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John Carradine - A Biography

by Mike Haberfelner

August 2007

Films starring John Carradine on (re)Search my Trash


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Reportedly, John Carradine, one of the most prolific Hollywood character actors ever, once said "I've made some of the greatest films ever made - and a lot of crap, too." - and as you will see, he was right on both accounts ... John Carradine is one of the reasons that makes the trash movie realm so exciting, and he is nothing short of a gift to the horror genre. Actually, Carradine was a quite accomplished and highly intelligent stage actor with a weakness (and a talent) for William Shakespeare, yet that didn't keep him from appearing in over 200 movies and over 100 TV-shows over the course of 6 decades - and many of them horror and trash movies that were far below his talents - but he usually gave very fine, on occasions even enthusiastic performances, no matter how bad the script was he had to work with. Certainly, too many a trash film have damaged Carradine's career as a movie actor, but from today's point of view, many of especially these films are regarded as cult items and will ensure that he will not be forgotten.


John Carradine was born Peter Richmond Carradine in New York, New York in 1906 into a well-to-do family, his father was a correspondent for the Associated Press, his mother a surgeon. Carradine's childhood was spent in Poughkeepsie, and he grew up wanting to be an artist, studying sculpture at the Graphic Arts School. Later he travelled through the South making a living trying to sell his art and sketches.

It was in 1925 when he made his theatrical debut, in a production of Camille at the St.Charles Theatre in New Orleans. In 1927, he had made his way to Hollywood, where he appeared in a number of stage productions. Legend has it that he eventually tried to sell some set-designs to Cecil B.DeMille, who rejected the designs though, but not Carradine himself, whose booming voice he thought ideal for the back then just blossoming sound film, and soon enough, he gave Carradine voice work in several films - but that might just as well just be some story thought up by some PR agent to spice up Carradine's career, fact is that in Hollywood of the early sound era, stage actors with distinctive voices were in high demand, and Carradine simply was in the right place at the right time, DeMille or not.


Carradine's first film appearance was in a small and uncredited role as a reporter in Bright Lights (Michael Curtiz) in 1930, his first credited role came later that year in Tol'able David (John G. Blystone), an inferior sound remake of a film of the same name from 1921, directed by Henry King. Back then, Carradine worked under the name Peter Richmond.

Over the next few years, Carradine had roles in many a film, but no really big roles, and if he was at all credited it was usually as Peter Richmond or John Peter Richmond. Some of the more interesting of his movies were:

  • Forgotten Commandments (1932, Louis J.Gasnier, William Schorr), which is basically a vehicle to recycle footage from Cecil B. DeMille's (silent) classic The Ten Commandments from 1923.
  • Cecil B. DeMille also directed The Sign of the Cross (1932), a story about the Christians in Rome under Emperor Nero, who blames the burning of the city on them. Carradine actually has more than one roles in this one, but only as a voice actor. The same with Cecil B. DeMille's The Crusades from 1935, the entirely inaccurate chronicles of Richard the Lionheart's adventures while crusading, in which Carradine voices the Duke Leopold of Austria who is embodied by Italian actor Albert Conti.
  • This Day and Age (1933) is probably Cecil B. DeMille's rarest film, mainly so because Paramount to this day holds the copyright to it and keeps it under lock and key. The film, probably one of DeMille's lesser works, is about a bunch of highschool kids wanting to have their revenge on a mob boss (Charles Bickford) because he has murdered a local tailor the kids have been idolising (!). John Carradine plays the vice principal of the kids' school in this one.

  • In DeMille's Cleopatra from 1934 starring Claudette Colbert in the title role, Warren William as Julius Caesar and Henry Wilcoxon as Marc Antony, Carradine has a brief appearance and does some voice-acting.
  • To the Last Man (1933, Henry Hathaway) was Carradine's very first Western, even if he didn't receive on-screen credit for it. The film, based on a novel by Zane Grey, stars Randolph Scott and Esther Ralston, but it is also notable for supporting appearances by Buster Crabbe [Buster Crabbe-bio - click here] and a very young Shirley Temple.
  • The classics The Invisible Man (1933, James Whale), The Black Cat (1934, Edgar G.Ulmer) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935, James Whale) introduced Carradine to the Universal horror cycle, which would play an important role later in his career. In these three films though, his roles are merely small and unimportant, and he didn't receive on-screen credit for any of them.
  • The Meanest Gal in Town (1934, Russell Mack) is a comedy about a stranded actress who has become a manicurist in Smalltown USA and turns the village around. The actress is played by Zasu Pitts, but able supoort is given by El Brendel, Pert Kelton, James Gleason and Richard 'Skeets' Gallagher. Carradine has a small and uncredited role as stranded actor.

In 1935, Carradine officially changed his name to John Carradine, a name which he would keep for the rest of his life/career. The first film he made under that name - and got credited for - was the crime drama The Transient Lady (1935, Edward Buzzell), soon to be followed by the historical dramas Les Misérables (1935, Richard Boleslawski) - an adaptation of the popular novel by Victor Hugo starring Frederic March as Jean Valjean and Charles Laughton as his nemesis Inspector Javert - and Cardinal Richelieu (1935, Rowland V.Lee) - with George Arliss in the title role as well as Maureen O'Sullivan, Edward Arnold and Cesar Romero. In neither of these three films though he had big roles, and it soon seemed his career would actually swing back to uncredited appearances once more, with films like another Zasu Pitts comedy, She Gets Her Man (1935, William Nigh) or the Bing Crosby-vehicle Anything Goes (1936, Lewis Milestone).


In 1935 came the first big turning point in John Carradine's career - apart from changing his name - when he signed on with 20th Century Fox. Carradine's first effort for Fox was comparatively humble, an uncredited appearance in The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo (1935, Stephen Roberts), a gambler comedy starring Ronald Colman, Joan Bennett, Colin Clive and Nigel Bruce.


In 1936 however, Carradine got the first role that allowed him to shine, that of a sadistic prison warden in John Ford's Prisoner of Shark Island. The film - about a doctor (Warner Baxter) being thrown into prison for (innocently) treating the leg of Lincoln-assassin John Wilkes Booth - marked the first collaboration of Carradine and legendary director John Ford, who would over the next few years use him time and again, giving Carradine some of his best roles of that era.

Carradine's next collaboration with Ford came in later 1936, when he was on loan to RKO, for the film Mary of Scotland, a historical drama with Katharine Hepburn in the title role, Florence Eldridge as Queen Elisabeth I and Frederic March.

In 1937, The Hurricane (John Ford) followed, which starred Jon Hall [Jon Hall bio - click here] as an unjustly arrested Tahitian sailor and Dorothy Lamour as his wife. The film's highlight though is - and you might have guessed it - a hurricane. Carradine is once again a prison warden in this one. The Hurricane was actually the film that made Jon Hall a star, and over the years he starred in dozens of similar (but mostly more formulaic) films, very often opposite Maria Montez.

1938's Four Men and a Prayer (John Ford) is about four men (Richard Greene, George Sanders, David Niven, William Henry) who travel around the world to clear their deceased father (C.Aubrey Smith) of a crime he didn't commit. The film however is domineered by Loretta Young, while Carradine has only a tiny, villainous role. According to all reports, John Ford himself didn't care too much about this film.

John Ford's Submarine Patrol from later 1938, which was co-scripted by William Faulkner, once again starred Richard Greene in the lead, and, as the title suggests, it's an underwater actioner. Besides John Carradine, who can be found pretty far down in the credits, this film also features an uncredited early performance by Lon Chaney jr [Lon Chaney jr-bio - click here].

Drums Along the Mohawk (1939, John Ford) is a Western set during the Revolutionary War. In the film, Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert play a couple having to endure the hardships of settling in what was then the wilderness, Indian attacks included. John Carradine plays an especially mean character here, a one-eyed white man leading the attacks of the Iroquois Indians on the settlers - a character clearly modeled after real-life British Loyalist officer Walter Butler (1752 - 1781).


It was towards the turn of the decade that Ford also gave Carradine two of his best roles:

First there was Stagecoach (1939, John Ford), the undisputed classic that made John Wayne a star [John Wayne in the 1930's - click here], and also gave a small but meaty villain role to B-Western hero Tom Tyler [Tom Tyler-bio - click here]. Carradine's role is comparatively insignificant to the story compared to those of Wayne and Tyler, but he adds proper menace to the proceedings as sinister gambler - who is in the end allowed to die a hero's death.

