So soon after the passing of George Romero, it’s sad to report that Tobe Hooper, the horror director best known for helming The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Poltergeist, died Saturday in Sherman Oaks, Calif., according to the Los Angeles County Coroner. He was 74. The circumstances of his death were not known.
The influential 1974 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre became a seminal horror title for its realistic approach and deranged vision. Shot for less than $300,000, it tells the story of a group of unfortunate friends who encounter a group of cannibals on their way to visit an old homestead. Though it was banned in several countries for violence, it was one of the most profitable independent films of the 1970s in the U.S. The character of Leatherface was loosely based on serial killer Ed Gein.
Hooper also directed the 1986 sequel The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, which took a more comedic approach, as part of his Cannon Films deal.
The 1982 Poltergeist, written and produced by Steven Spielberg, also became a classic of the genre. The story of a family coping with a house haunted by unruly ghosts starred JoBeth Williams and Craig T. Nelson. The film was a box office success for MGM and became the eighth-highest grossing film of the year.
After Poltergeist, Hooper directed two movies for Cannon Films, Lifeforce and Invaders from Mars, a remake of the 1953 alien movie.
His 1979 CBS miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s bestselling novel Salem’s Lot is considered by many fans to be a high-water mark in televisual horror. Combining the intrigue of a nighttime soap opera with the gothic atmosphere of a classic horror film, the two-part program was eventually reedited and released theatrically throughout Europe.
He continued working in television and film throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s, but none of the films had the impact of his early works. His other more recent works included Toolbox Murders, Crocodile, and Mortuary.
Among his other works was the music video for Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself.” In 2011 he co-authored a post-modern horror novel titled “Midnight Movie” in which he himself appeared as the main character.
Hooper continued to work on various TV series and films up until 2013, when his last film, Djinn, set in the United Arab Emirates and produced by Image Nation, was released. He is survived by two sons.
Legendary filmmaker George A. Romero, father of the modern movie zombie and creator of the ground-breaking Night of the Living Dead and subsequent franchise, has died at 77.
Romero died Sunday in his sleep after a “brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer,” according to a statement by his longtime producing partner, Peter Grunwald. Romero died while listening to the score of one his favourite films, 1952’s “The Quiet Man,” with his wife, Suzanne Desrocher Romero, and daughter, Tina Romero, at his side, the family said.
Romero jump-started the zombie genre as the co-writer (with John A. Russo) and director of the 1968 movie Night of the Living Dead, which went to inspire future generations of filmmakers such as Tobe Hooper and John Carpenter that generating big scares didn’t require big budgets. Living Dead spawned an entire school of zombie knockoffs, and Romero’s sequels included 1978’s Dawn of the Dead, 1985’s Day of the Dead, 2005’s Land of the Dead, 2007’s Diary of the Dead and 2009’s George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead.
In recent years, as the zombie genre had a resurgence, Romero wasn’t always a fan. He told a British newspaper in 2013 that he’d been asked to do some episodes of The Walking Dead, but had no interest.
“Basically it’s just a soap opera with a zombie occasionally,” he told the Big Issue. “I always used the zombie as a character for satire or a political criticism, and I find that missing in what’s happening now.”
Romero took an intellectual view to his depiction of zombies, an approach he found lacking in some of the work that came after him.
“I grew up on these slow-moving-but-you-can’t-stop-them [creatures], where you’ve got to find the Achilles’ heel, or in this case, the Achilles’ brain,” Romero told The LA Times in 2005, referring to the organ whose destruction waylays a zombie. “In [the remake] they’re just dervishes, you don’t recognize any of them, there’s nothing to characterize them…. [But] I like to give even incidental zombies a bit of identification. I just think it’s a nice reminder that they’re us. They walked out of one life and into this.”
A sad day for my fellow horror fans, Romero kick-started so much of what we have come to love over the last 50 years. Rest in Peace.
