K. Gordon Murray

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K. Gordon Murray (1922–1979) was an American producer, most notable for his redubbing and re-releasing of foreign fairy tale films for U.S. audiences. He is often cited as the "King of the Kiddie Matinee". Murray also marketed many of the Mexploitation luchador films such as Santo films popular in Mexico, changing Santo's name to Samson and dubbing them in English.

Among his more famous contributions are Little Red Riding Hood (1960), Little Red Riding Hood and the Monsters (1962), Rumpelstiltskin (1955), The Golden Goose (1964) and Santa Claus (1959), which he also narrated under the pseudonym "Ken Smith".

Life[edit]

Born in Bloomington, Illinois, where many of the leading circus performers of the time spent their winter seasons, Kenneth 'Kagey' Gordon Murray, son of an Irish-American funeral home director, occasionally spent his boyhood in the company of those struggling artists. By his teenage years, Murray had set up a "corn game", what would today be known as a bingo parlor, in one of his father's cemetery tents. He then took that corn game out on the road with West's World Wonder Shows Carnival, eventually rising to the position of manager.

During the winter season at Bloomington, Murray set up a network of quasi-legal slot machines. By the late 1930s, Murray was using his circus friends' various connections to aid a casting director to hire little people to act as Munchkins in the 1939 MGM movie, The Wizard of Oz. Shortly afterward, Murray married his longtime sweetheart, Irene, a college graduate from Illinois State University. In 1949, Ken and Irene settled in Hollywood, where Cecil B. DeMille hired Murray to help promote his circus epic, The Greatest Show on Earth.

Ultimately, the Murrays moved to Miami, where Murray launched K. Gordon Murray Productions, making several deals with such top pioneers in exploitation filmmaking as Kroger Babb. He often changed the titles of his movies, giving them more sensational, more emotionally charged monikers, in order to sell them in a better way. The movie Santa Claus (1959 film) made so much money, that it is the only film in U.S. history (with the possible exception of Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) to be released profitably in theaters every few years for three decades. When Murray saw this, he started to dub more children's fairy tale films into English, and by the end of the 1960s, he had been hailed by film critics as the "King of the Kiddie Matinee". To promote these films, he hired a local costume shop to create costumes for his two leading mascots: Stinky the Skunk and the Ferocious Wolf, both of whom appeared in a series of films based on the story of Little Red Riding Hood.

Murray released over 60 movies in 15 years. Towards the end of his life, Murray ran afoul of the Internal Revenue Service, which seized his films and took them out of circulation. But on December 30, 1979, before he could take the IRS to court to reclaim his movies, Murray suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 57.

Popular culture[edit]

One episode of the show This Movie Sucks! was dedicated to a double feature of two of Murray's films, The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy and Swamp of the Lost Souls. In the episode the edited down (and sometimes sped up) versions of the movies were made fun of by host Ed the Sock, Liana K and Ron Sparks with special guest Bandito who Liana dressed up like the robot from the first movie.

Three of his films were featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy in the first season, Santa Claus in the fifth season, and Samson vs. The Vampire Women in the sixth season. Additionally, The Brainiac appeared as an offering of RiffTrax, a movie-riffing service run by several MST3K alums; a trio of Murray shorts were released as the DVD/VOD "Santa's Village of Madness".

Films[edit]

  • The Prince of Peace (aka The Lavton Story)
  • Why Girls Leave Home (aka Secrets of Beauty)
  • Children of Love (originally French)(1953)
  • Mother Holly (Frau Holle) (1954)
  • King Thrushbeard (1954)
  • Hansel and Gretel (1954/II)
  • Rumpelstiltskin (1955)
  • The False Prince (1957)
  • The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy (1957)
  • Wasted Lives (1957) (originally The Most Wonderful Moment, an Italian film)
  • Little Angel (1958) (presenter)
  • Naughty New York (1959)
  • Santa Claus (film) (1959) (narrator)
  • The Brainiac (1961)
  • Count Frankenhausen (aka The Bloody Vampire)(1962)
  • The Turkish Cucumber (1962)
  • Tom Thumb and Little Red Riding Hood (1962)
  • Bring Me the Vampire (1963)
  • Puss N' Boots (1963) (originally El Gato Con Botas, 1961)
  • Santa Claus and His Helpers (1964)
  • Santa's Enchanted Village (1964) (writer)
  • The Golden Goose (1964)
  • Magic Land of Mother Goose (1965)
  • The Swamp Of The Lost Monsters (aka Swamp Of The Lost Souls) (1965) (originally El Pantano De Las Animas, Swamp Of The Spirits, 1956)
  • Wrestling Women vs the Aztec Mummy (Las Luchadoras Contra La Momia)(1965)
  • Santa's Magic Kingdom (1966) (writer)
  • The Big Bad Wolf (1957/1966)
  • The Pied Piper Of Hamelin (1957/1966)
  • Shanty Tramp (1967) (writer)
  • The Doctor Says (aka The Doctor Speaks Out, The Price of Sin, Wages of Sin) (1968)
  • Savages from Hell (1968) (writer & composer)
  • Curse Of The Doll People (Munecos Infernales) (1968)
  • Shoemaker And The Elves (1956/1968)
  • The Princess and the Swineherd (1953/1968)
  • Santa's Giant Film Festival of the Brothers Grimm (1969)
  • Santa's Fantasy Fair (1969)
  • Witch's Mirror (1960/1969)
  • Mother Goose' Birthday Party (1970)
  • Jack & the Beanstalk (1970)
  • The Daredevil (1972)
  • Thunder County (1974)

External links[edit]