A. Loudermilk’s Guide to Movies with Personality

RIP horror director Larry Cohen (1936-2019). A longtime psychotronic favorite, his movies were ever-present in horror sections at video stores in the 1980s and ‘90s. There is the campy fun of the It’s Alive trilogy (1974-1987), Q: The Winged Serpent (1982), The Stuff (1985), A Return to Salem’s Lot (1987), and Wicked Stepmother (1989). See Horror A-L for entries on the more visionary “wtf?”-inducing masterpieces Bone (1972) and God Told Me To (1976).

Larry Cohen Memorial

Please visit my companion website QUIRKY ACTORS, a photo blog starring over 300 quirky, obscure, supporting, or lesser-known actors, from both classic Hollywood and modern-day eras, many of them admired throughout QUIRKY CINEMAs hundreds of entries. Plus find a hardy page dedicated to classic era actors parodied in cartoons of the era as well as a nostalgic page dedicated to retro television actors.

 A. Loudermilk’s QUIRKY ACTORS Photo Blog

Mike Leigh classics High Hopes (1989) and Life Is Sweet (1990). See entries in Comedy/Drama (A-Z).

mike leigh

Frank Capra’s You Can’t Take It With You (1938): A quirk-peppered screwball classic. All thriving under one roof, Capra’s cast of kooky nonconformists tune in, turn on, and drop out—Depression-era style. See Classic Era (M-Z).


Katherine Helmond (1929-2019). A true Saint of Quirky Cinema, Helmond is one of those scene-stealing supporting players I love most. Her career spanned Hitchcock, mainstream TV, and avant-garde film.

Katherine Helmond

In Hitchcock’s endearing comedy-thriller Family Plot (1976); In her iconic TV role as the matriarch on Soap (1977-1981); As Mrs. Ogre in Terry Gilliam’s wild ride Time Bandits (1981); In her iconic face-stretching scene in Terry Gilliam’s outrageously dystopian Brazil (1985); As ghost lady in Lady in White (1988); As the hotel clerk in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998). A “familiar face” encountered in unexpected places, obscure film fans might know her as a racist biddy in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974), a podunk mom to Ron Howard in the eco-horror flick Locusts (1974), as Lizzie’s sister in The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975), and as a mentally disturbed industrialist’s wife in the obscure ‘80s gem Shadey (1987). For more on the latter, see Comedy M-Z.

A 2014 documentary about veteran character actor Dick Miller (1928-2019). His career spanned nearly 200 films over sixty years, including: It Conquered the World (1956), Bucket of Blood (1959), The Trip (1967), Piranha (1978), The Howling (1981), Gremlins (1984), Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), and Chopping Mall (1986).


Check out my PopMatters review of Elsa Lanchester’s autobiography Elsa Lanchester: Herself––originally published 1983 by St. Martin’s Press; reissued 2018 by Chicago Review Press. More than The Bride of Frankenstein, more than wife to legendary actor and admitted homosexual Charles Laughton, Elsa Lanchester was one of the twentieth century’s best kept secrets.

Barbara Harris (1935-2018):

Barbara Harris montage

With Hitchcock on set of Family Plot (1976) (see Comedy/Drama A-L), in Altman’s classic Nashville singing the finale “It Don’t Worry Me” (1975), and in the Disney fave Freaky Friday (1976) with Jodie Foster. A dear, funny person who cared far more about acting than she ever did about celebrity.

Why do fans take George A. Romero’s 1978 indie masterpiece Martin so personally?

My essay in PopMatters looks closely at the film, its novelization, its experimental jazz soundtrack, the pop song by Soft Cell it inspired, and a recent book-length analysis.

Martin PopMatters screengrab

“On Lasting Intimacy with a Cult Cinema Vampire”: PopMatters. See also Horror (M-Z).

