Biography

Atlantic City-born Albert Zugsmith started out as a newspaper editor and publisher before turning to broadcasting in the '40s. He became a film producer during the mid-'50s and was responsible for several unusual and high-quality films from Universal, including Written on the Wind, The Incredible Shrinking Man, and Slaughter on Tenth Avenue (all 1957), The Tarnished Angels (1958), and his production of Man in the Shadow, which offered a role to a then financially pressed Orson Welles. This led to Welles' making Touch of Evil (1958) -- his last American film, and one of his finest movies -- for Universal, with Zugsmith producing. When Zugsmith moved to MGM in 1958, however, the kind of movies that he was making changed radically, beginning with High School Confidential, an exploitation movie directed by Jack Arnold and starring Russ Tamblyn, Mamie Van Doren, Jan Sterling, and John Drew Barrymore, about drug dealing in high school, which was a huge hit and has since become a major cult classic. He followed this up with The Beat Generation (1959), The Big Operator (1959), Platinum High School, College Confidential (1960), Sex Kittens Go to College (1960), and The Private Lives of Adam and Eve (1960), each more outrageous than the last in its use of sexuality and violence. By the time of Confessions of an Opium Eater (1962), Zugsmith's earlier high-quality work had been eclipsed, and from there it seemed a logical progression to overt exploitation titles such as The Incredible Sex Revolution (1965), LSD I Hate You (1966), and The Very Friendly Neighbors (1969). But his late-'50s films, beginning with High School Confidential (which exists in letterboxed form on laserdisc), all have a cult following among rock & roll and exploitation movie buffs, and his earlier work at Universal is widely regarded today as among the finest films that the studio made during that era. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi