Mel Maron, Distributor of Martial Arts and Godzilla Movies, Dies at 90

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Longtime film distribution executive Melvin “Duffy” Stanley Maron died Jan. 13 in Atlanta. He was 90.

Maron brought martial arts and cult movies to theater, drive-in and TV audiences throughout the 1970s including Edie Sedgwick starring “Ciao Manhattan,” “Godzilla’s Revenge,” the double bill of “War of the Gargantuas” and “Monster Zero” and “The Cult,” about the Tate-LoBianco killings.

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He acquired numerous dubbed martial arts movies to capitalize on the Bruce Lee craze, including “Bruce Lee: The Man — The Myth,” “Fists of Bruce Lee,” “Fists of Vengeance,” “Kung Fu Gold” and “The Killing Machine.”

“Even though he had a short career with only a few films, Bruce Lee opened everyone’s eyes,” Maron told DVDDriveIn. “When I saw kids going to these karate and kung fu schools that were springing up everywhere, I felt there was a natural tie-in between the martial arts and America.”

His later distribution company World Northal was oriented to the arthouse market, releasing films like “Bread and Chocolate,” Peter Weir’s “The Last Wave,” Nicolas Roeg’s “Bad Timing, A Sensual Obsession” and “Quadrophenia” before turning to distribute packages of martial arts films from Raymond Chow’s Golden Harvest and the Shaw brothers.

Born in Queens, N.Y., Maron started as an office boy at MGM and rose to become roadshow manager. At MGM, he worked on the distribution of films including “Dr. Zhivago,” the re-release of “Gone With the Wind” and “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

After leaving MGM, he went on to work at several distribution companies including UPA, Commonwealth United, Cinema Shares, JGM, and Castle Hill, a distributor of arthouse films throughout the 1980s and 1990s .

While at Cinema Shares, he distributed “Godzilla vs. Megalon,” which proved successful in theaters in 1976. The marketing campaign included posters of the two title monsters battling atop New York City’s World Trade Center towers, in a nod to “King Kong.” The film was later shown on television in an edited one-hour version hosted by John Belushi, who did several skits wearing a Godzilla suit. Maron provided commentary for the DVD release of the film.

In retirement, Maron served on boards including the South Florida Motion Picture & Television Film Society, the Ft. Lauderdale Film Festival, and the Palm Beach County Film & Television Commission. He was a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Maron is survived by his wife of 68 years, Bunny Maron; children Jodi Maron Barth and Glenn (Debbie) Maron; grandchildren, Adam (Hannah) Barth, Allie (Andrew) Chinsky, Jonathan (Lucy) Barth, Drew Maron and Sara Barth; and great-grandchildren, Dylan Barth, Emmie Chinsky and Frankie Barth.

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