Clever, idiosyncratic Margot Kidder (1948-2018), known for playing Lois Lane in the Superman movies (1979-1983) starring Christopher Reeve. Also the Briana DePalma classic Sisters (1973, see Horror M-Z), the Bob Clark classic Black Christmas (1974), The Amityville Horror (1979), and Some Kind of Hero with Richard Pryor (1982). Lois Lane had eclipsed Kidder’s entire career, alas, and she suffered a very public breakdown in 1996, which has been referred to as “the most famous public freak-out in history.”

“Capitalism is such a macho force. I felt run over” (The Guardian, 2018)—Jane Campion, director of 2 Friends (1986), Sweetie (1989), An Angel at My Table (1990, pictured below—see Comedy/Drama A-L), and the Oscar-winning The Piano (1993). Included among Quirky Cinema’s Saints of the Quirky. “Hero stories are wearing thin. We have lived a male life, we have lived within the patriarchy. It’s something else to take ownership of your own story.”

Jane Campiom 2018

Recommended documentary: Voyeur (dirs. Myles Kane, Josh Koury) (2017): Journalism icon Gay Talese (top photo) reports on Gerald Foos (lower photo), the owner of a Colorado motel who, for decades, watched—and took detailed notes on—his guests with the aid of specially designed ceiling vents. See entry in Documnetary (M-Z).


The new wave cult classic Liquid Sky (1982) is finally available on DVD (Blu-ray)—from Vinegar Syndrome: Cult Film Preservation & Releasing. Look for Paula E. Sheppard singing “Me and My Rhythm Box.” She stars in only one other movie, a cult classic titled Alice, Sweet Alice (1976) (see Horror A-L) in which she plays bad seed Alice.

Clip from Liquid Sky: “Me and My Rhythm Box”

Music Docus x4

Music documentaries included in the Documentaries A-L and M-Z sections: The Decline of Western Civilization (1981), Klaus Nomi in The Nomi Song (2004), The Devil and Daniel Johnston (2005), Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone (2010)

In terms of inspiring the quirkiest killers in horror, Charles Manson (1934-2017) and Ed Gein (1906-1984) rule supreme. My high school psychology teacher showed the mini-series Helter Skelter to fill up some classes and I am still grateful. Steve Railsback is Manson for me as much as Manson is himself, pictured below with George DiCenzo as Vincent Bugliosi, the Los Angeles district attorney who wrote the book Helter Skelter.


Railsback went on to spearhead and star as Ed Gein in an underrated 2000 horror indie titled Ed Gein (see Horror (A-L)) costarring Carrie Snodgrass. 

Recommended documentary: Mommy Dead and Dearest (2017, dir. Erin Lee Carr). (see Documentary (M-Z))


Remembering the incomparable Pat Ast: From being a Warhol star to a bad girl in Donna Summers “Bad Girls” video, Ast possessed both comic quirks and gutter grit. Here she is with Joe Dallesandro (in Warhols Heat from 1972), with Wendy O. Williams (in Reform School Girls from 1986), and in a candid snapshot with Shelley Duvall. For more Saints and Anti-Heroes of Quirky Cinema, see the Saints of the Quirky page.

A Hero Among Zombies, George A. Romero (1940-2017) and a Genius with Psychos, Tobe Hooper (1943-2017)


Oskar Fischinger (1900-1967): “German-American abstract animator, filmmaker, and painter, notable for creating abstract musical animation many decades before the appearance of computer graphics and music videos.” (Wiki)

Oskar Fischinger

Bela Lugosi (with quote) and Oscar-winning Martin Landau (1928-2017) playing an aged Lugosi in Tim Burtons film Ed Wood (1994); Landau also known for TV’s Mission: Impossible (1966–1969), Woody Allens Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), and the horror/sci-fi obscurity Without Warning (1980). (See Comedy/Drama (A-L))


The original adaptation of Thomas P. Cullinan’s Civil War-era novel The Beguiled (1971, dir. Don Siegel) starred Geraldine Page, Clint Eastwood, Elizabeth Hartman, Mae Mercer. (IMDb)



