2016 Year in Review – Part 1: Those To Remember

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One thing is for sure about 2016, we have lost way too many genre favorites. From actors to directors to artists to cinematographers and everyone else in between….just way too many. There were some that I consider icons, such as Herchell Gordon Lewis, who paved the way for thousands of young filmmakers. Actor Don Calfa appeared in so many sitcoms and movies but was still able to come up with so many wonderful characters. Then we have Angus Scrimm, who really only appeared in a handful of features, but it only took one role for him to forever be remembered in the hearts of us horror fans. And while actor/writer Gene Wilder was mainly known for his comedic side, along with Mel Brooks, he gave us one of the best tributes to the classic Frankenstein pictures.

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Don Calfa: Rest in Peace

don-calfa-ripOkay 2016, enough, huh? I mean, you’ve only got a few weeks left, let’s end it on a something more than these obits, shall we?

There is something about a movie that can have the best dialogue, the best makeup effects, production values, locations, and everything else to make it a memorable feature. But if you don’t have the right cast making these characters come to live, it will just come across flat and uninteresting. Actor Don Calfa made his career at bringing characters to life. Whether he was in a feature film or just a small part on an episodic television show, it was magic when Calfa came on.

My first memory of him where he stood out was as the guy who lived across the ravine from Dudley Moore in Blake Edwards 10 (1979), who was always having sex parties. But it also could have been one of his seven different appearances on the TV show Barney Miller, which I used to watch religiously. But no matter what show it was on, he makes an impact. He worked with directors like Spielberg, Scorsese, Bogdonovich, Levinson, and many more.  He was quoted in saying that “I’m not a star, I’m a journeyman actor.” I think he was right.

Of course, we horror fans know him from one his greatest characters, that of Ernie Kaltenbrunner, the mortician from Dan O’Bannon’s 1985 film Return of the Living Dead. From his dialogue to just the way he acts, he gives the horror genre an unforgettable performance, and one that he puts RotLD in a lot of fans Top Ten lists.

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Calfa passed away last Thursday at his home in Yucca Valley, California, just two days before his birthday. So, on what would have been his 77th birthday, let us take a moment to remember Calfa and the incredible and memorable performances that he gave us over his career that almost reached 50 years. You will most definitely never be forgotten and always remembered by us horror fans. Even if it as a white-haired mortician. Our thoughts go out to his friends and family.