A look at 10 great roles essayed by beloved German character actor Udo Kier.
Veteran actor Udo Kier is a legend of cult cinema and man, has he ever earned that status.
German born performer has lived many lives, starring in a myriad horror, exploitation and arthouse fare and always making his mark, whether it be in brief walk-ons or full blown starring roles.
It’s the way he acts with those eyes, those lazy-lidded, beautiful blue eyes.
It’s the structure of his facial bones, the way the skin stretches over them. It’s his lips.
It’s that voice, especially when it’s speaking English, that intense Teutonic syllabic attack.
Udo Kier has starred in hundreds of films, working for directors as diverse as Fassbinder to Argento to
Lars von Trier to Astron-6 and narrowing his impressive and impactful body of work down to 10 key performances was not easy.
So rather than pick the best (a subjective task), we simply picked our favorites. Have a look at the list below and see if your favorite Udo Kier performance is in there…
Mark of the Devil (1970)
Michael Armstrong's notorious "witchsploitation" masterpiece stars Herbert Lom as a sanctimonious, sadistic witch killer in 17th century Austria. But it's baby-faced Kier as his protege, Count Christian Von Meruh that is the core of the story. Kier is young, vulnerable and is the humanity of the otherwise depressing and blood-spattered film. He's a fully realized character despite being dubbed within an inch of his life!
Flesh for Frankenstein (1973)
One of the funniest and most repellent horror movies ever made, Andy Warhol colleague (the film is also known as Warhol's Dracula though he had nothing to do with it) Paul Morrissey directs Kier using Italian money and an international cast of awesome over-actors. Blood and sex soak the screen and Kier is majestic as the arrogant, perverted and endlessly chatty Baron. And it's amazing to hear Kier's own voice, bending the English language uproriously with his thick accent.
Blood for Dracula (1974)
The companion to Flesh for Frankenstein, Paul Morrissey's black and bloody comedy horror sees Kier as a sensitive, sickly Dracula, who must find virgin (or as Kier says it "Where-gin") blood to survive. Kier is hilarious and sometimes even touching as the parasitic aristocrat who just can't catch a break.
The House on Straw Hill (1976)
Also known as Expose and Trauma, this deranged Eurohorror melodrama is a sexually volatile psyche horror of the first order. Linda Hayden is brilliant as Kier's mad-as-a-hatter secretary and Kier looks immaculate and engages in all manner of sexual coupling before he starts to unhinge. A bloody, decidedly adult piece of work.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osborne (1981)
Polish arthouse pervert Walerian Borowczyk's masterwork of sex, identity and mad science is one of the director's best and offers a fully committed, alternately elegant and raw performance from Kier. Recently re-released on Blu-ray via Arrow Video, this one is a must see.
The Adventures of Pinocchio (1996)
Absolutely wonderful and woefully underrated live-action version of the classic tale features Kier having the time of his life as the malevolent and villainous Lorenzini. Kier steals the show from a star packed cast and returned a few years later for the 1999 sequel. A delightful movie and a gift for Kier fans.
Blade is one of the most potent action/horror hybrid films ever made and it was director Stephen Norrington's genius to cast Kier as Dragonetti, the leader of the Vampire Nation. Watching Kier try to wrestle control from fledgling vamp Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff) is a blast. Watching Kier die screaming in fiery agony is alarming...
Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
This remarkable Nicolas Cage-produced fantasy/doc, blending the true story of the making of Murnau's Nosferatu with a real deal vampire movie, comes armed with a brilliant Kier performance. As stressed out producer Albin Grau, Kier steals many of his scenes, including those he shares with Willem Dafoe's Max Shreck. No mean feat, that...
The Theatre Bizarre (2011)
Jeremy Kasten's eerie framing segment for this baroque multi-director anthology sees Kier at his weirdest, playing a supernatural, man-size marionette who relates the macabre tales that make up the film to a young girl. Caked under creepy prosthetics, Kier gives this turn his all and perfectly serves to blend the diverse stories together. Great movie, very cool Kier performance.
Kier has appeared in virtually all of Danish director Lars von Trier's movies and here, although only a cameo, he's hilarious. Playing the nameless wedding planner in the movie's first half, watching Kier glare at the volatile Kirsten Dunst as she ruins his perfect event is the ultimate contemporary Kier comedy experience, matched only by his turn as the non-plussed waiter in von Trier's Nymphomaniac.