Was saddened to read on Tim Lucas’ Video Watchblog that Hazel Court has died. I always felt she didn’t get her due as an actress — her wicked comic turn in Corman’s THE RAVEN is a high point in a film also loaded with stars Vincent Price, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre, all of whom are very funny. Corman’s advice to juvenile lead Jack Nicholson was “Just try to be as funny as the old guys.” The callow Nicholson failed, but Court more than holds her own. The fact that she’s astonishingly lovely and voluptuous helps, of course.
In her other roles — many of the most memorable ones in horror films — she doesn’t get to shine comedically, but she’s a sultry satanist in MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, engaging in a bizarre hallucinatory, sado-masochistic ritual in order to be initiated into DARK SECRETS OF THE OCCULT. Gamely, she allows cinematographer Nic Roeg to distort her lovely face this way and that with his WEIRD LENSES (actually, maybe an optical effect?)
Hammer films tended to cast her in good girl roles, as in CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN or THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH, mostly thankless parts for an actress of Court’s range, although she always played plucky heroines rather than bimbos.
I’ll be raising a glass of whatever’s handy in honour of the great H.C. when I get a copy, at last, of DEVIL GIRL FROM MARS, possibly her first genre film, in which a shiny-costumed lesbian dominatrix from space terrorises H.C. and Adrienne Corri in a Scottish pub, thus neatly fulfilling a requirement of Brit sci-fi-horrors, according to I.Q. Hunter’s excellent study, British Science Fiction Cinema — at some point the protagonists must and should RETIRE TO PUB AND AWAIT END OF WORLD.
A partial list of RTPAAEOW films:
THE EARTH DIES SCREAMING
THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE
QUATERMASS AND THE PIT
SHAUN OF THE DEAD
…but there are many more.