Fantasm Presents # 2: Linnea Quigley (magazine review)

July 29, 2020 | By | Reply More

Back in February, just prior to lockdown, I reviewed the first of three ‘Fantasm Presents …’ magazines, each focused on a particular horror icon. Issue one was a heartfelt tribute to the master of zombie movies, George A. Romero, who sadly died while the magazine was being put together. The second in the series dedicates itself to another legend of American horror movies, ‘scream queen’ Linnea Quigley.

For those not familiar with the name, Linnea Quigley is an American actress who has appeared in well over one hundred horror films, averaging around three films a year over the last four decades. By anyone’s reckoning that’s a pretty impressive work rate. However, she’s probably best known for some of the films she made in the 1980s, including ‘Savage Streets’ (1984), ‘Silent Night, Deadly Night’ (1984), ‘Night Of The Demons’ (1988) and Dan O’Bannon’s cult classic zombie comedy ‘Return Of The Living Dead’ (1985), in which she played a fatalistic punk called Trash.

Her early roles were generally characterised by three features: her characters spent much of their time either scantily clad or naked and they tended to scream a lot and they generally died in horrible ways. This was pretty much the norm for many female roles in horror during the 80s but Quigley managed to differentiate herself from the crowd through a combination of beauty, sex appeal, stage presence and humour.

The magazine features a mixture of interviews with Quigley and those she has worked alongside, interspersed with articles about her most famous roles. As you might expect, given the subject, there are also an awful lot of photographs showing the actress in various stages of undress.

We start with a biographical interview by the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Brian Steward, who gently probes the actress about her youth, her early modelling experiences, how she got her first break in movies and her attitude to the frequent requirements for nudity in the horror films she appeared in during the 1980s and 1990s. Perhaps, surprisingly, for a woman who tells Steward that as a child she was ‘very, very shy’, she seems remarkably relaxed about stripping off on film. That may, however, simply reflect the fact that the personality that emerges from this magazine is of an open, honest, hard-working and straightforward woman who seems to have remarkably few hang-ups for someone who has been in the American film industry for as long as she has.

Over the following three articles, we explore Quigley’s contribution to ‘Return Of The Living Dead’ through a review of the film and first-hand reminiscences from two of the main actors who starred alongside her, James Karen, who played Frank Johnson, the foreman of the warehouse where the zombie corpses have been secretly stored, and Clu Gulager, who played Burt Wilson, Frank’s boss. The interview with James Karen is extremely interesting, so I’m particularly sad to report that the 94 year old actor died just a few months after it was completed. If you’re a big fan of this film, it would be worth getting hold of the magazine just for that interview, as it almost certainly represents Karen’s last thoughts on the subject.

In addition to the interview that opens the magazine, there are a further three interviews with Quigley dotted throughout the magazine. In these, she offers her views on various subjects, including her own back catalogue, the problems of being typecast, what it was like working on her earliest films and her interests outside of film, which include playing in a band and rescuing abandoned pets.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the magazine are the articles that discuss lesser known parts of Quigley’s life and filmography. One personal highlight is the interview with her husband from 1990-92, the make-up and special effects wizard Steve Johnson, who first met Linnea in 1986 when he had to do a mould of the top half of her body to be used in the infamous ‘lipstick’ scene in ‘Night Of The Demons’ (1988). Despite divorcing after only two years, Johnson and Quigley remain good friends and he provides a warm assessment of Linnea the person. By way of contrast, three of the interviews confirm that Quigley remains a working actress to the present day, as Todd Sheets, Michael LiCastri and Eric Swelstad discuss her involvement with their films ‘Bonehill Road’ (2017), ‘The Best Laid Plans’ (2019) and forthcoming ‘Heartland Of Darkness’ respectively.

If you’ve only encountered Linnea Quigley in one or two of her ‘scream queen’ roles from the 80s and 90s, you might be tempted to dismiss her as yet another beautiful but superficial actress who had her fifteen minutes of fame and was never heard of again. Please don’t. After reading this magazine, I’ve gained a much better appreciation of the longevity of her career, the breadth of her talents and interests, the strength of her work ethic and the warmth of her personality, the latter point being attested to by pretty much every single person quoted.

Fans of Linnea Quigley who don’t already own this magazine should get hold of a copy immediately. Anyone else who loves horror films and the people who make them happen should buy it too. You’ll thank me afterwards.

Patrick Mahon

July 2020

(pub: Fantasm Media, 2018. 52 page magazine. Price: $40.00 (US), although prices vary because it is selling out)

check out website: www.Fantasm-Media.com

Category: Horror, Magazines

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