I’ve been seeing an awful lot of Tim Curry lately. My 2 year old son is completely fanatical about Muppet Treasure Island, and his request of “Pirates! Pirates! Pirates!” requires us to have it on in the house, at least twice a day. I’ve no idea why he’s so taken with this particular Muppets film and attempts to ween him off it with The Muppets (2011), Muppets Most Wanted (2014), Muppets from Space (1999), The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) and The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984) have all been met with the cry of “Pirates!”
So Tim Curry is essentially now part of our family and his daily visits are met with glee by my toddler. I’ve been a fan of Mr. Curry for years and he is one of those actors that’s either consciously or subconsciously been with me my entire life.
He supplied voice work for many of my beloved childhood 90’s cartoons such as Batman: The Animated Series, Sonic the Hedgehog, Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Gargoyles, Aaahh!! Real Monsters, Hey Arnold! and The Wild Thornberrys. So, without realising it at the time, Tim Curry was a pretty prominent actor in my life. Then, as I grew up, I started to notice him in family comedies, sitcoms, video games etc until, as a teenager, I first watched Rocky Horror, and then that was it. Tim Curry hit legendary status.
He’s had an extremely busy and eclectic career. Seamlessly flitting between, movies, television, voice acting , theatre and working within many different genres, the man has done it all. For this post, I’m going to give you my top 5 Tim Curry performances in film. This unfortunately discounts one of his most infamous roles, Pennywise the clown, in Stephen King’s It. Which was actually a 2 part, made for TV mini-series. A film version of It is due for release later this year, but I can’t imagine Bill Skarsgard’s Pennywise will get anywhere near Curry’s iconic performance.
Anywho here it is:
5. Legend (1985)
I would be very surprised if you asked someone to name a Ridley Scott film, and their first response was 1985’s Legend. In all honesty the film hasn’t aged very well, particularly in the wake of Lord of the Rings. Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth flicks pretty much set the standard, and any films of a similar ilk can only be compared to them in retrospect. Despite this, the film is rather enjoyable. Tom Cruise is completely out of place and didn’t lend himself to the fantasy genre as organically as he did to sci-fi. And in parts the film does look a bit like a feature length episode of Power Rangers. This isn’t necessarily a criticism, because… hey, I like Power Rangers. That aside, the best thing about Legend is Tim Curry’s performance as the Lord of Darkness. Curry floated smoothly between comedy and horror in the 1980’s / 90’s, and characters don’t come much more horrific than the master of the underworld. I can’t think of anyone better suited to the role. With Curry’s weirdly seductive charm and menacing yet soothing voice his scenes in the film are by far the finest.
4. Muppet Treasure Island (1996)
Released shortly after The Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island was quite a similar film. Of all the Muppet releases, Christmas Carol and Treasure Island stand out for me as not your quintessential Muppet picture. As apposed to a Muppet film featuring a number of celebrities, they are existing stories, lead by actors that happen to feature Muppets. This is why I’m surprised that my son has championed Treasure Island, as it’s got a lot less shtick and a lot less Muppetness than some of the other films. I’ve always loved the film, but then again I was 9 when it was first released, so I was ready for a more classically structured narrative, that just happened to have Muppets all over the place. Either way, Tim Curry holds the whole piece together. It’s great to see an all-singing, all-dancing Tim Curry ham it up to the max and be alongside the likes of Orson Wells and Charlton Heston as an actor that’s given us a fabulous portrayal of Long John Silver.
3. Clue (1985)
I think I can safely say that Clue is the greatest film based on a game that’s ever been produced. Where films based on computer games such as Tomb Raider, Max Payne, Super Mario Bros, Doom, Need for Speed and Mortal Kombat have failed (rather spectacularly) to hit the mark, how is it a film based on a straight forward card and dice board game, featuring 7 or 8 characters, confined to one location for the entire film can be as good as it is? It’s got no right to be as entertaining or funny as it is. With a stellar ensemble featuring Christopher Lloyd, Michael Mckean and Eileen Brennan it really is Tim Curry’s performance as Wadsworth, the butler, that elevates the film to the next comedic level.
2. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)
A very subjective and personal choice for me, hence why it’s so high up on the list. I think this is perhaps Curry’s finest comedy performance. I remember seeing the film as a child and realising he was hilarious, without even properly understanding or knowing what comedy was. As Mr. Hector, the concierge, he is given something hilarious to do in pretty much every scene he’s in. Along with Dana Ivey and Rob Schneider (in his finest performance), the hoteliers have all the best lines and the funniest moments in the film. Contrasting with the OTT slapstick that the film descends into in the final act, Curry’s performance relies a lot of subtlety and he manages to achieve more with a single facial expression and a slight choking on his words, than any of the cartoonish physical comedy at the end of the film.
1. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
No surprise I’m sure, but there could only be one film / role that tops the list. I was (and still am to some degree) obsessed with this musical. Everything about it is completely different from anything you’ve ever seen. It’s wonderfully colourful, yet dark. It’s sexy, yet scary. It’s flamboyant, yet gothic and low budget, yet huge. It’s the absolute definition of a ‘cult film’, and it’s quite remarkable that the stage show hasn’t really been off the stage since it was first written in 1973. The songs are wonderful, the script is hilarious, the special effects are nostalgic, the costumes are outrageous and the plot is nonsensically wonderful. With a fabulously flaboyant ensemble cast, the whole film is carried by Tim Curry’s iconic turn as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a transvestite, alien, scientist who is bi-sexual, murderous, cannibalistic and thoroughly entertaining. There has never been anything like Rocky Horror before and there never will be again. The film is an absolute masterpiece.