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The Top 30 Horror, Sci-Fi and Fantasy Actresses, #3 by Lisa Scherer
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The Top 30 Horror, Sci-Fi and Fantasy Actresses, #3
[Part of a series.]
Scream queens. Horror heroines. Sci-fi divas. Cult/genre film legends. We know them. We love them. We’ve 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? I’m not talking about on-screen characters, like Alien’s Ripley or Dana Scully of The X-Files, but the women who portrayed these scream queens and sci-fi heroines. I’ve 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 actresses’ 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.)
Here’s 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; 4. Ingrid Pitt
3. JAMIE LEE CURTIS
Well, of course Jamie Lee Curtis is on this list. Are you kidding me? Curtis is the woman most people think of when they hear the phrase "scream queen," so her contribution to genre films is obvious. It's only fitting, after all, considering that her mother was Janet Leigh (whose genre roles include Night of the Lepus, The Fog and -- OMG! -- the infamous role in Psycho) and her father is Tony Curtis (who played Albert DeSalvo in The Boston Strangler and had cameo roles in Chamber of Horrors and the TV movie Shadow of Death).
Curtis began her acting career with TV spots -- Charlie's Angels, Buck Rogers and a stint in 1978 on Operation Petticoat, which was based on the 1959 movie starring her father and Cary Grant -- and then was cast in one of the lead roles in Halloween (1978). Curtis's realistic, believable portrayal of the intelligent, level-headed, goody-two-shoes über-"final girl" Laurie Strode in John Carpenter's smash slasher film ensured that a memorable role became iconic. As everyone knows, she also appeared in the sequels Halloween II, Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998) and Halloween: Resurrection (2002).
After Halloween, her horror heroine roles continued:
The hitchhiker who is followed by "bad things" in John Carpenter's The Fog (1980) and gets the creepy morgue tap on the shoulder to prove it.
The guilt-ridden good girl who is partly responsible for the trip on the Terror Train in 1980.
The disco-dancing prom queen Kim of 1980's Prom Night. (What is it with the crazy, murderous brothers of Curtis's characters, anyway?)
1981 brought a reprise of the Laurie Strode role in Halloween II and another hitchhiking final girl role in the thriller Road Games. Commenting on her early-80s ubiquitousness, film critic Roger Ebert remarked that Curtis "is to the current horror film glut what Christopher Lee was to the last one -- or Boris Karloff was in the 30s."
In addition to her scream queen moniker, Curtis was known as "The Body" in the mid-80s because of Trading Places and Perfect (not to mention the infamous striptease scene in True Lies in 1994). She's tackled comedy (A Fish Called Wanda, Fierce Creatures, the Freaky Friday remake), drama (Dominick & Eugene, My Girl), thrillers (Blue Steel [directed by Kathryn Bigelow] and Virus, reportedly the least favorite of her roles). Curtis was a big hit in my sleepy little hometown of Valdosta, Georgia back in 1985 when she and co-star Bette Davis spent a few weeks there filming the TV movie As Summers Die.
Also a best-selling children's author and Huffington Post blogger, Curtis is married to This Is Spinal Tap actor Christopher Guest (a.k.a. Lord Haden-Guest, due to being a Baron and all), with whom she has two children (adopted). She overcame a drug addiction in her early 40s, turned 50 very loudly and very proudly in 2008, and plays a mean rhythm guitar.
She doesn't attend many (any?) conventions and is semi-retired from acting these days, preferring instead to concentrate on her family and her writing. "Now all of a sudden I'm so less interested in pretending to be a lot of other people, and much more interested in being me."
TUNE IN NEXT WEEK: We're down to the final two actresses on the list. To be honest, I keep going back and forth on who should be Number One and who should be Number Two. Looks like it's gonna be a game-time decision.
[Sources include Halliwell's Filmgoer's Companion, 12th Edition edited by John Walker, The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network & Cable TV Shows, 1946--Present by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh, Movie Awards: The Ultimate, Unofficial Guide to the Oscars, Golden Globes, Critics, Guild & Indie Honors by Tom O'Neil, Reader's Digest, AARP Magazine, The Independent, Wikipedia, IMDb and probably some others I've accidentally omitted.]
[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.