Charles Griffith-Screenwriter

Legendary screenwriter Charles Byron Griffith was born in Chicago on September 23, 1930. His mother and grandmother starred in the famous radio show, “Myrt and Marge,” which went on to New York and became a soap opera. After a hitch in the army, Griffith went to California to live with his grandmother, Myrtle Vail. Before he started writing scripts, Griffith and his cousin Ron Fellows were in a stage act called “Tsk, Tsk, Pare!”, with famous movie and stage comedians Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson. Later, he tried his hand at writing, with his first attempt being a proposed television version of “Myrt and Marge”. Griffith then met and became good friends with actor Jonathan Haze, who had just started working for prolific producer/director ‘Roger Corman’ on _Monster From The Ocean Floor (1954). Wanting to help his friend break into movies, Haze took several of Griffith’s scripts and put them right down on Corman’s desk. Corman liked the scripts and hired him. Corman took Griffith’s third script and turned it into a western, Gunslinger (1956), starring Beverly Garland and John Ireland. Griffith’s next movie for Corman became a sci-fi cult classic: It Conquered the World (1956). He not only wrote for Corman but also acted in some of them and was an assistant director for many. In “It Conquered the World” he was Dr. Pete Shelton. Later he wrote The Undead (1957) for Corman — a fascinating journey into reincarnation. Originally written in iambic pentameter, the script was translated by Griffith back into English. It starred Pamela Duncan, Richard Garland and Allison Hayes — who appeared in three of Griffith’s films and later appeared as the title character in Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958), for which she achieved “cult-status” among sci-fi fans.

Griffith’s next film was the sci-fi classic Not of This Earth (1957), an excellent venture concerning an alien vampire from outer space that he co-wrote with Mark Hanna. Paul Birch starred as Mr. Johnson, the “blood-seeking” vampire from the planet Davanna, whose very eyes can incinerate a person’s brain. The film also starred the beautiful and highly talented Beverly Garland. This low-budget excursion is considered by some to be one of the best sci-fi films of the 1950s. The interesting plot concerns the Davannans traveling to Earth, via a teleportation-integrator, in order to obtain human blood because of a blood disease that their dying race has contracted. More films followed, ;including another “B” sci-fi classic: Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), which he not only wrote but also acted in and served as assistant director/second-unit director. This starred Richard Garland, Russell Johnson, Pamela Duncan and Ed Nelson, along with two of Griffith’s best friends: Jonathan Haze and Mel Welles. Ed Nelson was also good friends with Griffith and went on to appear in several films Griffith wrote, such as Rock All Night (1957), Teenage Doll (1957) and A Bucket of Blood (1959).

Both “It Conquered The World” and “Not of This Earth” had alien monsters created by the genius “monster-maker”, Paul Blaisdell. For “It Conquered the World”, Blaisdell created an innovative alien that was nicknamed “Beulah.” In “Not of This Earth” Griffith’s script called for a “protoplasmic” robotic dog, but because of budgetary restrictions Blaisdell made a different creation–a flying alien “umbrella bat” which would assimilate human brain tissue! For “Attack of the Crab Monsters” Blaisdell was asked to create a giant crab monster, but he turned it down because he thought he could not produce a realistic-looking monster due to the small amount of funds allocated to him.

“A Bucket of Blood” was a dark horror comedy about an artist who murders people to make art works out of them. Dick Miller starred in this film, one of Corman’s most popular. Probably Griffith’s best-known film was the low-budget classic The Little Shop of Horrors (1960). Shot in three days, this horror comedy starred Jonathan Haze as nerdish Seymour Krelboin and ‘Jackie Joseph’ as pretty but somewhat air-headed Audrey, Seymour’s love. Haze delivered a magnificent performance in his role. This was such a popular cult movie that it later became a Broadway musical which was eventually made into a film (The Little Shop of Horrors (1960). Griffith had four parts in the original film: he was the voice of the plant Audrey 2 (“Feed meeee!”), a shadow on the wall in an alley, a man running out of the dentist’s office and the burglar who breaks into the flower shop of Gravis Mushnik (Mel Welles) only to be eaten alive by Audrey 2. Griffith and Welles shot exterior locations for this film in the “Skid Row” section of Los Angeles. Griffith wrote many more films, including another cult-classic, Death Race 2000 (1975), which he adapted from a story by Ib Melchior. Griffith also appeared at a number of movie memorabilia shows on the West Coast, but only appeared at one show in the East (in March 2007 in Ohio). He was a guest celebrity at the show for a “Little Shop of Horrors Reunion” along with his good friends Jonathan Haze, Jackie Joseph and writers Lawrence Fultz Jr. and Stephen Knepp.
– IMDb Mini Biography By: Lawrence Fultz Jr. (qv’s & corrections by A. Nonymous)