Tom Atkins is a legend! Forget the fact that he is one of the coolest dudes ever in the history of horror, he also pretty much rocks it any other genre. Looking back on some of my favorite faces from the past, it is shocking to me that I didn’t think of Mr. Atkins the first time out. Then I got to thinking, it’s hard to ask “Where in the Horror is Tom Atkins?” because the dude ALWAYS WORKS! Older and just as badass as he ever was, the actor is busy whether it be in film, television or even theatre or whatever the f*ck he wants to do. And that is the way it should be. For decades he has managed to make bad movies good and good movies great. Let’s take a look at this cinematic icon and find out what he’s been up to lately.
Let’s be honest, the career that Mr. Atkins has is hard to summarize with a mere six paragraph article (give or take) especially if you take a gander at his IMDB page. You could easily look back on his career and write a freaking book about it. For the sake of this write-up however, let’s start with his impressive television career. In the Sixties and Seventies, he appeared in a number of TV shows including “The Rockford Files” (a classic series) as well as the short-lived “Serpico” – based on the Al Pacino movie of the same name. Yet as far as the horror genre is concerned, Tom starred in one of my favorite cheesy man vs. nature TV flicks called “Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo” in 1977. Personally I freaking love killer spider movies and as I said before, Mr. Atkins makes the arachnid carnage even better.
In 1980, the actor kicked some serious ass and had sex with Jamie Lee Curtis in one of my personal favorite spooky flicks. In John Carpenter’s underrated ghost story THE FOG, Atkins proved to be a serious leading man contender. The on-screen chemistry between he and Curtis is undeniable which really raises the stakes when the ghostly baddies come around. Hell, this awesome couple even play hero and save Adrienne Barbeau’s on-screen kid from the supernatural crew out to stab and stalk our heroes. THE FOG is more of an ensemble feature and every single one of the leads stood out. Even still, Atkins sold me hook, line and sinker with his solidly macho tough guy with a heart.
A year later in 1981, Carpenter clearly realized the solid actor he was dealing with and cast him in the cult classic ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK. Of course, the fan favorite here was Kurt Russell as one of cinema’s most iconic characters – Snake Plissken – yet Atkins once again proved what a talented fellow he was. It’s been too long since I’ve sat down with this fantastic flick, but as I write this the idea of revisiting it is pretty f*cking overwhelming. Aside from Atkins and Russell, you also have other Carpenter favorites including Barbeau, Charles Cyphers, Donald Pleasence and so freaking many more! ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK features what may very well be one of the best collections of actors ever.
In 1982, the actor appeared in an uncredited role in another horror classic CREEPSHOW. And if that wasn’t enough, that same year he appeared in one of the most anticipated horror sequels at the time, HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH. For me, this non-Michael Myers flick left a whole lot to be desired. The idea was certainly creepy and who can forget that poor kid lying on the floor with all sorts of creepy crawlies slithering out of what once was his head (which you can watch here)? This is a seriously messed up movie with some freaky as f*ck moments, yet the Myer-less plot was very disappointing for most. However, over the years this holiday horror has garnered a surprising following. Why you may ask? A big part of that is the great Tom Atkins who is absolutely outstanding here! Is this my favorite in the series? Nope… yet I gladly return just to watch the master at work.
During the Eighties, he continued to do a ton of television, yet his work within the genre was far from over. For many, the quintessential Atkins role came in 1986 when he appeared as a hard-ass detective in the cult classic NIGHT OF THE CREEPS. This comedy-horror flick directed by the very talented Fred Dekker happens to be another favorite with audiences thanks to its infectiously fun script and tongue-in-cheek style. And yes, once again Mr. Atkins delivers! If you’ve never had the chance to watch this dude spout some of the most quotable lines ever as Det. Ray Cameron, you must experience this low-budget treasure immediately!
To say that I’m missing a few great Tom Atkins performances is an understatement. When it comes to horror and action, this guy has done it all. From MANIAC COP in 1988 to TWO EVIL EYES in 1990, the man covered everything bloody. He even appeared in one of the best action movies ever! Of course I’m talking about LETHAL WEAPON in 1987. It may have been a small role, but he was terrific. While he began to slow down in the Nineties when it came to Hollywood, he returned with a vengeance thanks to Patrick Lussier as another tough guy in MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D in 2009 and DRIVE ANGRY in 2011. VALENTINE is one of the few flicks I’ve seen that really was solid proof that a horror remake could be as good, if not better than the original.
NOW: Thankfully, Mr. Atkins has a few more films coming our way including the indie thrillers APOCALYPSE KISS (watch the trailer here) and THE WICKED HOLLOWS – where he is rumored to play the same character he did in NIGHT OF THE CREEPS. It would certainly be a blast to see Atkins return to that iconic character yet it’s just too bad Dekker hasn’t had the opportunity to make a NIGHT OF THE CREEPS sequel. Yes, I want a part 2 to that killer flick. Other than that, this incredible actor has been on-stage this year in the ten-year anniversary of the one-man show THE CHIEF about Arthur J. Rooney Sr., the founder of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Whatever Mr. Atkins has in store, he has simply made the horror genre better in every way! Who knows, maybe Mr. Lussier will be able to bring Mr. Atkins into the world of TERMINATOR… One can only hope.