His father was the animator Max Fleisher, who worked with his uncle Dave. I've read Richard intended to study medicine, but how could he concentrate, with Koko the Clown, Betty Boop, Popeye, and Superman down the hall and under the stairs, literal testaments to persistence of vision? It seems the pressure was too much — and it shows in Richard Fleischer's work, a frantic outpouring of practically every genre of film. Consider this selected filmography:
The Narrow Margin (1952)
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
The Vikings (1958)
Crack in the Mirror (1960)
Fantastic Voyage (1966)
Doctor Dolittle (1967)
The Boston Strangler (1968)
Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) (U.S.A. sequences)
Blind Terror, a.k.a. See No Evil (1971)
The New Centurions (1972)
Soylent Green (1973)
The Don Is Dead (1973)
Mr. Majestyk (1974)
The Jazz Singer (1980)
Amityville 3-D (1983)
Conan the Destroyer (1984)
I've left out a dozen or so, but look at that list, a kind of controlled delirium, relevant and marketable (especially at the drive-in, where I first saw many of these titles). Martin Scorsese has commented that a part of him would've loved to have been such a journeyman director, tackling all kinds of pictures, smuggling in a quirk here, a personal vision there, leaving behind a broad body of work united not just by his name but a half-whispered hint of his inner self, his private world a sly shadow stretching across the films he directed. An auteur of sorts, in other words.
Richard Fleischer did not seem to have such aspirations--beyond a certain point. He made entertainments, plugged in to certain exploitation markets, capitalizing on trends. And yet ... Well, I won't push this too far, but in his movies I see two tendencies regularly asserting themselves, one formal, the other thematic.
As a director, he seemed willing to experiment now and again, as long as the movie didn't end up serving the experiment. The hand-held camerawork and claustrophobic spaces of The Narrow Margin; the multiple-role casting of Crack in the Mirror — and the multiple-screen approach of The Boston Strangler — as well as the refusal to make the camera hyperventilate in 10 Rillington Place, despite that film's hysteria-inducing subject matter; even his willingness to ride the '80s 3-D mini-revival.