“A Queer Alliance”: PopMatters

Dame Margaret Rutherford as Miss Prism, with Dame Edith Evans, in The Importance of Being Earnest (1952); and as eccentric medium Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit (1945)


Danny Perez’s Antibirth (2016) featuring Natasha Lyonne, Chloë Sevigny, and Meg Tilly:  gritty gyno-horror comedy with lots of gross-out splatter

11/9/2016: Had to tune out the election results to watch heroic Marie Dressler as a Depression-era Lysistrata in the pre-Code comedy Politics (1931); the film opens with the statement: “This story is dedicated to women—who have been fighting for their rights ever since Adam and Eve started the loose-leaf system.” See Classic Era (M-Z).

Alexis Arquette (1969-2016), as Georgette in Last Exit to Brooklyn (1989) and promoting Killer Drag Queens on Dope (2003):

Tickled (2016), dirs. David Farrier, Dylan Reeve


Gene Wilder (1933-2016)Geneheader_GettyImages-71494838-1024x631

Laurel and Hardy in Thats My Wife (1929)



Above: My review of What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015), new on DVD: PopMatters

Below: My review of Antonia’s Line (1993), now on Blu-ray: PopMatters


Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (dir. Russ Meyer, 1965). See Comedy/Drama (A-L).


a few titles from “32 Films That Begin with Someone Leaving a Mental Institution, 1904-2012”:

The escaped lunatic in D.W. Griffith’s The House of Darkness (1913)


Screengrabs from Woman in White (1917)

Home Before Dark (dir. Mervyn LeRoy, 1958)


Emily (Mariclare Costello) and Jessica (Zohra Lampert) in Let’s Scare Jessica To Death (1971). See Horror (A-L).


I’d always joked that any movie beginning with someone leaving a mental institution was going to be good. Well it wasn’t a joke. It’s a whole subgenre! My article in PopMatters “makes the case for the recently-escaped-or-released-mental-patient narrative as its own subgenre, replete with a language of recurring themes, plot devices, and character archetypes.”


A few more titles from “…32 Films That Begin With Someone Leaving a Mental Institution (1904-2012)”:

Screengrab from William Castle’s Strait-Jacket (1964). See Classic Era (M-Z).


VHS cover for Daddy’s Deadly Darling a/k/a Pigs (dir. Marc Lawrence, 1972). See Horror (A-L).


from Outrageous! (dir. Richard Benner, 1977). See Comedy/Drama (M-Z).


Clean, Shaven (dir. Lodge Kerrigan, 1993). See Horror (A-L).


“To Gong or Not To Gong The Gong Show Movie?” by A. Loudermilk


How a major TV phenomenon inspired a flop film: PopMatters

See also Comedy/Drama (A-L)

Harper Lee (1926-2016) with Mary Badham who played Scout in the classic adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird; also Jem (Phillip Alford) and Dill (John Megna)



The Babadook (2014). See Horror (A-L).

by director Jennifer Kent (pictured), based on her short film Monster from 2005


The board game on the big screen, Clue (1985) with Eileen Brennan (Mrs. Peacock), Tim Curry (Wadsworth), Madeline Kahn (Mrs. White), Christopher Lloyd (Professor Plum), Michael McKean (Mr. Green), Martin Mull (Colonel Mustard), and Lesley Ann Warren (Miss Scarlet)

“You’re as funny as a cry for help.” Obscure comedic actor Jody Gilbert to W.C. Fields in the memorable diner sketch in Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941). Look for her as well in Shadow of the Thin Man (also 1941), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), and Willard (1972).

Diner Sketch

American and Czech posters for Hal Ashby’s cult classic Being There (1970) starring Peter Sellers. See Comedy/Drama (A-L).

Bryan Forbes’ stylish classic Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964)

starring Kim Stanley and Richard Attenborough. See Classic Era (M-Z).


Tammy (2014)

Patricia Collinge in Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt (1943)



Susan Tyrrell (1945-2012), a Saint of the Quirky


The Boulting Brothers’ Twisted Nerve (1968). See Classic Era (M-Z).


