Tag Archives: Billy Drago

Actor’s Spotlight: Nate’s Top Ten Billy Drago Performances

Some actors were just born to play villains, they just had that aura of menace, animalistic charm and the kind of personality that lent itself to baddies. That can definitely be said of Billy Drago, a reptilian character actor with a slinky, measured voice and a gaze that could pierce walls. Of the hundred or so credits he racked up over his career I’d say about three to five were not antagonists, he made a living and legendary work out of embodying badasses and troublesome dudes. He’s passed on now but these are my top ten of his performances!

10. Drake in Seven Mummies

This is a pitiful From Dusk Dawn rip-off that doesn’t even have one mummy in it, never mind seven. However, Billy hams it up spectacularly as the maniacal ghost of an evil sheriff, decked out with supernatural powers, cackling like a madman and having a ball.

9. John Bly in The Adventures Of Brisco County Jr

He takes centre stage as the main villain in this cult SciFi western series as Bly, a deadly, treacherous outlaw gang leader who proves to be quite the adversary to Bruce Campbell’s hero.

8. Edward Anthony Heller in Freeway

A frightening, bible quoting mass murderer, Heller prowls the urban highways in a big black Lincoln looking for victims to maim and authorities to fire his rocket launcher at while hard boiled detective James Russo races to find and stop him. This is one of those villains who is heard for awhile before being seen, and Drago’s evil zealot’s fervour in delivering fire and brimstone passages before brutally killing people is something else.

7. Barbas The Demon of Fear in Charmed

Charmed was a dope show from what I saw, and benefited greatly from Billy’s intermittent presence as a spooky, otherworldly entity who controls the very essence of fear. Clad in black and scenery chewing like nobody’s business, it’s one of his most memorable TV guest arcs.

6. Asmodeus in Demon Hunter

Another demon! This time instead of fear it’s sex, and although in classic mythology the physical manifestation of this guy isn’t exactly Billy’s type, he rocks the charisma here, hanging on every hissed syllable and seductive boob grab. This is a terrific little TV B movie produced by the legendary Stephen J. Cannell and starring one half of the Boondock Saints, Sean Patrick Flanery as a sort of Constantine like badass.

5. Charles Thibodeaux in Dark Moon Rising

Finally a good guy!! This is a low budget but fun werewolf flick set in the New Mexico desert. Billy plays an ex homicide detective gone rogue, hunting down the vicious beast that murdered his wife years before. There’s a mournful, nothing to lose attitude to his character here, even in more heroic roles he always inflected the work with a trademark edgy darkness.

4. Ramon Cota in Delta Force 2

Billy played villains opposite Chuck Norris a few times but none were as terrifying and over the top, WTF crazy as Cota. Columbia’s nastiest drug lord, he’s got a fucking gas chamber in his living room that he uses to dispatch enemies, disloyal cohorts and basically anyone he doesn’t like the sight of, and he watches it go down too.

3. Frank Nitti in Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables

Slick, evil enforcer to Robert DeNiro’s Al Capone, Frank is a straight up psychopath who laughs in the face of Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) after killing one of his best friends and taunts him like a true monster. It’s a supremely evil turn that outshines every other villain on scene including DeNiro’s cultured Capone.

2. Orel Peattie in The X Files

He’s an antagonist here but one with an understandable perspective and tragic backstory. Orel is a Gypsy with mysterious voodoo powers who has targeted a Doctor (James Morrison) that he deems responsible for the death of his daughter years before. Both these characters are hurt, Orel lashes out by casting creepy spells on the guy and one can sense the seething hatred and sorrow in Billy’s excellent performance.

1. Danny Bench in Cyborg 2: The Glass Shadow

Man this sequel is just so much better than the shitty first one with Jean Claude Van Damme. Bench is a psychotic renegade bounty hunter employed by a corrupt corporation to hunt down their asset, a rogue cyborg (Angelina Jolie) and the army man (Elias Koteas) she’s run away with. He’s a scary, imposing villain with ties to Asian occult, an arsenal of savage weapons and a bad case of the crazy.

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory: El Muerto aka The Dead One

So imagine The Crow but like… based around Aztec/Day of the dead style mythology and starring Fez from That 70’s Show as a young man brought back from the dead as a supernatural zombie. Sounds to random to actually exist, right? Well it’s out there, it’s called The Dead One in some regions and El Muerto in others and… it’s something. I can’t quite say that as a compliment because it’s so goddamn low budget and cheesy, but I will say that a valiant effort is made, there’s a lot of heart behind it, plus some terrific actors having fun too.

