LOS ANGELES — It’s hard to image two films more different than “The Mack” and “Thomas Kinkade’s Christmas Cottage.”

“The Mack” (1973) is a gritty, violent tale of mean-street Oakland pimps, often decked out in wild ’70s fashions, that has become a cult classic. “Christmas Cottage” (2008) is a small-town, super-sentimental story about the painter whose once-popular works were mass-produced and sold in suburban malls.

But there is a common thread. Both films were directed by Michael Campus.

Campus, 80, died May 15 at his home in the Encino neighborhood of LA. The cause was melanoma, said his wife, Arla Dietz Campus.

Even fans of hip-hop music who have not heard of “The Mack” have probably heard snippets from its scenes. Dialogue from the film was sampled in songs by Tupac Shakur, Dr. Dre and Ludacris, among many others. In addition, the film was referenced by performers such as Jay-Z and Snoop Dogg and by filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, who wrote it into his script for 1993’s “True Romance.”

“Far from being one of the many cliched blaxploitation movies that only serve the purpose of historical parody,” said University of Southern California professor Todd Boyd in a 1995 essay for the Los Angeles Times, ” ‘The Mack’ is in fact a narrative that combines the nuances of African-American folklore with the ambition of Horatio Alger.”

Campus believed that “The Mack,” which was shot on location, has endured because it tried to truly portray inner-city struggles.

“It was a slice, a fragment of life in America at that time,” he said in the 2002 documentary “Mackin’ Ain’t Easy,” about the making of the movie. “I think the power of the film is the fact that we told the truth.”

Lines from “The Mack” – such as “You’re gonna have a bankroll so big, when you walk down the street it’s going to look like your pockets got the mumps” – have lived long past the initial, limited first-run of the film that starred Max Julien and Richard Pryor and was reportedly made on a budget of about $250,000.

Campus was born March 28, 1935, in New York. He earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin, then served in the Army. In television, he worked on films for ABC and CBS.

His first feature as a director was the futuristic “Z.P.G.,” which led to his being hired for “The Mack.” He spent two months in Oakland before the shoot began, immersing himself in the local scene.