970s, such as Bruce Dern
Bruce Dern
Bruce MacLeish Dern is an American film actor. He also appeared as a guest star in numerous television shows. He frequently takes roles as a character actor, often playing unstable and villainous characters...

 and Dennis Hopper
Dennis Hopper
Dennis Lee Hopper was an American actor, filmmaker and artist. As a young man, Hopper became interested in acting and eventually became a student of the Actors' Studio. He made his first television appearance in 1954 and appeared in two films featuring James Dean, Rebel Without a Cause and Giant...

, also found work in one or more of Arkoff's productions. Arkoff's most financially successful film was the 1979 adaptation of Jay Anson
Jay Anson
Jay Anson was an American author whose most famous work was The Amityville Horror. After the runaway success of that novel, he wrote 666, which also dealt with a haunted house...

's book The Amityville Horror
The Amityville Horror
The Amityville Horror: A True Story is a book by Jay Anson, published in September 1977. It is also the basis of a series of films released between 1979 and 2005...


Not long after American International Pictures went out of business, Arkoff founded Arkoff International Pictures.

Arkoff began his career in Hollywood as a producer of The Hank McCune Show, a seminal sitcom produced in 1951. He innovated the TV laugh track rather than go to the expense of a studio audience.

In 2000, Arkoff was featured alongside former collaborators including Roger Corman
Roger Corman
Roger William Corman is an American film producer, director and actor. He has mostly worked on low-budget B movies. Some of Corman's work has an established critical reputation, such as his cycle of films adapted from the tales of Edgar Allan Poe, and in 2009 he won an Honorary Academy Award for...

, Dick Miller
Dick Miller
Richard "Dick" Miller is an American character actor who has appeared in over 100 films, particularly those produced by Roger Corman, and later in films of directors who started their careers with Corman, including James Cameron and Joe Dante, with the distinction of appearing in every film made...

 and Peter Bogdanovich
Peter Bogdanovich
Peter Bogdanovich is an American film historian, director, writer, actor, producer, and critic. He was part of the wave of "New Hollywood" directors, which included William Friedkin, Brian De Palma, George Lucas, Martin Scorsese, Michael Cimino, and Francis Ford Coppola...

 in the documentary SCHLOCK! The Secret History of American Movies, a film about the rise and fall of American exploitation cinema.

Arkoff died in 2001, within weeks of his wife's death.

The ARKOFF formula

During a 1980s television talk show
Talk show
A talk show or chat show is a television program or radio program where one person discuss various topics put forth by a talk show host....

 appearance, Arkoff related his "ARKOFF Formula" for a successful, memorable movie. This states that a successful low-budget movie should include:
  • 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
    Sexual attraction
    Sexual attractiveness or sex appeal refers to an individual's ability to attract the sexual or erotic interest of another person, and is a factor in sexual selection or mate choice. The attraction can be to the physical or other qualities or traits of a person, or to such qualities in the context...

    , for young adults)

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