Friday, June 13, 2014

Remembering Victor Israel

Victor Israel was born Josep Maria Soler Vilanova on June 13, 1929 in Barcelona, Cataluña, Spain. Israel was one of the most prolific and ubiquitous, yet anonymous, often overlooked and hence underrated character actors in Spanish film history. Israel attended the Escuela de actores de la Ciudad Condal. He began acting in films in the early 1960s. Short and dumpy, with a plain, round, pudgy face, thinning hair, medium height and build, snaggled teeth, a benign, humble, unassuming demeanor, and wide, moist, dark saucer eyes, Israel frequently portrayed ordinary working class types, timid cowards, men of the cloth, and meek victims. He soon began making frequent appearances in rugged action films and gritty Italian spaghetti Westerns; he has an especially memorable uncredited part as a weary sergeant at a rundown Confederate fort who Lee Van Cleef talks to in Sergio Leone's magnificent “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” (1966) (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, ). In the late 1960s and up until the mid-1980s, Israel acted in an enjoyable slew of spooky horror features and entertainingly trashy exploitation fare. Among his more notable roles are a creepy handyman in “The House That Screamed” (1969); a slimy, greedy, unctuous cemetery caretaker in “The Butcher of Binbrook” (1971); a craven coachman in “Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1971); a whistling train baggage handler in the fantastic “Horror Express” (1972); a near deaf, vaguely menacing innkeeper in “El monte de las brujas” (1972); a despicable and untrustworthy sniveling wimp nightclub owner in the splendidly sleazy “Ricco” (1973); a scruffy, spineless mountain trail guide in the outrageous “Night of the Howling Beast” (1975); a zombie priest in “Hell of the Living Dead” (1980); and a boozy dock night watchman in the laughably lousy “The Sea Serpent” (1984). Israel continued to act in both movies and TV shows alike well into his 70s. He died at age 80 from natural causes on September 19, 2009 in Barcelona, Spain.
Victor appeared in over 30 Euro-westerns from “The Savage Guns” in 1961 to “Al este del Oeste” in 1983. Most of his appearances were no bigger than cameo’s. Once you know who he is you see him pop up in all kinds of films and situations.
Today we remember Victor Israel on what would have been his 85th birthday.

By Woody Anders

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