Children of the Night: The Best Horror Actors of All Time

Behind every great horror film monster is an actor with the perfect chops for sending a chill down your spine.

Some of the silver screen’s best actors and actresses have portrayed monsters or ghosts or the victims in which those monsters stalk.

In honor of Halloween, my love of films and the wonderful performances that have existed in horror films, I will count my top-5 horror actors of all-time.

No. 5: Boris Karloff. From 1919 to 1971 Boris Karloff racked up credit-after-credit as monsters, murderers and maniacs. Most notably, Karloff was Frankenstein’s monster in the 1931 Universal Studios classic “Frankenstein.” Karloff would portray the famed man-made monster two other times in his career and also starred in Universal’s “The Mummy” as Imhotep — the mummy himself. Karloff was tall and menacing-looking, with haunting eyes and prominent cheekbones. His looks, along with his cold and chilling acting style made him the perfect horror film actor.

No. 4: Bela Lugosi. Hungarian born Bela Lugosi is most recognized for his role as the evil vampire Count Dracula. His mysterious looks and accent became Dracula’s signature for decades (until another actor on this list flipped the switch). Lugosi was Universal’s Dracula several times throughout his career, and also appeared in 1941′s “The Wolf Man;” played Frankenstein’s monster in “Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man;” and appeared in films like “The Black Cat” (alongside Karloff) and “The Human Monster.” An icon of horror cinema, Bela Lugosi’s name is still recognized by horror fans of all ages as one of the genre’s best performers.

No. 3: Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. It’s hard to separate Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, chiefly because the duo starred in a bevy of Hammer Horror Dracula films together. The two were pitted against each other several times: Lee as the haunting and suave Count Dracula, and Cushing as the altruistic vampire hunter Van Helsing. Lee starred in several Dracula films including “The Horrors of Dracula,” “Dracula Has Risen from the Grave” and “Taste the Blood of Dracula” — to name a few. Cushing portrayed Van Helsing several times, and starred as Doctor Frankenstein in Hammer’s Frankenstein series. Both actors starred in several other horror and sci-fi films: Cushing in “Star Wars Episode V: A New Hope” and Cushing in “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.”

No: 2: Lon Chaney Jr. Perhaps no horror actor pulled off inner torture and turmoil quite like Lon Chaney Jr. Chaney Jr. is most known for his role in 1941′s “The Wolf Man.” He’d portray the famed werewolf four other times but also starred as Frankenstein and Dracula in various Universal films. Chaney Jr. — a one time Colorado Springs resident — was a classically trained actor, starring in films like “Of Mice and Men” prior to his roles with Universal. Chaney Jr.’s chops allowed him to pull of the inner guilt, turmoil and fear as a lycanthrope which in turn made his Lawrence Talbot/Wolf Man character a sympathetic near anti-hero.

Honorable mentions: Jamie Lee-Curtis, “Halloween;′ Sigourney Weaver, “Alien;” Jack Nichoslon, “The Shining” and “Wolf;” Robert Englund, “A Nightmare on Elm Street;” Bruce Campbell, “The Evil Dead.”

And the best horror film actor of all time is …

No.1: Vincent Price. His ghoulish laugh, hauntingly deep voice, pointed haircut and mustache and acting chops made Vincent Price a legend. The king of macabre performances, Price shines in films like “The Last Man on Earth,” “House of Wax,” “House on Haunted Hill” and the original “The Fly.” Even in the 1970s and 80s Price continued his run as horror’s screen king, starring in films like “The Abominable Dr. Phibes,” “Theater of Blood” and Tim Burton’s “Edward Scissorhands.” Price’s laugh and voice have been used in songs (notably Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”); cartoons and on various radio programs. He read many of Edgar Allen Poe’s works on recordings throughout his career. Price has become a horror icon and rightfully so. Beyond his looks, Price pulled off creepy, mysterious and wicked better than anyone.