And then there was the John Steinbeck-adaptation Grapes of Wrath (1940, John Ford), in which Carradine plays lead Henry Fonda's sidekick, a priest who has lost his faith and who ultimately finds the answers he was looking for in communism. Eventually, he is shot for his dangerous ideas, but prompts Fonda to follow his lead. What is remarkable about Carradine's performance in this one is that he not only plays no villain, but actually gives a very moving performance playing a very complex character.

Interestingly, after Grapes of Wrath, which earned Ford an Oscar as best director, Carradine did not make another film with him for more than a decade ...


Even outside of his work with Ford though though, John Carradine hasn't been idle while under contract with 20th Century Fox, playing in A-movies as well as B's, and films from pretty much every genre, like Westerns - including Daniel Boone (1936, David Howard) starring George O'Brien, the Jack London-adaptation White Fang (1936, David Butler), Jesse James (1939, Henry King) starring Tyrone Power and Henry Fonda, its sequel The Return of Frank James (1940, Fritz Lang) starring Henry Fonda, and the Zane Grey-adaptation Western Union (1941, Fritz Lang) -, Arabian Nights-inspired yarns - the desert-drama The Garden of Allah (1936, Richard Boleslawski) starring Marlene Dietrich, Charles Boyer and Basil Rathbone, and the comedy Ali Baba Goes to Town (1937, David Butler) starring Eddie Cantor and Gypsy Rose Lee -, two episodes of the Mr.Moto-series starring Peter Lorre [Peter Lorre-bio - click here] - Thank You, Mr.Moto (1937, Norman Foster) and Mr.Moto's Last Warning (1939, Norman Foster) -, adventure films - the Robert Louis Stevenson-adaptation Kidnapped (1938, Otto Preminger, Alfred L.Werker) and Captain Fury (1939, Hal Roach) - espionage films - Fritz Lang's Man Hunt (1941), an anti-Nazi film made before the USA entered World War II, starring Walter Pidgeon, Joan Bennett and George Sanders -, crime and gangster movies - Nancy Steele is Missing (1937, George Marshall), and The Last Gangster (1937, Edward Ludwig) starring Edward G.Robinson and James Stewart -, musicals - Alexander's Ragtime Band (1938, Henry King) with music by Irving Berlin and starring Tyrone Power and Don Ameche -, comedies - the Ritz Brothers-vehicles Kentucky Moonshine (1938, David Butler) and The Three Musketeers (1939, Allan Dwan), the latter also starring Don Ameche and Lionel Atwill [Lionel Atwill-bio - click here] - the first Sherlock Holmes film starring Basil Rathbone, The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939, Sidney Lanfield), and whatever else the studio cared to throw at him, and be it a drama directed by Jean Renoir, Swamp Water (1941) ... and that's just a small selection of the films Carradine made during that time ...

John Carradine's favourite from that time of his career though was the Rudyard Kipling adaptation Captains Courageous (1937, Victor Fleming), which he did while on loan from 20th Century Fox to MGM and that featured Freddie Bartholomew, Spencer Tracy (who won an Oscar for this one), Lionel Barrymore, Melvyn Douglas and Mickey Rooney, and it's the story of a spoiled kid (Bartholomew), who through the typical series of (unlikely) circumstances has to come to terms with spending his life as a rough seaman. Carradine plays a sailor in this one who only gradually learns to accept the kid.


Whispering Ghosts (1942, Alfred L.Werker), Carradine's last film under his 20th Century Fox-contract is interesting inasmuch as it is an early entry into the horror-genre for Carradine, a genre he did not yet have much experience with but which would pretty much dominate the remainder of his movie career. In the film, actually a horror comedy that stars Milton Berle and also features Brenda Joyce and African American comedian Willie Best, Carradine uses his talent to play villains to add to the film's creepy atmosphere.


After his contract with 20th Century Fox had ended, Carradine went freelancing, and the quality of the films he was in gradually declined and he accepted more and more work in insignificant B's for small-time studios, even if every once in a full moon, he was once again able to get a role in a respectable film or A-picture  ... but thing is, while Carradine's work in more respectable films is by and large forgotten or at least downplayed, his performances in B's are cherished to this very day ...

  • It is interesting to note in this respect that in 1942, Carradine played Gestapo men in two movies made as part of the American World War II propaganda effort, the prestige (or A-)picture Reunion in France (Jules Dassin) produced by MGM and starring John Wayne and Joan Crawford, and the Monogram-programmer I Escaped the Gestapo (Harold Young).
  • In 1943, Carradine could be seen in two more fims playing a Nazi: Hitler's Madman was the first American film by German director Douglas Sirk (who in Germany made a name of himself as Detlef Sierck), who later became renowned especially for his melodramas. Actually the film was produced by small-time studio PRC [PRC-history - click here], but legend has it that big MGM was so impressed by the result that it picked the film up for distribution, granting it a much wider exposure than PRC could have offered.
  • The other 1943-film that showed John Carradine as a Nazi came from pretty much the other end of the quality range: Revenge of the Zombies (Steve Sekely), a Monogram-production, is nothing short of a mess storywise, blending mad scientist and zombie motives with World War II propaganda-plot, with John Carradine doing his mad scientist routine and African American actor Mantan Moreland doing the comic relief [Mantan Moreland-bio - click here] - and besides these two the film also stars B-Western hero Bob Steele [Bob Steele-bio - click here]. The film is for acquired tastes for sure, but if you like 1940's trash horror, you won't want to miss this one.
  • Universal's Captive Wild Woman (1943, Edward Dmytryk) is pretty much as silly as Revenge of the Zombies, arguably even more so: In this one, Carradine plays a mad scientist who transplants human glands into a gorilla to turn the beast into a beautiful woman (Acquanetta) - but as could have been expected, the woman eventually goes wild. Evelyn Ankers co-stars in this one, as well as Clyde Beatty's lions and tigers (who Beatty himself handles as a stand-in for leading man Milburn Stone).
  • In Republic's Silver Spurs (1943, Joseph Kane), Carradine can be seen as the villain in a typical Roy Rogers-vehicle [Roy Rogers-bio - click here] [Republic history - click here], meaning it's a blend of Western, musical and comedy, with Roy as the spotless hero. Smiley Burnette plays Roy's sidekick in this one, Phyllis Brooks the leading lady, and Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers are in it too.
  • After an uncredited appearance The Black Cat, Isle of Forgotten Sins/Monsoon (1943) was John Carradine's second collaboration with B-movie auteur Edgar G.Ulmer. This one, a low budget production by PRC, is about John Carradine and Frankie Fenton searching for a treasure in the South Seas, with Gale Sondergaard as a brothel madame trying to get her hands on whatever they find ... and then there's also Sidney Toler and his gang of crooks - and of course a monsoon ... all this might sound incredibly pulpy, but in my book, Edgar G.Ulmer films are always worth a look ...
  • Gangway for Tomorrow (1943, John H.Auer), an RKO-production, is another American World War II propaganda effort, albeit a more subtle one, following the lives of five Americans working in a munitions factory and how they came to work there - the ending is of course incredibly patriotic, but would you expect anything else. Interestingly, for once in a propaganda film, John Carradine does not play a Nazi ...
  • Voodoo Man (1944, William Beaudine) and Return of the Ape Man (1944, Phil Rosen) are two Monogram-shockers in which Carradine appeared alongside fellow horror star Bela Lugosi [Bela Lugosi bio - click here]. In the first one, Bela plays a scientist who wants to bring his long dead - but still wandering around - wife back to life with Carradine playing his clumsy assistant. Another horror icon, George Zucco  [George Zucco bio - click here], plays a voodoo priest one just needs to have around for occasions like this. The second one features Lugosi and Carradine as (mad ?) scientists who go to the Arctic to find the missing link and prove their theories about suspended animation - with terrible results. Both films suffer from terribly muddled screenplays (courtesy in both cases of Robert Charles) and underwhelming production values - but in the eyes of some (me included), that's part of the charm of films like this.

In 1944, John Carradine also made some more films of the Universal horror cycle. Ironically, these films are held in higher regard by many a critic, simply because the films had about ten times the budget of a Monogram- or PRC-programmer and featured higher production values thanks to lavish inhouse sets - truth though ist hese films were if anything even worse, they featured atrocious scripts, were too slick for their own good, were rather dull, actually, lacked the anything-goes-enthusiasm of the films of smaller studios, and instead looked like soulless products from an assembly line - all that said, of course the dedicated trash fan might find something to laugh even in the Universal-shockers of the time.

