Welcome back to LEADING LADIES, the column where we look at the careers of actresses in the movies, especially horror movies.
Usually, this column is a retrospective of actresses from the past and serves as a look back at their remarkable careers, but today we’re doing something different, as up today on LEADING LADIES it’s Mia Goth.
Goth is just starting her career, and she is enjoying enormous success, and since she is so young, just 29, I’m surmising that in the future there will be lots of updates to this column as her career continues. My favorite part of Goth’s roles thus far is that while she has appeared in numerous horror movies, she’s no scream queen. She’s usually the person causing the screaming!
So, let’s get started. Here’s a partial look at Mia Goth’s young career so far:
THE SURVIVALIST (2015)- Milja- Mia Goth’s first screen credit is in this thriller about a man who lives off the grid whose farm is discovered by a mother and a daughter, and what happens when he strikes a deal with them to live on his property.
A CURE FOR WELLNESS (2016) – Hannah- this is the first movie in which I saw Mia Goth, a superior horror movie by writer/director Gore Verbinski about a wellness center that isn’t quite what it seems. Jason Isaacs plays the creepy doctor, while Goth plays a mysterious woman who resides there. Goth is terrific in the role and made an immediate impression, as she was one of the best parts of this film, which had the look and feel of a classic Hammer horror movie.
SUSPIRIA (2018) – Sara – supporting role in this remake of the horror classic. Also starring Tilda Swinton, Dakota Johnson, and Chloe Grace Moretz.
EMMA (2020) – Harriet Smith- another supporting role in this version of the Jane Austen novel, starring Anya Taylor-Joy in the title role of Emma, and Bill Nighy. This was the last film I saw at the movie theaters before Covid shut everything down in March 2020. I found this one to be somewhat of a misfire, but Goth is very good in the film.
X (2022) – Maxine/Pearl – horror movie by writer/director Ti West features some of Goth’s best work as she plays dual roles here. The film is about a group of filmmakers in the 1970s who set out to make a porn film on a farm, but once the elderly farmers discover what they are doing, they become unhinged and react very badly as X becomes quite the bloody and violent horror movie. Goth plays two roles, Maxine, the young star who wants to make a porn film as a first step to becoming a famous actress, and Pearl, the elderly woman who owns the farm and who goes full blown Norman Bates in the film’s second half. One of the best horror movies from 2022, and Mia Goth is a major reason why.
PEARL (2022) – Pearl – Mia Goth reprises the role of Pearl in this Ti West prequel to X, in which we learn Pearl’s back story. I enjoyed X more than PEARL, but Mia Goth is once again tremendous and fascinating.
INFINITY POOL (2023) – Gabi – another fabulous performance by Mia Goth in another terrific horror movie, this one by writer/director Brandon Cronenberg, David Cronenberg’s son. Alexander Skarsgard plays a struggling novelist who vacations on a remote island with his wife hoping to beat back his writer’s block. There, he meets a young woman, Gabi, played by Mia Goth, who with her husband invites James the author and his wife out to dinner, claiming to be a fan of his work. As they get to know each other, Gabi leads James on a horrific odyssey that leads to violence, murder, and depravity. And if that’s not enough, she seduces him as well.
Next up for Mia Goth is the final installment of Ti West’s X trilogy, MAXXXINE, in which Goth will once again play Maxine in a story that will take place after the events in X. I can’t wait!
In such a short time, Mia Goth has become one of the most dynamic actresses working in horror movies today.
That’s it for now. Thanks for joining me for this edition of LEADING LADIES. Join me next time when we look at the career of another leading lady in the movies.
Welcome back to LEADING LADIES, that column where we look at lead actresses in the movies, especially horror movies.
Up today it’s Adrienne Barbeau, an actress whose long career continues through to this day as she is still actively making movies, but in her heyday, during the 1980s, she was on screen quite often in horror movies, especially those directed by John Carpenter. She and Carpenter were married from 1979 – 1984.
Here’s a partial look at her very impressive 152 screen credits:
MAUDE (1972- 1978) – Carol Trayner – The TV show on which Adrienne Barbeau became a household name, playing the adult daughter of main character Maude Findlay (Bea Arthur) in this Norman Lear spin-off from ALL IN THE FAMILY (1971-79). Maude is Edith Bunker’s cousin. Her liberal independent character was the complete opposite of bigot Archie Bunker. So, by the time Barbeau branched into movies, she was already well known to American audiences.
