'Two-Lane Blacktop' Director Monte Hellman Dies At Age 91

Monte Hellman, the filmmaker behind movies like Two-Lane Blacktop, The Shooting, and Cockfighter, has died. He suffered a fall in his home on April 19, and died the next day. He was 93 years old.Variety brought word of Hellman's death, and the outlet described the filmmaker as a "maverick" and a "cult" director. He was a beloved figure in many cinephile circles, who praised his rough-and-tumble style which kicked off in the late 1950s as he worked under the tutelage of prolific genre producer Roger Corman. Like so many other filmmakers of a certain era (including Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Francis Ford Coppola, Ron Howard, Jonathan Demme, and many more), Hellman benefitted from Corman's "learn on the job" mentality that resulted from the producer's ability to keep his budgets low. His feature directorial debut was 1959's Beast From Haunted Cave, which featured the great tagline, "Screaming Young Girls Sucked Into a Labyrinth of Horror By a Blood-Starved Ghoul From Hell."

Hellman worked with Jack Nicholson several times in the 1960s: he directed the star in Flight to Fury, Backdoor to Hell, Ride the Whirlwind, and The Shooting. 1971's Two-Lane Blacktop was a flop at the time, but has since gained a cult following thanks in part to its cast, which included singer/songwriters James Taylor and Brian Wilson (of Beach Boys fame). Check out this video from 2009 featuring critic A.O. Scott talking about why this movie is worth your time:

Quentin Tarantino counted himself as a big fan of Hellman's work, and Hellman served as an executive producer on Reservoir Dogs in 1992. Later in his career, Hellman produced and directed his final feature film: 2010's Road to Nowhere, which centered on a filmmaker who falls in love with his lead actress. The last thing Hellman directed was a "Vive L'Amour," a 90-second entry in a 2013 multi-segment film called Venice 70: Future Reloaded.

His other directing credits include Cockfighter; China 9, Liberty 37; Iguana; and Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out! He also did uncredited second-unit directing work on Samuel Fuller's war movie The Big Red One and Paul Verhoeven's 1987 classic RoboCop. Rest in peace, Mr. Hellman.