Archive for the ‘Tales from the Crypt’ Tag

Patrick Magee: Food? All Right?   7 comments

A Clockwork Orange

Perenially vexed and menacing with a gravelly voice that retained just a hint of his Irish roots, Patrick Magee played doctors, policemen, military officers, and the occasional psycho in films and television starting in the late 1950s. Though he worked most often on the British stage, Magee alternated theatrical roles with TV and film appearances, working with directors like Joseph Losey, Roger Corman, Francis Ford Coppola, and Stanley Kubrick.

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Kubrick films Magee and Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange.

Born in Armagh in Northern Ireland in 1922, Patrick George McGee, who changed his name to Magee, began performing Shakespeare and other classics in Ireland in the early 1950s. After coming to London for a series of Irish plays, he met Samuel Beckett and recorded some of Beckett’s plays for BBC Radio. Beckett and Harold Pinter, who Magee acted with in Ireland, remained close to him throughout his career and the two writers often requested Magee for pivotal roles in their plays and film adaptations. Beckett even wrote Krapp’s Last Tape with him in mind and said, while writing the play, Magee’s “voice was the one which I heard in my head.”

NPG x127341; Patrick Magee as Krapp in 'Krapp's Last Tape' by Ida Kar
These whale songs aren’t as calming as I had hoped.

After a handful of appearances in British television shows including Dial 999 and the BBC Sunday-Night Theatre, Magee started working in small, British crime films like Concrete Jungle (1960), directed by Joseph Losey. Stanley Baker stars in the film about the brutal lives of small-time criminals both in and out of prison. Magee has a small, but memorable part as a sadistic warder.

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Magee sizes up Baker.

Magee married another Armagh native, Belle Sherry about this time and later had twins, Mark and Caroline. Despite Magee’s bouts with alcoholism, the couple stayed married until his death in 1982.

His stoic, aristocratic manner often tinged with cruelty and/or wisdom worked well in his roles in Roger Corman’s The Young Racers and Francis Ford Coppola’s Dementia 13. In the modern gothic horror, Dementia 13, Magee is Dr. Caleb, a creepy physician who seems to live on the estate of the wacky Haloran clan during a series of grisly murders. Until the end of the film, we’re never sure whether Magee is good or evil, but he plays the part like he has a locked room in his house where he keeps his collection of femurs.

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“That’s right, little mouse. Just one more step and you’re in a sandwich.”

Corman’s The Masque of the Red Death (1964) came next. Magee’s evil in this one. Then, in Bryan Forbes’ phenomenal Séance on a Wet Afternoon (1964), he’s a police detective tasked with finding a kidnapped child. In Zulu (1964) Cy Endfield’s vivid retelling of the massacre at Rorke’s Drift, he plays a military surgeon. Sensing a pattern here?

Patrick Magee Seance on a Wet Afternoon
“I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV. I’m a detective? Oh. Nevermind.”

The wonderful Amicus film, The Skull, which, by the way, is awesome, has Magee as a police medical examiner and stars a couple nobodies named Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. It also features a malicious floating skull, so you should probably run out and watch it right now.

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The skull in question

In the 1965 film, Die, Monster, Die! Magee and Boris Karloff do Lovecraft and again, he plays a doctor. The film isn’t as good as the title, but it does involve radiation and large plants.

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Not the plant in question

The skull I mentioned earlier belongs or belonged, depending how you look at it, to the Marquis de Sade, who Magee played later in Marat/Sade (1967). The film takes place in an insane asylum in France and has the famous sadist directing a play about good and evil set during the French Revolution. Magee won a Tony for playing the role on Broadway.

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“You’re rushing it. Relax and follow through.”

William Friedkin directed the disturbing Harold Pinter play, The Birthday Party (1968) in which evil torturers, Magee and Sydney Tafler, team up against a vulnerable Robert Shaw. I’m sorry to say I haven’t seen this one yet, but after reading the description, it jumped to the top of my watch list.

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“THAT BOOK WAS DUE ON THE 14th!”

Magee got a chance to do some serious emoting in the 1971 Stanley Kubrick film. A Clockwork Orange. He plays the writer, Mr. Alexander, victimized by Alex (Malcolm McDowell) who exacts revenge using a little Ludwig van, big speakers, and a plate of pasta. Kubrick cast Magee in Barry Lyndon too. In the sprawling epic, he plays sympathetic gambler, the Chevalier du Balibari, who takes young Lyndon under his wing.

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I love Barry Lyndon, but hahahahahahaha.

My favorite Magee performances are in the Amicus films The Skull, Tales From the Crypt, Asylum, and And Now the Screaming Starts!. I’m a big fan of the Amicus portmanteau films and Tales From the Crypt and Asylum, in which he plays a blind man pushed a bit too far, and a doctor in a mental institution, are two of my favorites. All of the films here were directed by Freddie Francis and Roy Ward Baker and they’re terrific.

