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Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Quarter-Century of Krueger: Freddy's Famous Friends

In case some of you hadn't noticed (I'll admit I didn't at first), the year is 2009. This means a lot of things, but to me at least, near the top of that list of things is the fact that it marks the 25th anniversary of the original A Nightmare on Elm Street. That's right, Mr. Fred Krueger has been haunting our dreams for one score and five years now, ever since Wes Craven first birthed him onto the cinematic landscape in 1984, one of the most brilliant creations since the heyday of Universal Studios.

In honor of this momentous anniversary in the history of horror, over the course of the year, The Vault will be devoting a series of posts to various aspects of this groundbreaking and beloved movie series. For my first post, I've decided to take a look at some of the established actors who have appeared in Nightmare flicks over the years. In some cases, they were already well-known performers who provided an air of legitimacy to New Line's fledgling franchise; other times, they were unknowns on the rise. In either way, they became an inextricable part of the NOES legacy.

John Saxon
My personal favorite, and I know I'm not alone. In an earlier time, when matinee idol looks were valued above all else, the square-jawed Saxon would've been a contract player, and a much bigger star. In the post-Dustin Hoffman era, he had to content himself with becoming a demigod of exploitation cinema. His roles in Enter the Dragon, Black Christmas and Tenebre, among many others, made him star enough amongst a certain subculture of fandom. And he adds a touch of heft to the proceedings in the first Nightmare as Nancy's exasperated and incredulous police chief father. He would reprise the role in Part 3, meeting his end at the hands of a Harryhausen-esque Krueger skeleton.

Johnny Depp
Yes, it's Elm Street's most famous former resident. Three years before 21 Jump Street made him a star, Depp made his movie debut as Glen, Nancy's dreamy if ill-fated boyfriend. The future Capt. Jack Sparrow buys the farm in Freddy's most infamous kill ever, coating his bedroom ceiling with an impossibly voluminous torrent of adolescent blood. Despite rising to become on the finest actors of his generation, Depp showed loyalty to the franchise that launched his career, making a cameo appearance in Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare.

Blink and you'll miss him:
Charles Fleischer
Four years before becoming the unmistakable voice of Roger Rabbit, this prolific vocal actor and stand-up comic made a brief appearance as the befuddled dream specialist who tries to get to the bottom of Nancy' dream issues.

Clu Gulager
After a long career as a TV cowboy in the 1950s, '60s and '70s, Galager seemed to be on the fast track to obscurity, until two memorable 1985 appearances--in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 and The Return of the Living Dead--instantly reinvented him as a horror movie mainstay (a role he still enjoys, as evidenced by his work in the Feast trilogy.) As dad to Lisa's clueless boyfriend Jesse, Clu is an admirable follow-up to John Saxon in the role of ineffectual father figure.

Patricia Arquette
The third NOES film might be the one with the most future star-power in it. Roseanna Arquette's little sister debuts in the movie as Kristen, Freddy's newest target, and she's quite good in the role. It would be years before she got some recognition in the early '90s with parts in True Romance and Ed Wood, but we should have already known Patricia was destined for bigger things when she neglected to reprise her role in Part 4. Ironically, she can now be found on the highly successful paranormal-themed TV series Medium.

Laurence Fishburne
Back when he was just plain ol' Larry, this veteran bit player can be seen befriending Arquette's Kristen as sympathetic mental institution orderly Max. Despite small but memorable appearances in Apocalypse Now, The Color Purple and The Cotton Club, it would still be a few years before Spike Lee and John Singleton helped make him a bona fide star. Back then, he was fresh off playing Cowboy Curtis on Pee-Wee's Playhouse--a far cry from Morpheus.

Blink and you'll miss them: Dick Cavett & Zsa Zsa Gabor
Kind of cheating, since they make brief cameo appearances as themselves, but it also says a lot about the appeal of the series and how mainstream it had become by this point that two such recognizable folks would pop up in NOES 3. Think they would've done the same for Friday the 13th?

