Dual Auteurs?: The Case Study of Gordon Hessler and Christopher Wicking
This thesis examines the four American International Pictures horror movies, The Oblong Box (1969), Scream and Scream Again (1970), Cry of the Banshee (1970) and Murders in the Rue Morgue (1971), directed by Gordon Hessler and written by Christopher Wicking between 1969 and 1971, in an effort to discover whether the director and writer were the dual auteurs of these works. The study adopts the philosophy and methodology of the auteur theory as described by Andrew Sarris in his essay, “Some Notes on the Auteur Theory in 1962” (Sarris 2008: 35-45) and modified by Richard Corliss to include his “Synthesis: The Multiple Auteur” in his 1974 book, Talking Pictures (Corliss 1972: xxvii-xxviii). Various drafts of the screenplays for the four movies by Hessler and Wicking have been studied and compared, along with various cuts of the films, interviews, contemporary reviews and critical evaluations. In this way, the author discovers the commercial and artistic evolution of each project in the context of the themes and concerns of the creative team of Hessler and Wicking, discerning whether the writer and director were indeed equal authors of the finished products. This thesis asserts that the movies were not only unique works signalling the end of the world-wide resurgence of gothic cinema in the 1950s and 60s, but personal responses to the genre and the era. The four movies are analysed as the body of work of the writer and director team and compared and contrasted to the films of the other artists who influenced them. The study examines the genre conventions as well as the original innovations of each movie. The author concludes that, despite the comparative critical neglect of these films, they emerge as an important achievement distinguished by an original cinematic style and a unifying vision of the genre and the turbulent times in which they were made.
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