Welcome all and Sundry. To this closing installment of a very intriguing three post arc covering different “types” of characters demanded in film. And those few character actors with the talent, desire and ability to embody those rare roles that are larger than life. Requiring a tradesman whose presence alone more than fills the bill. Or whose physique and attitude can frighten into paralysis. Or sicken, disgust and make your skin crawl to the point of needing a shower.
So allow me a few moments to continue what we first delved into in Part 1:
Hollywood’s Rugged Individualists, Thugs and Creeps
Which brings us to another category which fills a specific niches in a particular type or genre of films. Where there is a nemesis. And a required and specific number of enforcers to increase and maintain power. Commonly called Thugs.
Easily dating back to countless Republic Studios action serials and cliff hangers of Copperhead and Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe. Where a lean and hungry George Reeves threatened, intimidated and punched innocents into submission long before putting on the togs and cape of Superman.
Moving right along to William Bendix and his exceptional work in the Stuart Heisler directed adaptations of the Dashiell Hammett novel The Glass Key. Where Mr. Bendix plays “Jeff”. The none too bright enforcer of gangster, Nick Varna (Joseph Calleia). Whose target is political insider and fixer, Ed Beaumont (Alan Ladd). Creating many a violent scene as a much fought over election draws to a close.
With a diversion to hard-core Noir and Lee Van Cleef and Earl Holliman as strong-arm thugs “Fante” and “Mingo” in Joseph H. Lewis’ minor classic, The Big Combo. Where both show a penchant for intimidation, explosives and Tommy Guns in keeping the criminal empire of the boss, Mr. Brown (Richard Conte) thriving and prosperous. And at legal arm’s length from the actions of Cornel Wilde’s Detective Lt. Leonard Diamond.
Making room for Sterling Hayden and his tall, glowering hooligan and thug, Dix Hadley in John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle.
And a neat change-up two decades later under Francis Ford Coppola’s deft touch, Where Mr. Hayden takes on crooked cop, bodyguard and thug, Captain McCluskey in The Godfather.
Moving right along to J.E. Freeman in the Coen brother’s superbly sly take on The Glass Key with their slowly brewing gangland war classic, Miller’s Crossing. Where Mr. Freeman revels in his role of Eddie Danee. Chief enforcer for Jon Polito’s Johnny Caspar. And working on his own leash in finding out who started the sudden war. While focusing most of his attention on Gabriel Byrne’s Tom Reagan.
I’ll tack on two more to close out this category:
Joe Don Baker and his Good Ol’ Boy, brutally homicidal, “Molly” in Don Siegel’s brilliant back roads to nowhere, Charley Varrick from 1973. Though his character appears out of the early night. He doesn’t let on what he is about to do. Until Andrew Robinson naïvely opens the door of his mobile home…. And soon wishes he hadn’t!
And Telly Savalas. With his noticeably less than elegant Ernst Stavro Blofeld in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Though he tried to attain and maintain those trappings throughout his encounters with Bond and others. And despite the cool gear, passageways and computers of his mountain lair. Blofeld’s emotion driven revenge and blood lust reveal his short comings.
And now we come to the final chapter of this arc and post. Devoted to those annoying characters who makes the viewer’s skin crawl. Or wish to take a shower at the earliest convenience. Sometimes through the overt efforts of the character. Sometimes not. Even though the character is possessed of an inflated ego and a mediocre IQ. These varmints do have a capability for survival, Though, it is incredibly satisfying to finally see their comeuppance in the final reel!
So. Without further ado. Let us explore, examine and shine some wee deserved light on Creeps.
#10 – Rondo Hatton
The Great Grand Daddy of this particular kind and type of character. Born in the last part of the 19th century in Hagerstown, MD. Mr. Hatton excelled in sports in High School before enlisting in the Army. Chased Pancho Villa along both sides of the U.S. Border and France in World War I. Before being discharged for Acromegaly. A pituitary glad disorder which enlarges the face, extremities and hands.
A brief stint as a journalist in Tampa, Florida led to an uncredited screen role in Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1927 and Hell Harbor in 1930.Taking on numerous roles in films. Including The Ox Bow Incident, before finding his niche as “The Creeper” in The Pearl Of Death in 1944.
