Happy birthday, Tor Johnson!
This past week marked the 116th birthday of Karl Erik Tore Johansson, aka the Swedish Angel, aka Tor Johnson. Tor’s name is instantly recognizable to vintage Horror fans. Most famous (or infamous?) as one of Ed Wood’s coterie of oddball stock performers, arguably the most famous second, or actually third, to Bela Lugosi and Vampira, Tor appeared in Wood’s most celebrated films: BRIDE OF THE MONSTER, NIGHT OF THE GHOULS, and the legendary PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE. Among many other roles he appeared in THE BLACK SLEEP alongside Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., Basil Rathbone, and John Carradine; he reprised his character “Lobo” from Wood’s BRIDE OF THE MONSTER and NIGHT OF THE GHOULS for the non-ED Wood flick THE UNEARTHLY, also featuring John Carradine. And in terms of great “bad” films, Tor headlined in THE BEAST OF YUCCA FLATS, which, let us be honest, was a waaaaaay worse movie than the vaunted PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE.
Despite his fearsome appearance, immortalized as a Don Post Halloween mask (and if you can find one of the vintage masks on eBay, be prepared to pay a pretty penny for it, as they are huge collector’s items), and his hulking frame, Tor was a gentle giant, described by his NIGHT OF THE GHOULS costar Valda Hansen (she played the “White Ghost”) as a “big sugar bun.”
Tor, by the way, could grow a full head of hair (unlike some of us, who are bald naturally). He shaved his head to make himself look more intimidating. It worked.
WAYNE MILLER is the owner and creative director of EVIL CHEEZ PRODUCTIONS, specializing in theatrical performances and haunted attractions. He has written, produced, and directed (and occasionally acted in) over two dozen plays, most of them in the Horror and True Crime genres. He obtained a doctorate in Occult Studies from Miskatonic University and is an active paranormal investigator. Is frequently told he resembles Anton Lavey. And Ming the Merciless.
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