Russell S. Doughten
|Russell S. Doughten|
February 16, 1927|
Carlisle, Iowa, United States
|Died||August 19, 2013
Carlisle, Iowa, United States
Russell S. Doughten Jr. (February 16, 1927 – August 19, 2013) was a American film-maker and producer of numerous short and feature-length Christian films. His film work is credited under numerous variations of his name: with or without the "Jr." suffix or middle initial, and sometimes using the informal "Russ" instead of "Russell". Nearly all of his Christian films were shot in various locales in his home state of Iowa. One of the films in the series may have been partially filmed in Seattle, Washington.
While he worked on secular films, most notably as producer and director (uncredited) of the 1958 sci-fi/horror classic The Blob, he was best known for the Thief In The Night series, which dramatizes the Rapture and Second Coming of Christ and the struggles of a small band of believers against an increasingly hostile worldwide Antichrist dictatorship.
The films of that series are:
- A Thief in the Night (1972)
- A Distant Thunder (1978)
- Image of the Beast (1980)
- The Prodigal Planet (1983)
Doughten appears in all four films as Reverend Matthew Turner, a survivalist who has an elaborate chart of the End Times events, but does not fully believe in the Bible. With his long, graying hair usually worn in a ponytail and shaggy beard, he didn't look the part of the stereotypical Christian fundamentalist, a fact that is credited with earning him secular fans, as is his use of unusual camera angles and layered audio.
While there had been feature-length Christian films before, including the End Times film If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? directed by Ron Ormond in 1971, a sweeping, ambitious project like Thief - with three sequels telling one continuous story over the course of a decade - had never been undertaken even in secular Hollywood. Some consider it to be a forerunner of the modern action movie franchises. Doughten's identification of the Antichrist not with Communism as Ormond had done, nor with Jack Chick's sinister view of the Vatican, but rather with a worldwide government that initially acts as a global peacemaker, would set the tone for most fundamentalist interpretations of the End Times in the decades that followed.
While the films were clearly made on a low budget, and the dated 1970s fashions shown in the early films provide unintentional amusement today, there is no denying the series' influence among Christian fundamentalists. Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins cite Doughten's films as being the primary influence for their million selling Left Behind series of books and films. Doughten's films are frequently shown in churches and on Christian television stations to this day.
The films also influenced the 1983 sci-fi television miniseries V, which hinted at the dramatic power that Doughten's films might have had if made on a higher budget. Indeed, Doughten's films have many secular science fiction fans who attest to his skill and vision..
Doughten died from a cardiac-related illness on August 19, 2013.
- A Thief In The Night introduces Larry Norman's hit "I Wish We'd All Been Ready", one of the earliest Christian rock hits and one of Norman's best-known releases.
- Of the films in the Thief series, only the first one, A Thief In The Night, has closing credits.
- Russ Doughten Films Website
- Russell S. Doughten at the Internet Movie Database
- Rapture Ready Bio
- Review of "A Thief In The Night"