LEADING LADIES: SUZAN FARMER

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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.

As always, thanks for reading!

—Michael

INVASION OF THE CORONAVIRUS

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theaters closed

 

As I sit  down to write this morning on Sunday, March 22, 2020, I am not penning my usual movie review of the latest theatrical release, and the reason I’m not doing this is all the movie theaters in my area are closed.

As they are for most of you. As are many other businesses. And even if they were open, we couldn’t go to them, because we are practicing social distancing and staying at home.

And we’re doing these things because of the unprecedented spread of the novel coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19.

No, this is not the plot of a new science fiction movie. This is all very real.

So, I thought it best that before I continue writing this blog as if nothing has happened, and I will very soon, that I take a moment to pause, reflect, and think about why it is that life suddenly has changed for all of us.

And then I’ll get right back to writing this blog, writing about movies, especially horror movies, and returning to business as usual. Fortunately, writing a blog is a solitary endeavor that is not impacted by social distancing. So, the blog and the writing will continue.

But first—.

What is happening right now is not normal. Nor should it become the new normal. We should do everything in our power to make sure that what is happening now won’t happen again. Ever.

Oh, I’m not saying we won’t have other pandemics to deal with. We will. The experts say as much, and I believe them.

What I’m talking about is preparation.

Right now, to slow the spread of COVID-19, people are being asked to stay home from work, to not congregate in groups of ten or more, and some states here in the U.S. have mandated this. In fact, I’d wager to guess that this will be the wave of the immediate future, that the majority of states will follow suit and declare the same mandate.

When I’m not writing about movies or writing horror fiction, I’m a middle school English teacher. Students can no longer come to school, and like other schools, we are now teaching remotely, which with today’s available technology, is actually quite cool, that my students and I can all see and speak to each other at the same time from different locations. That being said, I wish this change hadn’t been forced on them. They deserve better.

I’m a firm believer in being prepared.  Whether I’m teaching an English class or directing a school play, I am preparing way in advance. With our drama program, for example, I spend months preparing the students for the performance, and I consider worst case scenarios, for instance, that a student may be ill the night of the performance and unable to perform, and I have a plan to deal with it. I’ve actually had this happen, and thanks to our preparation efforts, other students have stepped in and taken over the role. Likewise, when the week of the show arrives, the students are prepared and ready to go, and while nerves are natural, they are able to relax and approach the performance with a cool confidence knowing that we have prepared for everything and pretty much nothing will catch us off guard, and if it does, because of our preparation, we can make adjustments on the fly. I’ve done this as well, doing rewrites in between acts to fix a problem.

Now, I’m not suggesting that preparing for a small middle school play is similar to preparing for something as huge as COVID-19. What I’m saying is regardless of the endeavor there is value to preparation. It goes a long way.

Supposedly, our federal government knew of the dangers of COVID-19 as early as January and little or no action was taken until now. I do not intend to get political here. Instead, since what I am hearing is the main reason states are shutting down isn’t only because this is a deadly and contagious virus, but more so, because our present health care system is not prepared to hospitalize the potential number of patients needing hospitalization at the same time, because the stockpile of medical supplies— which in years past used to be stored in hospitals but in recent years cost saving decisions opted against this type of storage— is not there, I’m simply suggesting that it would seem to me that if the federal government knew this was coming, then preparations to stockpile the necessary supplies should have begun back in January.

My point in all this? If being prepared means fewer deaths and less social distancing and fewer businesses closing, I would certainly hope that future administrations would learn from the mistakes made here in 2020 and fix them, so that the next time, we’re not telling school children they have to stay in their houses and not interact with anyone else other than family members in their household for potentially months at a time. If this can be prevented by early preparation, then we need to make sure this happens in the future.

And that’s my message this morning. This is not normal.  And our leaders should be working as hard they can— as should we—- to make sure this does not happen again.

In the meantime, since it is happening now, and we’re pretty much all practicing social distancing, I will continue to write columns on movies, especially horror movies. There’ll be columns on classic movies of yesteryear, and perhaps some new releases that are available streaming at home.

I will continue to have fun writing about these movies, and sharing these columns with you, in the hope that you will continue to have fun reading them.

Stay healthy, happy, and positive, be kind, support one another, and most of all, stay prepared.

As always, thanks for reading!

—Michael