  • The first of these Universal-shockers was The Invisible Man's Revenge (1944, Ford L.Beebe), the last and weakest of the Invisible Man-series (not counting the Abbott-and-Costello comedy from 1951) in more ways than one: The film turned H.G.Wells original concept and the classic 1933-movie by James Whale (click here) into an an ill-adviced blend of horror, science fiction and crime drama with comedy thrown in at the most inappropriate moments. John Carradine plays a scientist - not a mad one, just a plain one - in this one who turns Jon Hall invisible, but Jon Hall uses his invisibility to his own ends and gets vengeance on those who wronged him, and ultimately he even kills Carradine. The script was so poor in fact that there was little Carradine could do to save the film.
  • The Mummy's Ghost (1944, Reginald Le Borg) is only gradually better, a tale about an Egyptian High Priest (Carradine) who travels to the USA to recover the mummies of Kharis (Lon Chaney jr [Lon Chaney jr-bio - click here]) and Ananka - only to discover that she has been already reborn as a college girl (Ramsay Ames). Quite like The Invisible Man's Revenge, this is probably the weakest of the Kharis the Mummy-series, and it actually comes as no small surprise that the series was not laid to rest after this one.

  • With House of Frankenstein (1944, Erle C.Kenton) and House of Dracula (1945, Erle C.Kenton), Carradine had finally made it to the top of Universal's horror performers - not that that was meaning a lot anymore in the mid-1940's - when he was hired to play Count Dracula, a role that had been immortalized by Bela Lugosi [Bela Lugosi bio - click here] in 1931 (click here). True, Carradine's performance did not leave the same impact as Lugosi's, but that's not so much his fault as the films' fault. As a matter of fact, Dracula is given only very little to do in both flicks, two muddled horror movies that try to combine the Dracula, Frankenstein and Wolf Man-myths into one movie (with Glenne Strange playing the monster and Lon Chaney jr playing the werewolf in both of them) - but quite simply both films fail miserably, and are today only watchable because they are unintentionally funny just because of that.

In between these shockers, Carradine also made a string of movies for other studios, from both the A- and B-picture variety, and his most notable film from that era (and also one of his favourites) might be Bluebeard (1944), a cheap PRC-production [PRC-history - click here] directed with panache be B-movie auteur Edgar G.Ulmer. In this little masterpiece, John Carradine plays a painter in Paris who strangles his models after painting them. The great thing about Carradine's performance is that he plays his Bluebeard not as evil incarnate but as a driven man who tries to fight his impulses, especially when he falls in love with one of his models (Jean Parker). This combined with Ulmer's natural talent to overcome the tiniest budgets (and Bluebeard was made on the cheap) make this one above all else a great (and underrated) B-movie gem.


1945 saw Carradine return once again to the realm of A-movies for two of the more memorable films of his vast filmography:

Otto Preminger's Fallen Angel (1945) was a film noir intended to equal his big success Laura from the previous year, but somehow it failed both on a financial and a quality level (though it's by no means bad). Carradine's role is comparatively small in this one, the cast is headed by musical star Alice Faye in a rare dramatic role, with Linda Darnell as a sluttish waitress and Dana Andrews as a hapless murder suspect. Reportedly, Alice Faye, then a big box office-draw, left her studio, 20th Century Fox, after this one, believing co-star Linda Darnell was favoured over her, and didn't make another film for nearly 20 years.

The other big budget production Carradine made in 1945 was Captain Kidd (Rowland V.Lee), a pirate flick with Charles Laughton in the title role, Randolph Scott, Barbara Britton, Gilbert Roland and Sheldon Leonard. The film might have very little to do with the historical Captain Kidd, and Randolph Scott might not be the best choice for a swashbuckling hero in the Errol Flynn-mold, but the movie's still good and campy fun and it gives Carradine, as Laughton's chief henchman, plenty of opportunity to steal the show, proving that he can live up to an actor as ham as Laughton.


In 1946, Carradine played in another of these silly, wonderful and wonderfully silly Monogram-shockers: The Face of Marble (William Beaudine). In this one, Carradine plays a(nother) mad scientist, this one is intent on bringing the dead back to life. As if that wasn't quite enough though, the film also features a love triangle and a black magician in a mix that only Monogram can provide.


For PRC, Carradine made a musical in 1946, Down Missouri Way (Josef Berne), in which he deliberately hams it up playing a film director wanting to make a hillbilly movie in the Ozarks. Musicals though were certainly not PRC's forte and without sufficient talent, this film was pretty much dead on arrival - but it might be fun to watch from a camp point of view ...


1947 saw Carradine back in A-movie realm, playing a part in The Private Affairs of Bel Ami (Albert Lewin), a period piece based on a novel by Guy de Maupassant which is by and large a vehicle for George Sanders who schemes and has affairs in 1880's Paris to climb the social ladder. Carradine plays his old army friend of whom Sanders eventually gets the better. Among the women Sanders goes through are Marie Wilson, Angela Lansbury and Ann Dvorak.


Carradine's did not make another movie until 1949 - the movie in question being the little known film noir C-Man (Joseph Lerner) starring Dean Jagger - and he did thereafter not make another film for five years, until the Bob Hope-starrer Casanova's Big Night (1954, Norman Z.McLeod), which also featured genre actors Basil Rathbone and Lon Chaney jr - but that hardly meant that he was idle during that time. On one hand he returned to the stage - which was always his first love - to star in many a classic on Broadway. On the other hand he was among the first movie actors to make the transition to the then fledging new medium, television. Carradine's first TV-appearance was as early as 1947, playing Scrooge in a production of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol for the DuMont Television Network.


From the late 1940's onwards, and pretty much until his death in 1988, John Carradine starred in a sheer endless string of TV-shows and TV-series, from the obscure to the well-known, from the cheesy to the colourful, and just like his filmwork, Carradine's TV-career spanned pretty much all genres. Among his more memorable performances are appearances in The Adventures of Ellery Queen (1951), Suspense (1953), The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1954), Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok (1954), an adaptation of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1955, Herbert B.Swope jr), multiple episodes of Climax! (1955 and 1956), Gunsmoke (1955 and 1959), episodes of Matinee Theatre (1956), in one of which he actually played Dracula once again, The Red Skelton Show (1958), the cult Western show Have Gun - Will Travel (1958) starring Richard Boone, 77 Sunset Strip (1958), Wagon Train (1958 and 1960) - with the 1960-episode The Colter Craven Story actually directed by John Ford -, Bat Masterson (1959), the Chuck Connors-showcase The Rifleman (1959), The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp (1959), Johnny Ringo (1959), Wanted: Dead or Alive (1960), the original Twilight Zone (1960) as well as the new series (1986), Maverick (1961), Boris Karloff's Thriller (1961), Bonanza (1961 and 1969), The Lucy Show (1964), The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1965), The Beverly Hillbillies (1965), a returning role on the cult series The Munsters (1965) as Herman's undertaker-boss, The Legend of Jesse James (1966), another recurring role on the Wesern series Branded (1966) starring Chuck Connors, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1967) starring Robert Vaughn and its spin-off The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. (1966) starring Stephanie Powers, The Green Hornet (1967) starring Van Williams and Bruce Lee, the legendary but overrated Lost in Space (1967), Hondo (1967), Daniel Boone (1968), The Big Valley (1969), which starred, among others, Lee Majors, Linda Evans and Barbara Stanwyck in the leads, Land of the Giants (1969), Rod Serling's Night Gallery (1971), Ironside (1971), Kung Fu (episodes from 1972, 1974 and 1975), the series that made John Carradine's son David a star, the TV-movie The Night Strangler (1973, Dan Curtis), which was a sort-of second pilot for the series Kolchak: The Night Stalker starring Darren McGavin, Love, American Style (1973), McCloud (1977) starring Dennis Weaver - in an episode fittingly titled McCloud Meets Dracula (Bruce Kessler) -, the classic Starsky and Hutch (1978), Vega$ (1978) starring Robert Urich, the stupidly titled Greatest Heroes of the Bible (1978), in which he played King David, the campy Wonder Woman (1978) starring Lynda Carter, B.J. and the Bear (1979), Fantasy Island (1982), the Lee Majors-starrer The Fall Guy (1984) - John Carradine's sons David, Keith and Robert co-star in Carradine's episode as well as Elvira Cassandra Peterson and Doug McClure -, and Fame (1985), a spin-off-series of the popular Alan Parker-movie about students of a dance academy from 1980. Now if that sounds a lot, this is actually only a list of the more important TV-series he starred in ...


