Monday, November 16, 2009

GREAT STUFF: Clu Gulager

"Return of the Living Dead" was a movie in my early to mid-teens that I was afraid to watch. The commercials and trailers never really gave it the "horror-comedy" vibe that the film actually carried with it. Shame that.  Make no mistake, the movie has scary moments, and its gory as hell, but has some very great laughs, albeit some are truly of the uncomfortable vibe.

But, as I always do, I digress.

I have a habit, which movie geeks do, (which I am not, I consider myself an, um.....informed fan) of frequently following movie commentaries, especially of my favorite movies and film-makers. Bruce Campbell/Sam Raimi doing "Evil Dead II" is hilarious and informative. John Carpenter and Kurt Russell's commentaries of any of their collaborations are really good stuff. Especially "The Thing". Philip Kaufman's take on his remake of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", while dry, is incredible.

When listening to the commentary track of Dan O'Bannon for his "Return of the Living Dead", he frequently endorses the performance of Clu Gulager, the male lead in the film, for his professionalism and performance.  Despite his veteran status of the "old school", his ability to "get" the tone of the film after not doing so initially is also complimented richly.

Then he made the bombshell statement that Gulager, during filming, punched O'Bannon in the face. He said it almost like a description of someone throwing a balled up piece of paper in a trashcan. Like a non-monumental piece of minutiae.  It was so matter-of-fact, I found myself chuckling alone in the dark, empty living room.

Gulager, for the uninformed, was a successful "method" actor dating back to the late 50's, doing both frequent movie and television work and finding plenty of both. He's one of those actors you recognize immediately, and feel a strange sort of what I call "familiarity comfort" when seeing him. It's the same vibe I get from seeing Rory Calhoun, Cornel Wilde, Christopher George, and Cliff Robertson.

By the mid 80's his career had come full circle, and here he was starring in a low budget zombie movie, in a brief era when those weren't being made. God love him.

Even in his 80's, he's still popping up.  Most memorably in his son John's horror film, "Feast", playing a full-on, ear-ringed, bar-tending bad-ass. That's just plain awesome.

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