Blink and you'll miss her: Linnea Quigley
The '80s scream queen turns up as the face of one of the souls that emerge from Freddy's body in the climax of Part 4. And I don't really have much else to say about that.

Blink and you'll miss them:
Ted Nugent, Rudy Sarzo & Eric Singer

Fans of cheesy '80s rock (and there would likely have been many of them in the average movie audience for a NOES flick) sat up and took note of the band "Hot Seat" which appears in The Dream Master and features the future conservative wacko, the bassist from Quiet Riot and the drummer from KISS. Plus, rumor has it that MC Lyte turned down the role of Alice's friend Yvonne.

Yaphet Kotto
For my money, the finest actor to ever take part in a NOES film. Too bad it was in what is hands down the weakest of the series, Freddy's Dead. It's hard to watch Parker from Alien playing it all serious as the doctor amidst some of the most ridiculous, over-the-top garbage that gets (literally) thrown at us in this 3-D crapfest. Thankfully, Kotto was able to rebound nicely later in the '90s with a highly acclaimed role on Homicide: Life on the Street.

Blink and you'll miss them:
1. Alice Cooper
He isn't even mentioned in the credits, but it's the snake-wielding rocker who turns up as none other than Freddy Krueger's dad in an admittedly funny flashback sequence.
2. Roseanne & Tom Arnold

During their brief but highly entertaining marriage, Roseanne & Tom cameoed as a couple. Tom Arnold's illustrious film debut. I liked him better in The Stupids.

Kelly Rowland
Otherwise known as "one of the other two chicks in Destiny's Child who isn't Beyonce," in Freddy vs. Jason Ms. Rowland fills the requisite hip-hop/R&B star position that seems to come with the territory for some reason in teen-oriented horror flicks of the past decade.

Zack Ward
Hey, it's the crazy red-headed kid from A Christmas Story! Ward somehow survived child stardom without going nuts, and a breakout spot in Almost Famous made him into a bona fide grown-up star three years before his turn in FvJ. Genre fans might also known him from Resident Evil: Apocalypse and Transformers.

Blink and you'll miss them: 1. Rey Mysterio
OK, WWE's master of the 619 only appears in Freddy vs. Jason as a stunt double for Robert Englund during the Crystal Lake battle sequence. But it's still pretty cool if you ask me.
2. Evangeline Lilly
Look close, and you can spot the soon-to-be star of Lost as a walk-on extra during one of the school scenes. This one truly lives up to the "blink and you'll miss her" moniker:

Whether big stars on the wane, or burgeoning stars on the rise, the Nightmare on Elm Street series has played host to more than its fair share of celebrities. Of course, with the exception of the Saxonator, Donald Pleasance would have owned them all. But hey, such is life.

Keep a look out for further installments of "A Quarter-Century of Krueger"!

Freddy cartoon by Montygog


Wings1295 said...

Wow - I forgot about many of those. 25 years, huh? Sheesh, time flies.

Might have to rewatch the NOES series this year.

Will said...

Sounds like it's time to pull out all the old flicks and rewatch them. It's interesting to see how many big stars pretty much got their start (although probably not stardom) in horror flicks.

AndyDecker said...

Linnea Quigley had one of the strangest credits in film: Soul from Freddy´s chest *g You can´t do better than that.

25 years. I can´t believe it is that long. If I remember correctly Nightmare 1 was direct to video only here in Germany and became one of those movies that succeeded regardless. It was quite a find in those seedy videoshops of the time where it was stacked between the latest Dirty Harry and the pilot of Knight Rider which was marketed as a movie to fill the slots of the emerging home video market.

Nightmare 1 was a true horror movie with iconic sequences. It was never that good again after it became a franchise. And it deserved a better send off than the awful last part.

Gryphon said...

FYI - John Saxon was making movies as early as the mid 1950's - WAAAAAY before the post-Dustin Hoffman era. My mom had a crush on him.

B-Sol said...

Oh I know, Gryphon, what I meant was that was he found a niche later on, instead of disappearing into obscurity like a lot of other actors who broke in mainly on their looks.

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