Due to my own personal financial crunch, whenever I visit Chiller Theatre, I choose a but a few horror, science fiction and cult personalities to secure an autograph from, so breaking down the guests list isn’t easy. This year, I had no doubt who I would run to:
A horror favorite, thanks to his portrayal of Herbert West in the RE-ANIMATOR series, Combs attracts fans from all over the globe. Born in Oxnard, California in 1954, he went on to study at the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts. Whether on television or the silver screen, from THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1991) to THE FRIGHTENERS (1986), or one of his other 115 projects, Combs usually portrays characters with an aura of self-assurance. In 1986’s FROM BEYOND, however, the stoicism crumbles when he brings us Crawford Tillinghast and his ill-fated experiment. The collapse of Crawford’s mental state and seemingly steadfast façade is fabulous, and Combs only adds to one fantastic horror from Stuart Gordon, based on a classic HP Lovecraft tale. When asked what it was like on set, Combs pointed to the picture he autographed and said, “Thirty days! At least we were in Rome.”
At 68, Kaufman may be the hardest working man in show business. After all, the independent filmmaker maestro has eighteen films in the works – eighteen! The man behind all things Troma has delivered some great genre fun over the decades, including CLASS OF NUKE ‘EM HIGH (1986), and the successful TOXIC AVENGER franchise, while wowing us with the anthology CHILLERS (1987), and the intriguing TROMEO AND JULIET (1996). Whether actor, director, producer, writer, or whatever else Kaufman needs to do, he throws himself into his work with abandon. After attending Chiller for fifteen years, I finally had a chance to meet the man in person, and we had a great conversation about teaching writing, and his filmmaking workload. Even during our chat, it seemed that Kaufman could take off at any second to run the New York Marathon, go a few rounds with Jake LaMotta, or clean up Congress. I don’t think the man sleeps. Toxie hung out nearby to clean up any mess left behind from over-zealous Troma fans.
It’s hard to recall when I first saw Kier, but he left an impression: chiseled face, burning eyes, and a soft voice that could reign like a hammer. And at 69, his eyes still captivate, and his face remains just as sharp. Born in Cologne, Germany at the end of World War II, he traveled to the UK at eighteen and studied acting. To date, Kier has appeared in over 200 movies (four more are on the way), including many horrors. My favorites: ANDY WARHOL’S DRACULA (1974), and the phenomenal – and severely under-rated – LOVE OBJECT (2003). After watching him vomit the blood of tainted women in DRACULA, I asked if his nearly unending convulsions had made him sick. Not at all. Kier was soft-spoken, matter of fact, and a perfect gentleman. He was the driving force for me to make it to Chiller this year. As soon as I saw him on the guest list, I had to attend.
Originally from Steubenville, Ohio, the sixty-nine-year-old actor has appeared in television, as well as short and feature films. You’ll see him in THE ENFORCER (1976) and SALVADOR (1986), but watch out for him in George A. Romero’s outstanding THE CRAZIES (1973). Unlike the remake, the original has a realistic sense of grit that unleashes a perpetual sense of dread. MacMillan’s performance as a friend on the edge only adds to the suspense. Playing the role of David, we watch the man rise and fall as a manmade virus torments civilians in Evans City, Pennsylvania. Throughout the film, MacMillan brings us a character in slow disintegration of mind and spirit, with exceptional facial expressions that showcase the breakdown. His work is not to be missed. When asked if he enjoyed working on THE CRAZIES, he stated it was one of his top three best film experiences.
All of the celebrities were wonderful, engaging, and took a moment to talk, which I greatly appreciated. Once again, Chiller Theatre, and the guests that keep the convention alive, proved worthwhile. To meet these four men made a wonderful Saturday far better than expected.