HORROR ICON OF THE MONTH: TONY TODD

Rhiannon Irons, a.k.a Ahlephia, here with our newest member of the Horror Icon club.  Towering in at 6’5 stands a man whose presence is always known.  His laugh can be unnerving, his voice can be devilish.  Our Horror Icon this month is none other than Tony Todd.

He has the golden voice; silky smooth. His stature is unmissable, but that’s not why we can’t take our eyes off him. When he appears on screen, his presence is powerful enough to render one speechless. He plays characters that are brutal to perfectly tortured souls in need of compassion. He is the legendary Tony Todd.

Anthony Tiran Todd was born on December 4, 1954 in Washington, D.C. He grew up in Hartford, Connecticut, attended the local schools and was even a member of the Boy Scouts of America. Tony went on to attend the University of Connecticut and studied at the Eugene O’Neill National Theatre Institute.

Tony’s film career began in 1986 when he appeared in both Sleepwalk and Platoon. Sleepwalk is about a woman is hired to transcribe an ancient Chinese manuscript. She finds that little by little, the manuscript has powers that begin to take over her life. (Fun Fact: Sleepwalk also stared Steve Buscemi)

In 1987, Tony found himself facing off against a young Johnny Depp when he made an appearance in 21 Jump Street (Season 2, episode 9 for anyone who wants to know). Tony also spent the year staring in a couple of movies, one being Enemy Territory which saw him portraying the leader of a gang called The Vampires. He was known only as The Count. Tony starred along side Ray Parker Jr. (Ghostbusters) and Jan-Michael Vincent. It is an amazing film, but at the moment there are no plans to release it onto DVD.

In 1988, Tony found himself making small appearances in Bird (playing the character named Frog) and Colors which saw Tony play a Vietnam Vet. While ’88 was a slow year, ’89 proved to be more fruitful as Tony made appearances on MacGyver, Kate & Allie, Cop Rock and Night Court. He also starred along side Morgan Freeman and Beverly Todd in Lean On Me. Lean On Me was based on a true story and is about an arrogant and unorthodox teacher returns as principal to the idyllic high school from which he had earlier been fired to find it a den of drug abuse, gang violence, and urban despair. Eventually his successful but unorthodox methods lead to a clash with city officials that threatens to undo all his efforts. It’s a brilliant movie and one that I recommend you see.

Welcome to the ’90’s. Tony found himself back on TV on Matlock as well as three TV movies, Criminal Justice, Ivory Hunters and The Bride In Black. But it was the remake of George A. Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead, and his role as Ben, that scored with audiences. The film begins with siblings Johnny (Bill Moseley) and Barbara (Patricia Tallman) visiting their mother’s grave in a remote, rural cemetery. During their visit, Barbara is attacked by a zombie. Her brother comes to her defence, but is killed in the struggle. Barbara flees the cemetery and discovers what at first seems to be an abandoned farmhouse. She is joined there shortly after by Ben (Todd) and the two clear the house of zombies and begin the process of barricading the doors and windows.

They discover other survivors in the cellar of the house and it becomes a battle of wits to survive the zombie invasion and each other. The tension between Tony Todd and Tom Towles who plays Harry Cooper was outstanding. And because of his performance in this, I’ve concluded that should we be over run with zombies, I plan on staying pretty close to Mr. Todd who was one of the most level headed characters in this film.

Night Of The Living Dead was handled by the same team as the original, with the exception that directing duties were handled by famed special make-up effects artist Tom Savini, who originally signed up with hopes of doing the make-up effects as he was not able to for the original film. Romero served as producer for the remake, and he recruited some of the original camera and sound crew to participate. As much as I loved the original film, this is one remake I recommend with two thumbs up and a broad grin.

As 1991 rolled around it became apparent that when zombies were attacking, bring in Tony Todd. That’s what the creators of Voodoo Dawn did, casting Tony as Makoute. The story is about a group of immigrant Haitian farm workers that try to fight off an evil Haitian voodoo priest who tries to kill them and use their body parts to make up a zombie army.

It’s a fun film and as a testament to the actors, they did a brilliant job keeping straight faces during some scenes (although if you look closely you can see they’re about to lose it in a fit of laughter). Comedic and youthful, Voodoo Dawn was done really well, and despite it’s weak plot, I do recommend viewing it. It’s a great way to kill a couple of hours on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

’91 also saw Tony make a return to television, appearing in Jake And The Fatman as Jordan Lee as well as Star Trek: The Next Generation as Kurn. Tony also managed to squeeze in a couple of TV movies that year. Keeper Of The City and Love And Curses…And All That Jazz. The latter of the two is about a private investigator and her husband, who is a doctor, investigate rumours of a dead woman who was brought back to life by a voodoo spell. Once again, Tony, despite his talent, was a minor character.

