A Living Legend

Today’s post is a bit of a walk down memory lane for me, and a celebration of the charmed life of talented actor Tim Curry. Today the celebrated English actor turns 71, and it seems only fitting to take a look at his career highlights.

I was a fan of Tim Curry as an actor long before I could put a name to a face. Or a voice for that matter. A quick search on IMDB.com shows that his career stretches all the way back to 1968, which is impressive for any actor or actress. When you consider the sheer variety of roles he’s played, it’s even more staggering.

My first encounter didn’t occur until 1992, with the release of FernGully: The Last Rainforest. Curry plays Hexxus, the pollution monster trying to take over and destroy a beautiful rainforest. (Curry worked with memorable talent such as Robin Williams, Samantha MathisChristian Slater, Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong, and Tone Loc.) Curry takes on many forms as Hexxus, including toxic slime and the badass skeleton-tar creature pictured. Kudos to the animators, who captured Curry’s dramatic movements for this part.

My next encounters weren’t much more grownup. He appeared in several animated series that I used to watch as a kid growing up in the 90s. I confess that I only know this because I am perusing his IMDB.com page so that I can get the years and titles of his performances correct.

I was in high school when I first saw the 1990 miniseries Stephen King’s IT on VHS. (I think we borrowed it from the library or rented it. Does that date me, or what?!) Even then, seeing Curry was more of a coincidence than anything else. As a teenybopper, I had a raging crush on Jonathan Brandis, who plays the young Bill Denbrough, the leader of the Loser’s Club. Even so, Curry stole absolutely every scene in which he appeared. His presence was so commanding that he stole even the scenes where he wasn’t present, just based on the anticipation of his appearance.

If I had to choose his most iconic role, I would choose Pennywise the Dancing Clown. He was terrifying. Unpredictable. Nasty. Even when he was in his clown-guise, you could still feel the horror lurking just behind his eyes.

A close runner-up for me is Cardinal Richelieu in 1993’s The Three Musketeers. He’s slimy, devious, and downright scary as the Cardinal attempting to undermine a king and secure an alliance with an enemy country.

However, when most people think of Curry, they no doubt think of his first major movie role, Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. He first portrayed the flamboyant and outrageous character in a London stage production of the same name. Curry absolutely steals the show in every scene as he struts around with complete confidence in his lingerie and heels getup. And that’s to say nothing of his facial expressions! Curry is one of the most
expressive actors in the business.

While doing research for this post, I came across news that in 2012 Curry had suffered a massive stroke. He has been confined to a wheelchair and his speech has been affected, but from what I can tell the incident has not affected his spirit in the least. He is still as determined as ever, going so far as to star in the 2016 production, The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again.

If you are somehow not already a fan of Tim Curry, then I suggest you watch the following movies to become better acquainted. (And yes – there are some kid’s films in there, because his voice-over acting is superb.)

Over his long career, Curry has played these and many other roles. What was your favorite movie?

 

Got coulrophobia?

I was wondering what to do on this blog in honor of April Fool’s Day. I’m not much into pulling pranks, and I don’t want to deviate too far from my usual fare. (Not that I’d probably be able to, considering I pretty much breathe horror, sci-fi, and the generally absurd.) Historically, April Fool’s Day has either been really aggravating or really boring. I hate being suckered by false celebrity death news, and my friends and I have never been much for pulling pranks. Most pranks seem mean. I guess humor is in the eye of the beholder.

In this same vein, I started thinking about what else is polarizing in terms of humor. The first thing that came to mind was clowns. There’s actually a clinical term for fear of clowns. Coulrophobia. Sounds terminal, doesn’t it? My uncle hates clowns. He was the person that introduced me to Killer Klowns from Outer Space when I was younger. While I don’t necessarily find them funny, I’m not afraid of them. At least not clinically anyway. Circus clowns are alright, not necessarily funny but not scary either. Renaissance Fair clowns, on the other hand, are downright horrifying. I hate the ones that walk around on stilts and don’t say anything. They just leer at you from their height.

Being that it’s April Fool’s Day, let’s take a look at some clown representation in books and movies. This is not a comprehensive list by any means, but more a sampling. If you think of any others or just want to join the discussion, feel free to comment at the end of this post!

