SHOCK wishes the reigning Queen of Gothic Horror, Barbara Steele, a very Happy Birthday!
It seems the internet has been choked lately with farewells to fallen stars, beloved icons, actors, filmmakers and pop culture figures who have left us and, with their passing, we also lose direct threads to history.
But in regards to that Golden Age of Gothic horror birthed in Europe in the 1960s, its reigning Queen is very much alive, well and thriving.
Please join us in wishing Lady Barbara Steele a very, VERY Happy Birthday.
Born Barbara Winifred Steele in Cheshire, England in 1937, Barbara parlayed her moderate fame starring in a handful of British films in the late 1960s to super-stardom in Italy and then, the world. Her starring role (or roles as she essayed a dual part) in Maestro Mario Bavas expressionist horror classic BLACK SUNDAY (aka THE MASK OF SATAN) made her an instant fetish object in the genre.
Because no one looked like her. Her eyes, the way the light hit her cheekbones, her skin, her curves and the way she commanded attention in every frame that she graced, all combined to create an aura that was both feminine, vulnerable and yet fierce and hard.
BLACK SUNDAY gave way to a wealth of Italian Gothics starring Steele: Ricardo Fredas THE HORRIBLE DR. HICHCOCK and its sequel, THE GHOST; Antonio Margheritis THE LONG HAIR OF DEATH and CASTLE OF BLOOD; Mario Caianos NIGHTMARE CASTLE; Massimo Pupillos TERROR CREATURES FROM THE GRAVE the list is long and lush. And of course, in between all of her candelabra-holding, dark-damsel horror films, she managed to dance for Federico Fellini in his delirious classic 8 ½ and essayed evil in Roger Cormans masterful THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM.
And when Barbara came to North America, she was welcomed by a wave of filmmakers who had swooned to her on-screen image and wanted to work with her. Jonathan Demme cast her in CAGED HEAT; Joe Dante cast her in PIRANHA; David Cronenberg cast her in his first film, SHIVERS. As a producer, she won an Emmy for her work producing Dan Curtis’ miniseries WAR AND REMEMBRANCE; Curtis later cast her in sadly shortly lived revival of his TV series DARK SHADOWS. More recently, Ryan Gosling gave her a memorable part in his surrealist horror film LOST RIVER
Barbara Steele IS cinema. More specifically, she IS Italian cinema. Her intellect, passion for art, literature and refusal to play by conventional rules embodies the spirit of European culture and, while making her an object of fascination for American filmmakers and audiences, have also kept her somewhat at odds with the world.
Which, of course, makes her special.
So very special.
So, then. In honor of her birthday today, SHOCK wants to officially make the bid to christen this Barbara Steele Day, a day in which we watch at LEAST one of her films, consider the impact her presence has made on international cinema and celebrate her spirit.
Heres to you, Barbara