Wednesday, July 19, 2017

In memory of Martin Landau

New York born actor Martin Landau dated Marilyn Monroe, was friends with James Dean, turned down the role of Mr. Spock and worked with Hitchcock. He was just as at home on the small screen in Space: 1999 and Without a Trace as on the big in Cleopatra and The Greatest Story Ever Told. Despite being awarded an Oscar for Ed Wood and a Golden Globe for Mission: Impossible among many other awards and nominations, Landau was not above lending his voice to the Spider-Man animated series and The Simpsons.

My favourite Martin Landau performance however is in the 1979 disaster movie "Meteor" in which he plays Major General Adlon, the U.S. Air Force commander of an underground control centre for Hercules, an orbital nuclear missile launcher. The movie itself is awful; it is rated only 5% on Rotten Tomatoes and has been selected by John Vaughan for inclusion in his world famous Video Vault of Horror presentation. It is however an important precursor for ideas brought to the screen decades later with more technical superiority (and more money) in Armageddon and Deep Impact

In Meteor, Landau despite obvious hamming, easily delivers the best performance over Sean Connery, Karl Malden, Peter Fonda, Natalie Wood and Brian Keith, and convincingly expresses the frustration of a dedicated and decorated military commander sidelined to pander to scientists - alas a feeling I have known all too well.

Landau died Saturday, at the age of 89 at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood, Los Angeles, California; he had been briefly hospitalized and, according to his representative, died of "unexpected complications." May he rest in peace.

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