Category Archives: karen black
Earlier today I found out that actress Karen Black had passed away via a Tweet from my good friend Andy Burns, also editor-in-chief of Biff Bam Pop!. Another Tweeter’s response was that he had no words. That’s how I feel. We’ve lost one of the good ones, a legend of the genre. Karen Black died yesterday in Los Angeles from ampullary cancer at the age of 74.
When I said genre, I am of course talking about the horror genre. Karen Black probably most remembered film is one where she played a tour de force of four characters in Dan Curtis’ TV movie of the week Trilogy of Terror. It was at the aforementioned Andy Burns’ website, Biff Bam Pop!, that I talked about how that film still scares the crap outta me. You can read that here.
While it’s true she made her share of horror films, notably Trilogy, and Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses among others, it’s a fact she never stopped making movies. But of all the films Ms. Black has made, it is the movies of the 1970s that defne her. Hell, one could even say that Karen Black defined film in the 1970s. She changed the way women and sexuality were portrayed on the big screen.
Among her films are some of the best or at least most memorable of the decade, including Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, The Great Gatsby, Capricorn One, In Praise of Older Women, Hitchcock’s last movie Family Plot, and Robert Altman’s Nashville. She also starred on stage and on television as well as film. She was a composer, screenwriter, producer, and author of children’s books.
I met her once a few years back, at a Chiller convention near the Meadowlands. We were about to leave and I saw this seemingly crazy woman screaming at people to get her something or other. The men surrounding her scrambled. I realized it was Karen Black. She was holding court in the lobby of the hotel.
I was either brave or stupid, so I approached her and told her she was great in Easy Rider and Nashville, and that I loved her in Trilogy, even though she scared me to death in it. She was kind, and soft spoken, and thanked me, even shook my hand. Moments later she was barking at underlings again, but to me, and other fans who approached her she was an angel.
That’s how I will remember Karen Black – a kind loving woman who adored her fans. Not the psychopath possessed by a Zuni fetish doll. And that’s probably for the best. We’ve lost one of Hollywood’s great actresses, and she will be missed.
Capricorn One ~ This 1978 film by writer/director Peter Hyams was influenced by wild rumors and urban legends that the US moon landing was faked. In Capricorn One, a Mars landing is faked, but when a glitch in the actual splashdown of the unmanned capsule makes it impossible for the astronauts to have survived – the real guys on Earth are infinitely expendable. Hilarity ensues.
Excellent excellent performances by Elliot Gould who plays an unorthodox reporter on the trail of the cover-up and James Brolin as one of the astronauts. Others among this chiefly 1970s cast do wonderful jobs including Karen Black and Brenda Vaccaro, and even a pre-murder O.J. Simpson. Hal Holbrook even proves that he’s been Oscar-worthy decades before the Academy ever decided he was. Capricorn One also features one of Jerry Goldsmith’s better early scores.
Other than the dated 1970s trappings and cast, this is a very current film, and I wonder why in this political environment it hasn’t been optioned for a remake. This was much better than I remember it, and highly recommend it.