Family & Companions
A pioneer in the field of home video, Band has built a reputation as a prolific and fairly reliable producer and frequent director of entertaining low-budget genre films. Beginning in 1973 with the erotic comedy "Last Foxtrot in Burbank" (featuring Sally Marr, mother of celebrated comic Lenny Bruce), Band has produced a string of features variously delving into the realms of horror, sci-fi and fantasy. Many of these were met with mainstream critical disdain and spotty regional releases. Detecting a potential gold mine in the explosion of the direct-to-video market and the omnipresent programming demands of cable in the late 1980s, Band formed Full Moon Entertainment, a marketing and production entity designed to release modestly budgeted "brand-name" fantasy movies directly to video stores without theatrical release. (Paramount Pictures handled the video distribution.)
Band has refused to release films under the Full Moon banner which he did not oversee, wanting video retailers to trust his label. He even embarked on an unusual 20-city tour--complete with a promo reel, model creatures and creepy lighting effects--to introduce himself and his product to potential buyers. Band has been the central creative force at Full Moon, not only producing the films but also dreaming up the premises and designing and coordinating the marketing campaigns. Distinctive video box art has become a Full Moon trademark. In a sense, all the titles wear his seal of approval. Band has created a faithful audience for his thrifty genre fare which emphasizes story over production values and big-name actors.
Among Band's more noteworthy early efforts were "End of the World" (1977), starring Christopher Lee in a dual role as a priest and his sinister double; "Crash!" (1977), which somehow combined the occult with a car chase and featured Sue Lyon, Jose Ferrer and John Carradine; and "Tourist Trap" (1979)--one of horror master Stephen King's favorites--with Chuck Connors as a proprietor of a wax museum with eerily life-like dummies. Band attempted to cash in on the briefly resurgent 3-D craze with "Parasite" (1982), which marked the screen debut of Demi Moore, before starting Empire International, his own production company that doubled as a small-scale theatrical distribution company, in 1983.
Band purchased the former de Laurentiis Studio in Rome and began churning out low-budget features. (He had spent part of his childhood in Rome where his father, producer-director Albert Band, had worked in the Italian film industry.) Empire hit its stride with "Trancers" (1985), which he also directed. This low-rent, would-be "Blade Runner" received some favorable notices and later spawned "Trancers II" (1991), a Full Moon follow-up, that fared almost as well. Two more sequels followed in 1992 and 1993.
"Re-Animator" (1985) may be the most celebrated film with which Band was associated. A wild-and-wooly, over-the-top gorefest freely adapted from a short story by H.P. Lovecraft, the film was a surprise critical and commercial smash, winning festival prizes and instant cult status simultaneously. Empire Pictures distributed the film, but Band and producer Brian Yuzna disputed the extent of the creative collaboration. Yuzna labeled the film an Empire acquisition while Band claimed it was produced in-house because helmer Stuart Gordon's first cut was unusable. In any event, Band subsequently produced Gordon's "From Beyond" (1986), another ambitious, if uneven, sci-fi horror outing, freely adapted from Lovecraft, that recounted the twisted tale of a scientist's search for a sixth sense. The talented writer-director also helmed "Dolls" (1987), a passable horror-comedy featuring rapacious dolls. Other Empire productions included the suspenseful if overlong two-character melodrama "The Caller" (1987), with Malcolm McDowell, and Renny Harlin's atmospheric "Prison" (1988), about the vengeful spirit of an executed prisoner coming back to haunt his one-time guard.
Changing economic conditions in Italy necessitated Band's closing of the Rome studio. He sold Empire to Epic in 1988. The Full Moon era officially began with "Puppet Master" (1989), in which puppets that were brought to life terrorized a gathering of psychics and scared up several sequels. Not everyone was impressed, however, as the genre mavens at CINEFANTASTIQUE sniffed: "This was the first, and set the tone for most, of Full Moon's subsequent releases: an intriguing idea, badly underdeveloped, a competent production, but rarely impressive or memorable and a potential thriller, bogged down by a languid pace that's apparently planned around fulfilling a promised running time, rather than audience expectations." Nonetheless, these films, mostly lensed in Romania, were very profitable for the fledgling company.
One of the most highly regarded Full Moon productions was a Gordon-directed adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum" (1991). Originally intended as a $10 million theatrical release to star Peter O'Toole and Billy Dee Williams, the film faced scheduling conflicts and budgetary setbacks which downsized the production to $6 million, still more expensive than average for Band. O'Toole was replaced by grizzled genre veteran Lance Henriksen, who delivered a commanding and surprisingly nuanced performance as the inquisitor Torquemada. While not the classic horror film some would have expected, it has been favorably compared with Roger Corman's 1961 version with Vincent Price and Barbara Steele. In a single year (1993), Band produced 12 films, two of which he also directed. In the vastness and thrift of his oeuvre (some 70 features in twenty-one years), Band has been called the Corman of his generation and while he is quick to disassociate himself from thecurrent trashy Corman product, Band welcomes comparisons with the halcyon days of the influential exploitation producer-director in the 50s, 60s and early 70s.
Band expanded Full Moon in 1994 to include two new subsidiary labels, Moonbeam, for family-oriented fantasies, and Torchlight, for adult fantasies. The success of "Prehysteria" (1993), a kiddie-oriented "Jurassic Park" knock-off starring Austin O'Brien (of "The Last Action Hero"), alerted Band to the commercial possibilities of modestly budgeted direct-to-video kid flicks. Two sequels quickly followed, as did other wholesome fare, notably the superior "Dragonworld" (1994). A "Free Willy" with a dragon, the film boasts strong performances, imaginative special effects and an atmospheric score that place it among Band's finest efforts. Full Moon Studios further diversified in early 1996 by launching a laserdisc and interactive video company. Five CD-ROM titles were announced and 51 Full Moon movies were offered on laserdisc for sale overseas. Domestically, horror was increasingly de-emphasized in favor of family fare but the company motto was unchanged: "200 movies by the year 2000."
Band is the son of independent producer-director Albert Band, who has been active in filmmaking since apprenticing under director John Huston in the 1950s. His brother Richard, a composer, has scored a number of Band's films.
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Moved with family to Italy at age nine (date approximate)
Made feature acting debut at age 11 (with nine-year-old brother Richard) in "The Avenger", a Hercules imitation starring Steve Reeves
Returned to the US at age 21 (date approximate)
Feature debut as producer-director, "Last Foxtrot in Burbank", a soft-core erotic comedy
Assembled a limited catalog of independent titles and formed Meda Home Entertainment, a successful video distribution label
Sold out his interest in Meda Home Entertainment (subsequently renamed Media Home Entertainment), reported resold to Heron for $20 million 18 months later
Formed production and distribution company, Empire Pictures
Produced and directed one of his best and most successful films, "Trancers", about time-traveling cop Jack Deth; spawned four sequels under the Full Moon banner
Produced "Trancers", the first Empire production to be shot overseas (in Rome)
Purchased the former de Laurentiis Studio in Rome; also bought a castle outside of Rome the following year
Sold Empire to Epic after changing economic conditions necessitated closing down the Rome studio
Formed Full Moon Entertainment and named himself chairman and CEO
Embarked on a 20-city tour to introduce himself and the Full Moon product to video retailers
Full Moon expanded to include two new subsidiary labels--Moonbeam, for family genre pictures, and Torchlight, for erotic adult material
Restructured company's marketing plan after encountering funding difficulty