Sunday, August 13, 2006

Surviving and thriving

Maybe you’re not familiar with the name A.C. Lyles. But if you’re of a certain age – or, more important, if you’re fond of a certain film genre – you likely have seen many of his movies. Throughout the 1960s, he produced a series of frankly formulaic but reliably entertaining low-budget Westerns for Paramount, casting such sturdy veterans as Dana Andrews, Barry Sullivan, Howard Keel, Lon Chaney Jr., John Ireland, Rory Calhoun, John Agar and Broderick Crawford in two-fisted shoot-’em-ups with titles like Town Tamer (1965), Apache Uprising (1966), Red Tomahawk (1967) and Arizona Bushwackers (1968). (Many of them played to raptly attentive audiences at the Nola Theatre in my old New Orleans neighborhood.) And in 1972, he unleashed that guiltiest of guilty pleasures: Night of the Lepus, the jaw-dropping, mind-blowing camp classic that gave us giant killer bunny rabbits decades before Donnie Darko was a midnight-movie circuit staple.

Now I know what you’re thinking: An intro such as that usually is prelude to a respectful obituary. But take heart: A.C. Lyles is alive and well and, no kidding, serving as technical adviser for producer David Milcher’s HBO series Deadwood. But wait, there’s more: After toiling for seven decades at Paramount, the eternally youthful Lyles currently is preparing an oral history of the studio. You can read all about it in Anne Thompson’s fascinating Risky Business column this week. And in the off-chance that Mr. Lyles himself might be reading this: I can think of at least one middle-aged blogger who’d gladly accept a gig as research assistant and/or wordsmith-for-hire on your project.

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