 

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Tales of Rock: ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Rocketman’ are pop-music fantasias that never touch the greatness of their subjects

Lily James and Himesh Patel in a scene from “Yesterday.” (Jonathan Prime/Universal Pictures via AP)

Of all the here’s-a-cool-way-to-make-a-pop-biopic! ideas floating around in “Rocketman” that work better in theory than they do onscreen, one of the most pivotal was the decision to have Taron Egerton do his own singing. That almost never happens in music biopics (Rami Malek lip-synched in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Jamie Foxx lip-synched in “Ray,” Marion Cotillard lip-synched in “La Vie en Rose”). Media voices have cooed over Egerton’s vocalizing as if they were the proud parents of a kid vying for championship of a karaoke competition. “Look, he’s really doing it! And he sounds just like Elton John!”

Except that he doesn’t. In the ’70s, the fluky flavor (and power) of Elton John’s voice was connected to the contrast between the way he spoke — incredibly posh and rounded English tones — and the bluesy down-home American idiom that he infused into nearly every sung syllable. (Even in a song as mellow as “Your Song,” he would sing, “And you can tell everybod-eh.”) What you hear, in almost every line of his phrasing, is the ebullient theatrical muscle it took to make that reach. Taron Egerton can sing, but it’s exactly that aspect that his voice doesn’t have. The songs in “Rocketman” sound “good” as far as it goes, but they’re stripped of Elton’s distinct vocal personality. According to the film’s topsy-turvy logic, though, this somehow renders them old but new again. To put it bluntly: They can now be resold.

Everybody knows, because it’s a cornerstone of modern movie mythology, that two fabled films of the 1970s created the blockbuster mentality: “Jaws” (1975) and “Star Wars” (1977). Actually, I’ve always thought that two additional movies were part of that story: “The Exorcist” (1973), which tapped and shaped the up-and-coming appetite for overexplicit sensationalism, and “Rocky” (1976), which brought back the feel-good ideology of happy endings and, in doing so, helped to usher in the age of Reagan.

Yet even if you include those two, what isn’t nearly as remembered now — thought it marked a fundamental change in the aesthetics, and business, of movies — was the revolution wrought by “Saturday Night Fever” (1977). The movie’s soundtrack, one of the greatest ever, was beyond huge — it was a disco volcano that kept erupting. “American Graffiti,” or the films of Elvis Presley, might have paved the way, but what kicked off with “Saturday Night Fever,” in the corporate Hollywood that was coming into being, was the perception that the movie and music industries could effectively merge. Movies could be vehicles for creating and marketing pop soundtracks, and pop soundtracks could be vehicles for creating and marketing movies. This led directly to the age of “Flashdance,” “Footloose,” “Top Gun,” and a thousand lesser titles, from “Thank God It’s Friday” to “D.C. Cab,” that were conceived and packaged to piggyback on their MTV-and-radio-friendly soundtracks. Films and music would now be tails wagging each other, which created a new form: the movie as synergistic tie-in musical.

The Beatles and Elton John are hardly typical subjects for a pop-music film. They are gods among giants. As such, they deserve — I would say demand — a kind of big-screen treatment that exudes transcendence. Yet “Yesterday” and “Rocketman” aren’t jukebox musicals that send you out on a cloud of rapture. They’re synergistic tie-in musicals that are out to rebrand the Beatles and Elton John for a new generation. Maybe that’s why neither movie comes close to touching the greatness of its subject.

In recent weeks, I’ve had more than a few conversations about “Rocketman,” the biography-in-a-blender Elton John musical that, I confess, absolutely drove me up a wall. On the surface, at least, the film couldn’t be more different from “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which was a conventionally middlebrow push-your-buttons biopic. That one really was a Bryan Singer film, though it was finished by Dexter Fletcher, who directs “Rocketman” as if it were a Baz Luhrmann movie staged as a badly lit, thinly scripted Netflix throwaway. Yet when people talk about “Rocketman,” they sound a lot like they do when they talk about “Bohemian Rhapsody.” There’s a fan-service reductionism to the whole megillah, and to the way that the chief sentiment you hear always comes down to the same thing: “I loved hearing those songs!” Well, yes. Who doesn’t?

