RICHARD E. CUNHA / 1921-2005
Cinematographer's horror flicks became cult classics
The Honolulu native shot such low-budget 1950s film favorites as "She Demons"
OCEANSIDE, Calif. » Honolulu native Richard E. Cunha, a cinematographer who directed such 1950s cult horror flicks as "She Demons," "Missile to the Moon" and "Frankenstein's Daughter," has died. He was 83.
Richard E. Cunha: He also directed photography for the TV show "Death Valley Days"
Cunha died of heart failure Sept. 18 at his home in Oceanside, near San Diego, said his son, Rick, yesterday. The filmmaker had undergone triple-bypass heart surgery last December, his son said.
Born in Honolulu, Cunha served as an Army Air Forces cameraman in World War II, then formed a production company that did films and commercials.
Cunha worked on the early TV shows "The Adventures of Marshal O'Dell" and "Captain Bob Steele and the Border Patrol" and was a director of photography on "Death Valley Days" and "Branded."
He directed a handful of low-budget films, the four best known coming in the late 1950s: "Giant From the Unknown, "She Demons," "Missile to the Moon" and "Frankenstein's Daughter." The movies were shot on budgets of $65,000 or less on tight six-day schedules.
With "X number of dollars" to spend, "you don't run over on these low-budget films -- you shoot the opening scenes and the end scenes, and then fill in the picture in-between," Cunha said in a 1984 interview with Fangoria magazine.
Cunha's movies "were not popular with the critics, but down on the level of 'monster kids' -- as we sci-fi/horror nuts call ourselves -- these movies have always been big favorites," fantasy and science fiction movie expert Tom Weaver told the Los Angeles Times.
Later in his career, Cunha worked as a director and cinematographer for Screen Gems' commercial division.
Cunha is survived by his wife of 62 years, Kathryn "Peaches" Cunha; sons Rick, Michael and Anthony; a daughter, Kathryn; a sister, Mae Cunha Ross; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. His son Steven died in 1972.
The family plans a memorial service later in Hawaii.