Director Gordon Hessler Dead at 83 – Worked with Vincent Price and Ray Harryhausen
Gordon Hessler passed away in his sleep January 19th at the age of 83. An underrated horror director, Hessler cut his teeth on the Hitchcock Presents TV show then helmed several genuinely creepy and atmospheric British films. He worked with Vincent Price three times, all with scripts by Christopher Wicking; SCREAM & SCREAM AGAIN (1970) was an outrageous sci-fi/horror hybrid that presented a berserk view of swinging 60’s London (and also starred Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee). CRY OF THE BANSHEE (1970) was gritty and mean-spirited featuring Price as a sadistic monarch with an intense hatred of witchcraft and a sardonic sense of macabre. THE OBLONG BOX (1969 – co-starring Chris Lee) was a dark and moody tale of voodoo, body snatching, medical experiments, brotherly betrayal, and being buried alive.
Hessler’s MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE was like a Vincent Price movie without Price (it starred Herbert Lom and Jason Robards). It mixed Poe with Phantom of the Opera and was an interesting take on Paris’ historic Grand Guignol theater. One of his last films, GIRL IN A SWING (1988) was an effective, low-key ghost story worth seeking out. Hessler directed Ray Harryhausen’s GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD in 1973, a film that’s always lived in the shadow of 7th VOYAGE as an inferior sequel but has aged well. It’s a terrific fantasy film worthy of big screen reassessment (and was recently released on Blu-ray by Twilight Time). No one could mistake his KISS MEETS THE PHANTOM OF THE PARK for a good movie, but the 1978 TV movie plays like a live-action Scooby-Doo episode and has a huge cult following. He also directed two martial arts films in the late ‘80s starring Sho Kusugi, the best known actor/martial artist during the 1980s ninja cinema craze: PRAY FOR DEATH (1985), and RAGE OF HONOR (1987). RIP Mr. Hessler.