I recently decided to watch some classic Billy Zane movies, why you ask? Well a little while ago he filmed a scene for a new movie in my store Hollywood Babylon in Portland, Oregon. Yeah, I was pretty damn excited to arrive at the shop to find out that he was there fully ready to get into character. I actually really like a handful of his movies a lot, but I’d admit it’d been too long since I watched any classic Zane….
First on my list was ‘The Phantom’, which came out twenty years ago. I’ve always thought this was a great comic book movie and dusting off my dvd reinforced just that. Yeah the movie is admittedly totally cheezy but it’s like a superhero version of Indiana Jones: pure pulp, cool sets, great practical effects and a ton of classic action. It apparently didn’t do well at the box office so we never got a sequel, but here Zane shines as a good guy for once. Normally he plays a villain, and always a damn good one so it’s nice here to see him playing the classic comic book icon The Phantom in all of his glory. The movie doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it just delivers a perfect saturday matinee popcorn movie. Give it a watch again, it’s aged quite well.
Next I pulled out probably the best horror movie of the 1990’s, Demon Knight! This again was actually even better than I remembered it, which further cemented my argument that it easily remains one of the best of the 90’s. Here’s Billy Zane at his god damn best. He’s an awesome comic book style villain and he’s got the look of the perfect handsome evil bastard. I really can’t say enough about just how rad this movie is. Besides Zane doing what he does best, you’ve got amazing monsters, a cool creepy ass story, horror, action and gore on par with Evil Dead II. It’s got it all and it’s the type of movie I could watch any night of the week. The perfect horror party flick. Nice one Zane, nice one.
Just a few nights ago I pulled out a copy of ‘Dead Calm’ from 1989, another movie I remember totally digging with Billy Zane as the psycho villain. It was better than I remembered as well and also featured Sam Neil and a young Nicole Kidman. Dead Calm is bit harder to track down these days and it kinda went a bit under the radar but it’s a perfect thriller. It’s small cast only features the three of them on the open water of the ocean. Neil and Kidman let Zane aboard their amazing 80’s boat and things quickly go to total shit when they realize that Billy is a full on nut job!! DUH! Zane again plays an totally memorable villain and it’s a perfect Hitchcock-ian tale of terror on a boat. Track this one down it’s a perfect 80’s thrill ride and boy does Zane take a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’!!
When I approached Zane outside my shop he was taking pictures with passerbys who’re freaking out saying “it’s that guy from the Titanic”. After they left I quickly interjected by telling him he starred in one of my favorite movies and he was caught off guard when I said it was indeed ‘Demon Knight’. He quickly smiled and enthusiastically said “Yes! that’s mine too!” I said and then there’s “The Phantom” he smiled again and said “that one just doesn’t get enough love, does it?”. I then brought up how great of a thriller “Dead Calm” was, he smiled again saying “dang, you’ve done your homework”. He told me he loved filming that one in particular because of it’s location, which was almost all on the water. He then said “and then there’s that other movie, the Titanic. You know, though I know that was a huge hit, I honestly really love the more campy, supernatural horror roles best, I always have”.
I mentioned to him Demon Knight was the best horror flick of the 90’s and he mentioned if I loved his character in that then I’d love his role in the movie they were filming in my shop “V-Force: New Dawn of Victory”. We chatted for a bit about VHS and cassette tapes (which he bought a bunch of along with a pair of vintage sunglasses) which we’ve got for sale there. He stated he’d much rather watch a vhs tape on an old tv than on a hi-def flat screen and play some old cassette tapes on a stereo any day. He was a cool guy, but as for V-Force well I’m not holding my breath as I overheard the crew saying “next Billy Zane turns into a Lizard so that might be all of his scenes unless he does a voiceover for the Lizard?” It’s safe to say this new film “V-Force” isn’t going to be one of his best but damn if he didn’t star in some pretty great movies….