Friday, January 4, 2013

Shreveport Shrieks: Jim McCullough, Sr.

Toward the end of 2012 I stumbled across an obituary for Louisiana filmmaker Jim McCullough, Sr., and I fully intended to provide a write-up for what was already an old story (McCullough died in April 2012), and then other things got in the way and I'm just now getting around to it. But if I didn't tell you about McCullough, it would be a complete dereliction of duty as far as this blog is concerned, since he was a critical figure in the Southern filmmaking scene of the 1970s and 1980s.

According to his obituary, McCullough studied at UCLA and worked as an actor in his early years, appearing on Playhouse 90 and Highway Patrol, as well small roles in Teenage Monster (1958) and The Love Bug (1968).

But it was his work as a director and producer (usually in partnership with his son, Jim McCullough Jr.) that is his biggest legacy, and of most interest to regional horror film fans. His first big success was Where the Red Fern Grows (1974), an adaptation of the book that was required reading for middle school students for many years, but he quickly followed that with Creature From Black Lake (1976), which was directed by another southern filmmaking legend, Joy N. Houck, Jr.

After a couple of comedies, McCullough took the director's chair for the alien kiddie flick The Aurora Encounter (1986), which starred Jack Elam and Dottie West, alongside Mickey Hays, a young Progeria sufferer, as the alien. He also directed Mountaintop Motel Massacre (1986), a staple of video rental shelves back in the day, and the last horror credit for character actor Bill Thurman. That unexpected dose of pseudo-slasher weirdness boasted some nice kill sequences, and one of my favorite taglines: "Please do not disturb Evelyn. She ALREADY is."

McCullough also gave us the cheap Video Murders (1988).

His company, Shreveport, La.-based Jim McCullough Productions, continued generating new titles right through the 1990s, and his son appears to still be in the business.

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