#9 – Cliff Gorman
In Night Of The Juggler. As a kind of slimy psychopath, Gus Soltic. Who lives in the rubble of the outer boroughs of New York in 1980. And mistakenly kidnaps the young daughter of a New York Detective (James Brolin). Thinking the girl is the daughter of a wealthy multi industrialist. In a forgotten shiny nugget from Robert Butler that sports a surprisingly good supporting cast (Richard Catellano, Mandy Patankin and Dan Heydaya).
#8 – John Lithgow
As “Burke”, the highly motivated, shadowy and multi talented ‘fixer’ in Brian De Palma’s Blow Out. Showing surprising imagination in a brief spree of murdering random blondes around Philadelphia. To take care of the governor’s Teddy Kennedy and Chappaquiddick like incident with shouldn’t have survived, Sally (Nancy Allen)
#7/ Andrew Robinson
And his “Scorpio Killer” in Don Siegel’s Dirty Harry. A slow dying critter who showed a lot of cleverness in throwing shade on Homicide Inspector Callahan and the San Francisco Police Department before hijacking a school bus in the film’s final reels.
#6 – John Glover
Creating a near perfect nemesis as ex con, Alan Raimy. Tormenting and blackmailing philandering Harry Mitchell (Roy Scheider) in John Frankenheimer’s and Elmore Leonard’s near forgotten Neo Noir classic. 52 Pick-Up. Proving yet again that extortionists never go away. Until the ante is upped with the kidnapping of Harry’s wife, Barbara, (Ann-Margaret) and all bets are off!
#5 – Ted Levine
The skin suit fetishist, supposed transgenderist and serial killer, Jame Gumb. Also known as “Buffalo Bill” in Jonathan Demme’s The Silence Of The Lambs from 1991. A basic “One and Done” film for me. Though Mr. Levine more than fills the bill!
#4 -Kevin Spacey
Pushing the limits of creepiness as “John Doe”, The Seven Deadly Sins Killer in David Fincher’s Se7en. Not necessarily for the character, himself. But in long and drawn out toying with the Detectives (Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt) before revealing the arranged and staged required victims. And then some.
#3 – Boris Karloff
As Edinborough Cabman John Gray in Robert Wise’s adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Body Snatcher from 1945.
Who robs graves to supply corpses for Dr. Mac Farlane (Henry Daniell) and his assistant Donald Fettes (Russell Wade). Applying extortion to both as their experimentation delves into different ways to remedy paralysis through spinal grafts and other questionable gore. Just listening to Mr. Karloff elegantly apply pressure to the younger and elder doctors is more than worth the price of admission. As is Gray getting even with Dr, MacFarlane from beyond the grave!
#2 – Vic Morrow
And his acting debut as the slowly seething, over the top button pushing slime bag, Artie West in Richard Brooks’ inner city high school nightmare, Blackboard Jungle.
Based on the novel by Evan Hunter. This film lays out the lengths many teenagers will go in their push back to change and their resistance to authority figures, Though Mr. Morrow does not have a large role in this superb ensemble film. He does make the most of each scene. Especially when he call and taunts teacher, Richard Dadier’s wife, Anne (Anne Francis). With tales of Mr. Dadier seeing “the other woman”. Making this fledgling actor and his character one the first to fill the “One you love to hate!” category.
#1 – Alan Arkin
In all of his early leather jacketed, failed hipster, 97 pound weakling splendor and glory. As Harry Roat, Jr. From Scarsdale. The quietly sneering criminal mastermind and Greenwich Village drug dealer directing Richard Crenna and Jack Weston as the quietly shake down the apartment of recently blinded housewife, Susy Hendrix (Audrey Hepburn) to recover a doll stuffed with heroin. That was placed in the camera bag if Susy’s photographer husband, Sam (Efrem Zimbalist, Jr) by Roat’s drug mule girlfriend and stewardess on a flight from Montreal to Idlewild Airport.
Mr. Arkin does allow his very violent Inner Sadist to come out and play in ways never dreamed of in the film’s original play form. That featured Lee Remick, Mr. Arkin, Robert Duvall and Mitchell Ryan. With off-screen shadows of Roat bludgeoning his drug mule to death. Or brutally running over his two cohorts after they’ve serve their meager purposes. Before going to work on Susy to get the answers he requires.