Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Death of a B-Movie Vet Flies Under the Radar

While I was saddened in recent weeks to hear about the passing of director Bob Clark and actor Barry Nelson (the first actor to portray James Bond on screen and the star of the nature run amok crab thriller ISLAND CLAWS), another B-movie and TV vet's death flew completely under the radar.

Familiar character actor John P. Ryan guest-starred in just about every 70s television drama you can name from STARSKY & HUTCH and THE FBI to THE ROCKFORD FILES, POLICE WOMAN and KOJAK. The actor passed away on March 20th after suffering a stroke.

Introduced to film by Jack Nicholson, Ryan often worked with the Oscar winning star and director Bob Raefelson, turning up in such films as FIVE EASY PIECES and THE MISSOURI BREAKS, as well as big-budget projects like the remake of THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, THE RIGHT STUFF, THE COTTON CLUB and HOFFA.

But it's the B-movie trash that I'll always remember Ryan for. His role as the tormented dad in the first two installments of Larry Cohen's IT'S ALIVE series cemented his place in the hearts of trash lovers and he never failed to deliver a level of intensity and seriousness that often reminded me of Lance Henriksen and John Saxon. When Ryan's name appeared in the credits you could always count on his solid, no-nonsense presence. (It should come as no surprise that the actor spent six years in the US Army before being bitten by the acting bug.)

Over the years Ryan would turn up in everything from CLASS OF 1999 and DEATH WISH 4: THE CRACKDOWN to DELTA FORCE 2: THE COLOMBIAN CONNECTION and as a very convincing Devil in the little-seen YOUNG GOODMAN BROWN (produced by friend of ER Bob Tinnell). But I'll always remember him for his role in the 1986 action-thriller AVENGING FORCE starring Michael Dudikoff and Steve James.

Ryan co-stars as part of a group of man-hunting white supremacists in Sam Firstenberg's clever, riveting take on 'The Most Dangerous Game.' Unfortunately, it's not out on DVD in the States so I can't send you out to your local video store to find it.

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