Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Tribute to Richard Kiel

When I was making my new banner, one of the people I wanted to be sure to include was Richard Kiel, the tall actor who is perhaps most famous for his role of Jaws in the James Bond films, but who I first saw in the Twilight Zone episode: To Serve Man. (Though at the time I did not recognize him.)

There are many actors who dominated my childhood/teenage television screen but no one else encapsulated the the era like Richard Kiel. It seemed like everytime I was turning around he was in another show I was watching.

I first noticed Kiel on The Wild Wild West where he first appeared as Voltaire, the towering bodyguard of Dr. Miguelito Loveless (played by Michael Dunn) in The Night Wizard Shook The Earth in 1965.

The chemistry and dynamics between Dunn and Kiel was pretty awesome to watch. Both of them are incredible actors with a presence and charisma that served the show well.

The duo would return for several addition episodes:
The Night The Terror Stalked The Town

And The Night of the Whirring Death

After that episode, future Loveless episodes would only feature Dunn. The last time we would see Kiel, he would not be playing the role of Voltaire. In the Night of the Simian Terror, he returned to WWW as a sort of black sheep of the family character.

After his stint on Wild Wild West, Kiel showed up on a number of comedy shows I watched including:

I Dream of Jeannie as the Djinn Ali

Gilligan's Island as a nefarious Russian

And the Monkees as a groovy monster

His next few appearances were on short run dramas.

On Kolchak: The Nightstalker, he played the role of the Diablero in the Bad Medicine episode. This is the image I used for my banner as I'm also a big fan of the Kolchak series.

He also played the monster in the Spanish Moss episode, but he's a bit hard to recognize in that episode.

Another show he had a recurring role on but I have never seen was his role of Moose Moran on Barbary Coast (a show which also featured William Shatner AND Doug McClure, so it sort of sounds like the sort of thing I would really dig.)

While I missed his appearance on Barbary Coast, I did catch him when he showed up on The Hardy Boys

And Land of the Lost as the Cave Barbarian Malak

I'll have to admit, I didn't really like the character of Malak. That he shows up more than once didn't really help. Still, I was tremendously loyal to Kiel by this point, so when he showed up in The Spy Who Love Me, I felt a little vindicated in some way - as if now everyone could experience what a powerful presence he was.

In role of Jaws, he provided what is debatably the most famous Bond opponent ever. Throughout the film he gets back up after getting defeated by Bond - as such he is a prototypical Terminator. This role won him a ton of fans and he would get to return in the next Bond film Moonraker.

In Moonraker, his character gets a bit more of an arc and is even allowed a happy ending of sorts.

I suspect the appearances in the Spy Who Loved Me helped him land another film role in the fan favorite World War II movie Force 10 From Navarone

Around this time he almost had a recurring role in a show that would have been a big hit for him - The Incredible Hulk. He appears in the pilot during the scene where the Hulk rescues the girl who falls in the lake.

Unfortunately, Kiel was not picked for the role, so most of his scenes were reshot with Lou Ferrigno. Kiel has been quoted as saying he was fine with this as neither the makeup and the contact lens necessary for the role agree with him.

Over the years I have had many opportunities to meet Richard Kiel at conventions and I always told him how much I enjoyed his appearances on the shows I watched. Besides his tremendous stature, he had a great, expressive face for acting and was able to impart a nice range emotion with his eyes and mouth.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, with the recent work on my banner I found myself thinking about Kiel a lot recently. So I was quite shocked when I heard he passed away last week at the age of 74. He was a significant part of my childhood who I will always remember.

- Jim


Anonymous said...

Jim, you might like to know that Richard's last recorded interview was for the BBC and it was broadcast just three days before he died. The programme was an episode of Radio 4's "The Reunion" and, as its subject was James Bond movies, it also featured Sir Roger Moore. In the UK it is still available to hear online at:

Hope you can catch it where you are.

Jim Shelley said...

Thank you for the excellent link!

Unknown said...

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