THEN: There is something so satisfying watching a Shakespearean actor submersing herself in the world of horror. This is especially true when this person has the beauty and British charm of the vivacious Samantha Eggar. This Hampstead, London born beauty began her successful career in the early Sixties starring in the English series “Rob Roy” – not to be confused with the Liam Neeson/Jessica Lange flick. After her take on Diana Vernon, she continued to work on the small screen. With her luminescent beauty and her sultry voice, it was clear that she was not only pleasant on the eyes, but one hell of a good actress as well.
With a ton of television under her belt, she began her impressive career in the genre with the critically acclaimed leading role in THE COLLECTOR in 1965. The William Wyler directed feature starred the great Terence Stamp as a man who kidnaps a beautiful woman named Miranda Grey (Eggar) simply for the pleasure of having her there. This unique film was part thriller, part drama and yes, even a little romance and it certainly thrust Eggar in the spotlight. Ultimately she won a Golden Globe – as well as an Academy Award nomination – for Best Actress for the film. It was one fantastic introduction to an actress that should be very familiar to hardcore horror fans and TV enthusiasts alike.
This stunning talent appeared in a number of feature films over the next few years, including RETURN FROM THE ASHES (1965), DOCTOR DOLITTLE (1967) and THE LIGHT AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD (1971). She then found herself back on the small screen for the series “Anna and the King” (in which she played ‘Anna’) in 1972 as well as the TV movies “Double Indemnity” (1973) and “The Man of Destiny” (1973) just to name a few. Not surprisingly 1972 and 1973 were busy years for the actress in film as well. In ‘72 she appeared in the Italian mystery-thriller THE DEAD ARE ALIVE. And in ’73 she starred in A NAME FOR EVIL. The later film also stars Robert Culp, and while it is not the most memorable feature in her remarkable career, it is still worth mentioning here.
Throughout the Seventies she spent most of her time back where she started, on the small screen. Thankfully however, all that changed when she gave an incredible performance in David Cronenberg’s cult classic THE BROOD in 1979. This chilling little flick may not be nearly as bizarre as say VIDEODROME or SCANNERS, but it is classic Cronenberg. And Eggar, along with the great Oliver Reed and a terrific Art Hindle, help create an effectively freaky tale of mutant children. It may sound strange, but this is one of my favorite works from this highly innovative director and the lovely Ms. Eggar is exceptional. And the bizarre finale is shockingly memorable.
The early 1980’s were pretty busy for the actress as well. And clearly she wasn’t finished with genre flicks. In 1980 she appeared in THE EXTERMINATOR with Robert Ginty, and in 1981 she starred in DEMONOID: MESSANGER OF DEATH. Soon, Ms. Eggar become a sort of low-budget horror scream queen, but with her classic beauty and lovely accent, she was far more elegant than most. And while her horror big screen ventures weren’t necessarily great works of art (aside from THE BROOD), it didn’t stop her from working. Back to television, she made appearances on “Hart to Hart”, “Hotel”, “Magnum P.I.” and so much more. This arresting talent clearly enjoyed her work.
Then in 1983 she starred in a film that lingered in production for a couple of years. Even director Richard Ciupka (aka Jonathan Stryker) wanted his name removed from the credits when it finally opened. And you know what? It ended up being a personal favorite of mine. In CURTAINS, Samantha plays fictional actress ‘Samantha Sherwood’ who commits so wholly to an upcoming film role that she plots with the director to have herself committed to a mental institution. When the director leaves her there and attempts to recast the role, she gets out and a murder mystery slasher film is born. If you’ve never witnessed CURTAINS, once again Eggar is simply fantastic, and that ice skating scene is superbly creepy.
After CURTAINS, Eggar once again returned to the world of television and the occasional movie, yet she seemed to steer clear of genre. This is a bit of a shame, but at least in her impressive career – her IMDB page list over 100 films – she never seemed to slow down. Whether she was starring in a series like “Commander in Chief” with Geena Davis in 2005 through 2006 or voicing ‘Hera’ in the animated Disney series “Hercules,” as well as the 1997 movie, Samantha remained a busy actress who never seemed to lose her beauty and grace.
NOW: Thankfully, Ms. Eggar has been busy lending her silky voice to projects like the character of ‘Whale’ in “Metalocalypse” (2011). As of this year she joined Norman Lloyd in a staged reading of George Bernard Shaw’s “A Village Wooing.” The California Artists Radio Theatre (CART) presentation was held in February of this year, which was announced on the actress’ official website (which you can check out here). This legendary actress may be enjoying her time on the stage as opposed to her one time home of horror, but it’s thrilling to see that this amazing beauty is still thrilling audiences with her elegant charisma.