Another tough guy bites the dust. Jack Palance, the craggy-faced, husky-voiced character actor who appeared in over a hundred motion pictures and television shows, such as Panic In The Streets, The Professionals, Shane, I Died A Thousand Times, Torture Garden, Batman, City Slickers, and The Big Knife – as well as such exploitation "classics" as Gor, Alone in the Dark, Angels' Revenge, The Shape of Things To Come and Cyborg 2 – has passed away at age 87.
Jack always made something out of even the worst-written roles, bringing his vast charisma and strength of personality to every screen appearance – especially when he played heavies. Sure, sometimes he'd overact shamelessly, but more often, he underplayed masterfully, conveying a cold, reptilian menace that could chill the blood.
He was brilliant in the Dan Curtis television version of Dr. Jeckyll and Mister Hyde in 1968 and pretty damned effective as the undead Count in Curtis' '73 production of Dracula. (Gene Colan always said that he patterned Marvel Comics' Dracula on Palance, and once you know that, it's easy to see the resemblance). With his rough-hewn features and distinctive delivery, he was the perfect Western black hat, but I remember him fondly shaking his fists in defiance of inevitable defeat at the hands of comic strip heroes like Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and Hawk the Slayer.
Most mainstream obits will focus on his Oscar win for his supporting role in 1991's City Slickers, and the one-armed push-ups he displayed for the appreciative and awestruck Academy Awards audience. But to me, the definitive proof of the man's talent and unique charisma lies in the fact that for four years, he made Ripley's Believe It or Not – one of the lamest shows of the 80s – actually watchable.
"Believe it.... or not."
Rest in Peace, Jack.