As mentioned above, in the mid-1950's, John Carradine picked up his movie-work again, and like before, he wasn't too choosy about the films in which to star in, so his movie work once again contained some respectable films, some classics, some genre gems and a wagonload of trash.

Carradine's first few movies actually sounded pretty promising: Besides above mentioned Casanova's Big Night there was Nicholas Ray's classic film noir Western Johnny Guitar (1954) starring Joan Crawford, Sterling Hayden and Mercedes McCambridge, Michael Curtiz' epic movie The Egyptian (1954) starring Jean Simmons, Victor Mature, Gene Tierny, Peter Ustinov and Edmund Purdom, Jacques Tourneur's Western Stranger on Horseback (1955), in which he fights side by side with Joel McCrea, The Kentuckian (1955), Burt Lancaster's directorial debut, or the Danny Kaye-comedy The Court Jester (1955, Melvin Frank, Norman Panama), but with films like Female Jungle (1955, Bruno VeSota), which was produced by the American Releasing Corporation, the company that would ultimately become AIP, and which saw Jayne Mansfield in a small role, or the Republic Western Hidden Guns (1956, Albert C.Gannaway) [Republic history - click here], he seemed to want to remind everyone that his B-movie days are far from over.

  • In 1956, Carradine made a film that in writing sounds like a sure-fire winner: It's a period piece about a mad scientist and early brain surgery, and it features a cast almost too good for one single horror film: Basil Rathbone [Basil Rathbone bio - click here], Akim Tamiroff, Lon Chaney jr [Lon Chaney jr-bio - click here], Bela Lugosi [Bela Lugosi bio - click here], Tor Johnson [Tor Johnson bio - click here] and of course John Carradine. But that said, the film in question, The Black Sleep (Reginald Le Borg) qualifies as one of the most boring horror movies ever, with the second part of the title (sleep, in case you wondered) being painfully accurate.
  • Jerry Warren's The Incredible Petrified World from 1957 doesn't fare much better [Jerry Warren bio - click here]: This one's about four adventurers who discover an undersea world after their diving bell has an accident. Carradine plays the old scientist who has stayed behind and is trying to retrieve the men against all odds. Unfortunately the film is only mildly amuising.

  • In Republic's The Unearthly (1957, Boris Petroff), Carradine is back to his old mad scientist routine, this time he's trying to unlock the secret of eternal youth. Ed Wood regular Tor Johnson can once again be seen as Lobo in this one [Ed Wood bio - click here, Republic history - click here, Tor Johnson bio - click here].

  • Hell Ship Mutiny (1957, Lee Sholem, Elmo Williams) starring Jon Hall [Jon Hall bio - click here] was an attempt by the film's star to recapture the essence and success of his South Seas-adventure films that made him into a star back in the days - beginning with John Ford's Hurricane from 1937, a film that by the way also featured John Carradine -, but with little success: The film is hampered by its low budget and way too many underwater sequences that keep the story from moving along swiftly. Besides Hall and Carradine, the film also features Peter Lorre [Peter Lorre bio - click here].
  • Showdown at Boot Hill (1957, Gene Fowler jr) was a B-Western by Republic that's significant inasmuch as it provided young Charles Bronson with one of his first starring roles.
  • Half Human: The Story of the Abominable Snowman (1958, Inoshiro Honda, Kenneth G.Crane) was actually a chopped up version of Inoshiro Honda's Ju Jin Yuki Otoko from 1955, with scenes featuring John Carradine and other American actors added. The result is pretty much as awful as this might suggest.
  • The Cosmic Man (1959, Herbert S.Greene) is actually a low budget rip-off of The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951, Robert Wise), with Carradine playing the Michael Rennie-role. Bruce Bennett is also in this one.
  • The Invisible Invaders (1959, Edward L.Cahn) is an enjoyable and enjoyably cheap little romp about invaders from outer space who are - you guessed it - invisible. John Agar co-stars.

Besides his B-pictures and his TV-work, John Carradine also starred in quite a number of A-movies during the latter half of the 1950's, mainly epic movies of one kind or another, including Cecil B.DeMille's The Ten Commandments (1956) starring Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter, Edward G.Robinson, Yvonne De Carlo, Debra Paget, John Derek, Cedric Hardwicke and Vincent Price [Vincent Price bio - click here] - a story DeMille himself had previously filmed in 1923 -, Michael Anderson's Jules Verne adaptation Around the World in 80 Days (1956) with David Niven in the lead, Cantinflas as his valet, Robert Morley, Noel Coward, John Gielgud, Fernandel, Cesar Romero, Marlene Dietrich, George Raft, Peter Lorre, Red Skelton, Frank Sinatra, Buster Keaton, Ronald Colman, Charles Boyer, Gilbert Roland and whoever else was available, Nicholas Ray's The True Story of Jesse James (1957) with Robert Wagner as Jesse and Jeffrey Hunter as Frank James, Irwin Allen's overblown The Story of Mankind (1957) starring Robert Colman, Hedy Lamarr, the Marx Brothers (who don't have a single scene with each other), Virginia Mayo, Agnes Moorehead, Vincent Price [Vincent Price bio - click here], Peter Lorre [Peter Lorre bio - click here], Cesar Romero, Cedric Hardwicke and Dennis Hopper, to name but a few, Michael Durtiz' Western The Proud Rebel (1958), starring Alan Ladd, Ladd's son David, Olivia de Havilland and Dean Jagger, John Ford's The Last Hurrah (1958) with Spencer Tracy in the lead - the first collaboration on a movie between Carradine and Ford in 18 years -, and Gene Fowler jr's The Oregon Trail (1959) starring Fred MacMurray.


In the 1960's, John Carradine's respectable films grew fewer and fewer while trash more and more won the upper hand, which was a loss for the realm of A-movies but a gain for trashfilm lovers like myself:

Amond Carradine's more respectable films were the Mark Twain-adaptation The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1960, Michael Curtiz) with Eddie Hodges in the title role, Tony Randall, Neville Brand, Buster Keaton, and John Carradine and Harry Dean Stanton playing slave catchers, Tarzan the Magnificent (1960, Robert Day), one of the better Tarzan-films starring Gordon Scott [Gordon Scott-bio - click here], of course John Ford's classic The Man Who Whot Liberty Valance (1962) starring John Wayne, James Stewart, Vera Miles and Lee Marvin, another John Ford-film, Cheyenne Autumn (1964) starring Richard Widmark, the Jerry Lewis-comedy The Patsy (1964, Jerry Lewis) and the Elvis Presley-vehicle The Trouble with Girls (1969, Peter Tewksbury). But as you will see, for every The Man Who Whot Liberty Valance there were ten Sex Kittens Go to College ...

  • So why not continue with Sex Kittens Go to College (1960, Albert Zugsmith), an Allied Artists-production starring sexpot Mamie Van Doren as an ex-stripper becoming a college professor - yup, it's as silly as it sounds, but jumping to the film's defense, it is (or at least was meant to be) a comedy. John Carradine plays one of the college's professors.
  • Jerry Warren's Curse of the Stone Hand (1964) [Jerry Warren bio - click here] actually consists of two chopped up Chilean films from the 1940's, Casa está Vacía (1945, Carlos Schlieper) and La Dama de la Muerte (1946, Carlos Hugo Christensen) - the latter being based on the story The Suicide Club by Robert Louis Stevenson -, that are rather helplessly linked by newly shot scenes starring Carradine and others directed by Warren himself - and yes, the outcome is about as bad as this sounds ...
  • The Wizard of Mars/Horrors of the Red Planet (1965, David L.Hewitt) is a silly and grossly underbudgeted rather free science fiction take on The Wizard of Oz with John Carradine playing the wizard and the virtually unknown Eve Bernhardt playing Dorothy. Unfortunately the film is not quite as much fun as I make it sound in writing ...
  • In Jerry Warren's and Harold Daniels' House of the Black Death (1965), John Carradine plays a good warlock in mortal combat with his brother Lon Chaney jr [Lon Chaney jr-bio - click here], the bad warlock, which also might sound better than it is, because for one the film was made on the cheap - like all Jerry Warren-films, actually -, on the other hand the script is at times too confusing for anyone to follow the on-screen goings-on ...
  • All I can say about Bob Clark's The Emperor's New Clothes (Clark's first film) from 1965 is that it was probably never released, but apparently it is about a young man who tries to evade service in the army by cross-dressing ...

