Monday, October 21, 2013

Tor Johnson

ceramic 10cm high
signed, numbered, dated by Roman Scott, 2013

Tor Johnson (1903-1971) was a Swedish actor chiefly known for his roles as lumbering types in auteur-directed films. Alas, not Ingmar Bergman, but Ed Wood B-movies.

A former wrestler, he was a big man who looked fierce when he wanted to. However, most accounts have it that he was of a sweet disposition, easy to work with. Rudolph Grey's excellent biography of Ed Wood, Nightmare of Ecstasy, has some good anecdotes about Tor. But it's hard to find any compelling biographical info from the Internet at this time (such a common problem we encounter when researching pre-digital folk.)
One meme that has gathered steam over the last decades is that Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space is the worst film ever made. I disagree; such an entertaining film could never be judged as very bad. I will put forth a more reasonable candidate for worst film ever, in which Tor Johnson also starred: The Beast of Yucca Flats, by Coleman Francis. This film is execrable. The plot, acting, photography and editing are dreadful. And yet, even in this atrocity of boredom, Tor Johnson has a presence, something that sticks with you. He is perhaps an example of biological sculpture, a bodily form interesting outside of drama's requirements.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Ernest Borgnine


earthenware toothpick cup
9cm high
inscribed: Cabbie, No.2, Roman Scott 2013

Ernest Borgine (ne' Ermes Borgnino) may be my favorite of all character actors. Certainly a scene-stealer, he needn't have had first billing to remain emblazoned in the mind. For instance, his portrayal of  Cabbie in John Carpenter's Escape from New York is equally strong as the morose Kurt Russells' Snake Plissken, or Lee Van Cleef's reptilian police commissioner. In this film Borgnine even had the last word, posthumously. Dying only last year, immortal Ernest is gone, but certainly not forgotten!