In Keeper Of The City, Tony teamed up with Australia’s very own Anthony LaPaglia. His minor role of Bridger didn’t deter him from acting, and whilst it was a blink and you’ll miss it role, Tony nailed it perfectly.

Then in 1992, Clive Barker and Bernard Rose threw Tony a lifeline in the form of an urban legend styled story based on the Clive Barker short story ‘The Forbidden’. Tony would play the title roll of Candyman, a legend of mythology that appears if you say his name five times into a mirror.

Candyman contains the same urban legend feel of Bloody Mary, but also embodies other legends, like endangering a babysitter and maniac killers with unnatural deformities. The legend itself states that while Candyman was the son of a slave, he nevertheless became a well known artist. Yet, after falling in love with a white woman who becomes pregnant, Candyman is chased through the plantation. When he’s caught, his drawing hand is cut off and replaced with a hook. His body is smeared with honey, prompting the crowd to chant his name five times (hence the say his name five times into a mirror) and then was stung to death by bees. Like Bloody Mary, the legend claims that Candyman is summoned by anyone who looks into a mirror and chants his name five times. Which of course is where all the trouble for Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) begins. (Fun Fact: Real bees were put into Tony Todd’s mouth while shooting the climax. The only protection he used was a mouth guard that kept him from having the bees enter his throat)

I have to say, I love Candyman. The story is familiar (Bloody Mary) but the twists and turns that Clive Barker and Bernard Rose incorporated was brilliant. Tony Todd is just perfection as the vengeful spirit, Virginia Madsen is outstanding as his victim and Xander Berkeley as her unfaithful husband Trevor is just mind-blowing.

Candyman was a film that spurned a rarity in the horror genre. A trilogy. And thankfully, Tony Todd appeared in all three films. (Fun Fact: Written on the wall of the gang-ridden housing project Cabrini-Green are the words Sweets To The Sweet which is actually a line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet) Do I recommending this? Absolutely. Go on, I’ll wait while you call his name…

Two years later, Tony landed a role in The Crow. Playing Grange, Tony was a force of evil, the number one henchman if you like. And what a henchman he was. He was the muscle behind the Devils Night fires and certainly one that struck fear in the heart of every thug in the film. His demise in the film was at the hands of Ernie Hudson.

’94 also saw a return to television for Tony. He appeared on The X Files, Law And Order and Homicide: Life On The Street. Each performance was fantastic with Tony stealing the limelight away from the reoccurring actors.

The following year, Tony reprised his role as Candyman for the first of two sequels in Candyman: Farewell To The Flesh. He also managed to film three TV movies in which he was a leading character: Black Fox, Black Fox: The Prince Of Peace and Black Fox: Good Men And Bad. That same year, Tony reprised his role as Kurn in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. (Fun Fact: Tony also played the adult version of Jake Sisko in one episode)

In 1996 Tony Todd matched wits with Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote and even graced the halls of Beverly Hills 90210. He also stared in The Rock as Captain Darrow and Driven as Darius Pelton. But it was a little film called Sabotage that Tony showed just how damaging he can be.

Starring along side Carrie-Anne Moss (of The Matrix) Sabotage is really what you could call a surprise package. On the one had it is an low budget action film starring martial arts star Mark Dacascos, which may suggest the film will be hollow, brainless and lacking in genuine class. However the film is a surprisingly entertaining and stylish piece of cinema that betters many thrillers released by big studios. The performances are first rate and the character interactions are good with some great dialogue. Plus Tony as an assassin was something that couldn’t be beat. He’s proven himself before as a villain, and this time, he’s THE villain.

Sabotage is worth a watch. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed with it.

1997 bought about a little gem of a horror movie called Wishmaster. Tony found himself not only locking horns with a creature older than time (The Djinn played by Andrew Divoff) but he also found himself working alongside one of horror’s biggest icons, Robert Englund. (Fun Fact: In a blink and you’ll miss it cameo, Kane Hodder also makes an appearance)

Wishmaster is one of my weakness movies and one that I do rate highly. It’s gory, it’s funny, it’s confusing as all hell and that’s why I love it. Tony appears as a bouncer at a private party hosted by Robert Englund’s character, Raymond Beaumont. When the Djinn appears at the party he says to Tony, “Step aside, doorman,” to which Tony replies in a rather low and dangerous tone, “Doorman? The name is Valentine. Johnny Valentine. You’d better remember when they ask you how you lost your eye!”

