British actor Nigel Davenport is a legend of TV and film, delivering bearded, moustachio’d, and even clean shaven performances in movies like Play Dirty (1969), The Island of Dr Moreau (1977), Zulu Dawn (1979), Chariots of Fire (1981), and Nighthawks (1981 – another great beard movie with Stallone sporting an epic pitch black face rug) to name but a few. But if you’re looking for Nigel at his bat-shit eccentric best, then look no further than Phase IV (1974). The movie itself is far more of a character study than it is traditional creature feature (think of 2006’s Bug if you need a comparison) which allows Nigel to deliver a performance of British grandiose, matched only by a commanding, colonial-esque beard which alone – if the screen writers had known their beards – should have been enough to defeat any pissed-off ants hopped up on solar flairs, or some such sci-fi guff. Nigel plays Dr Ernest D Hubbs, a British scientist who isolates himself (and poor old assistant James) in the middle of the desert, in some kind of metal igloo, in order to wage a personal war no the local ant population. It’s brains against brains as isolation, desert heat, and ant bites make Nigel and his beard get progressively more insane. Dr Nige becomes increasingly consumed with wanting to prove to ants (who haven’t mutated in size by the way, they are still just ants, with some sort of space intelligence) that man is the superior being. It’s actually ridiculous, and only a beard of such greying gravitas could successfully convey this utter madness. Here’s to you good sir, and the man attached to you too.
Great Moustaches & Beards in Horror History: 1974