Early on in “Rocketman,” when Egerton’s Elton, having stalked offstage in his outsize orange devil costume, is sitting there in a support group, looking back on the life that brought him to this moment, the line “I was justified when I was five” is used to spin the action back to his childhood and the film’s first musical number, “The Bitch Is Back.” I watched the sequence that follows never having the faintest idea of why this song would apply to thissituation. Like everyone else, though, I enjoyed hearing the killer hooks of “The Bitch Is Back.”

Yet if hearing those songs were all it took to make a good musical, then the legendary 1978 Robert Stigwood debacle “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” starring (yes, starring!) the Bee Gees in their post-“Fever” prime, might be a spectacle of high-kitsch joy, instead of one of the most atrocious movie musicals ever created. “Rocketman,” with its slipshod staging and “stylized” chronology (i.e., the events of Elton John’s life seem not just out of sequence but seriously out of whack), is a bubbleheaded travesty of the musical biopic that Elton John should have had. (And had that movie been made, it would have been twice the hit.)

That said, I’m seriously shocked that more people aren’t more disappointed by what a botched opportunity “Rocketman” represents. The movie has been hyped in such a way to make it sound stodgy if you complain about its iPod-random chronology. But when Elton shows up for his fabled American debut at the Troubadour in L.A. in 1970 and plays “Crocodile Rock,” I’m sorry, that’s the equivalent of making a biopic about the Beatles in which they launch their Shea Stadium concert in 1965 with a cut off the White Album.

Elton John’s music and image developed radically over the first half of the ’70s, but the way “Rocketman” tells it, he simply touched down in the world as this nerd glam prince with a hundred pairs of glasses churning out sublime synthesizer earworms. In the movie, we almost never see Elton discovering who he is — as a musician, or as an image of pansexual flamboyance. Maybe that’s why the movie, in its greatest-hits-ripped-out-of-context way, wobbles around the kicky splendor of the songs. It uses them as musical bullet points, but there’s scarcely a moment when it figures out how to sit back and catch the lightning majesty of what Elton John created.

If “Rocketman” is at least guilty of a certain operatic overreach, “Yesterday” revives the Fab Four by reducing them. The movie, which opened Friday, is a what-if? trifle, an attempt to turn a world without the Beatles into a happy-face “Twilight Zone” episode that becomes a fantasy of rebooting the Beatles. As I said in my review, the most telling aspect of “Yesterday” is that it presents the Kate McKinnon character as a music-business manager of snarky corruption, yet her master plan to market the Beatles is treated less as satire than as the film’s own fantasy of selling the “ultimate” supergroup. You could say, “No, the movie isn’t really on the side of that.” But I would suggest that the pop commodity fetishism of “Yesterday” is wound right into the movie’s blandly iconic, number-one-with-a-bullet song choices (“Hey Jude,” “Let It Be,” “Here Comes the Sun,” “Help!,” “All You Need Is Love”). It’s as if the PR department had nixed the notion of doing anything more adventurous or offbeat.

One could argue that we live in the real world, and that it’s impossible to make an expensive movie about the Beatles or Elton John without treating those songs as marketing hooks. Fair enough. Yet the problem with “Yesterday” and “Rocketman” isn’t that they sell the Beatles or Elton John out. It’s that, in devoting so much of themselves to imagining how these incandescent artists might appeal to audiences today, the movies never fully remember — or capture — how they appealed to audiences back then, when all that selling seemed so far away.

 

 

Tales of Rock – Kris Kristofferson

This is one of my all time favorite Tales of Rock posts. It’s just such a great story! I love it!

 

Among all of the thousands of rock artists who have recorded a song, talented Kris Kristofferson probably has the most impressive background.

 

Kris is the son of a retired U.S. Air Force Major General. In high school Kris was Class President, honor student, and football star. He was a Rhodes Scholar and attended Oxford University. He has authored several books and won first prize in a collegiate short-story contest sponsored by the Atlantic Monthly. In school he played football and was a Golden Gloves boxer.

In Vietnam he was a helicopter pilot. He was an Army Captain and attended flight school. As a civilian, he flew helicopters and served as a janitor at the Nashville Recording Studio. He is a Grammy winner and has appeared in numerous movies, including A Star is Born, playing opposite Barbara Streisand.