While his cameo was less than ten minutes long, it was enough to make an impact. Whenever my girlfriends think of Wishmaster, they automatically think Andrew Divoff blowing his brains out, Robert Englund and his Freddy Krueger glance at the beginning when the create falls and Tony Todd attempting to break free of a straight jacket in a locked cube filled with water.

Returning to television in ’98 Tony returned to the Star Trek series. This time he appeared in Star Trek: Voyager as Alpha Hirogen for one episode. That same year he finished up his rolls in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. (Fun Fact: Tony only appeared in two episodes for Hercules. One in ’95 while the other was in ’98)

Teaming up with Ernie Hudson, Donnie Wahlberg and Terrence Howard for the film Butter gave Tony a chance to play something different from assassins, henchmen, villains or victims. Now most reviews of this film are very critical, and I admit it’s not Oscar worthy, however it can be enjoyable if you’re after a B rated, direct to video style movie. Butter is about a corrupt record company executives that kill a singing sensation with a drug overdose rather than letting her leave their label and join another company. They then frame her cousin/manager for the murder forcing him to go on the run and to try to get the goods on the real killers. The story line is solid and the actors are brilliant in their own rights, but the writing for this film is the real disappointment and some will argue that it had negative stereotypes. I do ask you to watch it and make your own mind up about it.

In 1999 Tony Todd said farewell to Candyman by filming the final movie Candyman: Day Of The Dead. I found this to be the weakest link in the Candyman series. Starring Donna D’Errico (Baywatch) and Jsu Garcia (also know as Nick Corri – Rod Lane from Nightmare On Elm Street 1984), Candyman returns to try to convince his female descendent, an artist, to join him as a legendary figure. To this end, he frames her for a series of hideous murders of her friends and associates so that she has nowhere else to turn to.

Seeing as it was the end of the series, I had hoped for something better than what was produced. I was hoping for something that griped you with fear, that made you question everything that had happened and something that showed us Candyman wasn’t just a legend in mythology, but in horror as well. Sadly, Candyman: Day Of The Dead didn’t live up to the hype and is the lowest rated film out of the series.

As the millennium turned, Tony found himself back in a morgue. No, he wasn’t dead, but rather a coroner in one of horrors most talked about series: Final Destination. Appearing as William Bludworth, Tony revealed some secrets about Death and Death’s design to the movies heroes (Devon Sawa and Ali Larter). This revolation about Death had many people questioning whether or not Tony’s character was actually Death in human form. (Fun Fact: Out of the five Final Destination movies to date, Tony has appeared in four of them. He reprised his role as Bludworth in parts two and five, and provided the voice of the ill-fated rollercoaster and train in part three)

2002 saw Tony return to television with appearances in Charmed, The District, Andromeda, CSI: Miami and Boston Public. And like all his cameo appearances, Tony stole the show, providing audiences with new drama and adventure.

A year later, Tony reprised his role as William Bludworth in Final Destination 2, providing our heroes once again with a small, intricate titbit about Death and it’s design. However, seeing as Death is working backwards in this film, he did seem somewhat surprised to hear that, which should debunk the theories that he really is Death.

Jumping ahead a couple of years, 2005 proved very busy for Tony. Not only was he churning out movies like Heart Of The Beholder, Turntable, House Of Grimm and Checking Out, he also loaned his voice to an episode of What’s New, Scooby Doo? as well as heating up our television screens in Night Stalker, Stargate SG-1 and Criminal Minds.

2006 was fruitful for Tony, who once again locked horns with Kane Hodder and Robert Englund in Hatchet. Hatchet was a look back at the horror films that had come before it, offering up a new bad guy by the name of Victor Crowley and showed us that there was something more terrifying than Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers. Like Wishmaster, Tony only had a small, blink and you’ll miss it cameo, but I will admit, his name in the credits, along with Kane and Robert, persuaded me to purchase this film.

That same year he channelled his inner monster in The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyall And Mr. Hyde. Not Oscar worthy, but rather a fun film telling a story we’ve all heard a million times before. Tony was amazing and I can’t fault his acting at all. If anything, he was the only highlight.

My criticisms of this film are echoed by those that have seen it. It’s low budget and at times looks like a student film, the writing was terrible (the dialogue alone was just hilarious) and the settings are completely fake. Tony played the lead role of Dr. Jekyall and Mr. Hyde and I have to say, his make-up for Hyde was dismal and I’m pretty certain they used two different wigs for him. Once again, if you’re after a B-graded movie with minimalist effects, then this may just be perfect for you.

