Small Roles…Big Performances is the title of the latest blogathon from Flixchatter.net which tasks bloggers to consider their favourite small but significant characters.
Ruth Maramis over at Flixchatter.net asked fellow bloggers to name a performance from an actor in a short supporting role or cameo that makes a memorable impression on you. The caveat is on the role being small but significant hence the title “Small Roles…Big Performances.”
That got me thinking and quite quickly I began drawing up a shortlist of a number of mini or cameo performances that have left a lasting impression on me. Notable ones include Harvey Keitel and Quentin Tarantino in Pulp Fiction, Salma Hayek in From Dusk Till Dawn, and Kevin Spacey in Seven.
However, while all these are worthy of the “small roles…big performances” tag – particularly the sultry, sexy dance of Hayek as she transforms from Showgirl to Vampire seductress in Robert Rodriguez’s half gangster, half horror movie From Dust Till Dawn – there was one role that stood out above all others.
This role appeared in a film released in the early 1980s. A number of directors took part in its production, filming their own segments in a plot spuriously held together by episodic chapter stops. The actor appears at the beginning of the film – he’s the passenger of a car as it travels along a desolate road late at night. The driver and the man sing to the tune of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s cover of Midnight Special, which plays from the car’s cassette recorder.
Can you guess the role and the actor yet?
After the song finishes the driver teases the passenger by switching off the car’s headlights, saying he likes to play this scary game. The passenger is clearly uncomfortable and the driver switches the bulbs back on. To lighten the mood the pair begin playing a Name The Tune game with television theme songs but the conversation quickly returns to scary pop culture. The passenger asks the driver if he’d like to see something really scary. The driver, intrigued, pulls the car over and listens intently.
The passenger turns away from the driver so that he can only see the back of his head. Suddenly, the passenger reveals himself to be a deformed, bloodthirsty demon, snarling at the driver with fangs laid bare and demonic eyes. He attacks the helpless victim as the camera cuts away to the theme tune of The Twilight Zone and the familiar tones of narrator Burgess Meredith as he says:
“You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension. A dimension of sound. A dimension of sight. A dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into… The Twilight Zone.”
The “small role…big performance” I’m highlighting is one of Dan Aykroyd’s finest cameos as the demonic passenger in Twilight Zone: The Movie.
Written by Daniel Stephens