Wednesday, June 26, 2019

R.I.P., Billy Drago

I was very sorry to hear that Billy Drago died today––prolific character actor, cheekbone wonder, menacing Kansan, and portrayer of exquisite madmen. He was one of my favorite eccentric performers in an A-and B-movie canon (and Cannon) full of them... I've written before that his brilliant volatility ought to have resulted in warning labels on VHS tapes that said "HERE THERE BE DRAGOS."

Some classic roles included when he enforced Al Capone's reign of terror in De Palma's THE UNTOUCHABLES, engaged in complex cartel homoeroticism with Chuck Norris in DELTA FORCE 2: THE COLOMBIAN CONNECTION, preached and handled snakes in GUNCRAZY, led a punk gang against vampire Grace Jones in VAMP, ran an insane asylum in THE HERO AND THE TERROR, slithered through INVASION U.S.A. while testing all the coke, and was a frighteningly pathos-filled john in MYSTERIOUS SKIN, among many, many others. His body of work runs the gamut from arthouse films to workaday TV shows to Cannon actioners to music videos to the only episode of MASTERS OF HORROR deemed too extreme to air (directed by Takashi Miike). In each performance, he imbued his characters with a real, lived-in quality; an authenticity that was sometimes startling, sometimes nightmarish, and always profound. Here's to you, Billy: R.I.P.


AnonyMike said...

Rest in peace Lord Drago. Your reptilian spirited character-acting brilliance will never be forgotten.

In his loving memory, might I recommend when you have the time a little movie called Deadly Heroes?

Filmed in Greece in 1994, it stars latter-day Uwe Bol minion Michael Paré and his soulless dead eyes as a gurning hardened navy seal, a stumbling deadpan Jan Michael Vincent (albeit with both legs) as his veteran commander, and the slithering Billy Drago as the reason for everything. Also included: the worst child actor since the boy in Sean Connery's Outland, more exposition than educational television for the under 5's and directed by the one and only Menahem Golan; it's quite literally just wonderfully magically awful.

There is literally a half-way point where everyone gives up as it was clearly filmed in sequence. The stunts become increasingly pathetic and actors can be seen visibly hiding laughter from one another's adorably inept lines. Strangely it draws some reviews online whereby viewers claim it to be a respectable lower-budget action movie, or indeed, somehow, a great one... but I can safely say, in having watched a lot of utterly awful movies, that Deadly Heroes is truly up there as one of the most pathetically produced pictures I've ever seen. And I adore it accordingly.

It even boasts a beautifully off-key Sheena Easton-esque title track played over the most republican ending to any movie ever as a baseball cap is thrown up to the sky is and is freeze-framed against the American flag. Mike Love of the Beach Boys be proud.

Best of all, it's free on Youtube... if you find the time, I think you'll adore it

Sean Gill said...

Thank you, AnonyMike––you've never steered me wrong. As usual, your mini-review paints a beautiful picture. I can't believe I'm a lifelong Golan fan who has never seen this. I hope you're well, my friend!

AnonyMike said...

Just rewatched it this week and my god it's glorious in its patheticness.

However I'm shocked and appalled that I misremembered the ending. It's tragically not a freeze frame on the cap in front of the American flag, though all those elements are there and exist in the preceding shot; instead after the cap is thrown into the sky the camera keeps panning around them in slow mo as the son continuously keeps looking directly into the camera.

So it still has the same incredibly delusional "I make movie yes. I make big American movie for all American Joe!" Menahem Golan schmaltz as the ending, just one with not quite the freeze-frame brilliance my brain had somehow remembered it for. Quite why I'd remembered it like that I do not know, but it's a wonderful memory to have.