BOOKS


  • Stephen King’s IT
    – The Loser’s Club of Derry, Maine is terrorized by Pennywise the Dancing Clown. While initally that doesn’t sound like much of a crisis, it turns out that Pennywise is actually a monster straight out of space who capitalizes on children’s fears. When the children grow up they are drawn back to Derry because Pennywise is on the rampage again. They must band together to defeat their old nemesis before it takes the lives of more children.
  • Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes – A carnival arrives mysteriously after midnight the week before Halloween. With it comes death and terror, and it’s up to two friends to fight the dark carnival.

MOVIES AND TV

  • Stephen King’s IT – The 1990 tv mini-series introduced viewers to Pennywise and the Loser’s Club. This project showcased Tim Curry in one of his best roles – as Pennywise himself. The mini-series couldn’t possibly hope to encompass the entire book, but it made sure to get the point across and was suitably creepy. (I’m super excited for the remake, which stars Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things fame!)
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes – This is an adaptation of the book by the same name. I confess that I haven’t seen this in years, but I do remember thinking it was absolutely creepy when I was a kid.
  • Clown – This movie is both sad and terrifying. Two loving parents have booked a clown for their son’s clown-themed birthday party. When the clown is overbooked, it’s up to Kent to find a replacement clown for his son. He’s in luck, as the house he’s getting ready to put up on the market has an old clown suit in a trunk that just happens to fit him perfectly. The only problem is that once he puts it on he can’t remove it, and he starts to change. As it turns out, the origins of the clown are not so innocent, and Kent and his family are dragged into the reality of the Cloyne, an ancient demon.
  • Killer Klowns from Outer Space – This 1988 classic features aliens that come to Earth in a big circus tent. They look like clowns, but not the kind you’d ever want to meet. They set about capturing people and turning them into big light-bulb shaped cotton candy, which they then eat with a straw. Sort of like outer space spiders. A group of teenagers attempt to stop the Klown’s mayhem.
  • American Horror Story (Freakshow) – Twisty the Clown has always wanted to make children laugh. Some of the carnies don’t take favorably to the attention he’s paid by the children and families visiting the traveling freakshow. They start an awful rumor which tears Twisty’s world apart. He is a figure both terrifying and sad, and well worth watching the otherwise mediocre season just to see.
  • DC’s The Joker – The Joker has been interpreted in a variety of ways by not only several actors, but also several authors and artists in the comic book world. In each iteration, he has the typical colorful hair and white makeup. The extent to which he uses humor deviates based on who is doing the interpretation, but in every version he is the clown.
  • DC’s Harley Quinn – When doing brief research into the archetype of the clown, or fool, I found out that in theater it was used as a foil for the archetype of the harlequin. The harlequin was sly, stealthy, devious, and devilish. The perfect opposite of the bumbling clown. Originally introduced in Batman: The Animated Series, she quickly won over fans and has made her way into the comics, movies, and DC Comics merchandise line. Although her costume has changed over the years, a part of the harlequin is always included in her design.

Honorable Mention

  • The Cabin in the Woods – A group of teenagers heads up to a cabin for a weekend of sex, drinking, and general youth. Very quickly their weekend is derailed and they are left fighting for their lives. Two of the group, Marty and Dana, find themselves in a vault that houses horrors from the old world. A veritable stable of nightmares. Wouldn’t you know that one of them is a clown? As far as I can tell, it’s a nod to Pennywise, wearing the same garish colors and shock of red hair.
  • Frumpy the Clown – This series of comics from Judd Winick features a normal suburban family who happens to live with a disgruntled clown named Frumpy. Frumpy smokes cigarettes, drinks coffee, and advocates anarchy. The children love him. The parents are largely unsure.
  • Funcom’s The Park – I recently devoted an entire post to this Secret World spin-off game. It takes place in a haunted amusement park after dark. Clown imagery, while not necessarily frequent, is extremely effective and terrifying when put to use. I highly recommend playing this game in pitch dark with headphones.
  • Frightworld – My local haunted house features five themed houses. Almost every year they feature a clown house, which is done up in garish blacklight paint and features distorted carnival imagery and mocking clown actors.

 

 

 

 

As stated previously, this is not meant to be an exhaustive list by any means. Just a sampling from TV, movies, and books. If there’s anything else you’d like to add, drop by the comments section!