Christian Film Pioneer Russ Doughten Dies

By Jeremy Reynalds, ASSIST News Service

If you ask any long-time Christian 40 years or older what the top five all-time classic Christian films are, “Thief in the Night” would almost certainly be on their list.  

According to a tribute by Brad Mix, president of International Christian Visual Media (ICVM), Doughten began sharpening his movie making skills in the mid 1950’s .

He was associate producer on Steve McQueen’s first film, “The Blob” in 1958.Producer Russell Doughten Jr. was one of the great pioneers of Christian film. He died at the age of 86, Aug. 19, in Carlisle, Iowa, following a long battle with a kidney ailment.

Paul Marks, ICVM’s Director of Operations said, “‘The Blob’ was Directed by ‘Shorty’ Yeaworth, who was also the director for such Christian films as ‘Gospel Blimp.’ Apparently he and Russ worked together at Good News Productions in Pennsylvania in the 50s.”

Russ’s passion led him to start Heartland Flims, Mark IV Films and Mustard Seed International, all with a purpose of producing films that would lead people to Christ.

Mix said, “I came to know Russ through ICVM. From our first meeting in 1993 at our conference in Atlanta (the first ICVM I attended), he was gracious and kind, and his heart for the Lord and for people was very evident.”

He added, “My wife, Sandy, first met Russ getting onto an elevator at an ICVM conference many years ago. Upon finding out Sandy was married to me, he said, ‘Oh, I like Brad.’ Sandy replied, ‘I like Brad too.’ He quickly responded with his sly smile, ‘It’s not a competition, is it?'”

Mix said that Doughten made about 30 films, but he is best remembered for the end times series, made up of four films. They were “Thief in the Night,” “A Distant Thunder,” “Image of the Beast,” and “The Prodigal Planet.”

In addition to writing and producing the movies, he also acted in them.

According to a story by Daniel P. Finney for The Des Moines Register, Doughten’s appearance in “A Thief in the Night” and its three sequels was as a pastor with weak faith who didn’t make it in the rapture.

“A Thief in the Night,” filmed in Des Moines and released in 1972, was the first film in Doughten’s end time series.

The Des Monies Register said the story follows the life of a young woman left behind on earth after the rapture, when evangelical Christians believe true believers ascend to heaven and others are left to fight in the war between Christ and the Antichrist. The young woman in the film grapples with a crumbling society and the rise of the Antichrist.

Mix said as he reflects on Doughten’s life, he sees a rare person who accomplished great things, but did not need to credit himself for them.

Mix said, “His humility was real. He believed in the power of film to change lives, did his best to produce great films, and rather than being possessive about his projects, more than anything, he was just along for a great ride, piloted by the One he was laboring for.”

Mix said Doughten’s legacy will be using the power of film to impact the world for Christ.

According to the Des Moines Register, Doughten was born en route to the Iowa Falls hospital on Feb. 16 1927. He graduated from Chester High School and studied drama at Drake University in Des Moines, w here he met his wife of 63 years, Gertrude Sprague.

Doughten is survived by his wife, three sons, four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.