Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Two More Cult Figures Gone
It was just recently that I posted about a film called THE LOSERS, an interesting 1970 drive-in classic that slaps bikers smack dap into the middle of the Vietnam War. THE LOSERS was written by Alan Caillou, a screenwriter, novelist, director and actor who died this week at the ripe old age of 92. In addition to THE LOSERS, Caillou's most notable screenwriting credit is KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS, a surprisingly tense and well-made horror movie that stars William Shatner as Rack Hansen, a small-town veterinarian who finds himself inexplicably battling to survive an influx of raging tarantulas in his sleepy California town. Caillou also wrote and acted in episodes of THE RAT PATROL, THRILLER and THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. He was also an author of pulpy adventure novels; one, 1969's ASSAULT ON LOVELESS featuring two-fisted Cabot Cain, is in my collection.
Another sad loss is actress Tamara Dobson, who died the day after Caillou at age 59. She had been out of the public eye for awhile, leading some of her fans to wonder whether she had already passed away. Instead, she had been residing in New York, battling the multiple sclerosis that eventually killed her.
At 6'2", Dobson cut a striking figure, hitting it big as a fashion model before turning to movies. She made few films, but her first major role was the one that stuck with her forever. As the title character in the sassy CLEOPATRA JONES, Dobson joined Pam Grier (COFFY) as one of the few women to draw an audience in action films. The 1973 blaxploitation classic cast Tamara as a government agent who strikes against druglord Shelley Winters. Always seen wearing the latest styles in clothing and makeup, there was no looking at anyone else whenever Dobson was on-screen, a physical scene-stealing that likely led to clashes with the reliably troublesome Winters.
Dobson returned in the even better sequel, CLEOPATRA JONES AND THE CASINO OF GOLD. The first film has long been available on a now-inexpensive Warner Brothers DVD, but CASINO OF GOLD can only be seen on an OOP Warners VHS tape, where director Chuck Bail's widescreen action has been cropped to pan-and-scan.
If you're of a certain age, you might remember Dobson as a regular on the Saturday-morning sci-fi series JASON OF STAR COMMAND (with James Doohan and Sid Haig!). She was also a prisoner named Dutchess who has it in for Sybil Danning in the jawdroppingly must-see sleaze pic CHAINED HEAT with Linda Blair, John Vernon, Henry Silva, Stella Stevens, Monique Gabrielle and other reliable cult actors.