On Saturday actor Peter O’Toole died at 81.
I didn’t know him, of course–not personally. I am, however, a fan of his work. He had a long and varied career in film. There have been a number of articles listing the famous and popular roles that he’d played–I won’t rehash those here.
Instead, I want to list five films that are fairly obscure. They are films that I recommend largely for O’Toole’s performance.
Top Five Peter O’Toole Films That You’ve Probably Never Seen (But Should).
The Ruling Class (1972) O’Toole plays Jack Gurney, the 14th Earl Of Gurney. After the death of the 13th Earl, Jack is brought out of a mental institution in order to take his place in the House Of Lords, despite being quite mad. It’s a disturbing film, with cutting satire directed not only at the British aristocracy, but humanity in general.
The Stunt Man (1980) O’Toole plays Eli Cross, a film director who is making a movie about WWI. A fugitive on the run stumbles across the set where the movie is being made, and Cross hires him as a stunt man. Then things get weird. This is one of those movies you see with people with whom you can argue about what it means late into the night.
Creator (1985) O’Toole plays Dr. Harry Wolper who teaches The Big Picture theory of biochemistry and… well, it’s another bizarre one. (Are you noticing a trend here?) It’s about love and sex and God and science and, heck, I don’t know. But it does make more sense than the book it’s based on (by Jeremy Leven. It’s a good book, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense.)
King Ralph (1991) While primarily a vehicle for John Goodman, Peter O’Toole does as masterful job of playing the proper English civil servant tasked with teaching Goodman’s character to be King.
Phantoms (1998) This is one of the movies that I point to when people claim that the book is always better–in my opinion they took a pretty mediocre book and made it into a really fine movie. (Granted, the novel is by Dean Koontz, who is not one of my favorite authors.) O’Toole plays a disgraced research scientist turned tabloid reporter who happens to hold the key to whatever it was that happened to a small town. It’s an intelligent, atmospheric horror movie with a fair number of decent jump scares.