Unfortunately Wilmer Valderrama will forever and always be known as Fez no matter what else he does and will never live that character down, but he does his best to be dark, smouldering and edgy here as Diego De La Muerte, who is killed in a car crash one night and resurrected as a badass monster with face paint and superpowers by the Mayan god of death. He’s marked as a boy in an opening flashback by a spooky Old Indian shaman (the great Billy Drago, who passed a few days ago) but what he doesn’t read in the fine print is that the God basically owns his soul and commands his every move once he’s undead. This leads to a fight for freedom and the love of his life (Angie Cepeda) who he left behind.

Soon the God manifests in reality as a creepy old witch type thing (again played by Drago, really outdoing himself with the scenery chewing here, as he was always famous for) and he has to fight the thing as well as evade a suspicious county Sheriff played by the legendary Michael Parks, who is also no longer with us. Other appearances are noted from Tony Plana as a priest, Joel David Moore’s as his best friend and the iconic Maria Conchita Alonso.

Man I really want to recommend this because I’m a lot more generous than most with this type of fare but I can’t because it’s essentially a pretty fucking awful film, not gonna lie. Shoddy special effects, cheesy dialogue, cheap looking cinematography, this one has it all. But hey, if you give it a go you’ll always be able to say that you saw a movie where Fez from That 70’s Show plays an Aztec zombie, so there’s that. Plus the thing is kinda fun in its own lovable horror flick way. It’s based on some cult comic series which I’ve never read but if anyone has, let me know how this holds up against the source material.

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory: Tamra Davis’s Guncrazy

Drew Barrymore has a few interesting, edgy credits early on in her career, one of which is Tamra Davis’s Guncrazy, a lurid little slice of run down, rural life on the outskirts of the big city, as well as civilization it seems. A ‘lovers on the run’ riff in the tradition of Bonnie & Clyde, True Romance and Natural Born Killer, it’s admittedly like the Miller Lite version of large scale films like them but still manages to pack somewhat of an offbeat punch. Barrymore is Anita, a restless adolescent whose humdrum existence in a dead end California town has led to promiscuous behaviour and self destructive tendencies, especially when her convict pen pal boyfriend (James LeGros) is released and joins her for some hell raising. She has a stepfather who’s abusive to her in a way that seems unnervingly normalized to the both of them, high school classmates who are nothing but trouble and a life that most would consider squarely placed on the wrong side of the tracks. The story sees the two of them pretty much fed up with everything, engaging in a murder spree that just won’t end well. It’s not too hot blooded or hyper violent though and there is nothing sadistic in what they do, in fact there’s an innate innocence to the way they view life, their crimes and morality in general, or lack thereof. Barrymore has always had star-power since day one, but she shows a maturity here as she gets older and a complex control over a role that could have been cartoonish. LeGros is an indie poster child and is so prolific he’s probably been in ten or twenty things you’ve seen but just didn’t spit him, he’s a straight up chameleon and does a good job here too. Michael Ironside shows up as his jaded parole officer and the great Billy Drago is cast rarely against type as the town’s local preacher who doubles as both a mechanic and a snake charmer, it’s a bear bit of character work from him and I always enjoy his performances. This film got really good reviews when it came out and caused a minor stir in indie land, which is interesting because I don’t find it all that noteworthy. Usually I’m that guy to champion garbage films based on a few aspects because I love obscure stuff, but this one is kind of your run of the mill cheapie made decent by Barrymore’s charisma. Good score too.

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory: Seven Mummies

Seven Mummies is so bad it plays like something that From Dusk Till Dawn shat out along the highway. There’s not even one mummy in the thing, let alone seven, instead it’s a dull, shoddily acted piece of bargain bin garbage and the plastic used to make DVD copies would have been put to better use elsewhere. It concerns a bus full of convicts who escape somewhere in the remote southwest, and head for the Mexican border. On the way they stumble across Aztec treasure that has some vague curse, and soon an even vaguer evil is after them all, but none of it makes much sense. Danny Trejo is in it as a mysterious old weirdo called Apache (never mind that he’s so obviously, visibly Mexican), who sits on a dilapidated desert porch and ominously laughs to himself while staring out at the horizon for at least a whole scene. Seriously. No actual lines at all, just laughing and staring, it’s so odd. The one saving grace is veteran villain actor Billy Drago as the evil ghost of an old west outlaw who shows up to cackle and terrorize everyone in a classically hammy bit of theatricality, it’s always great to see him. Other than that there’s really no signs of life to this one, from crappy low rent CGI monsters to lazy filmmaking all round. You’re better off pulling up a chair next to Trejo on that dusty porch and joining him as he chuckles at the tumbleweed dumpster fire of a film he agreed to d just for a few bucks. Amazingly though, it’s still better than that Tom Cruise Mummy flick from last year. Ugh.