Director Neill Blomkamp is known for inventive depictions of extraterrestrial warfare, like in District 9 (2009) and Elysium (2013). True to form, his latest short, Rakka, features a richly textured post-apocalyptic world where humans and otherworldly creatures battle over their entwined fates. And in keeping with sci-fi tradition, the queen of alien ass-kicking, Sigourney Weaver, leads a group of people who have planned a rebellion against the creatures who “came here to exterminate us.”
Rakka does feel somewhat like an extended trailer, and that is by design. The film is the first release from Blomkamp’s new venture, Oats Studios, which is an experimental incubator for feature-length ideas and new storytelling formats. The studio has released the film for free, but asks audiences to support its future work by voluntarily paying for the work in return for some digital assets like scripts, concept art, and 3D models.
Blomkamp told The Verge that Rakka is just the seed of a larger project, whose form is yet unknown. “Rakka feels like it could almost be more of an episodic thing,” he said, “because there’s a lot of avenues to explore. The footage is too unconventional and weird [for a mainstream feature], and the audience has to think of the footage as a snapshot of the window of this world.”
If you loved Aussie zom flick Wyrmwood: Road Of The Dead, check out this peek at the TV series Wyrmwood: Chronicles Of The Dead. It’s gore-tastic.
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Powers Boothe, a character actor who appeared in films like Sin City and TV shows including Deadwood and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., died Sunday morning in his sleep of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles. He was 68.
His rep told The Hollywood Reporter that a private service will be held in Boothe’s home state of Texas, with a memorial celebration under consideration as well. Donations can be made to the Gary Sinise Foundation, which honors the nation’s defenders, veterans, first responders, their families and those in need.
Boothe, who grew up on a farm in Texas, began his acting career in the theatre, playing in a number of Shakespearean productions including Henry IV. He made his Broadway debut in the late 1970s in Lone Star & Pvt. Wars.
In 1980, Boothe won an Emmy for lead actor in a limited series or special for playing cult leader Jim Jones in CBS’ Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones. He won that award during an actors strike and chose to cross the picket line to accept his trophy, saying, “This may be either the bravest moment of my career or the dumbest.”
On the strength of Guyana Tragedy, he was cast in Southern Comfort, one of my favourite movies of the 80’s. His character, Corporal Hardin was described by Director Walter Hill as “the rational, hardworking, self made individual” a description you believe could be applied to the subsequent casting image of Boothe.
He starred in A Breed Apart (1984), the John Boorman Amazonian adventure, The Emerald Forest (1985), again for Walter Hill in Extreme Prejudice (1987). He was unforgettable as the wicked gunman Curly Bill Brocius in Tombstone (1993). Excellent as Alexander Haig in Nixon (1995) and a sheriff in another Oliver Stone film, U Turn (1997).
Boothe gained a reputation for playing villains with memorable roles in the action film Sudden Death (1995), Bill Paxton’s Frailty (2001) and the nefarious Senator Roark in Sin City (2005). Perhaps his most famous villain role was Cy Tolliver, the ruthless saloon owner on HBO’s Deadwood.
Boothe also was nominated two ensemble SAG Awards, first in 1996 alongside the cast of Nixon and then again in 2007 with the cast of Deadwood.
More recently, Boothe took on the role of Gideon Malick as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, debuting the role in 2012’s The Avengers and reprising it on ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The actor Geoffrey Bayldon has died aged 93. The actor who starred in the much-loved 1970’s television series Catweazle, was partly brought to his most famous role by the chastening experience of rejecting the chance to be the first Doctor Who. Bayldon, was approached to play the Doctor in 1963. But the Time Lord was scripted as an eccentric old man, and Bayldon, then in his late 30’s, was wary of being typecast in such roles, even though he was exceptionally good at them. With no inkling of the success Doctor Who would turn out to be, and put off by the punishing filming schedule, he turned the offer down after only 10 minutes’ consideration.
