Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The many demands of John Carradine

John Carradine was a fine actor and the sire of a prodigious line of cinematic talent, but for fans of trash cinema his lasting legacy is his apparent willingness to appear in virtually any film so long as the check cleared. Z-grade directors looking to bolster their casts with some name recognition could always count on John. One would think that drive-in audiences would have eventually caught on that John Carradine’s name on a movie poster usually meant little more than three minutes’ worth of a gaunt old man putting forth the least possible effort, but somehow filmmakers considered this sneaky Carradinery a viable strategy for at least three decades.

But was John Carradine really all about the money, as popular opinion would have it? Looking over his filmography, one might draw the conclusion that Mr. Carradine was actually a prima donna on par with Marlon Brando, and that the low-budget likes of Fred Olen Ray and Coleman Francis were the only directors willing to cater to his insane demands. Let’s take a look at some of his defining roles and the caveats that presumably came with each.

Frankenstein Island (1981, directed by Jerry Warren)
“I’ll do it… but only if I don’t have to have any contact with the other actors! Or change out of my pajamas!”

See some prime pajama-ranting at 1:18:44

Invisible Invaders (1959, directed by Edward L. Cahn)
“I’ll do it… but only if my character is dead and/or invisible for the bulk of my performance!”

See regular John from 1:58 to 2:10 , Invisi-John starting at 18:30

The Tomb (1986, directed by Fred Olen Ray)
“I’ll do it… but only if I don’t have to get out of my chair or deliver more than half my lines remotely intelligibly!”

Monstroid: It Came from the Lake (1980, directed by Kenneth Hartford)
"I'll do it... But I'm not shaving this dopey mustache! And everybody else has to grow one too!"

See the 'stache at 9:54

Night Train to Mundo Fine (1966, directed by Coleman Francis)
“I’ll do it… but only as a completely gratuitous framing device. And I get to SING!”

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