  • With Billy the Kid vs Dracula (1966, William Beaudine), Carradine's career seems to have hit rock-bottom. The film is an ill-adviced and sloppily executed attempt to blend horror and Western motives that forces 60-year-old John Carradine to don the vampire's caponce againe, which he had last worn on TV 10 years ago, fighting Chuck Courtney, who at age 36 was a little too old to play Billy the Kid in the first place. While this all sounds of course hilarious, the resulting film isn't even as (unintentionally) funny as it should have been ...
    Interestingly, this was not the last time Carradine played Dracula, he should play the count not on one but on two more occasions.
  • After he had already been a semi-regular on the TV-show The Munsters, he was asked back for their trip to the big screen in 1966, Munster, Go Home! (Earl Bellamy), but was interestingly enough offered a different role from that which he had on the series.
  • Night Train to Mundo Fine, a film written and directed by and starring Coleman Francis was actually made in 1961 but not released until 1966, mainly because noone could make head or tails of this film about a trio of thugs going to Cuba to bring peace to the island, and a fake Fidel Castro (Anthony Cardoza).

  • Dr. Terror's Gallery of Horrors (1967) is a grade Z horror anthology film consisting of five tales, with John Carradine doing double duties as narrator and actor in one of the tales. Lon Chaney jr is also in this one.
  • Quite probably Carradine's worst film (and that's saying a lot) though is Hillbillys in a Haunted House (1967, Jean Yarbrough [Jean Yarbrough-bio - click here]), an incredibly lame and unfunny comedy about a trio of hillbillies (Ferlin Husky, Joi Lansing and Don Bowman) stumbling upon a supposed haunted house that turns out to be housing foreign agents. Carradine, Lon Chaney jr (again) and Basil Rathbone [Basil Rathbone bio - click here] all play foreign agents making sure the house is haunted enough ...
  • The Hostage (1967, Robert S.Doughten jr) is a pointless little thriller about a gang of gangsters who accidently kidnap a little kid which is by and large forgotten by now ... and probably it's best that way.
  • In 1968, Carradine went to Mexico to make a couple of genre movies for Películas Rodríguez: The short (circa 30 minutes) Antologia del Miedo and the feature film Autopsia de un Fantasma/Autopsy of a Ghost (both 1968, Ismael Rodríguez), the latter one being a horror comedy also starring Basil Rathbone, with Carradine playing Satan himself - fitting.

  • In 1968, Carradine also starred in an actual trash film classic if there ever was one: Astro-Zombies (Ted V.Mikels). In this film, Carradine does his mad scientist-routine yet again, this time his character has climbed over many a dead body to create the Astro Zombies - artificially created humans made to survive even in space -, one of which of course goes on a killing spree. But as if that wasn't enough, there is also a bunch of foreign agents led by Tura Satana to track him down. If anything, the film is even wilder than I made it sound ...
  • The Mummy and the Curse of the Jackals (1969, Oliver Drake) sure has a great title if there ever was one, but the film itself is a total mess, mainly because shooting for this movie was allegedly never finished, yet the film was made from whatever material existed. Anthony Eisley is also in this one, a film that is mainly about a mummy and a man turned into a jackal roaming the streets of Las Vegas ... oh well.
    Director Oliver Drake by the way is more well-known for having scripted many a B-Western from the late silent era onwards.

1969 saw Carradine returning to Mexico for another 4 movies, this time for Filmica Vergara:

In Pacto Diabólico (1969, Jaime Salvador) he plays yet another mad scientist, this time he's performing gruesome experiments to find the youth serum.

In La Senora Muerte (1969, Jaime Salvador) Carradine can be seen as yet another mad scientist, this time he tries not only to bring the dead back to life but also to keep a woman from decomposing due to radioactive poisoning by giving her blood from other freshly killed women.

In both Enigma de Muerte and Las Vampiras (both 1969, Federico Curiel), John Carradine stars opposite popular masked Mexican wrestler Mil Mascaras, and while in the former he plays a mad scientist (yet again) who is also a Nazi leader, in the latter he returns yet again to his role as Dracula. Of course, these films are - like most masked wrestler-films - a bit silly ... but in a way, that's part of their charm, isn't it ?

Blood of Dracula's Castle (1969) was John Carradine's first collaboration with infamous director Al Adamson [Al Adamson bio - click here]. The film is about Dracula and his bride residing in a castle and doing what they do best: Sucking blood. Interestingly, John Carradine does not play Dracula here - the Count is played by Alexander D'Arcy - but only his loyal servant. Still, Carradine would eventually return to the big screen as Dracula, but more of that later ...

Over the next few years, Carradine would play in quite a number of Al Adamson-films, invariably cheap trash movies, but some of them quite entertaining - even if entertaining in a so-bad-it's-good-way. The films in question are the violent Western Five Bloody Graves (1970), Hell's Bloody Devils (1970), a biker film that also includes Neo-Nazis, the horror/sci-fi films Horror of the Blood Monsters (1970) and Blood of Ghastly Horror (1972), the outright horror film Doctor Dracula (1981, co-directed with Paul Aratow) and the beach movie Sunset Cove (1978).

Of this sextet, three movies are worth a special mention:

  • Horror of the Blood Monsters is a film about vampires that have supposedly originated from outer space - which is a great opportunity for some cast members to travel to their planet of origin - where they are confronted with footage from the Filipino film Tagani (1965, Rolf Bayer) about cavemen - with some of them having snakes growing out of their shoulders - that has absolutely nothing to do with space vampires. Plus, the Filipino footage is in black-and-white while Adamson's newly shot footage is in colour. The movie is actually such a mess it's positively hilarious. Carradine by the way plays a scientist who has stayed back on earth and now tries to explain the goings-on for the audience.
  • Blood of Ghastly Horror actually used large chunks of Al Adamson's very first film Psycho a Go-Go (1965) with some new scenes starring John Carradine, Regina Carrol, Tommy Kirk and Kent Taylor - among others - added to make the down-to-earth crime drama into a weird and wild horror/science fiction movie - again, there's unintentional humour abound. Carradine by the way plays a mad scientist once again.
  • Just like the other two films, Doctor Dracula was made up partly from old material, the unfinished film Lucifer's Women, spiced up with new material starring John Carradine and Regina Carrol, not necessarily to the film's advantage, but it's laugh inducing nevertheless. Apparently, Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan, was technical advisor on this one, which is rather fitting since it is in part about Satanism, but not even LaVey could keep the film from being totally ludicrous.

But I'm getting way ahead of myself here, let's now go back to 1969, where John Carradine had a role in the The Good Guys and the Bad Guys (Burt Kennedy), a Western about an ageing ex-Marshal (Robert Mitchum) and an ageing ex-gangster (George Kennedy) teaming up to hunt down the area's most notorious outlaw - incidently played by Carradine's son David.


The TV-movie Daughter of the Mind (1969, Walter Grauman) may feature an impressive cast - besides Carradine there are Ray Milland, Gene Tierney and Edward Asner - but the plot about foreign agents trying to keep a scientist (Milland) from building a bomb by faking messages from the spirit world is decidedly less than intelligent ...


By the arrival of the 1970's, big chances had taken place in Hollywood: The studio system of old was no more, and the double feature of old was decidedly a thing of the past (though the B-movie mentality was still very much alive), and with a new crop of directors who remembered Carradine from the films they cherished as children, the traditional star system began to gradually change. Sure, through the 1970's and actually until the end of his life, Carradine played in many a cheap film or trashfilm or whatever, but every now and again he managed to secure himself a role in a high profile or cult film. On a negative side, his alcoholism, a lifelong problem of his, began to become more and more apparent during the 1970's (even though he was by far not as much a wreck as Lon Chaney jr [Lon Chaney jr-bio - click here]), yet his performances still were flawless, even if he was drunk. Usually though, he could only be seen in supporting roles, adding a little colour to the proceedings. Here's a selection of John Carradine's mre important and more impressive films of the 1970's:

  • The ultra-rare Is this Trip Really Necessary/Blood of the Iron Maiden (1970, Ben Benoit) was back in the days marketed as a horror film but it is actually a nudie comedy about a photographer (Marvin Miller) who drugs his models so they lose their inhibitions. John Carradine's cameo-appearance as a crazy doctor is by far the best (and funniest) sequence of the movie though.