Check out Bernard Hermann’s classic score: Twisted Nerve, Theme

Housebound (2014)

Video for Miss Jeannie Holliman’s “D.U.I. Blues,” from the documentary Mule Skinner Blues (2001). See Documentary (M-Z).

D.U.I. Blues

Finding Vivian Maier (2013): See Documentary (A-L).

Elsa Lanchester is a saint in the scheme of the Quirky, along with her husband Charles Laughton. She’s known most for playing the Bride in Bride of Frankenstein (1932), wife #4 in Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), Aunt Queenie in Bell, Book and Candle (1958), Katie Nanna in Mary Poppins (1964), the domineering mom in Willard (1971), and Jessica Marbles in Murder by Death (1976). My February 2014 article on Elsa Lanchester and songwriter Forman Brown focuses on their time with the queer and eccentric Turnabout Theatre. Read Online: Polari. Also see Turnabout: The Story of the Yale Puppeteers (1992, dir. Dan Bessie) in Documentary (M-Z).


Philip Seymour Hoffman (1967-2014)

Zellner Brothers’ Kid-Thing (2013) still not on DVD; try Amazon Prime.

A 2012 movie from the director of Sordid Lives (2000), released on DVD in 2014. See Comedy/Drama (A-L).


Viña Delmar (1903-1990) wrote the Oscar-winning comedy The Awful Truth (1937) as well as the heartbreaking drama Make Way for Tomorrow the same year, both for director Leo McCarey. See Classic Era (M-Z).


The Mad Room (1969) directed by Bernard Girard,

a remake of Charles Vidor’s gothic-noir classic Ladies in Retirement (1941). See Classic Era (A-L).

Algonquinite humorist Robert Benchley may not have originated the mockumentary but he was the first to popularize it. His many one-reelers are collected on DVD though hard to found. Try YouTube. Perhaps begin with “How to Sleep” (which one an Oscar) or “The Sex Life of the Polyp.” See entry on How To Sleep: Robert Benchley’s Miniatures in Classic Era (A-L).

….  ….

      Steve Buscemi b+w portrait by James Dimmock

A fashion-focused montage of clips from the otherwise impossible to find German film It Is Not the Homosexual Who Is Perverse, But the Society in Which He Lives (1971); directed by Rosa von Praunheim

…… ….. …..

It Is Not the Homosexual

Christopher Guest as Corky St. Clair in Waiting for Guffman (1996) showing us his Remains of the Day lunchbox.

Jennifer Coolidge and Patrick Cranshaw in Christopher Guest’s Best in Show (2000). See Comedy/Drama (A-L).

Jimmy Stewart, Thelma Ritter

From the Mike Leigh classic High Hopes (1988) with Philip Davis and Ruth Sheen

Roddy McDowall reads the stories of H.P. Lovecraft. Click link below to hear “The Outsider”

“The Outsider”

A true and enduring cult classic documentary The Atomic Cafe (1982). See Documentary (A-L).

For comics fans, a heroic tale: Miss Robin Hood (1952) starring Dame Margaret Rutherford and Richard Hearne. See Classic Era (M-Z).


Bill and Coo (1948): Movie starring birds dressed as humans with a plot reflecting wartime fears and pushing patriotism; the tiny set won a special Academy Award

Bill and Coo (Full-length Movie)

Pages from a Pop Culture Scrapbook I started in 1987

My article in Polari on female impersonator Charles Pierce, the most famous Bette Davis impersonator in the world and supporting player in the film adaptation of Torch Song Trilogy (1988); there’s a link to Pierce’s one-person show, Legendary Ladies of the Silver Screen, at the bottom of the article


. ….. .

Misleading poster for the nearly impossible to find 1967 thriller Our Mother’s House with Pamela Franklin and Dirk Bogarde. From Jack Clayton, the director of The Innocents (1961) and The Pumpkin Eater (1964). Links below to trailer and Georges Delerue’s theme.


