In Praise Of Gale Anne Hurd

Here we are at the fag end of Women in Horror Recognition Month, Gorepress’ lovely Sarah (can I say that without coming across as creepy please?) asked me to contribute a guest blog to the site on the topic and I have been completely blocked for several weeks. “We don’t like to tell people what to write” Sarah said breezily (okay, typed into FaceBook), which was very kind and generous, but really Sarah TELL ME WHAT TO DO!!! For a while I contemplated writing about pregnancy horror, but you would be surprised how many pregnancy horror films are actually all about men (thank you Sir. Ridley). Also writing about Xtro in this context seemed to be rather off message.

So, I decided to take a break from wracking my limited brains trying to the think of a subject to write about and watch the latest episode of The Walking Dead and BOOM! There it was.

When you have been a movie fan for as long as I have, and particularly a horror movie fan, several things strike you. Firstly how difficult it is to get through the night without having to pee at four in the morning, secondly, your knees creak, but more importantly you begin to notice certain names that have been constants in the films that you love for years. Of course we all have our favourite directors, actors, possibly writers. But few pay a lot of attention to producer credits except perhaps in the macho world of blockbuster action flicks, were the name Bruckheimer is more recognisable then the directors of his movies (M. Bay excepted). However, for almost as long as I can remember being a genre fan, a name has been cropping up with regularity. Some times on great films, sometimes on less great films, but almost always on Science Fiction or Horror films (and lately TV shows). And that is producer Gale Anne Hurd.

Like many producers Hurd came from an academic background in something vaguely financial (don’t let me down here Wikipedia) studying Economics in the late seventies before getting a job as an assistant to the legendary Roger Corman (seriously, is there anyone in American genre films who didn’t work for Corman back in the day?) Hurd grafted at New Line Pictures, working her way up to production positions. Eventually she earned a co-producer credit on something called Smokey Bites The Dust (1981). I’ve never seen it, but I have a pretty clear idea of what it’s about.

Now details are sketchy (read: I couldn’t find much from five minutes with Google) but it seems likely that it was during her time at New Line that Hurd will have met another young buck grafting his way through Corman’s ranks, one James Cameron. When Hurd formed her own production company Pacific Western Productions her first film with full producer and co-writer credit was a low-budget, hyper violent, Sci-fi shocker called The Terminator (1984) – you may have heard of it.

I first saw The Terminator when I was 14 on a school exchange trip to France. The French kid I was staying with, frustrated at our complete inability to communicate in two languages, dragged me to a French cinema. France laughs in the face of British classification (and elderberries) and had deemed The Terminator (a UK 18 certificate film at the time) suitable for children. And so I sat in the dark, watching Arn-holdt dubbed into French and came out knowing how to say “fuck you asshole” in French ”Vas te faire encule trou du cul.” I dunno if that’s right now, as I’ve forgotten how to say it, but that’s what Google translate just gave me.

Just how good The Terminator is as a story, and how visually that story is told, is shown by the fact that despite not being able to understand anyone in the film. I only got one story beat wrong. I thought Kyle Reese and John Connor were the same guy. Oops. Think about that for a minute, yeah, I’ve always been a little sick in the head.

Hurd’s next film was again with Cameron (also her future ex-husband) and not only was it their second hit in a row, but it was also one of the greatest sequels ever made, 1986’s Aliens. I saw this on opening night in a cinema in Aberdeen, and to this day I have never seen an audience react like it. Screaming, whimpering, popcorn flying everywhere, it was total bedlam.

Hurd would work with Cameron one more time 1989’s flawed but hugely ambitious The Abyss.

Hurd has 45 production credits on IMDb, and I have no intention of going through them all but here are the greatest hits, plus a bonus disc of B-sides and rarities:

Tremors (1990), Hurd exec produced what is I think the finest creature feature of the nineties. Directed by Ron Underwood (City Slickers), Tremors is a about the residents of a desert trailer park coming under attack by “goddamn underground monsters”. It is hugely entertaining, has a hilarious script, and fantastic idiot buddy heroes played by Fred Ward and Kevin Bacon. Through a stroke of terrible bad luck the film was released in the US just after a major earthquake in California and died a death. It is now regarded rightly as a cult classic.

Cast A Deadly Spell (1991) it is a shame that you have probably never heard of this fantastic TV movie directed by Martin Campbell (Goldeneye, Casino Royale). Set in an alternate reality 40s LA, the wonderful Fred Ward stars as Detective Harry Phillip Lovecraft in a tale of dames, crime and magic. It’s really, really good and I urge you to seek it out.

The Waterdance (1992) a rare non genre film for Hurd. This sensitive and moving story of coping with sudden disability by Neil Jimenez (the writer of the essential River’s Edge) is a lost gem.

Raising Cain (1992), when your first marriage was to James Cameron, would your second be to Brian De Palma? No matter, Hurd produced this, a film that is beyond demented even by the less than subtle standards of De Palma. A crazed, twisted psycho-thriller in which John Lithgow delivers one of the most bonkers performances of all time.

The Relic (1997), a fun monster flick with a really cool creature.

Armageddon (1998), it’s big, it’s stupid, and I really like it and I don’t care what you think.

Punisher: War Zone (2008) produced by Hurd, directed by Lexi Alexander and loosely adapted from the Punisher Max comics by gifted Irish nut job Garth Ennis, this may be the most violent film ever made by women. It isn’t very good, but it is profanely OTT.

The Walking Dead (2010 onwards), male show runners have controversially come and gone but Hurd has been constant from the start of this ambitious attempt to bring a serious hardcore zombie series to US TV. TWD has had its ups and downs, the first series was too short and had a weak ending, the second too long and had a great ending, the third series has hit the sweet spot dead on so far.

There are a load of films I haven’t mentioned, including among the misses, two Hulk’s, Aeon Flux and Virus.

Like many good producers Gale Anne Hurd prefers to remain in the background, but her impressive career is a testament to hard work, persistence and great taste in projects.

So Gale Anne Hurd… producer, woman, Gooner (not necessarily in that order). We salute you.

4 Comments on “In Praise Of Gale Anne Hurd”

  1. Mary says:

    Gale “Anne” Hurd ;)

  2. @VeniceRiley says:

    The very kind lady who is the subject does not have the heart to tell you directly that you have spelled her name wrong:
    Otherwise nicely done! I am also a fan of her work. ;)

  3. Stuart Barr says:

    Okay, I am of course appropriately mortified (if also quite thrilled to discover Gale Anne Hurd actually read this). Profuse apologies have been offered on twitter.

    Thanks for the surprising lack of Twitter abuse


  4. Timm hurd says:

    The movies she put out were the scarlist I have ever saw Gale Ann Hurd is the best plus I’m told she’s a. Shirt tale. Relative is what my grandfather. Keeps saying his name is Robert c Hurd my name is Tim. hurd. Grampa keeps tell me things. About her he says he’s seen her father a few times in SanFrancisco and. he knows things about her famoney Ou. Family lives in Minnesota someday it would be nice to meet Gale and her family. I enjoy reading about her life. And how she made it to be a producer. Timm

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.