Monte Hellman

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Monte Hellman
Hellman in 2013
Monte Jay Himmelbaum

(1929-07-12)July 12, 1929
DiedApril 20, 2021(2021-04-20) (aged 91)
EducationLos Angeles High School
Alma materStanford University
Occupation(s)Film director, writer, producer, editor
SpouseBarboura Morris (1954–1958)[1]

Monte Hellman (/ˈmɒnti/; born Monte Jay Himmelbaum;[2] July 12, 1929 – April 20, 2021) was an American film director, producer, writer, and editor. Hellman began his career as an editor's apprentice at ABC TV, and made his directorial debut with the horror film Beast from Haunted Cave (1959), produced by Gene Corman, Roger Corman's brother.

He would later gain critical recognition for the Westerns The Shooting and Ride in the Whirlwind (both 1966) starring Jack Nicholson, and the independent road movie Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) starring James Taylor and Dennis Wilson. His later directorial work included the 1989 slasher film Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out! and the independent thriller Road to Nowhere (2010).

Early life[edit]

Monte Hellman was born on July 12, 1929, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn,[3] to Gertrude (née Edelstein) and Fred Himmelbaum,[4] who were vacationing in New York at the time of his birth.[5] The family ended up settling in Albany, New York, before relocating to Los Angeles, California, when Hellman was 5 years old.[6]

Hellman graduated from Los Angeles High School, and attended Stanford University, graduating in 1951. He then attended graduate school at the University of California, Los Angeles, but did not complete his studies.[6]


Hellman was among a group of directing talent mentored by Roger Corman, who produced several of the director's early films. Hellman began by working on "low budget exploitation films with a personal slant," yet learned from Corman the art of producing commercially viable films on a tight budget while staying true to a personal vision.[7] Hellman's most critically acclaimed film is considered to be Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), a road movie that was a box-office failure at the time of its initial release but, according to Danny Peary in 1981, it has become a perennial cult favorite.[8]

Hellman's two acid westerns starring Jack Nicholson, Ride in the Whirlwind and The Shooting, both shot in 1965 and premiered at festivals in 1966 before being widely released directly to television in 1968, have also developed followings, particularly the latter.[8] Hellman and his stuntman, Gary Kent, talk about the making of the westerns in the 2018 documentary Danger God aka Love and Other Stunts.[9] A third western, China 9, Liberty 37 (1978), was far less successful critically, although it too has its admirers,[10] as do Cockfighter (1974) (aka Born to Kill)[11] and Iguana (1988).[12] In 1989, he directed the straight-to-video slasher film Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out! [13]

In addition to his directorial career, Hellman worked on several films in different capacities.He was the dialogue director for Corman's The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967)[citation needed], and second-unit director on Paul Verhoeven's RoboCop (1987). Hellman finished two pictures in post-production that were started by other directors who died after the movies were shot, the Muhammad Ali bio The Greatest (1977) (started by Tom Gries) and Avalanche Express (1979) (begun by Mark Robson). He shot extra footage for the television versions of Ski Troop Attack (1960), Last Woman on Earth (1960)[citation needed], Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961) and Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars (1964). Among the movies on which Hellman served as editor are Corman's The Wild Angels (1966), Bob Rafelson's Head (1968), Sam Peckinpah's The Killer Elite (1975), and Jonathan Demme's Fighting Mad (1976).[14][15][13] He was an executive producer on Quentin Tarantino's debut feature Reservoir Dogs (1992).[16]

In 2006, he directed "Stanley's Girlfriend", a section of the omnibus horror film Trapped Ashes. Hellman's section of the film was presented by the Cannes Film Festival that year out of competition as an "Official Selection," and Hellman was named president of the festival's "Un Certain Regard" jury.[17]

At the 2010 Venice Film Festival, he was awarded a special career prize.[18] Later in the year he completed a new feature film, the romantic noir thriller Road to Nowhere, which competed for the Golden Lion at the 67th Venice International Film Festival.[19]

As of 2011, he taught with the Film Directing Program at the California Institute of the Arts.[20]


Hellman sustained a fall at his home on April 19, 2021. In critical condition, he died the next day at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California, at the age of 91.[21]



Year Title Notes[13]
1959 Beast from Haunted Cave
1964 Flight to Fury also co-storywriter and editor
Back Door to Hell
1966 Ride in the Whirlwind also co-producer
The Shooting also co-producer
1971 Two-Lane Blacktop also editor
1974 Cockfighter
1978 China 9, Liberty 37 also known as Amore piombo e furore, co-producer
1981 Inside the Coppola Personality documentary short[22]
1988 Iguana
1989 Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out! also co-storywriter
2006 Trapped Ashes segment: "Stanley's Girlfriend"
2010 Road to Nowhere also co-producer
2013 Vive l'amour short, for Venezia 70 Future Reloaded initiative

Other film work[edit]


  1. ^ McGilligan, Patrick (1996). Jack's Life: A Biography of Jack Nicholson. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 94. ISBN 9780393313789. Retrieved August 12, 2017.
  2. ^ "MONTE HELLMAN". Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels. Retrieved August 31, 2020.
  3. ^ Grimes, William (April 21, 2021). "Monte Hellman, Cult Director of 'Two-Lane Blacktop,' Dies at 91". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 23, 2021.
  4. ^ "Monte Hellman (1932–)". Film Reference. Retrieved December 30, 2016.
  5. ^ Dixon 2007, p. 98.
  6. ^ a b Dixon 2007, p. 100.
  7. ^ Wheeler Winston Dixon, Rutgers University Press, Jul 11, 2007, Film Talk: Directors at Work, Retrieved November 10, 2014 (see page xi Introduction paragraph 2), ISBN 978-0-8135-4077-1
  8. ^ a b Peary, Danny (1981). Cult Movies. Delacorte Press. pp. 363–365. OCLC 1148816096.
  9. ^ Savlov, Marc (June 1, 2018). "Gary Kent Is One of the Last of the Dangerous Men". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved April 21, 2021.
  10. ^ Wells, Ron. "China 9, Liberty 37". Film Threat. Retrieved September 21, 2006.
  11. ^ "Cockfighter". DVD Beaver. Retrieved September 21, 2006.
  12. ^ Thompson, Nathaniel. "The Films of Monte Hellman". Mondo Digital. Retrieved September 21, 2006.
  13. ^ a b c "Monte Hellman". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on May 8, 2017. Retrieved April 21, 2021.
  14. ^ "Monte Hellman". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved April 22, 2021.
  15. ^ "Monte Hellman". American Film Institute. Retrieved April 22, 2021.
  16. ^ Fitzmaurice, Larry (September 2015). "Quentin Tarantino: The Complete Syllabus of His Influences and References". Slate. Retrieved September 9, 2015.
  17. ^ "Monte Hellman". Festival de Cannes. Retrieved April 22, 2021.
  18. ^ "Official Awards of the 67th Venice Film Festival". La Biennale. November 3, 2021.
  19. ^ "Venezia 67". July 29, 2010. Retrieved July 29, 2010.
  20. ^ "Cult filmmaker Monte Hellman talks about 'Two-Lane Blacktop' and 'Road to Nowhere' in exclusive Indie Ethos interview". Independent Ethos. June 20, 2011. Retrieved September 17, 2019.
  21. ^ Gray, Tim (April 20, 2021). "Monte Hellman, 'Two-Lane Blacktop' Director, Dies at 91". Variety. Retrieved April 20, 2021.
  22. ^ Stevens, Brad (June 28, 2010). Monte Hellman: His Life and Films. McFarland. ISBN 9780786481880.


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