Glamorous redhead Vivian Blaine (1921 – 1995) entered the world of cinema as a musical performer in the 1940s. As her roles in films such as State Fair and Doll Face (with Carmen Miranda) began to dry up, she returned to the Broadway stage and created the role she is best known for, Ms. Adelaide, in the original Guys and Dolls in 1950. (This is a role she, also, winningly recreated for the film version in 1955 with Marlon Brando.) Television roles followed and, in the late 70s and early 80s, she added some class to two mutated, pore sucking opuses that earn her a secure and beloved place in monster movie hall of fame.
The Dark. 1979. Blaine’s Role: Courtney Floyd.
Don’t you just hate it when the local whores and random passers-by start getting ripped apart by a giant space creature in dank alleys? Well, so does The Dark’s master crime writer (played with flippant charm by William Devane) – especially when the first victim is his daughter (played, interestingly enough, by the soon-to-be Kathy Hilton). Aided by a television reporter, portrayed by Cathy Lee Crosby (a participant in 1973’s The Laughing Detective, a Walter Matthau film whose gay killer scenario has definite pre-shades of William Freidkin’s controversial Cruising), and a shaggy forensic master (radio announcer and Scooby Doo wonder Casey Kasem), Devane soon discovers a party psychic (turned true clairvoyant) may have clues to the vicious killings.
As a link to the previously fake wonder, Blaine’s Floyd, is frisky and fun. Her brief scene with Devane vibrates with husky sexuality and one almost believes Blaine could have a chance with the much younger Devane, such is her breezy confidence. (Of course, since Blaine is playing an actor’s agent, she probably had plenty of personal acquaintances and situations to draw from.)
As for the film itself, The Dark is a frequently tense (especially in its twisted opening scene featuring a possibly psychotic, seemingly blind man following a frightened woman down a jagged path) and gloriously cheesy. (Besides its massive paws with claws, the creature also shoots laser beams from its eyes). Unfortunately, the film loses steam during its final act and its ending is far too abrupt to be anywhere as satisfying as the film’s first half. Although, The Dark does have some high profile fans including Scott Spiegel, the writer of Evil Dead 2.
Parasite. 1982. Blaine’s Role: Miss Daley.
Best known as the vehicle that gave Demi Moore her first starring role, the producers of this Italian Stallion knew who their true star was – Blaine is introduced as Miss Vivian Blaine in the opening credits of this, her second to last film.
Concerned with a nervous scientist, hunted by the ruling Marshalls in a post apocalyptic world, Blaine is Miss Daley, queen of a crumbling boarding house. Of course, our timid chemist arrives at Daley’s dusty rooms with more than rent in tow. Having created a deadly parasite, he is desperately searching for a cure. When one of the chewy fiends is loosed upon a violent gang of teens, though, hell soon erupts in dry town.
In a nice touch, Blaine’s Daley is revealed as a former actress. This character devise is never discussed, though. Subtly (especially for this type of film), all is revealed through the photos hanging on the walls of her dilapidated estate. Blaine plays fully into the action when one of the infected teens is brought to Daley’s establishment, causing furious demises for many. With a touch of bitterness and wit, Blaine reveals Daley as a woman still concerned about her appearance just (spoiler alert) before her core sucking obliteration. Gasping arthritically ‘til the end, Blaine’s expiration is one of the film’s most memorable proving, once and for all, if you’re going to be in one of these demented babies, dying well is the best revenge.
On DVD, Parasite’s 3D origins are apparent with its main creature (and title card) popping into your face in an obvious manner. That the creature looks as much like a deranged Muppet with tremulous fangs as anything else is among its extreme goofy pleasures.
In a poignant note, actor Tom Villard (We’ve Got it Made, Popcorn) who, sadly, died of AIDS in 1994, gives an enthusiast performance as one of the creature’s first hollowed out victims. Cherie Currie (lead singer of The Runaways and the doomed vixen of Foxes), also makes a dewy appearance making this gastronomical romp a true cult film through actor appearances alone. (Devotedly, Blaine was one of the first celebrities to devote herself to raising awareness and money for AIDS charities.)
In an interesting note, Blaine’s last appearance was on an episode of the first season of Murder She Wrote (1985) called Broadway Malady, playing Lorna Luft’s mother. Here Blaine gets to sing in a full out production number and fight off an extremely lethal death by gas stove while Luft’s vocal pyrotechnics are matched by her character’s injury in a fairly blunt and violent shooting sequence orchestrated by character actor Gregg Henry (Slither, Just Before Dawn, Body Double).
Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!