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S.F. Brownrigg (1937 - 1996)
Date of Birth: 30 September 1937
S.F. Brownrigg is one of the great forgotten men of exploitation cinema. Despite having directed only a handful of films, he showed a talent that was utterly lacking in so many of his contemporaries, and it's still a mystery why he isn't better know than he is - nor, indeed, why he wasn't more prolific.
Born 30 September 1937 in Eldorado, Arkansas, Brownrigg's early work in the film industry was with the notorious Larry Buchanan, working on several of his films in various behind-the-scenes roles. In 1973, he took to the director's chair with the excellent and much under-valued Don't Look in the Basement, an inventive and claustrophobic variant on the Old Dark House motif set in a psychiatric hospital. It marked Brownrigg as a talent to watch, one capable of breathing new life into a tired old formula and one who could make a miniscule budget go a very long way.
Scum of the Earth (aka: Poor White Trash Part 2) followed in 1974, another raw gem, one not much liked by the director's very few devotees, but one which still had much to offer, particularly it's coruscating take on another favourite horror theme of the 1970s, city slickers getting more than they bargained for in the great American outdoors.
Only two more horror films followed - Don't Open the Door! (1975) and Keep My Grave Open (1976) - before Brownrigg dropped off the radar, surfacing briefly in 1986 for the witless comedy Thinkin' Big then disappearing again. He died in September 1996, leaving behind a tiny body of work but one which contained at least two genuinely impressive efforts.
Maybe one day, Brownrigg will be rediscovered, though as his best film,
in the Basement is currently languishing in the
bottom-of-the-barrel discount DVD ranges that seems to be unlikely to
happen any time soon. No-one would ever claim him to be a lost cinematic
genius, but he was certainly an ingenious and resourceful director whose
work has a savage power that deserves to be explored further.
Last Updated: 1 January, 2009
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