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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Assorted Bits & Pieces: Michael Pataki RIP


I read last night on the fearwerx forum that popular character actor, Michael Pataki passed away on April 15th, 2010 after a long battle with cancer. He was 72 years old. Pataki was a familiar face to genre fans having featured in dozens of television shows including such favorites as THE TWILIGHT ZONE, BATMAN and STAR TREK.

Pataki is to the far right of the elevator. From LOVE AT FIRST BITE (1979)

Rarely did he ever get a lead role, he most often appeared in supporting roles, or cameo appearances. His various exploitation and horror credits include a brief role as a senator in the average blaxploitation film, SWEET JESUS, PREACHERMAN (1973), a suspicious policeman in THE BAT PEOPLE (1974), a rare lead role in GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE (1974) co-starring the great William Smith and another leading part in the silly, but nifty schlocker, DRACULA'S DOG (1977; ZOLTAN, HOUND OF DRACULA).

Pataki (right) with James Fiorentino in DEAD & BURIED (1981)

More roles followed for Pataki on both the big and small screen. He played more bad guys in movies like AIRPORT '77 (1977) and also the modest exploitation adventure, THE GLOVE (1979) starring John Saxon (QUEEN OF BLOOD) and Rosey Grier (THE THING WITH TWO HEADS). He also played a gravedigger in the underrated sleeper, DEAD & BURIED (1981). Pataki also had a comic cameo role in the deliciously funny and delightful, LOVE AT FIRST BITE (1979).

His role as a Klingon on the classic season two episode of STAR TREK, 'The Trouble With Tribbles' sees Pataki giving an analytical comparison between Kirk and both a Regulan Bloodworm and a Denibian Slime Devil (whatever those are supposed to be).

Roger Perry (left), Mariette Hartley (middle), Michael Pataki (right) from RETURN OF COUNT YORGA (1972)

In 1972, Pataki had a brief role as Joe in THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA. Dressed in a caveman outfit at a masquerade party, Joe is looking for his girlfriend and ultimately becomes the quarry of Quarry's undead Count.

Pataki battles William Smith during the closing moments of GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE (1974)

1974 was a good year to the reliable actor. He got to play a vampire himself in the unsavory and tasteless exploitation favorite, GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE. In it, Pataki plays Caleb Croft who is resurrected and immediately proceeds to kill a couple wandering in a graveyard. He rapes the girl who later gives birth to a child who isn't quite normal. The kid grows up to be major screen tough guy, William Smith and he seeks out his father for a final showdown. Pataki got to partake in another vampire film mentioned below.

DRACULA'S DOG (1977) is probably Pataki's "best" role mainly because he gets to play both a good guy and a bad guy. He plays Dracula in a flashback sequence and the Lord of the Undead's descendant. The title is self explanatory in one of the weirdest vampire movies ever made. Pataki also directed the still unavailable on DVD trash obscurity, MANSION OF THE DOOMED (1976). Taking a cue from EYES WITHOUT A FACE (1959), Pataki's movie deals with a mad doctor kidnapping people and removing their eyes in an effort to save his own blind daughter who lost her eyes in a car accident.

Michael Pataki was quite a presence onscreen and it always brought a smile to my face to see him on television, or in a movie regardless of how long he was up there on the screen. He will be missed.

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