Wednesday, 6 August 2014


Oliver Reed was one of the most gifted and enigmatic actors of his generation. He delivered many exquisite on screen performances, and his off-screen exploits are also legendary. He was a burly drunkard, permanently scarred from his days of barroom brawling in his youth. Part of what made Reed so compelling though, was that for all his macho posturing and mania, he was a remarkably skilled actor, and possessed a true command of the English language. Although he appeared in over 70 feature films across a wide range of genres, Reed will forever hold a special place in the hearts of horror enthusiasts, especially for his appearances in the gothic horror films produced by Hammer Studios in the sixties. Here is a look at the five best horror films in which Reed appeared.

5. Burnt Offerings (1976)
The film stars Reed as Ben Rolf, who has recently moved into what would seem to be the idyllic home of his wife Marian (Karen Black). Things are fine at first, and then events become progressively stranger within the home. Appliances seem to turn themselves on and off.

Ben is overcome by seemingly random, violent outbursts. Based on the book by Robert Marasco, Burnt Offerings is cut from the same cloth as films like The Sentinel (1977) and The Amityville Horror (1979). It tells the story of a house which seems to have some sort of willpower unto itself, wherein the house, or some unnamed demonic presence which occupies the house, take possession of the home’s occupants.

4. Paranoiac (1963)

Reed stars as Simon Ashby, a materialistic drunkard who, years after the supposed suicide of his older brother, is hell bent on killing his sister so that he will be the sole heir to his family’s fortune. This film is an all-too-frequently overlooked Psycho-derivative proto-slasher film, one that is all the more significant in the annals of that subgenre for its use of the “masked killer” trope. Part of what distinguishes this film’s use of the masked maniac motif is that the film is largely about false and mistaken identities. The mask in this film is not merely creepy or uncanny, but also conceptually congruous with its own theme.

3. The Brood (1979)
The Brood is definitely the best film that David Cronenberg made in the seventies, and arguably the best film he ever made. Oliver Reed stars as Hal Raglan, an experimental psychotherapist who has developed a strange method which he calls “psychoplasmics,” in which patients channel their anger or pain, and manifest it bodily. In some cases it manifests as bruises and abrasions. In the case of patient Nola (Samantha Eggar), the trauma she suffers as a consequence of childhood abuse manifests in the form of deformed children who murder whomever Nola is mad at.

Nola births an entire brood of these children (hence the name of the film). It’s a richly imaginative work of ''Body Count' and features a particularly strong performance from Reed, who is more subdued here than in many other roles, but no less captivating. Although the film was initially met with negative reviews from high-profile critics like Roger Ebert  and Leonard Maltin, the film receives more of the appreciation it deserves now, can occasionally be seen as a direct television special, and is still popular in the midnight movie circuit.

2. The Devils (1971)
Based on Aldous Huxley’s The Devils of Loudun , which was itself a dramatised account of the life ofUrban Grandier, who was a politically powerful and philandering priest, wrongfully accused of heresy and ultimately executed in the French province of Loudon in the 17th Century.

This is one of the most controversial films of all time, reviled for its graphic depictions of violence and also for blasphemous scenes which feature nuns engaging in orgies in a church and a particularly disturbing scene which eroticizes the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Reed portrays Grandier, and delivers one of the most compelling performances of his career, well complemented by Vanessa Redgrave’s performance as the sexually repressed, deformed nun who reports Grandier to the police.

1. Curse of the Werewolf (1961)
This was Oliver Reed’s first credited role in a feature length film, and it was also Hammer’s first werewolf film. The story takes place in Spain in the 1700’s. Reed plays Leon Corledo, the bastard son of a wrongfully imprisoned jailer’s daughter who was assaulted and impregnated in a dungeon by a strange, feral beggar.

It features some of the most frightening special effects makeup of any werewolf film, and Reed brings a real intensity of the role, given his exuberance as a performer and his intimidating physical stature.

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