You’ve heard about the Poltergeist Curse, right? If not, here’s the skinny: A seemingly above-average percentage of key cast members from the Poltergeist franchise (launched by Steven Spielberg and Tobe Hooper in 1982) have met with violent or sudden deaths. Dominique Dunne, the actress who played teenager Dana Freeling was murdered by her boyfriend a few months after the first film was released. Franchise staple Heather O’Rourke, who played Carol Anne Freeling, died before the 3rd film was released in 1988 due to toxic shock; she was only 12.
Other purported Poltergeist Curse catastrophes include: Will Sampson who played Taylor in Poltergeist II: The Other Side died less than a year after the film’s release (following a lung transplant); actor Lou Perryman, who appeared briefly in the first Poltergeist, was killed with an axe by a home intruder; in 1992, actor Richard Lawson, who played Ryan in Poltergeist, survived a plane crash out of LaGuardia that killed 27 of the 51 on board.
The death of 60-year-old Julian Beck, the actor who played the evil Reverend Kane in Poltergeist II is especially chilling. The actor died of stomach cancer months before the film was released. As the film was still in post-production, noted voice actor Corey Burton was employed to add missing dialog. It’s unnerving when an actor dies before a film is released; it makes us feeling like we’re seeing actual ghosts when we see them in the films they never lived to see. In Beck’s case, however, he was already dying before he ever set foot on the set.
Beck’s deteriorating physical condition became a key element of Kane’s visual impact. You can practically see his skeleton emerging from beneath his thinning skin; his toothy grin ferociously skull-like. He’s thin, yellowing, like a freshly resurrected corpse in a zombie apocalypse. Indeed, Beck was so realistically terrifying, Heather O’Rourke burst into tears the first time she saw Beck on set. (Source)
It’s no wonder that Nathan Davis, the actor who reprised the role of Kane in Poltergeist III simply couldn’t match Beck’s incredible ability to produce palpable dread. Check out a few of Beck’s best turns as Kane in Poltergeist II in the clips below.
Are you a fan of Beck’s portrayal of Kane in Poltergeist II? Did you know he was actually dying while filming? Sound off in the Comments section!