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory: Sci Fighters

Picture a bleached out, acid washed dime-store version of Blade Runner on a shoestring, bargain budget and you’ll have some notion of Sci Fighters, a silly futuristic flick starring lovable wrestler ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper and B Movie stock villain Billy Drago. By most standards it’s a miserable little exercise in schlock, but if that’s your thing to begin with, it’s a pearl. So it’s set in 2009, and the film was made in 96’, which going by a combination of the math and the severely bleak atmosphere, the filmmakers didn’t even stretch their timeline barely past twenty years from their date, showing either amusing carelessness in writing or even more amusing cynicism for where we’re headed, and how fast. The setting is Boston, and it’s a goddamn slum, with perpetually overcast skies, garbage heaps everywhere and a general sense that people have given up. Piper is Grayson, a hard boiled detective on the trail of a somewhat unusual killer. Far above earth in a filthy off-world prison on the moon, criminal Dunn (Drago) has encountered some weird alien parasite which hijacks his gaunt frame and torpedos back stateside to start a murder spree. Drago vs Piper in a sad-sack, disease ridden Boston is pretty much the suitable logline, and it’s not half bad. Piper makes a more grounded leading man than the film deserves, while Drago is straight up certifiable (nothing new) especially when the extraterrestrial, who has a garbled and endearing speech impediment, is controlling him. Effort is put into the atmosphere to some degree, but I feel like the success in achieving mood was probably also by accident of just leaving shit lying around set. A true peculiarity, worth it only for fans of the two actors and schlock-hounds alike.

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory: Francis Delia’s Freeway


In the vein of highway set psycho thrillers, stuff like Robert Harmon’s The Hitcher and Steven Spielberg’s Duel paved and pioneered the way, fertilizing the ground for countless other similar efforts, some terrific and others not so much. Freeway falls into the former category, an atmospheric little B movie that delivers more clammy thrills than it frankly has any right to. It’s not to be confused with the classic Reese Witherspoon trash-terpiece of the same name though, this is a different animal altogether. There’s a serial killer terrorizing the nocturnal arteries of the L.A. highway system in this, an unhinged whacko in a Lincoln of or some such automobile of equally austerity, firing off love rounds into people’s faces whilst bellowing out bible verses extremely out of context all over the overpass in the wee hours. He’s mostly heard and unseen, but he’s played by none other than Billy Drago when he does show that leering visage, and the man let’s it rip in a performance that should be legendary. He’s hunted by another cool-as-ice character actor, tough guy James Russo as a Detective of few words and tons of action, namely shooting anyone that won’t give answers or spur his leads. There’s a dark, dreamy nocturnal aura to this, love and care put into atmosphere, showing is that the filmmakers, despite working with a low budget, actually give a darn about quality in their work as opposed to a throwaway second tier genre mad dash where the lack of passion is evident. A low rent classic in the realm of homicidal vehicular themed exploitation. 

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory: Dark Moon Rising 


You want a romantic werewolf flick that rises above the vomitus of Twilight and gives you nostalgic pangs for stuff like The Howling and Bad Moon? Dark Moon Rising is your ticket, and proves that you don’t need heaps of PG-13 gloss, mopey teen bottom feeder ‘actors’ and a vacuous script to make a young adult oriented horror film. This one is admittedly low budget and feels just south of finished in spots, but it’s well crafted, made with love and bereft of CGI. The story couldn’t be simpler: a small town girl (Ginny Weirick), her stern Sheriff father (Chris Mulkey) and the new boy in town (Chris Delvecchio) who just happens to be a werewolf. Young love is always just a stone’s throw away from danger, which arrives in the form of the boy’s dangerous, monstrous father Bender (Max Ryan) who also happens to be a werewolf. You can imagine how it goes: steamy New Mexico supernatural melodrama with a few buckets of gore tossed in and a handful of super cool genre actors. Sid Haig, Lin Shaye and Maria Conchita Alonso have wonderful extended cameos, but the standout is Billy Drago, a staple villain actor who gets to do something different here. Blessed with a reptilian visage that just demands evil behaviour from him, he’s given a sympathetic detective role here, a heartbroken lawman on the hunt for Bender to appease personal anguish. The makeup and prosthetics are terrific, retro latex nightmares that made me miss the good old days before I was born when every horror flick had to rely on the ingenuity of a hardworking team of gorehounds. Despite a few weird pacing issues (tighter editing would have been appreciated), this one is a little indie horror well worth your time. 

-Nate Hill