Sunday, January 4, 2009

Farewell, grindhouse stalwart Edmund Purdom...

Let's raise a glass to actor Edmond Purdom, who died New Year's Day 2009…

Short of dying on Christmas Day, like the larger- and sultrier-than-life Eartha Kitt, b-movie stalwart Purdom could hardly have chosen a more memorable day to say his last farewell.

I will always associate the British-born Purdom, whose career encompassed Hollywood epics and cult stardom in European exploitation films, with the holidays by way of 1984's Don't Open 'Til Christmas, in which he starred and on which he served, albeit briefly, as director. Purdom plays a Scotland Yard detective on the trail of a serial killer who has a thing about drunks, perverts and hopheads who cynically don Santa suits during the holiday season in hopes of scoring a few bucks and has made it his business to tech them some kind of lesson by murdering them under the most sordid possible circumstances. Say, Santa at a low-rent peep show, ogling some bored skank before the killer paints the plexiglass seasonal red.

A confirmed holiday hater like me could hardly ask for more, except perhaps to have seen it as I did, in the crumbling Empire theater near Times Square, where there was a massive leak in the ceiling and the entire place stank of mold.

Purdom, who was 84, died in Rome, where he had lived since the 1960s; his survivors include his daughter, French TV personality Lilan Purdom. Purdom was born in Hertfordshire, England, on December 19, 1924, and began acting on stage when he was 21, just as WWII was ending.

The handsome, dark-haired actor had some success in Hollywood costume dramas like The Egyptian (1954) and The Prodigal (1955), but a couple of years later he had relocated to Europe and spent the rest of his career making Italian and Spanish exploitation movies. Purdom was married four times — his third wife, Linda Christian, was Errol Flynn' ex — and made more than 80 films, several of which I encountered in my grind house.

What would they have been without him?

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