Those of us who enjoy Crappy Movies are saddened by the death of the great screen legend Jack Palance, who died today of natural causes at age 85 (or 87, some sources say). I can't say it comes as a big surprise, since I read in the news about three weeks ago that Palance was auctioning off his belongings. Nobody does that unless he knows he ain't gonna be needing that stuff anymore.
Like many actors well-known for their work in exploitation movies, Jack Palance was a genuinely talented performer and a strong screen presence. He was the villain in SHANE. He was in good old pictures like THE BIG KNIFE, PANIC IN THE STREETS and ATTACK. During the 1960's, he moved to Europe to star in a bunch of westerns, war films, sword-and-sorcery adventures. If you've spent enough time at my house, you know Palance from crowd-pleasing crap like WITHOUT WARNING ("Alieeennnnnnnnn!"), ALONE IN THE DARK (again with Martin Landau), THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME (with the floating Palance head and the rubber beam that inadvertently bounces off his head), the two-hour opening episode of BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY (with his cosmic hands of death), TANGO & CASH, GOR (with Oliver Reed), ONE MAN JURY (with Chris Mitchum), CYBORG 2 (with Angelina Jolie!) and more. He won an Oscar, of course, for CITY SLICKERS. He played the boxer in Rod Serling's incredible teleplay of "Requiem for a Heavyweight" on PLAYHOUSE 90. Jack was Jack, and he was great.
Here's one of Palance's less glitzy assignments: a TV commercial for anti-freeze. This likely happened around 1975, when Palance was briefly the star of a CBS cop show called BRONK. In it, which was created by actor Carroll O'Connor, Palance played a laid-back, pipe-smoking detective who solved crimes. The series didn't last long, but likely made Palance a bit of dough.
Something I didn't know about Jack Palance is that legendary comic book creator Jack Kirby used the actor as his model for Darkseid, a popular DC Comics villain who still plays a prominent role in the DC universe. Mark Evanier writes about the Palance/Kirby connection on his blog.