Great Voice Actors Past and Present: Halloween Edition!

In case you didn’t notice from the mound of spooky movie reviews, Haunted House articles and Halloween-themed Sunday Sunrise topics, the spookiest day of the year is a big deal on MRFH. It’s my second favorite holiday, and there’s no way I’m gonna let it fly by without showcasing some of the best spooky voices in the biz. I couldn’t just focus on two this time, so you’re getting treated to a goodie bag of five actors best known for their creeptastic vocal talents.

Tim Curry

I was gonna go with a shot of him in the Pennywise makeup, but I find this more terrifying.

 

I usually give you a background of the actor’s life and career, but I think I covered that pretty well in his Cult Hero of the Week spot, so let’s just get to the goods.  Tim’s regular speaking voice has an eerie, sexy quality to it anyway, and when he puts in the effort the man can downright chill your blood.

Curry has a great grasp on how to give a character a life of its own, often losing himself so thoroughly in the voice that one is shocked to find out it’s him. He’s a complete thrill to listen to, whether he’s creeping you out, making you laugh, or being his sweet Transylvanian transvestite self.

You May Have Feared Him As:

  • Darkness from Legend
  • Zimbo of Aaah! Real Monsters
  • Pennywise from IT
  • Hexxus in Ferngully: The Last Rainforest
  • Doviculus from Brutal Legend
  • Mastermind in Scooby Doo: Night of 100 Frights
  • I know, I know. Pennywise is a live role and arguably, so is Darkness. Get over it and show some Halloween spirit.

John Kassir

The resemblance is DEAD ON! Ahahahahahaha!

 

He’s got what is probably the most recognizable maniacal laugh in the world, which is a good thing considering that somebody has to laugh at those atrocious puns he kept spouting out as the Crypt Keeper.

Unlike his ghoulish counterpart, John Kassir is actually a talented comedian. He got his big start in 1984 when he beat Rosie O’Donnell and Sinbad in Ed MacMahon’s Star Search.  In 1986 he became the unforgettable keeper of crypts, appealing to our love of horror and humor (all the better for its corniness) mixed together in a gory half-hour slice of TV pie.

He had a running stint doing guest roles on TV shows, eventually getting his own Pee-Wee-esque spot on USA called Johnnytime. It lasted only two seasons, and afterward he began to concentrate on his talent for voice characterizations, getting roles like Ray Rocket in Rocket Power and Buster Bunny of Tiny Toons.

You May Have Feared Him As:

  • The Crypt Keeper from the Tales From The Crypt TV series and movie
  • Deadpool in Marvel Ultimate Alliance and MUA 2 (What? You don’t find a toxic level of 4th-wall-breaking sarcasm frightening?)

Vincent Price

Such an important man hath not time to hire people to clean his home.

 

I can’t foresee a time where Vincent Price will fail to be relevant to Halloween. His voice is the epitome of sultry evil, pulling you in and yet creeping you out at the same time. Mr. Kassir has the maniacal high-pitched laugh, but the deep, horrible laughter that crawls into your bones will always belong to Mr. Price.

Well known for his live roles in many horror films, Vincent Price had an absolutely fantastic voice, both in front of the camera and behind it. He sounded calculating and mad with a tinge of sadness, which always came through brilliantly in his characters. He was always so much fun to listen to, and it’s no wonder that he got so many jobs as a narrator.

His first venture into horror films was with Boris Karloff in Tower of London in 1939, just one year after he started acting. His status as a true horror film star didn’t really begin until the 50’s,  when he did House of Wax, The Fly, and House on Haunted Hill. The 60’s brought a slew of roles in Roger Corman (yes, THE Roger Corman) adaptations of Edgar Allen Poe stories, and The Last Man on Earth (based on the novel I Am Legend).

In the mid-70’s he began to concentrate mostly on radio and narrative work, though his most famous radio character is probably Simon Templar, in NBC’s The Saint, which he played from 1947-51. Price never stopped doing what he loved and, though he survived a bite to the neck from a be-fanged Kermit The Frog, he was not immortal.  He passed away from lung cancer on October 25, 1993.

You May Have Feared Him As:

  • Professor Ratigan in The Great Mouse Detective (He claimed this was his favorite role)
  • The narrator of Tim Burton’s short Vincent
  • A Dracula-esque character striking fear into the heart of mold everywhere in a Tilex commercial. He also did horror-themed commercials for quite a few other companies.
  • Vincent Van Ghoul in The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo
  • The reader of the creepy poem in Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”
  • Voice overs on Alice Cooper’s album “Welcome To My Nightmare”
  • Host and star of radio show The Price of Fear
  • The star of radio program Tales of the Unexplained

David Jason A.K.A Sir David John White

They have exactly the same expression on their face.

 

He began training as an electrician at an early age, but was discovered at the age of 15 by a local drama critic while performing. Less than ten years later he had his first major television role on the soap opera Crossroads.

