Friends, I was just about to head home for the night when Rockford Jay popped into the office and asked if I had heard the news about the iconic John Saxon – I had not but it is with a heavy hearty we confirm that the legendary character actor passed away yesterday at the age of 83. It appears to me that 2020 is delivering more bad news every week than it has the right to in regards to our favorite artists and entertainers. While I am quite aware that 83 years is not a bad run – much like with Sir Ian Holm, Carl Reiner, and Ennio Morricone… I suppose I wasn’t ready to see them go just yet. While it is of course the truth that we have 198 roles in both film and television to act as Saxon’s legacy to enjoy throughout the years, I just cannot help but be saddened to hear of his passing. Growing up I quickly recognized the actor when he would make an appearance – generally as a bad guy in some of the TV series I watched at the time like The Six Million Dollar Man, Starsky and Hutch (Where he played a Vampire… sort of), Wonder Woman, and Hardcastle and McCormick to name a few. I would most definitely be remiss to not mention that Anthony Rotolo of the TV Terror podcast actually just tackled that Starsky and Hutch episode!
While the first time I saw John Saxon in action was thanks to his television appearances – the first film I saw of his was Battle Beyond the Stars from 1980. Roger Corman’s answer of sorts to the popularity both Star Wars and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. This crossover between The Magnificent Seven and Star Wars was a movie I caught at the local Drive-In of my youth – it also was the first time I heard one of James Horner’s epic soundtracks.
Another film that I caught at the 62 Drive-In of my youth featuring John Saxon was Enter the Dragon – which was released back in 1973 – but I was able to see in a marathon of Bruce Lee films. Fist of Fury was the first feature and was followed by Enter the Dragon with Game of Death and Way of the Dragon as the final two films. We left after Enter the Dragon because I was becoming too tired but I still remember seeing John Saxon up on that giant Drive-In screen as Roper.
As I have shared on this site and the Saturday Frights podcast – I am a huge fan of animal attack or nature gone wild films such as Day of the Animals, Food of the Gods, or Frogs. Which is why I was adamant that we catch The Bees at the Drive-In when it was shown in the Spring of ’79 – it was a double feature that included The Swarm.
Of course how you can talk about John Saxon without including his role in A Nightmare on Elm Street series – as he portrayed the Father of Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) in the original picture as well as A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. In addition he portrayed himself in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, the meta entry that was originally released back on October 14th of 1994.
That is naturally just the tip of the iceberg of the many roles that John Saxon delivered over his 66 years of acting in television and film. As always we will dim the lights in the auditorium to mark the passing of such a beloved entertainer – we would love to hear what roles were your favorite in the comments.