  • Myra Breckinridge (1970, Michael Sarne) is the notorious, accomplished but failed sex change comedy starring a very attractive Raquel Welch as a former man shaking up her uncle's (John Huston) acting school. John Carradine has an amusing cameo as the Doctor who makes Raquel into the woman she is, but the film actually belongs to 77 year-old Mae West, who shows she has still lost none of her panache [Mae West-bio - click here].
  • The McMasters (1970, Alf Kjellin) is a film about racism in the old West with Burt Ives, Brock Peters and Jack Palance in the leads that is also interesting because it features another collaboration of John and David Carradine.
  • Bigfoot (1970, Robert F.Slatzer) does feature an interesting cast - Robert's brother Jim Mitchum, Robert's son Christopher Mitchum, former model Joi Lansing in her last movie role (she died 2 years later from breast cancer), and former B-Western hero Ken Maynard in his first role in 26 years - but the film itself is a rather dreadful and unexciting monster movie, with only John Carradine as a hunter from the South bringing a bit of colour to the proceedings.
  • The Beast of the Yellow Night (1971, Eddie Romero) took Carradine to the Philippines, but unfortunately his part in the film about John Ashley making a deal with the devil (Vic Diaz) only to become a werewolf is rather small.
  • Blood Legacy (1971, Carl Monson) is the typical film about a bunch of hopeful heirs having to spend a night in a haunted house and being killed off one by one - and it's not a particularly well-made rendition of this formula. John Carradine can actually do little to save the film.
  • John Carradine collaborated with veteran sex-filmmaker Russ Meyer on The Seven Minutes (1971), but unfortunately the film, a courtroom drama (of all things) produced by 20th Century Fox, was not one of Meyer's better or indeed more successful movies and is by today largely forgotten. The film by the way also features Yvonne De Carlo, a pre-star Tom Selleck and Edy Williams, then Russ Meyer's wife.

  • Boxcar Bertha (1972) was an early film by Martin Scorsese before he was hailed as one of cinema's most important contemporary directors - which is not to say Boxcar Bertha is in any way a bad film -, produced by Roger Corman [Roger Corman bio - click here], a man who always had an eye for talent., for AIP. Basically, the film, a crime drama set in Depression era USA starring Carradine's son David and David's then-girlfriend Barbara Hershey (the two also had a son, Free, in 1972, who later renamed himself Tom) is largely reminiscent of Bonnie and Clyde (1967, Arthur Penn), but Scorsese was even back then a skillful director to have the movie stand on its own feet. John Carradine by the way can be seen playing David's main nemesis in this film.
  • Woody Allen's Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask (1972) was a totally unfaithful adaptation of David Reuben's rather dry but still notorious and successful sex education book of the same name - consequently, in one of the segments of the film John Carradine plays one of the roles he has become famous with, a mad scientist, only this time he has created a giant tit (and I mean giant) that threatens civilisation (or at least Woody Allen's subconscious) ...
  • Terror in the Wax Museum (1973, George Fenady) is yet another take on the house of wax formula - you know, the one with the mad sculptor using body parts for his wax figures. And while the cast may sound great - Ray Milland in the lead with support by Carradine, Elsa Lanchester, Louis Hayward, Broderick Crawford, Maurice Evans -, the film is anything but, a shocker that seemed to be dated even at the time of its release, not helped by a low budget and the actors playing the wax figures visibly breathing throughout the film.
  • Superchick (1973, Ed Forsyth) is quite obviously a film not worthy of John Carradine's (or anyone else's) talents, it's a silly sexploitation flck with some clumsily executed martial arts thrown into the mix - but then again the story of a promiscuous but streetsmart stewardess (Joyce Jillson) is arguably of the so-bad-it's-good-variety ...
  • Hex (1973, Leo Garen) can best be described as a cross between period piece (it's set in the early 20th century), biker movie and gothic horror, genres that by pure definition don't go too well together. The outcome is expectedly bad, but interesting inasmuch as it stars John Carradine's son Keith in an early role, plus a young Gary Busey. Still, the film is very obscure, and perhaps deservedly so.
  • The title fo the TV movie The Cat Creature (1973, Curtis Harrington) - a weird little film about a missing mummy and murders committed by a housecat (or are they ?) - is probably the most exciting film about the whole thing. Apart from Carradine, it stars Stuart Whitman, Keye Luke, and the misleadingly named Peter Lorre jr (no relation to the actual Peter Lorre).
  • Just like The Cat Creature, the title of The House of Seven Corpses (1974, Paul Harrison), a clichéd old dark house movie, promises way more than in actually devlivers - which is pretty much all there is to say about this cheap shocker starring John Ireland and Faith Domergue.

  • Silent Night, Bloody Night (1974, Theodore Gershuny) might have a title pretty much as sensationalistic as the two previous movies, but this one - also starring Patrick O'Neal and Mary Woronov - is actually a pretty good shocker, a mix of serialkiller, horror and murder mystery motives featuring some very nice plottwists and turns that is only slightly spoiled by a sloppily written script that doesn't always live up to its basic plot's promise and by budgetary restrictions ... By the way, Carradine has a mute role in this one.
  • Moonchild (1974, Alan Gadney) focuses on a young artist (Mark Travis) spending the night in a weird hotel - which turns out to be some kind of spiritual limbo. Unfortunately the film, which also stars Victor Buono, tries a little too hard to be bizarre for its own good.
  • The Lady's Not for Burning (1974, Joseph Hardy) sounds like just another lurid title in John Carradine's biography, but actually the film is not, it's a television-adaptation of a play by Christopher Fry with Richard Chamberlain and Eileen Atkins in the leads that won high critical acclaim and was probably much truer to what Carradine really wanted to do than most of his (often forgettable) shockers.
  • The TV-movie Stowaway to the Moon (1974, Andrew V.McLaglen) on the other hand was a slap in the face of a talented actor like Carradine, a way too cheesy and totally meaningless film about a young boy (Michael Link) who manages to sneak aboard a rocketship and journey to the moon as a stowaway ... and of course, in the end he even saves the day. Lloyd Bridges is also in this one.
  • The Mexican-US American co-production Mary Mary, Bloody Mary (1975, Juan López Moctezuma) on the other hand is a pretty entertaining horror romp that's best not be taken too seriously. Carradine has a small but memorable role in this one as the title character's (Critina Ferrare) father.
  • Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976, Michael Winner) is a silly film set in the silent era about a Dog saving Hollywood starring Bruce Dern, Madeline Kahn and Art Carney that's interesting only inasmuch as it features many a veteran Hollywood star, including Johnny Weissmuller [Johnny Weissmuller-bio - click here], the Ritz Brothers, Milton Berle, Yvonne De Carlo, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Rhonda Fleming, Huntz Hall, Dorothy Lamour, Jack La Rue, Keye Luke, Victor Mature, Virginia Mayo, Ricardo Montalban, Aldo Ray, Walter Pidgeon, and TV-comedian Morey Amsterdam. Apart from this impressive castlist (and this is only a sample), there is little to recommend this film.

  • The Shootist (1976, Don Siegel)), in which John Carradine plays an undertaker, was John Wayne's very last film. In this film, that also stars Lauren Bacall and James Stewart, Wayne plays a terminally ill gunfighter in the old West who wants to shoot it out just one more time to die with a maximum of dignity and a minimum of pain - a swansong for Wayne himself who died from lung and stomach cancer in 1979.
  • Death at Love House (1976, E.W.Swackhamer) was just your run-of-the-mill made-for-TV ghoststory. Robert Wagner and Kate Jackson starred in this one and Dorothy Lamour also has a small role.
  • The Killer Inside Me (1976, Burt Kennedy) might very well be one of the most underrated films of the 1970's, an extremely tense crimedrama based on a novel by Jim Thompson about a smalltown cop (Stacy Keach) who is actually a serial killer and abuses his position to cover up his crimes. The film is nothing short of intense.

  • The Last Tycoon (1976, Elia Kazan) is one of the big movies Carradine made in the 1970's (even if his role was comparatively small). The Harold Pinter-scripted film based on a novel by F.Scott Fitzgerald is actually a fictionalized biography of (the overrated) real-life Hollywood producer Irving Thalberg, here played by Robert De Niro. The stellar cast of this film also includes Tony Curtis, Robert Mitchum, Jeanne Moreau, Jack Nicholson, Donald Pleasence [Donald Pleasence bio - click here], Ray Milland, Dana Andrews, Peter Strauss, Theresa Russell, Seymour Cassel and Anjelica Huston.
  • Shock Waves (1976, Ken Wiederhorn) is a film about Nazi-zombies, with horror veteran Peter Cushing being their (non-zombified) leader. But while the film is creepy and atmospheric, it is destroyed by a weak script and one-dimensional characterisations.
  • Crash! (1977) was an early directorial effort by Charles Band who in later years came to fame as the head of the genre production outfits Empire International and later Full Moon Entertainment. The film, basically a run-of-the-mill horror story about a woman (Sue Lyon of Lolita-fame [1962, Stanley Kubrick]) using her psychic powers to control a car to have revenge on those who have wronged her also starring José Ferrer, is not entirely without interest mainly because of its non-linear storytelling techniques - it would be an overstatement though to say that the film is a masterpiece.

