Larry Buchanan, 81, a film director who went from making inspirational films for Oral Roberts to turning out a spate of lurid, awful B movies, among them "Zontar, the Thing From...
Larry Buchanan, 81, a film director who went from making inspirational films for Oral Roberts to turning out a spate of lurid, awful B movies, among them “Zontar, the Thing From Venus,” “The Eye Creatures” and, most famously, “Mars Needs Women,” died Dec. 2 in Tucson, Ariz.
The cause was complications of a collapsed lung, his wife, Jane, said.
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Working in Texas with budgets that often measured in the mere tens of thousands of dollars, Mr. Buchanan anticipated by many years today’s flourishing independent film scene.
His nearly 30 pictures, many of which went directly to TV, spanned genres from horror and science fiction (“Curse of the Swamp Creature,” 1966) to biopics (“Goodnight, Sweet Marilyn,” 1989) and conspiracy-theory films (“The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald,” 1964).
In 1996 he wrote a memoir, “It Came From Hunger! Tales of a Cinema Schlockmeister.”
One quality united Mr. Buchanan’s diverse output: It was not so much that his films were bad; they were deeply, dazzlingly, unrepentantly bad. His work called to mind a famous line from H.L. Mencken, who, describing President Harding’s prose, said, “It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it.”
Viewed in the most generous terms possible, some of his movies, such as “Mars Needs Women” (1967), might be considered cult classics. But for many others “The Naked Witch” (1964), “It’s Alive!” (1969), “The Loch Ness Horror” (1981) even that designation was far out of reach.
Mr. Buchanan was born in Lost Prairie, Texas, on Jan. 31, 1923. His original name was Marcus Larry Seale Jr. His parents died when he was still a boy, and he was sent to live in a Baptist orphanage in Dallas. At 18, he went to Hollywood, finding work in the props department of 20th Century Fox. He also played bit parts for the studio, which renamed him Larry Buchanan.
After studying filmmaking in the Army Signal Corps, he shot religious documentaries for Oral Roberts and was an assistant director to George Cukor on “The Marrying Kind” (1952). But he had already embarked on the work for which, rightly or wrongly, he would be best known.
Mr. Buchanan directed his first film, “The Cowboy,” in 1951. The next year, he cast an unknown actor named Jack Klugman in “Grubstake,” also titled “Apache Gold.” Otherwise eminently forgettable, the film was Klugman’s screen debut.
Shortly before Mr. Buchanan died, he finished what he considered his most serious, and most personal, project, “The Copper Scroll of Mary Magdalene,” about the life of Christ. Originally shot in the early 1970s and put aside in the crush of other work, the film features what is almost certainly the last score by the well-known Hollywood composer Alex North, who died in 1991.
In addition to his wife of 52 years, Buchanan is survived by a daughter, Dee Myshrall of Mokelumne Hill, Calif.; and three sons, Barry, of Ventura, Calif.; Jeff, of Malibu; and Randy, of North Hollywood.