A few days ago, Badger decided to grow a beard. I say decided – in fact, it was decided for him as there seemed to be a major shortage of Gillette Contour razor blades in Somerset retail outlets. He had to order them online, via a well-known store with a creative approach to corporate taxation.
In the meantime, it was like living with Das Boot-era Jurgen Prochnow, which has always been bit of a dream of mine. However, once the blades arrived, Badger started complaining of an itchy chin and off it came. Less Fregattenkapitän, more Ed Reardon as an undercover mystery shopper .
Facial hair is often associated with a certain raffishness – think of the elaborate moustaches of World War I pilots, Terry-Thomas or Dick Dastardly. But it’s also all too common to see a bristly fiend on screen, summoning up the Devil or glowering darkly in a scarlet-lined cloak. Indeed, you can often spot a sinner by nature of their whiskers.
Imagine my pleasure when I found this blog with a category dedicated to Great Beards in Horror History. What a great collection of hirsute anti-heroes! It made me revisit The Island of Dr Moreau, if only to see again the beard of Charles Laughton, described as being like a ‘hairy goblet’. It’s a comprehensive list, lovingly compiled, but I’d like to add a few more and propose a hypothesis.
Dr Karswell’s beard is a cracker. It’s that sinister arrangement of bare top lip and goatish chin, which somehow looks very odd indeed. The mark of a malevolent eccentric, or a Lincolnesque statesman? I’d say the former. Niall MacGinnis is wonderful in this role, never being upstaged by his creepy whiskers, and will make you think twice about booking a children’s entertainer – Mr Jelly was surely modelled on him.
Poor old George Lutz – the writing was on the wall for him when he lost control of his fearsome beard. James Brolin starts the film as a hip young gunslinger in taupe suede, and ends it as a boggle-eyed lunatic wielding an axe. His mental deterioration can be charted through his facial hair, which gets wilder and weirder than is humanly possible in the space of 27 days, thus indicating some kind of paranormal follicular accelerant.
And as for Kiefer Sutherland in the not-at-all camp Lost Boys, his mid-eighties mullet, stubble and eyeliner combo is a sure-fire sign of ungodly excess – as soon as he pops up puffing on an Embassy, straddling a motorbike and scowling at the new kid in town, you know this five o clock shadow is going to look far worse at midnight.
So to the hypothesis. You may have gathered it already, but for the less observant, here it is. If your beard is neatly groomed, you, Sir, are in league with the devil. If your beard grows faster than a Hammer starlet can whip off her lace nightie, and starts looking unruly then you’re the unfortunate victim of a demonic possession – particularly if you also wear beige slacks. I’m prepared to be proven wrong on this, but I don’t think I shall be.
As for Badger, the facial fuzz may have gone, but the memory of it still lingers – however, I shall be keeping an eye out for wayward whiskers.