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Jack Arnold
(1916–1992). American director.

Directed films: It Came from Outer Space (1953); Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954); Tarantula (and story with Robert M. Fresco; script Fresco and Martin BERKELEY) (1954); This Island Earth (uncredited, with Joseph NEWMAN) (1955); Revenge of the Creature (1955); The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957); Monster on the Campus (1958); The Space Children (1958); The Mouse That Roared (1959) Hello Down There (1968).

Directed for television: "No Food for Thought," "Time Is Just a Place" (1955), "The Sound of Murder" (1956), episodes of Science Fiction Theater; "Panic in 3-B," "Unexpected Murder" (1959), episodes of World of Giants; "Waiting for Watubi," "Angel on the Island" (1964), "X Marks the Spot," "Diamonds Are an Ape's Best Friend," "Music Hath Charm," "They're Off and Running," "Three to Get Ready," "Forget Me Not," "It's Magic," "Goodbye, Old Paint," "Gilligan's Mother-in-Law," "Beauty Is As Beauty Does," "The Little Dictator," "Smile, You're on Mars Camera," "The Sweepstakes," "Castaway Pictures Presents," "Agonized Labor," "Nyet, Nyet—Not Yet," "Hi-Fi Gilligan," "Erika Tiffany Smith to the Rescue" (1965), "You've Been Disconnected," "Will the Real Mr. Howell Please Stand Up," "Allergy Time," "The Friendly Physician," "'V' for Vitamins," "Meet the Meteor" (1966), episodes of Gilligan's Island (also co-produced series); "Matchless," "I Can't Fly" (1967), episodes of Mr. Terrific; "The Man Who Came to Pasta" (1971), episode of Nanny and the Professor; "The Last Phantom," "The Thornhill Affair" (1976), episodes of Holmes and Yo-Yo; "Which One Is Jaime?" (1977), episode of The Bionic Woman; "The Queen and the Thief" (1977), episode of The New Adventures of Wonder Woman; "A Haunting We Will Go" (177), episode of The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries (1977); "The Guardians" (1980), "The Dorian Secret" (1981), episodes of Buck Rogers in the Twenty-Fifth Century.

Also directed for television: episodes of It's About Time (1966); episode of The Magician (1973).

Story with Robert M. Fresco, screenplay Fresco and Norman Jolley: The Monolith Monsters (John Sherwood 1957);

Acted in: The Mummy's Tomb (uncredited) (Harold Young 1942).

Elsewhere in this volume, I have suggested that it is producer William ALLAND, not director Jack Arnold, who most deserves credit as the creative force behind some of the most striking science fiction films of the 1950s. Yet the question arises: why would anyone feel impelled to develop such a theory? Ordinarily, noting that a man is the credited director of several outstanding movies, critics would automatically grant that he was a true talent; what is there about Arnold's career that might inspire a search for alternate explanations?

The regrettable answer surely involves something that might be regarded as irrelevant: namely, Arnold's activities after he directed the films he is famous for. It is not simply that his films of the 1960s and 1970s have little to do with science fiction and are uniformly awful to boot; it is rather that he was spending most of his time directing for television, a medium where directors can rarely assert themselves, and even specialized in television's most undemanding and less respected genre, the inane situation comedy aimed at younger viewers. When you are researching the career of a Film Legend, you do not want to dig up references to The Brady Bunch and Nanny and the Professor; when you are researching the career of a Film Legend, you do not want to devote extensive time to nailing down how many episodes of Gilligan's Island he directed.

