Monte Hellman

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Monte Hellman
Monte Hellman in 2013.jpg
Hellman in 2013
Born (1932-07-12) July 12, 1932 (age 88)
EducationLos Angeles High School
Alma materStanford University
OccupationFilm director, writer, producer, editor
Spouse(s)Barboura Morris (1954-1958)[1]

Monte Hellman /ˈmɔːnti/ (born Monte Jay Himmelman;[2] July 12, 1932)[3] is 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 Roger Corman.

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 has 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 July 12, 1932, in New York City to Gertrude (née Edelstein) and Fred Himmelbaum,[4] who were vacationing in New York at the time of his birth.[3] The family ended up settling in Albany, New York, before relocating to Los Angeles, California, when Hellman was 5 years old.[5]

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.[5]


Hellman is 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.[6] Hellman's most critically acclaimed film to date has been Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), a road movie that was a box office failure at the time of its initial release but has subsequently turned into a perennial cult favorite.[7] 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 cult followings, particularly the latter.[7] Hellman and his stuntman Gary Kent talk about the making of the westerns in the 2018 documentary Danger God aka Love and Other Stunts.[8] A third western, China 9, Liberty 37 (1978), was far less successful critically, although it too has its admirers,[9] as do Cockfighter (1974) (aka Born to Kill)[10] and Iguana (1988).[11] In 1989, he directed the straight-to-video slasher film Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out!

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), 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), Creature from the Haunted Sea, 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).[citation needed] He also was an executive producer on Quentin Tarantino's debut feature Reservoir Dogs (1992).[12]

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 as an "Official Selection," and Hellman was named president of the festival's Un Certain Regard jury.

In 2010, 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.[13]

At the 2010 Venice Film Festival, he was awarded with a special career prize.[14][15]

As of 2011, he still teaches in the Film Directing Program at the California Institute of the Arts.[16]


Year Title Notes
1959 Beast from Haunted Cave
1964 Flight to Fury
Back Door to Hell
1966 The Shooting
Ride in the Whirlwind
1971 Two-Lane Blacktop
1974 Cockfighter
1978 China 9, Liberty 37
1981 Inside the Coppola Personality[17] documentary short
1988 Iguana
1989 Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out!
2006 Trapped Ashes segment: "Stanley's Girlfriend"
2010 Road to Nowhere
2013 Vive l'amour short, for Venezia 70 Future Reloaded initiative[18]

Other 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. ^ a b Dixon 2007, p. 98.
  4. ^ "Monte Hellman (1932–)". Film Reference. Retrieved December 30, 2016.
  5. ^ a b Dixon 2007, p. 100.
  6. ^ 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
  7. ^ a b Peary, Danny. Cult Movies, Delta Books, 1981. ISBN 0-517-20185-2
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ Wells, Ron. "China 9, Liberty 37". Film Threat. Retrieved September 21, 2006.
  10. ^ "Cockfighter". DVD Beaver. Retrieved September 21, 2006.
  11. ^ Thompson, Nathaniel. "The Films of Monte Hellman". Mondo Digital. Retrieved September 21, 2006.
  12. ^ Fitzmaurice, Larry. "Quentin Tarantino: The Complete Syllabus of His Influences and References". Slate. Retrieved September 9, 2015.
  13. ^ "Venezia 67". July 29, 2010. Retrieved July 29, 2010.
  14. ^ "Quentin Tarantino denies Venice nepotism claim". BBC. September 13, 2010.
  15. ^ "Official Awards of the 67th Venice Film Festival". La Biennale.
  16. ^ "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.
  17. ^ Stevens, Brad (June 28, 2010). Monte Hellman: His Life and Films. McFarland. ISBN 9780786481880.
  18. ^ Venezia 70 Future Reloaded - Monte Hellman, retrieved September 17, 2019
  19. ^ Phillips, Keith (November 10, 1999). "Monte Hellman – Two-Lane revisted (sic)". The Onion. Retrieved May 7, 2012.


External links[edit]