Hollywood legend and activist for everything from Civil Rights to the Second Amendment Charlton Heston passed away this weekend at the age of 84.
I think the best way to remember Heston was through his films. He brought a powerful presence that burned itself into the screen and into the minds and hearts of moviegoers, and was probably the last classically heroic actor in Hollywood. No matter the situation, be it outlaws or the end of the world, the audience felt that Charlton Heston could handle it. He was also a rebel, doing films that often bucked the mainstream of Hollywood's glitz and glamour.
So here's a list of what I consider Heston's must-see less generally appreciated films, in no particular order:
EL CID: I saw this when I was a kid and a local group showed old films on the big screen at the high school auditorium. Heston and Sophia Loren had an onscreen chemistry that was more than just smoldering, it was positively thermonuclear, and the film was an action packed adventure about a man trying to win a war without losing his humanity.
THE PLANET OF THE APES: The original, with Heston as a cynical misanthropic astronaut, is still the best for its mix of science-fiction, adventure, and satire. It also marked Heston's first foray into a dystopian/apocalyptic genre that he would make his own.
55 DAYS AT PEKING: An often under-appreciated adventure with Heston playing a US Marine helping defend the international embassies from violent religious fanatics during the Boxer Rebellion of 1900.
WILL PENNY: Heston's personal favourite role. Gone are the glossy heroics of the classical western, replaced by a low-key gritty realism. Heston's in the title role of a lonely, ageing cowboy facing a world that's moving on without him. A must see classic.
THE OMEGA MAN: The second film in Heston's dystopia trilogy was a strange and off-beat adaptation of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend. Heston plays a man whose purpose in life has become survival, until the day arrives when his survival gets a purpose. It's dated, hokey, and very 70s in style and attitudes, but Heston makes it watchable.
MAJOR DUNDEE: A must see for Heston fans and Sam Peckinpah fans. On the surface it's about a Union officer using Confederate prisoners to hunt a renegade Apache, and end up battling the French Foreign Legion, but it's also about obsession and duty, not only to one's country, but to the men under one's command, and to their own honour.
SOYLENT GREEN: The final chapter in Heston's dystopia trilogy. One the surface, it's a story about a murder investigation and a deadly conspiracy in a world crippled with over population, but there's a lot going on beneath the surface. It also marks the last performance by Heston's friend Edward G. Robinson, which adds extra power to Heston's performance.
TOUCH OF EVIL: The last film of the classic "noir cycle" directed by the great Orson Welles. Many joke about Heston being cast as an American raised Mexican, but it doesn't really take away from this tale of corruption, murder, and betrayal in a dusty border town.
Heston was an under-appreciated actor and he will be greatly missed.