He has also composed such hit songs as Me and Bobby McGee and Help Me Make It Through The Night.

Now that, is an impressive resume and a fantastic life!

 

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Ambria – Chapter 11 – Movie Rendezvous

It was Monday, which is Ambria’s Saturday, because she works at the hospital Wednesday to Sunday. Make sense? So on Mondays I can shift a few things around and spend the afternoon with her. I have tickets for the Big Red Bus. It’s a bus that tours around the city and you can get on and off as much as you want for 12 hours. It sounds pretty cool, and I already have the tickets, but we’ve decided to go to the cinema again. I love film as you know, and so does she. We also both love a quiet matinee on a hot summer afternoon.

I send her some titles I like, and she decides on “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail.” It’s an excellent and heartfelt documentary. It tells the incredible saga of the Chinese immigrant Sung family, owners of Abacus Federal Savings of Chinatown, New York. Accused of mortgage fraud by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., Abacus becomes the only U.S. bank to face criminal charges in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The indictment and subsequent trial forces the Sung family to defend themselves – and their bank’s legacy in the Chinatown community – over the course of a five-year legal battle.

Last week we saw “My Cousin Rachel,” and now this week we’re seeing another terrific film! Two in a row. We’re on a roll. I get there first and buy the tickets and take the escalator downstairs next to the Bourse Building to the actual theater. I like this cinema. That cool underground theater tucked away from street level in the heart of the historic district at 4th and Market.

I text her that I have arrived and she’s on point. She tells me she’s also arrived. I tell her to come downstairs and that the tickets have been acquired.

Within a minute she appears and we lean in for a smooch. She orders me a small popcorn with butter and a medium diet coke. That’s my go to movie food. She pays $11 for the treats (Movie prices!) and I ask her if she wants anything. She said she fine. We head into the theater and sit in the back. There are only 3 other people in the place. I love when a matinée is empty! We sit all the way in the back in the very center.

We watch what seems like 15 minutes of coming attractions. I like trailers though. It’s fun to get the first glimpse of the new exciting picture that’s coming soon!

Ambria snuck her own snacks into the movie. That’s her movie food. Then she pulls out a box of M&M’s Peanuts and hands it to me. Last week I mentioned that was my favorite movie candy. She remembered and bought me a box and brought it with her today.

Good memory. Listens to me. Love is in the air!

Another great thing that happened, was she let me own the armrest. Right guys? I had the one on my left and she let me have the one on the right. I’m like a king on a throne and I own this experience. Sure there was some hand holding and touching but these armrests are mine! You gotta love that in a girl at the movies. I’m just sayin’.

The film was great and heartwarming. I loved the Sung family by the end of this film. I recommend you go see it. Phicklephilly gives it two thumbs up!

When the film was over we headed west on Walnut street. I like Walnut. It’s just a little nicer than Chestnut and Market streets. I probably should have stayed in the theater for a little bit so I could make out with hot Ambria but I didn’t think of it. I regret that now.

It’s a beautiful day, so we walk all the way back to center city. We settle on Locust Rendezvous which I love. She tells me she loves bars like that and that makes me happy. “The ‘Vous” as some people call it, is a small bar down around 15th and Locust.

Locust Rendezvous was established in September of 1989. Surviving in an ever-changing neighborhood, they have withstood the test of time. Many establishments have come and gone, not sure what they wanted to be when they grew up. Fortunately, they learned early on that they were just a great bar with good food — nothing more, nothing less.

Their goal, as always, has been to make all of their customers feel welcome. You’ll find when you come in regularly that there are many familiar faces. Their customers come from far and wide, remembering the great service, comfortable atmosphere and reasonable prices from their first venture through our front door. Repeat business is their mainstay, and all new are welcome.

I love a good tavern. The food is cheap, it’s tasty, and the beer is cold. I order a Yards Pale Ale, and Ambria gets a cocktail. We order a pair of tacos and Ambria asks for a basket of fries. Perfect.

