Friday, November 26, 2010

Lance Henriksen can make it better...

My premise is simple. The inclusion of Lance Henriksen can make even the most unpalatable of projects better. 

It is a corollary to my theory that Kate Beckinsale is the Anointed Bhodisattva of Suck. I posit that Kate is a karmic test for directors. If they can resist the siren call of her sweet looking self, and the hordes of fans that will show up to see her dressed in something skimpy, torn, wet, or otherwise revealing, or the possibility of such an occurrence, then they have an even chance of making a decent film. I have only the Underworld films, Pearl Harbor, The Aviator, or even Van Helsing as my proof.  Directors who had some track record, some success, and blew it by the addition of The Flavor of the Month.  Well, I take that back, Underworld was directed by her boyfriend who had no directing chops under his belt, but damn those were poor films, and I stand by her being a karmic test.  Kate Beckinsale can take even gifted directors down the road for a poor film.  The notable exception being Kenneth Branagh who cast  her in an ingenue role.  He was spared in Much Ado About Nothing, for she had not yet assumed her great role in the Universe's balancing. 

The Universe is perhaps not kind--the Long Dark between solid bodies will kill us all without a shed tear, and with little fanfare with a cast of radiation from a wandering body bursting with light and energy or smash us all and leave the world to the insects and squid to rise as the next species batting for intelligence--but it is fair. In that cosmic fairness, for Kate Beckinsale, we have been gifted with an actor of the likes of Lance Henrikson.

Lance grew to fame in geek circles with his role as Bishop in Aliens. Though, to be fair, he was in The Terminator long before that. And let us not forget Pirhana Two: The Spawning. And Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The Right Stuff--you know, little art house stuff. But after Aliens, Lance's career took an odd turn. Not as odd as, say, Tim Thomerson, who gifted New Moon Cinema with scintillating performances like Doll Man, but Lance has made an impressive number of B-Pictures. His IMDB credits are longer than many actors have had lines. Mind you, he hit B-Films in what was a new Golden Age for B-Movies. Near Dark. Pumpkinhead. Excessive Force. Knights. Here was a man who could seamlessly go from calling up a hillbilly vengeance demon, to cop, to secret agent, vampire, to corrupt sheriff, to a blood sucking cyborg, to voicing cartoons, and back to serious roles, and then mainstream television, even voice parts for video games. It didn't matter, since they all paid with coin of the realm, and Lance gots kids to take care of. And a couple of ex-wives too. There are few actors who have had as varied a career as Lance has had. And, I posit, that he is the reverse of Kate Beckinsale.

Now then, let's not get it screwed up that Lance has not been involved in some films and series that did, shall we say, less than well? But, his films have something that a great many of the straight to video crowd didn't have: Lance Henriksen. As a presence on film, he is the sort of actor that demands a certain amount of respect. Much like Keith David. He has a gravitas on screen, that means he can be spitting up what looks like a mix of corn starch and heavy cream, and still, folks are riveted by that gravelly voice, and it gives weight to a film. Even a bad film. Even Pirhana Two: The Spawning.

Or Knights. Here is a film that should have been gawd awful. Kathy Long was a female kick boxing champ. She was known for being a damn determined fighter, if not just a little on the mean side. She was also moderately pretty. Which in the 90s was more than enough. Cyborg had made a ton of cash on video with the Van Dammage. There were a ton of new martial arts movies all over the place, and not a lot of women in leading roles, so I can see the pitch for this film being made, and let's face it, Albert Pyun, directed Cyborg. Nemesis. The above mentioned Dollman. Heck, Kickboxer 2 and 4. He was THE guy to go to make a cheap movie with asskickery. So, Kathy Long is cast as our heroine, a naive girl taught to fight by Kris Kristofferson to battle blood drinking cyborgs. That's right Kris Kristofferson. AND Lance Henrikson. In a cyborg vampire movie.

And it was pure gold. Didn't make a ton of cash, but the movie should have had everything against it, and yet, it is funny, the action isn't bad, Long is a terrible actress, but you didn't watch the movie for her emoting, but to see her touchis in skimpy clothes, and her beat the hell out of guys. And then, out of the blue, you have Kris Kristofferson AND Lance Henrikson having a great time. For those who watched the movie, or plan to, you can see where Kristofferson stole a lot of his character for the Blade movies from this one.

It's a movie that should have been terrible. Just cringe worthy, but somehow, it pulls it out. And I leave that up to Lance, who tore up the screen with equal parts camp, and gravitas. His voice rolls out and you have to smile.

And that's how it is with much of his work. Horrible films are made palatable by the inclusion of Lance Henriksen. Even in cameos, like in Aliens3. Or Hellraiser: Hellworld. Or The Mangler 2--yes, Virginia, they made a sequel. Lance makes even terrible films watchable by his presence. He may not be able to turn them into gold, but he can mitigate even a terrible script to palatable. Put him in a video game, and you have legions of geeks smiling when they hear him. He, like Keith David, is a mark of quality, and part of that is his strong presence, and part, the fact that folks know he's put in his dues. He's no shrinking violet or tantrum throwing star, he's a guy who will throw up Karo and be chucked into a set to appear as a torn up android on command. He doesn't have a huge amount of pride to keep him locked in his trailer, she's a trouper, and folks know it. And that shows on screen. God Love him for it too, because his presence has made a ton of films that could have been absolutely horrible, into gems that maybe didn't bring in bank, but they certainly made folks smile.

Lance Henriksen. The Savior of B-Film. I salute thee, sir. I salute thee.


  1. "Near Dark". Best vampire movie ever. THIS is vampires.

  2. Want to see Lance in one of his most underappreciated roles? Go find Hard Target, which is just a remake of The Most Dangerous Game. Lance is absolutely stellar, especially the humor he shows in the role.