THE GREAT HOUDINI (1976) – Daisy White – Barbeau’s first movie screen credit was in this 1976 TV movie starring Paul Michael Glaser as Harry Houdini. I saw this one when it first aired, not just because I was a fan of STARSKY AND HUTCH (1975-79) the 70s cop show in which Glaser starred, but because in the cast I noticed was one Peter Cushing playing Sir Arthur Conan Doyle! It was Cushing’s first ever American TV movie, and he shot his scenes right after finishing work on STAR WARS (1977). THE GREAT HOUDINI is a really good movie, by the way, and features a very impressive cast. Besides Paul Michael Glaser, Adrienne Barbeau, and Peter Cushing, the film also starred Sally Struthers, Ruth Gordon, Vivian Vance, Bill Bixby, Nina Foch, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Geoffrey Lewis, Maureen O’Sullivan, and Clive Revill. Barbeau is excellent in a supporting role.
RED ALERT (1977) – Judy Wyche – TV movie thriller starring William Devane about a malfunction at a nuclear power plant. Pre-dates the more well-known THE CHINA SYNDROME (1979) by three years.
CRASH (1978) – Veronica Daniels – TV movie about the crash of Flight 401 into the Florida Everglades. Also starring William Shatner, Eddie Albert, Lorraine Gary, and Ron Glass, among others. Follows the formula of the AIRPORT movies, except this one is based on a true story.
SOMEONE’S WATCHING ME (1978) – Sophie – Another TV movie, this one written and directed by John Carpenter. In fact, it was on the set of this film that Carpenter and Barbeau first met. Long known as the “lost John Carpenter film,” as back in the day it never was released in the U.S. on VHS, and didn’t appear on DVD until 2007, this thriller centers on a woman played by Lauren Hutton being stalked and terrorized by an unknown male assailant. Barbeau plays the main character’s best friend.
THE DARKER SIDE OF TERROR (1979) – Margaret Corwin – Made for TV horror movie centering on clones. Also stars Robert Forster and Ray Milland.
THE FOG (1980) – Stevie Wayne – Barbeau’s first theatrical starring role is in this John Carpenter horror movie, which sadly, since it followed upon the heels of Carpenter’s breakthrough megahit HALLOWEEN (1978) was not well-received or treated kindly by critics at the time. I’ve always loved THE FOG, as it’s unique in that there aren’t too many other horror movies where fog and what arrives in it are the main menaces in the film. It’s an eerie ghost story, and the fog special effects are superior and when combined with Carpenter’s music, pretty much unforgettable. Curiously, one thing I’ve never liked about this movie, and it’s an unusual dislike for a John Carpenter film, is that in spite of a very impressive cast which includes Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh, Tom Atkins, Hal Holbrook, Nancy Loomis, Charles Cyphers, and John Houseman, there’s not a single character I like in this one. None of the characters come to life for me, nor are any of the performances memorable, with the possible exception of Charles Cyphers’ Dan the weatherman character, who also gets one of the the best scenes in the movie when he answers the door to his weather station in the fog. But it’s a small role. This is unusual, since in most John Carpenter films, you do have memorable characters and performances, whether it’s Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasence in HALLOWEEN, or Kurt Russell in ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981) and THE THING (1982) to name just a couple.
ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981) – Maggie -This is one of my favorite Adrienne Barbeau performances, in another genre film by John Carpenter. This futuristic science fiction actioner starring Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken, a hardened criminal sent into Manhattan which is now a maximum security prison in the “future” year of 1997 (!!!) by tough guy warden Hauk (Lee Van Cleef) to rescue the President (Donald Pleasence) from terrorists. Another John Carpenter classic. There’s a lot to love about this one even if believability is low throughout… Donald Pleasence as a U.S. President?… Great action scenes, another fantastic music score by Carpenter, and unlike in THE FOG, there are lots of memorable characters and fine performances, including Adrienne Barbeau as Maggie, the tough as nails unflappable girlfriend of super intelligent and resourceful Brain (Harry Dean Stanton), who both help Pliskin rescue the President from the villainous The Duke (Isaac Hayes).
SWAMP THING (1982) – Alice Cable – another theatrical horror/science fiction release, but this time not directed by John Carpenter, but by another classic horror movie director, Wes Craven. Not terribly well-received at the time, but I’ve always found this one mildly entertaining.
