Of all the things Big Gay Horror Fan collected in his youth – autographed photos of soap opera stars, Lisa Hartman albums, the Fangoria issue with City of the Living Dead on the cover – the thing that he cherished the most was his Charlene Tilton scrapbook!
Tilton, the buxom lass best known for late night antics as the rebellious Lucy Ewing on Dallas (a role she recently reprised in the successful 2012 reboot), began her career with comedic appearances on Happy Days and the original Freaky Friday. But, she capped the period of her greatest success with major roles in two terror twinged 1979 television flicks.
Most notably, as the proper Jennifer Cresswell, Tilton faced down the terrors of The Fall of the House of Usher (above). This rather anemic version of Poe’s oft filmed tale does feature some decent mood (provided by it’s shadowy locale), proper costuming and a nicely passionate performance from the distinguished Martin Landau as Roderick Usher. Tilton is earnest and heartfelt – and if she doesn’t quite wash off the gloss of her suds ridden notoriety – Airplane‘s Robert Hays as her husband can’t quite shake off his modern trappings, either. Thus, the two make a perfect late 70’s television horror film couple – their fame, awkwardness and subtle attempts at appropriateness all mingle into one delicious, must see bath.
Playing more like an after school special with a couple sick twists, Tilton’s role in The Diary of a Teenage Hitchhiker allows her to play final girl with a serious social message: Don’t hitchhike! After many awkward stretches, including a break-up scenario with The Brady Bunch‘s Christopher Knight, an assault and a murder finally occur. But the most exciting moment of this labored excercise occurs near the end of the film when Tilton’s Julie has to fight off a frothing Craig T. Nelson (pre-kind Poltergeist dad and comic Coach) as the dangerous cad who picks her up on the way to a job interview. The soundtrack is, also, pleasingly funky while the fact that co-star Dominique Dunne (who would appear in Poltergeist as Nelson’s daughter) was murdered (by a jealous boyfriend) several years after this puts a poignant (very real) stamp on the film’s heavy handed reason for being.
Continuing her terror trapped follies, Tilton, also, co-starred in the parody film The Silence of the Hams in 1994. The film, which poked fun at Psycho along with it’s obvious target, was naturally not well received (despite some fun moments), but features a solid cast including Billy Zane, Shelley Winters, Dom DeLuise -and (briefly) Mel Brooks!
Recently, the passionate performer has, also, showed her sharp skills as an hysterically caustic mother-in-law in another horror parody Paranormal Calamity (2010) and counts a role in horror homage Dr. Spine (2011) as one of her many credits, as well.
Be sure to check back every Monday as Big Gay Horror Fan cherishes another scarlet woman of horror — and be sure to keep up on the red with BGHF at http://www.facebook.com/#!/BigGayHorrorFan, as well.
Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!