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The Top 30 Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror Actresses, #5
[Part six of a series.]
Scream queens. Horror heroines. Sci-fi divas. Cult/genre film legends. We know them. We love them. Weíve watched them run, scream, bleed, cry, die, strip, cower, fight, kill and kick ass in numerous science fiction, fantasy and horror films over the years.
Who are the most memorable and important genre actresses? Iím not talking about on-screen characters, like Alienís Ripley or Dana Scully of The X-Files, but the women who portrayed these scream queens and sci-fi heroines. Iíve chosen thirty actresses who I think have made the most important contributions to the sci-fi/horror/fantasy/cult genres, in both film and television.
My criteria for this Top 30 List were as follows: the sheer number of roles in horror/fantasy/sci-fi movies and TV shows; the famous, outstanding and genre-defining roles/characters portrayed; and, the actressesí acceptance of and participation in fandom and fan events. I developed a complex algorithm to evaluate these factors and determine list ranking. (In other words, my list is completely subjective and only slightly more advanced than throwing darts at a dart board.)
Hereís the list so far:
30. Connie Mason; 29. Jenny Agutter; 28. Jane Seymour; 27. Amy Irving; 26. Bobbi Bresee; 25. Rosalba Neri/Sarah Bay; 24. Erika Blanc; 23. Asia Argento; 22. Lindsay Wagner; 21. Lynn Lowry; 20. Michelle Bauer; 19. Linda Blair; 18. Shawnee Smith; 17. Sarah Michelle Gellar; 16. Tiffany Sheppis; 15. Brinke Stevens; 14. Nancy Allen; 13. Caroline Munro; 12. Marilyn Burns; 11. Debbie Rochon; 10. Sybil Danning; 9. Fay Wray; 8. Linnea Quigley; 7. Adrienne Barbeau; 6. Dee Wallace Stone
5. MARGOT KIDDER
Even as a little girl, Margot Kidder knew she wanted to be an actress. She started out doing TV work and low-budget films in her home country of Canada, and then went on star in some of the most memorable genre films of the 1970s: Sisters (1973), Black Christmas (1974), Superman (1978), and The Amityville Horror (1979).
Kidder, like most folks, has experienced some strange coincidences and twists of fate in her life. One such twist involved her romantic life in the early 70s. If she had been dating a doctor, lawyer or Indian chief back then, who knows if I'd be writing about her today. But Kidder was dating director Brian De Palma. Most women would probably not enjoy hearing their boyfriend say "I wrote a screenplay about deranged twin sisters -- one of whom is a crazy killer -- and I think you'd be perfect as the star!" but that's essentially what De Palma did for Kidder (as a Christmas present, no less). The Hitchcock-homage thriller Sisters helped launch De Palma's career, aided in no small part by Kidder's perfect portrayal of separated but oh-so-psychologically-connected Siamese twins Danielle and Dominique.
Despite finding horror movies "ridiculous" on a personal level, on screen Kidder has earned her scream queen stripes:
In Bob Clark's underrated 1974 horror classic Black Christmas, Kidder stood out as the hard-drinking, chain-smoking, potty-mouthed Barbara, one of the ill-fated sorority sisters trapped in a big scary house with the worst holiday guest ever. (Like most girls, I've got a thing for unicorns...which this movie came damn near to ruining for me.)
In the mystery/horror film The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (1975), she gives new meaning to the phrase "dream woman" in the role of the mysterious Marcia who appears in Peter Proud's nightmares.
In the iconic but sub-par The Amityville Horror (1979) -- a "piece of shit" that was made a hit by "crazy Christians" according to Kidder -- she played wife and mother Kathy Lutz, who lived with her family for a month in an annoyingly -- and annoying -- haunted house.
Kidder's more recent genre films include The Clown at Midnight, Shadow Zone, Someone Is Watching, Death 4 Told and a small role as Laurie Strode's therapist in the new Halloween II. Her numerous TV acting gigs include The Mod Squad, Baretta, The Hitchhiker, Tales from the Crypt, Earth:Final Conflict, Law & Order:SVU (in a deliciously sick and twisted role as the mother of a murderer (Chad Lowe); it's one of my favorite SVU episodes), and (of course) Smallville.
The role Kidder is most remembered for, of course, is as Lois Lane in 1978's Superman and its three sequels. (She was only in Superman III for a few minutes because she pissed off the film's producers by publicly disagreeing with their decision to replace director Richard Donner in Superman II, but technically she did appear in that film, so it counts.)
Unfamiliar with the Superman character because her mother didn't let her read comic books, Kidder went in thinking she was auditioning for just another acting gig, but exited with one of the most iconic roles of all time. Yet another twist of fate. To my generation, Christopher Reeve WAS Superman and Margot Kidder WAS Lois Lane. I can't imagine anyone else in either of those roles and I resist other Superman adaptations, both older and more recent, both silver screen and TV screen. (My sister and I both had big crushes on Superman/Clark Kent (not on Christopher Reeve the actor)...but that's another column. Or not.) Her portrayal of the feisty-yet-vulnerable Lois Lane made Kidder a household name. Funnily enough, Kidder has remarked in interviews that she thought the role should have gone to Stockard Channing.
When you fall in real life, however, there's no Superman around to catch you. Kidder experienced this in another twist of life in the late 90s when she had a very embarrassing and very public breakdown. She had exhibited bipolar symptoms for years, had suicidal thoughts as a teenager and had been married and divorced three times. In 1990 Kidder was so badly injured in a car crash that she was unable to work for almost two years, resulting in depression, bankruptcy and an addiction to prescription drugs and alcohol. Then one day, computer problems prohibited her from opening the file containing her autobiography. That was the last straw for Kidder's fragile nerves. She had a manic (bipolar) episode, suffered paranoid delusions that an ex-husband was out to get her and went missing for several days, only to turn up on a stranger's doorstep disheveled, dirty and disoriented. After an initial hospitalization, Kidder eventually was successfully treated through medicine, vitamin therapy and acupuncture.
She's worked hard to put her life back together in the years since her breakdown. When she was initially unable to find acting work because of being labeled an insurance risk, Kidder turned to voice over work. When she was asked questions about her breakdown, she didn't shy away from the topic but instead turning her outspoken honesty -- previously used for political causes -- to focus attention on mental health issues. Eventually Kidder returned to acting and to the convention circuit. In November 2009 she announced at the Crypticon horror convention that she's writing a script for a "sort of a romp and a middle-aged babe sisterhood kind of a thing."
Whether she's on screen sassing an obscene phone caller or sweet-talking Superman, or off screen sounding off about George Bush or speaking out against prejudice, Margot Kidder makes her presence known.
COMING NEXT WEEK: Number Four (Nope, no hints here. Donít wanna skew the betting pool.)
[Sources include Wicked Women on the Screen of the Silver Screen:The Lives and Careers of the Great On-Screen Schemers, Seducers, Double-Crossers and Temptresses by David Quinlan, SupermanHomepage.com, TerrorTrap.com, GayLesbianTimes.com, AVClub.com, NetworkWomen.com,, FilmSchoolRejects.com, Wikipedia, IMDb and probably some others Iíve forgotten.]
[I owe PCR columnist Chris Woods a big thank you for his help with this article: for the brainstorming ideas, the debates over ranking, and for pointing out the many glaring omissions on my original list.]
"FANGRRL" is ©2010 by Lisa Scherer. All graphics, except where otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.