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Samuel Z. Arkoff Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trivia (6) | Personal Quotes (6)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 12 June 1918Fort Dodge, Iowa, USA
Date of Death 16 September 2001Burbank, California, USA  (natural causes)
Birth NameSamuel Zachary Arkoff
Nickname Sam

Mini Bio (1)

By the early 1950s, future movie mogul Samuel Z. Arkoff was a brash 30-ish lawyer scratching out a living by representing his in-laws and the Hollywood fringe, which included many of now infamous director/angora-clad transvestite Edward D. Wood Jr.'s social circle. As a shark, Arkoff was physically imposing and capable of scaring the snot out of anyone who opposed him. One of his penny ante clients was Alex Gordon, a screenwriter who had submitted an unsolicited script to Realart Pictures, an outfit that was profitably re-releasing 20-year-old movies, often under new titles conjured up by its owner, Jack Broder. One such film, Man Made Monster (1941), had just been re-issued as "The Atomic Monster", coincidentally the same title of Gordon's screenplay. Arkoff, smelling blood in the water, paid Broder a visit and, incredibly, obtained a $500 settlement. Broder's sales manager, James H. Nicholson, was dumbfounded by Arkoff's ability to extract a dime, let alone $500, out of his notoriously tightfisted boss. He met with Arkoff and proposed a partnership, which led to the formation of American Releasing Corp. in 1954. The company's first release was Monster from the Ocean Floor (1954), a low-budget feature by 29-year-old producer'Roger Corman'. Made for less than $50,000, it netted $850,000 and Corman was brought into the fold as a silent partner. By 1955 the company was renamed American-International Pictures, generally known as AIP in the industry. Initially focusing on westerns on the premise that shooting on location was cheaper than renting space in a studio. Although the films were profitable, Arkoff was unhappy with the returns and solicited theater owners for advice on what types of films filled seats.

By the mid-'50s, thanks to television, movie audience numbers had dwindled considerably, with the key demographic now teenagers and young adults, who craved horror movies and, especially, drive-ins (where they could gather together without their parents). AIP jumped into the horror genre with both feet and made a fortune. Under the aegis of Nicholson and Arkoff, the company survived in a constricting industry by catering to the whims of the teenage trade and adapting to trends. AIP's long (350-plus) roster of kitsch classics, running the gamut from horror to rock-'n'-roll, from juvenile delinquency to Italian muscle men and from Edgar Allan Poe to Annette Funicello, have formed their own unique niche in film history. His company became infamous for clever advertising schemes that were often more entertaining than the films themselves. Arkoff never tolerated egos and his films were more often than not profitable, thanks to tight budgets and a clear understanding of the company's target market. After Nicholson's 1972 resignation, Arkoff assumed full control of the company and remained in charge until the 1979 merger with Filmways prompted his own departure. He then became the head of Arkoff International Pictures.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jack Backstreet (qv's & corrections by A. Nonymous)

Spouse (1)

Hilda (1945 - 26 July 2001) (her death)

Trivia (6)

Father of Lou Arkoff and Donna Roth.
Father-in-law of Joe Roth.
He was a lawyer. He graduated from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles in 1948.
Hilda, his wife of 55 years, died in July 2001. Sam died less than two months later.
Explained his "ARKOFF Formula" for making a successful movie, during a 1980s TV appearance: A good movie should include Action (excitement and drama), Revolution (controversial or revolutionary ideas), Killing (a degree of violence), Oratory (memorable speeches and dialogue), Fantasy (popular dreams and wishes acted out), and Fornication (sex appeal, to both sides).
Interviewed in "Interviews with B Science Fiction and Horror Movie Makers: Writers, Producers, Directors, Actors, Moguls and Makeup" by Tom Weaver (McFarland 1988).

Personal Quotes (6)

On the morning Jim [James H. Nicholson, his partner at American International Pictures] would come in and say, "What do you think of this title: The Beast with a Million Eyes (1955)?" Ahhh, I could hear the money rolling in.
Exhibitors would come up to me and say "Sam, if we could just punch sprocket holes in the campaign and throw the film away...."
Thou shalt not put too much money into one picture. And the money you do spend, put it on the screen; don't waste it on the egos of actors or on nonsense that might appeal to serve highbrow critics.
[on working with Basil Rathbone] I still felt that he was playing other kinds of roles a bit. My guess is that he was doing horror more for the money than because he really loved it. I always had the feeling about Basil that he would just as soon have been in a different kind of picture.
[on working with older, established stars in his horror pictures] Vincent [Vincent Price] started out during serious stuff [ . . . ] [Bela Lugosi] had been a serious dramatic actor in Europe, and Basil Rathbone had been a stage actor. Rathbone had no humor; he was in a couple of our pictures. Vincent had a lot of humor, and so did Peter Lorre--he was really my favorite.
[on why he left AIP after it merged with Filmways] Because I couldn't get along with one of the asses who was heading Filmways.

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