Category Archives: unsung actors

James Rebhorn RIP

james rebhorn

Character actor James Rebhorn has died at age 65.

Rebhorn was one of those actors who audiences loved and were familiar with even if they didn’t know his name.

I remember him as the White House dignitary in “Independence Day,” but he co-starred in many movies and TV series, including “Homeland,” “Seinfeld,” “My Cousin Vinny” and “White Collar.”

Rest in peace, Mr. Rebhorn.

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Classic horror: ‘Night of the Creeps’

night of the creeps poster

If I hadn’t seen it in theaters in 1986 – and numerous times on stone-age VHS tapes in the years that followed – I might think that “Night of the Creeps” was a modern-day spoof of low-budget 1980s horror/sci-fil flicks.

That’s because director Fred Dekker’s movie is so sarcastic, so canny, so knowing that it feels like a modern-day retro pastiche of cliches from movies of the time.

“Night of the Creeps” is very much an “everything plus the kitchen sink” kind of movie. The opening sequence, set in the 1950s, shows both a meteor landing and a homicidal maniac on Lover’s Lane. In black and white, yet.

Of course, the two calamities coincide and slug-like aliens from the meteor infect a body that is cryogenically preserved until it’s accidentally thawed out in 1986.

Before you can say “Nightmare on Frat House Row,” the alien slugs are turning people into zombies.

“Night of the Creeps” has even more than zombies and alien parasites. There are exploding heads, flame throwers, college nerds suddenly turned marksmen, topless coeds … even future Oscar bait David Paymer in a brief role as a morgue attendant who ends up slug infested. Yes, David Paymer.

There are so many funny moments in the movie, but maybe the first LOL moment – 20-some years before anybody knew what LOL meant – is when a young lover in the 1950s hears the beginning of a report on his car radio about an escape from the local institution for the criminally insane .. and clicks off the radio before the germane information.

night of the creeps tommy atkins

Tommy Atkins, well-remembered for his roles in classic John Carpenter films like “The Fog” and “Escape from New York,” is great here. As student zombies head for the sorority house, Atkins – as a tough cop whose “thrill me” catchphrase is a wee bit overused – turns to the girls and says, “The good news is your dates are here. The bad news is … they’re dead.”

Dekker pays tribute – and provides Easter eggs for fans – in the names of his movie’s main characters, who bear the last names of such directors as David Cronenberg and George Romero. Heck, the university where all the creepy hijinks ensue is names after Roger Corman.

“Night of the Creeps” is a funny, clever horror spoof that’s got just the right amount of spoofery and just the right amount of horror.

 

Whatever happened to Claire Forlani?

claire forlani scotch whisky ad

A while back I wondered this aloud, if you can do such a thing on a Twitter account:

  1. Why wasn’t Claire Forlani a bigger deal?

claire forlani meet joe black

I thought the British actress was beautiful in “Meet Joe Black” and several other films and wondered what happened to her, besides marrying almost-Wolverine Dougray Scott.

Now I know. Forlani is the striking woman with the impenetrable Scottish accent in the Dewar’s Scotch whisky commercials.

And she apparently still corners the world’s market on cheekbones.

 

RIP Michael Ansara

michael ansara kang star trek

Another great Hollywood character actor has left the stage.

Michael Ansara has died at age 91.

michael ansara

Ansara was born in Syria and had an extensive career in Hollywood playing good guys and bad guys, often with an exotic edge. He played the Djinn on TV’s “I Dream of Jeannie,” opposite wife Barbara Eden, and starred in the series “Broken Arrow.”

He is best known for playing Kang, a Klingon captain who was Kirk’s equal and counterpart, in the original “Star Trek” series.

It was a role he returned to in later series, including “Deep Space Nine” and “Voyager.”

Thanks, Mr. Ansara, for your memorable presence.

RIP Dennis Farina, Mel Smith

dennis farina crime story

Here’s two gentlemen who departed this mortal coil who couldn’t be more dissimilar. Yet they played huge roles in our entertainment lives.

Dennis Farina has died at age 69. A former Chicago cop who became a beloved character actor, Farina was known for TV series like “Law and Order” and movies like “Get Shorty.”

But a couple of roles will make him live forever for me. One was the mobster in the action comedy “Midnight Run.”

And then there was – as seen above – tough Chicago cop Mike Torrello in “Crime Story,” Michael Mann’s late-1980s follow-up to “Miami Vice.” Stylish and multi-layered in its story of cops, criminals and attorneys, first in Chicago and then Las Vegas, the series was ahead of his time, and Farina was great in it.

mel smith princess bride

Then there’s Mel Smith, a funny Brit best known as the master of “the pit of despair” in “The Princess Bride.”

But my first memory of Smith was “Morons from Outer Space,” a wonderful but little-seen 1985 comedy.

Smith was 60.

Both will be missed.

RIP Dennis Burkley

dennis burkley

Dennis Burkley has died at age 67.

Burkley was one of those actors whose face – and, to a great extent, his voice – was instantly recognizable for movie and TV audiences.

Burkley was perhaps best known for playing rough guys and biker types, particularly in the 1985 tearjerker “Mask” as one of Sam Elliott’s biker buds who befriends Rocky (Eric Stoltz), the free-spirited but disfigured teen.

Burkley was, for some of us, equally recognizable for smaller roles in movies like “No Way Out” and many, many TV series.

We’ll miss you, Mr. Burkley. We’re glad your legacy will live on.

More Madchen: Amick continues on ‘Longmire’

madchen amick longmire deena

I’ve noted before that Madchen Amick, the lovely and talented actress perhaps still best known for playing teenage waitress Shelly on the 1990-91 series “Twin Peaks,” is like gold for readers of this blog.

madchen-amick-mobile-wallpaper

So it’s been fun to note Amick’s recent TV appearances, from “Mad Men” to her latest recurring role on “Longmire,” A&E’s engaging series adaptation of Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire mystery novels.

Amick’s appeared as Deena, the rekindled flame of Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips), on “Longmire,” showing up so far in two episodes, “Party’s Over” and “Sound and Fury,” the latter airing just this week.

At the top is a “Longmire” pic of Amick I found. I’m looking forward to seeing more appearances of the actress – and bringing you the latest on her here.