On another occasion my pals and I were discussing the old movie stars. We quickly began to talk about the various actors who had staked their careers on being monsters of various stripes, or playing second fiddle to monsters in films when they weren’t actually being the monsters.
Of course the king of all of these actors was Boris Karloff. He was the best of them, and the greatest.
Then we began to wonder who the “new” Boris Karloff was. Surely there must be an actor among the modern crop who filled the same niche as the old master, Karloff. One reason the list is short is because some actors, fearing themselves being typecast, will run from genre offers in hopes that something “better” will come along. Anyone remember Jonathan Frid? So, knowing there weren’t a lot of actors to choose from, we began to run through the very short list.
Nope. One-off guy. Good actor and all that, but voicing a murderous doll in a series of movies doesn’t quite count.
Robert Englund? Nah. None of us figure he’s much of an actor, and all he ever did was play Freddie. A neat character and all that, but a one-note actor.
Christopher Lee? Well…maybe he would have fit the bill twenty-five years ago, but he’s rather long in the tooth (haha). He might count, as he’s quite the actor and has played quite a lot of monsters, including Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster. But we struck him off the list since he’s all but a contemporary of Karloff’s.
And then…for the longest time, we were just stuck. Finally, though, it occurred to me. Who was the actor I’ve seen the most who’s almost always covered in prosthetic makeup whenever he’s appeared in a feature film?
He’s quite good, as actors go. Maybe not at the top of the heap of actors, and he could never really be a straight leading man (not with that mug!). But he’s quite effective in every role I’ve seen. And, of course, he’s almost always a monster or creature or in some altered state in just about every film.
The first time I saw him (Quest for Fire) he was a Neanderthal man, or some kind of archaic human. With that simian face of his, they didn’t need to add a lot of makeup. He played a retarded hunchback in The Name of the Rose. In the TV series, Beauty and the Beast…well, he was a human lion. In Enemy at the Gates, he was a steel-toothed sniper (really! Steel teeth!). In Blade II, he was a blood-sucking vampire. Perlman was The Sayer of the Law in The Island of Doctor Moreau. The muscle-bound strongman in The City of Lost Children. The man was a scar-faced mercenary in Alien: Resurrection. He was an extra-terrestrial humanoid in Star Trek: Nemesis. And in my favorite of his performances, he was the all-too human demon, Hellboy in the film of that name (a role which he is about to reprise in a sequel).
As a voice actor, he has appeared as any number of monsters and villains and super-heroes in a range of cartoons, both theatrical and for TV.
So, there you have it, folks. There is a modern-day Boris Karloff. His name is Ron Perlman.