Criticizing Arnold for his career choices might seem uncharitable, even churlish: certainly, a man has a right to earn a living, and any informed observer of the Hollywood scene in 1960 could see that the B-movie market was dying, forcing directors to accept any stray assignments that might come their way, and that most of the directorial assignments in the coming decades would be for television. Further, there might have been any number of legitimate concerns, ranging from financial disasters to health problems, which would require a fifty-year-old man to trade his creative freedom for a steady paycheck supplemented by occasional films of any variety. However, other directors of Arnold's age and stature, such as Samuel Fuller and Don SIEGEL, resolved to remain in the arena, to keep fighting the good fight to direct the sorts of films they wanted to direct, and they were able to craft for themselves filmographies reflecting their distinctive characters that eventually earned them larger budgets and critical acclaim. Why didn't Arnold do the same? Perhaps, it is because resolving to compete for desirable work and adequate resources in a tough, tough market demands a certain amount of self-confidence; Fuller and Siegel had it, while Arnold didn't.

That theory would be supported by The Incredible Shrinking Man, the one major film whose virtues can be unambiguously attributed to Arnold's directorial skills (because no one can plausibly portray its producer, Arnold Zugsmtih, as an unacknowledged genius). Handicapped both by an evocative but clunky script co-written by neophyte Richard MATHESON and by a weak cast headed by the hapless Grant Williams, Arnold nevertheless imbues the film with heart and gravitas that still has an impact today. He may have strongly identified with its hero, a man who keeps getting smaller and smaller and is eventually more or less forgotten by everyone he once knew; as they carry on without him, he finds solace in conquering a tiny spider and telling himself that even a microscopic man must have a meaningful role to play in the universe. Arnold may have seen his own future in Williams's saga, a director who would become more and more invisible in Hollywood during the decades to come. A certain aura of self-abnegation can also be detected in his first, and arguably best, science fiction film, It Came from Outer Space, which at first plays as a typically paranoid invasion-from-space nightmare, complete with familiar friends turned into ambulatory zombies in the manner of Invaders from Mars or Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers; yet hero Richard CARLSON learns that the aliens in this case are really good guys and becomes their cooperative ally in obtaining the resources they need to get away from Earth. One might also say, more cynically, that Carlson is simply a man who is willing to surrender to the inevitable—like Arnold himself.

A overview of his career: after failing to find success as an actor (he can be briefly observed as a reporter in The Mummy's Tomb), Arnold started directing films in the 1950s; while noted only for his science fiction films, he also worked on westerns and crime dramas. In partnership with Alland, he directed five heralded films that slightly but steadily declined in quality—It Came from Outer Space, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Tarantula, Revenge of the Creature, and The Space Children; some would add the strange and marvelous This Island Earth to the list, on the grounds that Arnold was brought in to direct its climactic scenes on the planet Metaluna. Separated from Alland, he directed, in addition to The Incredible Shrinking Man, the absolutely pathetic Monster on the Campus and a serviceable Peter Sellers vehicle, the Ruritarian The Mouse That Roared, before turning most of his attention to episodic television.

In the 1960s and 1970s, he became a favorite of sitcom producer Sherwood Schwartz, helming numerous episodes of Gilligan's Island, It's About Time, and The Brady Bunch. One also finds him credited with episodes of all sorts of generally undistinguished television series, such as Peter Gunn, Mr. Lucky, Dr. Kildare, Mr. Terrific, It Takes a Thief, Love, American Style, McCloud, Alias Smith and Jones, The Magician, Archer, Ellery Queen, The Bionic Woman, The New Adventures of Wonder Woman, The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo, and The Fall Guy. Having been schooled by Schwartz, his last venture into science fiction film, Hello Down There, was nothing more or less than an overextended half-hour sitcom about a family living in an experimental underwater house. His other films during this period included two terrible Bob Hope comedies (Bachelor in Paradise and The Global Set, an excursion into soft-core pornography (Sex Play), two blaxploitation films with Fred Williamson (The Black Eye and Boss Nigger), and two roundly panned television movies (Sex and the Married Woman and Marilyn: The Untold Story). Call, if you will, the first decade of his career The Legend of Jack Arnold, but for the rest of his story, the only appropriate title, unfortunately, is The Incredible Shrinking Director.

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