We’re sitting at a table away from the bar and the moment belongs to us.

I love being with Ambria. She’s beautiful, fun and easy. Not easy sexually. I know that’s coming. I’m trying to stave that off. I know romance is paramount in any relationship. We could have jumped into bed after our second date. But I know better. Get to know her. Be sure. Grow together. Feel the force. Build the desire for the celebration. It’ll be so much better. Too many people just leap out of desire. I’ve seen this a hundred times. It’s a slippery slope that can easily end in disaster.

My experience guides me. If she’s the one, I’ll be present, myself and careful. Not so much for me, I’ll be fine, but for her heart. I need the glue to stick, the cohesion to happen and then when we finally come together it’ll be magic.

Most men rush in for the hasty close. I’ve been in sales all of my life. I love and know women. It simply doesn’t work that way. Set the trap. Go slow. Build the myth. Create the romance. Take it to a level that is so high there is nowhere else to go once you reach the top. There’s so much joy between the two of you, there is nothing left to do but make love.

She wants that. You want that. It should have happened eight chapters ago, but give it value. Make your memories now. Make them valuable. Make them truly memorable so when you get down to the ‘you and me’ it’s amazing.

Anybody can do the old “In and out” like John Lennon used to call it, but build something elegant and celebrate together with the only possession you came into the world with.

Share. Celebrate. Together.

The food comes, and it’s magic. We’re happy. Ambria says she loves this place again. We’re going to get along just fine. It’s obvious at this point. Her hand moves the basket and comes across the table top like a soft welcomed spider. She takes my hand and we entwine like old lovers.

The staff is great, and we learn our server is the GM and we dig that she’s on point.

After the little meal we decide to hit the next place. It’ 5pm and I remind her that Dan Dan’s happy hour starts at 4:30pm. She’s ready to roll too. We’ve done this place and it’s time to go. I think the real reason we go is, that we’re both thinking about the film we saw today.

She pays the bill, (Hooray!) and we head out with many thanks for the sweet repose. This has been the perfect stop and I’m glad I chose it.

 

 

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Ambria – Chapter 10 – Matinee Day – Part Two

I have the tickets. I’m ready to roll. I don’t want to see this film at 4pm. Uber, be earnest in your trek.

I go outside and smoke a cigarette because I’m stressed. I can’t be late for anything, especially not a film.

I’m out there standing in the courtyard looking out on 2nd street. There is a tap on my shoulder, and it’s Ambria. She’s here!

I grab her and usher into the theater. The girl tells us the movie is just beginning but we can go in now. We scramble town the dark hallway and into the theater.

“Tonight on Dealbreakers”  I say.

Ambria gets a fit of laughing because she gets the joke. The bit I just said is my father talking. It means, if you are late for a film I may dump you and date someone else. But I’ve done it in an ironic sarcastic way, and baby loves it. This way Ambria is such a good match for me. I can rip and she is tantalized by my jokes. She gets it and giggles for 10 minutes straight.

I climb into the darkness to find some seats in the back. There’s 5 people in the theater and I love it so much. I love film and cinema so mush when I am in a theater and It’s empty I am so turned on.

It’s quiet. You can sit wherever you want. No children. Empty. Just that beautiful presence in the dark that unfolds before you and who you’re with.

A handful of film lovers or old people who will remain quieter during the film. No cell phones. No texting. Just watch a big beautiful movie in a theater and feel the power of the art in the darkness. It’s glorious. I wanted this with Ambria.

She loves it. She’s ready. We’re up in the back. I don’t know what this film is about bit I don’t care. It’s Monday. Everybody is at work hating their lives and we are about to watch a great film together and we’re off.

Off.

Off is so good. She’s so sorry she was late and I’m a very forgiving because I like her and it’s not her fault and she killed herself getting down here. I ask her if she wants anything. she says she has some sort of spicy crunchy snacks which is awesome if you’ve snuck chow in. she asks me I’d want anything and I tell her I would love a small popcorn with extra butter and a medium diet coke. I’m checking and wondering and she says she’s going to get it.