Since then David has had a prolific career both on television and in radio (including a part as Captain of the B’Ark in Hitchiker’s Guide To The Galaxy). He was made an Officer of the British Empire in 1993 and knighted in 2005, both for his services in drama.

Even with all that acclaim for drama, he’s just as well known as the voice of Mr. Toad in The Wind in the Willows produced by Cosgrove Hall. If that strikes a bell it’s because Cosgrove Hall is the British studio behind two fantastic cartoons that aired here in America in the early 90’s.

Mr. Jason voices the main character of one of the most hilarious cartoons I’ve seen in my life: Count Duckula. Most Americans that are lucky enough to know about this owe their thanks to Nickelodeon airing it during the early ’90s (and that does NOT make it a Nicktoon, Drew).  Usually the station would air it back-to-back with the show it spun off from, Danger Mouse( for which he also voiced the main character).

All that preparation in drama served him well, as he does a spot-on job of portraying the manic and melodramatic vegetarian vampire duck with a penchant for showbiz. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, woe unto you. Get thee to wherever you need to get in order to watch this show.

You May Have Feared Him As:

  • Count Duckula, though admittedly you’d have to worry more about him stealing your ratatouille than taking a bite out of you.
  • Toad from Wind In The Willows (I don’t care what you say, stop motion is creepy)

Honorable Mention: Peter Lorre

Evil bald men are drawn to fur like rednecks to plastic bull scrotums.

 
Even if you don’t recognize his name, you without a doubt recognize his voice. He has been one of the most mimicked and caricatured actors of all time. Those large eye and raspy-breathed, Austrian-accented voice served him perfectly during his life to catapult him to horror star status, though he starred in many non-scary roles, such as his part in Casablanca. If you’re still drawing a blank, look up Ren from Ren and Stimpy, Aladdin, where Genie does his impression of Lorre while turning into a green, dripping ghoul, or check out Corpse Bride for his caricature as The Maggot and you’ll see exactly what I mean. Mel Blanc himself also delighted in doing Lorre’s voice for Looney Tunes. Peter never voiced any animated characters, but had quite a few roles in radio, including doing readings of Edgar Allan Poe’s works. The first actor to ever play a Bond villain deserves recognition for being so intensely memorable and making himself a master of horror whose voice people still try to recreate in horror films today.

9 comments

  1. Peter Lorre is great. He was in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea as well.
    He’s very young in The Maltese Falcon. I think he plays the “dingus”…

  2. Normally I disapprove on principle of ‘live’ actors who take on voice acting roles – there are so many talented voice actors out there, and there is a distressing tendency for them to be pushed out of the spotlight by big name stars looking to make a little ‘easy cash’. (One of the most disgusting examples of this would have to be the recent ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks’ movies, which had the titular rodents voiced by Hollywood pretty boys. The CHIPMUNKS. As in, the ones whose voices are sped up until they are unrecognizable. Is that not appalling?) However, I make exceptions for actors who are geuinely talented with their voices and have ‘earned their chops’ in the field, such as, yes, Tim Curry. And how can one possibly have ill will towards ol’ Vinnie Price? He voiced Ratigan!
    And that version of Wind in the Willows is one of my favorites of all time. Toad rules!

  3. I feel ‘ya Deneb. I originally began my Vincent Price paragraph with a rant about celebrities butchering voice roles (with a specific glare towards Disney’s use of Christian Bale and Ashley Tisdale and the like in their dubs of Hayao Miyazaki films.There are far too few actors these days who are famous for their actual acting ability as well as their looks. Many classic actors had very memorable voices, and could have easily handed a purely vocal role (as many did, in their work in radio). There are some like that out there today, but they’re few and far between.

    • Indeed. One of the reasons I am favorably disposed towards Pixar is that, while they DO do celebrity casting, they have quite a knack for doing it PROPERLY. ‘The Incredibles’, for instance, has quite a few ‘name’ actors in its cast, but they all do a terrific job, and are perfectly cast for their roles – also, they’re not in EVERY role; there’s plenty of room for normal voice actors to do their job. That’s the RIGHT way to do it – the WRONG way is in something like ‘Robots’ which has seemingly dozens of ‘name’ actors cast in roles that range from major ones to glorified cameos. I can’t speak for the actual quality of the film, not having seen it, but the guy who cast it should be ashamed of himself.

  4. Here’s a link for Peter Lorre doing The Black Cat for radio:

    (It’s in 3 parts so you’ll have to follow links to finish it)

    Excellent list Heather!

  5. SD-I think Vincent Price can make up for just about anything-even a Roger Corman film. Well, almost.

    Eunice-Thanks! I wish I had remembered to stick Bela Lugosi on there (and am still debating going back and doing it), because he is the definitive reason why EVERY person who does a Dracula voice uses his “I vant to sock yor blaad!” accent. As for Black Cat, I was actually listening to that while I wrote this article. 🙂 Thanks for the link so that everyone can hear him.

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