CREEPSHOW (1982) – Wilma Northrup “The Crate” – this is another of my favorite Adrienne Barbeau performances. In fact, this one just might be my favorite, pure and simple. In this superior horror anthology movie, directed by George Romero and written by Stephen King, Barbeau appears in one my favorite segments, “The Crate” which is about a hideous man-eating creature living inside a crate. She plays the relentlessly harsh and belittling wife to Hal Holbrook’s meek Henry Northrup, so when his visibly shaken friend Dexter (Fritz Weaver) shows up at his door one night with a horrifying tale of a man-eating monster back at the college campus where they teach, it gives Henry one wild idea to help solve a nagging problem before he decides to help Dexter take care of his monster dilemma.
THE THING (1982) – Computer voice (uncredited) – back with husband John Carpenter again, this time providing the voice of a computer. Arguably Carpenter’s best movie, this classic remake which was also initially panned by critics is today on so many horror movie fans’ lists as the best horror movie ever made. Period.
THE NEXT ONE (1984) – Andrea – Intriguing science fiction film about a stranger from the future played by Keir Dullea who meets the widowed wife of an astronaut played by Barbeau and her son.
TERROR AT LONDON BRIDGE (1985) – Lynn Chandler – TV movie starring David Hasselhoff about Jack the Ripper committing murders in 1985 by the newly restored London Bridge in Arizona. Written by William F. Nolan, who also wrote the screenplays for such genre films as THE NORLISS TAPES (1973) and BURNT OFFERINGS (1976). Nolan just passed away days ago, on July 15, 2021.
OPEN HOUSE (1987)- Lisa Grant – horror movie about a serial killer targeting real estate agents!
TWO EVIL EYES (1990) – Jessica Valdemar – Horror anthology movie based on Edgar Allan Poe tales directed by George A. Romero and Dario Argento.
DEMOLITION MAN (1993)- Computer voice, uncredited – Barbeau once again provides her voice for a computer in this science fiction actioner starring Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes, and Sandra Bullock.
JUDGE DREDD (1995) – Central voice – another Sylvester Stallone science fiction action film, another opportunity for Barbeau to lend only her voice to a film.
BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES (1992-1995) – Catwoman/Selina Kyle/Martha Wayne – Barbeau provides voicework for this animated Batman TV show. Her voice work as Catwoman is arguably what she is most remembered for today.
THE NEW BATMAN ADVENTURES (1997-1998) – Catwoman/Selina Kyle- more voiceover work as Catwoman.
THE CONVENT (2000) – Adult Christine – Horror movie about demonic possession and a cursed convent.
GOTHAM GIRLS (2000-2002) – Catwoman/Selina Kyle – provides her voice yet again as the Catwoman in this animated TV series about female superheroes and female supervillains in Gotham City.
UNHOLY (2007) – Martha – Horror movie involving conspiracies, witches, Nazis, the occult, and secret government experiments. Should have been called UNBELIEVABLE.
WAR WOLVES (2009) – Gail Cash – Made for TV horror movie about werewolves, soldiers, and werewolf soldiers! Also starring John Saxon.
UNEARTH (2020) – Kathryn Dolan – Barbeau’s most recent theatrical film credit is in this horror movie about fracking.
While I jumped from 2009 to 2020, Barbeau was actively working during this decade, appearing in movies and on television nonstop during these years. And she has several projects in pre-production at present.
For me, Adrienne Barbeau will best be remembered as a leading lady from the 1980s in which she appeared in some of the decades biggest horror movies and contributed greatly to these films with her noteworthy performances. So there you have it. A brief partial look at the career of Adrienne Barbeau.
Hope you enjoyed the column and join me again next time when we look at the career of another leading lady.
Welcome back to LEADING LADIES, that column where we look at lead actresses in the movies, especially horror movies.
Up today is an actress mostly known to horror fans for one major horror movie. The actress is Suzan Farmer, and the movie is DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966), Hammer Films’ second Dracula movie starring Christopher Lee, and the direct sequel to their mega-hit HORROR OF DRACULA (1958).
In DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS, the undead count is resurrected when his servant murders an unsuspecting guest at the castle and uses the man’s blood to rescuscitate his vampire master. Suzan Farmer plays one of the guests, Diana, who’s married to the brother of the slain sacrificial victim. It’s a memorable performance in a movie that has continued to age well over the years, and is held in much higher regard today than it was upon its initial release back in 1966, when it was widely viewed as an inferior sequel to HORROR OF DRACULA.
Here is a partial look at Suzan Farmer’s career:
THE SUPREME SECRET (1958) – Tess – Farmer’s movie debut in 1958 at the age of 15.
