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22 March 2017: Spaghetti Western legend Tomas Milian has passed away.

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The Italian Western and Euro-cult film star Tomas Milian passed away on 22 March 2017. Milian was noted for starring in Spaghetti Westerns – such as The Big Gundown (La resa dei conti, Sergio Sollima, 1966), Face to Face (Faccia a faccia, Sergio Sollima, 1967), Django Kill (Se sei vivo spara, Giulio Questi, 1967), Run, Man, Run (Corri uomo corri, Sergio Sollima, 1968), Tepepa (Giulio Petroni, 1968) and Compañeros (Vamos a matar, compañeros, Sergio Corbucci, 1970) – that had strong political subtexts. Many of these films were set during the Mexican Revolution, which allowed Milian to play proletarian everymen who emerged victorious from the situations of oppression that they initially found themselves in. As such the actor once suggested that he had become a recognizable symbol of poverty and revolution to the third world cinemagoers who watched his politically charged films. When the vogue for Italian Westerns began to fade in the early 1970s, Milian was able to successfully switch genres and become a star of the Italian poliziottesco (police/crime) films.

25 January 2017: Renowned British actor John Hurt has passed away

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The acclaimed British actor John Hurt passed away on 25 January 2017. Hurt had a long and diverse career during which he starred in a wide variety of films and television shows that ranged from intense and worthy dramas to more popular fare. He was a well-known and well-liked actor with an international profile and his work won him several top awards. But for me his career was defined by the more esoteric projects that he chose to involve himself with. His appearances in films such as Jacques Demy’s The Pied Piper (1972), Freddie Francis’ The Ghoul (1975), Jerzy Skolimowski’s The Shout (1978), Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), David Lynch’s The Elephant Man (1980), Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy (2004), Iain Softley’s The Skeleton Key (2005), James McTeigue’s V for Vendetta (2005) and John Hillcoat’s The Proposition (2005) ensured that his resume included a sizeable number of genuine cult classics.

26 September 2016: cult film director Herschell Gordon Lewis has passed away

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The American cult film director Herschell Gordon Lewis passed away on 26 September 2016. Operating on the margins of America’s independent drive-in cinema circuits during the early 1960s, Lewis started his career by making marketable exploitation films in the “nudie cutie” and “roughie” genres. In 1963 he created a new exploitation genre of his own – the “gore” film – when he directed the proto-slasher flick Blood Feast. That film’s high box office returns resulted in a string of similarly gory ventures which included Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964), Color Me Blood Red (1964), Something Weird (1967), A Taste of Blood (1967), The Gruesome Twosome (1967) and The Wizard of Gore (1970). Alongside his gore films, Lewis also worked on sexploitation flicks and hicksploitation films. At the turn of the 1970s the lucrative drive-in cinema circuits began to shrink and Lewis elected to retire from filmmaking after directing The Gore Gore Girls in 1972. His films were subsequently discovered by a new generation of fans on home video, which prompted Lewis to come out of retirement and recommence his career with Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat (2002).

27 June 2016: Spaghetti Western legend Bud Spencer has passed away

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The legendary Italian Western and Euro-cult comedy star Bud Spencer passed away on 27 June 2016. Spencer (AKA Carlo Pedersoli) is perhaps best known for the films that he made in partnership with Terence Hill (AKA Mario Girotti). The pair proved to be a box office hit in a trio of Westerns directed by Giuseppe Colizzi during the late 1960s: God Forgives… I Don’t! (Dio perdona… Io no!, 1967), Ace High (I quattro dell’Ave Maria, 1968) and Boot Hill (La collina degli stivali, 1969). But it was Enzo Barboni’s They Call Me Trinity (Lo chiamavano Trinità…, 1970) – and its sequel, Trinity is Still My Name (Continuavano a chiamarlo Trinità, 1971) – that transformed the pair into global megastars. Spencer and Hill were able to take the character types that they created for their Spaghetti Westerns and place them within a succession of action comedies that ran across a range of genres. The pair eventually returned to their Western roots for their final film together, The Trouble Makers (Botte di Natale, 1994) which Hill directed. Spencer also enjoyed great success outside of his partnership with Hill, appearing in a variety of Spaghetti Westerns and action comedies alongside the likes of James Coburn, Jack Palance, Tomas Milian and Giuliano Gemma.   

9 January 2016: Horror film icon Angus Scrimm has passed away

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American horror movie legend Angus Scrimm passed away on 9 January 2016. Scrimm starred in a variety of horror films but was best known for his role as the iconic Tall Man in Don Coscarelli’s increasingly surreal and esoteric Phantasm series. Scrimm first appeared as the Tall Man in Phantasm (Coscarelli, 1979) and he would return to threaten and confound the franchise’s protagonists in four sequels: Phantasm II (Coscarelli, 1988), Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (Coscarelli, 1994), Phantasm IV: Oblivion (Coscarelli, 1998) and Phantasm V: Ravager (David Hartman, 2016). The devious Tall Man’s deadly motivations were never fully explained and he remained the prime originator of many of the franchise’s strange and compelling enigmas. Scrimm’s superb performances ultimately brought an ongoing sense of menace and mystery to the series over a period of four decades.

© Copyright 2016-2017 Lee Broughton.

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