While I continue working on reviews for DVDActive, and while I continue watching as many Giallo thrillers as I possibly can for the next installment of my Italian Horror Checklist, I’m going to fill out this blog with a collection of quick lists. Here I’ll count down my favorite character/B-Movie actors best roles, starting with the one and only Jeffrey Combs. Future installments will (hopefully) feature Clancy Brown, Lance Henriksen and Giovanni Lombardo Radice (aka: John Morgen). Minor spoilers follow, so those unfamiliar with the character should feel free to skip the description.
5. Weyoun, as seen on: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1995 – 1999)
Weyoun: What would you say… if I offered to make you absolute ruler of the Federation? No President, no Starfleet Chief of Staff, just you.
Captain Sisko: I’d say your psychographic profile of me isn’t as good as you think.
Weyoun: (laughs) Just doing my job.
I recently sat through the entirety of Deep Space Nine at the behest of a friend, and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, especially as someone who really doesn’t like Next Generation. One of the major influences on my decision to watch the series was the promise of seeing Jeffery Combs in three different roles (technically he does play a fourth in one dream episode). Weyoun, the Vorta clone is clearly the strongest of these three characters, and in many respects the perfect vehicle for post-cult stardom Combs. The character’s most endearing quality is the apparent belief that if he’s polite enough the protagonists will see things his way. Weyoun allows Combs to play warm with a sinister subtext, and because he’s a clone the audience can revel in him dying pathetically time and time again.
4. The Question, as seen on: Justice League Unlimited (2004 – 2006)
The Question: If I’m to save the world, your existence must come to an end before you take office.
Lex Luthor: You’re going to kill me so that Superman can’t.
The Question: I’m a well-known crackpot. The Justice League’s reputation will survive my actions, and Superman’s legacy will remain intact.
Combs started on a long road of animated voice work when he was hired to play a revamped, more disturbing version of The Scarecrow for Bruce Timm/Paul Dini’s New Batman Adventures (aka: Batman the Animated Series season four), so it was clear pretty far back that the team were fans from the start. Both Timm and Justice League Unlimited writer Dwayne McDuffie claim to have wanted to write only Question episodes after making him an integral part of the fourth season finale (which was originally supposed to close out the show), putting him up against more recognizable characters like Batman and the Green Lantern. Another case of casting to Combs’ strengths, The Question at first appears to be a one note character – a man whose ‘super power’ is the ability to question all authority and uncover insane conspiracy theories – but quickly develops an ironic sense of humor (which includes singing boy band tunes under his breath), and at one point even gives Superman a scolding that stops the Man of Steel dead in his tracks.
3. Edgar Allan Poe, as seen in: Masters of Horror: The Black Cat (2006)
“I have little sense of the world around me. Such is my genius.”
By my count this was Combs’ seventh, and to date last collaboration with director Stuart Gordon. Gordon and Combs stepped above the vast majority of Showtime’s Masters of Horror series with this genuinely affecting portrayal of the tortured poet. This is arguably Combs’ most accomplished work as a film actor, a role he’d continue to play as part of a well received one man show. This fictional version of Poe is rather unlike most of the actor’s more well known roles. Poe is a good man wracked with guilt, heartbroken and madly in love. Be sure to have this one on hand the next time a non-believer calls Combs nothing but a ham.
Not that he isn’t a total ham, as illustrated in the next two entries.
2. Special Agent Milton Dammers, as seen in: The Frighteners (1996)
Frank Bannister: You are such an asshole.
Milton Dammers: I am an asshole… with an Uzi!
Before Peter Jackson was playing with multi-million dollar budgets in Middle Earth he was trying to get Hollywood’s attention with this oft-forgotten horror-comedy, produced by Robert Zemeckis, who originally intended to direct it himself as a Tales From the Crypt movie. Jackson’s supporting cast was made up of larger than life personalities including John Astin, Dee Wallace and Jake Busey, and featured Michael J. Fox in one of his strongest movie roles, but no one was able to hold the screen against the whirlwind of insanity that was Agent Milton Dammers. Armed with black contact lenses and a Hitler hairdo, Combs turned his scenery chewing abilities up to eleven, and didn’t back off until his character was finally killed via shotgun blast to the head.
1. Dr. Herbert West, as seen in: Re-Animator (1985), Bride of Re-Animator (1989) and Beyond Re-Animator (2003)
“I must say, Dr. Hill, I’m very disappointed in you. You steal the secret of life and death and here you are, trysting with the bubble-headed co-ed. You’re not even a second-rate scientist.”
It doesn’t matter if Combs wins an Oscar in his lifetime, Herbert West will always be his calling card, for better or worse. I consider his work on the original Re-Animator among the most memorable comedic performances in film history. West is an utter narcissist, a sociopath, and single minded in his pursuit of perfecting his glowing green re-animation agent. Combs is remembered as being particularly over-the-top as West, but his performance is largely muted, and his sense of humor is pretty damn wry. Even when surrounded by increasingly insane events, West keeps his temper cool and his eyes on the prize. Sure, sometimes that involves chopping a rivals head off with a shovel, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.
From Beyond (1986): Crawford Tillinghast
The Pit and the Pendulum (1990): Francisco the Inquisitor
Doctor Mordrid – Master of the Unknown (1992): Doctor Mordrid