Our Mother’s House (Trailer)

Our Mother’s House (Theme Song)

Agnes Moorehead in Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons (1942). (IMDb)

Still not available on DVD in the US: The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (1972). See Comedy/Drama (A-L).

Caglar Juan Singletary’s song-poem “Non-Violent TaeKwonDo Troopers,” featured in Jamie Meltzer’s recommended documentary Off the Charts: The Song-Poem Story (2003). Link below; see also Documentary (M-Z).

Singletary’s Song-Poem

This 2012 documentary is required viewing for fans of Cinema with Personality and film buffs generally

About UK poet Stevie Smith (1978); see entry in Comedy/Drama (M-Z)

Quirky actor of note: Dick Shawn gave voice to Snow Miser from A Year Without a Santa Claus (1974) and had memorable roles in movies like The Producers (1968) and the first Angel movie (1984). In 1987, he suffered a heart attack onstage while performing his act and died. He was 63-years-old. Check out my entries on Angel and his suicidal mockumentary Good-bye Cruel World (1983) in Comedy/Drama (A-L).

……….images……….images-1………. ……….


Clarkworld (2009), documentary about beloved director Bob Clark, known most now for the holiday favorite A Christmas Story (1983, see Comedy/Drama A-L). Also check out: She-Man (1967, see Comedy/Drama M-Z), Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1972, see Horror A-L), Black Christmas (1974), and the Porky’s movies (1981, 1983). One of this website’s Saints of the Quirky, Clark and his son both died in a car accident in 2007.


The Secret Garden (1949) with Brian Roper, Dean Stockwell, Margaret O’Brien

Lucio Fulci classics

Shirley Valentine (1989) starring Pauline Collins

I really loved the manservant character in A New Leaf played by George Rose and had a vague memory of reading about him as an obscure gay icon who was murdered by his own recently adopted son. For more on the tragedy, see The Killing of Mr George


Went from a rather dry documentary, Kraftwerk and the Electronic Revolution (2008), to an Indonesian jungle-cannibal flick Savage Terror (1980) with opening theme song being, of all things, Kraftwerk’s “We Are the Robots.” Thank ye gods of psychotronic cinema for another unpredictable thrill!

Moviegoers could see the ghosts even without the gimmick Ghost Viewer, of course, which allowed William Castle’s delightful 13 Ghosts (1960) to be aired on TV over the years. See Classic Era (M-Z).

Illusion-O Viewer

Ray Bradbury’s: The Electric Grandmother (1982) with Maureen Stapleton: A quirky family film that’s perfect for a winter afternoon (60 minutes and, sadly, hard to find)


House of Psychotic Women program playing at 92YTribeca



A young Carol Kane

A very young Carol Kane

The much loved gay character Lindy (played by Antonio Fargas) added a queer kind of quirk to the cult classic Car Wash (1979). (See Comedy/Drama (A-L).) Censors cut Lindy out of the movie altogether when Car Wash aired on TV, robbing viewers of the movie’s most famous line, delivered with dignified sass:

Scene from Car Wash

Ruth Gordon at four looking 40; Ruth Gordon by Al Hirschfield looking kid-like:


Fall from Grace (1990), a title anticipating Spacey’s own career. This TV-Movie directed by Karen Arthur is good stuff, whatever the case. See Comedy/Drama (A-L). As well there is the surprisingly balanced documentary The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2000), narrated by Ru Paul. See Documentary (A-L).