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“I sat on my keys.”

Magee even shows up in a Charles Bronson classic, Telefon as a Russian KGB officer and in The Oscar-winning Chariots of Fire, as Lord Cadogan, head of the British Olympic committee. His last film roles were in Roy Ward Baker’s The Monster Club with Vincent Price and Lucio Fulci’s The Black Cat in 1981. In the Fulci film based on the Edgar Allen Poe story, Magee plays a psychic who converses with the dead and has a cat. When he has a bad day, Magee employs his cat as a hitman hitcat.

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Patrick Magee in disguise

Between the films in this article, Magee also acted in Antigone, King Lear, many television series, and a host of stage plays. He appeared in Krapp’s Last Tape, the play Beckett wrote with him in mind, in the theatre and on TV as a part of the British anthology series, Thirty-Minute Theatre in 1972.

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“I’ll divide my kingdom up and give it away. It’ll be great. Trust me.”

Earlier this year (July 2017), the Ulster History Circle honored the life of Patrick Magee by placing a blue plaque in Edward Street, Armagh, Ireland where he was born. Fellow Irish actor, Stephen Rea unveiled the memorial.

Patrick Magee had a long, successful career in both stage and screen. Though he tended to play authority figures on the edge of sanity, he had the talent to play a wide range of characters. He’s even in two films with exclamation points in the titles, which can’t be bad. Next time you serve your family dinner, remember his patented method to stop unwanted chatter.

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I wrote this piece as a part of the What a Character blogathon run by Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club, Kellee of Outspoken and Freckled, and Aurora of Once Upon a Screen. Thank you, ladies, for organizing this for the sixth time!

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Tales from the Crypt (1972)   3 comments

crypt poster

Five strangers, lost underground during a guided tour of some catacombs, find their way into a stone crypt. The door closes behind them locking them in with Sir Ralph Richardson clad in a monkshood.

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Who wants to play charades?

The crypt keeper (Richardson) commands them to sit and proceeds to tell them why he’s summoned them. This anthology horror film brought to you by the good folks at Amicus Productions consists of five stories originally found in the comic books of William Gaines. Written by Gaines, Al Feldstein, and Johnny Craig and adapted for the screen by Milton Subotsky, Tales from the Crypt was the fourth portmanteau horror film made by Amicus. Patterned after the Ealing Studios’ 1945 film Dead of Night, the popular films told each character’s separate horror tale to its captive audience.

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Did anyone see an ant?

The first story, “And All Through the House” stars Joan Collins, domestic bliss, and Santa. In “Reflection of Death”, Ian Hendry kisses his wife and kids and goes for a ride. “Poetic Justice” stars Peter Cushing as a sweet old man grieving the death of his wife. He loves children and dogs and has nothing but good on his mind. His evil neighbors find his quaint ways too messy for their fashionable neighborhood.

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Why are they so mean?

“Wish You Were Here” is a modern take on W.W. Jacobs’ story “The Monkey’s Paw”. The final tale, “Blind Alleys” stars Patrick Magee and Nigel Patrick in a memorable segment which reminds you about that thing they always say about karma.

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Even my kids think I’m creepy.

Full of hyperbole and graphic violence, the stories’ comic background give the film a theatrical flair. They pull you in and the performances ground the film. Full of seasoned actors, Tales from the Crypt is believable in spite of its over the top storylines.
Freddie Francis, who won two Oscars for cinematography (Sons and Lovers, Glory) and many British and European awards and nominations for films like The Elephant Man and Cape Fear directs this film as a straight horror/thriller and can ratchet up the suspense when he has to. He trusts his cast of veteran character actors to come through and they do. Joan Collins goes a bit over the top in her segment, but that’s why we love her.

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I brought dip.

I’ve long been a fan of anthologies and Amicus knows how to make them. Hammer gets all the glory, but I prefer these lower budget stories. We’ve seen the actors before and the sets are recycled, but the stories are a lot of fun.

In reading about this film I found out that Peter Cushing wanted the part of Arthur Grimsdyke.  Originally cast in “Wish You Were Here”, Cushing requested that he play the part of the kindly widower instead.  He had just lost his wife in real life and was instructed to play himself.  It’s a sweet role.

If you like anthology horror as much as I do, please check out my review of Vault of Horror also on this blog.

Oh I almost forgot.  My favorite part of Tales from the Crypt was when the crypt keeper, Sir Ralph Richardson first appeared and my teenaged daughter said, “Hey, is this Time Bandits?”  Smile-inducing.

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Clean up all this evil.

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