Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Heroes Of Blaxploitation: William Marshall

Day Eight:


William H. Marshall (1924-2003) was a professionally trained Broadway and London stage actor who got his start in pictures with the film Lydia Bailey from 1952. He next landed a role in the high profile sword and sandal epic Demetrius And The Gladiators (1954) and for the next decade and a half guest starred in numerous Television programs such as Star Trek, Insight and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. among  many others.


20th Century Fox's high-profile film The Boston Strangler came around in 1968, and Marshall found himself back in pictures shows. He was next in Skullduggery, ZigZag, and the Television movie The Mask Of Sheba (all 1970) ... His first role in Blaxploitation was in one of the genre's earliest efforts: Honky (1971). But it was his next role that people will forever remember the man... Blacula (1972) a fun hybrid of Blaxploitation and Horror with a great musical soundtrack by The Hues Corporation.



Blacula proved to be a big hit with audiences so they soon ushered in the sequel, Scream, Blacula Scream (1973) co-starring foxy Pam Grier. And for this reason, I enjoy the sequel even more. Marshall and Grier made for a good screen team.


The last of Marshall's appearances in Blaxploitation was the famous 'Black Exorcist' rip-off  Abby (1974). An absolutely nutty film for the genre which has since been hard to acquire over the years because of Warner Brother's lawsuit against the makers of the film. Pretty sad since everyone else was seemingly producing exorcist ripoffs all over the world. Abby was just there first.



Marshall worked steadily for the rest of his career often appearing on TV and in some genre films. Notably he showed up on Pee-Wee's Playhouse (1987-1991) as the recurring character The King Of Cartoons. This 6'5 bear of a man knew how to make 'em laugh as much as he could scare 'em. Marshall also Taught acting at the University of California Irvine and The Mufandi Institute in Watts.


6 comments:

Jack Veasey said...

William Marshall was a great actor. He had a wonderful resonant voice and a commanding screen presence. He was ideal to play a Dracula or Svengali-type character. And you're right, his chemistry with Pam Grier was really something. Too bad we only got one sequel -- I would have gladly followed a whole series of "Blacula" films, like I did with Christopher Lee.

Liam Underwood said...

William Marshall is such a contributing factor to why the character of Blacula is so entertaining and watchable. Astounding in both Blacula and Scream, Blacula, Scream. The only version of Abby I've seen was really poor quality, but even then he totally commands the screen. Legend.

CS said...

I forgot that Marshall had a stint on Pee-Wee's Playhouse. He was a great actor who rarely got the praise he deserved.

P.S. I am loving your coverage of this genre. Keep up the great work!

Cinema Du Meep said...

Thanks!

Darius Whiteplume said...

I love Marshall. Blackula was actually quite a good horror film.

Dane said...

I remember being totally shocked when I realized that Blacula and Dr. Daystrom (his character in Star Trek, pictured above) were the same guy. He really did manage to vanish into his roles.

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