Friday, January 15, 2016

Angus Scrimm Passes On

Angus Scrimm, best known for playing the Tall Man in the Phantasm movies, died on January 9 at the age of 89.

Angus Scrimm was born Lawrence Guy in Kansas City, Kansas on August 19 1926. His interest in acting was sparked when he saw the 1929 version of The Virginian starring Gary Cooper. After graduating from high school he moved to Los Angeles where he studied acting at the University of Southern California.

Mr. Guy worked various jobs between acting gigs. He worked as a publicist for Los Angeles television station KTTV and wrote book reviews for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner. Later he wrote for TV Guide. Eventually he answered an ad in a newspaper for a music writer. This led to a job with Capitol Records where he wrote liner notes for various Capitol releases. Starting around in the Fifties he wrote liner notes under the name "Rory Guy" for such artists as Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Mae West, George Fields, and  Itzhak Perlman. Perhaps the most famous album for which Rory Guy wrote album notes was none other than Meet The Beatles. In 1974 Rory Guy won a Grammy for his liner notes for the album Korngold: The Classic Erich Wolfgang. His career writing liner notes continued well into the Nineties.

Lawrence Guy made his film debut in 1972 in Sweet Kill using the name "Rory Guy". He appeared in the films Scream Bloody Murder (1973) and Jim, the World's Greatest (1976) as "Rory Guy" before switching to his birth name of "Lawrence Guy" for the film A Piece of the Action (1977)  and guest appearances on the shows Quincy M.E., Project U.F.O., and Salvage One. It was in 1979 that he first appeared as The Tall Man in the cult classic Phantasm. It also marked the first time he used the stage name Angus Scrimm. He appeared  as "Lawrence Guy", in the 1980 movie Witches Brew.

In the Eighties Angus Scrimm reprised his role as The Tall Man in Phantasm II (1988). He appeared in the films The Lost Empire (1984)  Transylvania Twist (1989) as well as episodes of the TV show The Nutt House. He was billed as "Lawrence Guy" for the films First Strike (1985) and Chopping Mall (1986) and guest appearances on the shows The Wonderful World of Disney and Trapper John M.D.

Starting in the Nineties he was billed exclusively as "Angus Scrimm". He reprised his role as The "Tall Man" in Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994) and Phantasm IV: Oblivion (1998). He appeared in the films Subspecies (1991), Mindwarp (1992),  Munchie (1992), Deadfall (1993), Munchie Strikes Back (1994), Fatal Frames - Fotogrammi mortali (1996), and Bel Air (2000). He narrated the movie Wishmater (1997). He appeared in the television movie Vampirella and the TV show Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction.

In the Naughts Angus Scrimm appeared in the recurring role of Calvin McCullough on the TV show Alias. He guest starred on the TV shows FreakyLinks, The Nightmare Room, The Jersey, Coupling, and Masters of Horror. He appeared in the films Legend of the Phantom Rider (2002), The Off Season (2004), Satanic (2006), Robert and Theresa (2006), Automatons (2006), Red 71 (2008), I Sell the Dead (2008), Spaceman on Earth (2009), and Satan Hates You (2010).

In the Teens Angus Scrimm guest starred on the TV show Femme Fatales. He appeared in the films John Dies at the End (2012), The Trick Is the Treat (2013), Disciples (2014), and Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story (2015).  Perhaps fittingly his final film appearance will be in his most famous role, The Tall Man, in Phantasm: Ravager, set to be released later this year.

While he may not be as well known among the general public as Freddie Krueger or Jason, The Tall Man is one of the most iconic characters to emerge from horror movies in the late 20th Century.  In fact, I rather suspect if you asked horror movie connoisseurs to make a list of the most frightening characters from horror movies in the past forty years that The Tall Man would make the list. Much of this was due to Angus Scrimm's performance in the role. While it certainly helped that Mr. Scrimm stood six foot four and wore platform shoes that made him yet taller for he role, it was his performance in the role that made him so terrifying in the role. His tone of voice, his way of looking at people as if he was looking through them, and the way he carried himself suggested a very threatening alien menace. Compared to The Tall Man, Jason Voorhees might as well be a character from My Little Pony.

Of course, Angus Scrimm played many more roles than The Tall Man. In Jim the World's Greatest (the first film he made with Phantasm director Don Coscarelli) he played an abusive, alcoholic father. On the TV show Alias he played an upper-level operative of the criminal organisation SD-9. While he rarely played sympathetic roles, he did appear in a few. In the Wonderful World of Disney episode "Walt Disney: One Man's Dream" he appeared as Walt Disney's father Elias Disney

Here it must be also be noted that Angus Scrimm had a writing career before taking up acting. As Rory Guy he wrote liner notes for dozens of albums, including The Beatles' Meet The Beatles. Mr. Scrimm had considerable talent as a writer, even winning a Grammy for his work.

In real life Angus Scrimm was nothing like The Tall Man or the many villains he played over the years. At conventions those who met him always noted how nice he was and his clever sense of humour. He never took himself too seriously and he always had time for his fans. While Angus Scrimm was frightening as The Tall Man, in real life he was warm and friendly. Ultimately I am sure that is how many Phantasm fans will remember him, a man who was also a talented writer and a talented actor.

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