Born: 1914, in New York Died: 14 June, 2004, in Los Angeles, aged 89
MAX Rosenberg was a veteran film producer who was best known for cult horror classics such as Tales From the Crypt and Dr Terror’s House of Horrors as well as the early rock ’n’ roll movies Jamboree and Rock, Rock, Rock!
In a career spanning six decades that began with him distributing foreign films in New York, he produced about 75 movies. After he teamed with his longtime producing partner, Milton Subotsky, in the mid-1950s, the pair scored their first horror hit in 1957 with The Curse of Frankenstein, starring Peter Cushing. Made in Britain in association with Hammer Films for 270,000, it made 4 million and kicked off a revival of gothic horror films.
The team also made four music films, including It’s Trad, Dad! a 1962 comedy directed by a young Richard Lester; and Rock, Rock, Rock! a 1957 drama starring a teenage Tuesday Weld and featuring the music of Frankie Lymon, Chuck Berry and Johnny Burnette. "It took nine days to make," Rosenberg recalled in a 2000 interview with the Hollywood Reporter. "The exciting thing was collecting the music. As for the picture itself, there’s not much to commend it. It’s just a bunch of songs connected to a stupid plot."
Rosenberg and Subotsky were probably best known for their anthology horror films - featuring four or five stories revolving around a central theme - made after they formed Amicus Productions in Britain in 1962. Among their offerings were Dr Terror’s House of Horrors, The House That Dripped Blood and Tales From the Crypt.
"They established themselves as one of the leading purveyors of supernatural, horror and suspense films during that period," Dennis Bartok, a friend of Rosenberg’s, said.
He said that, with Amicus Productions, they worked with "an amazingly talented pool of actors", including Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Joan Collins. They also helped foster the careers of younger actors such as Donald Sutherland and Terrance Stamp and they often worked with excellent writers like Robert Bloch.
What made Rosenberg unique, Bartok said, was "a combination of commercial savvy - he was always able to tap into the zeitgeist, whether it was rock ’n’ roll in the late 50s or the explosion of drive-in movies and supernatural and horror films - with excellent literary taste. Max was probably the best-read person I ever met".
Bartok went on: "Max didn’t just make horror and supernatural films. He was very proud of the fact that he made one of the first films adapted from Harold Pinter’s work The Birthday Party in 1968, one of William Friedkin’s first directorial efforts."
Rosenberg also took pride in his advertising savvy, Bartok said. "The tag line he was most proud of was for City of the Dead. After renaming the 1960 British film Horror Hotel for American release, Max came up with the tag line, ‘Just Ring for Doom Service’."
A small, slender man given to smoking cigarillos and wearing English tweeds, handmade shirts and silk ties, the dapper Rosenberg was outspoken and courtly.
"Max was a very old-school gentleman and not really the kind of guy you’d expect made his name in horror pictures," the director Joe Dante, a friend of Rosenberg’s, said. "He was very erudite and knew the business inside and out."
Until he was hospitalised earlier this month, Rosenberg continued to work in his small, cluttered Rearguard Productions office in Los Angeles, where he regularly showed up at 6:30am - or earlier.
The son of a furrier, Rosenberg was born in the Bronx and went to law school. He was a lawyer when he entered the film business as a distributor of foreign art films in 1939.
In 1945, he formed Motion Picture Ventures in partnership with Joseph E Levine, a distribution company that handled art-house foreign-language imports such as The Blue Angel and Open City.
Rosenberg launched his career as a producer in 1954, initially teaming up with Subotsky to make a series of 39 do-it-yourself television science programmes for children called Junior Science, which won numerous awards and was shown worldwide.
In recent years, he was honoured with a tribute by the American Cinematheque, and he appeared several times at screenings of his films at the annual Festival of Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction in Los Angeles.
Rosenberg is survived by his companion, Arlene Becker, two daughters and three grandchildren.
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