Give Jeffrey Combs an Oscar Already!
|FEATURES - MOVIES|
Even mad occultists need love, and this 80s horror icon isn't receiving enough, we think...
I was going through some of my old VHS tapes (yes, I still keep them, and keep a working VCR on hand to watch them) and came across a copy of Doctor Mordrid. I had been planning on writing up piece in praise of this great b-movie, when I realized there was a bigger picture. The star of this film is an unsung hero of b-movie fans everywhere. He’s been in everything, but his name isn’t known by many of those outside of the diehard fans. He’s done many cult films, but doesn’t get as much attention as Bruce Campbell. And what’s worse, the man can actually act. So now, I say, let’s give tribute where tribute is due, and give praise to the work of Jeffrey Combs.
I became aware of Combs’ work in the early nineties, when I was introduced to the Full Moon Entertainment classic, the aforementioned Doctor Mordrid. The movie had been intended to be a film version of the Marvel Comics title Doctor Strange, an immortal sorcerer who fights evil. Somehow, the rights were lost, and the script was retooled to be its own original story. The effects are pretty bad, even for the times, but the story is great, and Combs proves that he has real acting chops. He plays Dr. Anton Mordrid, a writer on the occult. He catches the attention of a police detective who finds out that he is really a master sorcerer, possibly immortal, who is the defender of our planet. He has an evil brother (and, really, who doesn’t), played by the always lumbering yet entertaining Brian Thompson, who is kept bound in another dimension. But wouldn’t you know it, somehow, he escapes, and bad movie magic ensues. I once again found myself trying to tell everybody I knew about this movie, only to have them threaten me with incarceration. But I knew I was on to something with this guy.
Combs’ real claim to fame, though, is the number of movies he’s been in that have been based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft, quite possibly the finest author of weird fiction. He has starred in such cult classics as the Re-Animator films, Lurking Fear, Castle Freak, Necronomicon (where he actually plays Lovecraft in a wrap-around for the vignettes presented), and so many others. He was also featured in Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners as Special Agent Milton Dammers, a man who has been undercover with every occult-flavored gang or organization in the country. He’s more than a little crazy, and believes that Michael J. Fox’s character is responsible for a new rash of murders taking place. He plays the part perfectly, diving right into the character.
The last few years have seen more television appearances and voice over work from him. He was cast in a recurring role on Justice League Unlimited as The Question, a paranoid news reporter who fights crime wearing a faceless mask and spouting off about the latest government conspiracy (if he sounds familiar, Alan Moore based his character Rorschach from Watchmen on an older version of the DC crime fighter). He also had roles on several series of Star Trek, the most memorable being Commander Shran on Enterprise, an Andorian who is mistrusting of humans, but learns to find a comrade and a friend in Captain Jonathon Archer. The role was recurring, although, had the series lasted a fifth season, he would have been made a full-time cast member, which would have been terrific.
It’s an outrage that this man isn’t better known. He’s been in some of the finest cult films ever, and has even done some mainstream work, and yet, the average person on the street couldn’t tell you his name, whereas most folks can tell you who Bruce Campbell is (not that Mr. Campbell isn’t also great). I’m spreading the word. I’m taking a stand. And if I really have to, I’ll form a group on Facebook. It’s about time the name Jeffrey Combs was known in every home. And then maybe we can finally get more of his films released on DVD.
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