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Remembering William Marshall

William Marshall was a distinguished actor of film, television and the stage. He performed Shakespeare, including the lead in Othello six times. Per wiki, “Harold Hobson of the London Sunday Times praised Marshall’s portrayal as ‘the best Othello of our time.’”

Above is his profile pic on IMDb: as Blacula in Scream, Blacula, Scream.

Remarkable how we always turn everybody and everything into the stupidest possible thing to remember them by.

And I’m not helping. I watched Blacula over the past several days, which is why I’m writing this today. I say “several days” because I found it so boring, I could only watch a few minutes at a time.

The not-so-dirty secret about all of the “blaxploitation” pix is that they are all (to the extent I’ve seen them) painfully boring and shabbily made. They are famous for what they represent culturally—and their soundtracks are killer—but as movies...oh man. I remember when I saw Shaft and Superfly, seeking them out on video in the 1990s, and I couldn’t believe how lame they were.

I mostly watched Blacula because, in addition to Marshall, I love the soundtrack by Gene Page, with songs by The Hues Corporation. I was so excited to get that CD around 20 years ago.

The recording in the movie is different. I wonder if they have tape of it at MGM? In fact I’ve wondered that for years, but the album rights are with Sony (I presume) so it would be a massive hassle to do some kind of deluxe edition of Blacula. But here’s the film version of the Main Title, with added brass parts compared to the album.

I love watching William Marshall—and especially listening to his resonant bass voice. Of course I knew him as Dr. Daystrom in Star Trek’s second-season “The Ultimate Computer.”

Incidentally, watch that episode for all the ridiculous staging they do to hide the fact he’s almost a foot taller than Bill Shatner—who was always sensitive to that kind of thing.

Marshall was also the voice of the Juggernaut in one of the two X-Men episodes of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (the one where Wolverine inexplicably has an Australian accent) with its killer Johnny Douglas library score:

This was the “origin of Firestar” episode of Spidey, from the three-episode-long second season with the superior animation from Japan (seasons one and three were animated in Korea). Such trivia you guys are getting here!

Marvel thereafter used Marshall’s screams as the Juggernaut for the vocal FX for the Hulk, in their Incredible Hulk companion series, which I watched in the early 1980s.

One William Marshall story that’s sad, and not my own—this happened to Jeff Bond. But I was there at the Film Score Monthly office—so Jeff, I’m stealing your story.

Jeff wanted to interview Marshall, I forget why, got a number for him and called it. Marshall picked up, himself—with that famous, resonant, booming voice—and was agreeable to everything Jeff said.

Jeff asked if he could interview him: “Splendid!”

Jeff called back at the appointed time, only to talk to a family member who said that, sadly, Marshall was suffering from Alzheimer’s and would say that to anything.

So, like I said...this is sad...but Jeff has a way of telling the story, with Marshall’s “Splendid!”—well, it was funny when he told it to me. But, no, Alzheimer’s is not funny.

And there you have it, true believers.

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