Sunday, March 26, 2006
The director Richard Fleischer, son of Max Fleischer, died yesterday at the age of 89. He had an interesting career. His best movie was one of his earliest, the gritty little train thriller The Narrow Margin. After that movie, he spent most of the rest of his career specializing in two very different genres: most of his big movies were either science-fiction, like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Fantastic Voyage and Soylent Green, or true-crime stories like The Boston Strangler, Compulsion (Leopold and Loeb) and The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing (Stanford White, Harry Thaw and Evelyn Nesbit). He directed some of the worst movies ever made, like Che!, the attempt to do a big-studio movie about Che Guevara (20th Century Fox and Communism just don't mix somehow), the Neil Diamond version of The Jazz Singer, and of course, Mandingo. But he was always a smart, efficient director who knew how to keep a film moving; give him a good script and he'd give you an entertaining movie. He was really one of the last of the old-school studio contract directors, not an auteur but an asset to any producer who needed good solid direction.