2007 saw Tony team up with Buffy The Vampire Slayer star, James Marsters in Shadow Puppets. Now, this film cops a lot of flack from critics and Buffy fans, but I loved it. (And yes, I too am a Buffy fan)

The storyline is as follows: A woman (Jolene Blalock) and a man (Marsters) awake in individual white cells in an abandoned prison or mental institution wearing only underwear and without any memory. They hear a strange and creepy noise and decide to look for a way out of the facility. They stumble across two other people before splitting into pairs in an attempt to find a way out. After watching a man being killed by his shadow, Blalock and Marsters meet up with the others. Then they stumble onto Tony, who is chained to a wall and locked in a cage.

Once freed, it becomes apparent that Tony is a bit of a baddie. He had a bad temper, is sly and snide and when they discover their identities, it’s made known that he’s actually a criminal with a history of armed robbery and attempted murder.

Now, I don’t really want to spoil this movie for those that haven’t seen it, but I will disclose one thing. While Tony looks and acts like the bad guy, he isn’t. His performance is flawless. Shadow Puppets is something that I highly recommend viewing.

In 2009, Tony joined the cast of TV’s 24 as General Benjamin Juma. He also starred in the TV series Psych before he loaned his voice to one of the highest grousing movies of the year: Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen. (Fun Fact: He was the voice of Fallen)

2010 saw Tony return to the murky waters of Louisiana for round two against Victor Crowley in Hatchet II. Hatchet II sees Marybeth (now played by Danielle Harris) escapes the clutches of the deformed, swamp-dwelling iconic killer Victor Crowley. After learning the truth about her family’s connection to the hatchet-wielding madman, Marybeth returns to the Louisiana swamps along with an army of hunters to recover the bodies of her family and exact the bloodiest revenge against the bayou butcher. This time, there was no quick, blink and you’ll iss it cameo for Tony. As Reverend Zombie (see, again with the zombie) he was thrown head first into the deep end and ended up losing his life against Crowley.

After dying against one of horrors newest, and most fearful villains, what’s next? How about a return to TV and a stint on a show called The Event. Tony found himself along side Jason Ritter (Freddy Vs. Jason) and Blair Underwood. (Fun Fact: Virginia Madsen who worked with Tony in Candyman also made an appearance in The Event)

2011 had Tony running back to the horror genre in a film called Jack The Reaper. I, personally, would have preferred to see more of him so I can only hope that a sequel is in the cards and that he gets more airtime next time around.

The story centres around a group of high school students whose Saturday field trip goes to hell when their bus crashes in the desert with nothing in site but a creepy abandoned carnival. Solid performances from a young cast, make-up was good, the story was OK. The back-story for the character Railroad Jack was original and I have to say, I’ll never be able to look at a pickaxe in the same way again. I recommend this film for those wanting a cheap thrill and scare.

Also in 2011, Tony returned as our favourite coroner, William Bludworth in Final Destination 5. The movie is a prequel to the events of the first film, so bare with me. Bludworth once again is on hand to tell our leads all about Death and that he’ll be seeing them soon. When questioned on why he knows so much, Tony simply says “It’s my job” before turning around so we can see Coroner written on the back of his jacket. As our heroes fight to survive everything Death throws at them, Tony is there, waiting in the wings with baited breath as one by one, the survivors are picked off in gruesome fashion.

Whether he’s a coroner, a creepy doctor with a secret life, a mythological legend or just some helpful stranger, Tony Todd’s performances are simply flawless. His voice alone provides audiences with the necessary chills that all good horror movies are built on. His presence is second to none and when he’s on screen, you can’t tear your eyes away. He is a force to be reckoned with. He can be my leading man anyday.

Ahlephia’s Top 5 Tony Todd Films

1) Candyman (1992) – Candyman, Candyman, Candyman, Candyman….can you say it once more?

2) Night Of The Living Dead (1990) – Tony was flawless as Ben.

3) Final Destination (2000) – Loved this series and Tony as the mortician was chilling.

4) Shadow Puppets (2007) – Without being THE bad guy, Tony was pretty evil.

5) Enemy Territory (1987) – The Count, need I say more.

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  3 comments for “HORROR ICON OF THE MONTH: TONY TODD

  1. February 2, 2012 at 5:46 AM

    This is one of your best articles! Beautifully written, highly informative, thoroughly researched, and just a great read! Again well done!

  2. March 7, 2016 at 9:55 PM

    This is the best journey through Tony Todd’s work I’ve ever read. There are actually movies I haven’t seen but will. Thank you.

  3. sabrina williams
    May 10, 2017 at 8:13 PM

    Tony Todd is one handsome man

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