Arts

Cult Movie: Sid Haig might have been typecast but it made him a B-movie legend

Sid Haig in House of 1,000 Corpses (2003)
Ralph McLean

Sid Haig

SID Haig had the kind of face that old school Hollywood loved. Not as a leading man, you understand: there was way too much character going on in that hangdog visage for the money men to back him as a proper star.

What Haig had was the off-kilter look of a classic movie heavy, the sort of guy who you'd find lurking around the fringes of the criminal underworld with a dead-eyed charisma all his own. Hollywood may not have appreciated his acting skills to any great degree but they exploited his oddness for all they were worth.

Haig, who passed away this week at the age of 80, was never comfortable with his typecasting but he used it to carve out a fine CV that saw him work for more than five decades.

From his late-in-life work with Rob Zombie on notorious horror fare like House of 1,000 Corpses right back to the superior exploitation flicks he made with director Jack Hill in the 60s and 70s that brought him to the attention of Quentin Tarantino and saw him cast in Jackie Brown, this is a man whose life on screen just screamed cult.

As a young, aspiring actor his hulking presence graced everything from Star Trek to Mission Impossible but the TV screen was never going to be big enough to contain this larger-than-life character.

His very first film, Spider Baby, from 1967, set the tone for all that would follow in the world of exploitation cinema. A wild-eyed cult classic that marked the actor's first collaboration with Jack Hill, it still ranks as one of the finest, and oddest, of that oddity-packed decade.

Playing alongside an ageing Lon Chaney Jr in one of his last films, Haig stands out as one of the three crazed siblings that Chaney's caretaker character looks after. From there on the die was cast on his cult status.

He made a name apprearing alongside the incomparable Pam Grier in wild and wonderful Blaxploitation offerings the likes of Coffy (1973) and Foxy Brown (74). Fans of such garishly entertaining genre offerings always knew what they were getting when his grizzled features rolled up on the big screen.

Tired of his inevitable typecasting, Haig retreated from view as the B-movie roles grew ever more predictable. It was Tarantino, forever the fanboy, who lured him on to the screen once again to play alongside his old friend Pam Grier in Jackie Brown, his 1994 homage to the crime films of Hill and suchlike. Playing the judge who sentences Jackie seemed to bring Haig full circle.

To modern horror audiences, however, it is his performance as the evil, clown-painted Captain Spalding in Rob Zombie's deliriously over-the-top House of 1,000 Corpses (2003) and The Devil's Rejects (2005) that will define his cult status. He made one final appearance with Zombie in this year's Three From Hell but it's that amazing back catalogue of appearances that the interested should pursue.

Strange, enigmatic and always hugely watchable, his truly was a B-movie life less ordinary.

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