Director’s Chair Introduction: Joe Dante

by Tony Cogan · December 2, 2019 · Uncategorized · No Comments

Send Entries To: directorschairlamb@gmail.com

Deadline: 4th January 2020

Hello everyone, it’s time to announce the featured director for December’s Director’s Chair and, since it is the Christmas season, I thought it best to highlight a director of a film associated with Christmas and since it’s about to be re-released in the UK for its 35th anniversary

Dante was one of the many film figures to have got his start working with Roger Corman, first making the compilation, The Movie Orgy and following that up with Hollywood Boulevard. Following the release of Jaws, Corman wanted to capitalise on its success and got Dante to direct Piranha.

After Piranha, Dante directed The Howling, one of the three werewolf films released in 1981 (along with An American Werewolf in London and Wolfen) and the success of the film helped build Dante’s career. After directing a few episodes of Police Squad!, Dante was chosen by Steven Spielberg to direct two projects. The first was one of the segments of Twilight Zone: The Movie, his segment being an adaptation of It’s A Good Life. The other one was Gremlins, with Dante chosen for this based on his skill of directing horror and comedy. Despite some battles Dante had with Warner Bros over the famous Santa Claus speech Phoebe Cates delivers, Dante was able to keep that scene in, helped by Spielberg’s intervention. Upon release, Gremlins was a critical and commercial success and is now a Christmas classic, although the level of violence in the film was commented on and, along with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, resulted in the creation of the PG-13 rating.

After Gremlins, Dante continued to work with Spielberg as a producer, directing Innerspace and Explorers (the feature film debut of River Phoenix and Ethan Hawke), along with directing segments for the anthology Amazon Women on the Moon and the dark comedy The ‘Burbs. After those, Dante returned to Gremlins with Gremlins 2: The New Batch. After original ideas for Gremlins 2 fell apart, Dante was brought on board and was offered complete creative control to make the film he wanted to make, which involved making a film to satirise the first Gremlins. Dante also got a fourth wall break where it looks like the Gremlins destroy the film in and whilst there was some concern that audience members would leave their seats during this scene, test screenings were positive towards this scene. When released, the critical reaction were more muted and did not perform as well at the box office as the first film.

After Gremlins 2, Dante paid tribute to classic B-Movies, particularly the films of William Castle, with Matinee and did some work on The Phantom, although he was removed from the film, taking an Executive Producer credit rather than be paid. Dante also made Small Soldiers, which was intended to be a more darker film for teens, but was forced by the studio to make it more kid friendly, with the reviews stating that this resulted in an identity crisis for the film.

In the 2000’s, Dante went on to direct Looney Tunes: Back in Action, which he intended to be a tribute to Chuck Jones and to go back to the classic style of Looney Tunes, moving away from the likes of Space Jam. However, Dante did not have creative freedom on the film and the whole film ended up completely different to the one Dante wanted to make.

After Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Dante has moved more towards horror and cult films, creating the web series Trailers From Hell to talk about trailers for B-Movies, directing the films The Hole and Burying the Ex and directing segments for the anthology films Trapped Ashes and Nightmare Cinema, along with doing TV work, directing episodes of the MacGyver reboot and Legends of Tomorrow.

As a reminder, the films of Joe Dante you can cover are listed below.

  • Hollywood Boulevard
  • Piranha
  • Rock ‘n’ Roll High School
  • The Howling
  • Twilight Zone: The Movie
  • Gremlins
  • Explorers
  • Innerspace
  • Amazon Women on the Moon
  • The ‘Burbs
  • Gremlins 2: The New Batch
  • Matinee
  • Small Soldiers
  • Looney Tunes: Back in Action
  • Trapped Ashes
  • The Hole
  • Burying the Ex
  • Nightmare Cinema

I’m looking forward to reading what you send me.

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