THE CRIMSON BLADE (1963) – Constance Beverley – High seas adventure which takes place in 1648 and also stars Lionel Jeffries, Oliver Reed, June Thorburn, and Hammer regulars Michael Ripper and Duncan Lamont.
THE DEVIL-SHIP PIRATES (1964) – Angela – Hammer pirate adventure written by Jimmy Sangster and directed by Don Sharp. Starring Christopher Lee, Andrew Keir, Duncan Lamont, and Michael Ripper.
DIE, MONSTER, DIE! (1965) – Susan Whitley – Farmer plays the daughter of a wheelchair-bound Boris Karloff. She’s stuck in the castle while Karloff conducts bizarre experiments, all the while her boyfriend Stephen (Nick Adams) tries to convince her to leave daddy and get the heck out of there! Based on H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Colour Out of Space.” Also starring Freda Jackson and Patrick Magee.
DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966) – Diana- My favorite Suzan Farmer role and performance. A big reason for this is she’s in some of the best scenes in the movie, certainly the best Dracula scenes. The scene where Dracula (Christopher Lee) attacks her from an open window, and later when he slits open his chest and invites her to drink his blood, are two of the more memorable sequences in the film. Farmer also enjoys playful chemistry with Francis Matthews, who plays her husband Charles. Their dialogue together resonates throughout the movie, and they really do seem like a young married couple very much in love. Farmer also dubbed the high-pitched screams for co-star Barbara Shelley.
RASPUTIN: THE MAD MONK (1966) – Vanessa – Shot simultaneously with DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS, using many of the same sets and cast, including Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Francis Matthews, and Farmer.
PERSECUTION (1974) – Janie Masters – Farmer’s last movie credit is in this thriller starring Lana Turner as an evil mom tormenting her adult son played by Ralph Bates and his family. Also starring Trevor Howard, Patrick Allen, and Ronald Howard.
LEAP IN THE DARK (1980) – Grace- Farmer’s final screen credit was in an episode of this horror anthology TV series.
Indeed, after 1966, the majority of Farmer’s screen appearances were on the small screen on various TV shows.
Suzan Farmer passed away on September 17, 2017 at the age of 75 from cancer.
I hope you enjoyed this brief partial look at the career of Suzan Farmer. She made a lasting impression with only a few appearances in horror films in the 1960s, especially in the Hammer Film DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS. Speaking of DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS, with the recent passing of Barbara Shelley, and six months earlier of Philip Latham who played Dracula’s loyal servant Klove, all the major cast members from that classic Dracula movie are now gone, sadly.
Here’s a toast to them, a wonderful cast in a classic Dracula movie.
Please join me again next time for the next LEADING LADIES column, where we’ll look at the career of another leading actress in the movies, especially horror movies.
Welcome back to LEADING LADIES, that column where we look at the careers of lead actresses in the movies, especially horror movies.
Up today it’s Brooke Adams, who, if you’ve seen the outstanding 1978 version of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, you’ll definitely remember her performance as one of the contributing factors to it being such a great movie.
The Philip Kaufman directed INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978) is one of those rare instances where the remake is as good or arguably better than the original. There are many reasons for this. Among them, Kaufman’s direction, a truly unforgettable chilling ending, and a fine ensemble of actors, including Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright, and Leonard Nimoy. I saw this at the movies when I was just 14, and it instantly became a favorite. I also immediately became a fan of Brooke Adams.
Here now is a partial look at Adams’ career, focusing mostly on her genre credits:
MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE (1971) – Nurse (uncredited) – Adams’ first appearance on the big screen, an uncredited bit as a nurse, in this tepid horror movie by director Gordon Hessler, featuring Herbert Lom and Jason Robards. Based on the Edgar Allan Poe story.
THE GREAT GATSBY (1974) – Party Guest (uncredited) – another uncredited bit in the Robert Redford version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel.
SONG OF THE SUCCUBUS (1975) – Olive Deems/Gloria Chambers – plays the lead in this TV movie about a modern-day rock star haunted by the ghost of a Victorian era musician.
MURDER ON FLIGHT 502 (1975) -Vera Franklin – part of an all-star cast in this TV movie about a series of murders on a jumbo jet, featuring Robert Stack, Ralph Bellamy, Sonny Bono, Fernando Lamas, Hugh O’Brian, Walter Pidgeon, and receiving most of the hype at the time, Farrah Fawcett.
