As a kid, actress-singer Sally Ann Howes meant my grandparents’ television soundtrack LP of Brigadoon. For many, of course, she was (the awesomely named) Truly Scrumptious from kiddy classic Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. (Chitty, of course, featured one of the most menacing figures of tiny tot horror, Robert Helpmann’s truly malevolent Child Catcher.)
But Howes has a pretty impressive terror pedigree, as well. Significantly, she played (naturally enough) a girl named Sally in the classic 1945 British anthology feature Dead of Night. Perkily, Howes recounts Sally’s tale of a supernatural encounter at a holiday party at a swanky mansion. But Howes, also, nails her character’s bone deep fright upon discovering the small boy she, innocently, tucked into bed was actually a ghost. The honest emotion that she brings to this story makes it just as significant a contribution to the film as its most famous tale, the story of an overpowering ventriloquist’s dummy featuring the legendary Michael Redgrave.
Years later, Howes brought a sense of true maternal concern to her role of Margaret Mitchell in 1980’s Death Ship. While no Gone with the Wind, Death Ship features plenty of spooky activity (including blood spurting shower heads and skeleton baths) taking place on a mysteriously drifting vessel, innocently boarded by the survivors of an aquatic wreck.
Howes does spend most of her time, here, either nurturing the actors playing her children or reacting in horror to being accosted by co-star Kate Reid’s bubonic prosthetics and/or George Kennedy’s maddened sea captain. But, her extreme naturalness makes all the extraordinary circumstances of this Nazi-tinged, water bound horror ring with truth, as well.
Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!