Malcolm McDowell is an evil evil man, at least that’s what his face tells us.
The piercing blue eyes and mischievous/malevolent grin were destined to land him villain roles in major productions.
He has portrayed what is perhaps the screen’s most iconic psychopath in Clockwork Orange’s Alex, his most famous performance, and Rome’s most deranged emperor in Caligula.
To cap it all up he played a Soviet serial killer named EVILENKO and in the Christian Thriller (yes there is such a thing, no I haven’t watched it) “Suing The Devil” he sure ain’t the bailiff.
Yet in the underrated movie Time after Time he is cast against type as the meek and pussycat-gentle scientist H.G. Wells and pulls it off brilliantly.
This brilliant performance was achieved using two devices: a pair of old fashioned spectacles, and more importantly, the casting of David Warner as the villain.
For you see, David Warner is more than merely an actor, he is like an extra layer of scary paint, a harbinger of the dark things lurking about, an OMEN if you will.
During his 50 years of on-screen career he has never achieved super stardom, but his body of work in brilliantly sinister performances is second to none in modern cinema.
Described in one of his movies as a “tall, flaxen-haired, distinguished-looking Englishman”, his sinister good-looks and deep eloquent voice combine to form a portrait of self-aware evil.
While the deep-set eyes and strong jaw, the thick eyebrows and rough nose give off the impression of a predator waiting to pounce, a rich and beautiful voice and an eloquent way of speaking unsettle us.
What are we to make of this combination of intelligence and elegance presented in an almost feral visage ?
It is a troubling reminder that some men who are wise and capable of good still choose evil in full awareness because it is what they are.
His Jack the ripper in Time after Time is a prime example, he is a respected surgeon and a brilliant chess player, a picture-perfect Victorian gentleman who is fully aware of his monstrosity but accepts it just as he accepts his horrible fate with a knowing nod.
Nowadays he is best known for playing the villain’s henchman Spicer Lovejoy in Titanic, a cold and menacing figure who likes to play with bullets and punch effeminate teens, but his list of classic and cult classic movies is impressive.
He played a memorable evil genius in Time Bandits, a real life and virtual baddy in Tron and holds the distinction of playing the role of Reinhard Heydrich in two different TV productions.
Even when playing a good guy, his mere appearance on-screen contributes a sense of dark things to come, if he’s out merrily singing in the forest you can bet there’s a witch nearby; if he’s a caring father to a young village girl the wolf will be at their door by the end of the picture.
Oh and he also provided the prop for the screen’s most famous decapitation scene in the horror classic The Omen
perhaps there has never been a more appropriately named actor, his mere presence onscreen Warns us of the dangers that lurk and the shadows on the sides of the road, we can not sleep soundly while he is around.