SHOCK WAVES (1977) – Rose – stars alongside Peter Cushing and John Carradine in this low-budget thriller about Nazi zombies.
INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978) – Elizabeth Driscoll – my favorite Brooke Adams role. Stars alongside Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright, and Leonard Nimoy in this superior retelling of the classic Jack Finney story. The best part of Adam’s performance here is that she does fear very well and captures how unsettling it would be to be caught up in such a dire situation as the imminent invasion of the pod people.
Brooke Adams, Donald Sutherland, and Jeff Goldblum about to get some bad news on the telephone in one of the many tense moments in INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978).
CUBA (1979) – Alexandra Lopez de Pulido- co-stars with Sean Connery in this romantic adventure by director Richard Lester.
Sean Connery and Brooke Adams in CUBA (1979).
THE DEAD ZONE (1983) – Sarah Bracknell – David Cronenberg’s effective adaptation of Stephen King’s novel stars Christopher Walken, Brooke Adams, Tom Skerritt, Herbert Lom, Anthony Zerbe, and Martin Sheen. A good role for Adams, as she plays Sarah, the former girlfriend of Walken’s Johnny Smith. When Johnny awakes from a coma, five years have passed, and Sarah is now married to someone else. Jonny also finds that he now possesses an unusual power. Excellent horror flick!
Brooke Adams and Christopher Walken in THE DEAD ZONE (1983).
THE STUFF (1985) – Special Guest Star in Stuff Commercial – appearance in Larry Cohen’s campy horror comedy, starring Michael Moriarty.
SNAPSHOTS (2018) – Patty – Adams’ most recent screen credit, in this drama co-starring Piper Laurie.
All told, Brook Adams has 66 screen credits. A lot of these have been on television.
Born on February 8, 1949, Adams is still actively acting. She has been performing on both the big and small screen since 1963, with her first big screen performance happening in 1971. For me, I’ll always remember Adams for her riveting performance as the very frightened Elizabeth Driscoll in the 1978 version of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS.
Well, that’s it for now. I hope you enjoyed this edition of LEADING LADIES and join me again next time when we look at the career of another lead actress in horror movies.
The pairing of Kevin Costner with Woody Harrelson immediately piqued my interest and had me tuning into the premiere of THE HIGHWAYMEN (2019), Netflix’ latest original streaming movie release.
Costner and Harrelson play Texas Rangers who are called out of retirement to hunt down Bonnie and Clyde in this period piece drama based on a true story.
It’s 1934, and Texas governor Ma Ferguson (Kathy Bates) is fed up with the elusive Bonnie and Clyde. She accepts the advice of prison warden Lee Simmons (John Carroll Lynch) to hire former Texas Ranger Frank Hamer (Kevin Costner) to do what the current slew of FBI agents are unable to do: track down and kill Bonnie and Clyde. Hamer agrees to take the job, and helping him is his former associate Maney Gault (Woody Harrelson).
To do the job, Hamer and Gault have to dust off the cobwebs of retirement and deal with being a lot older, but once they feel they are up to speed, they’re hot on the trail of the infamous outlaws.
I was really into seeing THE HIGHWAYMEN because of the pairing of Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson, but surprisingly the two actors share little chemistry onscreen together.
Costner is very low-key as Frank Hamer, and as such, he just never really came to life for me. I never quite believed he was the infamous Texas Ranger who had killed so many people in the line of duty.
Woody Harrelson fares better as Maney Gault, and Harrelson’s scenes and lines of dialogue were among my favorite in the movie. But his character plays second fiddle to Costner’s and the story never really becomes about him.
And Kathy Bates, John Carroll Lynch, and Kim Dickens all have limited impact with very small roles.
There’s also not a whole lot that’s cinematic about this one. It plays like a mediocre TV movie of old, and watching it at home on Netflix only added to this substandard feel. Director John Lee Hancock even keeps the R-rated violence somehow tame.
Hancock’s previous film THE FOUNDER (2016), a bio pic on McDonald’s controversial “founder” Ray Kroc, which starred Michael Keaton in the lead role, was a much better movie than THE HIGHWAYMEN. In THE FOUNDER, Hancock pushed all the right buttons, including capturing the look and feel of the 1950s. Here in THE HIGHWAYMEN his take on the 1930s is less impressive.
Hancock also directed the critically acclaimed THE BLIND SIDE (2009).