I tell her it’s ok but she insists because she says she was late and I paid for the tickets. Ambria is so hot I don’t give a shit about any of that. But… greasy buttery popcorn and soda would be pretty awesome right now.

she insists and goes to the snack bar. I sit back and try to absorb ‘ My Cousin Rachel” (Great movie by the way)

Baby returns with a small buttery bag of popcorn, a medium dite Coke which is so huge I can’t lift it and a straw and napkins. I’m going to go ahead and say good girlfriend at this junction.

If you’re having any doubts about Me Cousin Rachel, let me tell you the film is amazing. Great story that will leave you guessing. So good you’ll watch it and not molest your date during it.

After the film we walked up to Market street and I showed her the Independence Beer Garden. Best beer garden in the city.

Check it out: http://www.phlbeergarden.com/

Yea… it’s God.

I showed it to her but didn’t want to hang.

Don’t worry, I’ll meet up with her there in the next episode.

The weather wasn’t murder so we walked back to center city to find a cool spot to stop.

Of course we stop at Square 1682 on a Monday, because my boy Roman is there and I know we’ll be secured. I of course go with chardonnay with a side of ice and Ambria goes with something from the cocktail list that is light.

We’re tight at the bar, chatting, laughing and talking to Roman. But when she had to go to the Ladies room, I had the opportunity to show her where is was. We went up the back stairs that brought us two the second floor. I took her into the front banquet room which is empty and dark. This is was just an opportunity to make out with her like a teenager.

I knew it would it would be empty and quiet an I knew I could rip into my love.

Her lips are that of a girlfriend. Her tongue of a lover. Yt’s like our mouths were made to kiss each other.

I can’t get enough of her. Ambria is hungry and ready, I know I have to wait. But the kettle is about to explode.

 

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My Young Life: Star Wars – 1977

I remember seeing the trailer for it on TV and my friends and I getting really excited about how cool it looked. I was 14 years old and my dad said he would take me to see it. He was working at a bank down the shore back then and my sisters and I lived in Philly with Mom.

When I look back on it now it’s like they got separated but wouldn’t get divorced. According to my mother she didn’t want her kids ending up a statistic. Mom could chill in Philly and dad would live at the shore house in North Wildwood, NJ. Then he could carry on his affairs and go fishing with his buddies.

The good thing about that arrangement was life was more peaceful at home. I didn’t have to deal with the tension of having dad around all the time and it was greatest hits on the weekends.

Ninth grade in middle school was up to that point, the worst year of my life. I’ve faced far worse years in my adult life but up to that year 1976 – 1977 was by far the worst. I’ll just give you the quick and dirty:

Puberty, Glasses, pimples all over my face, chest and back, terrible student, picked on by kids at school in school, on the way home from school, and after school. It was like I was walking around wearing a target. I loved girls but they all hated me, but when you think of all the shit that happened and was done to me, it’s wrong, but I brought nothing to the table. All I had was a few friends, my music, my art and my comic books. Life sucked.

I remember seeing the previews for the a new movie coming out called Star Wars one day on TV and went buck wild. I had to see that movie. All of the boys in the neighborhood were talking about it. It looked super cool.

I talked to my dad about it and he said he would take me. A little father and son time. Even though I was afraid of him back then I probably still loved him.  I believe it was opening weekend for the film.

We got on the train and went downtown. There was a line waiting out front to get in! He bought us hot dogs and cans of soda from a street cart and we ate them while waiting in line. This was a brilliant move, because then we wouldn’t get hung up in a concession line inside waiting for overpriced popcorn and drinks. We’d get right in and find a pair of seats. Could have been good planning on the part of my pop. He was always a great planner. That’s the good side of having high anxiety and OCD.

The movie starts and the rest is history. We loved it! It was probably the greatest movie I had ever seen in my life. Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey was brilliant and is to this day still my favorite movie of all time. The special effects in 2001 set the standard for how science fiction films looked forever. But Star Wars was a fun, funny, exciting fable and adventure story. It blew my young mind.

It was an unforgettable afternoon with my pop and a landmark moment in film history. I went on to see it eight more times that summer!

But that’s another story!

 

 

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