  • The Sentinel (1977, Michael Winner), it can't be denied, features nothing short of an impressive supoporting cast: Besides Carradine - as a blind priest who might not actually be what he seems - there is Burgess Meredith, Ava Gardner, José Ferrer, Martin Balsam, Eli Wallach, and Beverly D'Angelo, and Tom Berenger, Christopher Walken and Jeff Goldblum can be seen in very early appearances. The film itself is about a young woman (Cristina Raines) who moves into an appartment building that turns out to be built on the gates of hell - with all disadvantages this fact brings with it. Chris Sarandon plays the male lead.
  • The TV-movie Tail Gunner Joe (1977, Jud Taylor) is a dramatization of the life of senator Joseph McCarthy (as played by Peter Boyle), America's most famous Commie-hunter who famously abused his power to rule over Hollywood with an iron grip (and a black list to go with it) and who unjustly destroyed the career of many a fine artist. Consequently the movie does portray McCarthy in a less-than-favourable light.
  • For The White Buffalo (1977, J.Lee Thompson), John Carradine returned to the Western genre, playing an udertaker in this movie starring Charles Bronson, with Clint Walker, Stuart Whitman and Kim Novak in the supporting cast.
  • The horror comedy Satan's Cheerleaders (1977, Greydon Clark) is an ill-adviced but still fun blend of erotic comedy and Satanist motives - yet probably the title itself is the best thing about the whole film. Yvonne De Carlo co-stars.
  • The TV-movie Christmas Miracle in Caufield, U.S.A. (1977, Jud Taylor) is pretty much as cheesy as the title makes it to be, a film about a mining disaster and its resolution on of all times Christmas Eve, starring a thirteen year old Melissa Gilbert of Little House on the Prairie-fame and 26 aear old past-child- but pre-action-star Kurt Russell.
  • The Italian/West German/Iranian/Spanish/US American co-production Missile X - Geheimauftrag Neutronenbombe/Incident in Teheran (1978, Leslie H.Martinson) is pretty much your typical Eurospy film trying desperately to compete with the James Bond-franchise. Set in pre-Islamic Teheran, the film stars Peter Graves as a top secret agent and Curd Jürgens as his nemesis, plus erotic actress Karin Schubert - only one year away from her first hardcore film - and Spaghetti Western veteran Aldo Sambrell. By the way, director Ted V.Mikels of Astro-Zombies-fame had his hands in the writing of this one ...
  • Vampire Hookers (1978, Cirio H.Santiago) is another bad film with a great title (provided you - like me - think silly, in-your-face titles are in fact great titles). Carradine plays a 300 year old vampire in this Filipino-lensed film that is exactly what the title suggests it to be and that was actually supposed to be a comedy ... only, it's not very funny. Prolific Filipino actor Vic Diaz is also in this one as the vampires' human, farting servant.
  • Killer bees are on the loose in the Mexican/US American production The Bees (1978, Alfredo Zacarias), a film with John Saxon [John Saxon bio - click here] in the lead and John Carradine sporting a not too convincing German accent as a character called Dr Hummel (Hummel means bumblebee in German). tThe movie as such is a pretty routine and rather silly B-movie.
  • Monster (1979, Kenneth Hartford), a film set in Colombia, is the usual 1970's monster movie that has little going for it. Besides Carradine, James Mitchum (Robert's eldest son) and Anthony Eisley star in this one.
  • With Nocturna (1979, Harry Hurwitz), Carradines's career has quite possibly hit a new low: At age 73 (!) he has agreed to play Count Dracula yet again (with frequent co-star Yvonne De Carlo playing his vampiric companion) in a tale about the Count's daughter (Nai Bonet, who has also written the story of this film and produced it), a lively young vampire who likes to roam the discos (hey, this was the 1970's) and is actually not all that much into bloodsucking and killing. I am tempted now to say this has to be seen to be believed ... but believe me, this doesn't have to be seen, it's really that bad - and not so-bad-it's-good.

Inevitably the 1970's went and the 1980's came, which were not the happiest time for John Carradine: He was getting on a bit in age (he was turning 74 in 1980), and he was by that time suffering from arthritis, which got worse over the years, but still, pretty much until his death (don't take this literally) he was working, even if he had to make his last few movie appearances in a wheelchair.

Unfortunately though, in the 1980's, John Carradine was definitely a thing of the past for mainstream Hollywood and prestige projects or big budget movies were no longer offered to him - which left Carradine almost exclusively to small-time and schlock producers, who figured they could still make a profit from Carradines still existent marquee value - and who could blame them, at least they made sure Carradine got some kind of salary.

(At the same time it should of course also be noted that in 1985, he received a Daytime Emmy, for his appearance in an episode of the series Young People's Specials, Umbrella Jack [1984,Gene McPherson].)


An exception to this rule might be Francis Ford Coppola's Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), a film about a housewife in her thirties travelling back to her teens to find solutions to all of her (marital) problems starring Kathleen Turner and Nicholas Cage ... just too bad though this is rather a bad movie ...


The TV-production Antony and Cleopatra (1983, Lawrence Carra) with Timothy Dalton and Lynn Redgrave in the title roles (guess who plays who) might also be of higher profile than Carradine's usual 1980's output, mainly because it is based upon the play by William Shakespeare, Carradine's favourite playwright. Carradine's role as the soothsayer is rather small though. Interestingly, Walter Koenig and Nichelle Nichols, both of Classic Star Trek-fame, are also in this one.


Then there was the animated feature The Secret of NIMH (1982) by Don Bluth, a man who learned his (animation) skills at Disney, back then still the dominant studio concerning animation, but who at the time broke away from the studio to make his own, more adult brand of animation. Unfortunately though, before long Bluth was hired by Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment to make films that are nothing more than carbon copies of the Disney-formula, including An American Tail (1986) and The Land Before Time (1988). By the way, John Carradine voiced the Great Owl in The Secret of NIMH.


Another of John Carradine's bigger films from the 1980's, Ice Pirates (1984, Stewart Raffill), is at least pretty amusing, a consciously campy and consciously funny movie that takes the formula of pirate films of the Errol Flynn variety and puts them into outer space of the Star Wars variety - to at times hilarious results. However, the movie, starring Robert Urich in the Errol Flynn role plus Mary Crosby, Anjelica Huston and Ron Perlman, was released at a time when science fiction was still taken seriously and it pretty much bombed.


The 1980's film that brought John Carradine the most acclaim from genre fans though was The Howling (1981), Joe Dante's borderline-clever reinterpretation of the werewolf genre, in which newswoman Dee Wallace, after a too-close-for-comfort run-in with a serialkiller, is sent to Patrick Macnee's rehabilitation facility, only to find out that all the patients are actually werewolves - and what's more, she's a werewolf herself. John Carradine, by the way, plays one of the patients named Erle Kenton - after the man who directed him in House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula - in this film in which most of the principal characters are named after prominent (and not so promineent) horror directors, which might be an old hat today but was a pretty fresh idea at the beginning of the 1980's. Besides Carradine, the film's cast also includes Kevin McCarthy, Dick Miller and veteran Western actor Slim Pickens, with Forrest J.Ackerman and Roger Corman turning in uncredited cameo appearances.


House of the Long Shadows (1983, Pete Walker) might sound like a pretty exciting film, mainly due to its main cast - Carradine, Vincent Price [Vincent Price bio - click here], Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, plus Desi Arnaz jr and Pete Walker regular Sheila Keith -, the film however, based on a novel by Earl Derr Biggers of Charlie Chan-fame, is anything but, a tried-and-true story about a writer having to spend a night in a haunted house with all the usual genre trappings that seemed awfully dated even in the 1980's. Be warned: the film bares little resemblence to Walker's earlier and wilder genre output.


