World of Westfahl | Encyclopedia Introduction | All Entries | Acknowledgements
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

M Entries
Patrick Macnee
Antonio Margheriti
Chris Marker
Hugh Marlowe
William Marshall
Arlene Martel
Ross Martin
Richard Matheson
Sir Paul McCartney
Roddy McDowall
Leo McKern
Lee Meriwether
Ricardo Montalban
Agnes Moorhead
Billy Mumy
Eddie Murphy
 
MARSHALL, WILLIAM
(1924–2003). American actor.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Acted in: Demetrius and the Gladiators (Delmer Daves 1954); Sabu and the Magic Ring (George Blair 1957); "The Jar" (1964), episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour; "The Vulcan Affair" (1964), "The Maze Affair" (1967), episodes of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.; To Trap a Spy (expanded version of "The Vulcan Affair" for theatrical release abroad) (Don Melford 1966); "Tarzan's Jungle Rebellion" (two‑part episode), "Tarzan and the Mountains of the Moon" (1967), episodes of Tarzan (also released abroad at theatrical movies); "The Ultimate Computer" (1968), episode of Star Trek; "The Night of the Egyptian Queen" (1968), episode of The Wild, Wild West; Skullduggery (Gordon Douglas 1969); The Mask of Sheba (tv movie) (David Lowell Rich 1970); Blacula (William Crain 1972); Scream, Blacula, Scream! (Robert Kelljan 1973); Abby (William GIRDLER 1974); Twilight's Last Gleaming (Robert Aldrich 1977); The Lost Years (documentary; narrator) (1980); Curtains (Richard Ciupka 1983); Pee‑Wee's Playhouse (tv series) (1986‑1990); Amazon Women on the Moon (Joe DANTE, Carl Gottlieb, Peter Horton, John LANDIS, and Robert K. Weiss 1987); The Fisher King (Terry GILLIAM 1991); Sorceress (Jim WYNORSKI 1994); Dinosaur Valley Girls (Donald F. Glut 1996).
 
In all discussions of William Marshall's career, the same word keeps coming up again and again: dignity: "Boy, did that man have a sense of dignity." This quality, of course, only becomes apparent in situations where it would seem absolutely impossible to maintain's one dignity. And getting himself into such situations was precisely what Marshall specialized in.

Despite his theatrical training and experience, and despite one's natural desire to speak well of the recently deceased, it cannot be honestly asserted that there was anything special about Marshall's acting abilities. True, he could, in the sterile manner of Patrick STEWART, strut across the stage and portentously intone lines to project the conventional illusion of great acting, but even the sorts of people impressed with Stewart never mustered much respect for Marshall's hollow performances. However, his career merits attention because, like Max VON SYDOW, Marshall was manifestly determined to avoid the sorts of serious roles one naturally associates with his stilted style of acting and instead sought out absurd, execrable films where he could shine by the pure incongruity of his stately presence. So, although unmemorable as Othello, Marshall built his reputation by choosing films in which one earn points simply by failing to break out in hysterical laughter amidst the incessant nonsense.

Consider what a person would have to sit through to properly evaluate this actor: Marshall battling in the Roman arena against Victor Mature in Demetrius and the Gladiators; Marshall emerging from the mist as Sabu's magic genie in Sabu and the Magic Ring; Marshall introducing cartoons on Pee-Wee's Playhouse; Marshall playing a pirate in one segment of Amazon Women on the Moon; Marshall popping up between the bare breasts in the soft-core direct-to-video films Sorceress and Dinosaur Valley Girls. Scenes from his episodes of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Tarzan, and The Wild, Wild West, or films like the forgettable and forgotten Skullduggery, would provide only marginally better interludes.

Still, despite all these dubious entries in his filmography, there were moments when Marshall's stolid performances transcended their dire contexts and grudgingly earned genuine respect. He was well employed as one of the persons baffled by "The Jar" in that memorable episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour; his solemn portrayal of computer expert William Daystrom in the preposterous Star Trek episode, "The Ultimate Computer," where he accidentally creates a computer with a homicidal bent who must be outwitted by William SHATNER's Captain Kirk, helped to establish Daystrom and his computers as a recurring presence in the Star Trek universe; and Terry GILLIAM's decision to cast him as a bum added to the strange, surrealistic atmosphere of The Fisher King. And outshining everything else in Marshall's career, there is Blacula—a movie designed and destined to be a farcical disaster that was rescued by Marshall's insistence upon playing the role seriously. If there had been an Academy Award for Best Performance in an Absolutely Atrocious Film, Marshall would have won hands down. Unfortunately, even Marshall could accomplish nothing to salvage the execrable follow-ups, Scream, Blacula, Scream! and Abby, which delivered a lethal one-two punch to end Marshall's promising career as a horror film icon and drive him back into obscurity. Still, he kept on working where he could until he was forced into retirement by Alzheimer's Disease, which cruelly deprived him of his only asset, that uncanny ability to always maintain his dignity.

To contact us about encyclopedia matters, send an email to Gary Westfahl.
If you find any Web site errors, typos or other stuff worth mentioning, please send it to our Webmaster.
Copyright © 1999–2014 Gary Westfahl All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Hosted & Designed By:
SF Site spot art