This director of off-beat comedies spent many years as a marketing executive overseeing distribution at Spectrafilm in the 1980s. Sam Irvin began his career as an assistant to Brian De Palma, serving as associate producer and production manager on the low-budget comedy "Home Movies" (1979). He also worked as a production assistant on De Palma's thriller "Dressed To Kill" (1980).
But for much of the 1980s, Irvin worked at the distribution house, Spectrafilm, working his way from marketing to special projects, including designing posters. During this time, the company distributed many US and foreign films, including Paul Verhoeven's "The Fourth Man" (Netherlands, 1982), Francois Truffaut's "Confidentially Yours" (France, 1983), Jean-Luc Godard's "The Detective" (France, 1985) and Fran Rubel Kuzui's "Tokyo Pop" (1988).
While working at Spectrafilm, Irvin produced the light comedies "The First Time" (1982), starring Wallace Shawn, and "Sticky Fingers" (1988), featuring Helen Slater and Melanie Mayron. He also won praise for the darkly amusing short "Double Negative" (1985). The featurette, which he wrote, directed and produced, was a sharply-observed look at low-budget filmmaking. Irvin moved to features with the black comedy "Guilty as Charged" (1992), starring Rod Steiger and Lauren Hutton in a tale of a religious fanatic who turns vigilante. His second feature was the sci-fi Western "Oblivion" (1994), which again boasted a twisted sense of humor and such Baby Boomer icons as George Takei and Julie Newmar.
In 1993, Irvin signed a deal to direct original movies for the Showtime cable network. His first two entries were the actioner "Acting on Impulse" (1993) and the surreal comedy "Out There" (1995). Reviewers noted Irvin's trademarks: a lack of pretentiousness or seriousness and such unusual, almost camp, casting choices as Adam Ant, Don Most, Dick Sargent, Jill St John and June Lockhart. Future Oscar-winner Billy Bob Thornton also had a small role in "Out There."
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First credit, as associate producer and production manager, on Brian De Palma's "Home Movies"
Assisted De Palma on the feature "Dressed to Kill"
First credit as producer, on comedy "The First Time"
Directed, wrote and produced comic short "Double Negative"
Feature directing debut, "Guilty as Charged"
Signed deal to direct TV-movies for Showtime; first effort "Acting on Impulse"