Carradine also shared the screen with Vincent Price in the earlier The Monster Club (1980) by British horror veteran Roy Ward Baker, the very last film by production outfit Amicus [Amicus history - click here]. The film is actually an anthology based on stories by writer R.Chetwynd Hayes with Carradine playing the writer in the framing story and Vincent Price playing a vampire wanting to introduce him into the titular Monster Club, because humans are the biggest monsters of them all ... The film also features Anthony Steel, Donald Pleasance [Donald Pleasence bio - click here], Britt Ekland, Stuart Whitman, Patrick Magee, Richard Johnson and Geoffrey Bayldon, but in all it's a rather ill-conceived blend of horror and comedy.


The Boogeyman (1980, Ulli Lommel) is much more typical for Carradine's output in the 1980's, a pointeless and impersonal slasher that he undoubtedly made solely to pay his bills.

No better is Jerry Warren's Frankenstein Island (1981), a movie looking a lot like shockers from the 1950's that stars Katherine Victor from Warren's dubious cult hit The Wild World of the Batwoman from 1966 as well as two Jerry Warren films also starring Carradine, Curse of the Stone Hand from 1964 and House of the Black Death from 1965 [Jerry Warren bio - click here].


Carradine narrates and plays a small role in The Nesting (1981, Armand Weston) a stupid litle film about a writter putting up shop in what turns out to be a haunted house that was formerly a brothel. Gloria Grahame in her last role plays the brothel's madame - or rather madame's ghost.


John Carradine, Christopher Lee and Frank Gorshin are all in the TV-miniseries Goliath Awaits (1981, Kevin Connor) that starts out pretty well - it's about a passenger liner being sunk during World War II and its survivors creating an underwater civilisation - but before long it loses itself in way too many subplots and the typical indifference of TV-miniseries ...


The Scarecrow (1982, Sam Pillsbury) is actually a pretty nice New Zealand-lensed horror film, made on a low budget but with a great love for its story.


In Satan's Mistress (1982, James Polakof), Lana Wood (Natalie's sister and Bond-gilr Plenty O'Toole in 1971's Diamonds are Forever [Guy Hamilton]) plays a frustrated housewife who starts to have an affair with a stranger - who turns out to be a ghost. Carradine plays a priest who is eventually called in for help. By and large though, this film, which also stars Britt Ekland and Indian actor Kabir Bedi as the ghost, scores higher  on the sex than on the horror-score.


Evils of the Night (1985, Mardi Rustam) is perhaps the worst movie John Carradine was ever in - and that's saying a lot. Basically, the film is about car mechanics who abduct sex-hungry teens to bring them to their alien masters who need teenage blood for their own longevity. Surprisingly, veterans Aldo Ray, Neville Brand and Julie Newmar are all also in this one ... they must have needed money pretty badly.


The Tomb (1986) was John Carradine's first collaboration with infamous schlock director/producer Fred Olen Ray, basically a modern, underbudgeted mummy-film with some sex thrown into the mix for good measure. Cameron Mitchell plays the lead in this one, while the supporting cast includes Sybil Danning [Sybil Danning bio - click here], Michelle Bauer and Kitten Natividad.

Over the next two years (until his death actually), John Carradine would work on quite a few Fred Olen Ray movies:

  • Fred Olen Ray would direct John Carradine in a few scenes that were tagged onto the forgotten 1971-feature Honey Britches (Donn Davison) to make it into Demented Death Farm Massacre, a film then distributed by Troma accompanied by one of their usual wild and exaggerating but somehow charming ad-campaigns.

  • Evil Spawn (1987, Kenneth J.Hall, Ted Newsom) was only produced by Ray and is about a scientist (John Carradine) who experiments with microbes from Venus, trying to turn them into an anti ageing serum, and an ageing actress (Bobbie Bresee) who tries the serum and it turns her into a (rubber) monster. Also expect some nudity ! Besides Carradine and Bresee, the film also stars Richard Harrison [Richard Harrison-bio - click here], Gordon Mitchell and Jay Richardson and features another cameo by Forrest J.Ackerman.
  • Prison Ship/Star Slammer (1988, Fred Olen Ray) is a space opera too cheap for its own good, with special effects borrowed from the Battlestar Galactica- and Buck Rodgers-TV series, and too obviously inexpensive sets and costumes, yet Fred Olen Ray doesn't take himself or his film too seriously in this one, which somehow translates into the movie, and if you are into 1980's sci-fi trash, you might even chuckle occasionally while watching the film that has little-known Sandy Brooke in the lead and also stars Ross Hagen, Aldo Ray and Bobbie Bresee.
  • Despite the fact that Prison Ship was the very last of Carradine's films that was released during his lifetime, Fred Olen Ray did not shy away from using some footage he had shot with Carradine for two films released in 1995, Jack-O (directed by Steve Latshaw - Ray only acted as a producer on this one) starring Linnea Quigley and Bikini Drive-In (directed by Fred Olen Ray) starring the little known Ashlie Rhey and also featuring Ross Hagen, Michelle Bauer, Conrad Brooks and Gordon Mitchell, with Forrest J.Ackerman once again in a cameo - which proves above all else one thing: Great horror actors don't really die !!!

Away from Fred Olen Ray, John Carradine made just two more movies, Monster in the Closet (1987, Bob Dahlin), a so-so horror comedy released by Troma that also featured a 12 year old Stacy Ferguson, who much later came to fame as Fergie, singer of the popular Hip Hop band Black Eyed Peas, and Buried Alive (Gérard Kikoine), which wasn't released until 1990, two years after Carradine's death. Buried Alive was actually a sad swansong to Carradine's career, a totally impersonal slasher only allegedly based on something by Edgar Allen Poe that for some reason also featured veteran actors Robert Vaughn and Donald Pleasence [Donald Pleasence bio - click here] as well as former (and future) porn star Ginger Lynn Allen.


John Carradine died from natural causes in 1988 in Milan, Italy. He was 82 years of age.

During his lifetime, John Carradine was married four times, his wives including actresses Sonia Sorel - his co-star in 1944's Bluebeard - from 1944 to 1956 and Doris Rich from 1957 to her death in 1971. In total, John Carradine has fathered five sons, four of whom - Bruce, David, Keith and Robert - have also become actors.


The most popular of his sons is probably David Carradine, thanks to his starring role in the widely popular TV-series Kung Fu, but besides the series, he also made films with Martin Scorsese (above mentioned Boxcar Bertha and Mean Streets [1973]), Ingmar Bergman (The Serpent's Egg [1977]), Paul Bartel (Death Race 2000 [1975], Cannonball [1976]) and in more recent years Quentin Tarantino (the Kill Bill films [2003 and 2004]). His career probably resembles that of his father the most, his own output of films is already enormous and he shows no signs of slowing down being already past 70 (he was born in 1936), plus the quality of his films varies considerably (even if his performances are always solid), like his father he has played Count Dracula (in Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat [1991, Anthony Hickox]), and he has made a couple of films with Fred Olen Ray (Armed Response [1986] and Evil Toons [1992]).

The Carradine son most popular with the arthouse crowd though might be Keith, mainly thanks due to his association with directors Robert Altman (McCabe and Mrs. Miller [1971], Keith's debut, Thieves Like Us [1974] and Nashville [1975]) as well as Alan Rudolph (Welcome To L.A. [1976], Choose Me [1984], Trouble in Mind [1985], The Moderns [1988] and Mrs Parker and the Viciuos Circle [1994]) plus films with Louis Malle (Pretty Baby [1978]), Ridley Scott when Scott could still be taken seriously (The Duelists [1977])  and Sam Fuller (Street of No Return [1989]). Apart from that, Keith is the only one of the Carradine family to ever have won an Oscar, interestingly though not for Best Actor but Best Original Filmsong (I'm Easy from Nashville, which he not only sang but also composed).


Any closing words to John Carradine himself ?

He was a great actor who for whatever reason sold himself below his value - sometimes way below it - throughout most of his career ... which made him such a gift for trashfilm fans like myself, he had the talent to add colour to many a colourless flick, to make the most uninteresting genre movie at least remotely interesting, and even though his career never hit the same highs as those of his contemporaries Boris Karloff [Boris Karloff bio - click here], Bela Lugosi [Bela Lugosi bio - click here] or Lon Chaney jr [Lon Chaney jr-bio - click here] - and unlike them he was never offered a role to really make his own - the horror genre would be much poorer without him.


© by Mike Haberfelner

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In times of uncertainty of a possible zombie outbreak, a woman has to decide between two men - only one of them's one of the undead.


There's No Such Thing as Zombies
Luana Ribeira, Rudy Barrow and Rami Hilmi
special appearances by
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directed by
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written by
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produced by
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Robots and rats,
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Tales to Chill
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Tales to Chill
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
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Tales to Chill
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