When discussing horror films that leave a mark on their viewers, one would not be surprised to hear PHANTASM tossed around. The Don Coscarelli 1979 indie horror classic remains a film that still resonates with people today and that, in large part, is due to its infamous antagonist, The Tall Man; who will forever haunt our dreams thanks to Angus Scrimm.
Scrimm left us earlier this year on January 9th at the age of 89. He had a remarkable acting career; almost exclusively in horror. However, unfortunately, not much is known by the general public about Angus Scrimm and today, on what would have been his 90th birthday, we wanted to take some time to remedy that and remember the man and his amazing career.
Angus Scrimm was born Lawrence Rory Guy on August 19th, 1926 in Kansas City, Kansas. During his teenage years, he moved to California and studied drama at USC under William C. deMille; the brother of famed filmmaker Cecil B. deMille. Early in his career, he worked as a journalist. He wrote and edited articles for the TV Guide, Cinema Magazine, and the Los Angeles Herald. On top of those and various other publications, Scrimm wrote liner notes for many LPs and CDs in various genres and styles. He even worked with folks like Frank Sinatra and The Beatles; eventually winning a Grammy in 1975.
He made his film debut in the mid-1960s playing Abraham Lincoln in an educational film made by Encyclopaedia Brittanica, which gave way to his steady career in the theatre, on television, and in film. In 1976, he had his first big screen debut in JIM, THE WORLD’S GREATEST directed by, then 18-year-old, Don Coscarelli; he was credited with his birth name.
He took the name Angus Scrimm three years later for his performance as The Tall Man in Coscarelli’s sci-fi/horror masterpiece PHANTASM. It was here that Scrimm gained the most acclaim from critics and fans alike. His role as The Tall Man led to him to take on several other “malicious” characters including Dr. Sin Do in 1984’s THE LOST EMPIRE, Vlad the Vampire King in SUBSPECIES (1991), and Dr. Lyme opposite Nic Cage and Charlie Sheen in 1993’s DEADFALL. He co-starred alongside Bruce Campbell in MINDWARP (1992), and played the ominous Narrator in 1997’s WISHMASTER. He tried his hand at horror-comedy in 2012 as Father Shellnut in the indie darling JOHN DIES AT THE END and played The Tall Man one last time in PHANTASM: RAVAGER, which is due out this year.
Despite playing a character that has gone down in history as being more than a little bit terrifying, Scrimm was an icon of horror and became known as an absurdly kind individual. He dearly loved his fans and supporters and up to his death remained someone that genuinely enjoyed people. He gladly signed autographs and took photos with fans at conventions worldwide and took an honest interest in every single interaction. People often refer to him as “kind”, “humble”, or “remarkably down to earth.” Nearly everyone who had an opportunity to spend time with Angus Scrimm walked away with the same genuine impression; he was something special. He was a treasure of the horror scene and for quite some time was viewed as a living legend.
So today, we warmly look back on the terror instilled upon us by The Tall Man and wish the happiest of happy birthdays to Mr. Scrimm. He is sorely missed and his legacy will be one to talk about for many years to come.
Best wishes to you, Tall Man; we hope the astral plane is treating you well. Happy Birthday.