Donald Pleasence

My favorite horror actor, of all horror actors, is Donald Pleasence. I make no apologies for this, either. He was an extraordinarily talented and gifted actor, and from what I’ve read, he was a true professional who was a joy to work with, too.

I’ll always remember Pleasence mostly for his work in the Halloween movie franchise. Of course, the first film in the series is the best, and it rises above its genre limitations to be a true classic of cinema. I’m not sure if it’s been included in the Congressional Archive yet or not, but it should be. But even in the lower-quality Halloween movies, Donald Pleasence’s performance always stands out.

For those of you (and I can’t imagine there are many who’d be interested in this blog, anyway) who haven’t seen any of these Halloween movies, Pleasence portrays Dr. Loomis, who is Michael’s Ahab. (Michael is the superhuman serial killer who is the main character, or force of nature, in the main set of Halloween movies. A more appropriate analogy might be to compare Loomis to Van Helsing, with Michael being a bizarre modern-day Dracula type villain.

Pleasence starred in five of the Halloween films:

  1. Halloween
  2. Halloween 2
  3. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
  4. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers
  5. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers

The third Halloween film had nothing to do with the rest of the series, so Pleasence doesn’t appear. Donald Pleasence died in 1995, so he appeared in none of the subsequent films. In fact, when Rob Zombie “re-imainged” (ruined) the franchise, Loomis was recast, being portrayed by Malcolm McDowell. If you want to get an idea of how good an actor can be, compare Pleasence’s excellent performance in the 1978 Halloween with McDowell’s much less nuanced performance in Rob Zombie’s Halloween.

But there’s a lot more to Pleasence’s career as a horror actor than this. He was in an episode of the original The Twilight Zone in 1962 as a suicidal school teacher. He also appeared in The Outer Limits.

He specialized playing characters who were a little bit nuts, but in horror movies, everything is relative. I mean, chasing after Michael Myers is nuts, sure, but compared to how nutty Michael is, it’s pretty tame.

Donald Pleasence even played Lucifer in The Greatest Story Ever Told. I suppose for a horror actor, that is THE dream role, isn’t it?

I also loved him in Prince of Darkness.

He was married four times and had five daughters. He’s still my favorite horror actor of all time.