THEN: I still remember the very first time I became aware of Veronica Cartwright – even if she was already well into her impressive career. The actress started acting in the late Fifties. And while many that we focus on in this column don’t work very often, Ms. Cartwright hasn’t slowed down a bit. Yet let’s keep this in focus considering we are a horror site. Her early work found her doing a ton of television including shows like “Leave it to Beaver” and “Daniel Boone.” She also appeared in the critically acclaimed feature THE CHILDREN’S HOUR in 1961 and Alfred Hitchcock’s classic THE BIRDS in 1963. At such a young age she was already one hell of an impressive actress, yet we are going to jump ahead to a couple of films – in addition to THE BIRDS – that are a must for any self-respecting horror fan.
In 1978, Veronica appeared in one of the best remakes ever made, which was a huge discovery for this movie fan. INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS was a terrifying science fiction thriller with an impressive cast including Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum, and of course Ms. Cartwright. In fact, her work here left a major impression on me and she proved to be absolutely flawless at expressing fear and anguish. The moment she discovers the pod version of Goldblum opening its eyes is one of the creepiest images ever put to celluloid. Damn is she amazing in this film, especially that final scene. If you’ve witnessed this classic movie you know exactly what I’m talking about.
If that had been it, I would still be blown away, but the following year she starred in one of the best examples of great science fiction to this very day. Recently I had the opportunity to revisit the 1979 classic ALIEN on the big screen and it was absolutely fantastic. Since we are looking at Veronica, I will stick to just how great she is here as well as in BODY SNATCHERS. If memory serves me well I saw these flicks at around the same time and both of her performances stood out to me. In fact, watching this masterpiece again I was struck by how much I genuinely liked her character. If you ever have the opportunity to see either of these films on a large screen, it is imperative as a film fan that you do so.
The next feature that she appeared in which was genre specific is terribly underrated. Again, this is a movie I watched recently and I was struck by how entertaining it was. NIGHTMARES is a 1983 horror anthology and the actress appeared in the segment “Night of the Rat.” The title explains it all. This is about a big and scary rat. While the effects aren’t great, it shouldn’t be all that surprising what the casting of good actors in a movie like this can do. Alongside the very talented Richard Masur, the two make up for a few B-movie inspired shots. This cool little feature film is a bit difficult to track down, but I highly recommend it for lovers of 80’s horror.
With her remarkable career it is difficult to break it all down into a handful of paragraphs. However, as enjoyable as it was rooting for Ms. Cartwright, it was also a blast to see her play a darker character. This is particularly true when it came to her performance in THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK in 1987. Her work in ALIEN and BODY SNATCHERS was still pretty fresh in memory, so to see her take on somebody like the righteous Felicia Alden was a real treat. And once again she owned every single moment she was on-screen. The “cherry sequence” is especially disturbing and honestly, she takes it just enough over-the-top without making it camp. This flick is a feisty little tale and you can’t lose with Cartwright, and of course Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer, Susan Sarandon and Cher.
In the Nineties, this versatile talent still made a little room for the genre. She appeared in a couple of horror sequels including MIRROR, MIRROR 2: RAVEN DANCE in 1994 and CANDYMAN: FAREWELL TO THE FLESH in 1995. Yet you were more than likely to find her working on television with appearances on “ER”, “Sliders” and one of the coolest shows that never quite found an audience, “American Gothic.” But in 1998, she joined the cast of “The X-Files” for a four episode arc that I still remember, one which earned her an Emmy nominations. Once again, she took something that might not have been nearly as effective had it been a lesser actress. It might be time to check out Hulu or Netflix for her work on this trailblazing series.
NOW: Back in 2011 I had the esteemed pleasure of chatting with this delightful talent and she was charming and funny and just an enlightening interview. Thankfully, if you are looking to see what she has been up to you don’t have to look all that hard. Aside from being very open to doing panels and talking about her iconic roles, this multiple award winning actress is keeping very busy. She is currently starring in the ABC series “Resurrection” with a second season scheduled to premiere on September 28th of this year. And next up, she returns to horror in the remake of THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN. Frankly, I’m a big fan of the original yet I’m still very excited to see how they approach the material in this modern age.
According to her IMDB page, she will be reprising the role of “Lambert” in the videogame “Alien: Isolation” which makes me happy in all sorts of ways. This is one of those moments that you really can’t simply say “where in the horror is Veronica Cartwright” because she never left. This hard working actress continues to challenge herself and take on an assortment of roles. If you’d like to get reacquainted with her, I highly suggest you check out her official website. The very fan-friendly talent has a ton of info, pictures and autographs for fans of all the amazing movies she has been a part of. What an impressive career… and she is still going strong!