WATN: Duane Jones

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

WATN: Duane Jones

Duane L. Jones (February 2, 1937 – July 22, 1988) was an American actor, best known for his leading role as Ben in the 1968 horror film Night of the Living Dead.  He was director of the Maguire Theater at the State University of New York at Old Westbury.  He was the artistic director of the Richard Allen Center for Culture and Art in Manhattan.

Jones was born on February 2, 1937, and he had a sister, Marva Jones Brooks.  A graduate of the Sorbonne (The University of Paris), he studied acting in New York City.

His role in 1968 movie Night of the Living Dead marked the first time an African American actor was cast as the star of a horror film.  He was executive director of the Black Theater Alliance, a federation of theater companies, from 1976 to 1981.

He taught acting styles at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.  As executive director of the Richard Allen Center for Culture and Art, he promoted African-American theater.  After leaving the American Academy of Dramatic Arts he taught a select group of students privately in Manhattan, by invitation only.  His hand-selected students were of diverse ethnic backgrounds.

He died of cardiac arrest at Winthrop-University Hospital on July 22, 1988.

The Duane L. Jones Recital Hall at State University of New York at Old Westbury is named after him.  Up until his death, he proclaimed that he had never watched any of the other "Dead" films, nor any other George Romero picture, claiming that Night of the Living Dead was "his" time.

In the zombie graphic novel The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman one of the characters is named Duane Jones as an homage.

Other than one comedy film (Losing Ground) his entire film career was filled with horror movies, as follows:

Ganja & Hess (1973)

  • Genre: Drama – Horror
  • Directed: Bill Gunn
  • Produced:
    • Jack Jordan 
    • Quentin Kelly 
    • Chiz Schultz 
    • Joan Shikegawa
  • Written: Bill Gunn
  • Starring: Marlene Clark, Duane Jones, Bill Gunn, Sam Waymon, Leonard Jackson, Candece Tarpley, Richard Harrow, John Hoffmeister, Betty Barney, Mabel King
  • Music: Sam Waymon
  • Cinematography: James E. Hinton
  • Editing: Victory Kanefsky
  • Studio: Kelly/Jordan Enterprises
  • Distributed:
    • Kelly/Jordan Enterprises  
    • Heritage Enterprises Inc.  
    • Lettuce Entertain You  
    • Impulse Productions  
    • All-Day Entertainment  
    • MGM/UA Home Entertainment  
    • Lost Domain
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: 20 April 1973
  • Running Time: 110 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

A scientist stricken with an insatiable hunger for blood dominates this strikingly atmospheric drama.  Dr. Hess Green (Duane Jones), a wealthy and respected African-American anthropologist, is assigned a new assistant, an intelligent but unstable man named George Meda (Bill Gunn).  One drunken night, George stabs Hess with a dagger from the ancient African tribe of Myrthia and then kills himself.  The Myrthians were cursed with a thirst for human blood, and, by the time George's wife, Ganja (Marlene Clark), comes looking for him, Hess has developed a similar addiction to blood.  Hess and Ganja fall in love, and they soon marry, but Hess infects his new bride with the Myrthian curse, which gives them eternal life, but at a terrible price.  Actor, playwright, and novelist Bill Gunn was hired to write and direct a low-budget black vampire movie, but instead he delivered a thoughtful, impressionistic film that uses addiction to blood as a metaphor for African-American cultural and spiritual identity (and never once uses the word "vampire").  Ganja and Hess proved too deliberately paced and self-consciously surreal for the producers, who chopped it to 83 minutes, removed Sam Waymon's superb musical score, and retitled it Blood Couple.  This mangled version was for many years the only one available, and it appeared under six different titles on home video before Bill Gunn's original version was restored for DVD release in 1998.

 

Beat Street (1984)

  • Genre: Drama – Music
  • Directed: Stan Lathan
  • Produced:
    • Harry Belafonte 
    • David V. Picker
    • Michael Holman 
    • Mel Howar
  • Written:
    • Andy Davis 
    • David Gilbert 
    • Paul Golding 
    • Steven Hager
  • Starring: Rae Dawn Chong, Guy Davis, Jon Chardiet, Leon W. Grant, Saundra Santiago
  • Music:
    • Arthur Baker 
    • Harry Belafonte 
    • Webster Lewis
  • Cinematography: Tom Priestley Jr.
  • Editing:
    • Dov Hoenig 
    • Kevin Lee 
    • Bob Brady
  • Studio: Orion Pictures Corporation
  • Distributed:
    • Orion Pictures Corporation  
    • MGM/UA Home Entertainment  
    • Vestron Video
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: 8 June 1984
  • Running Time: 105 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

An upbeat, lets-put-on-a-show musical about the wonders of hip-hop music and culture that tells the story of Kenny, a young hip-hop artist living in the rough slums of the Bronx with his younger brother Lee and their mother Cora.  Kenny dreams of making it big as a disc jockey and playing in the most swank of Manhattan nightclubs, the Roxy.  Into their lives comes Tracy, a composer and assistant choreographer from the City College of New York, who inspires him to try to continue his dream while romance begins to grow between them, despite coming from different neighborhoods and worlds.  Meanwhile, Lee is part of a break-dancing crew set on dominating the scene of their street.  The rest of their friends include Ramon, a graffiti artist determined to spread his painting to every subway car in the city while dealing with his girlfriend Carmen and Chollie, a fellow disc jockey who becomes Kenny's manager after he lands him a gig at a Bronx club.  Many hip-hop groups, electro artists, break dancers, and Latin freestyle singers, who include Us Girls, the Treacherous Three, the System, the Rock Steady Crew, Afrika Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force and Shango, the Magnificent Force, the New York City Breakers, Grand Master Melle Mel & the Furious Five, Tina B., Johnny B. Bad, and many more, make cameo appearances.

