I have Quentin Tarantino to thank for my love of Henry Silva. Many, many moons ago, Tarantino would come to Austin and show off his personal collection of 16mm and 35mm prints of his favorite movies, all to support the Austin Film Society. If I hadn’t seen these obscure movies from the 50s, 60s and 70s with Tarantino presenting them all like the most fascinating film professor ever, I probably wouldn’t have discovered just how badass Henry Silva is. probably only recognized him from the original “The Manchurian Candidate” or perhaps as one of the villains in “Dick Tracy.”
As we recognize his contribution to the cinematic arts after his death at the age of 94, it’s probably best to state up front that Silva was a ruthless screen presence. He just looked like a killer, and that inherent intimidating presence was the foundation for his massive career that spanned from 1950 to 2001.
Being a bad mother is the best kind of job security as an actress because movies always need good bad guys. He was a staple of westerns and crime films until they fell out of fashion, then moved on to 1970s gangster films and followed the potpourri of genre films that dominated the 80s and early 90s . From comical children’s films to the most violent crime films ever made, Silva has been there.
From Sinatra to Seagal
Silva’s most famous role was probably that of Chunjin in the original “Manchurian Candidate” in 1962. Although problematic by today’s standards, Silva’s Sicilian and Spanish heritage gave him a rather unique look playing a Korean homeboy who he was secretly a communist agent. This was one of his three screen appearances with Frank Sinatra. He had a small role in 1960’s “Ocean’s 11” and then appeared again with the entire Rat Pack in the Western “Sergeant’s 3” in 1962.
While he was prolific in the 1950s and 1960s, opposite big-screen icons such as Randolph Scott in “The Tall T” and Gregory Peck in “The Bravados,” his real time to shine came in the 1970 when Hollywood underwent a radical change. . The strict Hayes Code was abolished and audiences demanded more realism and violence from their films.
Some of the hottest movies playing at drive-ins around the country were Italian crime movies, and one of the guys who ate them all up was a young Quentin Tarantino. He shared that love with Austin audiences by screening his personal prints of “The Boss” and “The Italian Connection,” directed by the great and unknown Fernando Di Leo.
It’s as if Silva was born to be a killer, and both of these films took full advantage of that, creating proto-John Wick-type characters that you absolutely, positively, in no way want to harm, even if you do. Well then you will get what you deserve.
Gangsters And Hitmen
These Italian crime films were sexy, violent, brutal and made to entertain rowdy crowds.
If you’ve ever been to an Alamo Drafthouse and seen one of their funny “No Talking” PSAs pulled from old movies, you might have seen a bit of “The Italian Connection” where Silva sits in a screening booth like a bunch. mobsters watch a porn movie together (hey, it was the 1970s). He slowly loads what can best be described as a rifle that fires an RPG and then blasts the entire theater away.
This is ridiculous we’re talking about, but it was part of one of the weirdest and funnest eras in cinema. Tarantino alludes to the predominance of Italian genre films in his Once Upon a Time in Hollywood when Leonardo DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton goes to Italy and makes what seems like half a dozen Westerns and crime films.
While Silva never made a cameo in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” it’s a safe bet that Rick Dalton co-starred with him in at least one of those movies.
A credible threat on screen
As the 1970s gave way to the 80s, Silva worked harder than ever, jumping from genre to genre, but always portraying a tough bastard. He was tasked with hunting the man-eating gator in “Alligator,” faced off against Steven Seagal in 1988’s “Above the Law,” and appeared alongside Chuck Norris in “Code of Silence.”
As he got older, he became a more menacing presence on screen, and it all seemed to culminate when he played Influence in 1990’s “Dick Tracy.” The man already had a face that screamed badass, and when you brought that absurd, spontaneity and super cool makeup, the result was a towering comic book villain for the ages.
Silva worked throughout the ’90s in films that are mostly lost to time, but he had one last punch in the late ’90s and early ’90s. He appeared in 1999’s “Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai” and made a cameo as one of the last surviving members of the “Ocean’s 11” cast in George Clooney’s 2001 remake “Ocean’s Eleven.”
Silva was a one-of-a-kind actor and his death will be mourned by cinephiles the world over.
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The post Henry Silva, one of the ultimate movie villains, has passed away appeared first on /Film.