The screenplay by John Fusco focuses completely on Hamer and Gault and strangely spends hardly no time at all on Bonnie and Clyde. In fact, the infamous pair are barely even seen here. It’s a decision that doesn’t really help the story, because even though Hamer and Gault continually talk about how monstrous Bonnie and Clyde are, and even though we see the pair commit murder, because so little time is spent on them we never really feel their menace.
As a result, Hamer’s and Gault’s quest is largely one-sided. It’s hard to join them in their passion when we never see the object of their manhunt.
The dialogue was average, with most of the good lines all going to Woody Harrelson.
I also was looking forward to watching these two characters deal with their advanced years as they hunted down the younger Bonnie and Clyde, but the script doesn’t play up this angle very effectively either.
All in all, I found THE HIGHWAYMEN to be lethargic and lackluster. It never really ignited any sparks, and the two leads surprisingly never really connected.
At the end of the day, THE HIGHWAYMEN was more roadblock than highway.
Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode in HALLOWEEN (1978)
Welcome back to LEADING LADIES, that column where we look at the careers of leading ladies in the movies, especially horror movies.
Up today it’s Jamie Lee Curtis.
Curtis of course burst onto the horror movie scene with her signature role of terrorized babysitter Laurie Strode in John Carpenter’s groundbreaking classic, HALLOWEEN (1978). And with some perfect symmetry, Curtis’ most recent role is once again Laurie Strode in the latest entry in the HALLOWEEN universe, once more titled, curiously enough, HALLOWEEN (2018). Curtis’ career has come full circle. Of course, she still has a whole lot more acting to do.
In HALLOWEEN (1978), Curtis was so memorable as Laurie Strode not because she screamed a lot. She did not scream her way to fame a la Fay Wray fifty-five years earlier in KING KONG (1933). No, Curtis’ performance was noteworthy because she created in Laurie a vulnerable yet resilient character who faced doubts about dating and boys but was more than up to the task of protecting the children she babysat from masked killer Michael Myers.
The original HALLOWEEN is famous because of John Carpenter’s outstanding direction, along with his now iconic music score. I was 14 when HALLOWEEN came out, and I still remember all the hype and excitement surrounding it. Sold out showings, and long lines of people waiting to see it, often spilling outside the theater into the parking lot. I also remember Siskel and Ebert’s initial review of the movie, a review in which they both praised Carpenter’s phenomenal direction. I don’t remember how at 14 my friends and I were able to buy tickets to this R rated feature, but somehow we did, as we saw this one at the theater.
I remember the theater erupting in screams during the movie. I also remember Jamie Lee Curtis. When the movie was done, and I had returned home, I couldn’t get Carpenter’s music out of my head, and I recalled all the scares, and the image of Michael Myers with his now iconic mask, and this actress named Jamie Lee Curtis. There was something about her that really resonated with me. The best way I can describe it is I felt as if Laurie Strode was someone I knew in real life. As I’ve watched and re-watched HALLOWEEN over the years, I’ve attributed this feeling I had back in 1978 to a very authentic performance by Curtis. I felt like I knew her because she acted like a real person.
Here’s a partial look at Curtis’ career, as we examine some of her 74 screen credits:
HALLOWEEN (1978) – Laurie Strode – Curtis’ signature film role was also her film debut. She had appeared in numerous TV shows before this, including COLUMBO (1977) and CHARLIE’S ANGELS (1978) but this was the first time she appeared on the big screen. And she has never looked back. Quite the film debut. In addition to the top-notch direction and music score by John Carpenter, and the presence of Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis is easily one of the best parts of HALLOWEEN (1978).
THE FOG (1980) – Elizabeth Solley – Curtis stars in John Carpenter’s next horror movie following HALLOWEEN. At the time, Carpenter was a victim of his own success. THE FOG was not well-received by critics in 1980. Siskel and Ebert expressed their disappointment, citing that the film lacked a definitive threat, a la Michael Meyers. However, the movie’s reputation has strengthened over the decades. It’s now considered one of Carpenter’s best films. Not only that, but it’s high on a lot of people’s lists for best horror movies period. I definitely like this one a lot. I still prefer HALLOWEEN though. Curtis, for her part, is fine here, but her role is not the lead, and she makes much less of an impact than she did in HALLOWEEN.
Jamie Lee Curtis in THE FOG (1980)
PROM NIGHT (1980) – Kim – John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN gave birth to the slasher movie, and suddenly everyone and their grandmother was making horror movies with masked knife-wielding killers terrorizing teenagers. This one’s not directed by Carpenter, but does star Jamie Lee Curtis. It did well on its initial release and has established a reputation as a decent slasher flick, but this one never did anything for me. For me, not even the presence of Jamie Lee Curtis could save this HALLOWEEN rip-off.
