The name George Kuchar (seen on the right, with Marion Eaton in Thundercrack!) will probably not ring a bell to the vast majority of moviegoers anywhere in the world. Yet, Kuchar, who died of cancer last night, September 6, directed more than 200 movies – mostly shorts and video productions – from the mid-1950s to the late 2000s.
The New York-born (Aug. 31, 1942) Kuchar brothers’ penchant for experimental, micro-budget underground films with bizarre plots and characters would inspire the likes of John Waters in the ’70s. “The Kuchar brothers,” Waters wrote in the introduction to the Kuchars’ memoirs Reflections in a Cinematic Cesspool, “gave me the self confidence to believe in my own tawdry vision.”
Of course, whether or not that’s a good thing depends on whether or not you appreciate Waters’ “tawdriness.” As for George Kuchar, among his efforts, solo or with his twin brother Mike Kuchar, are A Bathtub Named Desire (1956), The Naked and the Nude (1957), Lust for Ecstasy (1964), Hold Me While I’m Naked (1966), The Devil’s Cleavage (1975), Club Vatican (1984), and Hush, Hush, Sweet Harlot (1999).
Kuchar also appeared in nearly forty such movies and videos. Most notable among these is perhaps the two-and-a-half-hour sexually explicit horror house comedy Thundercrack! (1975), directed by his former student/lover Curt McDowell, who would die of AIDS complications in 1987. At the time, Variety warned readers that Thundercrack! “is an awful sexpo spoof that suggests Russ Meyer trying to do a Tennessee Williams subject. Only viewers with highly developed camp sensibility will find amusement in the grotesque antics devised by scripter George Kuchar, who also plays the role of a man enamored of a gorilla.”
According to the IMDb, Kuchar’s last directorial effort was the documentary short Cinemaville (2007), featuring the likes of Buck Henry, Christopher Coppola, and Jeffrey Schwarz. In front of the camera, his last appearance was in Eliane Lima’s short Leonora.
Additionally, the Kuchar brothers were the subject of Jennifer M. Kroot’s well-received documentary It Came from Kuchar (2007). In early 2010, Mick LaSalle wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle: “It’s probably a safe bet – though it would take too many months of movie watching to prove it – that the best film the Kuchar brothers have ever been involved with is the documentary about them and their work by Bay Area filmmaker Jennifer M. Kroot.”
From the 1970s on, Kuchar was a teacher at the San Francisco Art Institute. He is survived by his brother Mike.
John Waters intro quote via indieWIRE.