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Norman Thaddeus Vane, a writer-director behind such films as the 1983 cult horror film Frightmare and Club Life, a 1986 drama starring Tony Curtis, has died. He was 86.
Vane died Saturday morning of heart failure at his home in Hollywood, according to his housemates, actor-producer John Makshanoff and Jeff Vella.
Vane also penned the screenplays for the Herman’s Hermits showcase Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter (1968) — co-starring his then-wife Sarah Caldwell, whom he married when she was 16 and he was about 38 — and Lola (1970), a Richard Donner film that starred Charles Bronson and Susan George and was loosely based on that May-December union.
Born Norman Theodore Vein on July 7, 1928, in Brookhaven, N.Y., Vane wrote his first play, The Penguin, which starred Martin Landau. It opened off-Broadway in 1952 to favorable reviews.
Shortly after his less-than-stellar Broadway debut in 1956, Harbor Lights, he relocated to London, where he wrote his first two films, Conscience Bay (1960), which he also helmed, and The Fledglings (1964).
During this time, he owned nightclubs and was a frequent contributing writer to Penthouse magazine; the first story he submitted was about an English orgy.
Vane settled in Hollywood and wrote and directed horror films in the 1980s, including Frightmare, featuring veteran horror actor Ferdy Mayne and future Re-Animator star Jeffrey Combs, and Midnight (1989), starring Lynn Redgrave as a late-night horror movie hostess alongside Curtis.
His last released film was Taxi Dancers (1993), a lurid look at Los Angeles sex clubs. Vane also wrote and directed the horror film You’re So Dead (2007), which was never distributed.
Tom Parsekian, who acted on the Troma Entertainment-distributed Club Life and now is an attorney, called Vane “a compassionate, kind-hearted guy. Tony Curtis had problems with cocaine use, and Norman navigated those waters very well, somehow getting Tony through those scenes and keeping him happy.”
Henry von Seyfried, a close friend of Vane’s who served as executive producer on Taxi Dancers, said the filmmaker was “extremely sociable and well-liked. He was always writing. If something didn’t work out, he never gave up. He was really tenacious.”
And Vane’s niece, Marilyn Wenker, recalled that when she was 5 years old, Vane came to her house with “a beautiful woman who had a skunk on a leash. That was Norman!”
Vane was married four times and had no children. In addition to Wenker, survivors include another niece, Ronnie, and a nephew, Richard.
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