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SIODMAK, CURT
(1902–2000). German writer and director.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Wrote: The Tunnel [The Trans-Atlantic Tunnel] (with DuGarde Peach and Clemence Dane) (Maurice Elvery 1934); Non-Stop New York (with Roland Pertwee, J. O. C. Orton, and E. V. H. Emmett) (Robert STEVENSON 1937); The Invisible Man Returns (story with Joe May; screenplay with Lester Cole) (May 1940); Black Friday (with Eric Taylor) (Arthur LUBIN 1940); The Ape (with Richard Carroll) (William Nigh 1940); The Invisible Woman (story with Joe May; screenplay Robert Lees, Fred Rinaldo, and Gertrude Purcell) (1940); The Wolf Man (George Waggner 1941); Invisible Agent (Edward L. Marin 1942); Son of Dracula (story; screenplay Eric Taylor) (Robert Siodmak 1943); Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (and wrote song for) (Roy William Neill 1943); I Walked with a Zombie (with Ardel Wray; story Inez Wallace) (Jacque TOURNEUR 1943); The Climax (with Lynn Starling) (Waggner 1944); House of Frankenstein (story; screenplay Edward T. Lowe) (Erle C. KENTON 1944); The Beast with Five Fingers (story William Fryer Harvey) (Robert Florey 1947); Tarzan's Magic Fountain (with Harry Chandlee) (Lee Sholem 1949); Riders to the Stars (story Ivan Tors) (Richard CARLSON 1954); Creature with the Atom Brain (Edward L. CAHN 1955); Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (story; screenplay George Worthing YATES and Bernard GORDON) (Fred F. SEARS 1956); The Devil's Messenger (film compilation of Swedish tv series episodes) (with Leo Guild and Dory Previn) (and co-directed, uncredited) (Herbert L. Strock 1961); Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace (Terence FISHER and Frank Winterstein 1962).

Wrote and directed: Bride of the Gorilla (1951); Curucu, Beast of the Amazon (1956); Tales of Frankenstein (tv series pilot) (1958).

Co-wrote with Ivan TORS and directed: The Magnetic Monster (1953).

Wrote, produced, and directed: Love Slaves of the Amazon (1957).

Film based on his work: F.P.I. Doesn't Answer (Karl Hartl 1932); The Lady and the Monster (George Sherman 1944); Donovan's Brain (Felix Feist 1953); "Donovan's Brain" (1955), episode of Studio One; The Brain (Freddie FRANCIS 1963); "The Brain of Colonel Barham" (uncredited) (1965), episode of The Outer Limits; Hauser's Memory (tv movie) (Boris SAGAL 1970); Ritual (Avi Nesher 2001).

Appeared in: Metropolis (uncredited) (Fritz LANG 1926).

 
If Curt Siodmak, still interestedly observing worldly affairs from some afterlife, were told that he was being added to a Biographical Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Film, his angry response would be, "Well, what took them so long?" For retirement had turned Siodmak into a grumpy old man, believing (not without some justice) that his extensive contributions to science fiction literature and film were being shamefully overlooked. Still, one might respond, Siodmak's novels and movies, while undeniably numerous, were not exactly masterpieces, and perhaps they deserved to be overlooked.

The problem may have been a matter of timing. In the early 1930s, when horror films had large budgets and featured talents like director James WHALE and actors Boris KARLOFF, Siodmak was still in Germany, writing novels and films that are rarely examined today. By the time he made it to Hollywood to escape Adolf Hitler, horror movies had become cheap B-movies, directed by obscure journeymen and, more often than not, saddled with inept stars like Lon CHANEY, Jr. and John CARRADINE. In this situation, it largely became Siodmak's task to keep moribund horror franchises alive, by means of increasingly inane contrivances, until they had been entirely debased and could be fittingly handed over to Abbott and Costello.

If that was the hand that Siodmak was dealt, it must be said that he played it as well as could be expected. Unlike earlier efforts, his horror films at least seemed like they were actually taking place in Europe, and not some Hollywood backlot, and he could embelllish senseless plots with evocative moments, like that memorable poem about werewolves in The Wolf Man, which would have been Siodmak's masterpiece if someone other than Lon Chaney, Jr. had been cast in the lead. Instead, to close the Curt Siodmak Film Festival, one would have to turn to the haunting I Walked with a Zombie, one of the best zombie movies ever made (which, admittedly, is not saying much). Also worth watching are The Invisible Man Returns (with Vincent PRICE, before he became insufferable) and The Beast with Five Fingers (with Peter LORRE's best performance in a horror film), and even Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man isn't as bad as its title would suggest. But only masochists would waste their time on the likes of Son of Dracula, Invisible Agent, The Climax, and House of Frankenstein.

In the 1950s, horror was out and science fiction was in, and Siodmak adjusted to the change with characteristic enthusiasm (although a few efforts, like Bride of the Gorilla and Creature with the Atom Brain, did recall the horrific 1940s); Siodmak also garnered occasional directing assignments, though without particularly distinguishing himself in that arena. The active imagination that had enabled Siodmak to repeatedly get the Frankenstein monster and the Wolf Man back from the dead one more time was now being employed to create science fiction movies that were unlike any of the others then being churned out; if quality wasn't always the result, Siodmak usually earned points for originality. Consider the unique titular menace of The Magnetic Monster, the bizarre mission to grab meteors that animates Riders to the Stars, or the generic confusion of Creature with the Atom Brain. And Earth vs. the Flying Saucers—probably the best film he was involved with in the 1950s—now seems derivative only because so many films have imitated its tropes.

As the 1960s approached, Hollywood was undergoing another sea change—the shift to television as the major employer of writers and directors—and Siodmak made a few tentative efforts to work in this new medium before leaving the industry to write a few more novels. Still, Siodmak has remained an enormous influence on science fiction film and television—not because of any of his screen works, but rather his novel Donovan's Brain (1943). Its story of a man's brain scientifically kept alive after his death which gradually turns evil and tyrannical proved irresistible to filmmakers, who have produced several official and unofficial adaptations (including some, like They Saved Hitler's Brain [1964], which don't quite belong in Siodmak's filmography but nevertheless are obviously indebted to him). Since Siodmak bequeathed many ideas to horror and science fiction films which are still observed today, one might also say that Siodmak's brain lives on, even though his body has passed away.

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