He later admitted to regretting the decision, and when another high-profile TV role – to play the even older and markedly more eccentric Catweazle – came his way in 1969, he had no second thoughts. The character of Catweazle – a wild-eyed 11th-century magician transported into the modern world – suited Bayldon to a T, and in fact the creator of the series, Richard Carpenter, had written the script with him in mind. Bayldon took on the part enthusiastically, creating one of the most instantly recognisable and enchanting TV characters of the era.
In a Sunday afternoon slot on ITV, Catweazle’s 26 episodes drew audiences of many millions as they charted the light-hearted adventures of the ragged-cloaked, pointy-bearded hero and his “familiar’, the toad Touchwood. Inadvertently thrown through time by his own inept sorcery into the bewildering landscape of 20th-century England – where he saw magic in everything, including the “electrickery” of lightbulbs and the amazing “tellingbone” that allowed people to communicate with each other – Catweazle muddled his way through misunderstandings and escapades as he attempted to find the magic spell that would return him to his own era.
The programme ran from February 1970 to April 1971, and its gentle humour and Bayldon’s star quality made it immensely popular with children and adults alike. It generated spin-offs such as Christmas annuals, books and a series of comic strips. The two series, preserved on DVD, still have a cult following and even today there is a large and active Catweazle fanclub… I still have a Catweazle Annual from he early 70’s.
Bayldon put his heart and soul into the series, not least in the makeup department, where he would spend an hour and a half each day transforming his appearance. He invested Catweazle with much of his own engaging personality and animated him with mannerisms, tics and catchphrases.
Catweazle became Bayldon’s lead into dozens of other TV roles, including the equally crusty Crowman in the late 1970’s Worzel Gummidge series, alongside Jon Pertwee and Una Stubbs. But he had originally set out as a theatre actor and initially paid little attention to the small screen.
Bayldon was born in Leeds, his father a tailor and his mother a head teacher. Although neither parent had any noticeable acting talent, Bayldon inherited his mother’s flair for narration, and traced his love of the stage to a debut at the age of four in a school play, in which he portrayed a robin.
After spending three quiet second world war years stationed at Yorkshire airfields with the RAF, during which time he appeared in many revues, he began training as a professional actor in 1947 at the Old Vic theatre school in London.
Bayldon spent two seasons as a successful Shakespearean actor at Stratford, playing alongside John Gielgud in Measure for Measure and Julius Caesar (both in 1950). For a further two years, he was with the Birmingham repertory theatre, with whom he appeared as Caesar at the Old Vic and, to rave reviews, in Paris.
Eventually, however, he felt he should be making concessions to the popular new medium of television, and he moved to London. There he took roles in a number of live BBC Wednesday plays, and began to appear in episodes of series including The Avengers and The Saint.
His triumph as Catweazle sealed his TV reputation, drawing him into countless series and dramas including All Creatures Great and Small, The Tomorrow People, Tales of the Unexpected, Blott on the Landscape and Rumpole of the Bailey. In three 1979 episodes of Doctor Who he was Organon the astrologer – during the Tom Baker era – and even played an alternative version of the Time Lord in two audio versions of Doctor Who stories released in 2003 and 2005.
Bayldon made numerous film appearances, rubbing shoulders with greats such as Sidney Poitier (To Sir With Love, 1967), Peter Sellers (Casino Royale, 1967, and The Pink Panther Strikes Again, 1976), Albert Finney (Scrooge, 1970) and Vincent Price (The Monster Club, 1981).
His TV acting continued well into his 80s, when he noted that he was still well qualified to play old men, and he had credits in Midsomer Murders, Heartbeat, Casualty, New Tricks and My Family in more recent years. He would attend the annual gathering of the Catweazle fanclub with enthusiasm, and in 2005 revealed that he had finally been able to watch the show with a sense of detachment. “I turned it on and I was sitting back watching myself without being conscious at all that it was me,” he said. ‘“And I was jaw-dropped. I suddenly thought: ‘This fella’s bloody good.’”
I also thought he was great in Born to Boogie (1972) but that may be because I was a huge T-Rex fan as a kid.
Rest in Peace Geoffrey.