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Monte Hellman

Monte Hellman

American film director, film producer and film editor
The basics
Quick Facts
Occupations Film director Film producer Film editor Screenwriter
Countries United States of America
Gender male
Birth July 12, 1932 (New York City, New York, U.S.A.)
Education Stanford University
The details

Monte Hellman /ˈmɔːnti/ (born July 12, 1932) is an American film director, producer, writer, and editor. Hellman began his career as an editor's apprentice at ABC TV, and made his directorial debut with the horror film Beast from Haunted Cave (1959), produced by Roger Corman.

He would later gain critical recognition for the Western Ride in the Whirlwind (1966) starring Jack Nicholson, and the independent road movie Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) starring James Taylor and Dennis Wilson. His later directorial work has included the 1989 slasher film Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out! and the independent thriller Road to Nowhere (2010).

Early life

Monte Hellman was born July 12, 1932 in New York City to Gertrude (née Edelstein) and Fred Himmelbaum, who were vacationing in New York at the time of his birth. The family ended up settling in Albany, New York before relocating to Los Angeles, California when Hellman was five years old.

Hellman graduated from Los Angeles High School, and attended Stanford University, graduating in 1951. He then attended graduate school at the University of California, Los Angeles, but did not complete his studies.


Hellman is among a group of directing talent mentored by Roger Corman, who produced several of the director's early films. According to film scholar Wheeler Winston Dixon, Hellman began by working on "low budget exploitation films with a personal slant," yet learned from Corman the art of producing commercially viable films on a tight budget while staying true to a personal vision. Hellman's most critically acclaimed film to date has been Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), a road movie that was a box office failure at the time of its initial release but has subsequently turned into a perennial cult favorite. Hellman's two acid westerns starring Jack Nicholson, Ride in the Whirlwind and The Shooting, both shot in 1965 and released directly to television in 1968, have also developed cult followings, particularly the latter. A third western, China 9, Liberty 37 (1978), was far less successful critically, although it too has its admirers, as do Cockfighter (1974) (aka Born to Kill) and Iguana (1988). In 1989 he directed the straight-to-video slasher film Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out!.

In addition to his directorial career, Hellman worked on several films in different capacities. He was the dialogue director for Corman's The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967), and second unit director on Paul Verhoeven's RoboCop (1987). Hellman finished two pictures in post-production that were started by other directors who died after the movies were shot, the Muhammad Ali bio The Greatest (1977) (started by Tom Gries) and Avalanche Express (1979) (begun by Mark Robson). He shot extra footage for the television versions of Ski Troop Attack (1960), Last Woman on Earth (1960), Creature from the Haunted Sea and Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars (1964). Among the movies on which Hellman served as editor are Corman's The Wild Angels (1966), Bob Rafelson's Head (1968), Sam Peckinpah's The Killer Elite (1975) and Jonathan Demme's Fighting Mad (1976).

Hellman was an executive producer on Quentin Tarantino's debut feature Reservoir Dogs (1992).

In 2006, he directed "Stanley's Girlfriend," a section of the omnibus horror film Trapped Ashes. Hellman's section of the film was presented by the Cannes Film Festival that year as an "Official Selection" and Hellman was named president of the Festival's "Un Certain Regard" jury.

In 2010 he completed a new feature film, the romantic film noir thriller, Road to Nowhere, which competed for the Golden Lion at the 67th Venice International Film Festival.

He currently teaches in the Film Directing Program at the California Institute of the Arts.

At the 2010 Venice Film Festival he was awarded with a special career prize.


  • Beast from Haunted Cave (1959)
  • The Terror (1963) (uncredited; with Francis Ford Coppola, Jack Hill, and Jack Nicholson)
  • Back Door to Hell (1964)
  • Flight to Fury (1964)
  • The Shooting (1966)
  • Ride in the Whirlwind (1966)
  • Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)
  • Cockfighter (1974)
  • The Greatest (1977)
  • China 9, Liberty 37 (1978)
  • Inside the Coppola Personality (1981) (short)
  • RoboCop (1987) (uncredited second unit director) He directed several action scenes.
  • Iguana (1988)
  • Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out! (1989)
  • Reservoir Dogs (1992) (executive producer only)
  • Trapped Ashes (2006) (segment "Stanley's Girlfriend")
  • Road to Nowhere (2010)
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