Jack Starrett was an actor and director born in Refugio, Texas. He made his acting debut in Like Father Like Son (1965) and featured in a number of biker movies in the late '60s. He continued to act alongside his directing career (sometimes billed as Claude Ennis Starrett Jr.), including roles in Blazing Saddles (as stuttering cowboy 'Gabby Johnson'), First Blood (as 'Galt') and The River. Starrett made his debut as a director with two biker movies starring William Smith - Run, Angel, Run (1969) and Nam's Angels (a.k.a. The Losers) (1970). These were followed by blaxploitation pictures Slaughter and Cleopatra Jones, and drive-in movies The Gravy Train, Race With the Devil, A Small Town in Texas and Kiss My Grits.
Starrett also directed episodes of TV shows, including the 1974 Planet of the Apes TV series episode "The Horse Race". Apes star Mark Lenard, who played Urko, recalled meeting Starrett for the first time without his ape makeup: "I just had a director in the 'Horse Race' episode who had never met me, never seen me before; and, as Urko, I'd done several days of shooting and had a late call, so I went out to the Fox Ranch early and said hello to him. He got a funny look on his face, and I said, 'you don’t remember me, do you?' And he said, 'well, I've seen you somewhere; I’ve seen your face somewhere.' And I told him I was Urko. He turned crimson, blushed, and got embarrassed." On the subject of the series, Lenard said, "I think there’s room for lots of variety, like 'The Horse Race' episode, which was directed by a funny sort of western director; he brought humour into it, lots of fun and a kind of carnival atmosphere with horse racing. Urko goes around to all his prefects and fixes the race and it‘s sort of fun. But it’s done well - it's not quite as serious as some of them. It's a nice change of pace."
Jack Starrett later directed episodes of Starsky and Hutch, The Dukes of Hazzard and Hill Street Blues, and guest starred in Knight Rider and The A-Team, but died at age 52 from kidney failure in 1989.
- Urko Unleashed, by Chris Claremont - 'Planet of the Apes' UK #22 (22 March 1975)