It breaks my heart to write about the death of Marilyn Burns but it doesn’t seem right to post anything else until we’ve acknowledged this loss. My heart goes out to her friends and family who surely must endure the brunt of the devastation. As a mere fan, I’m sure I can’t even begin to understand the depth of grief felt by those close to her. Still, I can’t help feeling like everyone who ever loved a horror movie just took a major dent, whether they realize it or not, and that something incalculable that was once here is now gone.
Maybe I’m being pessimistic due to my morbid state but I think the truth is that horror audiences can expect to never, ever, ever witness the type of unadulterated terror that Marilyn Burns was able to put into her performance in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE again. It’s just a sad fact. The way the genre is moving it just wouldn’t be allowed and even if it were attempted, you’d never be lucky enough to find an actress as unselfconscious as Burns to pull it off. Even if they had the talent, it’s hard to believe they’d also have the moxy to withstand such a grueling endeavor. Nope, we’ll never see the likes of it again because we’re all too soft and spoiled and modern horror has become less about fear and terror and death and mortality and the unflinching unfairness of the universe than it is about looking competent and cool in the face of adversity. So I guess I just want to thank Marilyn from the bottom of my horror fan heart for bravely going where no actor ever had gone before or ever will again. Real horror, it’s there, in that movie, forever thanks to her.
I’m going to make this about me for a second and if you think that’s vulgar, I totally agree with you but I have to get over this bump somehow and I never said I wasn’t ignoble in the face of death. I may have mentioned before that I can be, on occasions, socially awkward. One thing that’s sure to make me a Bambi-legged Jell-O bowl is a large crowd. I don’t go to horror conventions very much any more but when I did, what I was really seeing in my head was the climax of THE DAY OF LOCUST. If I meet a famous person, I’m usually a jittery marble mouthed spaz on invisible roller skates and that’s putting aside for a moment my legendary Lori Singer evoked facial-tick.
Anyway, once I was at this horror convention feeling like a Howdy Doody marionette plopping around in a sea of Monster High Dolls and I went outside to the front of the hotel for a breath of fresh air and mostly a cigarette (this post was not approved by the Surgeon General). And who do I see there all by herself but Marilyn Burns puffing away. So we get to talking (actually, I was with a more boisterous friend who initiated the conversation but I’m going to edit that person out in the spirit of poetic license) and she put me at ease (not an easy thing to do) in all of a minute. She was so gracious and open and generous and all around awesome that I almost forgot that I was talking to a living legend.
For perspective, please realize that a half an hour earlier I was getting shady stink eye from a self-proclaimed scream queen whose boobs were featured in an unwatchable piece of garbage directed by her mouth breathing husband and now suddenly I was being made to feel like I might exist enough to cast a shadow by a woman who plowed like an eighteen wheeler through one of the greatest movies ever made wielding only one of the most outstandingly performances of all time. And folks, at the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, that’s something else you can look forward to seeing less of in the future- humility. No, they don’t make movies like TCM anymore but what makes me sad here is that the last time I did a head count, they don’t make too many people like that anymore either. I know I can’t say that I knew Marilyn based on our brief encounter but I can say that it was obvious to me that those who did know her were very lucky. Goodbye for now Marilyn and again, thank you so much for all that you gave. It’s more than you’ll ever know.
One last thing, I gotta give a shout out to EATEN ALIVE. That’s a fantastic movie too.