Jack Hill

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Jack Hill
Hill editing "Pit Stop"1968
Born (1933-01-28) January 28, 1933 (age 90)
OccupationFilm director
Years active1960–82
Notable workThe Big Bird Cage – 1972
Coffy – 1973
Foxy Brown – 1974

Jack Hill (born January 28, 1933) is an American film director in the exploitation film genre. Several of Hill's later films have been characterized as feminist works.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Hill was born January 28, 1933, in Los Angeles, California.[3][4] His mother, Mildred (née Pannill, b. February 1, 1907; death date n.a.),[5] was a music teacher.[6] His father, Roland Everett Hill (February 5, 1895 – November 10, 1986),[7] worked as a set designer and art director for First National Pictures and Warner Bros.[6] on films including The Jazz Singer, Captain Blood, Action in the North Atlantic, and Captain Horatio Hornblower, and as well was an architect who designed the centerpiece Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland in California.[8]

Hill attended UCLA, which he attended, he said, for "a couple of years" before leaving to get married and then returning to earn a degree in music.[9] While a student, he played in a symphony orchestra that performed for the soundtracks of Doctor Zhivago and The Brothers Karamazov, and he arranged music for burlesque performers; through this he met comedian Lenny Bruce, whose daughter Kitty Bruce would act in Hill's 1975 film Switchblade Sisters.[9] He went on to postgraduate studies at UCLA Film School, where instructor and former movie director Dorothy Arzner encouraged Hill and his classmate and friend Francis Ford Coppola. Hill worked as a cameraman, a sound recorder (including on Coppola's student short Ayamonn the Terrible), and an editor on student films.[9] His short The Host starred Sid Haig, an acting student at the Pasadena Playhouse under teacher Arzner, who introduced them;[9] this marked the first of several films together.


Hill went on to work with Coppola on several of Coppola's early movies, including producer Roger Corman's 1963 movie The Terror.[10] He added 20 minutes to 1960's Wasp Woman for its eventual television syndication release, shooting without access to any original cast-member.[10]


Quentin Tarantino's company Rolling Thunder Pictures re-released Switchblade Sisters theatrically in 1996.[10] In the introduction to the film's DVD release, Tarantino calls Hill " “the Howard Hawks of exploitation filmmaking”.[11]

Hill's discoveries include Pam Grier, who starred in four of his films from The Big Doll House through Foxy Brown; Sid Haig, who acts in most of Hill's films, beginning with Spider Baby; and Ellen Burstyn, who starred in Pit Stop.

His student film The Host was a partial influence on former classmate Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now.[3][10] Hill recalled in a 2000s interview that when he made The Host,

I had been reading James Frazer ... and I had enjoyed his best-known book, The Golden Bough; in fact, my writing teacher said of 'The Host', “This is the story that Frazer forgot to tell.” It was influenced by his writing and if you see Apocalypse Now and look at the very last act of the movie, the camera explores Kurtz’s hideaway and you see a stack of books on his shelf. Very prominently featured there is The Golden Bough. When I saw the movie, my jaw dropped because Francis knew very well that my story was adapted from that. ... The third act [of Apocalypse Now] didn’t work but that was mine—that was my story [laughs]. ... John Milius wrote the script and Francis thought it was great but he did not like the ending. In fact, he didn’t come up with the right ending until he was over in the Philippines shooting it. So he knew my student film very well and I got this straight from Steve Burum, who ... was my cameraman on The Host and he was the second unit cameraman on Apocalypse Now and he said, 'We were all laughing and saying that we were doing Jack Hill’s student film.'[12]

Film scholar Wheeler Winston Dixon believed that for Hill and fellow low-budget auteur Monte Hellman, film was primarily a means of personal expression while remaining a "deeply financially dependent medium". Dixon wrote that Hill and Hellman's movies often were sufficiently successful while remaining true to their personal vision.[13]


The moving image collection of Jack Hill is held at the Academy Film Archive.[14] The Academy Film Archive preserved Spider Baby in 2013.[15]


Film crew

As director


  1. ^ Freeman, Sara (Spring 2013). "A Top Ten of Feminist-Minded Films". Sadie Magazine. Archived from the original on July 14, 2013. Retrieved 2012-05-18.
  2. ^ Renshaw, Jerry (December 29, 1997). "Foxy Brown: Directed by Jack Hill". (review) Filmvault.com (The Austin Chronicle). Archived from the original on March 25, 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-18.
  3. ^ a b "Jack Hill". Film Society of Lincoln Center. n.d. Archived from the original on November 1, 2014. Retrieved November 1, 2014.
  4. ^ Knight, Gladys L. (2010). Female Action Heroes: A Guide to Women in Comics, Video Games, Film, and Television. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Greenwood Press. p. 129. ISBN 9780313376122.
  5. ^ Stone, Frank Bush, compiler. "Mildred Pannill". The Family History of James Ball, Senior. (Manuscript; Summit, NJ: Frank Bush Stone, June 2, 1995) via New England Ball Project. Archived from the original on November 1, 2014. Retrieved November 1, 2014.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ a b Jack Hill interview, "Confessions of a B-Movie King". LowCut Magazine. n.d. Archived from the original on September 4, 2004. Retrieved 2012-05-18. My father Roland Hill went to work as a set designer for First National Studios [sic] around 1925 and stayed on when it became Warner Bros. He later became an art director there, specializing in period architecture and ships. ...My mother is now 94 years old and has about 50 students on violin and piano.
  7. ^ Stone (1995), "Roland Everett Hill". Retrieved November 1, 2014. Archived from the original on November 1, 2014.
  8. ^ "Historic-Cultural Monument Application for the Roland E. Hill House" (PDF). Los Angeles Department of City Planning. January 24, 2008. p. 2. Archived (PDF) from the original on October 7, 2012. Retrieved November 1, 2014. The proposed Roland E. Hill House historic monument was designed by its original owner, architect Roland E. Hill ... [who] worked as a set designer and art director for the film industry.... Hill also designed attractions for Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, designing the iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle, the centerpiece of the theme park.
  9. ^ a b c d Waddell, Calum (2009). Jack Hill: The Exploitation and Blaxploitation Master, Film by Film. McFarland & Company. p. 8. ISBN 978-0786436095.
  10. ^ a b c d Hartl, John (June 20, 1996). "Not Yet Over The Hill -- Director of Campy 'Sisters' in Comeback". The Seattle Times. Archived from the original on November 1, 2014. Retrieved November 1, 2014.
  11. ^ Waddell, p. 2
  12. ^ Waddell, pp. 9-10
  13. ^ Dixon, Wheeler Winston (2007). Film Talk: Directors at Work. Rutgers University Press. p. xi, Introduction. ISBN 978-0-8135-4077-1.
  14. ^ "Jack Hill Collection". Academy Film Archive.
  15. ^ "Preserved Projects". Academy Film Archive.
  16. ^ Waddell, p.11
  17. ^ Waddell, p. 9, which notes "The Host" received a public release in 2000 as an extra on the Switchblade Sisters DVD, with new titles, sound recording and music. Waddell calls "The Host" a 1961 film on page 9, but then asks, "Why was 'The Host' not finished back in 1960?" on page 10.

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