TERROR TRAIN (1980) – Alana – another crazed killer attacking teenagers, this time on a train.
ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981) – Narrator/Computer Voice (uncredited) – An uncredited Curtis provides the voice of the narrator and computer in this exciting futuristic crime thriller by John Carpenter, notable also for Kurt Russell’s memorable performance as Snake Plissken.
HALLOWEEN II (1981) – Laurie Strode – Inferior sequel to HALLOWEEN. Rick Rosenthal takes over the directing duties from John Carpenter, and his vision here is far less impressive. Curtis is okay, but sadly, spends most of the movie confined to a hospital bed and in and out of a medicated stupor. While this really is not a good movie, it is actually better than most of the later HALLOWEEN films, some of which are really, really bad.
With Donald Pleasence in HALLOWEEN II (1981)
HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH (1983) – Curfew Announcer/Telephone Operator (uncredited) – A disaster upon its initial release, this was part of John Carpenter’s vision to create a HALLOWEEN series featuring different horror stories each year and not necessarily be about Michael Myers, but film audiences wanted Myers and didn’t really accept this movie. That being said, this one has enjoyed a growing reputation over the decades, and there are some (not me) who consider this to be the best of all the HALLOWEEN movies.
TRADING PLACES (1983) – Ophelia – This funny comedy by director John Landis stars Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy. Murphy, who was insanely popular at the time due to his stint on Saturday Night Live, is the main reason to see this one, but Jamie Lee Curtis is also hilarious in her role as prostitute Ophelia. She makes the jump into a non-horror movie quite nicely.
GRANDVIEW U.S.A. (1984) – Michelle “Mike” Cody – Drama in which Curtis co-stars with C. Thomas Howell and Patrick Swayze that asks the question, can the young folks from Grandview U.S.A. pursue their dreams and shed their small town roots? Nothing special.
A FISH CALLED WANDA (1988) – Wanda Gershwitz – co-stars with John Cleese, Kevin Kline, and Michael Palin in this uproarious comedy written by Cleese. Kline won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
Michael Palin, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Kevin Kline in A FISH CALLED WANDA (1988)
FOREVER YOUNG (1992) – Claire Cooper – co-stars with Mel Gibson who plays a 1939 pilot awoken from a cryogenic sleep in 1992. Written by J.J. Abrams.
TRUE LIES (1994) – Helen Tasker – plays the wife of a spy, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, in this entertaining action comedy by director James Cameron.
FIERCE CREATURES (1997) – Willa Weston – Reunited with her co-stars from A FISH CALLED WANDA, John Cleese, Kevin Kline, and Michael Palin, this time with lesser results.
HALLOWEEN H20 – TWENTY YEARS LATER (1998) -Laurie Strode- Curtis returns to the HALLOWEEN series after a three film hiatus, and the emphasis returns to Laurie Strode, still dealing with the trauma caused by Michael Myers twenty years earlier. The masked killer of course once more sets his sights on terrorizing Laurie. Some girls have all the fun. This film was well-received when it first came out, but it hasn’t aged all that well. That being said, I still like this one a lot.
Facing fear in HALLOWEEN H20 (1998)
HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION (2002)- Laurie Strode – Curtis returns as Laurie Strode for about two seconds before her character is abruptly killed by Michael Myers in the most undramatic and anticlimactic of ways. By far, the absolute worst of all the HALLOWEEN movies.
FREAKY FRIDAY (2003) – Tess Coleman – co-stars with Lindsay Lohan in this remake of the Disney classic.
SCREAM QUEENS (TV Series) (2015-2016) – Dean Cathy Munsch- TV horror/comedy series about a— you got it— a crazed serial killer terrorizing, among other places, a college campus.
HALLOWEEN (2018) – Laurie Strode – Curtis comes full circle, playing Laurie Strode once again, this time in a movie that ignores every other HALLOWEEN movie in the series except the original. Lots of hype and box office success, but ultimately this one was a letdown. Curtis’ scenes and storyline are the best parts, as she is once again still dealing with the trauma from Michael Myer’s original attack, now forty years earlier. Everything else in this film is pretty bad. A major disappointment.
Taking on Michael Myers yet again in HALLOWEEN (2018)
And that wraps things up for this edition of LEADING LADIES.
Join me again next time when we check out the career of another Leading Lady.
