Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Robert Quarry

We heard recently while visiting Arbogast on Film of the passing of beloved actor, Robert Quarry. Quarry’s showbiz career spanned 6 decades from live television in the 50’s to poverty row DTV features in the 90s (with the IMDB even listing one credit for 2009) but he was best known for his appearances in the title role of Count Yorga, Vampire in 1970 and its almost immediately released sequel, The Return of Count Yorga. Both films are splendidly entertaining, though we were always partial to the California-cool ambience of the later film. Their popularity led to similar roles in the almost impossible to find Deathmaster (1972) in which he played the leader of a hippie cult who turns out to be – you guessed it – a vampire. This was followed by Madhouse, in which Quarry played opposite Peter Cushing and Vincent Price, which always struck us as a dreary affair, enlivened only by references to Price’s past films with AIP (his character is a faded horror icon who travels to England for a television appearance, and the picture is filled with actual clips from Price’s work with Roger Corman).

By the middle of the decade, the public’s appetite for the urbane horror that actors like Quarry could flourish in was drying up, but Quarry (after doing quality television work in shows like Rockford Files and Quincy, M.E.) never stopped working and always brought his A-game, even to titles like Sexbomb and Droid Gunner. We met him several years back at a Chiller convention; Quarry was a fixture on the horror-con circuit, and was always grateful and appreciative to fans while occasional booth-neighbors like Tom Savini and Tony Todd regarded people with open contempt. Space concerns at the Scribe’s lair necessitated a cap on the acquisition of posters and other such memorabilia, but we couldn’t resist getting the man himself to sign our Return of Count Yorga poster. He loved seeing the original one-sheet again, and reminisced about the first time he’d seen one just before the film’s release. We’ve been to many of these conventions over the years, and all too typically the act of “meeting” a favorite celebrity consists of an awkward dance of uncomfortable stares until it’s established that you’re actually going to purchase a piece of autographed memorabilia. But the nearly 5 min conversation we had (an eternity for a convention) was by far the warmest moment we ever experienced at one of these shows.

We commiserate with Arbo on the feeling of posting obits for beloved filmmakers. Particularly when it seems like we’ve lost so many in the last year. We also hate the feeling that a short missive on a blog will fail to do justice to someone who may have been uniquely important to us. Though in the case of someone like Robert Quarry – a terrific actor that is virtually unknown outside a circle of genre fans – when there hasn’t been much mainstream press attention, we think that a short remembrance for an artist that has touched your life in any measurable way is more than just a good thought. It’s a requirement.

A sweet guy and a class act – and even though we missed much of his later work, it was always nice to know that he was still around.