Billy Drago

For every chiseled, dreamboat leading man there are precisely a bajillion bit players who routinely (but spectacularly) take one for the team. These talented actors sacrifice personal affectation, appearance, and possibly on-set hygiene to add stakes and personality to what you’re watching. They contrast the hero for an extra pop; and yin to the hero’s yang. Moviegoers and A-listers have them to thank… but not often enough!

Luscious locks

Sadly for actor Billy Drago, he lived faster than I could tell you all about how much fun he was. Last June he passed away of a stroke. His son Darren E. Burrows is also an actor, and has appeared in similar roles like the X-Files and Cry-Baby with Johnny Depp and John Waters. Today we’ll be remembering Mr. Drago and hopefully once we’re done you too will be equipped with all of the tools to spot a wild Billy Drago in his natural habitat: Depicting complete weirdos with an all too natural and individual flair.

Rarely does a man make a cigarette cooler

Now, in his early days of tearing it up in Clint Eastwood movies Drago was actually pretty handsome, but maybe in a sort of alternatively beautiful way that modern audiences seem to appreciate more now in actors like Cumberbatch. For most of the roles I’ll be showcasing here though, I’d characterize him by the wisdom of his white hair worn confidently, his sunken eyes, his vampire teeth, and his waxy, glistening skin that looked like if old butter could be an alcoholic. So what do you do when your halcyon days of playing dashing rogues and sinister roadies are winnowed away? You save the production’s makeup money by using your real damn face to play the best vampires and bar none.

Kinda cute (but to whom do I refer?)

My first exposure to Billy Drago was a great episode of the X-Files called “Theef” (s7e14) in which he plays a cajun voodoo houngan necromancer serial killer who does his darndest to make Scully retire. It was a Gilligan script where Billy Drago preys on a surgeon’s family as revenge for failing to save his daughter’s life with medicine rather than more homeopathic methods like dried newts. In the end the role fit like a glove because, even while kidnapping Scully, the tenderness of his generally understated approach made the vengeance angle 1000% believable as X-Files outings go.

When you’re done with Carpenter’s They Live and you want some more Rowdy Roddy Piper in your life, Sci-Fighters is waiting to be discovered along with a complementary side of Billy Drago. The setting is 2009 in far-flung future Boston where detective Roddy Piper must track down Billy Drago, an alien disease infected ghoul man recently escaped from moon jail. It’s simply adorable.

To round out the sample plate and overextend my food metaphor there’s Vamp which was smack dab in the middle of the innocent 80’s movie renaissance. It also features Grace Jones doing her thing as a vampire stripper and Drago back again looking a bit like a melted Tilda Swinton. That said, Grace apparently threw parties every day of shooting and he even shared a champagne filled bathtub with her.


Unfortunately I haven’t seen The Untouchables yet which from what I gather is solid aside from being the high water mark of Drago’s whole career but I’m sure I’ll enjoy it a ton. That said, I really can’t plumb each actor’s entire oeuvre each time I want to share observations about them. I guess the last thing I want to say is if someone who knew him reads this we are, if nothing else, proof that he was a pretty cool guy who left a lot of positive memories behind.

As an aside: I just saw the new Spider-Man in theaters by myself and my third eye really opened. Not because the movie was a good time but because going to movies alone lets the experience be completely undemocratized. I chose the time I wanted, left moments later, I went on a Tuesday night for the $5 ticket price, and I didn’t even have to pretend to be too busy to watch the post credits scene. Well one of them at least, there were probably several. I also didn’t feel like a weird loner. I just felt like a grown-ass adult. (Felt like it.)

Underpromise and overdeliver, that’s what my new motto round these here parts should be. I really was excited to make this blog but I flustered myself with ideas. I really like the concept of formally introducing the actors who always elicit an “Oh yeah! It’s them!” Especially this one, because there are many character actors I’d love to present to you. Like Patrick Fischler, and hopefully I won’t be half eulogizing him as well. I may revisit this idea.

A word

Sunlight rains down, the clouds part, and a medieval trumpeter toots a triumphant jingle. It’s finally here, the answer to a question on almost nobody’s lips, “When is Jake just going to start a movie blog?” 

Yeah, I don’t know what this is going to be, whether it’s a movie review site or some sort of menagerie for whatever I feel. Probably I’ll just add or tweak one UI item each time I add a post so it doesn’t feel like such a chore and the site is eventually pretty looking.  It’ll be fast and loose, folks, but I do take comfort in the complete lack of judging eyes on this ‘fart in the wind’ of mine.

Here’s a fun game: I’ll list some bits and segments I’ve had rattling around and later we can all look back at what I never got around to.

  • An article about how reviewing Peter Sellers’ Being There (1979) is kind of missing the point.
  • A retrospective on the Creature From the Black Lagoon trilogy (1954-1956) and its often accidental tragicomic genius.
  • Corollary to that, a snugly adjacent review of Del Toro’s The Shape of Water (2017), in which I try my best to explain my love for this goofy footnote of fish-scented Americana. Spoiler: I love that movie, it’s immaculate.
  • One painfully biased and unnecessary review of David Lynch’s Dune (1984) some time before Duneis Villeduneve comes and elevates it to something you could hang in the Louvre.
  • An entire series where I take a look at different schlock horror franchises that went on for so long they became funny, then sad, then awesome and funny. I’m talkin’ bout Critters, I’m talkin’ bout Tremors, I’m talkin’ bout Leprechaun, Hellraiser,  Trancers, you name it. (Mostly though, I have this theory about thirds and fourths and why they always seem to be the installment where they go to outer space.)
  • A character actor spotlight series.
  • Something -anything- about Twin Peaks.

That’s already more than I’ll ever get to so in the meantime I’ll point you to Something Awful’s now discontinued Current Releases movie review rotation. These things were the bomb. One highlight I can’t recommend enough is their review of Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer in which reviewer Martin R. Schneider draws the short straw and the only way he can cope is by reading it as a Dadaist takedown of film itself. It’s possible you get something similar looking on my blog, but also maybe not.

Hi mom.