New Yorker Richard Donner was born in 1930 and started working in television in the early sixties. During that decade Donner was involved in numerous popular shows such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E, Gillians Island, Perry Mason and my all time favourite show, The Twilight Show.
He didn't just direct 6 episodes of the show, he directed 6 great episodes of The Twilight Show, one of which is probably the most famous of them all. Nightmare at 20, 000 feet. I have written about this episode before in my post about one of my favourite writers, Richard Matheson. Click here to read. But it is that good that it can be written about again.
William Shatner stars as a man returning home on a plane with his wife, after have been recovering from a nervous breakdown. From his window seat he discovers a mysterious creature, climbing on the wing. He alerts the personal onboard, who, when they look out, sees nothing.. The man however, repeatedly sees him and realises the creature is trying to make the plane to crash by destroying and pulling out wires. The man panics, and because of his earlier breakdown the wife and personal of the plane believes he is imagining everything. Is he? I am not gonna spoil the ending, which I've already done a few times in this blog though. Even so, if you're going in fresh, just enjoy.
Donner continued directing TV series in the 60s and in to the 70s, and made a few films as well, although, his big breakthrough in to film came in 1976 with one of the greatest horror films ever made, The Omen.
This classic film about an American ambassador, his wife and their young son Damien who turns out to be the Antichrist, is a film probably everyone has seen, been scared of and loves. How can you not?
Gregory Peck (win win right there) portrays Ambassador Robert Thorn who moves to England with his wife (Lee Remick) and their son Damien. Strange things happen around the lives of the Thorns. Mysterious deaths and men warning of prophesies and danger. And when journalist, Jennings, played by fantastic David Warner notices all these things, he investigates and realises Damien, is not an innocent young boy but in fact a product of pure evil. Well what can I say. Everything in this film is a perfect part of a perfect horror film in my opinion. The amazing cast, the story, the directing and last but certainly not least, Jerry Goldsmith's eerie, unforgettable and fantastic soundtrack. This music is a big part of how incredibly scary this film is, and it is without a doubt is one of the most exceptional pieces of soundtrack, which I praise even more in this blog post here, Jerry Goldsmith's contribution to Sci-Fi-cinema. I'm sure you all know about the curse of the Omen as well.. if not, Read here.
After this film Donner was established as a respected director and went on with another film that changed something, this time, for superhero movies.
Superman. I saw this film so many times when I was a kid it is hard to keep track actually. In 1978 Christopher Reeve took over from George Reeves as goofy Clark Kent who saves the world in his spare time. It starts with Kal-el coming to earth, being taken in by Ma and Pa Kent and growing up to become a journalist in Metropolis and falling for hardheaded Lois Lane. Meanwhile, super villain Lex Luthor, plans a global swindle which will put Clark Kent's powers to the test. Donner collected a most impressive cast for this film, Marlon Brando as Jor-el, Glenn Ford, Gene Hackman, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Trevor Howard, Terence Stamp.. So if you like the golden age actors of Hollywwood as much as I do, this film is a treasure.
Obviously there had to be a sequel. Superman II came out two years later. Yet, Donner left production halfway through because of a clash with the producers.
The next project in the realm of sci-fi or fantasy was Ladyhawk, but in the same year one of the biggest family adventures of the eighties was born, The Goonies.
Mikey, Chunk, Brand, Mouth, Andy, Stef, Data and Sloth. They're all like old friends aren't they?
Mikey Walsh and his brother Brandon have to move because of a planned build of a golf course, and they now have to find a way to rise money to save their home. And when Mikey stumbles upon a treasure map from the famous pirate One-Eyed Willy, hope emerge and Mikey and his friends embarks on an adventure of a lifetime. Who doesn't remember this amazing, fun, scary and exciting film? And with Steven Spielberg and Chris Columbus as writers, it is impossible to resist.
The rest of the eighties Donner directed Scrooged and the two first instalments of the Lethal Weapon series, (which I LOVE) and then in 1989 to 1992 Donner directed 3 episodes of another of my all time favourite shows, Tales from the Crypt. One of these episodes is probably one of the most disturbed and scary of the lot, The Ventriloquist's Dummy. In this episode a young Ventriloquist seeks out his idol who's been in retirement and finds out his hero's dark.. dark secret of why he stopped. Donner really stepped up the Tales from the Crypt game with this episode. It is bloody and incredible disturbing, leaving the viewers with their jaws at the floor.
Donner created much more than these films and episodes I just mentioned, he was and is a force to be reckon with, and also, he is great anti-fur advocate. High Five on that!