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Bob Clark was born on August 5th 1939 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Clark lived in a poverty stricken family that would eventually relocate to Fort Lauderdale Florida. His father passed away when he only was a child and his mother worked as a barmaid to support her family. He attended Cawawba College as a philosophy major and even received a football scholarship to attend Hillside College in Michigan. After studying theater in college Clark would eventually get into the theater program and would eventually turn down offers to play pro football as well.
Although mostly well known because of the comedies “Porky’s” and “A Christmas Story” Clark originally got his start in 1967 with the film "She Man". The film was about a soldier forced to take estrogen and wear women's undergarments while being blackmailed by a transvestite. Clark rarely acknowledged the film, but it was released by Southwastern Pictures Corporation, and has been given a DVD release courtesy of Something Weird Video. In 1972 Clark made his version of the 1968 classic George A. Romero zombie film “Night of the Living Dead” entitled “Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things". Although Clark’s version contained more comedic elements than Romero’s original Night, it certainly was a mix-up of genre’s and to this day stands as one of the most unique zombie films of all time. The movie is also very well known due to the over the top performance by actor, screenwriter, and makeup artist Alan Ormsby.
In 1974 Bob Clark would work with the undead again, this time in “Deathdream” although this time around the subject matter was much more serious than in “Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things”. In “Deathdream” Clark managed to get political as the movie is centered around a young man who dies in Vietnam, but comes back to his family one day like it never happened. It really has an interesting look on the whole thing and it’s also one of the smartest interpretations of the zombie film that’s ever been made. The film also marks the first ever on screen credit of makeup artist Tom Savini.
In 1974 Bob Clark would forever change the face of the horror film with the release of his 1974 film “Black Christmas”. “Black Christmas” is quite possibly the most important slasher film ever made as well as being given the pretense of being the first one ever made. John Carpenter even credits “Black Christmas” as one of the influences on his 1978 classic slasher film “Halloween”. The movie is also very interesting due to the fact that it was filmed in Canada, which was a tax haven for Americans around the time the film was being made. This certainly helped Clark make a name for him in the country and solidify him as a big time player in the film industry there.
At that point in 1979 Clark made “Murder by Decree” which was a Sherlock Holmes movie starring such horror genre veterans like Donald Sutherland and David Hemmings. It won five Genie Awards for Best Achievement in Direction as well as both leads getting Best Performance. After this project Clark did the film “Tribute” which was a film adaptation of the Bernard Slade play.
Later on in 1982 though Clark would make the first film that would get him mainstream attention with the semi-autobiographical comedy “Porky’s”. It’s basically the film that gets attributed to inventing the “Teen Sex Comedy” and has been considered by many of fans and critics alike to be one of the funniest films ever made. It would go on to be the third most successful film release in 1982 and in 1983 would enjoy a short stint on the list of the top 25 highest grossing films of all time. The film also went on to become the highest grossing English language Canadian film ever made as well. Clark would go on to write, produce, and direct the sequel entitled “Porky’s II: The Next Day”. After that though Clark wouldn’t have anything to do with the series again and in 1983 would further install him into the lexicon of American pop culture.
Although it did well in it’s initial theatrical run, 1983’s “A Christmas Story” did a respectable amount of business. But through the years of home video and repeatedly running every Christmas in marathons on television Clark’s “A Christmas Story” (based on a Jean Shepherd story)is not only one of the most well known Christmas films ever made, but it’s consistently a pop culture film reference type film. It’s not uncommon to hear people quoting lines from the film here in American just about every Christmas season, showing the uncountable influence it’s had on the viewing public.
Clark would go on to make films such as “Baby Geniuses”, “Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2”, “Turk 182” and others. Even though those movies wouldn’t live up to his prior films Clark had already made a mark on the entire film industry at this point. Horror films specifically have benefited from Clark’s early work through influences and the fact that they were just really great films.
Clark was also planning on doing a remake of “Porky’s” with radio personality Howard Stern involved in the production as well as directing a remake of his own film “Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things”. Unfortunately these two productions would never take place as Clark and his 22 year old son Ariel Hanrath-Clark were killed in a head on car accident on the Pacific Coast Highway in Los Angeles on the morning of April 4th 2007. It happened when an SUV crossed the median and hit Clark’s vehicle, in which police determined it was because the driver had a blood alcohol level of three times the legal limit.
This is dedicated to the memory of Bob Clark. Thank you and R.I.P.
Written by Ed Demko - 5/13/08