Deadly Movies | Top 5’s
Horror producers rely heavily on low investments and high returns, which is why horror movies rarely have star power (excluding marquee horror films and films featuring actors who went on to become stars). It’s always been a recurring ploy for horror movies to spend large portions of the casting budget on securing one star name (often an older actor who’s career may be in decline) which will both provide gravitas and legitimacy to the film as well as pulling in a few extra bucks at the box office. It’s always fun to see such actors unexpectedly popping up on the screen, taking that pay cheque for two days shooting, and getting straight on the next plane home. Here’s Deadly Movies Top 5 favourite established stars finding themselves in gory situations.
5. Donald Pleasence as Dr Sam Loomis in ‘Halloween’ (1978)
Bit of a cheat this one as Pleasence had a reputation already as being up for almost anything that provided a steady pay check, be it critically renowned movies and BBC plays or pulp tv shows and Hammer Horror. However this was a big coup for John Carpenter, especially after trying and failing to lure Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing into the role of Loomis. After spending half the film’s budget on Panavision cameras, Pleasence’s 5 days of shooting, and 18 minutes of screen time, accounted for 12% of what was left. Although this may not have been unknown territory for Pleasence, his presence certainly gives legitimacy to the final product.
4. John Saxon Lt. Fuller (and Olivia Hussey as Jess) in ‘Black Christmas’ (1974)
Saxon, much like Pleasence, was also an acting journeyman, appearing in multiple film and TV roles before filling in as a last minute replacement for another established actor Edmond O’Brien as Lt. Fuller in Black Christmas. Director Bob Clark was delighted to get hold of Saxton who, much like Pleasence 4 years later, he felt bought a feeling of legitimacy to the role and film. Interestingly though, the biggest casting success for the film was getting hold of Olivia Hussey, who’s star was hugely on the rise after her widely acclaimed turn as Juliet in the highly successful 1968 version of ‘Romeo and Juliet‘. Bob Clark was certainly aiming high for this incredibly underrated slasher flick, with Malcolm McDowell and Bette Davis also offered roles which both turned down.
3. George Kennedy as Roy in ‘Just Before Dawn’ (1981)
It was a real surprise watching ‘Just before Dawn’ for the first time and seeing acting legend George Kennedy pop us as green fingered, plant talking, forest ranger Roy. By this point in his career Kennedy was an established supporting actor, with roles in huge films like The Dirty Dozen (1967), Cool Hand Luke (1967), Airport (1970), and Earthquake (1974) on his resume. Clearly what George was missing from his life was a film about inbred hillbillies and mouth fisting. Thank god then for Just Before Dawn.
2. Glenn Ford as Dr Faraday in ‘Happy Birthday To Me’ (1981)
Multiple Golden Globe and BAFTA nominee and winner, and Westerns legend, Glenn Ford crops up as the strong male support in another 80s slasher, Happy Birthday To Me. Probably best remembered for roles in The Big Heat (1953), 3:10 To Yuma (1957), and Pocket Full of Miracles (1961) Ford takes the money and runs in this late career move into horror. Saying that, this is a great early slasher with some awesome kills (Glenn’s on the receiving end of one) and creative pedigree; director J.Lee Thompson of amazing Cape Fear fame and producers of My Bloody Valentine (1981) John Dunning and Andre Link.
1. ALMOST EVERYONE in ‘Tentacles’ (aka Tentacoli 1977)
Somehow this spaghetti creature feature manages to star HENRY FONDA (4 Oscar nominations, 2 wins), SHELLY WINTERS (likewise 4 Oscar nominations, 2 wins), and JOHN HUSTON (Above – 15 Oscar nominations, 1 win). How? God only knows. Yes this is in the twilight of their careers, but still, this is no lost treasure of the monster genre. Somehow I suspect the success of JAWS in 1975 may have been a determining factor in these three screen legends deciding that Tentacles may be worth signing on for.., that and of course, the Benjamin’s.