It’s too early to call this a trend, but shortly after Brian Salisbury reviewed Flash Gordon uber producer Dino De Laurentis died. Last night on RejectRadio Neil Miller revealed to the world that he only just got around to watching The Empire Strikes Back a few days ago… and this morning we wake up to the news that the director behind that film, Irvin Kershner, has passed away at the age of 87. Having just posted a column about two new Charlie Chaplin releases on Blu-ray I can only pray The Little Tramp survives to the end of the week…
Irvin Kershner, as you should very well know, was the man in the director’s chair on not only the best Star Wars film but also one of the greatest films period. The Empire Strikes Back is a fantastic work of action, drama, and darkness, and it was one of the first blockbusters to show that a popcorn film can be more than just brainless entertainment. His energetic but thoughtful direction (alongside a strong script from Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan) revealed our beloved Star Wars characters as more than just simple heroes and villains.
While The Empire Strikes Back will always be thought of as Kershner’s greatest professional achievement, it’s far from his only one. As is the case with many people in the film industry he got his start in Hollywood under the auspices of Roger Corman. Stakeout On Dope Street takes a look at rebellious youth who attempt with predictably disastrous results to enter the drug trade in a crime infested city. Kershner went on to direct sixteen films and several television episodes after that, and most notable among them are Sean Connery’s return to the James Bond franchise in Never Say Never Again, the John Carpenter scripted thriller Eyes Of Laura Mars, and the star-studded drama Raid On Entebbe. He also directed Robocop 2, but he was forgiven for that one decades ago.
Kershner retired from directing in 1993 (after an episode of Seaquest 2032), but the man and his contribution to pop culture and an entire generation of film lovers will never be forgotten.