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John Saxon (1935-2020)

Just got the news while watching a Boetticher/Scott western. John Saxon is gone. Another actor I’ve been following since childhood and there aren’t too many left that I can say that about.

Movie memories automatically come flooding back. Why is it I always liked Saxon more than some of his contemporaries? Maybe it’s that earliest memory I can recall of seeing the telefilm Planet Earth playing regularly on TV as a kid. Still a fan of that Gene Roddenberry penned story. As a collector of movies on VHS/DVD or blu ray I checked my catalogue and have 48 films on the shelf that either star Saxon or had him playing support. “A” budget efforts to low budget fodder. From his younger days as the boyfriend to leading ladies like Sandra Dee to the later years in Euro-crime thrillers, Saxon, was always watchable.

Of course he’ll always be remembered for his role alongside Bruce Lee in the cult favorite Enter the Dragon and rightly so.

He’ll remain a favorite to cult fans for his work in genre pics from directors including Mario Bava and Dario Argento and of course Wes Craven and the Freddy Krueger flicks.

Let’s not forget the westerns either working with the likes of Brando and Eastwood. Or starring in 1962’s War Hunt with a young Robert Redford debuting as his costar.

Always welcome here at Mike’s Take On the Movies, here’s a look back at the film’s that were spotlighted over the past 6 years that had Saxon in the cast.

Joe Kidd (1972) the western with John playing second lead to Clint.

Company of Killers (1971) Saxon as a hired killer on the loose backed by a decent cast.

Portrait in Black (1960) early role for John playing opposite Lana Turner and Anthony Quinn with Sandra Dee on his arm.

Wrong is Right (1982) an ensemble piece played for dark humor led by Sean Connery.

Strange Shadows In an Empty Room (1976) John plays second lead to Stuart Whitman’s revenge minded cop.

The Unguarded Moment (1956) early role for John as a sex crazed youth headed for trouble.

The Swiss Conspiracy (1976) not a bad thriller with John playing support to David Janssen.

Queen of Blood (1966) a cult favorite with Saxon playing lead in a very Alien like sci-fi thriller.

Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) John plays the villain to the Magnificent Seven in Outer Space.

Payoff (1991) a decent thriller from the VHS days with Saxon a mobster to Keith Carradine’s good guy.

The Ravagers (1965) low budget made in the Philippines guerilla war effort with John playing the lead.

The Glove (1979) John takes center stage as a modern day bounty hunter in a role well suited. Low budget fun.

Father time catches up to all of us but that doesn’t make it any easier. While John has passed on we’ll always have the movies to remember him by.

22 Comments »

  1. I will always, and I mean ALWAYS remember John Saxon for the role he played in 1974 in the Six Million Dollar Man episode titled DAY OF THE ROBOT. It is so firmly entrenched in my mind because the next day at school after that episode aired, myself and a friend re-enacted in the playground, as eight-year-olds, in slow-motion the battle between Saxon’s cyborg and Steve Austin. I recall it had our fellow Year 3-ers totally enthralled for the duration.

    This video shows what is effectively a John Saxon cyborg doll –

    • Boy does that trigger memories! Yeah I remember that and also we kids imitating scenes of movies and TV we’d see the night before the next day at school. Your recollection also triggered mine where he played a vampire on Starsky and Hutch! Cheers.

  2. Such a shame. I was only watching ‘The Girl who Knew Too Much’ the other day and listening to him talk about it in an interview on the blu ray extras. Finished up my forthcoming post about it two days ago. I think my first movie memory of John was seeing him in ‘Battle Beyond the Stars’ and then catching him in a late night TV edit of ‘Enter the Dragon’ a few months later. Of course, as I watched more and more movies into the 80s, he kept cropping up in the sort of pictures I liked – Blood Beach, Nightmare on Elm Street, Prisoners of the Lost Universe, Hands of Steel. The movies may not have always been great but he always seemed committed to giving the best performance he could. Just look at ‘Swarm’ rip-off ‘The Bees’ – it’s an appalling film (and he must have known it) but he’s still in there giving it his best shot. I remember back in the early days of video rental in the UK, one of the very first films my older brother rented was ‘Beyond Evil’ where he and Lynda Day George fought with a witch who could shoot laser beams from her eyes (or something like that!) When that was all new over here, there were no late fees and you could keep a tape as long as you liked (that idea didn’t last long) and we kept that tape for weeks and watched it about half a dozen times. Happy days. RIP John.

    • Plenty of early memories just like me of this guy you couldn’t but notice on camera and come to admire. I scored a Blood Beach one sheet just last month and finally saw Beyond Evil for the first time this year. Yeah, love those laser beams. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Sad news. Some of my faves are Nightmare on Elm Street and Posse from Hell with Audie Murphy but of absolute favorite thing he did was the first episode of The A-Team as a crazed Jim Jones style cult leader. RIP.

  4. He had a great, if somewhat uncharacteristic, part in Audie Murphy’s “Posse From Hell,” from 1961. Excellent performance in a very good film.

    • Yes there are fewer and fewer of those I watched as a kid left to cherish. Thankfully John seemed to welcome interviews and sharing stories in his final years so that we may enjoy them and the movies he appeared in that much more.

  5. I loved John Saxon’s work in Italy especially, he made some really good Crime films there, and got to work with fine filmmakers like Mario Bava and Umberto Lenzi. His versatility is what made him really special as he could play anything you asked him to. His guest spots on shows like Bonanza and Gunsmoke were also very well done and weren’t one-dimensional so that you were able to care about him, even when not agreeing with his choices in life. RIP Mr. Saxon, you won’t ever be forgotten.

    • Yes he had plenty of foreign titles to his name and relates some great stories in the documentary Eurocrime on his time making those Italian crime capers. Yes his TV work was extensive and most enjoyable as well.

  6. As soon as I saw the news of the passing of John Saxon my first thoughts went to you Mike. You’ve always championed him over the years. Which makes me feel bad that I haven’t really seen many of his films. Of course Enter The Dragon will always be my introduction all those years ago. Good thing though as I have many a Saxon to watch. “War Hunt” went straight on the list and Joe Kidd is in much need for a revisit as that was years ago.

    • Yes he’s long been a favorite here in the vault. One of those actors who would be in the running for the King of the B’s titles and we all know that they are the ones that cult fans circle around. Have fun running through some of his titles.

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