1939 – 2013
Karen Black passed away after a battle with cancer on 8 August 2013. She started her career in the seventies New Hollywood movement before becoming a staple in horror films in the eighties.
As a child, I was most familiar with Black from her role in Trilogy of Terror, which seemed like it played every week. It was only when I got older I discovered her far more significant work.
I assume I saw The Great Gatsby in school at some point–and probably did recognize her Terror–but I remember being shocked by her presence in Five Easy Pieces. As Rayette, Black has to maintain sympathy while still being unbearably annoying. And she does a great job with it.
Actually, I might have seen Easy Rider before Pieces but I don’t remember Black in it. I don’t remember her in Family Plot either… I’ve only seen it and Rider once. I do, of course, remember her in Nashville, where Altman gave her something akin to the lead. And Airport 1975, which is godawful.
She’s in Capricorn One, which basically has everyone great from the seventies who got cheesy in the eighties in a decent enough paranoia thriller.
I recently saw Black in two films–Tobe Hooper’s Invaders from Mars and Alex Cox’s Repo Chick. She’s lead in Mars and is wonderful. Her cameo in Chick is amusing enough–Cox understands the pedigree of having her appear.
She appeared in almost 150 films, plus TV movies and lots of guest appearances.
While she became something of a horror personality and B movie queen, Black’s considerable ability shouldn’t be forgotten.
At The Stop Button