Virginia O’Brien (1919-2001), quirky vocalist known as “Miss Red Hot Frozen Face” wowed audiences in MGM musicals like The Big Store (1941) with the Marx Brothers and Panama Hattie (1942)–see link below:

Virginia O’Brien “Rock-a-Bye Baby”

Posters for two movies by the Duplass Brothers

Frequent butler, Eric Blore, here in Picadilly Jim (1936)

Watch clip with E.E. Horton and Eric Blore from Shall We Dance (1937)

Thora Birch as Enid in Terry Zwigoff’s Ghost World (2001)

Judy Garland


The Amazing Delores


Please see Documentary A-L and Jacob Young: Contributions to Different Drummer (1987-92) for details concerning the Amazing Delores documentary

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)


“A scathingly brilliant idea”: The Trouble with Angels (1966) featuring June Harding and Hayley Mills

A scathingly brilliant idea

Michael Redgrave and friend in the original horror anthology film Dead of Night (1945)

Dead of Night (1945)

Strangers in Good Company a/k/a The Company of Strangers (1990)

Girl Stroke Boy (1971). See Comedy/Drama (M-Z).

Revenge of Bigfoot (1979) starring Rory Calhoun, so obscure even I can’t find a copy: “An Indian moves in with a friendly rancher and a local bigot tries to run the Indian out of town. A bigfoot monster gets in his way.” (IMDb)

Eating Raoul (1982) with indie legends Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov. See Comedy/Drama (A-L).

EATING RAOUL, Mary Woronov, Paul Bartel, 1982, TM & Copyright (c) 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All ri

Character actors on vinyl:

A Taste Of Hermione Baddeley and B.S. Pully’s Fairy Tales ‎(both 1961)

Pedro Almodóvar’s High Heels (1991), starring Victoria Abril and Marisa Paredes, with Almodóvar center



The Baby (1973): A campy nightmare of female power. See Horror (A-L).

ZaSu Pitts and Thelma Todd in On The Loose (1931)

ZaSu Pitts and Thelma Todd in On The Loose (1931)

 Thelma Todd and Patsy Kelly in Babes in the Goods (1934)


Two actors who can be found throughout the Classic Era sections are Patsy Kelly (Movie Struck a/k/a Pick a Star, My Son the Hero, Nobody’s Baby, Pigskin Parade, Road Show, Topper Returns) and Zasu Pitts (Dames, Life with Father, Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch, So’s Your Aunt Emma! a/k/a Meet the Mob). Both stars worked in comic duo-ship with Hal Roach star Thelma Todd, making well over two dozen shorts. Patsy Kelly was iconic enough to become the subject of a so-called Tijuana Bible. As for Zasu Pitts, her candy recipes were published posthumously as a book called Candy Hits by Zasu Pitts.

tumblr_lxbx5mtT401qe6nze (2)5135_1422559052



Paul Dano


Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy) of the Thin Man film-series:


Atari game version of David Cronenberg’s classic body-horror film Videodrome (1983) starring James Woods and Debbie Harry.



My essay on stalker movies from a sissy point of view, at BRIGHT LIGHTS FILM JOURNAL:

“Last to Leave the Theater: Sissy Spectatorship of Stalker Movies and the ‘Final Girls’ Who Survive Them”

 Aline MacMahon and Guy Kibbee in Babbit (1934)


Brother Boy (Leslie Jordan) in Sordid Lives (2000). See Comedy/Drama (M-Z).


It Should Happen to You (1954) starring Judy Holliday as Gladys Glover. See Classic Era (A-L).

Tugboat Annie (1933). See Classic Era (M-Z).

Quirky actor extraordinaire Marie Dressler incognito

Click here to see clip of Marie Dressler in Dangerous Females



Thank you for visiting my website. Enjoy the individual reference sections:  

Comedy/Drama,  Classic Era Comedy/Drama,  Horror/Thriller/Psychodrama,  Documentary


The marquee of the movie theater in my hometown in southern Illinois, and an old newspaper ad

Legal Notice: This is an online reference guide. All the writing is by me, A. Loudermilk. I do not, however, own copyrights for any of the images. They are offered in the spirit of education, film studies, and cultural criticism. If you own the copyright of a certain image and wish it removed, leave a comment below.




Comedy/Drama: 147 (3-19)

Classic Era Comedy/Drama: 143

Documentary: 135

Horror/Thriller/Psychodrama: 128

Total Number of Film Entries (all written by A. Loudermilk) as of Spring 2019:


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