Barbara Shelley in DRACULA – PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966).
Welcome back to LEADING LADIES, that column where we look at lead actresses in horror movies.
Up today it’s Barbara Shelley, a woman whose talent and beauty adorned some of Hammer Films’ best shockers. Of course, Shelley starred in more than just Hammer horror movies, appearing in all sorts of movies and TV shows as well. Here’s a partiallook at her long and successful career, focusing mostly on her horror films:
MAN IN HIDING (1953) – Barbara Shelley’s first screen credit, under her real name, as Barbara Kowin, in this British whodunit murder mystery starring Paul Henreid and Lois Maxwell.
BALLATA TRAGICA (1954) – Betty Mason- Shelley’s first credit as Barbara Shelley in this Italian crime drama.
CAT GIRL (1957) – Leonora Johnson- Shelley’s first horror movie, a variation of the more famous CAT PEOPLE (1942), where she plays a young woman affected by a family curse that warns she will turn into a murderous leopard when angered. Some girls have all the fun.
BLOOD OF THE VAMPIRE (1958) – Madeleine – One of my favorite Barbara Shelley movies, this atmospheric horror movie about a mad scientist named Dr. Callistratus (Donald Wolfit) conducting strange blood experiments in a creepy prison is a subtle exercise in “thinking man’s horror.” It looks and plays like a Hammer Film, but it’s not, but it was written by Jimmy Sangster, who wrote some of Hammer’s best shockers.
VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (1960) – Anthea Zellaby – Probably my favorite Barbara Shelley movie, this science fiction classic about the strange children with the glowing eyes is one of the best science fiction horror movies ever made. Also stars George Sanders, Michael Gwynn, and Laurence Naismith.
THE SHADOW OF THE CAT (1961) – Beth Venable – Shelley’s first Hammer Film, another cat tale involving murder and the supernatural. Also starring Andre Morrell and Freda Jackson.
THE SAINT (1962) – Valerie North – appeared in the episode “The Covetous Headsman” of this classic TV show starring Roger Moore.
THE GORGON (1964) – Carla Hoffman- co-stars with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in this Hammer shocker that is topnotch throughout except for an ending that exposes some very weak special effects when the titlular monster is finally shown on screen. Major role for Shelley, as her character is integral to the plot. Directed by Hammer’s best director, Terence Fisher.
THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E (1965) – Bryn Watson – starred in the episode “The Odd Man Affair” of this classic secret agent TV show starring Robert Vaughn and David McCallum.
DRACULA- PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966) – Helen Kent – Becomes Dracula’s victim in this excellent Hammer Dracula movie, the first direct sequel to HORROR OF DRACULA (1958) with Christopher Lee reprising his role as Dracula once again. Also starring Andrew Keir, Francis Matthews, Suzan Farmer, Thorley Walters, and Philip Latham. Directed by Terence Fisher.
RASPUTIN: THE MAD MONK (1966) – Sonia – Reunited with DRACULA-PRINCE OF DARKNESS co-stars Christopher Lee, Francis Matthews, and Suzan Farmer in this Hammer Film which also used the same sets from that DRACULA sequel.
THE AVENGERS (1961-1967) – Venus/Susan Summers – “From Venus With Love” (1967)/ “Dragonsfield” (1961)- Two appearances on the spy TV series starring Patrick Macnee.
FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH (1967)- Barbara Judd – Classic Hammer science fiction movie, part of their Quatermass series, originally titled QUATERMASS AND THE PIT. Stars Andrew Keir as Professor Quatermass. This one’s got an impressive mystery and tells a neat story. Also starring James Donald and Julian Glover.
GHOST STORY (1974) – Matron – Haunted house tale not to be confused with Peter Straub’s novel or the 1981 film based on Straub’s novel. Shelley’s final performance in a theatrical release.
DOCTOR WHO (1984) – Sorasta – appeared in the four part episode “Planet of Fire” of this classic science fiction TV show. Peter Davison played the Doctor.
UNCLE SILAS (1989) – Cousin Monica – Barbara Shelley’s final screen credit to date in this horror TV mini-series starring Peter O’Toole as the mysterioius Uncle Silas.
Barbara Shelley was born on February 13, 1932. She passed away on January 4, 2021 at the age of 88.
I hope you enjoyed this partial look at the career of actress Barbara Shelley, one of the more influential actresses from 1950s-1960s British horror cinema.
Join me again next time when we look at the career of another actress in horror cinema in the next edition of LEADING LADIES.