Yeah, not a horror film but you need to respect the Beat Street.

 

Vampires (1986)

  • Genre: Horror
  • Directed: Len Anthony
  • Produced: Len Anthony
  • Written:
    • Len Anthony 
    • James Harrigan
  • Starring: Orly Benyar, John Bly, Jackie James, Duane Jones, Charles Harmon, Kit Jones, Robin Michaels
  • Music: Unknown
  • Cinematography:
  • Editing: Unknown
  • Studio: Unknown
  • Distributed: Unknown
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date: May 1988
  • Running Time: 61 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

The students at a private girls' school are unaware that the school's doctor is secretly using a machine to extract the energy from the young girls.  And that is as much of a plot as I can find.  Filming was almost complete. But when the crew was stiffed on a paycheck they walked. The footage was then used for 2 different films Negatives (1988) and Fright House (1989).

 

To Die For (1988)

  • Genre: Horror – Romance – Thriller
  • Directed: Deran Sarafian
  • Produced:
    • Lee Caplin 
    • Barin Kumar 
    • Edward Oleschak 
    • Greg H. Sims
  • Written: Leslie King
  • Starring: Brendan Hughes, Duane Jones, Philip Granger, Julie Maddalena, Amanda Wyss
  • Music: Cliff Eidelman
  • Cinematography: Jacques Haitkin
  • Editing: Dennis Dolan
  • Studio: Arrowhead Productions
  • Distributed:
    • Academy Entertainment  
    • Cineplex-Odeon Home Video  
    • MCA Home Video  
    • New City Releasing  
    • Skouras Pictures  
    • UAV Corporation  
    • Westlake Entertainment Group
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: May 1989
  • Running Time: 94 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

L.A. real estate agent Kate Wooten gets a new lease on life when she learns that her new client, a mysterious and handsome man named Vlad, is looking for a house isolated in the Hollywood Hills where he wants to live and doesn't want to be disturbed.  It doesn't take long for Kate to fall in love with her new client and to learn that he's a real vampire.

 

Negatives (1988)

  • Genre: Horror
  • Directed: Tony Smith
  • Produced: Unknown
  • Written: Unknown
  • Starring: Duane Jones, Debbie Rochon
  • Music: Unknown
  • Cinematography: Ernest R. Dickerson
  • Editing: Unknown
  • Studio: Unknown
  • Distributed: Unknown
  • Rated: Unknown
  • Release Date: Unknown
  • Running Time: Unknown
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

Negatives is a 1988 independent horror film directed by Tony Smith and starring Duane Jones and Debbie Rochon.

This film was shut down halfway through the shooting schedule due to an overwhelming amount of bounced checks from the producer.  Some footage was salvaged and integrated into another film called Fright House.

Negatives was one of the first movies in which Rochon appeared and helped launch her career as a horror film Scream Queen.

 

Fright House (1989)

  • Genre: Horror
  • Directed: Len Anthony
  • Produced:
    • Len Anthony 
    • Paul Borghese 
    • Karalee Harrigan 
    • Heather Scala 
    • Scott Shepherd
  • Written:
    • Len Anthony 
    • James Harrigan
  • Starring: Duane Jones, Jackie James, Orly Benyair, Robin Michaels, John Bly, Al Lewis, Branden Marlowe, Dennis Meyera, Jennifer Delora, Jett Julien
  • Music:
    • Tony Bongiovi 
    • Christopher Burke 
    • Marty Dunayer
  • Cinematography:
    • Ernest R. Dickerson 
    • Larry Revene
  • Editing:
    • Len Anthony 
    • Damian Begley
  • Studio: Unknown
  • Distributed: Unknown
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date: 16 October 1989
  • Running Time: 110 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

This classy diptych of campus-based horror tales overcomes its limited budget with imaginative writing and some fairly effective supernatural set pieces.  The first installment, "Fright House," involves a devil-worshipping psychiatrist (Jennifer DeLora) performing ritual human sacrifices on a college campus, then disguising the deaths as suicides.  After losing his partner while investigating the house where many of the deaths took place, a police detective (Julien Paul Borghese) is granted supernatural aid by the house's former owner.  The second tale, "Abadon," is a stylish twist on the vampire formula about a college professor (Jackie James) who continues her late husband's experiments in immortality, unaware that she has unleashed an ageless energy-vampire who begins preying on her students.  Her work attracts the interest of a mysterious stranger (Night of the Living Dead's Duane Jones), who has some interesting theories of his own -- and who turns out to be a vampire himself. Munsters fans will be impressed by the stylings of top-billed Al Lewis as a sinister police chief in the first installment.


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