As a child, one of the more striking things about an initial visit to a funeral home might be seeing a mortician or undertaker for the very first time. Often, these take the shape of white-haired, older gentlemen who maintain a somber but otherwise expressionless demeanor throughout the funeral proceedings. Their age and seeming lack of emotion coupled with the fact that they watch over dead people can be unnerving things for a youngster to consider. What if a certain child were confronted with the fact that a very imposing mortician he knows of is in possession of super-human abilities and has a penchant for both killing people and turning the dead into miniature zombies? That’s what occurs in the 1979 film entitled, Phantasm. In that production the part of the mortician, otherwise known as the Tall Man, is expertly played by Angus Scrimm, who passed away on January 9 at the age of 89.
Scrimm, whose real name was Lawrence Rory Guy, came into this world on August 19, 1926. During the early days of his working career, he functioned as a journalist, writing and editing for TV Guide, Cinema Magazine and various other publications. He also wrote sleeve notes for Capital Records. His work appeared inside albums recorded by The Beatles, Frank Sinatra and other notable performers. Still, Lawrence Rory Guy’s primary interest resided in the pursuit of an acting career.
He got his break in the early 70s when he appeared in the films Sweet Kill and Scream Bloody Murder, both of which were released in 1973. His role as an alcoholic, abusive father in the film Jim The World’s Greatest however, is the part that opened the door to his future success. His involvement with this production brought him into contact with producer, director and screen writer Don Coscareli, who went on to create, produce and direct Phantasm a couple of years later.
Once Lawrence Rory Guy had been given the role of the Tall Man in Phantasm, he invented the stage name that his fans came to know him by; Angus Scrimm. The actor had a natural height of 6 feet 4 inches, which made him an imposing figure in real life, but when the production crew dressed him in platform shoes and clothing, his new persona became a frightening figure indeed.
Although Scrimm appeared in some 24 films, many of them unrelated to Phantasm, it was his superb acting in the roll of the undead Tall Man in the Phantasm series that made him a true horror icon. The sequels, Phantasm ll Phantasm lll and Phantasm IV, were released between 1988 and 1998.
Other notable productions he appeared in include The Lost Empire, Transylvania Twist, and the 2008 production, I Sell the Dead. It is note worthy that Scrimm played the Tall Man in all of the Phantasm sequels as well as in Transylvania Twist. For his many contributions to the world of horror, Angus Scrimm was inducted into the Fangoria Hall of Fame in 1994.
But fear not, horror fans, for although this last of the classic horror icons departed this world just days ago, he’s not done with us just yet. A fifth sequel, Phantasm V: Ravager is scheduled for release this year. Once again, this master of horror will thrill us as he takes on the role of that undead mortician known as the Tall Man.
In closing then, this writer asks the question, what else can be said of an actor who has left us with such an amazing legacy? How about this? “You played a good game, BOY!”